After over 40 years in our Industry and a 37 year run with my company, in January of this year I stepped down for a hiatus. The Industry has changed enormously since I first began when hotels could win by offering above average service and a clean, consistent product. General Managers could be successful by maintaining margins and focusing on cleanliness and service. A review of the Hotel P&L ended at the GOP with usually no knowledge of purchase prices or debt arrangements. Today, General Managers are CEOs of small to medium size corporations and they better know how to think like one. With this in mind, I share a few random learnings from my experience in our Industry.
1. Hotels are a sophisticated business today that require acute business acumen to be a successful leader. All brands offer a warm and friendly welcome; it takes much more to separate from the competition and win.
2. Winning leaders have a strategy that is a roadmap to success. Leaving success to the economy, the brand or to chance will eventually lead to failure.
3. Food & Beverage used to be a hotel amenity. Today it defines the hotel brand. Even at the mid-scale level, a brand can differentiate itself from the pack with a great offering that creates an energetic and welcoming atmosphere where guests want to gather.
4. Hotel Owners are part of the team today. It’s a total mindset change from the past and when a great partnership is formed, it significantly increases the odds for success and in fact can redefine what success looks like. But when a General Manager still thinks like they are king of their castle or an owner doesn’t recognize that the management team will reward ownership more when they are encouraged and motivated, the hotels potential will never be realized.
5. Lifestyle brands are not a fad, they are here to stay. There will always be a place at the economy and mid-scale brand level for consistent and homogenous offerings. But the more the brand level moves up the scale, the more the guest expectation increases to enjoy the public spaces, be offered great F&B experiences and for their accommodation to blend with the local community. Well done lifestyle brands fulfill these needs and offer an opportunity for greater owner input. Although no doubt lifestyle brands will continue to evolve, the very nature of these brands allows them to continue to morph and adapt to continually changing expectations.
6. Hotel leaders, operators and owners have access to tremendous amounts of data today that can be accessed and form the basis for sound strategy and decision making. There is no need to base decisions based someone’s personal experience.
7. One factor has not changed. Talented people are hard to find, regardless of the economic environment. Great leadership skills are still the most important quality to search for. Great leaders attract great people.
We work in an amazing Industry that has been on an unprecedented run. Despite an expected slowdown over the next 24 months, the landing will be soft and operators should be prepared for another strong run. But the dynamics will continue to transform and those that embrace and adapt to the ever changing environment will thrive.
I have been blessed to have “stumbled” into our Industry and met so many great people throughout my career. I look forward to reconnecting with many of you soon.