The Chesapeake Point of View

Great Expectations: Creating An Overall Culture Centered On Results

Great Expectations: Creating An Overall Culture Centered On Results

October 15, 2013

Effective hotel management is like a puzzle. When complete, the sky and the water pieces merge seamlessly together, the eye moves effortlessly from top to bottom, side to side, and the whole scene comes to life. However, when any one piece is missing, the image is distorted, meaning all your hard work and painstaking detail fitting those other 4,999 pieces together is for not. Oftentimes, that one missing piece is intangible; it’s hard to define or measure, but you know when it’s not right. It’s your culture.
Effective management concepts and operational best practices are obviously a priority. Training, education and communication—all important. Great sales strategies? Essential. But the focus of those initiatives needs to be a part of a larger strategic vision. The single most important step that any hotel owner or operator can take is to ensure that their picture is based on a coordinated team and data-driven approach: every employee and every aspect of their operation needs to be part of a cohesive and consistent professional culture that is focused on results. What follows are the building blocks of strategy and accountability: the raw materials needed to create and sustain an overall culture of results.

Leadership
Creating a results-oriented culture starts at the top, with the General Manager. The GM sets the pace, sets the stage and sets the standard. Effective GMs not only establish expectations and set specific goals, they also submit and execute a strategic plan designed to achieve those goals, and, critically, hold themselves and their team accountable for both successes and failures. As the captain of the ship, the GM identifies the destination, charts the course and takes the wheel.
When it comes to building a resultsfocused culture, the GM’s first priority should be identifying where the hotel wants to be, needs to be, and can be. No property can be all things to all people, and understanding what you can reasonably expect to accomplish—given the context of your market and comp set—is an important initial step. But that does not mean you cannot be aggressive when it comes to goal setting. Quite the contrary; ambitious goals are a great way to motivate and provide the necessary sense of urgency.
While the GM needs to be involved in all aspects of the hotel, his or her role in sales is particularly important. A GM well-versed in sales will appreciate the extraordinary range of tools and resources out there that are available to help craft more informed and results-focused sales strategies. The best GMs use all the tools at their disposal, including backlog reports, Pace reports for groups and catering, day-by-day forecasts and comparisons, Hotelligence 360 data, market segment history data from budgets, P&L reports, Knowland reader board reports, brand and CVB leads and CVB reports, website reports, and STAR reports.

Dual Tracks
As the GM works with ownership and the management/leadership team to clearly define and articulate goals, it is important to ensure that those goals are both specific and measurable, and to make the progress toward those goals a regular part of the operations of the hotel. To do this, the GM needs to turn around and make another set of goals with his or her employees—drilling down into each department to develop parameters by which each operational facet of the hotel—front desk, restaurant, housekeeping, sales—can develop a plan to monitor their progress, address their weaknesses and maintain their strengths. In your goal setting, be as specific as possible: set specific weekly numbers for sites and prospect calls, track bookings daily and set monthly room night/revenue/ ADR goals. Goals can be financial, marketdriven or target sales results, but they can (and should) also encompass things like brand standards and guest satisfaction scores. Reviewing each of those brandscored and brand-measured results on a regular basis, along with supplemental information from comment card feedback and data gleaned from websites like TripAdvisor and Yelp, is one of the most effective ways to drive sales. Every week, every month and every year, there must be goals and metrics that need to be reached on both tracks. For example, if an executive level goal is to improve bookings directed from new channels, then the corresponding operational goal may be to increase your sales teams’ understanding of social media or Groupon-type promotions. If the executive level goal is to maintain occupancy levels while boosting rates, the operational goal could be to increase the level of individual attention given to each guest, thus improving perceived value. Continued commitment to setting and reaching goals on all levels will create a culture that is focused on staying on task and achieving results: translating data points into daily realities, drawing connections between what you are doing and where you are going, and integrating measurement and metrics in a way that resonates with your team.

Teamwork
Owners, operators, and accomplished hotel management professionals should be constantly asking themselves: “Do I have the right people in place?” The right people can make all the difference. In 20082009, when many hotels trimmed staffing in response to a sustained recessionary cycle, it became clear that the bestmanaged properties increased efficiencies and improved service scores relative to the market. Because the people they retained were the best, they were literally doing more with less.
Cultivate a sales mentality in all of your team members—not just on the sales team— fostering a collaborative and cohesive culture of sales and service. Encourage them to go the extra mile, and reinforce the message that great service and great sales go hand in hand. Expect more. Ask for more. Do more. Lead by example.
Make your expectations crystal clear—and be specific. Review the plan together to ensure that everyone is on the same page in terms of the strategy you will be using to get there. At that point, it’s all about execution. With the right team in place, the execution will follow. If you have given them the tools and the opportunities to improve, but they are still falling short, do not hesitate to take action before underachievement becomes a persistent problem. Constantly assess the teams you have in place, and make calculated personnel changes when necessary.
Accountability
Assigning the right people is essential, but holding them accountable is an absolute prerequisite for creating a culture centered on results. Accountability touches everyone: ownership holds the hotel management company accountable; management holds the GM accountable; the GM needs to be holding his or her team accountable; and team leaders should hold individual staff/ team members accountable. Getting everyone on the same page is essential to building a results-based professional culture.
If you are moving toward the financial goals you have set, challenge your team to do more—if you are failing to achieve those goals, fix the problem. You can be focused on results while remaining creative and flexible, understanding why some results may be falling short and how they can be addressed. In the end, however, you have to be firm. Turnaround time or improvement time can vary by hotel and by market, but if months are going by without meeting goals, that is not acceptable. A month of missed goals is an anomaly, two months is a concern and more than that requires a call to action.

Motivation
A lack of motivation has no place in a culture of results: complacency cannot be tolerated. A good GM leads by example, has vision, and is a good mentor, but is also driven to succeed; imbued with the drive and passion to push (not ask) a hotel to be the best it can be. A great GM is all of those things, and is also able to translate those characteristics on to the rest of the team.
To combat complacency, be wary of putting things on autopilot. Be creative, and be continuously looking for new and better ways forward. Be flexible when it comes to revenue management, being willing and able to adapt to the ebb and flow of the market by deploying
employees and resources strategically. Urgency is also part of the motivation equation: cultivate a bustling salesoriented atmosphere, build office energy and synergy by stepping up the pace. Shorten lead and inquiry response times, identify and incent the sales team to fill need times and dates.
An atmosphere of continual improvement requires constant vigilance, as well as the right framework of people and processes to support that vigilance. Strive to bring in employees with the right balance of experience, expertise and hunger. If you can do that successfully, you will have the talent in place to build what every successful hotel property has: professional, results-based culture.