Hotel revenue experts talk about the importance of identifying and cultivating revenue-management skills internally at their companies.
NASHVILLE, Tennessee—Like most produce, the best revenue managers and strategists are home-grown, according to experts.
Especially in today’s tight labor market, hotel companies are looking to identify revenue management skill sets among current employees and to move them into roles where they can put those skills to use.
“Throughout time … the cream rises to the top,” said Mark Creger, VP of revenue at Stoney Creek Hotels. “There’s always been someone who takes that initiative, and they find that’s their passion in hospitality. … In the past, we haven’t put as much of an importance on that role as we are now, as we’re trying to build that revenue-management culture. When we see that person now, we take and grab them, and we try to groom them into a superstar.”
For Stoney Creek, that’s a shift from recent history, Creger said.
“That would never happen in the past,” he said. “That person in the past would come, they would grow out of our properties, and they would leave us for something better. But we put a new emphasis on that just in the past couple of years.”
At 21c Museum Hotels, revenue managers often begin at the property level, said Ashley Manco, director of room revenue, business planning and analysis.
“We talk about building our bench strength for our revenue-management department,” she said. “It’s one of the roles that we have really put a lot of thought into, and some of our properties still have this role as like a reservations manager. When we hired for those roles, our thought was to look for that person that we could groom into future revenue-management roles as our brand grew. And I think that we’ve developed most of our revenue-management team in-house by doing that.”
Chris Cheney, VP of hotel performance and analytics at Stonebridge Companies, said revenue managers can come from almost anywhere within a company.
“We’ve built most of our team historically from within—from line-level positions, from director of sales positions … from GMs … crossing the bridge into revenue management,” he said. “We’ve pulled from all different directions.”
Creative and inquisitive
The skills and strengths that managers should look for are less technical and more cerebral, the experts said.
“You can teach systems,” Manco said. “You can’t teach being a creative, critical thinker.”
Cheney said the right revenue manager asks a lot of questions.
“I boil it down to I want somebody who’s inquisitive,” he said. “Somebody who’s asking, ‘Why do we do this?’ … The line-level associate who takes an interest, starts asking questions on why things are how they are—we latch onto those folks. Not elevating them yet, but feeding their thirst for knowledge. And then from there we groom them to the next step to a revenue analyst, revenue manager.”
Jay Hubbs, SVP of e-commerce at Remington Hotels, said the best way to identify that kind of creative thinking is to challenge staff in real-life scenarios.
“Say, ‘Here, look at this … and come back to me with some ideas of what you would do if you were managing this hotel.’ And I enjoy having the people who would come with eight or 10 different ideas—good things to test or not to test,” he said.
Getting all involved
That highlights the importance of cross-departmental discussions on revenue strategy, said Helga Buszta, VP of revenue management at Filament Hospitality.
“This also circles back to … involving all the different departments and really getting that buy-in from everybody else as well as with revenue management,” she said. “Because the more you can identify individuals internally and groom them to be that critical thinker, the more individuals around them then have confidence … that they too can understand this to that level and continue to grow from that as well.”
Revenue-management skills also easily translate into other roles within a company, said Johnathan Capps, VP of revenue at Charlestowne Hotels.
“There’s a cross-effect to what a … let’s call them a data junkie … does, or an analyst does,” he said. “That mindset … can be applied to other disciplines. … And usually the good ones have that personality that’s willing to challenge themselves as much as they’re willing to challenge the property.”
Moving associates up the career ladder is important, but there should be a clear career path with a sensible progression, Cheney said.
“I think sometimes it’s a little bit too short a climb to the top,” he said. “What we did two years ago, instead of hiring additional revenue managers, we layered in a role of revenue analysts and brought two folks from line-level positions at the property. And they spent a year and a half learning under the revenue managers. When we elevate them, we bring in someone else as a revenue analyst. But that position didn’t exist before. And it was created specifically to give people an opportunity to step up, start learning … and then they can go into a director role.”
It’s especially key to be able to communicate that career path to new hires, Cheney said.
“Because now if we hire from outside the company, and we want somebody who’s a plug-and-play, multiproperty, multibrand revenue manager, one of the first questions I’m getting is: ‘What’s my career look like two, three, five years from now with your company?’ And at a certain level, it’s slim pickings,” Cheney said. “Unless someone really key moves on, which we don’t want, that’s where you’re just pitching: ‘We’re going to help you learn new brands. We’re going to expand your knowledge base.’ For some folks, that’s okay, but for most, it’s not.”
It’s important to keep challenging junior associates, Hubbs said.
“We’ve typically found (in turnover) of those junior people, we haven’t challenged them enough so they’re ready to go to this (next) level,” he said. “I know that some of them are like, ‘Okay, I’ve been doing this multiunit for six, seven years. What’s next?’ So that is definitely a challenge.”
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