Highly respected within the accommodation industry, Marian Stratford is the executive housekeeper at Sofitel Melbourne on Collins, an elegant and luxurious hotel that is well-known for the exquisite service it offers guests.
In a twist, she began her hotel career at The Regent Hotel, which is now Sofitel Melbourne on Collins and after a few years away she happily returned. “I won’t go into what year I commenced my career,” she jokes. “However, I am extremely pleased to be back at the hotel where it all began!”
Sofitel Melbourne on Collins is one of Melbourne’s finest, overlooking the city and located in the heart of the shopping, dining and theatre district on the Paris-end of Collins Street.
The towering atrium design by IM Pei offers modern opulence with rooms that are superbly appointed, with lofty views of the city, gardens and sparkling Port Phillip Bay.
Executive housekeeper Marian starts her morning at 06:30. She tells us: “My first job is to speak to the overnight team about guest experience and prepare for the day ahead by checking staffing levels. At 08:00, I gather the team for our luxury forum to go through the hotel performance, events in the hotel, VIP guests, inspirational quotes, guest feedback and then I share my focus for the day.
“Throughout the day, I also handle a wide variety of tasks, such as purchasing supplies, checking stock levels, tailoring VIP guestrooms and checking the performance of laundry and uniform rooms. As the day progresses, my main responsibility is motivating and coaching the team.”
Marian has a passion for the industry: “Hospitality is absolutely a love of mine, particularly the hotel industry, but working with the French heritage of the Sofitel brand – its elegance and sophistication – is what inspires and motivates me every day.”
The Sofitel story began in 1964, when the first French international hospitality brand was created. Today, the Sofitel brand also encompasses the historic Sofitel Legend, the fashionable SO Sofitel and the boutique MGallery by Sofitel. The brand creates distinct and unforgettable guest experiences, “always inspired by the essence of the locale and creatively imagined through a sophisticated French lens”.
Marian thoroughly embraces the Sofitel philosophy and according to her, the most important aspect when ensuring that her guests receive a bespoke guest experience is “to create cousu-main experiences”.
“This means we must tailor the experience for the guest, dependent on what they have enjoyed during a previous stay together with their current stay.”
She stresses: “This is incredibly important as we have a lot of Accor Plus loyalty members staying with us. Over 1.8 million loyalty members in Australia which means we have a lot of cousu-main experiences to tailor every day.”
As part of the bespoke experience we ask, what does your department do best? She replies: “We curate the accommodation room for the guest. Our high-profile guests’ requests have been as simple as setting up a karaoke machine or a Christmas tree, to larger requests such as a dressing room with theatre mirrors for their makeup artist!”
What challenges Marian?
“Both the challenge and joy of my new role has been to get to know the members of the team and to adapt my management style to inspire the best performance from each individual.
“Another challenge for me has been to get a well-established team who have worked together for over 20 years to embrace changes to procedures. the Sofitel Melbourne on Collins housekeeping team are collaborating on several new initiatives and this is always going to be a work in progress as changes are constantly happening.”
To establish such great team work and hard work ethic, Marian insists on having “an open-door policy”. She explains: “You will never see my door closed unless I am meeting with a team member on a personal matter. Even then, I try to speak to all staff at an appropriate time. I also try to ensure that every team member is greeted when they commence their day and I strive to resolve issues when they happen, on the day.”
What is Marian’s biggest work achievement?
“Since I started working, I’ve never stopped learning and that is a huge achievement itself,” she states. “I don’t really think that any single achievement is bigger than the one before; however, what I am very proud of is the work that we do in housekeeping to reduce our impact on the environment.”
She clarifies: “A passion project of mine was to introduce Soap Aid to the department and I was one of the first ambassadors in Victoria for this extraordinary program. Soap Aid assists communities in third world countries by offering them recycled soap from hotels to promote better health.”
When it comes to purchasing products and amenities for the department, Marian is solely responsible. “Normally my purchases are online through approved suppliers that the Accor network has set up. However, I am constantly interested in new and innovative products that will assist with efficiency, reduce unnecessary waste and above all are compliant to Planet 21 – AccorHotels environmental and social responsibility program.”
Who has helped and supported Marian’s career?
“I have had several mentors throughout my career but it is impossible for me to pinpoint just one! I’ve had a few executive housekeepers, general managers, colleagues, and team members who have all inspired and challenged me at one point or another. They have all helped me grow and inspired me to keep on learning.”
Is Marian’s motto, ‘keep learning’?
“Yes, this has been a reoccurring theme in my work habits and I continue to learn, to strive to make a positive contribution by my actions and words.”
Does she enjoy her job?
“Oh yes! I absolutely adore working with people and the Sofitel Melbourne on Collins has over 500 people working in it; this collection of personality and talent creates a great sense of family and pride.”
“I am also crazy about travel,” she adds. “For me, travel inspires new ideas and of course I also enjoy the feel of luxurious surroundings, so when I travel I like to stay in other Sofitel properties. It is during these trips that I often find myself chatting to other Sofitel executive housekeepers to learn what is working for them and then I bring this knowledge back to use in my role.”
What is your best advice to other executive housekeepers?
“That is simple: keep learning, speak to people, learn from people and be inspired by your travels.”