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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, June 3,2009

Examining "Why Do We Really Do What We Do?"


By Dr. John Hogan, CHE CHA MHS, June 3, 2009

We all adapt to our every day routines and rituals on both a personal and professional basis.  We have certain habits and protocols we tend to follow because we have always “done it that way.”

Some business examples include:

  • The regular staff meetings that last X number of hours each week:  They are held in hotels and offices around the globe, whether there is a real need or not.  They frequently do not have fresh and real agendas, and the person best suited to run the meeting is not the one assigned. 
  • The volume of reports generated and distributed:  Many of them are outdated, of little or no value, and are seldom read by those receiving them.
  • Sending multiple people from the same department to the same conferences each year:  There is little or no accountability, no reporting back of value gained or of measurable benefit to the organization.
  • Rejecting of requests for continuing education:  Middle management and line level staff  are often overlooked because “they are going to leave anyway” or “they are too far down in the organizational chart to really affect change”.
I am not saying these activities described above do not have a place in today’s hotels; I am saying they need to be examined.
  • There should be good communication and meetings can accomplish that. The topics to be addressed should be fresh and timely, with the correct audience in attendance.  
  • There are critical reports essential to every organization, but there are far too many outdated ones that remain. Why? The reason is that no one has stopped to evaluate them.
  • Face-to-face conferences are part of the lifeblood of this industry, but the attendees and the meeting content should be evaluated.  Submitting one-page reports to the direct supervisor is an excellent way to measure the benefit to the organization, the department and the individual attending.
  • Everyone in the workforce today should have the opportunity for some kind of continuing education to improve their personal situation and their contribution to the hotel.  I recall Jack Vaughn (Chairman Emeritus of Opryland Hotel & Attractions Group) and his commitment to learning.  At one point, there were more people certified at the Opryland Hotel than at any other company globally.  Under Jack’s leadership, that hotel not only survived the economic downturns in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, but it was the foundation of what has evolved into Gaylord Hotels.
Jack Welch, the former chairman and CEO of General Electric was considered by many to be both a maverick and a contrarian in his business practices because he was always challenging his organization to improve and innovate. In his 20-year tenure of the one of the world’s most diversified corporate conglomerates, he recognized the need for external counsel.

He was influenced by management authority Peter Drucker, who served as a consultant to GE and as a lecturer at the GE Management Development Institute in Crotonville, NY.

“We have got to ask ourselves Peter Drucker’s very tough question:  ‘If you weren’t already in the business, would you enter it today?’  If the answer is no, face into that second difficult question, ‘What are you going to do about it’.”  

The current economic downturn is the fourth I have seen in my business career.  In the 1970s, high rates of inflation and gasoline shortages dramatically affected the hospitality industry.  In the 1980s, a recession again hit the industry hard.  In the 1990s, the savings and loan crisis from real estate loans that did not have adequate equity caused many of the brands into bankruptcy, mergers or partnerships.  I recall staggering statistics from the American Hotel & Motel Association (earlier name of AH&LA) about the number of hotels that were unable to meet debt service in the early 1990s, yet the industry adjusted and recovered.

Today’s challenges are very real and many of us are working to make those needed adjustments. Yet as I speak and work with people and hotel owners, I find that many of them are continuing to do things as they   have always done with an expectation for a changed outcome.  

I have been sharing ideas in columns, the classroom and in professional workshops for many years now, and I recently found a story from a series I wrote for a magazine called HOTEL & RESORT INDUSTRY. It was a 1992 column where (now AH&LA President) Joe McInerney shared some insights.  He was President of Trust House Forte’s Travelodge Division at the time, having already served as President of Hawthorne Suites and as Vice President for Sheraton Franchises.   In the 1991 annual Forte meeting, he said, “If you always do the same things the way you always did, you’ll wake up one morning and find you’ve all of a sudden dropped to the third or fourth place in your market.”

General Electric at Crotonville and other global learning centers attacked their status quo with a number of strategies.  A very basic but critical and significant way the organization assessed the way “they did what they did” was the use of a SWOT Analysis.

SWOT is not new, nor was it created by GE.  The SWOT analysis technique is credited to Albert Humphrey who led a research project at Stanford University in the 1960s and 1970s using data from leading companies involved in long range planning processes. The original goal was to identify why corporate planning failed. Humphrey created a ‘team method for planning’ originally called SOFT analysis (Satisfactory, Opportunity, Fault, Threat) which was used by organizations like WH Smith who made it part of their long range planning programs for almost 20 years.. 

The thinking behind the tool was: 

  • What is good in the present is Satisfactory. 
  • What is good in the future is an Opportunity. 
  • What is bad in the present is a Fault. 
  • What is bad in the future is a Threat. 
This evolved to SWOT – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats, which is often used today in both projects and for an entire business.  It involves identifying the objectives of the business or a special project (such as launching a new restaurant) and categorizing both the internal and external factors that support or detract form achieving those objectives.

SWOT is often drafted graphically on a grid or a matrix and requires time and resources to be meaningful and effective. It should be completed by a team, as brainstorming often leads to the recognition of why the situation now being addressed has come to be. It can also clearly help identify what actions need to be taken to succeed in the future.

SWOT analysis is often included in both hotel business plans and in annual marketing plans, as the activity forces group interaction and specific discussions of all aspects of the market and the competition.

I have personally used this approach successfully in associations, departments, individual hotels and companies.  Please contact me if I can be of service to your organization in updating your strategy for success.

Feel free to share an idea for a column at anytime or contact me regarding consulting, customized workshops, speaking engagements …………. 
And remember – we all need a regular dose of common sense.

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 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.

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

He writes weekly columns for a number of global online services 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, ROOMS CHRONICLE  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. 

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.


Dr. John Hogan, CHA MHS CHE

Also See: Delivering Hospitality and Pride / Dr John Hogan / May 2009
Act As if You Are Number Two / Dr John Hogan / May 2009
A Baker’s Dozen of Fundamentals for Retaining Quality Staff / Dr John Hogan / May 2009
Customer Relationship Management Requires a Blending of High Tech and High Touch for Optimal Results / Dr John Hogan / May 2009
Do You Know Where Your Customer Is? Or Knowing Where Your Business Originates / Dr John Hogan / April 2009
Understanding what we measure and making it count! Strategies for Hotel Controllers / Dr John Hogan / April 2009
“A Bakers Dozen” of Strategies for Hotel Controllers / Dr John Hogan / April 2009
A Different Appraisal of Our Biggest Challenges in 2009 / Dr John Hogan / April 2009
Reflections: Mentors and Friends - Vermont Hoteliers Borden and Louise Avery and their Son Allen / Dr John Hogan / March 2009
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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