Lodging Magazine: How To CEO A Hotel Chain

Now that you know how to build your own hotel chain, let’s talk about how to run it right. It is critical to understand that getting there and staying there are two vastly different things.

You’ve developed a good product with clear brand positioning, and as CEO, you now need to develop and articulate the growth strategy. According to my good friend and sales consigliere Frank Cespedes of Harvard Business School, in his landmark book “Aligning Strategy and Sales,” it goes like this:

“Any coherent strategy statement should specify three components; objectives, scope and advantage.”

  • Objectives indicate what you hope to achieve. It’s not your mission statement, it’s where you want to be. For example, you might want to become the largest and most profitable hotel membership group in Great Britain.
  • Scope is where you operate; segments, geographical markets, product or service categories. But you need to choose.
  • Advantage means ‘what you do differently’ to set you apart from the competition.

Once you’ve gotten these bits down, you need to communicate it to your team members and to the market. Since you are running a chain, you will need to leverage yourself so you can communicate personally with many people. As CEO, you are now a public persona. And with that title and office, you will appear bigger than you may realize.

My good friend and former Best Western CEO, Jim Evans, once told me, “Be careful of how others perceive you. People are always watching.” Great advice; once you are CEO, don’t ever say, write, or do anything that you won’t want to see on CNN in the morning.

It’s important to understand that your employees, customers, and partners are looking to you for direction, and direction with reality. This is so they know what they need to do to help execute. Speak in plain English, as employees do not relate well to ‘visionary’ CEOs who scratch their beards and get lost in mid-thought.

For direction, people want to know where are we now, and in 30/60/90 days? Where in three years or five years, and how will we measure?

You don’t need to be rigid with a 5-year plan embossed in a binder. You need to be flexible, because the competitive environment changes so fast.

One of the best communicators and growth strategists is Bill Clinton, who likened strategy to sailing.
You will need to be flexible, to zig and zag left and right with the winds of change, but always pointed in the general direction of your target. Be clear and simple, always paint the big picture, but with a 50,000-foot view everyone can understand.

There are many paths CEOs have taken to motivate team members. Command and control. Carrot and stick. I prefer to motivate people with possibility, in that accomplishing great things together benefits all involved. At Magnuson Hotels, we focus on helping our member hotel owners operate at a lower cost, so they can pass along the savings to travellers. The hotel owners are happy because they make more money, the guests are happy with lower prices. And our team members take pride in the fact that they are responsible for all of this. When we hit our goals at corporate, all team members benefit from profit sharing.

One of the key reasons I manage people with possibility is because most people have hard times or difficult situations they would like to overcome. By painting realistic visions of possibility, hope takes over despair, and the heart is energised. At this point, people need encouragement, and loads of positive reinforcement. I have been accused of creating divas in our company, and it is a charge I proudly admit to.

Communicating your strategy is critical to create momentum between your team, your customers, your vendors and partners. In “The Art of War,” Sun Tzu says, ‘Do not telegraph your intentions, but rather unveil them quickly and always stay on the move.”

For me, he is partially right, but I believe it is more advantageous to constantly communicate your strategy as far and wide as you can, so you can build a constituency of believers. If someone thinks they can imitate your strategy, they will get it wrong. Because even if they try to copy your model, they do not have the secret sauce–the people and believers involved. So, communicate your strategy often and widely, show its successes to everyone, and always stay out in front in telling the story of your progress.

Can you do it? Of course you can, the only thing stopping you now is yourself. Go and do.