HSMAI staff recently had the opportunity to interview Kimberly Furlong, Chief Commercial Officer, Atrium Hospitality. Kimberly received the Career Achievement in Sales Award during HSMAI Sales Leader Forum, November 8th in Long Beach.
With 30 years of experience in the hotel industry, Kimberly joined Atrium Hospitality in 2015 as one of the founding members of the company’s executive leadership team. As a nimble leader, Kimberly strategically directed Atrium during the unprecedented pandemic to not only survive but thrive.
Kimberly is the Executive Sponsor for Atrium’s SPIRIT Council, a member of multiple hospitality industry advisory committees, forums, and advanced user groups. In addition, Kimberly is a guest speaker and mentor for the Ohio State University Hospitality Management students.
Q: Can you tell us about your journey and what receiving the HSMAI Award for Career Achievement in Sales means to you?
A: I’m truly honored to receive this award. I attribute the recognition to the countless industry professionals who have made a significant impact on my career.
Like so many of my friends in the industry, I started my hotel career in an entry-level position at the front desk, advanced to AGM, and shortly thereafter pivoted to revenue management where I spent 15 years helping my company and the industry shape the relatively new discipline into what it is today. My favorite projects were the ones that allowed me to be innovative and entrepreneurial, including launching a large reservation call center from scratch.
Today I lead the Commercial team at Atrium Hospitality and have the pleasure of creating synergies between Sales, Marketing, Revenue Management, and eCommerce, and I thank Daniel Abernethy for giving me that opportunity over 8 years ago.
When I think about this award, I’m reminded that our industry is the most amazing industry for career growth, trying new things, being innovative and creative, and all in an environment that thrives on customer service and hospitality. This award is motivation for me to continue growing and pushing boundaries.
Q: Who would you like to thank for impacting your career?
A: In my journey, there are many people who have played pivotal roles, most importantly Kurt Furlong, who has always supported my career growth, which required significant travel and several relocations. Joe Kelly was my earliest mentor and taught me the value of networking and lasting relationships.
At Atrium, Daniel Abernethy allowed me the freedom to be innovative and think unconventionally. In the early stages of Atrium, we worked on an idea to do sales differently, more efficiently. We called it the Enterprise Sales Organization, and while we weren’t quite ready for prime time, the pandemic required us to launch it at 80% baked. Rob Mangiarelli, current president at Atrium, provides me the resources, freedom, and support to be successful. My colleagues at Atrium, especially Gissell Moronta, Micheal Feldman, and Renee Lubinski exemplify the power of teamwork and collaboration, and have been invaluable companions throughout this journey. I wouldn’t be here without them.
Q: What is your guiding philosophy?
A: My leadership philosophy is balanced between results and culture. I believe you need to communicate clear vision and direction, use both data and experience to develop a strategy, be disciplined to create actions plans and hold each other accountable, and accept failures as lessons learned. While I’m passionate about results and action, I know that I can’t be successful without a brilliant and confident team who challenges the status quo, takes calculated risks, and celebrates successes. We try to foster an environment where people love what they do because they’re doing it with us. I have a painting in my office that says, ‘Work Hard, Be Kind’ and that’s a good summation.
Q: What career advice do you have for our rising sales leaders?
A: Here are my top five tips for rising sales leaders:
- Take risks, both in your business decisions and your career journey. Don’t wait until you’re 100% ready; you can learn on the fly and pivot if needed.
- Observe people and learn from them. I’ve gained more from watching both good and bad leadership than from reading self-improvement books.
- Appreciate the value of data and learn to use it to make decisions and tell your story.
- Embrace change and look for opportunities to be the driving force behind change.
- Recognize that you can’t be successful on your own. Surround yourself with people who make you better.
Q: Looking back on your numerous accomplishments, is there a particular moment or experience that is especially memorable or meaningful to you?
A: Several times I’ve had the opportunity to launch a department from conception to execution. My first experience was a 40-seat reservation call center for Lodgian.
At the time, I had never seen the inside of a call center and I didn’t even know how to make a reservation in the system we were about to use, so I started by reading the manual, and then hired someone who had experience with call centers. We were successful because we didn’t have preconceived notions on how call centers run. We simply built it using common sense. Next up was the early stages of revenue management and I had the opportunity to help create the resources, reports, and processes that became the basis of what we still do today.
Most recently I joined Atrium, an amazing company that promotes innovation as one of our core values. Early in the company’s start, we invested in business intelligence to help us view data wholistically rather than in the parts that are served up by brands or third-party data providers. Then, we launched what I believe is the best sales organization in the industry, which includes almost 100 fully remote sales managers, lead catchers, and group rooms coordinators who have the freedom to stay focused on the task at hand while relying on their property-level teammates to foster relationships and identify new business.
Q: How did you get involved with HSMAI?
A: My first experience with HSMAI was participating in the Executive Round Tables, which are excellent! There’s nothing better than being in a room full of your peers, sharing best practices, learning from each other, and realizing that you’re not alone in what keeps you up at night.