This summer The Hotel Group (THG) is celebrating 30 years in business as a management company. Started in 1984, the company existed long before the number of management companies serving the lodging industry exploded. Since there first hotel deal they have owned and managed 112 properties in 25 states and is currently a top 40 hotel company and currently manages and/or owns 30 properties in 10 states, representing 11 brands and employing more than 1,600 people.
To help them celebrate this milestone we spoke with Doug Dreher, President, Principal and CEO and Lara R. Latture, Principal and Chief Operating Officer.
“This milestone affirms our dedication to the hospitality industry as we continue to set the bar higher each and every day. It also deepens our commitment to serve our clients and investors to the best of our ability and maintain our values that have guided THG for the past 30 years. We look forward to our sustained success and significance for many years to come,” said Dreher.
Congratulations on 30 years! Catch us up on the last three decades.
The last 10 years have been really incredible because we have a deep, talented team; many of which have been with us a long time. This partnership has lasted a long time and we have done a lot in the last 30 years as a third party management company but we also owned more than 20 props in our 30 years.
These days we have a pipeline of 10 new hotels and have completed a lot of renovations. We completed 13 last year and when we get a new hotel we usually need to do a renovation and utilize the different skillsets we bring to the table to get hotels to perform where they should.
What’s your approach to finding success?
This business ain’t for wimps. Part of finding success is having enough depth of the team standpoint we can manage through all that comes at us. When you look at the industry and who we are we have a lot of experiences that help us in many cases. We have big company resources and we realize every hotel has its own story.
Our culture is Hospitality Greatness and we ask our team to acknowledge guests and smile and offer a sincere thanks. But it has to be an authentic culture, not a program and that starts at the hospitality level. We look at the disciplines form operational excellence to marketing to HR to technology and make sure we have Experts at all of those levels.
If we can do a great job at promoting team culture, then it becomes one that promotes itself. But people have to move up in the company and personal growth big part of our mission.
How do you keep internal communication flowing?
Because we have in pace people that understand the business. We all came from properties and that has helped us keep a bureaucracy away. If you look at competitors the people that are often responsible for financials have not worked in the hotel. They may understand the back of the house, but not the front.
That’s another reason we “get it” and our culture is more of a team with a philosophy of, do it now get it done. We are more tolerant and we work harder.
What happens when you take over a property?
You have to set the right tone immediately. We do it time and time again taking over where we don’t to condemn anything but make fast, swift changes. We are also truthful. We never say we are going to keep you and not keep you. We keep the very best people so if [a hotel has] a great GM we can take that person and indoctrinate them and say we can work with that person.
We also always explain there will be changes but they are not going to be painful. We don’t want to disgrace anyone but we have to set the right tone for going forward. It’s a matter of having to win them over and we keep the best and we need them on our team.
Service culture is important because at the end of the day that is what brings guests back or not. So the key is driving that loyalty and to do that you must have a culture of openness and a give people a strong voice so they can feel part of something special and not part of a big, vast corporation. It’s also about giving people a chance to make a place for themselves.
How do you know who should stay and go when you take over a hotel?
You kind of know immediately. Sometimes they have no direction or aren;t trainable. Also, the strength of the sales department is reliant on the director and there is a tendency for them to get comfortable if they are there too long.
Sometimes you see horrible financials and you start looking and see it’s not the GM’s fault but it could be the owner or franchise
. So sometimes that person can be a superstar if given right tools.
When we come in during the transition we start with heart of house. At one property in downtown Cleveland that place was a wreck. We helped associates know we are real and credible and Took care of their space and then the rest of hotel.
How has management company competition changed during the 30 year history of your company?
When we started in the 1980s the management companies were few. Now we know there is incredible competition and a lot of bright leadership out there. But there a lot of companies that don’t have a reason for being either. We are not growing just to grow, no projects at crazy non-sensible prices here. Instead we have a very loyal group of investors and clients and are looking for exciting projects.
What’s your success philosophy?
Lara: We’re pretty nimble and quick to change. If the guest wants faster check in we can make that happen. We don’t put all this stuff in the room stuff the guest doesn’t want and spend more money that way. We are not a company that will wait and hold out until the end either to introduce amenities. If anyone has a good idea we will toss it out there and beta test it.
We also spend time working with brands and try anything out there we believe in. You have to be first and if you are last it’s hard to convince guests of your value.
What’s next for you?
Lara: We have a groundbreaking for a Homewood Suites by Hilton Issaquah, WA, which is east of Microsoft and adjacent to a Hilton Garden Inn owned by a local developer there. We have a Courtyard by Marriott in Washington under construction in wine country and a pipeline of seven more and will be announcing more.
We are opening a property every six months for the next few years. The industry is doing so well right now I am a little nervous about not having something to be nervous about.