Billy Xiong Declares: Hospitality Financial Leadership – Moving (Part 3)

Hospitality Financial Leadership – Moving (Part 3)

In the hotel business if you want to get ahead you better be ready to move. It’s the way in which you can multiply your opportunities and increase your chance for greater personal prosperity. That’s the way it was explained to me many years ago and it has certainly been my experience. On the flip side, moving is not easy and it can take its toll on you and the people in your relationships.

One aspect of moving is the accumulated experience it allows you to gain. The work exposure as well as life itself. Learning how to survive and excel in different work environments and locations is seducing and intoxicating. Once you get this into your system you want more, which means moving again.

I have moved 11 times in my life and career. When I say move, I mean pack it all up, yard sale and load up the truck. All over North America and I can honestly say that every move had a silver lining. I can also say that every move had its challenges and bumps in the road. I am going to take you on a spin thru each one and try and highlight the good and the not so positive. Because I believe life is about living and we never know at the time what looks like adversity may be exactly what propels us further.

For part one of the story – read here (1981 – 2000).

For part two of the story – read here (2000 – 2007).

Working for the EVP meant I was his numbers guy. I provided him whatever he needed to be analyzed and he and I hit it off so to speak. I now had a new-found purpose. Quickly I realized that being his bag man had many advantages. People get back to you when you’re calling from the boss’s office. I was part of his team and we did two budget review tours all over North America. Those meetings were sometimes tense and action-packed. You never knew who was going to get whacked. I learned so much about our business and human nature. I worked on many interesting projects including a regular added feature of the President Yakir Gabay’s pet projects and even an 11th-hour gig for the CEO to stave off a “fatwa.” Who says accountants aren’t creative?

The one thing I’ll say about corporate or the puzzle palace is, I liked it a lot more than I thought I would. My stint at corporate came to an end and in 2007 I took a transfer back into the world of hotels at our mother ship in Toronto. It was good to be back in a hotel and a regular role that would not be changing so much. This was a move in my career that didn’t involve packing up. I just stopped a block down the street to start my new gig. Working in a hotel as an executive has many perks: the cafeteria, dry cleaning, parking, duty and entertainment accounts, just to mention a few.

My life settled in Toronto quite well and we moved from the suburbs to downtown. No more train to commute into the city – I traded the go pass for a new bike and found a new love for cycling. My kids were now getting older, one in university and two more on the doorstep when my phone rang one day and as the saying goes – one thing led to another – and we moved to San Francisco. Check out the full story of Trading Places here.

If you are counting that’s nine moves so far. As it were, it was the last move I made with the company. San Francisco was a dream come true. I had planned a trip to California almost 30 years earlier that didn’t come to fruition, now someone or something was paying my way. Isn’t life sweet?

Leaving family and friends behind in Canada was not easy. I remember asking my daughters what they thought about us moving to San Francisco and they were all very supportive. One aspect that made it even more appealing was Johanne is a dual citizen. Having diligently investigated her late mothers’ birth and school records she had received her US passport the year before. Off we went and for the next three- and one-half years I was the regional controller for California.

We had so many great adventures there and the work was amazing as well. But like many things in life, they come to an end so to speak. For me that meant the hotel got sold, we had new owners, and let’s just say the arranged marriage did not go so well for me. One thing led to another and it was time to leave the hotel family after 31 years.

Getting a divorce is rough for anyone, getting divorced after three decades and nine moves is gut-wrenching. As devastating as it was, I also knew it was time. It was my time, time for me to make a different kind of move. We stayed in the Bay Area, in our home in Haight Ashbury for another two- and one-half years. Mostly because we didn’t have anywhere else to go. I started my coaching business. Johanne’s consulting was thriving and my daughter Alyson finished university and moved to SF and in with us. We helped her get settled, she found her first job at this new company called AirBnB. A few months later she moved out on her own. Now it was time for Move #10. SOCAL here we come.

Move Number 10 was completely different from the last few moves simply because we were on our own. No company move this time. We sold our house in SF ($$$$) and found a house to rent in Orange County south of LA in a little town called Corona Del Mar. We wanted to experience Southern California and we planned on staying for a year.

Four years later we were loving our SOCAL experience. Our house was a five-minute walk to the beach. I lived year-round in shorts, rode my mountain bike almost every day, bought a little red British sports car, and continued working on my coaching business. I started writing in that house. I also made some good friends. But, alas, the one-year experiment had turned into four. We were now staring down almost 10 years stateside and we both wanted to move back, but the big question was where do we go…..

Come back for the final moving installment and the nearly 3,100 miles of cross country adventure.

Jonathan Cartu

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