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How to Find the Right Manager to
Effectively Lead Your Hotel

by John Hogan, May 2010

The worlds of hospitality and tourism industry are part of a multi-billion dollar industry that frequently depends on the availability of leisure time and disposable income. A hospitality unit such as a restaurant, hotel, conference center and other segments consists of multiple groups such as facility maintenance, direct operations (servers, housekeeping service, kitchen professionals, beverage service, etc.), management, accounting and financial services, marketing, and human resources.  The industry covers a wide range of organizations offering food service, entertainment and accommodation. Each segment has its own areas of expertise, with skill-sets required for the work involved and a clear need for effective leadership to successfully integrate the efforts.

The hospitality industry may seem to be a rather basic business to the outsider.  At quick glance, the business of renting rooms, preparing and serving food and hosting meetings appears to be one that requires a fundamental understanding of the components of the industry.   Yet, a realistic check shows the tremendous range of skills and competencies needed to succeed in one of the world’s largest  and most cyclical industries.  The hospitality industry consists of broad category of fields within the service field that includes lodging, food service, entertainment and theme parks, meetings and events, transportation (including cruise lines) and additional fields within the tourism industry.

For this article, I chose an area that is of universal and consistent interest to all hotel owners: HOW TO FIND THE RIGHT MANAGER TO EFFECTIVELY LEAD YOUR HOTEL 

I looked for a respected, medium sized group of qualified professionals in a nationally known company.  I was pleased to be able to interact with Bruce Dingman, President of The Dingman Company in Westlake Village, CA;  As an introduction, prior to joining the firm in 1986, Bruce spent almost 20 years in the hotel, food service and food distribution industries, managing business units for Sheraton, Holiday Inns, the Scottsdale Memorial Hospital, and Associated Grocers.

I asked Bruce several open-ended questions:

Question #1  Are there really major differences among search firms and recruiters?

The response: 

In a slow-moving economy, working with a knowledgeable recruiter is even more beneficial than in an aggressive economy.  Just as there are significant differences between contingency and retained recruiters, likewise there are among retained search firms. 

Here’s a description of what we feel sets us apart from others.

Three Things Must Be Present
For our firm to accept a search assignment, three things must be present:

  • The client and the organization must be one we can honestly and enthusiastically represent
  • We must feel we can find at least four candidates of the type the client is seeking 
  • We must feel the person selected will have a fair chance of being successful
Ethical Issues
Many recruiters are very ethical and professional, and some are, shall we say, “Opportunistic.”  Be sure to ask what organizations from which you expect the search firm will seek candidates and then ask if they have recently done any work for those firms.  Are any of those firms therefore “out-of-bounds”? 

The industry practice for professional search firms is that any client, who has been served for within the last two years, is out-of-bounds, as it is with us.  With us, all the employees of the client are out-of-bounds for recruiting away for two years after we last served them, and the candidate placed there is “evergreen” (forever off-limits while with that organization).

“Parallel processing” is when a search firm presents the same candidate at the same time to more than one client.  In large search firms or firms specializing in one industry, this is common.  This can result in the candidate you want to hire no longer being available because he or she has just taken a job.  As long as a candidate is under consideration for selection by one client, we will not present that person to another client. 

We see it as a conflict of interest to do two or more searches at the same time that are seeking the same type of candidate.  If we did, how would we fairly decide to which client should such a candidate be presented?  We avoid the problem altogether by not specializing in just one industry or function, and do not take simultaneous searches seeking the same type of candidate.

Reputation of the Firm versus the Recruiter
The quality of a search is dependent on the recruiter who does the work.  While most search firms are retained due to an existing relationship or the reputation of the firm, the results of the search are dependent on the recruiter who does the work.  When selecting a search firm, only deal with the recruiter who says he or she will be working with you and who will have personally interviewed all candidates presented.  Do not let a fancy brochure, luxurious offices or the “big name” brand of the search firm mislead you.  It is the recruiter doing your search that determines whether you will be happy or not.

Question #2  What are additional factors in deciding which recruiter to use?

The response: 

1. Check References of the Recruiter 
Recruiters are generally good sales professionals, so the “buyer” should ask the right questions in order to know what they are getting.  If one asks about similar searches, care must be taken to understand if the individual recruiter or the firm did them.  A prospective buyer should be able to ask to check with the clients of at least two earlier searches asking if the results matched the expectations, if there were any surprises and if they would use that recruiter again. 

2. Understanding the roles of the Specialist versus a Generalist
A prospective client may feel that if a particular recruiter has recently completed a similar search that they will have a number of good candidates they could quickly present.  The reality is that each search has its own unique qualities, and while a recent search may mean knowledge of relatively fresh contacts in that field, it does not mean that those recent candidates are the correct fit for the new search.

A specialist will have extensive networks in the industry, but will likely also have numerous recent clients they cannot recruit from ethically.  A generalist may require a bit longer finding candidates, but they may also have the ability to reach beyond some of the traditional sources and find an outstanding match. 

3. Understanding Speed versus Quality
If a client emphasizes speed, there may be a danger in missing potential candidates who truly have the right match in management style, values, personality and goals.  Superior search work requires focused effort and a certain amount of time.  If a recruiter promises results primarily based on speed, the possibility of comprised quality may surface, whether it is in the matching, the reference checking, having personal interviews, or some other matter. 

4. Which is more crucial today: Price or Quality?
In any profession or market, a buyer can usually find someone willing to sell the product at a lower or cheaper price. Dingman feels the quality is typically in relationship to the price paid.  Market conditions change the price ranges, but the quality issue should remain constant.   The better firms will share their costs up front and should be willing to advise if those percentages have changed and why. 

“Energy is the essence of life.  Every day you decide how you are
going to  use it by knowing what you want, what it takes
to reach that goal, and by maintaining focus. 
Oprah Winfrey (1954 - ), O Magazine, July 2003

Keys to Success 
Hospitality Tip of the Week

Area:    Hotel Operations 
Review your waste build-up and removal cycles quarterly. If occupancy changes, you may need to adjust the number of pick-ups or size of containers.  Paying attention can save you a great deal over even a short term. 

About H Bruce Dingman, President of The Dingman Company
Since joining the firm in 1986, Bruce has handled a wide variety of executive search assignments including airline CEOs; a Fortune 100 industrial products company; a theme park company; hotel groups; industrial services companies; international non-profits; university Presidents,  COOs, CFOs; Corporate Chief Marketing or Sales Officers, Chief Information Officers; VP’s of Operations, Manufacturing, Human Resources and Legal Counsels. Additional fields of expertise include travel/tourism, media, clubs, high tech, consumer products, manufacturing, senior living and hotels/resorts/timeshare.

While Bruce is a "generalist" working in many industries, one-third of his assignments are in hospitality or senior living, and one-third for non-profit/religious/education organizations. The latter is his way of giving back to the things he believes in.  While any good recruiter seeks out candidates with the right experience, Bruce also strives to find people who fit the values, management style and goals of the client organization while insuring that the candidate and family, if there is one, fit the locale. He has done numerous assignments overseas where cultural and geographical focus was crucial. Having worked in three foreign countries himself and speaking English, Spanish and Portuguese, Bruce is adept at finding candidates who fit cross-culturally.

KEYS TO SUCCESS is the umbrella title for my new 2010 programs, hospitality services and columns. This year’s writings will focus on a wide variety of topics for hotel owners, managers and professionals including both my "HOW TO" articles and HOSPITALITY CONVERSATIONS. My segments Lessons from the Field, Hotel Common Sense and Principles for Success will be featured at appropriate times in the year as well.

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 are available 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 is a successful hospitality executive, educator, author and consultant and is a frequent keynote speaker and seminar leader at many hospitality industry events.


Dr. John Hogan, CHA MHS CHE

Also See: It's the Size of Your Idea, Not the Size of Your Budget / Dr. John Hogan / May 2010
How to Keep the PASSION in Your Career / Dr John Hogan / April 2010

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