HP Hotels has found that investing in new technology has been the linchpin for ensuring operational excellence across its portfolio and developing a workforce that embraces supporting each other as the company continues to grow.
LOS ANGELES—HP Hotels is actively growing its management portfolio, and the company is finding new ways to leverage technology to help its employees.
President and CEO Charles Oswald sat down with HNN at the recent Americas Lodging Investment Summit. Throughout the last year, HP Hotels added some big-box, full-service properties to its portfolio and converted a Holiday Inn into a full-service Hilton in Nashville, he said. At the time of the interview, Oswald said the company added eight hotels to its portfolio within the previous 30 days.
“Our portfolio has filled out very nicely,” he said.
Most of HP’s owners are sophisticated private equity funds that are realizing great returns, he said. As a result, sometimes HP Hotels works itself out of a job, but then it ends up working itself into new ones, he said.
For new deals, the company looks at value-add opportunities and different types of conversions, Oswald said. Occasionally they have to right-size deals and change the property’s operational structure.
“We’re trying to uncover the hidden business novelty,” he said.
Through these efforts, the company has picked up great cash flow opportunities in strong markets that help to create a steady income stream, he said.
The bulk of the recent eight additions were straight management agreements, he said. The deal involved three different ownership groups already working with HP Hotels who were looking to take their hotels to the next level.
HP Hotels has a couple of lifestyle boutique properties that it’s currently negotiating on, he said. The company has had experience with a handful of these types of hotels in recent years, and several of those transacted for good returns.
“We foresee doing more in that lifestyle boutique and soft-branding category in the future,” he said.
Investing in technology
The company is moving onto the next step to make sure it can maintain operational excellence across every hotel, Oswald said. To achieve this as it grows its portfolio, the company is leveraging technology, including a new operation management system that puts the latest mobile tech in the hands of its team members on site.
For example, the new system means the housekeeping team no longer needs to use paper and clipboards, he said. The room attendants are plugged into the system, so tracking when rooms become vacant lets them know when they can turn over a room to make it available for sale again. This has helped reduce the buffer time between rooms.
The new system allows supervisors to track team members on their assignments, he said. For example, they can see how they faire in cleanliness versus timeliness. The system also integrates with the maintenance department, which helps expedite work orders, he said.
Now the company can look across the portfolio from a strategic standpoint and better identify guest trends and improve preventative maintenance, which leads to better capital planning, he said.
As HP Hotels pursues operational experience, it’s important to keep its focus on people and culture, Oswald said. The company is focusing on making a meaningful difference in the lives of its team members, he said.
The company has systems in place allowing to more actively and dynamically communicate with team members, he said. Its hotels have large digital screens in prominent locations in the back-of-house areas that share information such as company updates, benefits updates, team member recognition, guest letters, service topics of the day and information about VIPs.
“We’re controlling that at a blend of the corporate level and local level,” he said. “We can manage from a corporate office, but we allow for some local personalization by giving the GM access to a few screens as well.”
Its new operation management system is going to make a meaningful difference, he said. It will allow leadership to encourage team members and provide help to those who need it. If someone needs help in a room, they can send an alert and another team member can respond and go assist, he said.
“We then track who offers the most assistances,” he said. “We want to encourage that support among team members throughout the organization.”
This translates into the overall culture and while it’s difficult to track, it becomes part of the DNA, Oswald said. Team members go out of their ways to help each other, such as employees who are sick or in the hospital, the other team members bought meals, visited with them and covered shifts.
“When you do this well as (a) company and start to create this culture, it gains a life of its own,” he said. “The team members pick up on it. It permeates and establishes a whole new lifestyle.”