French-born Olivier Chavy, 50, joined Dallas’ Wilson Associates 12 months ago, succeeding company founder Trisha Wilson as CEO. Chavy came to the interior architectural design firm after two-and-a-half decades in operations, development, and brand management in the luxury hospitality industry, including 14 years with Hilton Worldwide. In February, the owners of Wilson Associates—Trisha Wilson and Boston-based Lineage Capital LLC—sold the company for an undisclosed amount to East China Architectural Design & Research Institute Co. Ltd., a Shanghai, China-based firm that has designed five of the world’s tallest buildings. The two companies had collaborated on several projects before the deal, including China’s Renaissance Sanya Resort & Spa and the Hyatt Regency Chongming.
I was raised in Cannes. My mother was a real estate agent, and my father was an engineer in Europe for the Houston-based Seismograph Service Corp. He’s 82 now and is my best friend.
I knew I wanted to be in the hospitality industry at the age of 14. Two years later, I got a summer job as a pool attendant at a Novotel hotel in the south of France.
WHY HE LIKES THE U.S.:
I love the life in America. I love freedom and the entrepreneurial mindset. I like as well the give-back mindset. It’s a new country and, as a result, I have the feeling of a kind of pioneer, where nothing is impossible.
IF YOU WEREN'T IN THE HOSPITALITY/DESIGN BUSINESS:
I would like to find more time to take care of others. I’m turning an age where I should be less selfish and give back more to others. The older I get, the more I feel I was gifted, lucky. It’s time to look outside of my own bubble.
I’m very fair. You get what you see. I say what I think, and can be too direct. I’m very approachable, though. I set a high level of expectation for myself. I’m protective of my people. I want them to shine.
I don’t want to sleep too much. I work a lot. Sometimes that can be a weakness. I have an inability to switch off work. It’s a 24/7 passion. The great people around me are strengths. The people at Wilson are positive and push me to go higher. I don’t like negative vibes.
BEST CAREER ADVICE RECEIVED:
Somebody told me, invest in the people around you, instead of investing in yourself. I was also advised to know myself well before starting any journey. Not the way I think I am, but the way people are perceiving me. I’m 6-feet-5, dark, with a French accent, and I realize I can be imposing. Just realizing that has helped me to be warmer, more empathetic.
I have three children: a son, Michael, 24, who works in hospitality management for Waldorf-Astoria hotel in Orlando; a daughter, Alicia, 22, who’s a senior at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., in international studies and foreign affairs and who speaks four languages; and my son Kelian, 15, who’s in high school in Orlando. He’s the king of the family.
I love my water sports activities: skiing, boating. I love driving my Mercedes convertible roadster. I love listening to birds. Basic stuff.