2022 was a year of change for Plano, Texas-based Aimbridge Hospitality, a company that operates more than 1,500 properties in all 50 U.S. states and more than 23 countries, including its pipeline.
In spite of the pandemic, the company had "unprecedented growth through an incredibly difficult time," President and CEO Michael J. Deitemeyer said. As travel resumed in 2021, the team began reconsidering traditional operating models and how they could invest in people and tools in a way that "rivals" the way brands invest in hospitality, leveraging their new scale for further growth.
New Hires, New Divisions
By spring of 2022, Aimbridge was ready to bring on new talent. In May, the company named former Royal Caribbean SVP Mark Tamis as president of global operations, and in July, selected former Kimpton chief development officer Allison Reid to the newly created role of chief global growth officer.
With the leaders in their new roles, the company created six new divisions—four based on operations and two on location—that could support its hotel owners with smaller, more vertically focused operations. The four operating divisions are full service, which focuses on hotels and resorts; evolution lifestyle, focusing on curated experiences; enhanced select service, focusing on efficiencies and asset value; and select service, focused on both short and extended-stay properties. Two geographically focused divisions will support the company's international growth in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region and in Latin America.
The impetus behind these divisional structures within the operating teams was a need for a structure in which owners “felt like they were getting attention on a daily basis [from leaders at] the most senior level,” Tamis said. While smaller companies can maintain frequent contact among the C-suite, owners and managers, this kind of communication becomes much more challenging as a business gets bigger. As such, Tamis said he spent the first six weeks of his time with Aimbridge meeting with owners that represented more than half of the company’s entire portfolio. “And my question was really just, ‘How can I help? How can we really focus to deliver for you on a day-to-day basis?’”
Development teams in each vertical will “know everything that's going on” in each market, Tamis continued, and will be able to help operations teams make critical decisions. At the same time, owners with multiple properties in different segments and markets will get dedicated support who can help them find the right opportunities.
“Everyone on our team has experience in all segments, but when you're focused and your sellers are focused in certain verticals, it makes them better, stronger and quicker to provide guidance and information to owners and investors,” Reid said.
Deitemeyer emphasized that the new operating models will look beyond finances and dig deep into operational efforts. “It's about offering insights into the asset using our large database of comparable hotels,” he said. “It's working with an owner to give them a sense of what we're seeing in other like products or opportunities to bring incremental capital to play to drive [returns on investment] in excess of what we're seeing.” The company also consults an owner's advisory board to learn about issues hoteliers are facing in the industry and determine what is top of mind among their partners. For example, during the pandemic and the subsequent labor shortage, the company noted an “overdependence on contract labor” among owners. “How do we isolate where that was, and make sure the properties are set up for success [so] that we're doing the right things to sustain the savings that we’ve seen throughout COVID?”
New App, New Opportunities
One of Aimbridge’s newest developments is a scheduling app that will let employees adjust or pick up shifts as needed. With the app, called Shift Marketplace as of press time, general managers will be able to post available shifts at hotels within a specified region, chain scale and brand, Chief Human Resources Officer Ann Christenson explained. At the same time, employees will be able to select shifts they want to pick up based on skill set and availability.
“Some GMs have fully staffed hotels; others aren't so fortunate,” Christenson said. “One of the things that we've always tried to solve for is this new flexibility and the ‘gigifying,’ as I call it, of our workforce … My vision is that we create our own internal contingent workforce.”
The app, she added, will let workers remain in the “Aimbridge ecosystem” and in the company’s database to pick up shifts, even if they move to different regions or states.
Ultimately, Deitemeyer said, the app will have three key benefits. “One, it'll make us a better employer. Two, it'll provide more value for the owners of our hotels.” Third, and perhaps most importantly, it will make it easier for employees to advance their careers within the company. “We have so many hotels and so much geography, we'll be able to create a life in hospitality and a career in hospitality that's rewarding to them.”