Recovery begins by leading the next generation
by MELANIE CALCAGNO
The travel industry is strong and resilient. Despite our pandemic fatigue. Despite predictions that it will be 2023-2024 before hotels in the U.S. fully recover. Despite headlines about new variants and ongoing staff shortages that hit us in the face as we drink our morning coffee. Here we are. Another day of doom and gloom, right? No. Not today.
Today, we can stop worrying about all the things we can’t control. We can focus on taking action on what’s right in front of us. The sales success of a hotel is dependent on every person on property, from ownership to housekeeping. Recovery begins by leading the next generation.
PERSPIRATION, PREPARATION, INSPIRATION
I remember back to early in my career when I got hired as the summer housekeeping supervisor at a full-service Marriott property. There was no air conditioning in the hallways of that historic building. I was twenty-ish and thought I had the whole world figured out. I had long hair, a nose ring, and always had earphones in. It was the most grueling and intense job I ever had, and nothing taught me more about the value of hard work.
As I wiped the sweat from my brow, I would watch the salespeople do site tours and tastings. I thought sales was just going to fancy events and hanging out with important clients. The business just came to them, right? I was so naïve.
Fast forward past a few coordinator jobs, and I received my first true shot at sales. Baywood Hotels went out on a limb, took a chance on me, and gave me my first hotel to sell for all by myself. And I worked hard, grinding every day in that position. By then I had learned that a direct-sales effort entailed so much more than just site tours and tastings.
By the end of the year, I wound up receiving their salesperson of the year award. But what really inspired me that night wasn’t the award. It was a card given to me by Baywood President Al Patel with $7 enclosed in the envelope. In the card, he shared his father’s story of having come to the U.S. with only $7 in his pocket. Then he posed a question: What would I do with my $7?
That company had put me through rigorous internal training, sent me to any brand classes I wanted to sign up for, and allowed me to become a co-facilitator for Marriott. They believed and invested in me. I was inspired and determined to do more. To be more. To give back in a way that had been given to me.
OBSERVE, LISTEN, EDUCATE
View your employees as an asset, invest in them and they will pay it forward to provide you a great return. A few key actions can help capture more leads, and also can lead to employee satisfaction, retention, and long-term career paths.
Who is the staff member at your hotel consistently going above and beyond? This is the person who always look for ways to improve costs, finds resources when there aren’t many, and talks to guests to find out additional information about the company they’re traveling with, why they are traveling or other ways they can impact the guest’s stay. Pay close attention. This is your future operations or sales leader. Observe them. Spend more time cultivating their curiosity and nurturing their talent.
Encourage your employees to let their voice be heard. Listen to them. You may have some of the most creative minds in the industry at your fingertips and you just don’t know it yet. Some of the best ideas come from trying something new. Pull the guy off the floor who is sweeping the common areas and always has that one good idea. Listen to him. We all started somewhere. Remember the time someone gave you a chance?
Have your front desk agents ever seen the STR report? Educate them by explaining what fair share in the market is and why your hotel wants to capture more business. Show the housekeeping manager or maintenance supervisor the P&L and explain to them what the numbers are. This helps to provide your employees with a sense of ownership. Helping them understand the importance of creating budgets being and fiscally responsible will give them accountability in their decision making. Every single member of your team contributes to the hotel’s profitability. Educate your team to understand this.
OKAY, WHAT’S NEXT?
The one constant in hospitality is change. Recently, we’ve heard about resignations from top industry leaders, peers, and colleagues retiring, or people with decades of experience exiting the industry. While that can be disheartening, I challenge you to think outside the box today. Look around you. Look for the girl with the nose ring who needs refinement. Believe in her. Ask for input from the houseman sweeping the common areas. Raise up your front desk staff and teach them more. These are our future hospitality leaders. They are the ones who will drive industry recovery. We shouldn’t fear the resignation. We should only be fearful of change if we don’t begin to develop the talent of tomorrow that is all around us.
I speak to hotel owners that are interested in generating revenue for their hotel every day in my role as VP of sales. When I ask who’s responsible for maintaining the sales effort, I often hear about a great front desk agent who wants to and tries to handle sales, but just doesn’t know enough. Whenever I hear this, I encourage them to let us train him or her as part of the sales services we provide. When someone shows those characteristics early on, it only makes sense to help them begin to develop their talents. You can teach a lot of things; but you cannot teach the passion or personality it takes to be a true leader in our industry.
The light at the end of this long tunnel shows that people are beginning to travel again. Hotel rates are increasing, corporate travelers are getting back on the road, and the industry is beginning to stabilize. If you’ve learned one thing in the past two years, you know you can do more with less. You can improve revenue whether you’re running on empty, have a skeleton crew, or need help identifying the top talent of tomorrow that may already be employed your hotel.
Who will you tell your story to tomorrow? Who will you inspire?
Melanie Calcagno’s real-life, in-the-trenches business experience includes more than 15 years in the hotel and lodging industry. As VP of sales for Jacaruso Enterprises, she rocks her sales and management skills to deliver incredible results for clients, all while championing Jacaruso culture of innovation and diversity. Her passion for professional development in others is rivaled only by her passion for Texas barbecue. Learn more about Jacaruso at Jacaruso.com.