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Julianne V. Corlew: “Never get too big for your britches! I hope I never feel like I’m above doing menial jobs. I enjoy making breakfast in the office for our corporate team and help make coffee”

Never get too big for your britches! I try to stay grounded with my family and my work life. I hope I never feel like I’m above doing menial jobs. I enjoy making breakfast in the office for our corporate team and help make coffee or empty the dishwasher most mornings since I’m in the […]


Never get too big for your britches! I try to stay grounded with my family and my work life. I hope I never feel like I’m above doing menial jobs. I enjoy making breakfast in the office for our corporate team and help make coffee or empty the dishwasher most mornings since I’m in the office early. When I’m on Scrub Island, I enjoy hiking the island, meeting the staff boat in the morning, and welcoming the staff to work or seeing them off at the end of the day. Hanging out in the construction yard or climbing on the construction sites. Those are the things that keep me in touch.


I had the pleasure to interview Julianne V. Corlew, Vice President & Managing Partner at Mainsail Lodging & Development. Juli joined Mainsail in 1999 following a distinguished 16-year career with Marriott which encompassed both operations and finance. She began at the Albuquerque Marriott then continued on through San Francisco, Denver and Tampa, where she was the cluster Controller for multiple Marriott properties. Her international experience as Financial Director took her to Mexico and to South America where she opened the JW Marriott Hotel Quito before returning to the US and Mainsail.


Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I worked in the Albuquerque Marriott Hotel while I was in college pursuing a degree in project management. I started as a front desk clerk, and worked in reservations, accounting, concierge — anywhere that fit in my school schedule — for about five years. When I graduated and had a job offer in my degreed field, I realized I had caught the hospitality bug and didn’t want to leave. I never looked back. My career with Marriott lasted 16 years and relocated me and my family to amazing locations in California, Colorado, Florida, Mexico and even a move to Ecuador. I enjoy living in diverse locations, and each move was filled with new experiences. Moving to Mexico with three children under the age of five was interesting!

For several years while with Marriott, I had worked with Joe Collier. We made a good team, so when Joe later asked me to join him with his new company, Mainsail Lodging & Development, I was reluctant to leave Marriott, but was sold on Joe’s vision for his company. Twenty years later, we have shared many challenges and fantastic rewards.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

Riding the economic bust in 2008 was a time filled with learning, creativity, and seeking solutions. Certainly, developing a resort (Scrub Island Resort, Spa & Marina, BVI) on a private island was the most interesting project I’ve ever been a part of. Realizing that everything comes to the island on a boat — the staff, food, supplies — and advanced planning is key! Nothing prepared me for dealing with the crisis and recovery of Hurricane Irma. We had guests and staff on the island as we watched the storm on our computers, and we saw our island completely inside the eye of the hurricane. Losing contact with our team was terrifying, and it was several painful hours until we heard back from them. Thankfully, even though this storm was the strongest on record, and the damages extensive, not one guest or staff member was even scratched.

It was my responsibility to find a way to get them all evacuated. The weight of that responsibility and the struggle to find a solution was a challenge I will never forget. My team all took on different responsibilities, like staying in contact with family members of our staff and guests from around the world, managing press, cancelled reservations, all while trying to maintain a schedule of contact via satellite phone to find help when everyone was trying to do the same thing. Our team on the island was heroic and our corporate team worked tirelessly to do anything we could think of. We ended up doing evacuations via helicopter a couple of days later to Puerto Rico, where the Ritz-Carlton staff took care of our guests in very thoughtful ways.

The Puerto Rican community immediately responded to the British Virgin Islands and brought private boat loads of supplies to the territory and to our staff at Scrub Island. Likewise, in Tampa, our staff, families and friends began collecting supplies and raising funds for the employees.

After leaving the BVI, Hurricane Irma came up the coast of Florida, where we have most of our real estate holdings. Once we had our guests evacuated from Scrub Island, we had to take care of our hotels and guests here in Florida. The day after the storm passed Tampa, we flew down to Scrub Island Resort, Spa & Marina, BVI in a private plane — no commercial flights were allowed — so we could see our staff and our beloved property in person. It was a very emotional trip to see the extent of the damages everywhere we looked; we openly cried when we saw our staff members.

Over the next year and a half, things were forever changing, as we went from crisis mode to providing necessities to our staff and getting them back to work immediately — cleaning, repairs, and anything else we could do to get them working again. We worked with the charter boat communities, Marine Max in particular, to start doing business in the most basic of ways — providing marina slips, guest rooms, starting to open the restaurants even while we were in recovery and rebuilding mode. We operated for months while we ran on generators and boated in trucks of water.

Dealing with insurance claims, contractors and searching for roofing materials (there was an incredible roofing shortage due to all the storms throughout the region and in the US) all became my focus for the next year. We are still making some improvements, but the resort is beautiful, the staff are excited, and business is better than ever. I’m proud of the way we responded to this crisis and think we did the best we could do. Our team really came through and we overcame some amazing obstacles. It was humbling and heart-warming to be a first-hand witness to the resilience and compassion of the people of both Puerto Rico and the British Virgin Islands as they have worked tirelessly to recover from the terrible storms of 2017.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I’ve made a lot of mistakes! I hope that I learn from them all — and I don’t get upset with others when they’ve made mistakes, unless they are from a lack of caring or concern. I just say — ok, so what do we do now and how do we make it right?

What do you think makes your company stand out?

We are small enough that our staff know who we are. We aren’t just a company that is owned by stockholders or investors; we are close enough to the field to make decisions quickly and for our staff to know us personally and something about our families. As we grow, it could get harder to keep this going, but it is an important part of our culture.

Can you share a story?

Two of my three kids have worked for Mainsail — starting when they were 15 or 16 — moving furniture, working in the warehouses, on construction sites, serving banquets, and even as an elevator attendant. I always told them that they had to work harder than anyone else since they were the boss’s kid. They did dirty jobs and never complained (well, not much, anyway). Many of our staff members have known them since they were little. One of my sons recently got married, with the rehearsal dinner at one of our hotels and the wedding at another. It was very meaningful to my son and his bride. The staff has enjoyed being a part of our story as well.

Here is another example. One of our core values is that we should have fun and that work doesn’t mean being stuffy. We work hard but we have fun and don’t mind being picked on or joked with. During the Ice Bucket Challenge a few years ago, I let our F&B Director at Scrub Island pour a huge bucket of ice water on me while I stood on the dock. I then did a free fall into the ocean after challenging our other teams to try to top that. Of course, I won.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now?

Our company is going through a significant growth period, with 10 hotels in the pipeline. I spend a lot of time with our leadership team talking about how we are going to get there — strategizing and supporting procedures/processes needed to be successful. Succession planning is an important part of this.

How do you think that will help people?

I don’t take the responsibility that we have for granted. As a company, we provide income, not just for our partners and investors, but an income for our employees along with a great experience for our guests. Our employees have families they support, and it is our responsibility to keep our company healthy so we can provide employment. Helping them be successful in their jobs by providing training, guidance, direction and opportunities to grow with the company is an important responsibility.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable or open — be real! Trying to be tough or having defenses up, trying to prove yourself — that is a tricky thing to do. People want to see a genuine person.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

It isn’t about your success — it’s about the success of the team. Surround yourself with people that you can rely on, listen to, and trust. Recognize that you need people with different perspectives and experiences. None of us can achieve success without some help along the way.

Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My father and his siblings came to the United States as immigrants from Malta when they were teenagers. My uncle Paul (my dad’s older brother), thrived in academia and became very successful and highly regarded in his field. I always adored him as he encouraged me to live life to the fullest and have a passion for being kind and hospitable. He was a tremendous mentor to me throughout my life, advising me and encouraging me along the way. We lost him in this world a few years ago, but his memories and counsel will never leave me.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

My husband and I are committed to helping others and our hearts are really with helping women and children — people who are most vulnerable. We both enjoy finding ways to help people be able to help themselves. We are blessed to be able to share what we have with others.

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

Never get too big for your britches! I try to stay grounded with my family and my work life. I hope I never feel like I’m above doing menial jobs. I enjoy making breakfast in the office for our corporate team and help make coffee or empty the dishwasher most mornings since I’m in the office early. When I’m on Scrub Island, I enjoy hiking the island, meeting the staff boat in the morning, and welcoming the staff to work or seeing them off at the end of the day. Hanging out in the construction yard or climbing on the construction sites. Those are the things that keep me in touch.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’m a big fan of paying it forward — it’s a grassroots effort that brings out the goodness in people. In my perfect “Pollyanna world,” people care for others and help in ways that they can — not because they are told to, but because that is what they are inspired to do. That can apply to workplace, too, inspiring the staff to do good, help each other out, and to be compassionate. It’s contagious!

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

I truly believe that things happen at the right time and the right way for the right reason. Sometimes it takes years before I can look back and recognize that a difficult situation or disappointment was the best thing that could have happened to me. Life’s stories are so much better than we could have imagined them to be. Trials and tribulations lead to opportunities and growth.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Condoleeza Rice! She is an amazing woman living in a world of impossible situations and I would love to hear just a few of her stories.

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