The first half of 2021 was full of fear, uncertainty and a mad scramble to fill rooms once everything started to reopen. Heading into autumn, it’s time to stop reacting and start mapping a course for the next decade. But where to begin?
While many believe—and indeed, many of our other articles would proport as such—that technology and automation are the future, these should only be thought of as pillars of support instead of panaceas. Hospitality will always depend on its people, and so you must do your best to inspire your teams to keep learning and keep finding those bold new ideas to advance the organization.
As they say, though, “People don’t leave companies; they leave bad bosses.” This is an essential phrase to take to heart now more than ever because modern hotel organizations don’t have vast lineups of potential replacements for every rising star or intrepid veteran who departs for one reason or another.
Instead, we portend a rather prickly situation for hotels in the near future whereby our industry has lost its luster amongst youth who are more inclined to pursue careers in STEM or finance where the prospects of cushy monetary rewards and entrepreneurship are higher. Add to this the stigma that hotels have accrued in the wake of COVID-19 where we are deemed a high-touch workplace and not one that is strictly WFH-enabled (work from home). Then add a lot of the monetary stimulus programs that disincentivized working at the bottom rungs of the hotel ladder. In this ‘brain drain’ scenario, a traditional property may struggle to find suitable candidates to fill vital operational roles.
We bring forward this hellfire and brimstone outlook because we’ve seen it too many times throughout the years as asset managers and owners’ representatives for various hotels. This is not to say that your team of hoteliers is lacking per se, but if profits or revenues aren’t following the macro-level recovery trendlines then it may be a result of a deep, internal rift.
An underlying weakness of the hotel industry itself is that productivity and effective operations hinge upon so many distinct roles acting in harmony where one kink in the chain can reverberate and disrupt throughout. A property runs a lot like an army corps in that regard. This is why when our consultancy (aptly named Hotel Mogel!) undertakes an assignment to help execute the owner or GM’s vision, the first thing we look at is the people—the boots on the ground. Without a strong team, any overarching objectives can never be wholly realized.
And this brings us to the idea of ‘grand strategy’ which is a term rooted in the military that can seriously help in the achievement of an owner’s targets. It is not the vision itself, but a detailed outline of how that vision will be attained across the entire property’s operations. An outcome-related metric for a hotel’s grand strategy may be TRevPAR (total revenue including rooms and all other streams).
We all know and use ‘strategy’ as part of any departmental planning, but the problem therein is that the strategies and goals outlined are too siloed, not properly taking into account the needs of other operations. Instead, grand strategy is how you put the pieces in place to then ensure a seamless execution of all the iterative plans and all enacted in concert with each other.
Working with hotels, when we start having those heady, top-level discussions concerning grand strategy, the ‘pieces’ are often the hoteliers themselves. While there are always other considerations like renovation projects, new programs to grow RevPAR and the overall sales approach, when it comes to the people we look at the organizational structure and how to maximize performance from each individual. This is accomplished through such things as how best to maximize support for internal directors, how to increase motivation so managers succeed in their roles, succession planning and making sure decision makers aren’t stymied by non-stop meetings or emails every day.
These sorts of discussions may seem relatively straight-forward, but it’s surprising how many senior executives don’t sit down for a review on a regular basis. Of course, as a third-party coming in, a consultancy can help to cut through the noise by offering a sounding board and fresh eyes on any number of problems related to organizational structure or other team productivity issues.
Ultimately, though, this grand strategy is something we would encourage all organizations to incorporate into their yearly planning sessions, especially in the face of our current ‘great reset’ that the hotel industry is facing for the decade ahead.