From a CEO perspective…and with a touch of humor and sarcasm.
by Master Hotelier Giovanni Angelini – June 2016
Dealing with reality; “Prosper or Perish”
What is your attitude toward inevitable industry/trends changes? Are you anticipating or are you faced with a Paralyzed Paradigm Shift? Are you the driver and have you shifted to higher gears in order to be one of the winners?……………….Here some thoughts and guidance;
Hotels are like sovereign territories, with their own rules, regulations, terminology, behaviors, handling of people, service etc. They are, in fact, bizarre places where you can also find diversion, mystery and suspense.
Money never sleeps, and neither do hotels………..
Macro or micro?
Is your leader at the helm and making decisions? *Or a situation where the blind leads the blind? *
Is your leader clear on what he/she wants-needs-hows? Or passing the buck and pointing fingers?
Is your leader a visionary? *Or does he/she assume that you know what to do? *
Is your leader a good communicator? Or he/she run the business via emails?
Is your leader an efficient delegator? *Or does he/she ask you to check your brain at the door? *
Is your leader an innovator? *Or makes difficult for you to get your job done? *
Is your leader aligning the team/organization? Or does he/she allow lone rangers?
Does your leader lead the business? *Or does the business lead your leader? *
Want to continue?………..
Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it. You are born to win, but to be a winner, you must play to win, prepared to win, and expect to win.
In the service industry, branding is a promise to consistently deliver an efficient, effective, genuine experience that creates and engage the senses of the guests and consumers. It creates credibility and an image that identifies a product to differentiate it from the competitors.
Brands have to be in the hearts and minds of all who work within the organization. All have to understand and respect brand standards. Brands do not belong to the Marketing Department but to all, fully supported by the CEO. Brands are the centerpiece of everything the organization does and the way it does them, starting from the recruitment process.
If a company cannot understand its own brand, how will it ever create memorable experiences? All staff need to embrace what the brands stands for.
Service brands are not created by what you say about yourself, but what you do and the way you do it. Marketing promises have little in common with the reality of the guest experience.
Are customers prepared to pay more for your brand? Or only competing on price alone? What is the percentage of visitors who rebook?
Sounds similar but are two different and important measurements. Of course one may influence the other. Definitions in hotel business;
Both comparative and competitive plays an important role in decision making. The aim is to beat competition, gain market share and generate profits. With this, shareholders gets dividends, investors see their share price go up, management gets bonuses and employees’ wages increases….and everyone’s happy…..
Except for those who’ve lost out to the winner…..where do you stand?????
Changes, innovations and digital disruption everywhere but the hotel industry is not responding as fast as it should and it loses ground. Look at the success of OTA’s, Airbnb, Uber, TripAdvisor and going forward……what Apple and Google have in store for us?……What will be the next big change for the industry? And how to prepare for it/respond? And how to control the ever increasing costs of retaining and of acquiring a guest?……..
At present the hotel industry is too exposed and facing difficulties on responding.
Who is shooting at the duck?
The future will be different from today. Everybody knows that. But how it will be different? Will the high reservation fees weakening the value of the hotel brand? What will be the costs of maintaining brands “fresh and relevant”? and will there be ROI? Do future customers care about hotel brands? Or only about price/rate?
* *The duck (hotel) has to get much smarter, become “invisible/hide from the shooters/sharks” if he wants to survive. The industry will be facing much skinner ducks… The weak ones will be swallowed…
Inflation at 2.5%? Owner’s expectation is to reduce operating costs by 5%…..
GDP growth at 5%? Owner’s expectation is to increase profitability by 10%…..This is a formula for disaster in the medium-to-long term.
It takes patience to listen….it takes skill to pretend you are listening.…it takes two to lie, one to lie and one to listen….
Positioning is a fundamental marketing concept that hotels must have in order to compete and differentiate. It is a must for hotels to have a clear positioning strategy and clarity on their offerings, on what makes them attractive, unique and on how to influence the consumer.
From the positioning strategy, you will have to develop and implement specific plans of action and tactical activities as appropriate. Positioning is about being genuinely different and being at the top.
Do not rely on your beautiful and dreamy photographs and on your public relation activities. Those are only small tactical actions. Do or not do, there is no try. To win without risk is to triumph without glory.
For the most part, the cost of a hotel room (room rate) is largely determined by the market/supply and demand, by the class of the hotel and by the physical condition/facilities of the property. Objective of course is market leadership within the competitive set.
Service is what makes a product do what it is intended to do for the guest. Service is not about luxury but it is “consistency” on delivery competitive standards and cannot be compromised. Objective is guest’s experiences and repeat business.
Operators that lower services with discounts and promotional rates are playing a very dangerous game that will negatively impact the image of the hotel.
Laziness, low willpower, low ambition, no guts, carelessness etc.
In a “perishable” type of business (one unsold room today is gone forever), one should never put off until tomorrow what has to be done or can be done today. Simply put, “procrastination is the death of a career and/or of a business” There are far too many cases of procrastination in the hotel business. Must anticipate and respond much faster to the digital era….OTA’s, meta-search, mobile, revenue systems, etc…
Someday is not a day of work…never put off until tomorrow what you can avoid altogether. If you don’t make things happen then things will happen to you.
Remember me. Recognize me. Give me what I want, when I want, then I will pay for it without arguments and return to your hotel. While at the hotel, I expect to deal with well-trained and efficient staff who have a positive attitude, are accommodating to my business needs and can provide a positive stay experience in order for me to share with others and rate you on social media.
Like it or not….the guests are the ones who pays our salaries…The more, the better…(Guests & Salary). The golden for every business man is this: put yourself in your guest’s place.
I am prepared to work hard on taking care of the guests, prepared to work nights, week-ends and public holidays, but…you don’t pay me enough for the hard hotel work that I do for you! Conclusion…?
You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself, any direction you choose.
Leaders, managers, HR people must accept that in this labor intensive industry great employees are the most valuable asset and practically impossible to be replaced. Great employees have extensive product, systems, process knowledge but most important they hold client relationships that have been built over many years and those my friends…. money cannot buy. Don’t lose them but empower them to do everything possible to wow the guests at each touchpoint. Leaders have to be sensitive when they say “anyone is replaceable”.
Also must accept that great employees are the first ones to get attractive employment offers from the competition, or other industries, and unless you have a clear career-growth path matched with proper compensation, you will lose them.
Practical test; what is more important to you, a good guest or a good employee? And if you have to lose one, which one will you let go?
A positive and accommodating attitude is what guests are expecting/demanding from hotels. In a hotel, no request can go unanswered. In a hotel, we don’t say “No problem” but we say “it is my pleasure – I’m happy to help”.
“A bad attitude is like a flat tire. You cannot go anywhere until you change it.”
The service industry is comprised of humans and humans make mistakes. Accept that to err is to be human and to apologise is to be strong and gracious. It is not a weakness. Accept it and don’t be scared of admitting faults. With your head high and tail between the legs, admit “I got it wrong…I have learned from it and will not repeat it.” The guests (or the boss) will appreciate this.
Experience is a wonderful thing. It enables you to recognise a mistake when you make it again.
Gauging is when it is cheaper to buy a new pair of socks than have them washed at the hotel laundry.
When your mark-up on soft drinks from the in-room mini bar is 350% or more…
When your mark-up on long distance telephone calls is more than 100%…
Get the idea? How many more of these examples in a hotel? Let’s look at this seriously.
** **Never forget that only dead fish swim with the stream.
Embrace it in full. If you don’t believe you do not belong, don’t waste your time and don’t waste your boss’s time.
If you cannot change your mind, are you sure you have one?
Hotels sell the two most fundamental needs of the human body: food and sleep. Everyone knows (or thinks they know) the hotel business, but it is rarely the case as it is a very demanding and complicated business.
** **If you would like to know the value of money, try to borrow some. The absolute fundamental aim is to make money out of satisfying customers.
Meeting needs is not sufficient, they must be exceeded. Offering a good product or a useful service is no longer enough. Today, hotel guests are looking for experiences, something that will enrich their lives.
Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.
Quote from a book: A complaint is a gift.
Solve the problem on the spot. Don’t let the issue become bigger and avoid repeating the same mistake again.
I’d tell you to go to hell, but I work there and don’t want to see your ugly mug every day.
As business people, we are in business to generate maximum profits “not for fresh air.” Manage by revenue and not by cost cutting. We are evaluated and compensated on results. Don’t reinvent the wheel but do challenge the status quo with objective to improve not simply to change.
Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful.
Do you lead/manage the hotel/business or the hotel/business manages you? In order for you to lead and be in control, you simply cannot do without accurate YoY measurements done on monthly basis showing clear improvements/results and supported by an efficient forecasting process; market segmentations, distribution channels, source of business, geographical sources, production from own systems, OTA’s, length of stay, repeat business, new accounts, RGI, market share/position, guests and employees satisfaction, labor productivity, employees turnover, departmental profitability, flow through, GOP and of course ROI. As a good practice, a plan of action for each measurements is highly recommended/necessary.
Boring?…..Yes it looks like…..but must remember that achieving 100 points on RGI is simply “doing your job”. Very simple for you and for your boss to measure…..in particular when it comes to bonus time…..
He/she is the one who normally promises a lot and the favorite message to guests is “Do not hesitate to call if I can be of assistance.”
Have you ever tried to call a General Manger from the room in a hotel? It normally goes like this: you call the operator or the service center and say that you want to speak directly to the General Manager. Automatically there is apprehension on the other side of the line and the guest is subject to a minimum of 3 questions; name, room number, reason for the call (in one case I was asked how old I was!).
Then with some hesitation the operator transfers the call to the GM’s secretary who will ask even more questions and at the end, it sounds something like:
…and she also states that she will have him to call you back.
After answering 7-8 stupid questions and wasted 10 minutes of my precious time, all I get is “the GM will call me back”.
Yes, in some cases the GM calls back but somehow always at around 3:30PM. Am I supposed to stay in the room and wait for his call? What about my work? When I get back to the hotel in the evening, I call again and answer similar questions only to be told that the GM has left for the day. So much for his original message offering assistance. How many of you have experienced similar situations?
The light at the end of the tunnel has been turned off due to budget cuts.
Purpose of the policies is to serve the business. First, is to enhance guest service. Second, is for administration and control purpose. Clear simple statements of how your organization intends to conduct its services, actions or business. They provide a set of guiding principles to help with decision making. Policies don’t need to be long or complicated, a couple of sentences may be all you need for each policy, compliance with policies is normally mandatory (written approval required for any deviations).
Policy “States”; all company hotels are to provide free accommodation for children below 12 years old when occupying same room as their parents.
Purpose of company standards is to achieve and maintain brand consistency in all operating units. Standards are products or services developed in line with brand positioning, market trends and competition. Quality and consistency is a basic requirement to attract and retain a guest. Standards are to be clear, to the point and must be reinforced at all times by both corporate office and by local management. Employees to be properly trained on providing quality and consistency at all times and in line with company instructions/directives. Standards ensure guest expectations are met around the quality of deliverables. Also, standards reduce turnaround time and operating costs.
Standards “Directs” you on the type of bed, linen, and perhaps a toy that you put in the room for children (family policy)
Procedure & guidelines are in support of the policies and of the standards. Procedures and guidelines describe how each task & service will be put into action. Each procedure & guideline should outline: who will do what, what step they need to take, which forms or documents to use. Simple bullet point instructions will do. Sometimes they work well as forms, checklists, instructions or flowcharts.
*Procedures “Guides” you **on *what to do with the children when they urinate in the Hotel main swimming pool during peak time and in front of other guests…
Principles, values, standards or rules of behavior that guide decisions, procedures and systems of an organization in a way that contributes to the welfare of its stakeholders and respects the rights of all constituents. A set of rules outlining the social norms, responsibilities, compliance with laws, policies and moral code & ethics.
Corporate Governance covers:
To err is human, to forgive is not governance.
Business Ethics is a basic requirement to conduct and to develop a certain required level of trust between the corporation, the employees, the suppliers and the consumers. Company values to be developed/implemented covering honesty, responsibility, respect, fairness, compassion. All employees and directors are required to conform to the highest standards of ethical behavior at all times. No employees and no directors are entitled to receive or give any monetary amount or consideration of any kind for personal benefit in connection with any business transaction or relationship in between the company/unit or any outside party. An annual disclosure to be signed by all company management and mid management personnel. A supplier code of ethics to be in place supported by written disclosures.
You only have to do very few things right in your life so long as you don’t do too many things wrong.
Every respectable organization has a CSR policy, some believe on it, some not. Some just use it for PR purpose while others as base to do business and behave.
Customers, employees, investors and society at large have come to expect firms to work towards the famous “Triple Bottom-Line: (3P’s); Profit, People and Planet
What does it take for a company to be perceived as socially responsible? Have to accept that responsibility does mean different think to different societies.
What’s more important, guest satisfaction or profitability? And where the employees stand? And business or society?
Careful balancing act between the interests of employees and society on the one hand and shareholders on the other is perhaps the model for success and for ensuring a long and profitable life for the company.
(And let’s not forget the less fortunate….)
Cultural Test; Contradicting the boss is career suicide or career booster? (Assuming, of course, you are right).
Most hotels are investing in comprehensive sustainability initiatives that reduces costs and benefits the environment. New strategies, activities and controls are being put in place; water and energy usage as compared to the volume of business, solar and wind power, LED lighting, climate control sensors, waste management, green construction, food and supply sourcing, water reclamation, rapid waste composting, kitchen and laundry steam hoods and many others. Besides just being positive PR, all are very good initiatives with clear results on bottom line and investment costs for those are easily justified.
*(LEED certification is highly recommended for hotels). *
Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly and get on with improving your other innovations.
This is like applying for unemployment compensation. In most registration cards (hard copy or electronic), there is a minimum of 7 entries to fill: name, home address, phone, e-mail, name of firm, address of firm, signature. In a fashionable and long respected London hotel, I had to fill out the registration card for 6 consecutive visits. Then I changed hotel.
** **The guy who invented the first wheel was idiot…the guy who invented the other three, he was the genius…
Room request/assignment on arrival**; **(From guest perspective)
Receptionist: the Garden View room that you reserved is not available now but we have a nice city view room (road side) you can stay tonight and we’ll move you into the garden room tomorrow afternoon.
Receptionist scripted excuse: “Obviously there’s been some kind of misunderstanding.”….then he smiles at you. What you do next? Negotiate an up-grade? Tip the clerk? Or simply punch him in the face?
Speak the truth, but leave immediately after…always forgive your enemies, nothing annoys them more.
The famous 50/50 chance in hotels
Your chance to get a good room is 50/50 as hotels have many types of rooms: next to the service elevators that normally makes lots of noise; next to the main elevators with their irritating bell that goes on all night; rooms where you can easily hear the toilet being flushed above; rooms with a connecting door where you can clearly hear every word and there are those times when the guest next door invites a joiner. So my friends, in hotels you have a 50/50 chance.
** **Those who say it cannot be done, should not interrupt those doing it.
You call and the phone rings and rings 10,11, 12 times. Why doesn’t anyone answer? Simple. They are:
Do you want to get even? It works like this: when they finally answer, you say “It’s all right now. I was able to put the fire out by myself,” then hang up quickly and leave the room!** **
A business has to be involving, it has to be fun, and it has to experience your creative instincts.
In a hotel, the knock-knock and the opening of the room door are simultaneous. It means, coming in, ready or not! Does it matter if I am naked in the shower or entertaining someone?
Maids have a highly developed sense of intrusion.
They have a knack for interrupting the most important guests’ conversations. But when you need them, they are busy at other tables. Waiters are dedicated, meticulous and attentive to details, particularly on the amount of tip you leave.
* *The cigarette does the smoking, you are just the sucker…
Have you called for assistance to repair something in the room? The scripted answer is “We will handle it immediately and fix it in few minutes.” The problem is that in hotels, a few minutes can be anywhere from one hour to a week-and-half.
Have you ever met the hotel engineers? They are like doctors…they always say “what seems to be the trouble?” and don’t listen to your answer.
No matter how good or luxurious a bathroom is, a hotel shower will always find a way to get water on the bathroom marble floor, which of course, becomes slippery.
Environmental concerns/water saving: this one from a well-known hotel that has installed those funky double shower heads with a sign close-by that says “recharge yourself under our special double shower heads. But in order to save water, we have turned off one of the two heads.” Sounds so caring for the environment, but can you be more stupid than this? Turning off one of the two shower heads does nothing to reduce water.
*….and **please *do not confuse the guests.
A budget tells us what we can’t afford. But it doesn’t keep us from buying it.
How many hotels have the shower handle on the other side of the shower head with result that when you use it, you get a nasty ice-cold water on you and normally you are naked? And let’s not talk about how complicated the shower mixer is. So much for making things easy to use for the guest.
Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.
Or more appropriately, “stupid and complicated system that most of the time does not work or is wrongly programmed.” What ever happened to the 3 traditional wall switches? One for the night light, one for the bed-side table and the master switch? Hotels have very poor image when it comes to light switches. Out of 10 hotels, 8 get it wrong.
Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright till they speak.
Do I have to move the working desk in order to plug-in? New hotels are getting better at this, but not all of them. There are some idiotic designs and installations out there….
** **Talk is cheap because supply exceeds demand.
Is a right or a privilege? A bit of conversation here and who is right?
Have you noticed that in most hotels, during the check-out process there is a scripted line from the clerk “have you consumed anything from the mini bar last night?”
No hotel guest would like to be seen as cheating but after paying USD 400+ per night plus all other consumptions, having to answer this question is irritating and you depart the hotel with a sour feeling. It would definitely be to the hotel’s advantage if the receptionist would engage in professional courtesies like “how was your stay? Can I help with the transport? We would like to welcome back on your next visit, etc.
*I once told the receptionist that asked the **scripted *question on mini bar consumption that I had consumed the content of all miniature liqueur bottles from the mini bar and filled the gin and vodka bottles with water and the whisky and cognac bottles with tea. You can imagine the reaction. Hope they got the message.
Advertising can lure a guest to try the hotel but it won’t make him/her come back if you did not impress them and provide the experience and care that they were searching for.
Why do hoteliers promote their hotels by showing unreal scenes (slim models, chandeliers, champagne, caviar, flowers, couple toasting, rich settings, breakfast in bed etc…) those my friends are fake and passé. Hotels have to “get real” and show me, as a guest, what I will get once at the hotel. In most cases, a smiling face from an employee saying “we care” (or similar) goes a long way….and it is real.
The winners in life think constantly in terms of I can, I will and I am. Losers on the other hands, concentrate their waking thoughts on what they should have or would have done, or what they can do.
A bit of “common sense” goes a long way… Accept that we all are “stupids and idiots” till we learn…and don’t repeat same mistakes.
Hotel refurbishments typically takes place every 8-9 years for the soft elements and every 15-16 years for major improvements-upgrades. It is always a challenge for the operators to maintain the product and standards after several years of operation and for the owners to secure adequate funds for improvements. On planning a renovation, must address: scope, timing, guest disruptions, costs-budget-ROI if applicable, project manager, interior designer, contractor, hotel coordinator that acts between the business and the project works etc.
** **Also, licenses, permits, schedule, quality controls, insurance and others. Renovations should always be accompanied by a reposition exercise with clear objective to improve the market position of the hotel. It is also essential that operators will not set the wrong pricing strategy for the short-term that will negatively impact the long-term but implement promotional rates during the renovation period.
It is not hard to meet expenses…they are everywhere. Long range planning works best in the short term.
At times, creativity becomes a housekeeping and an operational nightmare, totally out of sync. Interior designers live in their own world and are to be reminded in every single project that their objective is to create a practical and comfortable product, making it easy for guests and staff to use and avoid the hilarious and crappy designs. Remind them not to create a toilet for two…as no one want to poop with a buddy…and footbaths are not practical in a hotel room…..
When two persons always agree…, one of them is unnecessary.
Remember that a successful formula yesterday will not guarantee success tomorrow. Learn, innovate, respond etc., otherwise you will become history.
The trouble of being punctual is that no one is there to appreciate it. But the first one gets the oyster and the second the shell.
Ideally 3 layer organizations, maximum 4 layers. In today’s business, top management has to be in direct contact with front-line people, guests and customers. Provide fast response and solutions to changing trends, to preferences and expectations. Maintain an effective communication between management and staff, with less bureaucracy, easier decision making and an aligned team. Avoid the “tall” organization structure.
Holidays: Each employee is entitled to 104 holidays. Those will be called Saturday and Sunday. Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.
The world is certainly changing fast and risk, health and safety are becoming major factors on selecting hotels & destinations in particular for leisure travels. Are hotels safe and prepared to handle crisis?, are employees well trained?, is there adequate insurance coverage?
Better be safe than sorry……Those who work the safest way, live to see another day…. Shortcuts cut life short.
What is tipping? And who deserve it? It is a reward for good service or customary/expected in hotels?. Who to tip?, When?, How Much? And are there guidelines?
Is tipping a form of insurance for hotel workers? And are the tips received shared with staff at the back of house? And what is the position/role of management on tips?………Lot of questions but no clear answer and definitely we are not going to solve this hot topic here…….Dishing out cash at most encounters is not the best experience for an hotel guest…..
Best practices in the world? Is found in Korea and in Japan where there is a slogan in Hotels that says; “NO TIPPING IS OUR PRIDE”. It definitely takes the pressure off the guests and creates a more equitable system
When top level guys looks down, they only see sh…
When bottom level guys looks up, they only see naked a..h….
Therefore my friends, do eliminate this old and ineffective way of doing business.
** **There is no luck in business. There is only drive, determination and more drive.
**Career in Hotels; **(Some Advice)
Interested and keen on personal and career advancements in this labor intensive and demanding industry? And what it takes?
No need to be a “PHD” nor a “Rocket Scientist”…, a degree in Hospitality Management from a good school is in most cases adequate for a management-leadership position. What is most important is a wide range of competencies and behaviors and be prepared to embrace the basics industry fundamentals required on dealing with people; passion, discipline, hard work, common sense, continuous improvements and of course that “business sense” in order to generate competitive results.
Practice balance and invest in yourself.
Complacency is a very dangerous bad habit.
Do not try to do everything yourself; delegate, empower and believe in others.
A person who is hungry will always do well.
There is no substitution to hard work.
Have faith and look at the long term.
* **And do remember that… there is nothing free in this world. *
You are not your resume. You are your work.
* *(Source: GA experiences & GA’s web, guest comments, few quotes)