Building a Great Hotel from the Inside Out
Fortune has shined brightly on my career in hospitality as I’ve had the pleasure of working for several excellent management companies as well as some truly great owners. Direct mentorship from these industry leaders has each in their own way made me a better hotelier and a better person overall. My current benefactor, Newport Hospitality Group, enjoys the strong leadership of our company president, Mike Pleninger, who recognized a critical trait of successful hotels over 25 years ago.
The one common characteristic of ‘great’ hotels is that guests reward them by spending significantly more than average and returning frequently. Distinctive from other ‘good’ hotels in the comp set, these ‘great’ hotels become guests’ hotel of choice, often regardless of price, condition and brand.
Years ago, a bunch of us at Newport Hospitality Group wanted to specifically document the attributes of a purportedly great hotel. Over several months, a few seasoned general managers and senior leadership team members worked closely to develop a strategic list of those attributes. Next, we wanted to make sure the list was quantifiable with metrics that could be brought to life tactically with every team member at every hotel.
The following is a list of these key and wholly distilled attributes which happen to be internal actions you can start at any time. Keep in mind that too much of one and too little or none of another may result in short-term success, but will not stand the test of time. It is all in managing the balance of the following four attributes that are the heart of the corporate culture at Newport Hospitality Group.
When I think of associate engagement, words like ‘passion’ and ‘commitment’ come to mind. On an individual level, engagement is the illusive force that motivates you, as a hotelier, to be more productive and to provide higher levels of service to our guests and value for our company.
But what does engagement actually look like for a manager reviewing the performance of his or her staff? In my experience, it presents itself in associates with a genuine zeal and eagerness to assist guests while showing loyalty and dedication to the hotel and its brand. Curiosity is also a bona fide marker of a team member who is ready for mentorship and heightened responsibilities. With this in mind, engaged associates are a fantastic core benefit, and they will surely make the competition sit up and take notice.
Engaged associates ultimately make for loyal guests. Happy, motivated associates look forward to coming to work, and not just doing their job but going above and beyond. They realize that a satisfied guest is simply a guest looking for the next best place, whereas a loyal guest is our goal and the reason for our success. We cannot have one without the other.
These engaged associates will naturally build rapport, form relationships and cater to the specific needs of every guest – the personal touch – so that the onsite experience transforms into something remarkable. If we look at our guest scores, whether it is in TripAdvisor, Medallia or SALT, and they are above the brand, we can be assured that we have an engaged and happy workforce in place. In this sense, a hotel’s guest scores are a direct reflection of the staff serving them.
Community Involvement and Social Responsibility
A reputation for honesty, transparency and fair play is critical to building long-term value for our associates and owners. We must recognize that consistently outstanding performance in the communities in which we operate is based not only on our financial results but also on our conduct beyond the bottom line. Developing and protecting your reputation as an engaged and responsible corporate partner is a priority that will distinguish your company as one that is genuinely committed to enhancing the communities in which we conduct business.
As a need arises in your community, your desire is thus to be the first business someone looks for assistance. It is a well-known fact that organizations that encourage community involvement distinguish themselves from their competitors and reap the benefits. From happier associates to guest loyalty and additional sales opportunities, the benefits are many. All associates, especially among the millennials who will soon dominate the labor force and who want to make the world a better place, will want to work in a place that inspires them.
While hospitality is essentially a ‘people business’, it is still a business. We are here to provide growth and financial security for our associates, provide excellent service and facilities to our guests, and give back to our communities. Above all, we must provide strong financial results for our owners who have deployed their own capital and entrusted the management team with their business.
This attribute of a great hotel cannot exist in a vacuum, though. Without the previous three characteristics, a positive financial performance and the makings of a great hotel are not possible. The leadership at Newport Hospitality Group, myself included, is responsible to each location and every employee to grow these four principals within all hotels that we operate. Every decision we make begins with considering all four and finding the right balance to help every property be successful.
(Article by Wayne West, published in eHotelier on October 27, 2016)