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Lessons from the Field
A Common Sense Approach to Success in the Hospitality Industry
By Dr. John Hogan, CHA MHS CHE, March 2009

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Reflections: Mentors and Friends
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Vermont Hoteliers Borden and Louise Avery
and their Son Allen / Dr John Hogan

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By Dr. John Hogan CHE CHA MHS 
March 25, 2009 

“I think everybody at some point - especially if they've been working their whole lives - 
should take time out and think about what they've done.” 
Gregory Hines (1946 – 2003) American actor, singer, dancer, and choreographer

This is a slight departure from my normal writing and I appreciate readers allowing me to take a different approach in a message aimed more on the personal side.

Hospitality and tourism arguably make up the world’s largest industry, although some internet searches conflict in interpretation.  Hospitality and tourism play a major role in the world economy and contribute significant revenues and net wealth to many countries.   When we think about it, we   recognize that many components of hospitality are based heavily on the personal, “high touch” side of life.

During the last 12 months, I have been composing several series of articles and columns. The largest series, titled “Lessons from the Field”, has focused on sharing best practices and success stories from all different types and sizes of hotels.

I sincerely appreciate the favorable review of these columns, as measured by the emails I frequently receive and by the readership statistics maintained by the publishers.

This column differs from others, in that I am dedicating this message to a family of hoteliers, with the hope that it will inspire readers to follow the lead of Gregory Hines quoted above and take a moment to reflect on those who have acted as MENTORS AND FRIENDS in our business lives.

In Lodging Magazine of September 1991, I contributed a short piece on this topic. Now, nearly two decades later, I am updating it with the enhanced understanding that has been part of my professional career.

That career began back in 1967 when I first became enamored with the appeal of “hospitality”.  My first hotel experience was as a houseman in a lakeside four-story, walk-up seasonal resort built in 1905, with shared baths. 

My family was not in the business, but I quickly learned what the phrase “family business” and the word “mentor” meant in the early 1970s when I went to work for the Averys. The Avery family operated three very different types of Vermont Inns.  They owned a country inn near Dartmouth College in Norwich, a downtown hotel near the state capital in Montpelier and Bonnie Oaks Resort in Fairlee, Vermont (a television Newhartish setting with a population then of about 600). 

Borden and Louise Avery started in the industry in the 1940s, and grew with the industry while always maintaining their independent style of operations and hosting guests. 

Summer jobs in resorts were important to me. Many of my college classmates may have earned more money as bartenders on Cape Cod or as food servers in high volume places, but I felt a special kinship to the Averys and Vermont.  I returned three summers to expand my knowledge as an auditor, front office agent and assistant manager.

After earning my college degree, I began my management career with Sheraton Hotels.  I recall years later in the mid seventies a conversation I had  with Borden commenting on how I was learning “so much more” being at the 1500 room flagship Sheraton Boston Hotel as a management trainee.  He smiled, and said that I could learn from the major companies how to follow their rules and be part of a major corporation, but I probably would not learn how to be a host or a real innkeeper profitably.  He said those skills and competencies would be developed through time and hands on experience.

I gained what I felt was incredibly important perspectives and experience in those seasons and something else that I feel I did not learn at University or at big corporate hotels either.  That something was the need to apply innkeeper and host common sense to formulas, percentages, calculations and protocols. 

Borden and Louise shared many lessons, ranging from checking of all folios and accounts daily to purchasing, decorating, event planning and marketing. They showed us the way of being a “host” through personal attention to the dining room menus that changed daily and their hospitality hours in an era before daily managers’ receptions. At a time when yield management had not become formalized, the Averys had fine tuned revenue management practices through carefully maintained guest histories and direct marketing.

The American Hotel & Motel Association recognized Borden in 1986 as the RESORT EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR and there are scholarships in his name in New England.   I felt honored that a portion of my 1991 article mentioned earlier was used in Borden’s eulogy five years later. People from across the country came to pay their respects in a Norwich church that was filled to capacity. 

Louise and Borden had one child, Allen, who was involved in the hotels from a very early age.  Allen was not always as enthusiastic about the business as his parents and pursued other interests before returning to the full management of the family resort.  Some of those interests included sponsoring racecars and traveling internationally.  In the 1970s and 1980s, he served as a Vermont state senator from Orange County, rising to the position of Speaker. He served on the Fairlee School Board for 30 years and was a founding force behind the formation of the Rivendell School District, the nation's first interstate school district.  His civic contributions were enormous and often anonymous.

Allen learned his parent’s brand of “HOTEL COMMON SENSE” and passed their approach and lessons to his sons, Mark and Jeffrey, who today operate the Lake Morey Resort and Lake Morey Country Club respectively.

Allen was only eight years older than I am and we developed a different type of relationship than what I had with his parents.  Over the past 20 plus years, we communicated regularly.  My bride, Kathleen, and I visited Allen several times in the past 8 years, specifically. 

On March 31, 2008, Allen Avery passed away. The news staggered me.   I regret that I was not able to be there at his memorial service the way I was for his father.  At the time, I was transitioning from one position to another in my career and I did not find out until almost 90 days later when his widow replied to several unanswered emails sent to Allen from me. 

Although Allen and I were not best friends, we did have a close professional relationship that lasted our adult lifetimes.  There has not been a week pass since last June that my thoughts have not returned to Allen and the Avery family.

I think we need to tell people more of the positive impact that they have on us – in whatever ways are comfortable for us, but we should share those feelings while we have the chance.

This article is titled Reflections: Mentors and Friends.   Who are your Mentors and Friends from this industry?  When was the last time you connected, for no reason other than to stay in touch?

Allen, Louise and Borden – I thank you.


Feel free to share an idea for a column at johnjhogan@yahoo.com anytime or contact customized workshops, speaking engagements or me regarding consulting. 

Autographed copies of LESSONS FROM THE FIELD – a COMMON SENSE APPROACH TO EFFECTIVE HOTEL SALES can be obtained from THE ROOMS CHRONICLE www.roomschronicle.com and other industry sources. 

All rights reserved by John Hogan and this column may be included in an upcoming book on hotel management.   The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of this publication

John Hogan, a career hotelier and educator, is frequently invited to participate at franchise meetings, management company and hospitality association industry events.  He is a successful senior executive with a record of accomplishment in leading hospitality industry organizations at multiple levels, with demonstrated competencies as a strong leader, relationship builder, problem solver and mentor. He conducts mystery-shopping reviews of quality in operations and marketing, including repositioning of hotels.

He writes weekly columns for a number of global online services (hotel online.com, eHotelier, 4 Hotels, Hotel Resource, etc) and has published more than 400 articles & columns on the hotel industry.  He co-authored (with Howard Feiertag, CHA CMP) LESSONS FROM THE FIELD – a COMMON SENSE APPROACH TO EFFECTIVE HOTEL SALES, which is available from info@smartbizzonline.com, ROOMS CHRONICLE www.roomschronicle.com  and other industry sources.  He resides in Phoenix, Arizona and expects to publish in 2009 his 2nd book based on his dissertation – The Top 100 People of All Time Who Most Dramatically Affected the Hotel Industry.

Hogan’s professional experience includes over 35 years in hotel operations, food & beverage, sales & marketing, training, management development and asset management on both a single and multi-property basis, including service as Senior Vice President of Operations in a specialty hotel brand for six years.

He holds a number of industry certifications (CHA, CHE, MHS, ACI) and is a past recipient of the American Hotel & Lodging Association’s Pearson Award for Excellence in Lodging Journalism, as well as operational and marketing awards from international brands.  He has served as President of both city and state hotel associations.

John’s background includes teaching college level courses as an adjunct professor at three different colleges and universities over a 20-year period, while managing with Sheraton, Hilton, Omni and independent hotels.  He was the principal in an independent training & consulting group for more than 12 years serving associations, management groups, convention & visitors’ bureaus, academic institutions and as an expert witness.  He joined Best Western International in spring of 2000, where over the next 8 years he created and developed a blended learning system as the Director of Education & Cultural Diversity for the world’s largest hotel chain. 

He has served on several industry boards that deal with education and/or cultural diversity and as brand liaison to the NAACP and the Asian American Hotel Owners’ Association with his long-term involvement in the Certified Hotel Owner program.  He has conducted an estimated 3,200 workshops and classes in his career. 

Expertise and Research Interest
• Sales Management and training
• Turn-around and revenue management
• Professional Development & Customer Service 
• Hospitality Leadership and Executive Education
• Making Cultural Diversity Real
• Accreditation & Developing Academic Hospitality programs

Service to the Industry and Hospitality Education includes working with the Educational Institute Certification Commission of the AH&LA, the Hospitality Industry Diversity Institute, the AH&LA Multicultural Advisory Council, the Accreditation Commission for Programs in Hospitality Administration, the Commission for Accreditation on Hospitality Management Programs, the AH&LA and AAHOA Education and Training Committees, the Council of Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Educators (CHRIE), the International Hotel Show and the Certified Hotel Owner program for the Asian American Hotel Owners’ Association.

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Contact:

Dr. John Hogan, CHA MHS CHE
johnjhogan@yahoo.com

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Also See: Remember to Embrace the Essentials in Sales; Revenue and net profits can often depend on how one of the most fundamental practices in sales- how incoming phone calls are handled / Dr. John Hogan / March 2009
Getting the Most Out of Your Hotel Franchise Investment; Working With Your Hotel Franchisor for Everyone’s Success / Dr. John Hogan / March 2009
Getting the Most Out of Your Hotel Franchise Investment; Evaluating the franchise business model as a potential franchisee / Dr. John Hogan / March 2009
Getting the Most Out of Your Hotel Franchise Investment / Dr. John Hogan / Dr. John Hogan / March 2009
Four Steps: How to Make More Sales Calls than Any Other Way Or Trade Shows Can Be Invaluable If. . . / Dr. John Hogan / February 2009
A Baker’s Dozen of Strategies for Hotel Chief Engineers / Dr. John Hogan / February 2009
"A Baker's Dozen" of Strategies for Hotel  Banquet Managers / Dr. John Hogan / February 2009
Making New Year's Sales and Marketing Resolutions Real and Practical / Dr. John Hogan / January 2009
Planning in a Challenging Economy - Probing Hotel Expenses / Dr. John Hogan / December 2008
Planning in a Challenging Economy - Fundamentals of Hotel Sales Planning / Dr. John Hogan / December 2008
A Message for Hoteliers: Giving Thanks - and Not Just One Day Each Year! / Dr John Hogan / November 2008
Hoteliers Must Remember the Lessons of Reasonable Care! / John Hogan / November 2008
Enthusiastic and Sincere Attitudes Will Pay Off For Hotel Salespeople / Hotel Common Sense / John Hogan / November 2008
Unleash the Potential! Recognize the True Value of Your Front Line Sales People / Hotel Common Sense / John Hogan / November 2008
Defining Hospitality - Readers Respond with their Insights / Hotel Common Sense / John Hogan / October 2008
Understanding the Value and Power of Breakfast / Hotel Common Sense / John Hogan / October 2008
A Bakers Dozen of Strategies for Hotel Restaurant Managers / Hotel Common Sense / John Hogan / October 2008
A Bakers Dozen of Strategies for Hotel Food and Beverage Directors / Hotel Common Sense / John Hoganv/ September 2008
My Definition of Hospitality. What’s Yours? / Dr. John Hogan / September 2008
Principles for Success as a Hotel Manager: 6 Observations on Finding and Employing Problem Solvers / Dr. John Hogan / September 2008
10 Hotel Sales Action Steps to Succeed in Today’s Competitive Marketplace / Dr. John Hogan / September 2008
10 Hotel Sales Mistakes to Avoid in Today’s Competitive Marketplace / Dr. John Hogan / August 2008
Ways to Identify and Build Repeat Guests / Dr John Hogan / August 2008
Principles for Success As a Hotel Manager - Maintaining Relationships Throughout the Organization / Dr John Hogan / August 2008
Principles for Success As a Hotel Manager - Part four: Communicating with Clarity and Candor / Dr. John Hogan / July 2008
Principles for Success As a Hotel Manager - Part three: Using your management style effectively / Dr. John Hogan / July 2008
Principles for Success As a Hotel Manager - Part Two: Motivating the Team / Dr. John Hogan / July 2008
Principles for Success As a Hotel Manager Part One: Understanding the Organization / Dr. John Hogan / July 2008 
Updating Hotel Marketing and Sales Strategies Mid Year NOW Is Essential / Dr. John Hogan / June 2008
Don’t Underestimate the Impact of the Hotel Sales Office / Dr. John Hogan / June 2008
Factors for Successful Interviewing Potential Hotel Sales Candidates / Dr. John Hogan / June 2008
The Importance of Meaningful Sales Team Job Descriptions / Dr. John Hogan / May 2008
For Hotels with Limited Service, Fewer than 100 Rooms - How Do You Determine if You Need a Person Dedicated to Selling / Dr. John Hogan / May 2008
Extending Your Sales Team or Make Travel Agents A Regular Part of Your Sales Programs / Dr. John Hogan / May 2008
Finding Business Leads Can Be Easier Than You Think / Dr. John Hogan / May 2008
Understanding the Differences Between Marketing and Sales / Dr. John Hogan / April 2008
Identifying Your Customers / Lessons from the Field A Common Sense Approach to Success in the Hospitality Industry / Dr. John Hogan / April 2008
...


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