Seattle State of Mind
A Day in the Life of Orlando Ashford, President of Holland America Line
By Fran Golden
Orlando Ashford is in New York City for a press conference announcing the new partnership with the long-running public television show America’s Test Kitchen that introduces shipboard cooking shows designed specifically for Holland America Line.
But, he admits, he’s missing doing his “laps.”
He’s not a runner, but the cruise line’s president is not one to sit still for long. Whenever he has free time on his calendar, he gets up and literally roams the line’s Seattle headquarters.
Ready to Mingle
People in the office have gotten used to seeing the boss suddenly appear, since Ashford, an expert in human resources and author of the book Talentism, first joined the company in the top spot in late 2014.
“I do these laps around the building to talk to people, not exercise,” he tells Porthole Cruise Magazine. “I’ll go down and pop in some offices, I’ll see who’s chatting in the hallway, or I’ll walk into a meeting,” he says. “I’ll see something interesting in the window on a chart and pop my head in and say, ‘Hey, what are you guys doing?'”
It’s a habit Ashford has had for years, including in his past business life as an executive for The Coca-Cola Company. “I guess it’s literally management by walking around,” he says with a hearty laugh. “That’s how I gather information, get a feel for the organization, the people, and what’s on their minds.” He says it’s a way to keep his finger on the pulse of things outside of formal meetings.
As head of a 14-ship cruise line, Ashford is often on the road, including aboard ships. But when he’s not traveling he does have a few routines.
A typical day begins around 6:30 a.m., with time spent with his sons, ages 11 and 16, before they head to school. Next comes a 45-minute drive to the office, which he uses to organize his thoughts for the day, make a few work calls, or listen to jazz music. At the office by 8-ish, he might grab a bowl of oatmeal before diving into his day, which often consists of back-to-back meetings and briefings.
“We could be planning for deployments for a year from now, looking at how our current tours are doing and making any adjustments that we need to make, reviewing budgets, looking at strategy plans, talking with individual employees, or talking with large groups of employees,” he explains.
In his office are two computer screens, but Ashford says he rarely uses them, preferring to read and answer emails on his phone. He laughs at himself for this habit, but claims there are no games on his phone to distract him.
Come lunchtime, Ashford makes his way to the office cafeteria, grabs a special-of-the-day or a sandwich, and sits down with other employees. (According to Holland America Line staffers, people really appreciate that.)
Most afternoons he reserves time to read letters from guests before heading home around 6 p.m., when his goal is to catch his sons playing basketball or lacrosse. After dinner he watches TV (mostly Law & Order, CSI, and sports), talks family business with his wife, checks emails, and may take care of some work calls. It’s unusual for him to be in bed before midnight, he says.
Putting His Best Foot Forward
Orlando Ashford’s other indulgence? Fashion. Yes, he’s a fashionista.
“I actually read men’s fashion magazines,” he says, adding that his passion began in childhood as his family lived in several different states because his dad worked for the government.
“I got sensitive to clothing because we moved a lot,” he says. “There were times when my clothes were not in line with the place I was living and I got teased. As a young person, I developed sensitivity around….
Photo: Holland America Line