Post by Robert S. Cole, President and Chief Executive Officer, Hospitality Ventures Management Group
Work in the hospitality industry as long as I have (since the '80s) and you will inevitably see core principles for success come to light. Whether it’s learning from your own trials and errors or watching the fortunes of your colleagues and competitors rise and fall, I’ve found that the same basic fundamentals for success come into play time and again.
As CEO of a hotel ownership and management firm for over 20 years, here are some of the fundamentals I have learned about operating hotels, both from a corporate standpoint and at the individual hotel level.
GMs are the key to success. At HVMG, we place a huge emphasis on finding and nurturing peak performing general managers because we know that as a leadership team, THE most important decision we can make is who is running our hotels. Likewise, success for GMs is largely dependent on their ability to build an effective staff, so they need to be supported and empowered to assemble their own team.
The corporate office doesn’t have any cash registers. My team is probably tired of hearing me say this, but it’s true—those who truly drive the financial results are in the field and our primary mission in Atlanta is to provide support and resources to them in meaningful, value-added ways.
Keep it simple. Part of supporting your teams in the field is not bogging them down with unnecessary paperwork and superfluous initiatives that divert their focus on the things that are really important. Our business can sometimes get overcomplicated, and it’s key to allow your leaders in the field to have the freedom, autonomy and time to produce the desired results. I’ve found that sometimes, success boils down to who executes the basics the best.
Know what you know AND what you don’t know. We all like to believe we can tackle any challenge but the reality is that successful hoteliers have a keen sense of what their experience and skill set can allow them to undertake successfully. Know what’s complementary to your team and don’t set yourself up for failure. Sometimes the best deals you make are the ones you don’t make….
Focus on and devote energy on what you can control. GMs can’t always control the actual physical condition of their property from a furnishings or ‘newness’ standpoint but they can control two things—the cleanliness of the hotel and the friendliness of their staff. Many times I’ve seen older properties earn much higher guest scores than new hotels based on those two key control factors alone.
Take swift and decisive action, even if it means sometimes making a wrong decision. As a leader, you’re not always going to make the right decision, especially if you’re a GM that’s has literally dozens of important decisions and assessments to make every month. It’s important to take action as opposed to no action and table things….make something happen because never taking a risk for fear of making the wrong decision can come back and haunt you. Take it from experience….
Act with a sense of urgency. This goes with the notion of keeping it simple because you can’t maintain a sense of urgency about everything; otherwise, your message will get diluted. Determine what you’re passionate about and make sure your team knows it. They will respond if you are clear and consistent with your message and expectations.
Be results driven and measure. The good news with our business is there are not hundreds of metrics you’ve got to be concerned with—there are 10 or so that are vital and absolutely mission critical. They should be clearly defined and your focus in terms of what you measure, what you hold people accountable to and how you incentivize. You should also hire leaders who are “numbers” oriented and thrive in a results-driven culture.
Lastly, I’ve mentioned these two fundamentals in a previous post but they bear repeating—insist on continuous improvement and celebrate successes. Resist the natural tendency to focus on people and properties that are struggling while neglecting to recognize star performers, and realize there is always room for improvement because the minute you rest on your laurels, somebody in this highly competitive business is going to come along and knock you down.