Dairy Queen manager shows true leadership

Not long ago a young man from Hopkins, MN did something Amazing at the Dairy Queen shop he manages. It wasn’t earth shattering. And it was something, in his own words, that “99 out of a 100 people” would have done. Yet it was rare and wonderful enough that the Internet and traditional news media have been buzzing about for weeks. It’s dragged him into an unfamiliar spotlight of modest fame and good fortune.

Here’s the 411:

On September 10, Joey Prusak witnessed a bad act. One of his customers, who is visually impaired, dropped a $20 bill but didn’t realize it. Another customer grabbed it and stuffed it in her purse. I guess she figured, ‘finders keepers’. But Prusak wasn’t having any of that. He asked her to give it back. When she refused he asked her to leave the store. He was not going to serve people who behaved with such disrespect. Then, he opened his wallet, pulled out a $20, and gave it to the customer who lost his. After that he went back to work.

(The story got out because another customer witnessed it and emailed DQ headquarters. From there, a DQ employee  posted it to Facebook.)

(Read the full story  here.)

While I admire his humility and optimism, I disagree that 99 people out of a 100 would do what he did. If this were true, then Mr. Prusak would probably not be a minor Internet celebrity. He wouldn’t have received calls, interviews, well-wishes and gifts from the many people he has. He surely would not have gotten a call from Warren Buffet, the Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, the company that owns Dairy Queen (complete with an invitation to join Buffet at next spring’s shareholder’s meeting).

Besides humility and kindness, there is a lot we can learn from this act. Prusak’s behavior demonstrates many attributes of leadership that we talk about and read about but don’t always witness. So its become a powerful learning moment. Here are some valuable leadership lessons I take from this event.

1.  Leaders take action.

It’s easy to see something like this happen and tell ourselves (or others) how wrong it was for that lady to take the $20 bill that didn’t belong to her. It’s much harder to do something about it.  The inertia created by habit can prevent us from taking action. Also, fear of the unknown and the perceived risks associated with it can keep us from acting.

But to accomplish any sort of positive change, action is required. Successful leaders know that while talking, thinking and planning are important, change does not happen without action.

2.  Leaders have ethical standards and they hold themselves accountable to them.

Prusak was clear in what he thought about people who would steal from others so blatantly. He wasn’t afraid to act on his values and he did so by asking the “suspect” to leave the store. Doing so might have violated a company policy. It may have exceeded his authority. But it fit with his value system so he made his decision and he acted on it. This takes courage but it also takes self-awareness and unwavering confidence in your own value system. I’ve heard it said “character is what we do when no one is looking”. Our values are the foundation that character is built upon.

3.  Leaders put others first.

Effective leaders know whatever they accomplish, they do it through the work of others.  Building a team that gets things done requires a lot of different capabilities. The most important (in my opinion) of these is to serve others.  Leadership experts talk about  ”servant leadership” as a style of leadership. I see serving others as necessary in all forms of leadership.  What better way is there to build trust and connectedness with others than to put them first?

In effective leaders often suffer from the “do as I say, not as I do”  syndrome. If your actions and words align with your values and people can see that consistently, they’re more likely to believe you and trust you. It’s hard to build credibility when people think your words are empty.

As a manager at Dairy Queen, Joey Prusak has all kinds of credibility with his employees when he talks of treating customers well and doing the right thing.  They can see his values demonstrated in his actions on a daily basis.  Even better, he has probably improved how his employees do their jobs simply by being a role model. He’s shown them what can happen when you do the right thing.

Maybe the most important lesson here is that we can all do the right thing for our customers (and others in our lives). Prusak’s actions and his humble response to the all the attention he’s getting are his way of saying, anyone can do this.  We just need to choose to do it.

by Kevin Stirtz on September 21, 2013 ~ AmazingServiceGuy.com


InterContinental Hotel’s Best of the Best!


Announcing Chef Concierge, Bobbi Chiodo, has been awarded North America’s Concierge of The Year 2013 by InterContinental Hotels & Resorts. Each year only one person in North America is given this special designation.   Please congratulate her on a well deserved accolade.

A well deserved award.  She get to fly to Las Vegas to accept the award and lunch with other IHG winners in other areas.  KUDOS to one of Chicago’s Best!

Alfredo Caliva – Chef Concierge – Doubletree by Hilton Chicago Magnificant Mile


Four Seasons Resort Maui Emphasizes Expert Concierge Services


Nowadays, concierge services seem to be popping up everywhere – from car rental companies to hospitals to banks – all promising value added service.

Within the hospitality industry, there is a growing trend to outsource this service. One luxury resort, Four Seasons Resort Maui, has bucked this industry trend by continuing to place major emphasis on its in-house concierge services.

Recently arrived General Manager Jean Claude Wietzel believes the concierge program is at the heart of a luxury resort operation. “For the well-traveled guest, our concierge service is priceless and indispensable. Our staff are truly experts who go the extra mile. Most are either long-time Maui residents or are originally from Maui.”

Spend a day with Sam Wilhelm, chef concierge, and his staff of 22 highly-trained professionals at Four Seasons Resort Maui to get a firsthand look at the service that is provided at this five-star luxury resort every day. “It is all about creating personalized and customized itineraries for guests and providing a level of service that far exceeds expectations,” says Wilhelm, a Hana, Maui-born hospitality expert who grew up learning the fine points of service from his parents, both longtime Maui hotel employees.

Wilhelm holds the coveted Gold Key from Les Clefs d’Or, the internationally recognized symbol of superior hospitality and quality service. Three others on his team have also earned this prestigious status. Together, the four represent the only Gold Key holders on the island of Maui. Wilhelm manages and directs the largest concierge department in the company which consists of 91 hotels and resorts in 38 countries.

“Taking care of our resort guests is critical, says Wilhelm, who after a quick second, adds “showing guests the real Maui, the one in which I grew up, is equally important because guests can take home lifetime memories of their experiences and the Aloha spirit.”

In addition to knowing the island inside-out, Wilhelm’s team can secure those hard-to-get reservations and best tables at restaurants based on the relationships they’ve developed. “We spend a great deal of time getting to know and learning about the services our preferred vendors offer. And we constantly evaluate the feedback from our guests,” he says.

Wietzel and Wilhelm stress the fact that the concierge team only works with the best activity partners on the island, those who are uniquely qualified to provide a high service experience. “We look at it this way,” says Wietzel: “When we send off our guests to experience an activity or tour, we expect our partners and their respective teams to become an extension of Four Seasons. Our bar is set extremely high and we expect the same from them. We have a lengthy list of requirements our partners need to meet.”

Wilhelm adds “We also have each concierge team member participate in at least eight activities per year, and then report back to the entire team, to ensure the experiences are up to our standards. We’re not here to sell our guests excursions. We are here to deliver the best vacation experience possible.”

Guests can contact any of the 22 concierges prior to arrival or on the spot. Their photographs and short bios are on the resort’s website. Just a look through this section and it becomes clear these professionals can save guests research time by personalizing itineraries, selecting the best and most appropriate activity partners, and using their clout to pull off seemingly impossible requests.

Visit website: Four Seasons Resort Maui
From Luxury Travel Magazine

What’s On My Desk: Les Clefs d’Or USA Past President Jeanne Mills

Ever wonder what the most powerful leaders, business execs and celebrities keep on their desks? Well, we’re about to tell you. Our biweekly “What’s on My Desk” feature will take a look inside the offices and at the desks of the world’s most influential power players.

This week we’ve featured Jeanne Mills, the President of Les Clefs d’Or USA, an organization of professional hotel concierges. As President, Mills provides leadership to more than 650 Les Clefs d’Or USA members, distinguished by the crossed golden keys worn on their uniform lapels. She also happens to be the Chef Concierge at the storied Beverly Wilshire Hotel. Here is a look at the items on Jeanne’s desk.

1. My coveted International Les Clefs d’Or directory which lists the contact information of 3,500 of my closest friends, who do everything in their power to make the impossible happen for my guests all around the world.

2. My golden crossed keys, designed by famous Swiss jeweler Bucherer. These international symbols of service excellence are proudly worn on my uniform lapels every day.

3. Maps- In particular the Rodeo Drive map as the iconic Beverly Wilshire sits prominently at the corner of one of the world’s most famed shopping cross streets of Rodeo Drive and WIlshire Blvd.

4. Flowers- On any given day there are numerous floral and custom gift amenity orders awaiting special delivery to our guests

5. Bowties, collar stays and cuff links are always on hand especially during the peak of award season in LA for guests that might need that last minute item they forgot to pack

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Ritz-Carlton concierge extraordinaire

Reserving an entire movie theater so Prince could enjoy a film? No problem.

Transforming a ballroom into a basketball court so the New York Knicks could get in a little practice? Easy. (Use masking tape to simulate floor markings.)
Arranging for an airplane to fly overhead with a “Will you marry me?” banner? Consider it done.

To those among us who have trouble just making it out of the house in the morning with both wallet and keys, Jon Winke would be considered a miracle worker.

Mr. Winke, who was born and died in blue-collar Berwyn, rose to become the chief concierge at Chicago’s Ritz-Carlton, revered by other concierges, and loved by many who say he gave them their start in the hospitality industry.

In fact, the Michigan Avenue hotel is receiving sympathy messages and flower arrangements from seasoned travelers across the nation who say they will miss Mr. Winke. One wrote on legacy.com: “He is truly one of the reasons I only stay at The Ritz when I am in Chicago.”
“Celebrities, entertainers, movie stars and heads of state asked for John,” said Tom Segesta, the hotel’s general manager.

Mr. Winke died of a heart attack June 30 as his wife of 35 years, Raquel, drove him to Vanguard MacNeal Hospital in Berwyn, where he was born 58 years ago.

With his teddy-bear build and moustache, “The Wink” looked like he was ready to sit alongside Bears “superfan” Bob Swerski and exalt Coach Ditka.

But a closer look at Mr. Winke’s work uniform revealed the crossed gold keys on his collar, a symbol of Les Clefs d’Or (French for “keys of gold,) a global organization of concierges.

He was kind, funny and unflappable. No one can remember him losing his cool during his 37-year career at the Ritz, Segesta said. “The miracles he would perform came so naturally to him.”

“He was the kind of guy that other concierges would reach out to, if they needed advice and assistance,” said Brent Barker, a former concierge at The Drake and other hotels.

For Mr. Winke, snaring last-minute theater tickets and seats at hot restaurants was just another day at the office. “When people give me an impossible request, it might take a few minutes. If they need a miracle, it might take a little longer,” he said upon his 2011 induction into the Chicago Concierge Hall of Fame.

He ticked off some of those everyday feats when he was interviewed by ConciergePreferred.com. A guest from Iowa mailed him his leather jacket, asking if Mr. Winke could get it fixed. While on vacation in Mexico, he helped a guest sell his Bears playoff tickets.

Once, he told the Sun-Times, he rallied Ritz staffers to go to the McClurg Court theater and buy 100 tickets for the Michael Douglas-Demi Moore film, “Disclosure.” A Saudi prince wanted to see the movie, but didn’t want anyone sitting within three rows of him, Mr. Winke explained.

When a mother of the bride lost her contact lenses before her daughter’s wedding, he tracked down her California optician and handed her new lenses within hours of the ceremony. He got Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder front-row tickets for the Bulls, and arranged a night on the town for Mick Jagger.

He even brought a rocking chair from his home so a guest could soothe her baby to sleep.

“He was a hero to tens of thousands of visitors to your city—probably hundreds of thousands,” said Tommy Dean, the concierge at the Four Seasons hotel in Austin, Texas.

Mr. Winke also dealt with more prosaic problems. At least 50 times a day, guests asked him for directions. And he learned to listen closely to non-Chicago accents. Often, visitors seemed to be saying they wanted opera tickets and their “massages.” On closer scrutiny, it turned out they wanted “Oprah” tickets and their messages.

Mr. Winke enjoyed playing for the Ritz Lions on the Near North Hotel Softball League. His traded his calm demeanor to become “The Closer”—a fierce hitter and pitcher who competed against the staff of The Drake, the Four Seasons, the Hyatt and other hotels.

He grew up in Westchester and attended Proviso West High School and Loyola University. In 1975, he started at the Ritz as a bellman. A young woman who worked in housekeeping caught his eye. She didn’t want to date anyone from work, but he pursued the lovely Raquel Silva, a native of San Luis Potosi, Mexico, telling her “Don’t get married. . . .till I ask you.”

He was indefatigable. She was a single mom at the time, and he used to tell her: “Every time I see your son, I feel like he needs a daddy.” They wed in 1978.

The Riverside resident loved all of Chicago’s sports teams. Mr. Winke served as president of the Chicago Hotel Concierge Association and on the board of Les Clefs d’Or USA, said his son, Sean Winke.

In addition to his wife and his son Sean, he is survived by his children, Carlos Cuevas, Ivan Winke, Jon Winke, Jr., Raquel Lynn Winke and Cherizar Winke; his brother, Robert; and his sister, Linda Lee Edwards.

He was laid to rest at Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Hillside, near Fresh Meadows course, where he recently golfed with Sean. “In his suit jacket, I put the scorecard from when we last played, and I wrote ‘ I love you Dad’ on his golf ball,” his son said, “I put it in his suit jacket so it will be with him forever.
by maureen o’donnell modonnell@suntimes.com

All Hail The Concierge – from Hotel Interactive

Who doesn’t love a good concierge? I know we sure do here at Hotel Interactive as they are the most critical conduit between a hotel and the community in which it resides. Concierges hold the doorway open for winning experiences that take place off property, but which the guest directs related to the overall stay.
A good concierge sets the stage for memories, positive or negative and have a direct influence whether a guest will come again or choose a competitor.
But what is a concierge anyway? The term “concierge” comes from the French, Comte Des Cierges, which means “The Keeper of the Candles,” in referring to a person who attended to the needs of visitors to medieval castles.
Castles have evolved into multi-million dollar resorts and hotels and today’s concierge works with high-tech tools. But at its most basic, the role of concierge hasn’t changed in more than 500 years.
“The underlying quality that comes to a being a very good concierge is an individual who has a true understanding of the needs of a guest and a true desire to be of service,” said Robert Marks, chief concierge at The Omni San Diego Hotel and vice president of Les Clefs d’Or USA, the national organization of hotel lobby concierges. “It really comes from a willingness to be of service. That is not something that is a teachable – it has to be an individual trait.”
There are, of course, many things that are teachable to aspiring concierges. Most properties put potential concierges through extensive training programs before the trainee even talks to a guest.
“No colleague is ever put behind a concierge desk alone without at least three weeks of training,” said Dan Droz, concierge supervisor at The Langham Huntington, Pasadena. “Training usually starts with an introduction to our computer system because it is a digital rolodex of our contacts and favorites. They learn to utilize this system and log information and requests correctly so the next shift can know what is going on without missing a beat.
“We then slowly introduce the new concierge to some options in each category and as the new colleague becomes more confident, their baseline of information is expanded. We make introductions with our vendor contacts and expand their network by having them attend events such as those from the LACA (Los Angeles Concierge Association). The learning cycle never ends – even for the experienced concierge. Oftentimes the best training discussions happen as requests come in or as questions are asked by the new concierge.”
A concierge, Droz said, is also responsible for getting to know guests on a level that other colleagues cannot, due to the in-depth types of conversations a concierge has with guests.
“Whether reminding them of the restaurant they loved on their last stay, remembering a child’s favorite treat, or the type of seat they prefer for a sports game, it is up to us to make sure that consistent level of quality and personalization enchants guests every time they stay with us,” Droz said. “Lobby concierge desks should serve as an oasis for guests during their stay. Any request, within the bounds of the law, can be discussed and options are given leading to guests’ wishes being granted. This is a timeless tradition that is honored by all concierge.”
At the JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa, each concierge undergoes what Chief Concierge calls “core training,” starting with brand introduction courses that include "In the Beginning," which covers the brand history and philosophy, "Five Diamond Service Training," and "JW Symphony of Service," which is exclusive to JW Marriott associates.
“For more in-depth information on the property, which further helps their abilities to be a resource for guests, they must complete the "Passport to Success" course within the first three months that they are with the hotel,” Calabrese said. “This cross-training program places the associate in different areas of the hotel for a complete understanding of the property and its services.”
Calabrese said training is also done off property as associates visit local attractions and participate in local cultural events to familiarize themselves with all of the options available to guests who want to explore the destination.
“They cannot recommend any place to a guest they have never visited,” he said. “Networking is an important aspect in these off-property activities, so that the concierge will know the right contact to reach for any given request from a guest. It is also a requirement to be well-versed in the culture and history of the destination.”
That kind of training – and ongoing training – are the keys to developing great concierges, according to Ed Ponder, director of guest services at The Betsy-South Beach and former president of the Southern Florida Concierge Association.
“We use pre-hiring questionnaires to see what they know and need to learn,” Ponder said. “Ongoing tests are used to challenge and expand their knowledge – regarding areas of the city including historical elements that are vital, cuisine, nightlife, etc. Hands-on experience is key so they are scheduled to dine, tour, and just experience the place as the guests will and do.”
So basically, from an information and recommendation standpoint, the concierge is a reference who has experienced and vetted places, restaurants and attractions for guests.
“Even with all of the technological advances we have such as Trip Advisor, Yelp and mobile applications, the people writing those reviews are anonymous, and could be providing biased reviews,” Droz said. “This is when the knowledge and experience of professional concierge is crucial to providing guests with quality recommendations for outings activities in the area. It is our job to steer and inform guests to the best possible and most genuine experiences that will fit within their interests and desires.
“A concierge must be prepared to keep asking questions when the answer or even the request is not obvious. A simple ‘no’ cannot exist. We must be ready to present options and alternatives through extensive research. Finding an answer to truly delight your guest and make them feel like they are your top priority is the most satisfying part of the job.”

The Passing Mr. Jon Winke Ritz Carlton, Chicago, IL

Dear Friends,

We are grieving the loss of a true giant and beloved friend, Jon Winke, who
passed away unexpectedly Sunday.  Jon was first and foremost a husband and
father, and it was only this past March  that he whisked his wife, Raquel,
on a romantic get away to Paris, their very first trip to the City of
Lights.  The mere mention of his daughters Raquel and Cherizar and sons Jon
Jr., Sean, Ivan and Carlos, and  would elicit pure joy and pride, and his
devotion to family made up thThe Great Jon Winke e core of his being.  Jon’s 2011 induction into the Chicago Concierge Hall of Fame was a
testament to his passion for service and the pride he took in his role as
Chicago ‘s premier Chef Concierge.  So many in the Concierge community have
benefitted from Jon’s mentoring and guidance as evident by the the honor
bestowed on him as the first Hall of Fame inductee!  Jon recently garnered yet another first when his entire department recently
nominated him for Manager of the 2nd Quarter, recognizing Jon for his:
leadership, passion, always being there for you and being the consummate
professional who’s mastered his profession.
Jon was a gentlemen’s gentlemen until he donned his blue softball jersey
and infamously became The Closer, and pitched league championship games in
2008, 2010 and 2012!  Needless to say, Jon was immensely proud of his Ritz
Lions and the softball blue that ran in his veins.
For over 37 years Jon has represented the fabric of The Ritz and we will
forever have cherished memories to hold near in our hearts of how he’s
touched each and everyone one of us.  And as we grieve during this
difficult time of loss we will keep Jon’s beloved family in our thoughts and prayers remain with the Winke family.
Services will be Wednesday – July 3rd from 3pm to 8pm at Conboy Funeral Home, 10501 Cermak Road, Westchester,Il  708-562-5900


Please take time to write your condolences to the

Winke family on the Conboy Westchester Funeral Home page


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LCD USA VP/ Treasurer Robert Marks with San Diego Concierge Colleagues


This photograph was taken at the San Diego Monthly Les Clefs d’Or dinner which was held last month at Tapenade Restaurant in La Jolla in La Jolla. The names of the attendees are listed L to R. Justin Sondgeroth-Omni San Diego,Mark Schoenberg-Omni San Diego,Robert Marks-Omni San Diego,Sarah Sbicca– Park Hyatt San Diego,Ewa Skoog-Omni San Diego,Gaby Delgado– Estancia Hotel,Mark Peak-US Grant Hotel,Jean Bush– La Costa Resort,Natalie Miola- Lodge at Torrey Pines(standing behind Jean Bush),Nancy Hirsch– La Valencia Hotel, Lisa Marie Wymann-Lodge at Torrey Pines(behind Nancy Hirsch),Cathy Gomez-Grand Hyatt San Diego and Dean Laurens– Hilton La Jolla.

Thank You from Daisaku Vondran

Thank you very much to Les Clefs d’Or USA for my scholarsLCD INT QThip to attend the 61st annual UICH International Congress in Queenstown, New Zealand (April 7-12, 2013).  I have had the honor of attending every international congress since my first in Vienna in 2007, and each one has been unique.   Queenstown was such a magical place that it really brought everyone together, making it a wonderful congress.

As the plane started to get near, the view was spectacular and the Kiwis took great care of us from the moment we arrived.  I had the pleasure of staying at the Crowne Plaza. My room had a wonderful view of the lake with a private balcony.  As I arrived a day early, I was able to explore Queenstown.  I took a tour out to a secret place and spent much needed quality time with friends who I only get to see once or twice a year, if that.

Once the Congress began, our days were filled with tours, gala dinners, educational seminars, and networking. We all went on a day trip to the wine country and historic Arrow Town — where gold was first found in New Zealand.  That day, there was a group participation contest with the dancing local children. I won the contest and it was such great fun!

We also did things I have never before done in my life, like bungee jumping and shoot-over jets.  Both were amazing.  I’m not sure if I’ll ever bungee again; but I would do the shoot-over again in a heartbeat.  It’s a thrilling speedboat ride that whisks you right up to the edge of a cliff at top speed before it u-turns away at just the last second.

Forbes (formerly AAA) had an educational seminar that included a list of “secret” questions and comments they use when rating properties. I learned that they want concierges to offer at least three options for any recommendation requests. We also broke up into groups of major hotel chains.  The international Board and the New Zealand delegation really gave us an educational and exciting congress.

I even met Tom Wolfe, our first LCD USA member and the first President of the LCD USA section.  He is an icon!

Our gala dinner was situated on top of the world, at the Skyline Center.  We took gondola rides up and the view was spectacular!

I’ll always remember my special time in New Zealand and will be forever grateful to the Board of Les Clefs d’Or USA, who made it all possible for me.

I highly encourage each and every one of you to attend an international congress. You will not regret it!

In Service through friendship,

“Dai” Concierge, Daisaku Vondran