As the hospitality industry continues its march down the road of “ultra-competitiveness,” it can become increasingly difficult for the customer to differentiate between brands, between management philosophies, and between that which is hospitality and that which is commodity. While this may seem daunting, there is good news; the ability to separate ourselves from our competition in terms of strategy and management philosophy is completely within our control.
There is a reason why the “usual suspects” of hospitality brands and management companies (think Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, Interstate, etc.) are as big as they are and growing bigger. It is because each of them is more than capable of providing a sufficient management program to enable your assets to achieve a certain degree of success. They’ve done this well for years, and they continue to get better and bigger with each passing year. These are perfectly good management companies doing a perfectly good job.
While this is the state of the state, though, we must accept the fact that the most important leadership for our assets is not provided by these brands or the management companies, but rather is provided by the team on the ground within these buildings. You may be saying “wait a minute, the brand hires that team on the ground, so aren’t they one and the same?” to which my answer would be “Absolutely not!” Ok, ok the management and staff of your hotels are on the payroll of your management company, so yes, that makes them the same thing in a literal sense. Our point here, however, is that no matter what those brands and management companies may bring to the table, the ultimate success of your assets is in the hands of your individual property General Manager and his/her leadership team and their ability to execute. Therefore, it is crucial that we put as much (or more) time & effort into the selection and creation of our on-property leadership teams. These are the professionals who take care of our customers and make key decisions in our buildings each and every day.
The good news here is that, in the vast majority of cases, ownership has a contractual right to approve candidates that the management company or brand propose for the role of your GM, your Director of Sales & Marketing, and your Director of Finance. What we do as owners, asset managers, and owners representatives with this authority is crucial to the success and the long-term value of our assets.
What does this mean? It means that ownership must aggressively take hold of its role in the process of hiring and recruiting leaders for its properties. We need to be certain that our management company or brand has a clear understanding of not only the qualities that they seek in leadership roles, but in the qualities that ownership demands in leadership roles. In the majority of cases, brands & management companies will present candidates for such roles that are already employed by them, as internal candidates have an ability to easily transition to a new building under the same flag, and can often hit the ground running. There is often nothing wrong with this commonly-accepted practice. The key here is that the property’s needs must be placed above all else, and that promotion from within should not be relied upon as a shortcut. Rather, an intense assessment of the characteristics and skills required for this role must be completed before any selection is made.
If we think back to the notion that it has become increasingly difficult for customers to distinguish between brands and management companies, the individuals who we select to operate our assets can literally make or break or businesses. In your own business, do you always promote from within? Have there been situations where you knew that you needed fresh blood, a new set of eyes, or just a different way of looking at things? Your brand or management company will always attempt to present qualified and capable candidates for their leadership teams, as this is an important part of their responsibility to you. The key here is to recognize and take advantage of the fact that we have a clear opportunity to shape that leadership team in our own vision, and cannot miss this opportunity when it presents itself.