A conversation with politician, philanthropist, and hotelier Dr. Ruby Dhalla, CEO and President of the Dhalla Group of Companies
As a trailblazer, politician, policymaker, doctor, and entrepreneur, Dr. Ruby Dhalla is a champion of change who has dedicated her life to making a difference. She made history when she was elected as a Member of Parliament in Canada and became the first woman of Indian origin to be elected in the Western world as an MP. Most recently, she was one of 10 global Indians honored by the Prime Minister of India and has been the recipient of numerous awards for her accomplishments and global humanitarian work. Due to the tragic and sudden loss of her brother, Dr. Neil Dhalla, Dr. Ruby has recently taken on new responsibilities as CEO and President of the Dhalla Group of Companies.
As the visionary CEO and president of the Dhalla Group of Companies, she embodies leadership that inspires and empowers.
As one of the fastest growing companies in Canada in the sectors of healthcare, real estate, and hospitality – with a portfolio spanning the globe – Dr. Ruby is navigating the business landscape with resilience, innovation, and determination. Guided by her vision, and dedication to champion her brother’s legacy of passion, purpose, and philanthropy, she’s leading the Dhalla Group to new heights as it creates a hotel fund and acquires hotels in the U.S. and European markets.
From her groundbreaking achievements in politics to her accomplishments as a hotelier, Dr. Ruby’s journey is an inspiring testament to the power of faith, vision, determination, and courage in the face of adversity.
Here, we delve into the milestones of her journey, the challenges she has overcome, and the impact she continues to make in empowering communities and uplifting lives.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO TRANSITION FROM POLITICS TO THE HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY?
The transition was a result of tragic circumstances in which my brother suddenly passed away hours after signing documents for the purchase of a new hotel in Miami. Amidst the shock and profound grief, I was forced to become knowledgeable about the various aspects related to the hotel industry and was left with no choice but to prepare for the opening of the hotel weeks later – a role always undertaken by my brother in our family business.
HOW DID YOU APPROACH THIS NEW CHALLENGE?
Life is always the greatest tool to learn and one has to rise to the challenge. My mother however gave me one of the best pieces of advice a few months after my brother passed away when she suggested I attend a hotel conference. At my first conference I connected with individuals and organizations who became my teachers and provided guidance, support, and advice. Attending and listening to the experts at the seminars, while meeting fellow hoteliers, brokers, and vendors – and conversing with the CEOs of the brands – was invaluable. My second hotel conference was AAHOACON, and I’m grateful this community welcomed me with open arms.
Whether it’s politics or the hospitality industry, my brother’s life philosophy from the book “The Secret” has held true in this new challenge: “Ask for it. Believe it. Receive it.”
HOW DO YOU SEE THE FUTURE OF THE HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY?
The industry’s future is bright, however it’s important to be prepared for upcoming uncertainty regarding the economic climate. Whether that entails securing financing, budgeting for PIP costs, or managing HR, all stakeholders – brands, owners, and vendors – must work together in cooperation and collaboration to share best practices for greater operational efficiencies, value additions for positive guest experiences, and increased margins for ROIs. As a technology lover, I believe automation and artificial intelligence will have a greater role to play in increasing efficiencies, productivity, and results of KPIs for hoteliers and their properties.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR YOUR FELLOW HOTELIERS?
It’s important to choose your partners wisely. Transparency, honesty, and integrity are important in any partnership, but it’s vital to have agreements that clearly outline roles, responsibilities, and expectations for partners and management companies. During the acquisition of the hotel properties, the focus is often on the ADRs, occupancy rates, and financing; however investing in an experienced lawyer at the onset also is vital to ensure comprehensive agreements address the rights of each shareholder for access to documents, participation of shareholders in decision-making and any potential scenarios that may arise. Regardless of who your partners are, it’s paramount to have independent and experienced lawyers and accountants. Monies invested in professionals at the onset ultimately result in savings both in time and money. As the industry is relatively small and everyone mostly is known to each other, directly or indirectly, word quickly spreads on reputation in the hotel space hence it is best to operate with the highest level of business ethics. My mom always taught my brother and I that you can do 100 deals, but you only have one name to live on.
WHAT HAS YOUR PROFESSIONAL BACKGROUND TAUGHT YOU ABOUT OPERATING A HOTEL?
People and public service have been at the core of my other professional pursuits, including politics and healthcare. From both of those journeys, I’ve been taught the values of reputation, and respect, the skills of communication, efficiency and team building, and the mindset of always having faith, thinking big, making the impossible possible, and creating positive change.
I believe operating a hotel requires these values, skills, and mindset for a positive guest experience, growth, and success as a hotelier.
Whether it’s politics or hotels, an entrepreneur must always be guided by passion, purpose, faith, integrity, drive, determination, and vision. “Ask for it. Believe in it. Receive it.”