There are few things I enjoy more than staying at a fancy hotel – especially when someone else is paying for it. My bed gets made every morning,, clean towels magically appear in the bathroom, and when I walk through the lobby everyone from the doorman to the people behind the front desk ask if they can help me. Some even call me by my name, a la “Ms. Finke? May I help you to the elevator?” Those of you old enough to appreciate James Thurber will understand why I refer to my hotel stays as Walter Mitty experiences.
My friend Dean Fischer is one of the founders of West Monroe Partners here in Chicago, and when he asked me to give the opening keynote for the firm’s 10th anniversary celebration, I told him I’d be honored. The celebration was at a new hotel less than one mile away from our Chicago condo, but I went ahead and asked for a hotel room anyway. And you know what? West Monroe Partners came through. Big time. And when I say big, I mean big — they arranged for me to have a luxury suite!
The people at the front desk must have been alerted I was coming – they had keycards waiting for me with one corner clipped off – that way I knew which end to put in the key slot to get into my suite. Dean’s wife (and my high school pal) Jenny Fischer came along as the doorman led us down the hallway to my suite, and the two of us burst out laughing when we got inside. The bathroom was bigger than our bedroom at home! Well, at least one of the bathrooms was. The suite had two.
I usually take Whitney’s harness off her when we get into a hotel room, to you know, give her a break. Hotel rooms are predictable, and I can manage them on my own. Not this hotel room, though. Whitney’s harness stayed on. I never did figure out how to get from my king-sized bed to the door to the hotel’s hallway — I had to pick up Whitney’s harness and give her the “outside” command any time I wanted to leave the room!
But back to my tour of the suite: the doorman – his name was Charlie — showed me where the mini-bar was, described the rain forest shower and explained how an infinity tub worked. He told me what button to press on the phone to call the front desk in an emergency. You know, like if I got lost in the suite.
My keynote was at 9 a.m. on the very first day of the conference, but I stayed the entire weekend. Not only because I had such a groovy hotel room, but also because it was such a joy to be around these smart, curious, and extremely young people from West Monroe Partners. The business and technology consulting firm has over 300 employees across North America, and one-third of them are younger than 29. No surprise, then, that Brill Street Named West Monroe Partners one of the 50 most Generation Y friendly companies in the Chicagoland area this year.
Not all of the young people I talked to over the weekend had studied business in college One was a German major, another studied English literature. All of them had spunk, though, and many told me how much they were learning on the job. They weren’t afraid of taking on new responsibilities at work, and boy, did they like to have fun. Example: on Friday night they all went to Johnny’s Ice House in Chicago, where the Canadian employees teamed up against the U.S. employees for a rousing game of hockey. Whitney and I sat that one out. We stayed in the hotel. Oh, and did I tell you we had a luxury suite?
“We’re all pretty Type A,” one of the employees admitted the morning after the hockey game. “And we’re pretty assertive, too.” He was right, I suppose, but there’s a difference between assertive and aggressive. A big difference. These assertive young folks were not shy. They seemed perfectly comfortable approaching me, asking me questions, telling stories, and best of all, sharing laughs.
It was a weekend of first for me, including this one: it was the first time I knew my way around outside the hotel better than inside my room – we were right in our neighborhood, I knew the streets, and Whitney and I enjoyed a few nice, long walks together. It was my first time in an infinity tub, too. Whitney was tempted to join me, but I wouldn’t let her. I was afraid she might drown.