News for the Hospitality Executive
Hotel Hospitality Inspirations Learned
From My Mentor: Howard Feiertag
|by Doug Kennedy
December 14, 2009
Having just begun my career in the hospitality industry, I first started reading Howard’s articles in the mid 1980’s when I was working in the hotel industry. Whenever my next issue of Hotel & Motel Management would arrive, Howard’s Column Sales Clinic was one I always opened to first. I can still recall the title of the very column he wrote in 1987 which inspired my ideas for my own career of 20+ years: “It’s Time To Train Our Staff To Become Front Desk Salespersons.” So it wasn’t by accident that when I decided to start my first hospitality training company in 1989, Howard was on my short list of hotel industry icons to contact for advice on the business plan I was formulating.
Since all the books on starting a business said to ask successful people for help, I wrote Howard a letter asking for a meeting so I could solicit his input on the plan I had spent countless hours organizing. How surprised I was when he phoned me very day he received my letter to immediately schedule a meeting! Despite that he was very busy as Senior VP of Marketing for Servico, which was at the time one of the largest hotel management companies, he carved-out two hours of his day to provide some excellent advice for this young entrepreneur.
Not only did Howard see value in the training services I was introducing, he gave me great ideas for training exercises, such as placing live calls to competitive properties, which I still use today. But Howard did more than just meet and offer advice; he also started referring some of his consulting clients to my new company, often having me tag along to conduct my training during his consulting engagements.
It was also Howard who, at that very first meeting, had encouraged me to submit articles for publication in Hotel & Motel Management. Although it took seven years, I eventually did write those articles which HM&M began running in 1996, and have been a regular monthly columnist in the online edition since 2001. In looking back at 13 years of articles, I still sometimes wonder I can ever keep thinking of new ideas to write about in the future. Then I stop to consider that Howard has been writing his column for 30 years and he had not run out of ideas yet! Even his very latest column where Howard writes about the often-overlooked SMERF market segment of military reunions, show’s he’s still on top of the latest emerging trends and in touch with those who are the driving forces behind them. (HM&M Sept 9 issue – here’s the link )
Although I was aware there were many others that Howard had helped out over the years, it wasn’t until much later in our friendship that I began to fully appreciate just how many. One remarkable sign was that when my hotel training company at the time – HSA International - began sending Howard on a Nationwide series of Hotel Sales Clinic Seminars and we could not believe the turnout which was well beyond anything we’d imagined. Perhaps my biggest revelation of Howard Feiertag’s iconic stature in our industry came in 2002, when I had traveled with Howard to Chicago to attend the American Hotel & Lodging Association’s annual conference, where he was to receive a “Lifetime Achievement Award.” As Howard and I began walking through the exhibit hall, it seemed we couldn’t go 20 yards without person after person approaching him to thank him for some past favor or inspiration, most of which he had long ago forgotten. It must have taken us three hours to go down maybe 10 rows of exhibits. It was at that moment I began to comprehend just how many lives Howard has touched; how many careers he has inspired; how many aspiring hoteliers he’d extended his hand to.
In looking back at my own 20 years of knowing Howard as a career mentor, it is easy to see that he is a man who lives out the true spirit of hospitality every day, and certainly practices what he preaches when it comes to the “best practices” of sales. Here is a recap of some of the lessons myself and others continue to learn by being a student of Howard Feiertag.
- Pick up your phone when possible. Still to this day, it’s easy to reach Howard directly by phone at Virginia Tech, unless of course he’s teaching one of his several courses. If he’s in his office he’s always been sure to pick-up, and even back in the “old days” when most executives of his stature had an assistant to screen their calls.Yet now as we honor Howard Feiertag for his 30 years (and counting!) of successes, it’s important to recognize that he has more than “just” one of the most brilliant minds in the field of hospitality sales and marketing. I know well that I speak for the countless thousands of former colleagues, co-workers, Virginia Tech college students, workshop participants, and Sales Clinic readers when I say he also has one of the biggest hearts of any human being you could ever met.
Doug Kennedy, President
|Also See:||Hotel Hospitality Training Tips For The Era Of Social Networking / Doug Kennedy / October 2009|
|Overcoming The "All They Want To Hear Is The Rate" Mentality / Doug Kennedy / October 2009|
|To Make Hotel Training Work, Make It Fun! / Doug Kennedy / July 2009|
|Front Desk Hotel Training Can Generate Future Business / Doug Kennedy / July 2009|
|Front Desk Training Is The Key To Capturing More Walk-In Business / June 2009|
|To Get More Bookings - Work With – Not Against Your Central Reservations Providers / Doug Kennedy / May 2009|
|Generate More Revenue By Making Training Everyone’s Job / Doug Kennedy / April 2009|
|Hotel Reservations Sales Training Tips - Circa 2009 / Doug Kennedy / March 2009|
|Is That the Best Rate You Have? - How to Train Your Voice Reservations Agents To Handle Today's Deal-Seekers / Doug Kennedy / February 2009|
|First Step In New Sales: Believe It Is Possible! / Doug Kennedy / January 2009|
|Good News Formula For RevPar in 2009 / Doug Kennedy / January 2009|
|Alluring Descriptions Are Key To Converting Hotel Reservation Callers / Doug Kennedy / November 2008|
|Bringing Out The Best from Our Most Negative Hotel Guests - Brings Out The Best In Ourselves / Doug Kennedy / October 2008|
|Profit Optimization Is Everyone's Job / Doug Kennedy / August 2008|
|Hotel Lessons Learned Growing Up In Kennedy Craft Shop / Doug Kennedy / July 2008|
|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|