BY JESSICA WYLAND
Margaret Bailey approaches her career and her life with the heart of a public servant, the wisdom of an executive, and the spirit of an athlete. A mother of three and former world triathlon competitor, Bailey earned a bachelor of science in hotel administration from Cal Poly Pomona in 1986. In her current role as senior vice president of government services at Capital Hotel Management (CHM) in Boston, she advises public sector clients such as the National Parks Service, the U.S. Department of Defense, and the U.S. Forest Service on strategies for improving and enhancing their visitor facilities and services.
Through her education, career and athletic training, Bailey has honed in on guiding principles that help her to stay focused and achieve her goals.
“Have a plan—every hour, every day, every week and then work the plan,” Bailey said. “Winning and losing are not as important as continuing to try. Every day you have to try again. Or, try something else.”
The Game Plan
Bailey’s goal when evaluating colleges was to find a school that offered a challenging, engaging curriculum in a pleasant setting. She felt inspired by Cal Poly Pomona’s campus and was impressed by the offering of industry-based hospitality studies as well as general education and business classes. The diversity of coursework particularly appealed to Bailey who was interested in the management of hotels, restaurants and businesses, as well as electives outside her major.
As a student, Bailey worked under the close direction of several professors including Dr. Bob Small, who refers to Bailey as his favorite student of all time. She also had the opportunity to participate in an international business study abroad experience in Denmark.
In addition to her hotel studies, Bailey fondly recalls her participation in the Model United National Program (MNUN), led by Professor Dr. John Moore. When Moore was arranging the Douglas Adair Symposium to honor the bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution, he needed someone to spearhead the hospitality for the symposium. He found an eager and enthusiastic lead in Bailey. She was given responsibility for managing a $10,000 dollar hospitality budget. She arranged all transportation, lodging, and food and beverage for a series of six speakers including high-profile individuals like William F. Buckley.
Managing such a major event buoyed her enthusiasm for her future career. “It was a senior project with real-life experience,” Bailey recalled. “I was able to really make something happen—to bring people together to host this series of events. Plus, the project gave me the chance to collaborate with my colleagues and see how wonderful it is when everyone can apply their specific talents.”
Open to Opportunity
It was a class in market and financial analysis that influenced Bailey’s profession in a way she never expected, exposing her to part of the industry she did not know existed. After graduation, she went to work for Hyatt Hotels and Resorts’ Hyatt Bethesda, as assistant banquet manager. She was promoted to convention services manager at the Baltimore Hyatt. She later landed a management/consulting position with PKF Consulting where she was first introduced to public agencies who managed hospitality and recreation facilities. From PKF she joined, Horwath Landauer, and then moved to become a manager at PricewaterhouseCoopers, both in Boston.
Certainly Bailey’s glass-half-full attitude propels her career ever forward. She also credits Cal Poly for her achievements.
“Cal Poly shows students all the facets of the industry,” Bailey said. “The professors offered tactical advice and they really care. I would tell students to be open to new opportunities. You never know where the industry can take you.”
Thus far, the industry has taken Bailey through a 24-year career concentrated in advising public sector clients on their hospitality and recreational real estate holdings. She focuses on market, financial, and investment analysis for visitor-based operations including lodging; food and beverage; retail; ski areas; campgrounds; picnic areas; trails, and visitor centers. Bailey has also developed strategic policy guidance and provided implementation support for public agencies on concessions and pricing.
Passion for Public Agencies
Bailey’s current employer, CHM, is the largest independent hotel investment management company in the country with a portfolio of hotels and single-asset investments. As senior vice president, she serves as a division leader for CHM’s Government Services group, focused on the business advisory needs of municipal, state and federal land management agencies, as well as state park agencies and municipalities. The focus of Bailey’s efforts is on adapting private sector business strategy for public agencies in natural, cultural and historical environments.
“I get to assist public agencies in improving the quality of visitor service on federal land, and advise them on making sound decisions regarding our nation’s natural, cultural and historic resources and assets,” Bailey said. “I can continue to say that I am passionate about what I do and those I work with and at the end of the day, that is what really matters. My clients count on me for industry knowledge, but what I think they also appreciate is that I truly care.”
A Winning Team
Bailey’s relationship with The Collins College of Hospitality Management continues to grow in mutually beneficial ways. As a long-time member of the Cal Poly Pomona Alumni Association, she has been a guest speaker in classes as well as contributing to Collins College scholarships and fundraising endeavors.
In turn, the college recognized Bailey’s contribution as an alumnus and her accomplishments as an industry professional by presenting her with the Distinguished Alumni of the Year Award at the 2009 Harvest Celebration. The event, which took place at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel and Spa, was held to honor leaders in the hospitality industry and to raise money for students inside and outside the classroom. Bailey shared the stage that day with Jay Rasulo, CFO of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, and Steve Slater, vice president & general manager of Southern Wine & Spirits of Southern California.
“Margaret Bailey embodies the success we hope all our alumni achieve in their careers,” said Dean Andy Feinstein.
Triathlon Philosophy for Life
Before Bailey juggled family and career, she had time to dedicate to a rigorous athletic training schedule and regular triathlon competitions. While she is proud of that success, she focuses now on staying physically active amid all her other responsibilities.
“In sports and in business, it is important to stay focused on your goals and to always be active,” Bailey said. “It is equally important to know your own limits and to pace yourself.”
This story originally appeared in the spring 2010 issue of Collins magazine.