Hotel management and driving successful operations can be a complex business as operators work through multiple facets of an ever-growing industry. But having a few tried-and-true tools in the kit can set operators up for long-term wins.
“Regardless of the type of project, we approach each from the perspective of an owner: understanding the inherent risks they may encounter, as well as the importance of adaptability and expertise in the management of the asset,” said Michael Tall, president and COO of Charlestowne Hotels, who recently connected with Hotel Management to discuss best practices in operations. Charlestowne is a full-service hospitality management company offering expertise in hotel development, operational controls, marketing management, revenue optimization and financial reporting.
He said there are three main keys to success in any thriving hotel.
1. Put Employees First
“Hospitality is not unlike a Broadway musical. You can run lines for weeks and call for extra rehearsals, but when the audience takes their seats, there is nothing for the cast to hide behind except their live talent,” Tall said.
He compared employees to those actors, with the ability to “make or break the show.” The difference is that hotel employees often are treated as if they are dispensable resources who drain the bottom line.
“How can you expect an employee to make a guest feel special when they themselves feel like a dime a dozen? Every good idea will eventually be replicated, but people will always be a hotel’s competitive advantage—treat them as such,” Tall said.
2. Know Your Why
Tall said that in recent years the hotel industry has become laden with buzzwords, from curated experiences to local authenticity at boutique accommodations.
“With so many arms outstretched to grab hold of the lifestyle trend, few stop to contemplate what style of life they are even offering,” he said, adding that hoteliers need to figure out their “why” or the promise of the hotel’s intentions that drives and guides behavior.
3. Leave No Vacancy for Ego
“The hospitality industry is moving so fast that complacency will never be competitive,” Tall said. “With each step forward, the landscape you’re walking on changes.”
That’s why no matter how revolutionary an idea might be, Tall said that hoteliers should never lose sight of the fact that it can always be done better.
“Our entrepreneurial spirit pushes us to drive change rather than wait to adapt to it,” he said. “It’s a mindset that balances ambition with humility, curiosity with confidence and analysis with intuition.”
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Avoiding the Pitfalls
While successful hotel management groups have a few best practices up their sleeves, they also know when to avoid the pitfalls. Tall said there are three hazards that Charlestowne dodges.
1. Picking Projects Instead of Partners
“Managing a hotel is a team sport and its success is contingent on all players being aligned,” Tall said. “A hotel might be a perfect fit for an operator’s portfolio, but if ownership doesn’t agree with an approach, that potential might never be met.”
He said it’s important for management groups to evaluate the potential of a property, and that starts with the assessment of the ownership, its goals for the hotel and the resources required to achieve them. Then, it’s time to gauge whether the operator is equipped to deliver on the owner’s expectations. Finally, operators must determine if their goals align with those of the ownership.
“While quality, location and budget are important factors to consider, the biggest indicator of success lies within the compatibility of our goals and the potential to develop sustainable synergy with the ownership,” Tall said.
2. Keeping Management on Autopilot
“When it comes to hotels, one size does not fit all. Management companies that try to mold hotels to fit their own structure will lose in the age of bespoke experiences,” Tall said.
For Charlestowne, success across the hotel spectrum can be attributed to the ability to see beyond the flag—or lack thereof—and manage each property as a unique unit deserving of its own strategy.
“We do so by unearthing the asset’s individual characteristics and amenities, highlighting and enhancing those that resonate best with the target audience,” he said. “The only difference is that with franchised properties, we get to include their brand’s toolbox, while with independent hotels we get to draw our own map and use our own toolbox.”
3. Departments in Silos
Tall said that management companies traditionally have drawn a line separating departments, such as marketing and revenue. However, success can be achieved when departments are integrated and work hand in hand.
As an example: “Corporate and hotel teams will work together to develop comprehensive marketing campaigns and pricing strategies that blend detailed analysis with experiential creative that’s produced entirely in-house,” he said, adding that Charlestowne’s in-house team produced five drone video shoots and 15 architectural and lifestyle photo shoots in 2018.
“Having a team that is already knowledgeable of the hotel brand produce its creative assets is an invaluable advantage in this digitally dominated age,” Tall said. “Constant alignment of marketing and revenue initiatives creates synergy between teams that spurs productivity and profitability.”