CHERYL Price, group manager of human resources, benefits and pension at Sandals Resorts International (SRI), ends all her work emails with it's the journey, not just the destination, that's important. It's a fitting quote for a woman who has had quite the journey herself, from Jamaica to Cyprus, to The Netherlands, and through almost every hotel department, from front office to housekeeping, to food and beverage, to landscaping and human resources.
Price was raised off Mannings Hill Road, St Andrew, in a tight-knit family comprising her parents and brothers, and from as far back as her days at Immaculate Conception High School, she knew she wanted to work in the hospitality industry, specifically in food and beverage. Her love for the industry was born out of the trips she took to the north coast with her family — the family she credits with instilling values that have influenced her larger-than-life personality and compassionate nature.
"My personality comes from my background," she says, "and my drive comes from my mother. I observed how hard she worked to give us a good, solid education."
The personality she speaks of is perhaps what best characterises her. Self-described as an "eternal optimist", Price's bubbly and cheerful personality is infectious. You may not always remember her name, but you'll never forget her wit and hearty laugh.
Determined to pursue her dream, Price accepted a front office management scholarship to attend the Hotel and Catering Institute in Nicosia, Cyprus, despite the fact that the region was then in the middle of the Gulf War. Earning the coveted valedictorian designation, she was invited to return to Cyprus on another scholarship, this time to study housekeeping management. Price spent a total of three years in Cyprus and judging by the smile that crosses her face when she speaks of the experience, it's safe to say they were three good years.
"It was an international experience," she smiles. "I met people from Tonga, the Seychelles, Uganda ... I learnt a lot through their eyes."
Upon her return to Jamaica, Price worked as food and beverage supervisor at Enchanted Gardens, before joining the Sandals family in 1993 as a dining room hostess at the Georgian Restaurant at the Ocho Rios Golf and Country Club. Moving on to Sandals Montego Bay, Price began breaking barriers and charting her course for success, holding the post of the first ever female hostess at the Japanese restaurant, and expanding her knowledge-base through cross-training in various departments and shadowing the food and beverage manager. This led to her overseeing the department in the manager's absence and later, making her temporary foray in landscaping as junior assistant manager.
Price later got her first taste of human resources when she was handpicked to assist with the orientation of team members at the newly opened Sandals Royal Bahamian in The Bahamas. It was during her third journey overseas, however — this time to the Netherlands to take up a scholarship to pursue a bachelors degree in hotel management — that she discovered her love for HR. Having studied a module during her degree, Price later pursued a diploma with the American Hotel and Lodging Educational Institute, not knowing how she would use it.
Price went on to hold positions in food and beverage at Beaches Sandy Bay and Sandals Grande Antigua interspersed with training and orientation duties for the opening of Beaches Negril and Grand Pineapple Resort. Her first official role as HR and training manager came with her assignment at Beaches Negril Resort and Spa in 2001. A brief secondment to the ATL Pension Trustee Nominee Limited in Kingston interrupted her Sandals journey but continued at Sandals Grande Ocho Rios. Soon after, she was promoted to regional training and development manager for the then four resorts in the Ocho Rios region before another promotion landed her the current position at Sandals in 2009.
In her current role, Price works closely with the director of human resources, training and service standards to oversee the human resources operations of all Sandals and Beaches and Grand Pineapple Resorts, as well as the corporate office and country club. It's a job she loves and it's obvious.
"I see myself as the person team members can bring their concerns to. I believe in the open door policy our organisation has and wherever I see someone in need, I stop and listen. Team members want to be heard and I am a problem-solver," she says.
Being that invested comes with a small price. She admits she often becomes attached to team members' problems and cannot be at peace until they are fully resolved. She adds, "Every team member we lose [to death], I try and attend the funeral, as well as the funerals of team members' close relatives. When we lose a team member, no matter what I have to do on this desk, I go to the resort to be with team members and provide counselling."
The job provides her with a sense of fulfilment that she obviously cherishes — this August will mark her 19th year with the Sandals group.
"I just love helping people," she says. "There is a sense of satisfaction when you know you've gone above and beyond. When you meet team members that are doing well and they come up and say 'thank you', that makes it worthwhile."