Sitting down with… H2 Hospitality Group Sean Holmes

The President of H2 Hospitality Group talks about the best Irish coffee and radio station, what a typical day looks like and that time he had to help remove a “sleep walking” naked political figure from the lobby of a hotel.

What’s the most cherished item in your office?
Other than the “#1 Dad” sign on my desk that my six-year daughter gifted me (she has a very low bar), it would be my window. While I work, I’m fortunate to be able to view daily life and business happenings in NYC—on the river, in the air and on the roads. It gives me a better appreciation and perspective of what it’s all about.

What’s your favorite time to get things done?
I find myself more productive in the late evening when others have gone off the grid.

What’s the soundtrack that plays in the background of your office?
RTE 2fm (Irish Radio Station). It keeps me in touch with my former life.

The band you cannot take off your playlist?
I have a very broad appreciation of all music genres, but Dave Matthews Band appears in virtually all of my various mixes.

What’s a typical workday look like?
Like most of us, since pandemic life has turned upside down, my role has been reinvented. I now commence my day preparing breakfast for my daughter and dropping her off at school. I get to my desk to review financial reports from the previous day’s business and sift through emails.

Afterward, I make and return calls around and between attending meetings and appointments. I book-end my day by picking up my daughter from extended-care, unless I have a meeting or have to attend an event. Otherwise, my evening day ends with following up on some of my earlier day’s work.

What’s the craziest thing that has ever happened to you on a job site?
In the hospitality sector, every day is different. And every day has a story or, likely, multiple stories. Some can be disclosed, but most cannot.

But here’s a snapshot of some:

  • I’ve removed a naked political figure from the lobby of a hotel who claimed to be sleep walking.
  • I’ve had a guest check into a hotel who went to their room on the 14th floor and jumped out the window.
  • I’ve had to break through the hotel bedroom door of a Fortune 500 executive who overdosed on crack.
  • I had a large custom Waterford crystal chandelier fall from the ceiling of the penthouse in a hotel that we had just built and fitted out—the day prior to Liam Neeson appearing to cut the ribbon for the grand opening.
  • I had 24-hours to find a replacement, which I did.
  • On 9/11, our hotel lobbies, bars and restaurants served as shelters for transient folks who could not find transportation home out of NYC.
  • In the Blackout of 2002 in NYC, again, our lobbies served as shelters for folks that could not get home.
  • Dealt with kitchen fires, water shutdowns, etc.

What are you binge watching right now?
“Yellowstone.” It’s a great balancer, as it keeps me reminded of the vastness of the US. We have a habit of feeling that living in the US is like living in large metropolitan cities. We forget there’s a much larger and very interesting alternative world out there that reflects an equally great, if not better, life.

What’s the coolest thing you have done since the pandemic hit?
We relocated to our hotel at the Jersey Shore (www.majesticoceangrove.com ) for six months. My GP reminds me of how lucky I was, and still am, to be able to spend so much time with my daughter. This is cool.

Also, as a subsidiary of my hospitality company (H2 Hospitality Group), I created a food and beverage company with my brother and some colleagues. We raised a fund to acquire bars and restaurants abandoned due to pandemic circumstances (www.pandopubs.com ). Lease terms and deal economics are currently very favorable. We have signed two leases to date, with the objective to build the portfolio to six over the coming 18 months.

What has this experience taught you?
It is the same as I learned during 9/11 and the financial meltdown of 2008-2011: “Where there is adversity, there is opportunity. We mustn’t focus on the adversity, but look for the opportunity.”

If you knew what was going to happen, what would you have done differently?
Nothing. There were valuable and important lessons learned that would never have been but for the pandemic.

Favorite comfort food.
All pastas or a cup of Barry’s Irish Tea with some Jacob’s Club Gold Grain Biscuits (Irish cookies).

Best advice you ever received?
Regardless of one’s level of success in life, never forget the people you pass on the journey up. They are the same people you will meet on the way back down, if that’s where the journey should take you.

Biggest influence in your life?
My parents were in the retail business in the west of Ireland. I grew up around business with my six brothers. We were given our individual chores within those businesses by our Dad—”to earn our keep,” so-to-speak.

The advice and the lessons I learned from him at an early age have been invaluable. And when making business and life decisions today, I often find myself reflecting on those words of advice to guide me. These lessons don’t come in academic or book form.

What trait do you most admire?
Integrity. In today’s world there appears to be a lack of it. Disappointingly, I find that some who were people of integrity have opted to abandon the trait and take the other road.

What advice would you give your younger self?
Sometimes it’s just luck. Don’t shy away from taking the chance with an opportunity. It’s natural and incorrect to assume that others always know more than you.

What’s the first thing you are going to do when you are able to get back to some sense of normalcy?
Whatever that new norm will be, I’m going to fulfill one of my bucket list wishes and organize a road trip across the US via back roads and through small town USA.

 

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