Hotel Entrepreneur Tom Drumheller Shares Hallmarks of Success
Some people develop an entrepreneurial mindset while earning a college degree, throughout their working years, or even after retirement. Others, like alumnus Tom Drumheller (’75 Hotel and Restaurant Administration), develop it as children.
Drumheller’s family worked in the hardware business for generations. Growing up, he watched how his father used humor and respect to develop strong relationships with customers.
“My dad was a really good salesman, and people would come in just to see him,” he says. “That’s where I developed my first taste of entrepreneurship.”
Drumheller banked those lessons but chose another career path. He earned a bachelor’s degree in hotel and restaurant administration from the WSU School of Hospitality Business Management and was recruited and accepted into the Hyatt Hotel Management Training Program. It set the foundation of his philosophy toward the hotel and restaurant industry, where he worked for 25 years before establishing his own business, Escape Lodging Company.
Located in Cannon Beach, Oregon, the company builds luxury hotels differentiated by innovative architecture and smart design. Each project is site-specific, relates directly to the community, and pays homage to regional aspects of the area. Buildings are designed to be striking, beautiful, and romantic inside and out, Drumheller says. One of his latest ventures is The Lodge at Columbia Point, which Drumheller thinks will be the company’s crown jewel. Its spectacular viewing decks and fireplaces will provide the Tri-Cities community with a great place to relax and socialize over a glass of wine supplied by the region’s many wineries.
Like his father, Drumheller infuses humor and respect for individuality into his company’s brand and culture. Employees are encouraged to express their personality, sense of humor, and spirit of hospitality as they provide service to guests.
“I was very fortunate to have some great mentors I admired and learned a great deal from,” says Drumheller. “When one of them passed away, it spurred me, along with my future business partner, to take what I had learned and start my own company. It was both very scary and exciting. The risk-to-reward ratio has been better than I could have imagined.”
Drumheller serves on the college’s National Board of Advisors and loves to share what he has learned in the hotel industry with business students.
“As students are about to start their careers, I suggest they identify and become friends with key mentors who are the best at what they do,” he says. “I also encourage students to not worry about the money as much as doing what they really enjoy. If they do this, the money will take care of itself.”