What advice can industry veterans offer to those newer to the industry?
No matter the field, no one starts out knowing everything they need to know. Mistakes will be made, and hard lessons will be learned. One of the best ways to ease your learning curve and accumulate expertise and wisdom is to learn from the experiences and insights of those who’ve come before you. That means heeding the guidance of industry veterans.
Here, five seasoned hoteliers share advice for newer members of the industry to help them build their careers and thrive in their chosen fields.
NEVER STOP LEARNING
To start, Sima Patel, CFO, Jasmin Hospitality Management, urges members of the industry to “never stop learning.”
“The hospitality industry is constantly changing,” she said. “When I first got into the industry, you couldn’t book a hotel room from your cell phone or have your cell phone give you the directions to your hotel; OTAs were fairly new. So much has changed in the industry since I purchased my first hotel. I’m constantly learning.”
Rupesh Patel, who has more than 25 years of experience as a hotel owner and operator, said education can be too easily skipped because of the hectic demands of the business, but he said taking the time to read trade articles or listen to a podcast can go a long way toward learning lessons that can be borrowed or adapted for your own business or career.
“Education is super important, so you’re constantly staying updated on what’s happening in the industry and where things are going next,” he said.
Rupesh Patel said team members should feel fortunate for the wealth of learning opportunities available to them.
“It could be books, it could be podcasts, it could be articles online, it could be regional meetings or any of the many events that happen across the United States where you get to learn about current topics and hot topics affecting our business,” he said. “There are so many different avenues of education, especially now that you can pull up your computer and start learning when you want.”
“You have to spend money to make money. Period. Whether it’s improving your product, spending money on training, or paying for conference fees/association dues. With anything in life, you will get out what you put in.” – Sima Patel
ASK FOR HELP
The industry is full of experienced people willing to help with whatever challenge faces you – and chances are that they’ve faced similar challenges in their careers. Veteran hoteliers said turning to them for advice is always a good idea.
“If there’s something you don’t know, ask someone!” Sima Patel said. “I’ve learned so much throughout my career from fellow hoteliers, lenders, contractors, and franchise/brands.”
Rupesh Patel said you can learn from others’ mistakes to help prevent your own and gain fresh perspectives on challenges you’re facing.
“If it’s operations, marketing, sales, whatever it is, I like to always reach out to people because I don’t want to make the same mistakes they made and maybe they can educate me or prevent me from making some mistakes,” he said. “Mistakes happen when you’re not connected to people who are going to help you.”
However, when mistakes occur, examine and analyze them, and prevent them from happening again.
“We all make mistakes, but we can learn from those mistakes and ask a lot of questions about them,” Rupesh Patel said.
BUILD STRONG RELATIONSHIPS
When it comes to building a career in the field, Nikesh Shah, president of Southern Hospitality Management and Development Corporation, said, “It’s all about relationships. Build relationships with the franchise, the lender, and, most importantly, with your team.”
Lina Patel, director, strategic franchise initiatives for Red Roof Inns, agreed, saying that understanding the importance of building strong relationships with guests and those in the industry “is crucial for a successful career in the hotel field.”
“Cultivating positive guest experiences fosters loyalty, while networking with colleagues, suppliers, and other professionals can open doors to opportunities and advancements in your career,” she said.
Sima Patel said building a network is vital to a successful career.
“Surround yourself with people whom you can learn from and people who can learn from you,” she said. “Attend conferences, join associations, and get involved with your brands.”
“Education is super important, so you’re constantly staying updated on what’s happening in the industry and where things are going next.” – Rupesh Patel
Jyoti Sarolia, president and CEO of Ellis Hospitality Group, said she wished she had understood the power of networking and building relationships – especially in the community – when she was new to the industry.
“I wish I participated in industry associations earlier in my career,” she said. “Participating and even volunteering and serving on boards has allowed me to develop meaningful relationships with industry leaders.”
About 10 years ago, Rupesh Patel said he started networking more on social media and attending networking events, such as hotel conventions and regional meetings.
“I just really started connecting with people within the industry and asking them questions,” he said. “There are so many people who are willing to help, and we just need to put ourselves out there. We all have a different journey in life, and hearing about other peoples’ journeys can be very valuable.”
“It’s all about relationships. Build relationships with the franchise, the lender, and, most importantly, with your team.” – Nikesh Shah
ADAPT TO NEW TRENDS
Rupesh Patel said the hotel business is rapidly evolving and those who work in the business must be prepared to evolve with it.
“Change happens every single day in this industry, and you’ve got to be willing to change, too,” he said.
Flexibility is essential for anyone navigating the hotel field.
“Be adaptable and open to change,” Lina Patel said. “The hospitality industry is dynamic, and being flexible allows you to meet evolving guest expectations and market demands.”
In particular, Sarolia emphasized the importance of understanding technology in today’s hotel environment, saying that ignoring technological advancements “can lead to inefficiencies and missed opportunity for revenue growth.”
Lina Patel agreed, saying, “Stay updated with technology trends in the hospitality sector. Utilize online booking systems, leverage social media for marketing, and implement tools that enhance efficiency and guest satisfaction.”
“I wish I participated in industry associations earlier in my career. Participating and even volunteering and serving on boards has allowed me to develop meaningful relationships with industry leaders.” – Jyoti Sarolia
STAYING THE COURSE AND UNDERSTANDING WHAT WORKS
The hotel industry can face challenging periods of volatility, but remaining steady and focused can help to navigate those times. “Be patient,” Shah said. “Don’t let fluctuations in market conditions steer you away from your investment strategies and how you evaluate transactions.”
In terms of running a thriving business in the hotel field, Sima Patel said, “I don’t think there are many secrets to being successful in hospitality. It’s a very simple formula: key market plus quality product plus exceptional service equals success.”
Sima Patel said a common mistake newer members of the industry make is avoiding spending money.
“You have to spend money to make money. Period. Whether it’s improving your product, spending money on training, or paying for conference fees/association dues,” she said. “With anything in life, you will get out what you put in.”
Shah noted many in the industry are always focused on building the cheapest in development deals.
“Although that’s the goal, sometimes you can jeopardize the project by making decisions solely to help reduce development costs. However, what you don’t realize is in the end that could also delay your project and the opening of your hotel,” Shah said. “Ultimately, the goal is ‘heads in beds,’ which will generate more returns for you and your investors.”
FIND YOUR PASSION
Sarolia recommends those new to the industry show a willingness to serve in a wide variety of roles to thoroughly learn every aspect of the business.
“I teach my children that if you want to join the industry, start from the bottom and work your way up,” Sarolia said. “Today, there are many hospitality programs or courses you can take that teach you certain skills. Most of my experience came from working every position, and sometimes our failures also teach us great lessons. These are some of the things school doesn’t teach and is still valuable if you enter the industry.”
For those interested in ownership, Sarolia noted there are a variety of paths to take.
“Know and understand each opportunity and see which one is a great fit for you,” she said. “When my family started owning hotels in the late 1950s, the only option was to own your own hotel. Our extended family worked many jobs simultaneously to save money and sometimes even borrowed money so they could be owners. They were accidental hoteliers because they didn’t have the education or technical skill to own and operate a hotel. Over the years, you train yourself while doing every job possible. Today, you can be an owner by buying the entire asset yourself or investing in a deal and sharing some of the risk. Depending on your experience, you can choses what’s best for you.”
Rupesh Patel said it’s important for hoteliers to identify the path they want to take – not just try to follow in the footsteps of others because they offer a striking image of what success looks like.
“I feel like a lot of us look at that shiny object syndrome, where we see somebody else doing something really awesome and then we want to do it, but then it’s not in our heart. Think long term about your career instead of just short term, and you can find your passion. There are so many different parts of this industry. Find out what your passion is and follow it.”