There are so many ingredients that are needed for an organization to be successful. However, the main ingredient needed is an excellent leader. This week marks the 25th anniversary of the longest tenure of any staff member in our history: Frank I. Wolfe, CAE, HFTP’s chief executive officer.
As HFTP’s CEO, Frank not only promotes the association’s mission to its members, but also to its employees and other professionals in the hospitality and association industries. Many of you know of Frank’s HFTP accolades, which are well deserved. However, I would like to share an insight on what I believe makes him successful as HFTP’s leader and a key ingredient to HFTP’s success. I am pleased to share with you the leadership traits and qualities that encompass my friend and mentor – Frank I. Wolfe, CAE.
In 1994 when Frank began his tenure as EVP/CEO, I was a young (20 year old), recently married college drop-out that needed to find a real job. Fortunately for me, Frank hired me from a temporary position as the association’s receptionist. Frank’s values and work ethics allowed me to demonstrate my skills on many levels. He never refused to assign me projects based on my position in the organization.
The instrumental impact Frank had on my career was in 2003. As my mentor and coach, Frank called me into his office and said: “Lucinda, have you considered what your professional goals are? You’ve been in association management for nine years now and I think you should pursue getting your Certified Association Executive (CAE) designation.” Okay, so it was more like “Lucinda, go get your CAE designation.” Until this point I never considered my job as a career; I just really liked where I worked and who I worked for. Needless to say, that made me reflect on what I was doing professionally and in 2005 I attained the CAE designation, in 2011 I finished my undergraduate degree, and in 2014 I completed my MBA. All the while, Frank kept saying — “Go, Go, Go!”
Frank continues to mentor his staff. HFTP’s Director of Meetings & Special Events Steven Stout, CAE states:
“Frank has given me so many opportunities throughout my career at HFTP it would be hard to name them all, but I can say that my passion for the association industry came from Frank. Frank gave me opportunities to test my own limits as a professional even at times when I didn’t think I could do it (albeit I would never admit that to him) or times when I thought he was certifiably crazy and there was no way to pull something off (like say GUESTROOM 20X). We did it! He never takes credit, which he could easily do and none would be the wiser. But he always, and I mean always, is the first to shove his staff in the spotlight, something I have always found very inspiring. It makes me want to work better, smarter and faster! However, probably THE best thing about Frank as a CEO is his passion for his staff to better themselves. Never once has he denied me an opportunity to better myself as an association executive, whether that be earning the CAE designation, speaking at association industry events, or being active in our own professional associations.
In speaking with other association executives, I think that is something that is rare among association CEOs. I love this industry and I never thought I would when I joined the staff, just because I knew very little about it. That love had to come from somewhere and I can honestly say it came from Frank Wolfe. So thank you Frank and congratulations on 25 years!”
Another leadership trait that Frank encompasses is his participative decision making style of management. After September 11, 2001, the association also experienced the economic impacts that the hospitality industry faced. Unfortunately the association was required to eliminate two staff positions. Frank could have decided what positions would be eliminated. However, he selected to use participative decision making. Frank scheduled a meeting with the department directors and informed the directors that two staff positions needed to be eliminated. Since the workload of those positions would be distributed throughout the departments he felt that the directors should have input as to what positions should be eliminated based on the association’s operational impacts.
Frank also fosters employee satisfaction by valuing work-life balance. I personally experienced how much Frank values work-life balance when I became a new mom. In 1999, after experiencing 8 weeks of unexpected bed rest, I was blessed with a beautiful baby boy. However, since I left work two months prior to my maternity leave I was not prepared financially and returned to work immediately. These factors caused immense stress in my life and I was not performing adequately at work. I felt that it was not fair to Frank and the association so I turned in my resignation due to personal reasons. Instead of accepting my resignation, Frank discussed the situation with me and offered part-time employment until I was able to figure out my personal circumstances—being a new mom. Frank understands that in order for staff to perform well at work, home life matters!
During his leadership, Frank has not only impacted staff but has also accomplished numerous goals of the association. Such goals include a successful name change from International Association of Hospitality Accountants to Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals and a fifty-nine percent increase in membership from 3,200 members to 5,100. Moreover, the association’s revenue has grown from $1.3 million to $7 million.
Frank’s leadership extends beyond his employees and organization by serving as a leader, teacher, and advisor to other industry professionals and organizations. He has served on the board of directors of the International Hotel & Restaurant Association, American Hotel & Lodging Association, and the Dean’s Advisory Board at the Conrad Hilton College at the University of Houston. He was featured as a marketing expert in ASAE’s publication, Association Management, and has presented numerous times at industry meetings. Frank also frequently speaks on hospitality finance, technology, and travel issues and has presented in more than 20 countries. In 2000, Wolfe was featured in Lodging Magazine in the “75 Profiles in Leadership” edition—a who’s who of 75 individuals who have made major contributions to the hospitality industry. In 2002, Frank received the HFTP Paragon Award in recognition of his significant and lasting contribution to both HFTP and the hospitality industry.
Frank’s leadership styles, traits and qualities have not only been instrumental to my professional career but to HFTP, its employees, and the hospitality and association industries.
This statement by HFTP Global Past President Agnes DeFranco, CHAE, Ed.D, best summarizes Frank’s leadership:
“Frank brings peace and order to any situation. He is like a shepherd. He leads. If the staff, board, or membership is not working towards the goal of advancing the association, or encounter very difficult situations, he will kindly lead all of us back to the herd. As such, he is well respected.
Frank inspires ideas and imagination in any project. He is like a professor. He challenges. He wants his staff, his board and the membership in general to be on the leading edge and forge into the future, making HFTP the premier association in the hospitality industry. As such, he is most admired by his peers.
Frank cares not just about HFTP, but the people that make up HFTP. He is a builder. He promotes the goodness of our industry, is conscientious about results and exceeding goals. Yet, he never forgets the real essence of the association, its members—the people. As such, he is well loved.”
Congratulations Frank on 25 Years of Excellence!
Lucinda Hart, CAE, MBA, is the Chief Operations Officer of Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals. She has over 22 years of association management and customer service experience in the areas of certification, membership, chapter relations, meeting planning, and governance & administration. Lucinda is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the association and represents HFTP at numerous industry global events. She often speaks on HFTP membership, chapters, and student programs.