We had a chance to ask Chris a few questions so you could get to know him better before the big event in November. Here's what he had to say.
JA: If you could have a superpower, what would it be and why?
Chris: "Like many leaders, the one thing I never seem to have enough of is time – so if I could have a superpower, it would definitely be time travel. I’d love to have enough time to visit our Team Members at each of our more than 5,000 properties around the world – and a bit more time to spend with my wife and six daughters, of course!"
JA: What was the hardest job you have ever done?
Chris: "The hardest job I’ve ever done is also the one that I think of as my big career break: plunging toilets as a part of the engineering team at a Holiday Inn in Washington, D.C. That’s when I first realized that hospitality is the best industry in the world, and I never looked back.
That experience helps me understand how hard our front-line Team Members work. Their jobs aren’t easy, but they always impress me with the pride and passion they bring to our hotels every day. They show our guests and their fellow Team Members what “hospitality” really means, and it’s a true honor to serve as their CEO."
JA: Did you have a mentor or role model over the course of your career? Who?
Chris: "I’ve been very fortunate to have a number of incredible mentors throughout my life – most importantly, my dad. From a very young age, he taught me to work hard, be honest, be respectful of everyone I interact with and to always have a lot of humility – in both my personal and my professional life.
My dad was also the one who told me that the best way to learn about any business is to spend time on the front lines, which is how I got my start in hospitality. Launching my career in a hotel engineering department helped me understand the day-to-day operations of my industry, and the insights I gained there have influenced many decisions throughout my career."
JA: What do you think is the single greatest challenge facing the next generation?
Chris: "Half of the world’s population is now under the age of 29 – the largest youth generation in human history. These young people are a driving force in our global economy, but they’re also facing the worst youth unemployment crisis in history. In fact, an astonishing 71 million young people around the world are currently looking for work, and young people today are three times more likely to be unemployed than adults.
At Hilton, we’re proud to play a role in developing and empowering the next generation of leaders. We’ve pledged to impact at least one million young people by 2019 by connecting young people to the world of opportunity in hospitality, preparing them by offering personal and professional skills-training and mentorships, and employing them directly. To date, we have reached hundreds of thousands of young people, and we’re encouraging others to join us in this important work."
JA: What’s the one thing you want the Greater Washington business community to know about your company this year?
Chris: "At Hilton, our goal is to be the most hospitable company in the world – and we are strongly committed to sharing our special hospitality with our communities each and every day. We moved our headquarters from Beverly Hills to the Greater Washington region in 2009, and I am proud to report that, between our corporate offices and our owned, managed and franchised properties, we directly or indirectly employ nearly 14,000 people across Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia."
Join us on November 29th as we honor Chris and three other outstanding Washington business leaders at our 30th Annual Washington Business Hall of Fame gala!