John Parkinson, An Hotelier Who is Making A Huge Social Impact

It’s not what you’ve done, it’s what you can do. It’s important to adjust to whatever life throws your way. Once you’ve accomplished…

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It’s not what you’ve done, it’s what you can do. It’s important to adjust to whatever life throws your way. Once you’ve accomplished something great, it doesn’t mean you’re done. Overcoming an obstacle puts you in a better position to set another goal or help another person. There’s always room to do more.

I had the pleasure of interviewing John Parkinson, Area General Manager for Hilton West Palm Beach and five hotels in Fort Lauderdale with more than 15 years of experience in the hospitality industry. Starting as a valet driver and quickly working his way up to a leadership role, Parkinson has encountered various obstacles throughout his career. None of them however, made as much of an impact on both his personal and professional development as losing his grandmother, mother and sister to breast cancer.

Thank you so much for joining us! What is your “backstory”?

I lost my grandmother and mother to cancer at a young age, and this year my older sister lost her battle against breast cancer. As a two-time survivor, she had dedicated more than 10 years of her life to helping people stricken with this disease. My mission is to pick up where she left off and continue her fight. In March 2018, my team at Hilton West Palm Beach created District Fit in partnership with CityPlace to bring awareness of a healthier lifestyle by offering free wellness and fitness classes to the public. The first installation was a huge success with more than 1,000 attendees, so we decided to create a second installation this October 19–21, to coincide with Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This fall, District Fit will include more than 20 health, nutrition and exercise classes, highlighting the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?

My sister’s favorite form of exercise was Zumba, which I always joked with her about. When selecting the classes and scheduling the trainers for October’s District Fit, this was the first thing that came to my mind. I wanted to create a massive Zumba class in her honor, that would be donation based with participants decked out in pink and dancing for a cause. Many of her friends from Orlando will be coming into town and joining us to dance in her memory.

Can you describe how your firm is making a significant social impact?

Hilton West Palm Beach makes a huge effort to create partnerships with the community, particularly with District Fit to make an impact locally and also spread awareness nationally. For District Fit, we’ve put a heavy focus on breast cancer awareness to align our efforts with American Cancer Society’s Real Men Wear Pink campaign. We will be offering free fitness classes with certain classes that will be donation-based with 100% of proceeds going directly to the American Cancer Society. Examples of classes include a West Palm Beach fun run, yoga classes, bootcamp, Zumba and more. In addition, a portion of sales from select menu items at the hotel’s restaurants and pink-themed suites at will be donated.

Wow! Can you tell me a story about a person who was impacted this cause?

My sister who lost her battle against breast cancer this past May. She dedicated herself to helping people with breast cancer for the last 12 years of her life and I’m picking up where she left off, educating others about this disease and continuing her legacy.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

No matter the cause, if everyone came together to support an issue they believed in, the world would be a better place. If everyone helped one person every day aside from themselves, even if it were a total stranger, we would see such a difference in areas like health, education, or fitness. Imagine the impact we could have if everyone donated $1 to a cause like this.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

You won’t be able to make everyone happy. Working with so many people on a daily basis, from guests, family, and team members, I’ve realized that no matter how hard you try, you can’t always cater to each individual. In these instances, go with your gut when making decisions. If you believe it’s correct, nine times out of ten it will be.

Don’t ever get too high, don’t ever get too low. When I lost my sister, it affected me. It’s important to give yourself time to heal and reflect, no ,matter what the situation is. I also realized that in these times of reflection and self-analysis, you can channel those emotions to motivate, which is how I inspired my team and the community to support a cause like Real Men Wear Pink.

Take time for yourself. Be a little selfish, even if it’s just an hour a day. It’s important to take time to reflect and recharge. It’s easy to get lost in your day to day obligations, but if you’re not clear headed you can’t be productive or lead a team.

It’s not what you’ve done, it’s what you can do. It’s important to adjust to whatever life throws your way. Once you’ve accomplished something great, it doesn’t mean you’re done. Overcoming an obstacle puts you in a better position to set another goal or help another person. This is one of the lessons that motivated me to launch the Real Men Wear Pink campaign, there’s always room to do more.

Experience is great, enthusiasm is greater. I use this motto with my team all the time. I always look to hire someone with a great personality, because you can’t teach that, but you can train them to grow into a position even if they lack a bit of experience. I make a point to maintain that good energy within the team through initiatives like the “Java With John” sessions. Once a month, I’ll make coffee for one-on-one meetings with my team members on their birthdays, to celebrate their successes and take the time to catch up.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Like I mentioned before, “It’s not what you’ve done, it’s what you can do”. I wanted to do more than donate money for a cause, so we’re leading a large-scale initiative by completely transforming Hilton West Palm Beach for one month in support of the American Cancer Society. Guests and the community can stop by the hotel through October 27 to experience pink-themed suites, cancer-preventative menus and activities that are aimed at bringing people together to raise awareness of the disease.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this. 🙂

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. He’s been an inspiration to me for many years now. Starting his career as a football player, and then shifting to become an actor is impressive. On top of being versatile, what I admire most is that even in careers were he’s always in the spotlight he makes a huge effort to give back to the community through his work with the Beacon Experience, Make-A-Wish Foundation, and of course Dwayne Johnson Rock Foundation that helps terminally ill children.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I created an Instagram account, @JPInPink, that is specifically dedicated to the Real Men Wear Pink Campaign. My followers can get updates on the race to raise funds for the American Cancer Society and the exciting events and special offers that they can participate in.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!

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