Profile: Max Wohlfarth
Profile: Max Wohlfarth
How did you
get your start in the hotel business?
I grew up in San Antonio. When I
graduated from college, I taught school for a year and then decided to go back
and work on a master's degree. I needed
a job, so my first hotel job was as a night auditor at the Menger Hotel in San
Antonio. (This is a common theme. Check out Peter Hoffman's story here.) We had individual folio folders
with the guests' names written on them.
You'd have to put it in this huge machine called a 4200. I would press
in the room number and hit the button, and then it printed up the bill.
I found out about ten years later that my paternal great-grandfather, who came over from Germany, was the executive chef at the Menger Hotel. And what's more, my maternal great-grandfather was the general manager at the St. Anthony Hotel in downtown San Antonio. I didn't have a choice!
you to HVMG?
I was working at the Windsor Hotel in
Americus, Georgia, and I hired a maintenance engineer. Long story short, that
maintenance guy continued his career and used to call me for advice on
different jobs. He is now the Executive Vice President of a hotel management
company in New York City.
I took about ten years off from the
hotel business to own a restaurant and, he came into my restaurant one
day. He hugged me and thanked me for
everything I'd done for him. He said, "If you ever want to get back in
hotels, I can help you."
I thought about it and eventually
called him up. He got me an interview
with HVMG, and the rest is history.
My first HVMG hotel was a Doubletree in
Schaumburg, Illinois, in the Chicago area.
They made me an area manager and I oversaw a few other properties in the
Chicago area. When that hotel sold, the
people that bought it wanted me to stay. But I had already told my boss that I
was going to stick with HVMG.
Where did you
I moved to Dallas, Texas, to the Embassy
Suites. When it sold, I had the option
of staying with a big management company that bought it. And again, I said, no, and stuck with
HVMG. My boss, Margie
Vito, didn't have an opening for me, so she
sent me on the road. I went to Vail, Colorado for a while; Orange Beach,
Alabama, and Austin, Texas. And she then asked me if I would go to Mahwah, New
I thought I was only going up there for
a few weeks, and I ended up staying about 11 months. Right after COVID hit, I went to Killeen,
Texas to open a couple of properties down there and then to Tulsa, Oklahoma. Now I'm at the Sheraton Suites Plantation in
What were the
specific things about HVMG that made you want to stay with the company and move
where you needed to?
There are two reasons. Number one, the leadership, first Margie and
Mader, but also Robert [Cole], Richard
[Jones], everyone. When you're able to pick up the phone anytime and talk, not
just about hotels, but talk about what's going on -- football, family, whatever
it is. You know you're supported, and you know they care about you. They're there for you and you're there for
Number two, having worked for ten years
in a family business with my kids and my spouse working with me, I like the
family atmosphere. I feel like HVMG provides that.
I feel like I'm part of the family and
that warmth that you feel from being part of the family cannot be replicated by
anything else. Not by money, not by promotions.
You either have it or you don't.
What is the
culture of HVMG?
The culture of HVMG is the excellence culture, where we strive for
excellence each and every day so that our guests, our associates, and our
owners love us. But I think it goes beyond that. At least for me, it goes beyond that. It's the
encouragement and ability to hire really strong associates, develop those
associates, and help them reach their highest potential. HVMG fosters and encourages that, and it not
only helps me as a person, but it helps me be a good leader within the company.
How is HVMG
investing in developing future leaders?
HVMG is investing in growing our talent pool by recruiting the
best possible candidates for each job and then giving us the tools and the
ability to develop those people. There's the training, patience, and being able
to pay a fair wage for the kind of people that we want. I've been able to
develop people within my hotel to move up from line-level associates to
managers, and the encouragement and guidance that we get from the corporate
office helps us as general managers develop those people.
What is HVMG
doing to continue to be an excellent employer?
HVMG is working to become the leader in our industry by initiating cost-of-living raises that are commensurate to the actual cost of living, which
was something that was very special to our associates this year. In addition to
that, we've started retention bonuses. HVMG came out before the rest of the
industry and encouraged us to pay the retention bonuses, which we've done.
Anybody that took any kind of salary reduction during COVID has been
The company is constantly looking for better benefits packages. In
fact, we have a new benefits package that not only is much better but will save the property and the individuals a good bit of
money. So, that's a positive for everybody all the way around.