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By David Lund

Coaching people around the financials in hotels is what I do. I accomplish this by one-on-one coaching, usually on the phone or through Skype, or in workshops where as a group we explore and debunk the mystery around the numbers.

Many people are fond of saying the numbers are the hard part of hospitality. That’s not true. What is true is we do not exercise these muscles. We do not even know we have a financial muscle in many cases. This story is about one of those people and how I was able to help her. Names and places are changed to keep anonymity.

Tina emailed me with a somewhat cryptic and erratic message that almost had me delete the email without even responding. A message about needing help with budgeting and I could tell immediately that this person was racing against time. You know the kind of note that someone writes when they are doing three other things at the same time. That’s what my instinct told me. It also told me to slow down and see if this was someone who needed my help.

I replied to Tina’s note and suggested a call to discuss her needs. She immediately replied yes and I followed up with two open times in the following week. She replied and we had a time for our call booked—now she just needed to confirm a phone number for me to call. No response to this question. I sent a note early on the morning of our scheduled call that I still needed a phone number. No reply. Ten minutes past the time of our call and my phone rang. I did not recognize the caller, so I let it go to voicemail. It was Tina. I picked up the phone.

That was a long paragraph to tell you this lady was a busy hotel executive. She was just appointed as the director of operations in a 600-room hotel in Chicago. She immediately impressed upon me just how busy she was with meetings, long hours, vacant leadership positions, a 90 percent occupancy week, owner’s meetings, a GM that had expectations. All of this in less than 60 seconds. After I had an opening in the barrage I asked her how I could help. She told me she had more than 15 years of experience, but numbers were not her strong suit. Lots of operational experience in both rooms and F&B, but not comfortable with numbers.

We talked, and I asked her why she didn’t have a comfort level with numbers and she said it was just one of those things that never naturally came her way. No direct experience and spending most of her career in positions where the numbers were not part of her responsibility. A familiar story and a hallmark of hospitality. Look after the guests and the colleagues; someone else will look after the numbers. I did not believe her for a minute. But it was way too early in our relationship to tell her the truth. If she stuck around long enough it would be revealed, but not now.

I listened to a few more war stories and then I asked her if she would like to have another call where I would coach her. My gift to her. She said she would like that. We coordinated a time, I got her number and that was that.

Over the next three weeks, she canceled and changed the appointment four times. This is a busy person. No, not busy, just not committed to herself. I see this quite often. When we finally did get on the phone I asked her about her commitment to herself and specifically how committed she was to changing the relationship she had with her numbers. She seemed kind of puzzled by my question.

“I want to get a better understanding of the numbers,” she said.

“Why have you rescheduled our call so many times?” I asked.

She went on again about how busy she was and I listened for a moment and then asked, “Over the last two weeks since we spoke, did you have dinner every day?”

“Yes,” she said.

“Did you manage to get to sleep every night?”

“Yes,” she said with a little laugh.

“What about coming to work, did you manage to get to work each day you were required to be there?”

“Yes, what’s this all about?” she asked.

I replied, “Your problem with numbers isn’t because you lack the ability, you are just not committed to it. And unless you are willing to make it a priority and lock in the time, it is not going to happen.”

There was a moment of silence and I was not willing to fill the void. I waited for what seemed like a long time until she spoke.

“I know,” she said, “I do this a lot with things that I think are difficult.”

“How you do this thing is how you do everything in your life,” I said.

“If you’re willing to recognize that and if you are willing to really commit to this, then I can help you,” I continued, “If you’re not, then do us both a favor and let’s both move on.”

“No, no,” she said, “I want this more than anything right now and I’m willing to commit.”

“That means a weekly call with me that does not get canceled or postponed, ever. Making yourself and— in this case—your development as important, or more important, than the one thousand other things you need to deal with each week. Make your learning and personal development the priority and schedule your world accordingly.”

This is what’s missing. If you think the numbers in hospitality are the hard part, then you are just not committed enough to change that. Up your commitment and the numbers will start to come together for you. It is no different than anything else in life.

The very notion that somehow you were in the wrong checkout line when they handed out the numbers gene is not true. It is just a popular excuse.

What you focus on in your life gets results, it is that simple.

About David Lund

David Lund is The Hotel Financial Coach, an international hospitality financial leadership pioneer. He has held positions as a Regional Financial Controller, Corporate Director and Hotel Manager with Fairmont Hotels for over 30 years.  

He authored an award-winning workshop on Hospitality Financial Leadership and has delivered it to hundreds of hotel managers and leaders. David coach’s hospitality executives and delivers his Financial Leadership Workshops throughout the world, helping hotels, owners and brands increase profits and build financially engaged leadership teams.  

David speaks at hospitality company meetings, associations and he has had several financial leadership articles published in hotel trade magazines and he is the author of two books on Hospitality Financial Leadership. David is a Certified Hotel Accounting Executive through HFTP and a Certified Professional Coach with CTI.  

For a complimentary copy of my guidebook on creating a finically engaged team in your hotel head over to my website, and don’t forget to email me for any of my free hospitality financial spreadsheets.

Contact: David Lund / (415) 696-9593

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