Photo by Lake Pointe Photography
Year-round “hospitality sparkle” is just one part of the job, says Jacque Elliott. She’s sales director at SpringHill Suites by Marriott in Rockwall. For her, a guest-centered shine is as important as doing the right thing.
She stands with her longtime colleague in hotel leadership, Karen Coughlin, regional general manager for Marriott, in a strong, human-centered ethical outlook. Elliott says her earliest experiences in hotels grounded her in that view.
Coughlin’s first hotelier days were also key. A stellar executive housekeeper took a younger Coughlin under her wing and taught her how to lead through personal touches like learning every single employee’s name – even in a large venue. Learning names was the doorway to trust. Coughlin noticed people who were otherwise strangers started to share their life stories with her when she took the time to make the small but essential gesture of recognition.
Those roots in the importance of human relationships extend to the community for Coughlin and Elliott. As members of the Rockwall Area Chamber of Commerce, the women host many community events and businesses. Nonprofits and children’s advocacy groups are frequent guests too.
During Child Abuse Prevention Month this year, SpringHill Marriott hosted The Children’s Advocacy Center for Rockwall County’s Art for Advocacy event. Around 15 artists displayed and sold art, donating a share of proceeds from the Art League. Wine tastings at the event also raised funds for the CAC. The annual tradition for SpringHill is going on four years now, explained Elliott. Coughlin, who sits on the CAC board, says the agency makes membership visible in the community to raise awareness in the fight against child abuse. The fire department visits SpringHill annually too, for conferences and canine recertification.
“Hotels are emotional, and it can be an emotional experience on a daily basis,” said Coughlin. She finds her strength in mentoring others, especially young managers starting on the career path. Her success in nurturing young executives who are then promoted into opening other hotels helps her feel an even greater sense of giving back to the community.
Elliott points out her certificate for women in leadership from the University of Houston, and Coughlin talks about her certified meeting professional credential. Both will have graduated from the Leadership Rockwall class once Elliott makes it through. That program is focused on networks and positive initiative in the Rockwall area.
The women love their missions and see themselves as helpful hands, turning tough situations around for guests, and cheering them on though the weddings and family reunions which many postponed during the pandemic.
“I see a lot of happiness because events are coming back and that’s my fuel to my fire,” said Elliott, who loves making connections and keeping them. She’s become a team with Coughlin, both with decades of combined experience.
“Once you know good people in the industry, you stay around,” said Coughlin.