Behind The Scenes At Capella Washington DC: JFW Inc.

Capella Washington DC: JFW Inc.

“It has been the highlight of my 30 some odd year career.” These are the words of Jim Wilson, President of JFW, Inc. speaking about his working collaboration with his son, Jim Wilson Jr., Project Manager of JFW Inc.  The duo are the project management team behind the construction of the upcoming Capella Washington DC, Georgetown.  They took some time to sit down with me to discuss working with family and this special hotel project.

What are your backgrounds and how did you end up in this business?

Jim – “I am an engineer and a large commercial construction builder.  Twenty years ago I started my own firm, working as an owner’s representative and project manager for many independent organizations that don’t have a project management expertise on staff.”

Jim Jr. – “I graduated in 2007 from the University of Maryland as a Mechanical Engineer.  For three years I worked for a general contractor and spent one year as an owner’s representative for the federal government.  I am currently working on my MBA at Johns Hopkins University while being the Project Manager for JFW and Capella Washington DC, Georgetown.

What is it like working with your son?

Jim – “I cannot be more proud of the quality of his work and his integrity. He represents the owners and me as his father extremely well.  Jim is an extraordinary individual.  He is a classical pianist and a great athlete and very talented, more than I am [laughing].  He works hard to help others and is an unusually humble young man that I appreciate and highly respect.  Much of his talents and smarts also come from his mother!”

What is it like working with your father?

Jim Jr. – “I love working with my dad, he’s very well respected and what I appreciate most is his high level of integrity.  He has a very clear compass of what’s right and what’s wrong.  I’ve always enjoyed the problem aspect of construction.  Growing up watching my dad I realized it was something I enjoyed doing too.  I began to understand how well respected he was and that he truly is one of the best in the field.  That is the moment when I knew I wanted to work for him.”

What makes working on this project so special and different from other projects?

Jim – “This project is like building a very large jewelry box; all the details are very intricate.  There isn’t a lot of repetition going on anywhere in the building— each room is unique.  The wood floor for the bar is from a castle in France, and the marble stone that lays in the lobby as well as the millwork is coming from Austria.”

Jim Jr. – “I’d say the level of finishes and the beauty of the design itself.  I’ve done a number of projects for school and for the government, and I have to say none of them were as aesthetically pleasing.  It is something to be very proud of when we are done.”

What makes Capella Special?

Jim – “It is like the difference between being on a 747 versus a private jet, and Capella is the jet.  Capella is nimble; you are dealing very, very closely with decision makers.  Capella is lean in its operation and organization, you feel like this is a real team of people working together, not just working for a corporate company.  There are a lot of devoted, hardworking people.”

Jim Jr. – “What’s neat is there is a real strong emphasis with the people that they are going to ultimately serve with this building.  You can see it with all Capella employees; they are very nice, kind people and focused on others.  I think that comes across in how this hotel is being built.  There’s a focus on the person that is going to stay here, making sure the building is beautiful for the clients.”

How does it feel to see your son following in your footsteps?

Jim – “He is much smarter and more talented than I am.  I just hope that I can get him started in a way that he can be as successful and influential as the Capella Canon is.  We have a lot of fun and we love to laugh together.  We love playing golf together and we are very, very close.  He tells me he loves me every day.  I hope he still enjoys it after a number of years, I don’t want to wear him out!”


Before The Light Changes At Capella Singapore


Last week we had a photoshoot here at Capella Singapore, as we update some of our brand photography.  Needless to say that it was a very interesting experience, being up and about the hotel at sunset and again before the break of dawn, just to catch that one spectacular moment where the light casts the perfect shadows and reflections.

Taking a walk in the early hours of the morning is almost surreal and it really brought a whole new perspective.  If you ask me, this is really what life is like behind the scenes in a hotel.

At 5am, the kitchen is already bustling with busy chefs and culinary assistants whipping up the perfect breakfast spread.  As I pass through the kitchen, I catch a delicious aroma of fresh pastries— the perfect way to start a morning!

Over at the lobby, all is quiet except for the occasional guest checking out for an early morning flight and the brisk business traveller looking for a cup of coffee in the library before heading out for a day of meetings.

Outside by the pool, our hardworking housekeeping team is diligently clearing the pool from all the fallen leaves and twigs, the evidence of a midnight shower.

Daybreak here at Capella Singapore is indeed breathtaking.  Perched high up in one of our rooms, where the balcony overlooks the gleaming waters of our cascading pools and the magnificent South China Sea, is where the photoshoot begins.  After the intricate set up and the photographer finding the right angle, we wait for sunrise.  As dawn approaches, the skylights begin to change, ever so slowly that you don’t even realise how much it’s changed.

It’s just before 7am and our photographer springs to attention, sensing that the light is just about right.  A few shots are taken, each shot notably different from the previous one.  In just 15 minutes, the shoot is done, the light has changed and morning has come. Who could have imagined that only a moment ago, the pool side still glowed in the semi dark sky and now it glistens in the morning light.

The next time you’re in town with us, consider taking an early morning stroll about the grounds and enjoy the fresh sea breeze.  It’s really peaceful and calm and an experience unlike any other.

2012 General Manager’s Meeting

The Capella General Managers and much of the Corporate Team.

One of the things that makes Capella unique is our culture.  And to make sure that our culture remains common, we have the Canon Card to remind us of our basic tenants and beliefs.  That, in conjunction with our daily lineup, helps to ensure that each Capella property is making the same commitment day in and day out.  Of course at the property level, this commitment is passed down from the General Manager to the rest of the Capella family.

The Capella General Managers and much of the Corporate Team. 

This past week the General Managers had the opportunity to come together.  I was lucky enough to be included in on these meetings and thought I would give you an idea of what takes place during them.

The General Managers Meeting is a time of alignment.  In addition to each properties GM, members from the Corporate Offices meet together to discuss company philosophies, standards, goals and much more.  It is a time to discuss the systems that are created to fulfill guests’ desires.

I love hearing stories from each of the properties and seeing how there is a real give and take between everyone present.  As Vice President of Sales, Mr. Kit Pappas observed, “Have a problem?  I guarantee that another hotel has faced and solved that same issue.  All you have to do is ask!”

Isiah Thomas surprises the General Managers with some inspiration.

Another highlight from the conference was a surprise visit from basketball legend Isiah Thomas.  We were all excited to be in the presence of basketball greatness!  For me, Mr. Thomas’ emphasis on knowing our tenants and allowing them to guide every action was particularly poignant.

At the end of the week I asked our Chairman, Mr. Horst Schulze, what he took away from the meeting.  His answer, “Based on our customer and employee satisfaction and the commitment of our leadership, it is clear that we are on the way to becoming the global leader in the hospitality industry.”  Clearly, it was a very successful meeting!