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HSMAI Big Apple Chapter Seminar Explores the "How To" in Selecting,
Managing and Measuring Successful Relationships
with Outside Agencies
by Laura Osborne, OZone Strategic Marketing and Leanne Ballard, OPEN Hospitality
April 2007

Wrap up for the latest HSMAI Big Apple Chapter Seminar

USA Today continues to partner with HSMAI to bring members informative, interactive and intimate engagements that involve small panels of industry experts on a variety of important topics. Most recently, they hosted a panel of Professional Service Providers (PSP) and challenged them with the task of providing useful information on selecting, managing and measuring successful relationships with outside agencies. The primary goal? To demystify the sourcing of industry professionals and how to partner them with an in-house management team. 

The panelists were:

  • Revenue Management- Jeff Osborne, Moderator - Managing Director, OZone Strategic Marketing.  (Formerly VP of Information Product Sale, TravelCLICK, VP of Revenue Management, Loews Hotels) Professional Services provided to Millennium Hotels, Small Luxury Hotels of the World, Shutters on the Beach, etc. 
  • Website Design and Optimization- Leanne Ballard, VP Sales, OPEN Hospitality (formerly Director of Sales - Goldman Properties, Miami Beach) Professional Services provided t Cheeca Lodge, Auberge Resorts, Thompson Hotels, Gansevoort Hotel, etc.
  • Advertising and Marketing- Jody Merl, President, Innovative Travel Marketing. (Formerly with The Leading Hotels of the World.) Professional Services provided to Rosewood Hotels and Resorts, Affinia Hotels, Morgans Hotel Group, etc.
  • Event/Meeting Planning- Samantha Bowerman, CMP, Principal, ASB Meeting Resources. (Formerly Senior Manager-Meetings & Conferences, American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.) Professional Services provided to a variety of corporations and associations. 
  • Public Relations- Andrea Schultz, Managing Director, Parasol Marketing Group. (Formerly Public Relations Director, The Peninsula Beverly Hills.) Professional services provided to The Peninsula Beverly Hills, The Baglioni Hotels Group, 47 Park Street London, etc.
  • Representation- Jimmy Suh, Managing Director, The Private Label Company LLC. (PLC).  (Formerly Vice President Revenue and Product Development for Club Quarters and Kimpton Hotels) Professional Services provided to Leading Hotels of the World Ltd. 
At the center of the discussions were how key decision makers can understand the tremendous resources available to them and how to manage these resources to take their business to the next level. The session was an effective “How To” on achieving maximum results from your professional service providers.

There were two primary themes among the panelists. The first and perhaps most important, was the need for constant communication between the supplier and the service provider. The second was the importance of establishing clearly defined and measurable goals of the partnership.  All the panelists agreed that there are several important criteria to consider before selecting a professional service provider. 

Consider the PSP as Part of Your Organization

Jimmy Suh, with The PLC, summarized this practice by stating that the PSP “is not a mutually exclusive hire. A PSP is an extension of your team and as experts, they can bring a global vision to your company in their particular field”.

Make Sure the PSP’s Culture is Similar to Your Own

By adapting the principle above, it is important to make sure there is continuity between how both businesses operate. Leanne Ballard with OPEN Hospitality added to this by stating: “hiring a PSP does not take that portion of the business off your plate completely. PSP’s require management as though they were a member of your own team. In many instances, a PSP is only as good as the level of commitment they receive from the hiring organization”. 

Like the Partner You Select

Jody Merl with Innovative Travel Marketing, indicated that this is pertinent to success. She recommends “hiring a partner that you like and respect. Do your homework. Check their website and call their references. It is important to ask around.”

Make Sure the PSP is an Expert in Their Respective Field:

It is important to research and locate the best of breed providers in the area for which you are seeking assistance. “A PSP typically wears two hats. They will need to understand both the needs of their client and the needs of the industry they excel in”, said Andrea Werbel Schultz of Parasol Marketing. As an example, she cited that “in Public Relations, we need to understand the goals of the marketing department and weigh that with what the media will want to publish”.

Define Goals in Advance:

No matter what type of provider you are seeking, there must be a clearly defined means to measure the success of the relationship. This can be in the form of revenue achieved, cost savings, exposure, etc.  It is important that this be spelled out in the beginning and reported on often. A hotelier in the audience, Jane Carlson of the Copperwynd Resort in Arizona, commented: “It must be challenging as a PSP to constantly sell yourself and manage the relationship”. The panel agreed in unison. Several of them chimed in that the responsibility for reporting and measurement almost exclusively rests with the provider. However, it is important that the ongoing reporting be funneled through all the key players on the supplier side so there is consistent communication among all parties.

Don’t be Afraid to Terminate an Unsuccessful Partnership:

Although it can be awkward for a vendor to have to end a relationship, for a variety of different reasons, it can happen. Samantha Bowerman, with ASB Meeting Resources, says that while not always easy, “a reputable and true partner has a vested interest in simplifying this process for their supplier. There is never a need to burn a bridge and most PSPs will make the transition as easy as possible.” 

One topic that evoked considerable discussion among the attendees is how key managers can encourage ownership to expend the resources to hire a service provider. When the question was posed to the panel, Samantha Bowerman and Jody Merl responded in unison “case studies” that can demonstrate hard facts and financial earnings or savings. The panel moderator, Jeff Osborne, also added “it’s important that management sell to owners that a need exists. If you can clearly present the case that there are missing opportunities, you have a better chance of selling the idea of a PSP”. 

In summary, hiring a PSP is an important decision that requires much consideration as well as input from the pertinent team members who will be involved. Once the decision is made to hire a PSP, suppliers should undergo an extensive search process, be sure that the goals are mutually agreed upon and maintain frequent and open communication for the life of the agreement. The most important message to come out of the evening’s discussion was perhaps that hiring a PSP is only the first step. The PSP, to again quote Jimmy Suh, should “be able to tell the story of their client as though it were their own”. The only way this can be accomplished is with a true and deeply entrenched partnership between both parties. 


Laura Osborne
Big Apple Chapter Director of Programs and Education
OZone Strategic Marketing, LLC


Also See: HSMAI Big Apple Chapter Announces Leadership and Plans for 2007; Donna Quadri-Felitti Incoming President / January 2007

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