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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, September 12, 2008

Principles for Success as a Hotel Manager:
6 Observations on Finding and
Employing Problem Solvers

By Dr. John Hogan CHE CHA MHS
September 12, 2008

“Good management is the art of making problems so interesting and their solutions
so constructive that everyone wants to get to work and deal with them.”
Paul Hawken, Growing a Business

We all face challenges. For some hotels, it is the labor force, be it finding interested people, the expense or the need to improve the professionalism of the staff with increased training. For other hotels, it may a slipping occupancy or REVPAR.  Cash flow or a changing market affects others.

Yes, we are all trying to solve the dilemma of  Finding and Employing Problem Solvers; this of course means using improved people skills.

The Guest Perspective

Let’s set our problems aside for just a moment and imagine  what a potential guest faces and what their arrival is like at your hotel.

Think about it: when a guest decides to come to your area, what problems are they are tying to address?  Location, ease of making the reservation, cost, amenities, easy access to their destination, loyalty program? 

Some of those may be challenging depending on the guest or market conditions, but we need to look at it from the guest’s perspective. 

When a guest decides to stay at your lodging facility, s/he has a problem that needs solving.  Away from home, a traveler faces the dilemma of not having a place to sleep, eat, conduct a meeting or be entertained.  How well a hotelier solves that problem determines whether he will get that guest’s repeat business in the months and years ahead.

First Things First 1

In order to solve our customers’ problems, we need to start with solving our own. 

1. Staff selection is a major step for ostensibly everyone in this business, whether one is in the luxury hotel or in the economy segment.  In too many cases, our industry has unfortunately selected and employed people as a matter of expediency: a vacancy exists, and we have an urgency to fill a hole. We think first of getting the position filled, and then, secondarily, of how well we filled it.  The turnover resulting from this approach adds to the cost of the department and inevitably in the reduction of customer satisfaction and loyalty.

2. This cycle can occur when an owner is looking for a manager, as often as it happens when a manager is looking for a night auditor or waitress or salesperson. The use of an inadequate approach in recruiting, interviewing, selecting, training, supervising and generally developing a staff remains one of the most common problems in the hospitality industry. Yet the way those duties are handled is directly reflected in the amount of repeat business a hotel or motel gets.

3. Guests will be likely to return if their problems are solved; their problems will be solved if we employ problem solvers. To be a problem solver, an employee has to sniff out and understand a customer's needs. S/he  has to draw out those needs with smiles, friendly greetings, a warm "How may I help you?,"  an honest “lt’s a  pleasure   to  serve  you," or a sincere "Anything else I can do for you?"

4. Creating that magic in your property begins even before the selection process, when the initial candidates are still being interviewed. A check with references and interviews with the applicants will show if they have the credentials; explaining that the position is actually one of a professional problem solver will show you, by the applicant’s reaction, if he has the ability. But even if you hire a problem solver, the employee still has to be trained and retrained to keep his or her skills up to par.

5. Consistent and ongoing communication is the ultimate means of success, especially in maintaining a positive attitude.  Schedule regular meetings with all staff members, not just department heads. Make sure everyone knows the communication process is two-way; they are there to give information as well as take it. 

6. Another way of continually upgrading a staff’s problem-solving abilities is by setting an example. If the person at the top is smiling, that attitude is going to pass through the ranks. Most importantly, a manager must not show his staff how to be a problem creator. He can't act stuffy, or too self-important. She can't avoid guests, or appear harried or unhappy.  Contrast that person with the general manager who comes to work in high spirits, with a healthy, warm "Hello!" for everyone, who at times checks out guests themselves, pours coffee in the dining room, or personally conducts the staff meetings, and you'll put your finger on the difference between a good manager and one who should be working in another business.

1. First Things First   Stephen R. Covey, A. Roger Merrill, Rebecca R. Merrill 

Feel free to share an idea at anytime or contact me regarding consulting, customized workshops or speaking engagements.  Autographed copies of LESSONS FROM THE FIELD – a COMMON SENSE APPROACH TO EFFECTIVE HOTEL SALES can be obtained from THE ROOMS CHRONICLE and other industry sources. 

All rights reserved by John Hogan.   This column may be included in an upcoming book on hotel management.

John 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.  He holds a number of industry certifications 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 ongoing involvement in the Certified Hotel Owner program.  He has conducted an estimated 3,100 workshops and seminars in his career.  He served as senior vice president for a client in a specialty hotel brand for six years.

He has published more than 350 articles & columns on the hotel industry and is co-author (with Howard Feiertag, CHA CMP) of LESSONS FROM THE FIELD – a COMMON SENSE APPROACH TO EFFECTIVE HOTEL SALES, which is available from a range of industry sources and  He resides in Phoenix, Arizona and is finalizing his 2nd book based on his dissertation –     The Top 100 People of All Time Who Most Dramatically Affected the Hotel Industry.


Dr. John Hogan, CHA MHS CHE

Also See: 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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