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The Gig: General Manager of the 54-story Ritz-Carlton and
 JW Marriott Hotel Complex in Downtown Los Angeles

By Hugo Martin, Los Angeles TimesMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

October 17, 2010 - --The gig: General manager of the 54-story Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott hotel complex at L.A. Live in downtown Los Angeles.

A local guy: Javier Cano, 53, is the son of Mexican immigrants, born near Chinatown at what was once known as the French Hospital and is now called the Pacific Alliance Medical Center. Today he can see the neighborhood where he was born and grew up from the top floor of his hotel complex.

A long route to the top: He made a lot of stops on his way to the top of the Ritz-Carlton. His father was a butcher from Durango, Mexico, who wanted his son to be an engineer. But Cano was drawn to the hotel industry after working as a front desk clerk at a motel while he attended college at St. Mary's University in San Antonio. Over the last 30 years or so he has been promoted up the ranks, from running a front desk to overseeing a laundry operation, a housekeeping department and a hotel restaurant. As a manager, Cano has run hotels in Mexico, Hawaii, Anaheim and Los Angeles. He is married with four children.

"For right now, I can't imaging doing anything else," Cano said during a break from work in the lobby of the Marriott.

The challenge: Cano was named general manager of the hotel complex nearly two years before the 1,001-room project was completed, when it was a massive hole next to Staples Center. Today he runs two hotels joined together. That means keeping track of two lobbies, six restaurants, several cocktail lounges, 878 hotel rooms in the Marriott hotel on the lower floors, 123 rooms at the Ritz-Carlton hotel on the 22nd to 26th floors, plus 224 condominiums on the 27th to the 52nd floors. He oversees a staff of about 900 people.

A case of nerves: Cano said he was most nervous during the first few days after the $970-million skyscraper opened in January. On the first day, the phone lines were mistakenly crossed so that one guest got all of the room-service calls. Meanwhile, another guest checked into a room with no toilet. The phone lines were uncrossed and a toilet was installed by the end of the day, Cano said.

The secret to his success: "I always felt I was not the smartest in the group, but no one was going to outwork me," Cano said. As a result, he said, he often puts in 12- to 13-hour days.

How to make it in the hotel industry: Cano believes that a great hotelier communicates well with people and can guess the needs of guests without being told. He gives the example of a housekeeper who notices that a guest has been untucking his bed sheets to give his feet more room when he sleeps. The next day the housekeeper makes up the bed without tucking in the sheets. "We like people to engage their common sense," he said.

The good, the bad and the paperwork: Cano, who describes himself as an extrovert, said he most enjoyed walking throughout his hotel, getting reviews from his guests. "Some people are very open," he said. "They are more so when I identify myself as manager." But the job also entails spending hours a day sitting behind a desk doing paperwork. "I hate paperwork," Cano conceded.

Going the extra mile: To unwind, Cano jogs along the shore near his home in Redondo Beach. He has run several 10-kilometer races and a half marathon but is having trouble breaking away from work long enough to train to tackle a full marathon, a goal he hopes to attain next year. With a mixture of pride and embarrassment, Cano pointed out that his 79-year-old father has already completed that feat, running the Los Angeles Marathon twice when he was 69 and 70.

Previous job: Before accepting his current post, Cano managed the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Kapalua, Maui. That raises the question: Who would leave Maui to work in Los Angeles? Cano said he was drawn away from the Hawaiian island by the challenge of managing Los Angeles' newest hotel tower complex. "It's the only one of its kind," he said.

Cano added: "I will work anywhere that palm trees grow naturally."

hugo.martin@latimes.com

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Copyright (c) 2010, Los Angeles Times

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