27 Feb 2014

Is Your Workplace Fun Enough?

Human Resources Comments Off on Is Your Workplace Fun Enough?

Recruitment and retention of great hospitality staff is getting increasingly difficult throughout the world.  Going forward, only the best employers will survive and thrive.  Not only do tomorrow’s stars expect short-term advancement opportunities, they also are determined to have fun at work and learn as well.

Leaders today often forget their responsibility to engage new and existing employees in the process of ensuring that the most efficient, effective customer-friendly processes, controls and workflow is in place to maximize productivity and customer satisfaction: putting the collective “best foot forward”.  Between PDA’s, Google Docs and of course social media, the ‘bright lights’ of tomorrow bring fresh unburdened perspectives on how to simplify what we do -and let technology take care of the rest.  We need them to help us prepare for tomorrow and buy into the process today.

Its likely time to review/revise/update or even scrap some of those SOP’s –to meet ever-changing customer expectations.  In the tech sector, employees don’t work in silos –they work in clusters that are fluid.  They focus on the tasks they’re most interested in or assigned priority.  The concept of the multi-skilled, multi-tasking team(s) will take more focused, detailed training up front, but significantly reduce turnover and offers up an expanded knowledgeable team, ready to move into demand/crunch areas as and when you need them.

Four Years ago, our team at the Shangri-La Hotel, Vancouver installed Knowcross’ Triton rapid response system in the new hotel –at arguably one of the hardest financial times our industry has seen in decades.  My primary goal for this rapid-response and related technology was to deliver the standard of service that guests familiar with the company’s Asian hotels had come to expect, yet with a fraction of the number of employees. It was a great success and to this day, the 119 room North American hotel delivers a very top level customer satisfaction.

I recently spent time with Nikhil Nath, the CEO of Knowcross, and learned about how the newest release and features of Triton system has evolved.  My ‘ah-ha moment’ came when I realized that in actuality, Triton is primarily about productivity and efficiency –with customer satisfaction as the bonus.  Key is that Triton empowers and holds accountable the front line team –those able to make influence whether our guests return in future.  Triton frees-up front-line staff to focus on guests: perhaps an old fashioned, yet effective approach to hospitality.

I encourage readers to initiative their own internal review with end users, who will explore and think outside the box, put aside historical baggage; and seize the opportunities that technology offers to deliver the most efficient and customer focused solutions.  If you and your team have more fun at work, I suspect that your customers will return regularly –and share your moments of enjoyment.


Stephen Darling is a hospitality consultant and board director based in Vancouver, Canada.  He has spent forty years in the hotel industry –having a lot of fun along the way.  Following Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration BSc degree, he achieved his designation with the Institute of Corporate Directors as an icd.d through the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management.  He is associated with Cayuga Hospitality Advisors and G7 Hospitality Group.

07 Oct 2013

Larry Mogelonsky launches his second book “Llamas Rule”

Leaders, News Comments Off on Larry Mogelonsky launches his second book “Llamas Rule”

LLAMASRULEWe’re pleased to announce G7 Hospitality member Larry Mogelonsky has recently published his second book entitled Llamas Rule. This 504-page book continues where Are You an Ostrich or a Llama? left off, with over 125 new essays on hospitality management and marketing.

Readers of this newsletter will be familiar with some of the content of Llamas Rule, as many of the articles have been published in his weekly newsletter (click here to sign up). However, the text categorizes these articles into sections such as Food & Beverage, Operations, Traditional Marketing, etc., thereby allowing the reader to focus on a specific area of interest.

The book is an ideal training manual for students of hospitality, and those who wish to learn more about the industry, with easy-to-implement ideas and commentary on today’s hotel challenges.

The book is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

PS: The previous book, Are You an Ostrich or a Llama? (published August 2012) is still available. There is no content overlap between the two texts.

16 Sep 2013

Is Your Workplace Fun?

Leaders, Opinion Comments Off on Is Your Workplace Fun?

How fun is your workplace?   Young people entering today’s hospitality industry expect to have fun at work.  When they don’t, the brightest and best will leave; silently and swiftly, usually without explanation.  They learn differently than their predecessors, often by trial and error; thinking outside the box and questioning just about every direction and instruction.    I learned years ago that if we really want employees to understand and perform, then we must help them understand why –more than what.  The leadership team that fails to deliver and ensure this will lose them.

Standard Operating Procedures and Brand Standards are usually corporately driven, while internal processes are more likely hotel driven.    Leaders today have the responsibility to engage both new and existing employees in looking at internal processes, controls and distribution of work that influence the delivery of service.  They bring varying perspectives, experience and when engaged, will buy into the process.

Ritz Carlton ‘threw out’ their mandated standard reply of “my pleasure” as a response to just about everything customers asked a few years ago –to encourage their employees to become more natural in service delivery.

When was the last time you undertook a review of the utilization and optimization of your software and hardware let alone processes?  Ever thought of having your internal users do it and make recommendations? How could your team deliver core services in a more efficient and customer –friendly manner?  Hospitality leaders often fail to review/revise/update or even scrap those SOP’s –to meet ever-changing customer needs.

Leaders need to identify and differentiate between the non-negotiable performance standards and the more discretionary processes.  In the tech sector, employees don’t work in silos –they work in clusters that are fluid.  They focus on the tasks they’re most interested in or assigned priority.  The concept of the multi-skilled, multi-tasking team(s) will take more focused, detailed training up front, but significantly reduce turnover and offers up an expanded knowledgeable team, ready to move into demand/crunch areas as and when you need them.  Plus, who better to come up with streamlined processes than the people working around the problem daily.

Have you stepped back and looked at the technology and integrated systems that you’ve added over the past decade:  Its time to orchestrate internal review teams of end users – who will explore and think outside the box, put aside historical reasons; and hopefully, come up with the most efficient and customer focused solutions plus make employees’ work more enjoyable and productive –freeing them up to spend more time with customers:  a novel concept!

Copyright Stephen Darling, a G7 Associate

16 Sep 2013

10 Keys to Career Success

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Recently I was asked to address a group of hospitality school students on the topic of career success. My career started as an assistant coffee shop manager in a hotel restaurant and ended as an Executive Vice President. My task was to explain how I made this happen.

Admittedly my success was a lot about timing; growth in the hotel sector during my career was off the charts. And, of course, a little bit of luck was involved. However, when forced to think about the proactive steps that will help advance a career I came up with the following:

1. Vision. It is important to have a sense of where you want to be in three to five years, and to have some goals you want to accomplish. I always had a vision of sorts and I will be the first to tell you things didn’t always work out the way I planned. A vision and goals will help guide your thoughts and actions – giving you direction.

2. Focus on the task at hand. Yes it is good to have a vision. Excelling in your current assignment is what will get you noticed and promoted. It isn’t a good idea to be telling anyone who will listen what you want to do next. In fact, unless asked a direct question by a supervisor I recommend keeping your vision to yourself.

3. Develop your strengths. Too often I have seen people spend too much time trying to turn a weakness into strength with limited success. Yes, you need to be aware of your weaknesses, make efforts to improve or surround yourself with people who balance you and your team. Your strengths are what helped to get you where you are today and will be a key to future success. Work to make them even better.

4. Communication. Being a good communicator is critical to everyone’s success and here are a few recommendations:

  • Listen first and talk second. Listen for understanding.
  • Over-communicate your direction. Don’t assume your subordinates and peers fully understand the why.
  • Tailor your communication to your audience. Your delivery and substance need to vary depending on who you are speaking to.
  • Don’t communicate anything on social media you don’t want in the public domain.

5. Don’t be a checklist manager. Try to understand the purpose of the task you have been assigned and how it fits in the whole. If you aren’t clear then ask for clarification. Complete the task with the purpose in mind and the end result will be superior.

6. No excuses. When something goes wrong, don’t make excuses or assign blame. The best course of action is to ask yourself: What could I have done differently? If you are candid with yourself, I can guarantee that you will be able to identify a personal action (assigned a different person, added resources and clarified direction) that that you could have taken to change the outcome.

7. Learn from your mistakes. We all make mistakes; just don’t make the same mistake twice! It is imperative that we take ownership of our own mistakes and adjust our behaviors appropriately. Seek out and accept constructive critique on your performance.

8. Relationships and mentors. Develop professional relationships with everyone around you – supervisors, peers, employees, other departments, owners, customers and competitors. Don’t expect things to get done just because they should. Relationships grease the wheels. Some relationships will naturally develop into mentors. You should seek and embrace mentor relationships. A mentor will tell you the truth regardless and push you in the right direction. I’ve had several mentors and they were invaluable.

9. Politics. Politics exist in every organization to some degree. You need to be aware of the office politics. However, the best advice I can offer is to distance yourself from them to the extent possible. I have seen a lot of smart guys play the politics game and eventually get burned. Yes, you will win a few rounds, but like any game you will also lose a few rounds and those are the ones that will hurt.

10. Take calculated risks. The key word here is calculated – know what the odds of success are before you leap. I like to use the 80% rule. You will almost never be 100% sure before you act, and if you go much past the 80% mark before you act you may miss the opportunity. Here are two examples of career risk:

  • Third Shift: As the most junior manger on staff, I was assigned the midnight to 8am shifts at the coffee shop. I took the initiative to present a business plan to eliminate the third shift, eliminate a management position and improve profitability. It could have been my position that was eliminated, but I didn’t think they would fire the plans author.
  • Career Path: As a Director of Marketing with five years of F&B experience I was ready to move to Resident Manager and onto General Manager – a goal I had since I first started. Instead I was offered a Regional Director of Sales & Marketing assignment – a big job with some performance risk involved. I took the risk rather than the conservative path and it led to international assignments, a General Manager gig and eventually Executive Vice President.

There is probably very little on my list that you haven’t heard before, and you may have a few to add yourself. The key to success is to apply these principles or your principles consistently. The name of the game is to be the best you can and it isn’t all luck and timing; it does take a proactive effort.

Copyright Chuck Kelley,  G7 Principal & Co-Owner.

30 Aug 2013

10 Most Common Marketing Mistakes

Marketing, Opinion Comments Off on 10 Most Common Marketing Mistakes

Marketing dollars are precious and scarce. No one wants to pilfer resources away towards programs that fail to deliver a solid return on investment. As a general manager, here are ten thoughts to keep in mind as your hotel marketing team prepares to execute this year’s plan.

1. You can’t measure everything. As a consultant, after presenting a concept, the director of marketing often asks, “Yes, but can we measure the results?” The simple fact is this: not one system has been invented that accurately records the results of each and every iota of action. There are so many variables at play that the ability to study the minutia of each and every element is, at best, a scientific anomaly.  Mind you, as digital avenues flourish, we are getting better at capturing this enormity of data. But more data can easily bring on more headaches. Instead, train your team to focus on the big picture – month over month, quarter over quarter, year over year.

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