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Been Here Awhile

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November 19, 2021
Dan Phillips

Hospitality was my second career, but the one I love the most. I started behind the front desk of a Holiday Inn in 1987 and began my own consulting company in 1991. After wonderful successes and epic failures — lasting through three recessions, one terrorist attack on our nation’s soil and a global pandemic — I think I’ve learned a few things. If you will indulge me, please allow me to share.

Two Types
There are two types of people on the hotel side of our industry, hoteliers and real estate owners. One isn’t better than the other, they’re just different, and when you speak you need to know who your audience is. Hoteliers measure their success by guest satisfaction and comments. They want happy customers and strive to make an effort to enhance every individual’s experience. Real estate owners measure success by revenue per square foot figures. Just like the returns from retail spaces or apartment buildings, hotels generate revenue. All efforts are made to increase, or at least maintain, revenue levels.

My father once told me, “Son, it’s not about the money … it’s about the money.” Every business decision made, after talks about features and benefits, fits and misfits, hosted or on-prem, it always comes down to money. A great deal of time is spent on budgeting and forecasting, talking about savings and new revenues, calculating burn rate and ROI, but at the end of the day you can’t bring percentages to the bank, only cash. Focus there.

The Six-Second Rule
Back in the day, I took a stab at developing my own product for the hotel industry. One thing I learned about guestroom technology is that if the guest can’t figure out what the device is or does in six seconds, they’ll put it down and ignore it at best. At worst, they’ll call the front desk and report that it’s broken and ask them to send someone up immediately to fix it. That same six second rule can be applied to explaining technology to people: If they don’t understand what you’re saying right off the bat, most never will.

I remember when hotel companies had much less control over what transpires at franchisee locations. I think it was a good thing that they began to enforce consistency. In a weird way, that might have been the impetus behind all the different brands we have today. But I wonder if consistency has stifled ingenuity and newness. It’s sad that so many innovative projects and products have fallen by the wayside under the control of corporate offices far removed from the field of action.

Check your ego. Don’t come bounding into this way-too-small of an industry thinking that your product will better everything it touches. Humility and the ability to listen carry the day. In addition to fighting existing brands, you’ll need to be able to last at least 18 months with no revenue, or, to make it through two HITEC years. This begs questions like: What is your burn rate, and whose money do you spend; yours or your investors’?  But those are questions for another day.

Good vs. Bad Years
In the good years, there are 22 people pushing CVs out at HITEC for 23 openings. In the bad years, there are 22 people peddling their CVs for 21 openings.

Regardless of the trade show where you might be exhibiting, it’s often the last person that stops by your booth that brings you the most business. Don’t tear down early.

There are many types of occupations in hospitality; the business of hotels and/or restaurants is one of the most demanding. If you’ve never served the public, if you’ve never worked back to back to back double shifts, if you’ve never spent the night at the place you work only to wake up and go to work again the next day, then you need to learn appreciation for those who do. It isn’t an easy job. It gets into your blood and you can’t shake it and you live for a pleasant word or two from your guests. Those who can’t relate, should appreciate.

There’s no reason why business can’t be personable, pleasurable and profitable to all. People from hotel companies, from hotels themselves and vendors are best served as partners. A true partner looks out for their colleagues’ well-being. Hospitality is about humbling yourself to serve others. That strategy makes the best hotels. It’s the same strategy that makes the best partners.

Don’t burn bridges. The vendor you badmouth today could be the same person you desperately depend on tomorrow. Your right-hand person now could be your boss next year. Live in truth, act with integrity.


Dan Phillips, the owner of Dare to imagine, Has been a regular contributor with HU over the years. You can reach him at dphillips@dare2i.com.

Editor's note: HU is starting a regular column to promote mentoring within our industry. If you'd like to get connected to a group or get connected with this project, please reach out to geneva@hospitalityupgrade.com. We've asked many industry friends to get involved, share insights, guidance and suggestions. We look forward to sharing these with you in our upcoming editions. 

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