Posted March 12, 2015

Women Making Kimpton History: Shirley King

Kimpton Buzz

Shirley King

Shirley King

March is Women’s History Month, a time to celebrate the accomplishments made by women throughout the ages, from warrior queens (Boudica, anybody?) to astronauts (ride, Sally Ride). So we decided to reach out and check in with some of the women who are making Kimpton history.

First up is Shirley King, Loyalty Program Manager for our Kimpton Karma Rewards*. Shirley has been with the company for more than two decades, starting out as a part-time employee while going to college, and eventually becoming lead concierge at Hotel Palomar San Francisco. She now helps manage our award-winning loyalty program, one of the most sophisticated and cutting-edge programs in the industry.

“Passionate legacy is a rare thing in modern corporations,” says Senior Director of Guest Marketing Maggie Lang. “When you meet a capable colleague who has perhaps 10 years of tenure, you thank your lucky stars. Shirley has been with Kimpton for more than 25 (whoa!) years. She more or less grew up with Bill Kimpton. Her passion, dedication and commitment to Kimpton is phenomenal, and we all get inspired by her heart and spirit every single day.”

Q: Who’s your favorite historical woman, and why?

A: I have two.

Eleanor Roosevelt statue

One is Eleanor Roosevelt. I admire her as an overall champion of human rights and specifically what she did to advance women in the workplace. Her list of “firsts” throughout her political life is truly outstanding.

Mother Teresa statue

The other is Mother Teresa. She embodies something I feel passionate about: “Servant Leadership.” I’ll give you an example: My father (who is a contractor/developer who worked with Bill Kimpton on his first 10 hotels) was helping Mother Teresa build a shelter for homeless mothers in San Francisco. Once completed, my dad gave her and her sisters a tour and showed her where she would be sleeping. It was a larger, quiet room with a bath on the top floor. She smiled and looked at him and said, “Actually, I will be in the noisy communal room downstairs; I want to save the best room for the homeless.” Talk about the purest form of hospitality.

Q: Did you have a female mentor who helped shape your life or career?

A: I’ve grown up at Kimpton (literally 25-plus years) and have been lucky enough to work with quite a few amazing women here through the years. I always admired [former COO] Niki Leondakis for her heart-based leadership; but Maggie Lang has had the most impact on shaping my career. She offered me tremendous opportunities with the design and launch of the Kimpton Karma Rewards* program and helped me navigate through some work/life balance decisions. She encouraged me to push beyond my comfort zone, believed in and trusted me.

Q: How do you manage work/life balance?

A: Work/life balance is a tough one; there just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day. One of the things that helps me is to allow a little chaos within the order. I’m the kind of person who enjoys having things in place and go as planned — but with two athletic kids, a husband, and a job with a commute there’s always going to be something that doesn’t go just right. I have to remind myself to roll with it and not get frustrated. That will only eat up more time.

Shirley King

Shirley with sons Tyler, 12, and Trevor, 9, and her husband Ralph.

Q: What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the industry over the years?

A: Technology! When I started working for Kimpton at the Villa Florence Hotel in San Francisco — now remember, this was a small boutique hotel in the late ’80s and it was a little behind the times — we typed the registration cards and tracked the occupancy on a whiteboard. In the ’90s when I was at the Hotel Palomar as Head Concierge, we transferred our hand-written index cards full of loyal guest-preferences into a new system that automatically recognized repeat guests and served up their preferences upon check-in. That was a big deal back then. Fast-forward to today where I am at the Kimpton Home Office and in a world where our hotels are able to recognize loyal members across all properties on a world-class, cloud-based CRM [customer relationship management] platform. It has been quite a ride to be involved in the evolution of loyalty/CRM at Kimpton.

Q: What advice would you give to your 16-year-old self?

A: Trust that you will find your gift, and it will work for you. The plan for me was to work at Kimpton while I finished college and go on from there. As it turned out, I got my degree and stayed. I was lucky that I stumbled onto something I was passionate about and came to work for a company that values constantly evolving itself. We are all about evolution. It has been like working for a start-up for the last 25 years.

Q: How about your 80-year-old self?

A: Remember how hard you worked and played to get here. Every wrinkle tells a story; embrace them all.

Eleanor Roosevelt photo: Jeff Kubina/Creative Commons; Mother Teresa photo: Dennis Jarvis/Creative Commons; banner image: Harris & Ewing, 1917.

*UPDATE: Kimpton Karma became a part of the award-winning IHG Rewards Club program in 2018. Learn more here.


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  1. Mom says:

    I couldn’t be more proud of you, Shirley!!!
    You have balanced your family and career so beautifully, making it seem effortless.
    We all benefit!

  2. Patricia Shortt says:

    That’s my girl! Your an amazing person both professionally and personally, so congratulations on your on the recognition from the industry!

  3. gary king says:

    Great picks on two women who have made a huge difference in the world.

  4. Siovonne Smith says:

    Hi Shirley: Your long time ago babysitter here. I’m also a Kimpton Karma rewards member. I’m so happy to hear about all of your happiness and success. Beautiful family also. Say hi to your mom and dad and siblings for me. Wishing you continued success.

  5. Julie Parker says:

    Wow. It was really great to see someone young and in the Bay Area recognize women in this way. What a success story you have begining your career in college!