I’ll begin with the point…no amount of over the top design will overcome the shortcomings of people. And, on the flip side, if you load-up a modest hotel property with extraordinary talent, lots of good things are likely to happen.
Think of your fondest hotel memories. Chances are they exist because someone made you feel special and cared for…not because the restaurant used Spiegelau stemware, the bell staff wore $1,000 uniforms or the pool was equipped with an underwater sound system. Those things didn’t hurt the cause. But, they didn’t ensure victory either.
Lesson 1: Be sure to spend as much money as possible on people. It’s the first clear sign that you care. And, it has the greatest return over time.
Lesson 2 (when developing a new hotel): If you’re going to make cuts, do it on the front-end, so you can spend more where and when it matters most…on your employees, once you get going.
Here’s an example. The Inn on Biltmore Estate opened and immediately ran some the highest service scores (consistently 96% or better) ever measured for an opening property (by an independent evaluation company whose other clients included Ritz, Kempinski, etc.). That went on for quite a while (probably still is). Like with any new project, our team was faced with some serious financial decisions both during development and pre-opening. In essence, we didn’t get everything we wanted. We had to sacrifice some of the bells and whistles in order to get the doors open…things some of us thought would put as at a disadvantage, and maybe even risk failure. The lesson I learned is that those “things” can be replaced and the associated obstacles overcome with something better, a more effective weapon…great people. Whether it was luck, smarts, or a little bit of both, we achieved those guest accolades and their respective high marks by caring for them…in a very special way. Landscaping, fine china and an abundance of computers didn’t accomplish that. People did.
Maybe we shouldn’t measure ROI, instead ROP.