Creating Financial Leadership in Your Hotel

By David Lund Hospitality & Leadership Expert, The Hotel Financial Coach | April 02, 2017

That’s right, your eyes and my fingers have not failed, I wrote the word on purpose “realtionshift” and I got this word from my coach, Steve Chandler. He wrote a book with Michael Bassoff called realtionshift and its about fundraising and fundamentally changing the relationship between fundraisers and donors. To sum it up in one sentence, the book is about fundraisers outgiving the donor and showing the donor that they make a difference, both the donor makes a difference and their money made a difference too.

Creating financial leadership in your hotel has the same fundamental realtionshift at its roots. The traditional relationship in the hotel with reports and deadlines to submit; forecasts, budgets and commentaries is to have the financial leader tell the non-financial department managers when reports, forecast, budgets and commentaries are due and to send out schedules and hound everyone every month several times about the pending deadlines. This system does not work. I know because that was my system for nearly 20 years and all it ever consistently produced was my frustration and a lack of usable content.

My frustration came from not being respected enough by the non-financial leaders or so I thought. The other leaders rarely provided their departmental numbers and reports to me on time, correct and of good quality. So, my assumption was they didn’t respect me, they didn’t respect my position and I was sick of it. It really was the worst part of my job. Especially when their lack of attention to their responsibilities got me in hot water. I can’t sit in my office and dream up what is going to happen next month, next quarter, next year in the other department of the hotel. It does not work that way and without their financial contribution I’m playing Russian roulette. Sooner or later I am going to get it terribly wrong and the department managers will inevitably lead me to produce projections and actual results that are wrong.   Even in a small hotel the business needs to be managed departmentally with budgets and forecast that leaders can follow and adjust as business levels change. 

So where is the shift? The shift for me came from the act of serving. The schedules and reminders and memos’ and follow ups that I was doing were not serving anyone but maybe me, selfishly. When I created, and delivered my first financial leadership workshop I had a profound and life changing experience. At the end of that day I had a lineup of leaders waiting to thank me and to share their experience with me. “no one ever explained the P&L to me before”, “I had no idea what you did with my numbers”, “everyone should have this training before they start” these comments and many more took me completely by surprise and I knew right away that I was onto something, something profound was going on.

At the time, I thought it was novel, however I didn’t really understand the implications of what I had started. In a short period of time, less than 6 months later I did the same workshop in the same hotel again and I got the same result. Leaders wanting to thank me and share their experience with me. Fantastic, nice feeling but something else was going on. These same leaders were now regular getting their forecast, accruals, budgets and commentaries to me on time and with so much more accuracy and clarity. Leaders were now seeking me out to discuss their ideas on how to save money and generate more revenues. I had created a financially engaged leadership team by teaching them the business of hotels and treating them like adults. Investing my time and effort into their prosperity. 

All of this happened because of the shift that the workshop created. It shifted me from the dreary and negative task of pestering the other leaders to give me what I needed. It shifted me to a place where I was serving them first. Now that I have served they are more than willing to reciprocate. Why didn’t I think of this before? Ego is the reason I didn’t think to do this workshop and education idea before. Ego is  what holds us all back from really leading by serving. I’m the director of finance and they should get me their numbers because I need them and that’s my job. I laugh now when I think about it because it only took 20 years to figure it out and it was someone else’s idea to begin with. Oh well, now that I know the secret I’m telling others and writing this article to boot. 

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Coming up in February 2018...

Social Media: Engagement is Key

There are currently 2.3 billion active users of social media networks and savvy hotel operators have incorporated social media into their marketing mix. There are a few Goliath channels on which one must have a presence (Facebook & Twitter) but there are also several newer upstart channels (Instagram, Snapchat &WeChat, for example) that merit consideration. With its 1.86 billion users, Facebook is a dominant platform where operators can drive brand awareness, facilitate bookings, offer incentives and collect sought-after reviews. Twitter's 284 million users generate 500 million tweets per day, and operators can use its platform for lead generation, building loyalty, and guest interaction. Instagram was originally a small photo-sharing site but it has blown up into a massive photo and video channel. The site can be used to post photos of the hotel property, as well as creating Instagram Stories - personal videos that disappear from the channel after 24 hours. In this regard, Instagram and Snapchat are now in direct competition. WeChat is a Chinese company whose aim is to be the App for Everything - instant messaging, social media, shopping and payment services - all in a single platform. In addition to these channels, blogging continues to be a popular method to establish leadership, enhance reputations, and engage with customers in a direct and personal way. The key to effective use of all social media is to find out where your customers are and then, to the fullest extent possible, engage with them on a personal level. This engagement is what creates a personal connection and sustains brand loyalty. The February Hotel Business Review will explore these issues and examine how some hotels are successfully integrating social media into their operations.