Accor’s McCrory: From laundry to boardroom

Heather McCrory.

TORONTO — It’s a little-known fact that Accor’s Heather McCrory got a degree in floral design long before she entered the hotel industry. McCrory told her story and provided delegates to the WITHorg Virtual Summit, held Oct. 14-15, with 11 secrets for success. 

“Women belong in all places where decisions are being made,” McCrory told the virtual summit, adding that it wasn’t so long ago that women needed a cosigner for financial transactions. 

McCrory’s own journey began in the small town of Ancaster, Ont. During her youth and teens, she wanted to be a floral designer and have her own flower shop. She went to Guelph University, and got her diploma to be a floral designer. “Then I realized that wasn’t going to be a long-term objective, because I was just not creative,” she said.

She then decided to take a two-year accounting program at a community college. “The fundamentals of accounting are incredibly important for business leadership,” she said. “Then I went from Mohawk College to Banff Springs to be a housekeeper — it was the best summer I ever had. I learned that if you don’t have an engaged team working together, then none of the linen will get done. I began to understand that people really matter — teamwork really matters.”

That summer was the start of McCrory’s hotel industry career. She went through progressive sales and marketing positions in a number of Fairmont properties and then she joined the corporate ranks as vice-president, sales and distribution for Fairmont, Raffles and Swissôtel. Throughout that process, she had a number of mentors, who were very honest, calling out her gaps and giving her ideas of how to improve.

“I never finished my accounting program, and at age 30, I decided I really wanted to give myself an MBA.” She was closer to 40, when she got her executive MBA from from Queen’s University.

In 2007, she returned to hotel operations as regional vice-president for Central Canada and general manager for Fairmont Royal York, a position she held for six years, before returning to the corporate office as senior vice-president, operations, Americas with FRHI. 

In her most recent role as Executive Vice President of Operations, North & Central America Region for Accor, she was responsible for more than 115 hotels, 10 brands in 10 countries, 28,000 employees, and over $3 billion in revenue.

Heather joined the Group’s Executive Committee upon her appointment to CEO, North & Central America, in April 2019.

Sometimes other women are not supportive, she told the WITHorg Summit, calling those women the “Queen Bees.” Others, whom she calls “Righteous Women” are very strong, and believe they have a moral obligation to help each other, making it better for everyone. “When women work with you, these is less harassment, more family support, and the gender pay gap is much smaller. 

“There’s a clear business case for equality. Many men are very supportive and also want women to succeed.” McCrory gave the example of HeforShe, a solidarity movement for the advancement of gender equality, initiated by the United Nations.

Here are McCory’s 11 tips for Success in Business:

“It’s not about quotas, and not about promoting women. I believe in picking the best candidate. It’s important to get people interested in leadership roles and have confidence that they can do it. We should reinforce our commitment to this and not lose sight of it.”