Sandy Murphy is one of the most influential general managers in California’s luxury hotel scene. For more than a dozen years, she’s led the Beverly Hilton, the venerable 566-room property that opened in 1955 and, with 60,000 square feet of indoor and open-air event space, is home to some of LA’s most glamorous events, including the Golden Globes. Recently, the Beverly Hilton completed a $35 million top-to-bottom transformation. Encompassing all guest rooms, event space, meeting rooms, and public areas, the renovation offers a crisp, modern interpretation of classic Hollywood Regency style that complements the building’s mid-century modern architecture.
CAM+E: Tell us about your journey to where you are today.
SM: I started as a front-desk clerk with Hilton 35 years ago, at an Embassy Suites in Covina. I was going to Cal Poly Pomona, and it was my college job. I was lucky. My very first boss said he preferred female GMs because women have more attention to detail than me. He was a champion of women ahead of his time. He promoted several female GM’s, including me. I was a GM at 25. I had no business being a GM at that age, but I was.
After that first GM position I moved into a corporate role, becoming an area vice president. In 2008 I was offered the opportunity to become the general manager of the Beverly Hilton. Accepting the position was the best decision I’ve ever made in my career. Being with the hotel has been such an incredible and rewarding experience. The hotel is so dynamic; there’s something new and different happening all the time.
CAM+E: From your experience, do you believe women bring a different perspective to the role of GM?
SM: We tend to manage throughout the organization, while men, amazing as they are in the position, will often delegate from the top down. I like to be well informed about everything that’s going on in the hotel. Just on the walk over there I took some pictures of things that needed to be taken care of. There were chairs set up that were a bit askew and some crumbs on a table that needed to be cleared. You’re constantly looking at for anything that might be amiss.
CAM+E: How would you describe your management style?
SM: With anybody who’s a direct report, I let them know that I will be very direct with them. Sometimes I may forget to say please or thank you on an email, but I do appreciate them and they will know exactly where they stand with me.
I think my teams know that I have their backs and that’s important. And I think they know that if I don’t feel they’re doing a good job, they will hear about it from me, in private. Working in fear or uncertainty is the most important thing to get rid of.
I tell my team, everyone makes mistakes. I just don’t like surprises. So if you make a mistake, I don’t care how big it is, you be the one to fess up and tell me because I don’t want to hear about it from someone else. How we overcome the mistake is really what’s important, not the mistake itself.
We have an incredible team. I always tell meeting planners who come in that I have over 200 employees who have worked here for more than 20 years and 100 who have worked at the hotel for more than 300 years. The institutional knowledge of these employees is amazing. What’s more they view the hotel as their home and they have such a sense of pride and a desire to make everything perfect, that you can be absolutely sure they will take care of you.
CAM+E: It’s been a very difficult time for the hospitality industry. How have you been able to lead your team through the pandemic and what lessons have you learned?
SM: Leading a team during a worldwide pandemic has been the most challenging experience in my professional career. In the face of uncertainty and fear, we leaned on each other’s strengths and the power of open communication, transparency and a willingness to constantly pivot our business to meet the demands of our ever-changing environment. This period turned out to be a time of resiliency, innovation and flexibility where the power of the human spirit manifested itself in many ways. I’m incredibly proud of my team, whose commitment to health, safety and cleanliness remains of utmost importance.
We implemented the Hilton CleanStay program in partnership with Reckitt, the makers of Lysol® & Dettol®, to elevate our already high standards of housekeeping and cleanliness. From there, we started each day with a foundational focus on the health and safety of our guests and team members.
Hospitality is about welcoming guests and honoring their individual comfort levels when it comes to travel and gathering – this has always been our focus, and it’s now more important than ever. Throughout the pandemic, the team at The Beverly Hilton continued to seek and embrace new ways of bringing people together. From our concert and movie screening on the roof of our International Ballroom, to creative uses of our outdoor space, a pop-up restaurant on our 8th floor and much more, the team approached each day with creativity and a paramount commitment to the light and warmth of hospitality. beverlyhilton.com