Getting Big

Many companies, from start-up's to mid-size to already large, have "growth" as a primary objective. They spend a lot of time mapping out strategy on how to get from one store to fifty, from one region to twenty and so on. Hotel companies are no exception. I clearly recall my days at the infant Doubletree, then later at Omni when almost everything was centered on this idea...getting big. In hindsight, this is rarely a good strategy. Below is an excerpt from the now well publicized memo from Starbucks chairman, Howard Schultz...

"Over the past ten years, in order to achieve the growth, development, and scale necessary to go from less than 1,000 stores to 13,000 stores and beyond, we have had to make a series of decisions that, in retrospect, have lead to the watering down of the Starbucks experience, and, what some might call the commoditization of our brand. Many of these decisions were probably right at the time, and on their own merit would not have created the dilution of the experience; but in this case, the sum is much greater and, unfortunately, much more damaging than the individual pieces."

A better approach is to focus on continuous improvement and building relationships with your guests. If you do that well, the big will follow. Then, you'll have a new problem, i.e., to stay small, at least in the eyes of your customers and employees. A key part of success is figuring out how to manage it. Growth strategies and the development of efficient systems and procedures may seem important. But, the real issue and the one that should get most of the attention is how to retain the guest experience that created the growth in the first place.  Those are the SOP's that matter most.