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Santa's Secrets to Overcoming an Economic
Beating...Oh, yeah...(Happy) Holidays!

By Jim Hartigan
December 7, 2012

While you’re out shopping this holiday season, I want you to find the area where Santa Claus, good ol’ Saint Nick, is having his photo-taken with list carrying children.  When you find the global gift toting giver, take a moment to consider the man.  I don’t mean simply glance at him.  I want you to give him a real, penetrating assessment.  The first thing you’ll notice is the eyes: weary but piercing.  They’ve seen everything: wars, famine, pestilence, the ascension and decline of great empires.  Next, I want you to consider his hands.  Hewn from the sturdiest Arctic pine, calloused and gnarled, yet delicate enough to cradle the head of weeping children.  Those hands built a production and logistics enterprise out of ice and snow that has endured centuries.  Finally, look at his physique—his stomach in particular.  To many, such a paunch is a source of embarrassment—a symbol of gluttony and sloth.  For Santa, it is a badge of honor. You see, he wasn’t always so jolly and round.  In the early years of his operation, the unyielding Arctic winters took their toll on Claus, who hasn’t forgotten what it’s like to subsist on twigs and frozen carrion. All this, and we think the occupancy woes and average daily rate wars of the past global recession were bad.  We hoteliers have lived through bad times over the past few years, to be sure, but nothing like Santa and his operation have had to endure.
What kind of word would you use to describe such a man as Claus?  I can think of but one: resilient. To get us started, we need an “approved” definition from which to work.  For us, we like this take from Webster’s – Re•sil•ient: capable of withstanding shock without permanent deformation or rupture; tending to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.  It’s that whole “recover” thing that tends to resonate. It speaks to one’s actions after taking a real beating that best illustrate resiliency.  Furthermore, the more severe the beating, the more your resiliency gets tested.
Again, as hoteliers, we’ve taken an extreme beating in both occupancy and average rate over the past five years.  No market anywhere on the planet was spared.  But as an industry, we have shown resiliency.  Withstanding the economic shock (and aftershocks!) without permanent deformation or rupture and embracing a renewed focus on the basics and a desire to serve our guests with optimism for a better tomorrow.
Here at Orgwide, we’ve written about many different management principals over the years, so with Santa’s resilience as our model, we offer downtrodden hoteliers around the globe Orgwide’s 3 Rules of Resiliency:

1)  Be personal, but don’t take it that way.  Don’t take the economic beating your hotel has taken personally.  Rather, be personally involved.  With your team, with your guests, you’re your community.  Resiliency starts with the personal desire to see things through to the better day tomorrow promises.  I mean, just imagine what would have happened had Santa taken the Elvish Revolt of 1734 personally! While the Elf community rose up in arms to oust the tyrannical Jingle the Abhorrent, Santa saw his production numbers take a steady nose dive and his workforce reduce to nearly zero.  But Santa overcame. He took “personal involvement” to a new level, rolled up his own sleeves, and got to work on the production lines.  Sure, his magical bag of toys might have been a little lighter that year, but there was still a smile on every girl and boys face on December 25!

2)  Be relentlessly optimistic.   Know things will get better (If you really don’t think so, do yourself a favor and find a new line of work.).  Napoleon said it best when he said; “Leaders are dealers in hope.”  Hope is motivating and mighty.  Hope gives humans the ability to continue when life presents us with the most difficult of circumstances.  It is hope that gives us what we need to get through today as we look forward to a better tomorrow.  Hope is what changes the word problem into the word opportunity.  Resiliency requires hope. Santa’s own hope and optimism were tested on April 6 1909 with the arrival of US Navy engineer Robert Peary and his team at the North Pole. Peary immediately radioed back to HQ that there was no great toy workshop, no Elves, and certainly no Santa Claus (of course, at that time, Peary didn’t realize that Santa’s primary workshop was hidden by a magical paste consisting of peppermint dust, polar bear tears, and Burl Ives’s mustache hair). The news so rocked the planet that Christmas was on the verge of being cancelled for good. Santa had a global crisis on his hands and saw the “naughty list” expand at a rate he’d never seen for months on end. But his hope never waivered. And his optimism was infectious to his entire team. Panic could have just as easily spread through the entire operation, but Santa knew things were going to improve and acted accordingly. And, of course, Christmas of 1909 went off without a hitch.

3)  Be Better Next Time.  When we make it through difficult times, it is imperative that we learn and apply what we can, so we’re ready for the next wave of challenges.  Let’s face it, this is life and they’re coming…Best to be prepared and put our experiences to good use the next time we have a downturn.  Santa does this every year.  He modifies his flight plans and sleigh packing procedures in order to effectively deliver toys around the world to an ever growing population!  For hoteliers, having been in this industry myself since the early 1980’s, I can say with 100% certainty that knowing how to respond to a dramatic drop in occupancy at your hotel will come in handy again at some point in the future.

Maybe it’s time we modify a carol or two to sing the praises of Santa’s resiliency. Christmases come and go, and each one brings its own set of challenges (some more severe than others). But through it all, Santa and his team just keep on chugging along … improving, even! Imagine that!  Candidly, for those of us who are energized by the magnitude of those same up and down cycles the hotel industry invites us to overcome, it’s a wonderful time to be a hotel manager!  From all of us at Orgwide Services to all of our readers around the world, Happy Holidays!

Jim Hartigan, Chief Business Development Officer and Partner joined OrgWide Services, a Training/e-Learning, Communications, Surveys and Consulting firm in April 2010 after nearly 30 years experience in the hospitality industry, including the last 18 as a senior executive with Hilton Worldwide. Jim’s last position was that of Senior Vice President – Global Brand Services where he provided strategic leadership and business development and support to the $22B enterprise of 10 brands and more than 3,400 hotels in 80 countries around the world. His team was responsible for ensuring excellence in system product quality, customer satisfaction, market research, brand management, media planning, and sustainability.

Jim Hartigan
Chief Business Development Officer & Partner
OrgWide Services
165 N. Main Street, Suite 202
Collierville, TN 38017
office: 901.850.8190  Ext. 230
mobile: 901.628.6586

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