Growth Plans, Increases Market Share 4 Percentage Points
June, 2003 - When Melodee Insley squinted at 17 columns of crucial Smith Travel Research numbers that were 26 rows long and, with one touch of a computer key, turned the crowded report into a multi-colored pie chart, she moved the company closer to double-digit growth. As Dolce International’s regional controller for North America, Insley is part of a team that stays focused on strategic objectives for 2003 that were set by Dolce founder and CEO, Andy Dolce: add value to existing assets; deploy capital through acquisitions in Europe; and improve market penetration.
“We’ve increased market penetration four percentage points this year, overall,” said Debra Bates, CFO and team leader for the 22-year-old, New Jersey-based global leader in conference center destinations. Bates and her group were tasked last fall with finding ways to ready Dolce for expansion when the economy rebounds. The company grew 144% during the past six years. “We have capital we want to deploy on acquisitions,” Bates acknowledged.
The biggest challenge Dolce faced was to closely analyze trends and financials while managing the glut of data and chart-of-account inconsistencies that rapid growth creates. “When times are good, we do not do as much analytical work; when times slow down, we analyze operations rigorously to find ways to improve our margins,” said Bates.
Critical to that analysis were monthly Smith Travel Accommodations Reports (STAR), which collect measurements such as occupancy, room rate, revenue per available room and market share from some 2.6 million and 150,000 rooms in the United States and Canada, respectively. “STAR gives you basic historical information, but it does not trend it for you,” said Insley, who explained Bates’ team installed business intelligence software last October that lets managers see trends instead of basic data. “With our new business intelligence tool we are getting the data direct from Smith Travel, and can manipulate it any way we choose.”
With this approach, Insley was able to discover if trends were up or down and see “hot spots” immediately. Case in point: by reviewing the rolling 12 months numbers, she spotted two properties that, although well ahead of the market rate, were gradually trending downward. By drilling down and looking at each month’s activities, senior executives were able to pinpoint causes for the decline. Insley noted the new tool also lets Dolce corporate managers set operational goals. “We can say to a property, ‘We need your RevPAR to be a certain number by the end of the year based upon your history,’ which makes it easier for them to hit their goals.”
Consistent Chart-of-Accounts Fuel Trend Tracking
Another element that choked easy analysis of trends was inconsistent chart-of-accounts for 22 properties with different back office systems. “It was like lifting up the carpet and looking underneath,” Insley remarked. “Consistency becomes very important at the analytical level when you are tracking trends and trying to compare rooms division performance. The data is not accurate if properties allocate accounts differently.” Insley, who says the efficiency of reporting and data analysis has improved ten-fold with the tool, now has the ability to send individual property reports, regional reports, or combined reports to the properties, senior vice presidents, and senior corporate decision makers.
Technology Plus Business Process Projected to Yield Time Savings of 75%
“Part of our success formula is that we look for technologies and processes. You have to implement the right technology and the right business process to be efficient,” explained Bates. “In adding a business intelligence tool, we streamlined the process of how reports for analysis are created. These reports are used by our senior vice presidents to measure the company. Before the tool, multiple people in the same office used identical data, but they were getting it from different places. This could result in the same reports looking different because they picked up dissimilar cuts of the data. Through the business intelligence tool we created a single image database, and all the reports are generated centrally at corporate. Before, we could not easily do this high level analysis; now we can, and we also know we are comparing apples to apples. “
Insley agreed, adding that when the financial piece is rolled into their business intelligence cubes, she expects time savings for running consolidated reports at the summary level to drop from eight to two days a month. “Instead of manually churning numbers from Excel spreadsheets, the balance of our month will be spent on forward thinking, proactive activities.” Currently, Insley uses the tool to “look at our properties on a consolidated basis by region, area of responsibility, etc. to review how our portfolio is doing on a timely basis; compare properties against each other in the areas of cost per occupied room, and labor productivity against standards we’ve set; and track how we are capturing business in the market compared to competitors.” Data is automatically entered into their business intelligence application, and the reports are automatically created. What is the current forecast? Founder Andy Dolce says, “We are cautiously optimistic about an economic recovery. We don't want to get overly enthusiastic yet, because the signals are still mixed, but we are seeing encouraging signs in our booking pace, both short-term and longer-term bookings."
Dolce initially rolled its Smith Travel data into Execuvue™, an Internet-based, Cognos enabled, enterprise business intelligence application from Aptech Computer Systems, Inc. It is in the process of combining financial, sales and marketing, and property management system information into the tool, as well. “Business Intelligence cubes are warehouses for like types of data,” Insley explained.” One cube will hold all the STAR information; another the financial data; a third cube will have sales and marketing data; and another will contain data from property management systems. In the front office, we live heavily with a daily sales report from Smith Travel, which is crucial but hard to read. With our business intelligence tool, the reports are easy to read and, with one button, I can change the filters – by region, types of ownership, senior vice president’s regions, and put it in visual line, pie or bar charts to make it easier for the managers to learn.”
Dolce: The Leader in Learning Through Meetings and Leisure
“At a conference center, it’s a 24 hours experience. We focus on providing a pleasant learning experience for our guests, in all areas. For instance, we provide an atypical food service called “Chef’s Table,” where we invite guests to come into the kitchen to eat. We may serve a table of eight right in the chef’s domain with a five course meal. This way, guests learn what it takes to put on a first-class meal, and we learn their preferences. It’s also a fun break from their corporate meetings.”
The company, which comes from a family-owned background, also maintains a strong focus on developing Dolce people internally so “we will have stronger, smarter managers that will help us grow the company,” Bates concluded. Dolce’s senior management designs career track training programs to help people with objectives beyond their current position learn the right skill set to achieve their goals.
About Dolce International
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