Forecasting the future is fine for some, but having a hold on history helps more

Stephanie Ricca

Stephanie RiccaWe’re addicted to the future. So much of what we talk about at the nonstop march of events and conferences we attend is about forecasting what will happen next, and then what will happen after that. What technology will be next? What will next-generation travelers want and how can we deliver it? How will revenue per available room shake out 18 months from now?

But what I personally love about this industry is the history. When I first joined Hotel Management nearly eight years ago, I thought that “since 1875” line on the cover had to be a mistake. Say what? But it’s true. In one form or another, this magazine has existed for years and years and years—we’ll celebrate the magazine’s 140th birthday next year. It’s hilarious to take a trip through our archives. We have a cover from the turn of the century with a headline that asks, “Telephones? Just a Passing Fad or Here to Stay?” And don’t even get me started on the photos of 1970s guestroom designs that showcase the best in avocado green and burnt orange florals in matching bedspreads and curtains. Something tells me that’s a design trend that may not come full circle. But who knows?

And while we have several industry history buffs in our midst, we learn new stories about our magazine’s past all the time. A few months ago we found out that prominent American realist painter Edward Hopper did a couple cover illustrations for Hotel Management and other trade magazines during the 1920s. We’ll share some of those in future issues; they’re a great look into the past with a dose of flair and style.

Speaking of history buffs, I recently sat down with one of my favorite hospitality executives, Fred Cerrone, the president, CEO and founder of Hotel Equities (see story on page 14). I first met Fred years ago when the magazine awarded him with our Hotelier of the Year award and he’s been someone I always make sure to stop for a quick hello when I see him at conferences. Turns out I’m not alone: During our recent meeting in Atlanta, no fewer than 15 people stopped by to give Fred a greeting, a hug or a handshake (or all three). Fred has an abiding passion for the people who comprise this industry and an equal passion for its history.

Culture is a huge part of Hotel Equities and Fred himself. In the Foundations class he teaches to new associates, he shares the company’s history, the industry’s history and the foundations of the company’s culture. He insists that history and culture go hand in hand: “I’ve seen the evolution of a lot of brands that have gone from being sought-after to being ones that don’t even register,” he told me. “How did that happen? It comes back to culture; they forgot where they started from. Every one of those formerly successful brands had a strong culture once. If you forget to have standards, they go away.”

What keeps Fred’s personal and professional standards and culture strong, he told me, is that he works at keeping them top of mind. Whenever I speak with him I am challenged to do the same, and this month I pass that challenge on to you: Take a look at your own history, whether it’s your life, your work or both. What does it tell you about your culture, your professional (and personal) standards and mission and goals? Maybe it’s time to put those goals and standards down on paper, or revisit them if you haven’t recently. I’ll be doing that and I’d love to hear from you if you are too.

Correction

In the March 2014 article, “Limited-service still core of franchising effort,” the hotels in Bangor, Maine, and Merrillville, Ind., that opened in 1990 were the first franchised hotels for Marriott’s Fairfield Inn brand. Marriott has been offering franchises in the U.S. since 1968, with Marriott-branded hotels.

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