News for the Hospitality Executive
Hotel Lessons Learned Growing Up In Kennedy Craft Shop
|by Doug Kennedy, July 2008
Funny how the older we get in life the more we come to appreciate our parents. I for one feel particularly blessed to have been born unto a family of entrepreneurs. Although my mother Barbara passed away more than 15 years ago, the wisdom she imparted upon us kids was enough to last a lifetime. Although my mom taught me many things about life in general, such as always maintaining a positive attitude and believing in yourself, she also taught me a lot more about the real-world of business than I could have ever learned getting an MBA.
You see my mom like many others of her generation gave up her professional career as an executive secretary when she started having babies. When the youngest of her four children went into grade school, mom decided it was time to fulfill her lifelong dream of operating her own business. Having been particularly good at working with her hands and selling her arts and crafts since her childhood, she quickly realized there was more money to be made in selling craft and art supplies and teaching classes, versus actually making things to sell. Thus was born the concept of the Kennedy Craft Shop in Lexington, Kentucky.
This was no ordinary retail store; Kennedy Crafts was really more like a social networking club where one was sure to bring any out of town visitors. But the real draw wasn’t was simply the craft supplies and classes; it was the authentic, genuine, and warm hospitality everyone received personally from my mom Barbara Kennedy, who soon became known locally as Mrs. Craft. She new our real business was all about the relationships and connections we made, and not about the products, which especially in the case of craft supplies could be purchased elsewhere for less. Mrs. Craft somehow made a connection with every customer, ranging from the flower children who purchased macramé, tie dye and candle making supplies to the summer camp teachers to the elderly grandmothers who purchased decoupage supplies. Each customer was made to feel special; I cannot tell you how many women I saw walk in that store claiming to be one of Mrs. Craft’s “oldest,” “best,” or “favorite” customers!
This customer service philosophy really paid off for my parents, as Mom’s little business she started in our house soon moved to a local shopping center, albeit the smallest retail space in an end unit at the back of an arcade. Yet within three years we’d moved to a larger location in that center, and also taken over the retail spaces in both sides. By the five year mark my dad George was able to leave his job as an Electrical Engineer to come into the business and start a wholesale craft supplies division.
My own career started at age 9 on the day Kennedy Craft Shop opened and I immediately became fascinated with the family business. I liked meeting the customers, who often brought their kids in to visit me, re-stocking the shelves, and other standard retail tasks such as inventory day. But Saturdays - our busiest days – were my favorite of all as I especially liked working the electric cash register, which I could actually reach thanks to the wooden stool my Dad made. For the next 11 years until age 20 I worked in that little craft shop, watching Mrs. Craft in action daily and not knowing that the business experience I was getting was going to later propel my own entrepreneurial endeavors. In looking back now so many years later I can clearly see how the same principles and philosophies my parents built Kennedy Craft Shop on have helped me throughout my career, whether as a bellman, front office manager, and for two decades now as an owner of hotel training companies. I hope my readers can benefit in some small way from my sharing of these lessons learned:
Hotel Lessons Learned:
- Get to know “the story” behind the customer. My mom Barbara went beyond just memorizing names to really get to know her customers and their various stories. She knew which women were having problems at home, where they were planning to go on vacation this year, and how each of their children were doing in school. Likewise, we in the hotel business need to do a lot better job of not only asking “How was your trip in today?” but also at actually caring about the responses we hear from today’s over-stressed and over-scheduled guests.Kennedy Craft Shop continued to thrive into the early 1980’s and well into my college years. As Lexington KY continued its fast track growth and a metropolitan city emerged, soon enough we had Wal-Mart and K-Mart craft sections plus Ben Franklin Crafts to compete, yet our business continued its successes. Although their success was modest, my parents were able to sell their little business in 1982 and retire to pursue their own marriage-long goal of visiting all of the 50 states. They completed this journey in 1992 and my dad still survives and has the jacket with the 50-state emblems sewed on to prove it! When my mom passed away peacefully and with her family - about 3 months after visiting the last of the 50 states on their list, I knew she had a experienced a life well lived. Although Kennedy Craft Shop eventually was closed by the new owners, Mrs. Craft still remains a legend to many in my hometown to this day. Looking back now on my own career I know I learned a lot from the manager of that little craft shop and hope readers enjoy these lessons learned and find they are still relevant today.
Doug Kennedy, President
|Also See:||Personalized Hospitality Excellence Still A Deliverable! / Doug Kennedy / June 2008|
|Real Conversations vs Rigid Scripting Increases Reservations Productivity / Doug Kennedy / May 2008|
|Hotel Lessons Learned From A Five-Star School Principal / Doug Kennedy / April 2008|
|Road Warrior Shares Tips On How Hotel Guests Can Minimize Environmental Impact / Doug Kennedy / March 2008|
|Right-Sized Staffing Ensures Front Desk Sales & Service Success / Doug Kennedy / December 2007|