Mentoring Tomorrow's Hotel Leaders

You want to know the best investment you can make in your hotel? Industry vet Steven Belmonte says your best investment is your people. Here's why.

By Steven Belmonte CEO, Vimana Franchise Systems LLC | November 27, 2011

I've been in the hospitality industry for almost 40 years and in that time I have learned what is truly important. The real bottom line in any operation is the people; the customers on the buying end and the employees on the selling end. I have seen far too many companies build palaces only to board up the windows later because they forgot that their people are the most essential asset, not the building.

You know what a lot of owners take pride in? Lowering costs. This attitude reminds me of the old story about Count Basie. He told an owner that he would never play in his nightclub again because the piano was so badly out of tune. A month later, the owner called Basie and said, "Come back. It's fixed." Basie showed up, sat down, and played a few bars and slammed the key cover down in disgust. He said, "This is worse. What did you do to this piano?" "I had it fixed," said the indignant club owner. "What do you mean you had it fixed? What did you do to it?" said the Count. "I had it painted" was the answer.

There is an old expression: "No matter which way you turn, your rear end is still behind you." No matter how much paint you use, it doesn't help if the piano is out of tune. If an owner is looking to really lower costs, I suggest that they close the hotel.

We are in the people business. Not the real estate business, not the construction business. The people business. Instead of automated conveyor belts, we have people. Instead of computers that hum and print stuff, we have people. We have not come to grips with this basic concept. And without doing so, all the efforts, all the expenditures, all the marketing and sales efforts will not perpetuate a full return on your investment.

You really want to know what I hear, in my travels around the countryside from hotel owners and general manager? Serious whining. Serious complaining and serious whining.

I can't tell you how many times I've heard owners tell me. "It's hard to find good help these days. Nobody wants to work anymore. Turnover is through the roof. These people don't care. Why bother talking or teaching anything? In two or three weeks they'll quit. These kids are weird, with the earrings, the way they dress and the crazy hairdos. Just a bunch of losers come looking for jobs here. If they had any ability, they would find a job with career potential."

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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.