Star Concepts

The F Word


My new friend, “Dr. A” (Dr. Mario Arnaldo, Hawaii Pacific University) recently reminded me of an important part of the remarkable service puzzle…Focus.

In sports, it’s called “being in the zone”. Once in this state, there’s no longer a quest to be the best…there’s an obsession. And, with that obsession comes a focus so sharp that nothing is allowed to get in the way of achieving the goal. Every conceivable distraction is tuned-out in order to give full attention to the task at hand…winning.

Another example…

I just watched The Aviator (starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes). The film depicts Hughes (quite accurately according to most accounts) as an ego eccentric maniac in a constant search (and struggle) to be the best aviator in the world. His passion, obsession and focus on flying enabled him to achieve exactly that…for a time anyway.

The same principle can be applied to service performance. Without obsession, passion and focus, we can only hope to be mediocre. So, as a leader, here’s your most important job. First, find the most passionate people you can afford. Then, give them the stage (tools and training). And finally, keep them focused. The best thing you can do is to minimize or eliminate distractions (get rid of stifling rules and regulations, get non-passionate people out of the way, provide “failure support”, etc.). Do these things well, and the rest takes care of itself. Oh, and don’t forget to get out of the way.

You Can't Shout Your Way To Success

Here’s what we know about the buying process for remarkability.

We know more and more people “want” meaningful and remarkable experiences.
We know they will pay more for them.
We know they choose these products and services carefully.
We know they rely on trusted sources like friends, family and travel agents to guide them.

So, why is there such a tendency to shortcut that process in our business? Why do we insist on SHOUTING our message with ads, infomercials, fancy brochures and the like?

A bigger or brighter sign doesn’t make you more desirable. Billboards don’t increase sales. Neither do TV commercials, radio ads or $25,000 websites. But, we sure buy a boatload of them.

Look, for the money we pour down the drain shouting our message, we could build one heck of an experience and get all of our partners and customers to tell all their friends and co-workers about it. Invest in the experience and relationships, and I guarantee you the word would spread. Just be passionate about what you do, and give it a little time. But, if you don’t have the desire to be the best and the patience to see it through…buy the ads and the flash loaded websites. At least you’ll get to blame someone else if it doesn’t work.

The Perfect Sell

I was recently asked about the “perfect sell” and how to achieve more of them. It's defined within our industry as filling every room with paying guests without relocating (walking) anyone.

Politically, the “perfect sell” has always been an issue for me. I have been in disagreement with many people about the goal of occupying every room at all costs…because it has such steep consequences. Rolling the proverbial dice and “overbooking” to ensure 100% occupancy doesn’t make sense, and here’s why:

1. ROI- If you have a solid no-show and cancellation policy, the cost is simply not worth the gain. Unless you pocket no-show money when you fill (it happens a lot), you gain virtually nothing. And even considering the extra cash, you’re almost guaranteed to create a significant amount of bad will when you relocate guests. Once betrayed, they will do you tremendous harm when they talk to their family, friends and neighbors about how lousy their trip went. The trust you worked so hard to achieve is immediately eroded. Why would you destroy one of your most valuable assets (along with permission) this way?
2. Lack of Care- It puts your staff in the unenviable position of providing poor service. They’re set-up to make someone unhappy…and to fail. Why would you do that? To make a few extra bucks? I recall having to walk people as a desk clerk…I hated it.

The cause behind this sort of “perfect sell” mentality is typically rooted deeply within the organization, usually the result of financial pressures and short-term vs. guest centric thinking. If the focus was truly on making every guest happy, this wouldn’t be an issue…not for one minute.

You can either strive for realistic goals, say 95% occupancy with everyone happy. Or, you can gamble to achieve 100% with a good chance of creating hundreds or perhaps thousands of angry customer evangelists.

Any other thoughts?

Riding The Tail

I recently received a request for some help with e-marketing and search engine optimization. Neither is my true area of focus. So, I referred the questions on to others. But, it brought to mind a fundamental thought about sales strategy and why it is we have come to rely so much on the likes of Google and Yahoo for people to find us.

In our business, there are only two basic approaches to selling. I call them remarkable…and coat tail. In a nutshell, people are staying with you either because of you…or because of something else. Unfortunately, the one used most often is the coat tail variety…mainly because of the low barriers to entry. And, while we all use some of both, you’re definitely coming into the game from one corner or the other.


This is the approach we should all be striving for. The experience you offer your guests is meaningful, relevant and interesting. It’s based on Design, Story and Care, and is best for you and your guest.

The advantages:

You are seen as “the best”
You are in whole or in part the “demand generator”
You are more in control of your performance and destiny
People spread the word about you
PR (editorials) comes much more easily
You don’t buy advertising
You can charge more for what you’re selling
Your experience has more to do with guest “wants” than “needs”
You don’t need to lie

The disadvantages:

It’s more expensive
It takes more patience
It requires a lot of “right brain” thinking
It requires a heavy investment in relationships

Coat Tail

This one is by far the more common variety, mainly because it’s easier and cheaper.

The advantages:

It’s easier
It costs less (you spend less on design, people and almost nothing on story)
You may see results more quickly
The “remarkable” or hard work is being done by something or someone else (theme park, national park, convention center, etc.)
You’re serving people’s needs more than wants (needs less creativity, i.e., “right brain”)

The disadvantages:

Results are likely marginal over the long-run
You’re experience becomes average
You’re more apt to “spin” your story in order to get people’s attention.
People don’t talk about you…they talk about the coat
You’re excellent franchise food (an expensive credibility stamp)
You’re forced to compete more on price
The supply/demand equation is very important (if there are less people in need, you suffer)
You’re more susceptible to the volatility of the market
You’re forced to spend money and time on the volume of your message (ads, special deals with coats, etc.) in order to get attention in a noisy market

We all ride a coat tail to some degree. But, the more we focus on becoming remarkable, the less dependant we are on the coat and the tail, i.e., the demand generators around us. And, consequently, the less we feel the effects of the various ups and downs experienced by those we rely on to provide our stream of business. In short, we are more in control of our own destiny.

So, if you’re in it for the long haul, the answer to selling more isn’t to spend more time and money increasing the volume of your message whether it be on SEO, ads or whatever. Rather, it’s more effective to invest those resources on being remarkable and the relationships necessary to spread the word. It’s tougher (mentally and fiscally) and takes longer to get a return. But, in the long run, you’re much better off and better insulated against outside threats. And, the result will be much more meaningful to your guests.

However, if you’re stuck in the coat tail doldrums with little chance of relief (usually a lack of money), get whatever help you need to move your property to the top of the search results page…and ride the coat tail as long as you can.

Sustaining Passion

Stephanie, a good friend of mine and former colleague at Inn on Biltmore Estate (IoBE) recently posed an excellent question:

One of your posts discussed being tired - and the necessity of taking time off, but how do you keep the passion alive? It was easy to have passion when we were going through the IoBE pre-opening as well as during those first few years, but over time, doesn't that passion dwindle? I liken it to marriage...guess you've got to figure out ways to keep things fresh and interesting...and that is where management needs to be sharp so the entire team doesn't lose that momentum. (I also think that our opening LT had a certain synergy that really kept us going and it spilled over to the rest of the staff. Maybe I've answered my own question?)
In her usual way, she also started me down the right path toward an answer...

I think marriage is a very good analogy. Just like marriage, a project, job or career is a journey. You’re right, we need to keep it interesting to make it meaningful…and to make it work.

Management’s job is to keep new challenges and ideas flowing…to keep it fun.

Here’s my expanded version of Stephanie’s thought:

Find Passionate People- Find people who really love what they do. Then, make sure that love matches what you want them to do. Don’t just hire people who have experience and a “good track record”. Hire those with a passion for what you need them to do. Yes, it’s a little bit (or maybe a lot) of Dr. Gerald Bell’s, Selecting Achievers model.
Build a Team With Synergy- Build a team where everyone respects the other members. Build a team where everyone is first loyal to the team, then to everyone else. Build a team that feels like they would go anywhere, do any job, etc., to be with the others on the team. Now you’ve got a passionate core (that’s what we had during pre-opening).
Keep People Challenged- Give them things to do that are interesting to them…not just to you. That’s typically where we fall short. We give people problems to solve that they could care less about and many times are inconsistent with the primary goal. That’s boring.
Stay Focused- Keep doing whatever it is your best at. That’s why people came to work for you in the first place. If you change course, you might need new folks.
Ask Questions- Occasionally ask people if they’re bored? If they are…change what you’re doing.

Sometimes people just need a change (just like in marriage). That’s okay. In fact, offer help in finding them something new. Because, likely, it’s not “them” that’s the problem. It’s more likely you, your project or a combination that’s lost its luster. So, rather than milk a person’s creativity until you are both dissatisfied, help a fellow human regain the love and passion that attracted you to them in the first place. You’ll both be glad you did.

The Delivery

What you learn in a small place like Keyah Grande is that the “delivery” matters most. It’s not about the “things” you touch and see, i.e., the Frette linens, marble or art on the walls. But, rather, it’s the genuine act of caring that really counts…and builds memories.

Rarely, does anyone write me a thank you letter to express their gratitude for the view or the whirlpool bathtub (I assume that’s true for you too). It’s almost always about our staff and their interaction with them that made their visit so special.

In larger properties, we spent a lot of time trying to control the way our service was delivered. We had standards, procedures, flowcharts, you name it, for everything…all with the intention of creating a very consistent delivery of service to our guest. In the end, what typically happened is that we became very average. Consistent…but average.

Instead, we should try not to control “how” service is delivered. In other words, let the creativity, passion and genuine nature of the person doing the job take over. Spend time controlling liquor inventories and the cash drawer…but not the art of service. Once you do that…it’s no longer an art, and no longer meaningful.

Try these things if you want to be less average and more memorable:

Hire the Best People- One’s with true passion for what they do. (see The Robin Williams Effect)
Be Genuine- Don’t pretend to be something you’re not. Don’t try to spin and make-up for weak areas. Just be real about them.
Be Adaptive- Stay away from scripts. Have fun and make-it up as you go along. If you’ve hired great people, this one works beautifully.
Stay on Point- Always, always remain focused on what you can be the best at…and leave the other stuff to someone else.

More than ever, people want meaning, personal attention and genuine care in their lives. They want to feel special. When people deliver these goods…they remember. So, why not give them what they want.

Getting Tired


A lesson you learn in our business is how to get tired. This condition is inevitable if you’re in the game long enough and as you climb the management ladder. If you don’t learn how to do it, bad things happen, usually to guests and colleagues. Work 10, 20 or even 30 days straight and see what happens. And, as you get older, it gets worse. I know this isn’t news for many of you. But, to those that are either new, or about to get in, be careful…and mindful.

As leaders, getting tired is expected. But, so is great service. Unfortunately, they don’t coexist very well. If you want to take care of your staff, be sure they get enough time off to recharge their smiles, bodies and creative minds.

Have a great week!


Management By Wandering Around...


A recent Tom Peters blog entry (and my time at Keyah Grande) reminds me how important this concept is to our business. In fact, it may be the most important. Inarguably, it’s the most effective way to stay in touch with your staff and your guests. And, the best way to show you care about people…period.

The other thing I’ve come to realize about MBWA is how difficult it is to do when you’re “big”. It really takes effort the more people and square footage involved vs. a small place where the nature of the hands-on operation makes it a requirement and it just happens. Either way, the result is that you learn what’s important…staying in touch with people. Do it well, and you’re rewarded with guests who go out and spread your story and with employees who remain allegiant through thick and thin. Do it poorly, or not at all, and you know the rest of the story…

If you have any MBWA stories, please share.

Where Has Service Gone (part 1)

In case you missed my thoughts on this subject earlier this year, you can read part 1 of the article here.

Parts 2 and 3 will be released over the next two weeks. Or, as a reader of this blog, you're welcome to download the entire article from the Downloads section in the side bar.

As always, your comments are welcome.

Thanks to Hotel News Resource for publishing the work.

In Case You Missed Them



Every action, interaction and even non-action with a customer leads down one of two paths, one which builds a relationship or one which erodes one. There is no in-between or middle road. You either make the customer feel good, appreciated and important…or, you don’t. Some of that has to do with choosing the right audience. But, most of it relates to service and how you handle people. So, with only two choices, this business of serving guests seems relatively straightforward...focus your energy on going down the high road of building long lasting relationships and do everything possible to stay off the alternative pathway.

But, we all know it’s not that simple. Too often, we get distracted. We lose focus on what’s most important and get caught-up in the daily grind. We focus more on what’s important to us, and less on what’s important to our guests. We worry about how we feel. We worry about “being right”. We worry about making quarterly earnings, about making our boss happy or about getting home on-time. And, while all of these things are important to us, sometimes very important, they don’t at all matter to our customer. The guest doesn’t care how we feel, if our boss is happy or if we can make our next lease payment. They only care how they feel.

Every time we focus on ourselves and our problems, we start going down the wrong path. We feel better..and our customers don’t. To some degree, this is inevitable. After all, we’re human. But, if we recognize this weakness and ensure that enough emphasis is placed on countering the tendency, especially at the most critical moments, we’ll win. And, so will our customers.

Next time you’re faced with a customer complaint, staffing crunch, or an overbooking situation, think about the customer relationship, and what will happen to that relationship with your next move. Next time you plan an advertising campaign, sales blitz or telemarketing attack, think twice about how it feels to be on the other end.

You’re at the fork in the road every day. Think carefully about which path to take.

What To Be When You Grow Up


My friend Chris, top dog at Magellan Strategy Group, knows a lot about tourism and marketing…more than me. So, I’m always happy to see something from him in my in-box. Recently, he sent me a copy of an interview with Al Ries (an even more famous marketing guru) about hotel branding in which the point is made that many hospitality brands are “muddy” and unclear resulting in market confusion and sub par performance. He goes on to say that you need to focus on “owning a word in the customer’s mind”, a la Volvo, “safe car”. According to Ries, at the end of the day, that simple strategy is what branding is all about.

Similarly, one of Chris’ seven C’s of branding (I must confess that I don’t know them all) is “clarity”. I think what Chris and Al are talking about is the single most important concept in starting anything new, especially a business. I call it knowing what you want to be before you grow up. In other words, “how” and “what” do you want your guests to feel when they experience your service. Failure to develop this mantra and a plan to support it at the very beginning is one of the most fundamental and unfortunately one of the most common mistakes made when starting a new venture. Hotels are often developed on the auspices of serving all types of guests, doing it better than someone else and at a better price. You see it all the time, hotels lacking a clear identity, trying to serve multiple audiences with numerous pitches and product offerings. You see PR companies spinning stories which lack focus and have very little to do with the “real” experience. You hear sales people telling clients anything they can think of to get them to sign a contract. In the end, these mixed signals just create confusion, a lack of trust and less revenue.

Instead, be very clear to yourself, your colleagues and your prospective guest. Start by developing something you’re passionate about and that you can be the best at. Create an image that’s very clear and “in focus” for everyone. Then, stick to that idea and support it at every turn with everything you do. If there are enough guests who want to feel the same way you do, you’ll have a winner. If not, you’ll have an expensive hobby.

No matter what you do, decide what you want to be before you get started. There’s way too much at stake to make wholesale changes along the way.

Andrew Harper...Stories and Trust

If you’re in the hotel business, especially as an independent, you probably know of Andrew Harper. If not, you should, and can learn more about him here.

A recent review of Keyah Grande reminded me of his influence in the travel industry and what we can learn from successful people like him.

Harper’s business is about stories and trust. He sells stories about his travel experiences to people who trust him. Here’s why he’s so successful at it:

1. People trust him because he doesn’t accept anything in return (cash or in kind) from the properties he writes about.

2. His true identity has remained almost completely anonymous for the past twenty-five years. In essence, he can be completely objective…and that’s worth a lot these days.

3. He’s honest, giving you the bad along with the good in his reviews.

In fact, his model works so well that he limits his newsletter subscription list to 25,000. That, of course, makes it exclusive and the information within even more valuable. Over the years, he has used his honesty and the trust of his client base to further develop his business along other lines. He’s a pretty smart cookie.

There are some lessons to be learned from Mr. Harper…

1. One of the most valuable assets you can own is your customers’ trust. Whatever you do, remain honest and never take advantage of your position.

2. Stories sell when you have the attention of the right audience. Use relationships to get attention and use great stories to keep people interested.

As a hotelier, if you can get a positive review for your property, it’s a huge credibility builder with your prospective guests as well as the media, travel agents and just about anyone else who will have anything to do with you. So, how do you get a review…start with a remarkable experience and get someone he trusts to give him a call.

Good luck.

Stories Through Process

People love what goes on behind the scenes…they love process. Biltmore Estate makes part of its keep from its “behind the scenes” tours. People visit the Boeing factory to see how airplanes are made. More and more, people are interested in “how” and “why” something happens. Anything that enriches our understanding of “the experience” makes it that much more meaningful. Cocktails and meals taste better when we can see them come to life. That’s why bars and exhibition kitchens are so popular. Wine seems to taste so much better when we get to taste it at the winery with the wine master explaining the intricacies of the fermentation and aging process with every sip.

Creating stories through process is an extremely powerful tool, especially in the F&B side of our business. Let’s face it, it’s much more interesting to tour the kitchen and learn about new ingredients than to tour the hotel laundry and see some soap in a washing machine (yes, I know, big ironers and folders are pretty cool to watch). Hells Kitchen, Iron Chef and the Food Network didn’t pop-up by accident. People like food, and they like the art of creating it even more.

I’ve been at Keyah Grande for about eight months. And, with very few exceptions, our kitchen and the Chefs are the highlight of our guests’ stay. It helps that we have an open kitchen policy (come in anytime to learn and raid the fridge for leftovers) and that Aki and Alex are so passionate about their trade. But, it’s the combination of intrigue, the possibility of learning and our openness and informality that draws people in to explore the process of cooking. In any case, it makes for some very memorable experiences which lead to a lot of storytelling…a relatively inexpensive way to spread the word.

So, the next time you’re racking your brain about how to add value to your guest’s stay, try opening the kitchen door.

Pay Special Attention

While experiencing the birth of our daughter Lauren yesterday, I watched a lot of magic occur. But, having some time to digest, I have taken away more than the experience of a new life and family member. Our nurse, Susan, is one of the finest medical professionals I have ever had the pleasure of dealing with. She is well experienced with over 20 years in labor and delivery. But, that’s not what makes her work so impressive. What sets her apart from everyone else are the way she connects with you and the way she makes you feel. It was the little things like the extra time spent talking about things important to us, not just the standard stuff she was required to spew to patients. Sitting down in the room and simply enjoying our company, making us feel at home in a place which certainly doesn’t appeal as such. These are the things that matter to people. Unpleasantries like the crappy cot I had to sleep on, the TV speaker that didn’t work, the phone from the 1970’s and yes, the horrible food all seem to disappear when you are fortunate enough to meet someone like Susan. She cared about us, and made us feel like we were her only patients…which we weren’t.

Bottom line, Susan is passionate about what she does…caring for people. And, she knows how to pay special attention to make you feel at home.

Hire people like her, and most of your other shortcomings will become transparent to your guests..just ask Mercy Hospital.


I saw an interesting sign today while driving around my hometown of Pagosa Springs. It read, “there’s no substitute for experience”.

That’s an interesting thought. And, one with some merit, especially in the context of business which is what this sign was referring to. About the only thing I can think of that makes for a reasonable substitute is cash. Coming in second is patience. You need a healthy supply of both to make-up for the mistakes that inexperience sometimes brings.

Hiring someone with experience is much like having a security blanket. You feel all comfy when you’ve got it, and you get a little edgy when you don’t. You feel better knowing you have someone hired who’s been there and done that. Hopefully, they can do it better, quicker and cheaper. And, keep you out of trouble at the same time. That’s the value of experience.

But, there’s a problem with experience. It can bring on a serious case of tunnel vision leading you down a path of mediocrity yielding an average experience, average customers and very average returns on your investment. People who are “too experienced” are usually set in their ways, overly cautious, fearful of mistakes and are generally risk averse. These same people rarely push the envelope, experience the great “breakthrough” ideas or develop remarkable products. And, they probably don’t have as much fun.

Hiring people with experience is a good thing as long as they have a demonstrated desire to learn. Make sure they have a track record of taking some chances and trying new things. You don’t need blinders on, especially if you’re launching something new.

The only thing experience should help you avoid is the edge of the proverbial cliff. Otherwise, it should provide a safety net enhancing your ability to deal with new direction, ideas and problems…as long as you get the right person on the team.

Price Is Not Always King

Here's an article about a TIA study based on 5,000 respondents that makes the following point:

"leisure travelers decide where they want to go and for how long before they even consider the price tag"

I guess sometimes it just takes 5,000 people and a few thousand dollars to tell us what we already know. Once people move along a path from "needing" something to "wanting" it, price becomes less important. And, leisure travel is all about what we want, and more importantly, how we want to feel.

They could have just read The Want Factor.


PR, i.e., public relations. It’s such a misunderstood concept. And, for many companies, especially the super big ones, it seems to be an oxymoron. They don’t have the first clue about building a “relationship” with anyone, let alone their customers. Conversely, their idea of PR and spreading the word is paying big bucks to an agency to “apply the spin” to something inherently unremarkable and sending it out as “news”, thinking somehow we’re going to buy into it.

Try making the experience meaningful with heavy doses of relevant design, caring and honesty. Then, build relationships with people who share your view and are compelled to tell their friends and customers about it. That works much better.

The only time when relationships are less important is when the story in and of itself is overwhelmingly powerful. But, unless you have a concept like global warming, I wouldn’t bet the farm on that approach.

The Want Factor

Rarely anymore, do we purchase what we “need”. Rather, it’s a lot more about what we “want”. And, that’s driven mostly by the number of choices we now have. We’ve gone from a commodities buying society with very limited options to one searching for personalization and meaning based on the multiple niches available. We are moving away from places like Holiday Inn when we simply needed a comfortable place to stay to design and caring filled experiences like W, Four Seasons and Inn at Blackberry Farm.

This concept is extremely important in our business of hospitality. The quicker a prospective guest strays from “need” to “want”, the more important the design, story and caring elements become. Unless, of course, you’re in the fortunate position of being the only choice. Then, you’re in the catbird seat. But, that’s extremely rare.

And, to make it complex, the want factor is different for everyone. After fulfilling the basic need of obtaining a meal or a hotel room in a certain locale, wants start to kick-in. What’s seen as a dire necessity by some (in-room coffee makers, 24 room service, butlers, etc.) is viewed as overabundance and wastefulness by others. So, if there aren’t enough folks wanting what you’re selling, it’s going to be a long and difficult road. For the most part, you can’t change their mind about what they want. So, it’s imperative you speak to the correct audience.

So, you need to ask yourself, where in the game of needs and wants are we playing? What side of the equation are we on? And, how many choices are there?

If a person needs to attend a meeting in Austin, Texas which requires him to stay overnight, he needs a hotel room (in Austin). When I lived there in the late 90’s, that gave you about 1,600 choices. You could even argue that he needs a hotel room in a certain part of town, preferably near the meeting, let’s say downtown. Now, you’re down to about 200. But, beyond that, needs don’t count anymore, wants do. If he’s a bootstrapping entrepreneur who doesn’t care about hoofing it a few blocks, any budget or mid-level property will probably do. But, the budget hotel that connects with him somehow (through design, caring and story) wins.

Typically, here’s how it goes: There’s far less differentiation at the lower segment levels because we (as developers and operators) believe price is what matters the most. However, the memorable elements become extremely important (I would say critical) as you move along the price path toward luxury. At that point, the experience is expected to be meaningful in some other way than simply “a good value”.

The great news for those operating in the mid and lower price segments is that it gives all of you a “huge” opportunity to do a few things differently and win the game. Small doses of story, design and care go a long way. On the contrary, the place where it’s the most difficult to play is in the leisure, luxury segment. Your guests don’t “need” to be there and their “wants” are extremely difficult to ascertain. So, as a marketer, designer and operator, you better get it right.

Opening Your Doors


The key to a new hotel (at least for most of us) is to have business when it opens.

Apart from getting the lights to work, the furniture in place and the staff trained, there is little that is more important than having a stream of guests when you throw out the welcome mat. You can talk all you want about having a great sales team, partnering with powerhouse marketing organizations and developing fancy websites with on-line booking capability. But, it really comes down to two things: desire and anticipation.

Desire is created by offering something meaningful that didn’t exist before. Anticipation follows suit and is driven by the desirability of your new offering and how well you tell the story about it. The combination of the two determines if there’s a line to get in when you turn the lights on for the first time.

Creating something that people want is much more than being on the right side of the supply and demand equation (which is what the bank cares about). Maybe you can hang your hat solely on the economics if you’re lucky enough to find a market running 80%, and you’re the first in line to develop a new project. Most of us, however, are faced with creating some new demand, either on our own or with the help of our neighbors.

A new Comfort Inn (nothing against them, just an example) in a sea of existing budget hotels is born from numbers. It’s not what most people want. And, it’s certainly nothing to write home about. Its success is dependant almost solely on the supply and demand equation. That’s extremely dangerous. One twitch in the wrong direction on either side and they might have trouble making the loan payment.

A better way is to start with something people want. It’s much more fun and interesting. Plus, you get the added bonus of creating some insulation in the event the market starts behaving uncharacteristically.

The Inn on Biltmore Estate was developed to satisfy desire. For over 100 years, people (I mean, a lot of people) wanted to spend the night on Biltmore Estate. Only a select few were ever given the privilege as a personal guest of Mr. Vanderbilt. So, when the plans for the Inn were announced, there was a firestorm of anticipation. The Biltmore marketing team was very smart. They turned that desire and anticipation into one of the most successful PR campaigns I’ve ever seen (about $1 million in free advertising prior to opening). As a result, they enjoyed a first year occupancy of over 70%. That’s virtually unheard of.

The Stephen F. Austin Hotel, first built in 1924, had a storied history including tales of Babe Ruth signing autographs on the front porch, Charles Lindbergh stopping by before his historic trans-continental flight, Frank Sinatra giving an impromptu performance in the lobby and a whole host of political heavyweights calling it their outpost including LBJ. Unfortunately, the energy bust of the late 70’s and early 80’s took its toll, and the Stephen F. closed in 1986. So, when plans were announced to revive her in the late 90’s, you can imagine the heightened level of interest and the increased level of “talk” about the “new” Stephen F. The people of Austin desperately wanted her back.

Do something different. And, get people to talk about it…long before you open the doors. Everyone will be smiling, especially the owner.