Don’t call it a comeback
Don’t call it a comeback
17 JUNE 2020 7:26 AM

The “comeback” narrative doesn’t tell the whole story. Hotel management companies can leverage their strengths in new and important ways.

From the tumult and uncertainty of the early days of the pandemic—when it became clear just how serious the problem was, and as hotel owners and operators scrambled to adapt to protect their people and their properties after the shutdown—to the guarded optimism and thoughtful planning underway today, the last two-plus months have been a roller coaster.

As you might expect, leading hotel management companies quickly began looking ahead, thinking critically about the steps they will need to take to restructure their organizations, change their policies, and make the logistical and operational shifts needed to ensure the health and safety of their teams and their guests.

All eyes are on reopening timelines, and hospitality professionals are focused on what has been framed as the comeback moment and the grand reopening: the fast-approaching time when we are restarting both the economy and the industry.

As tempting as it is to embrace the comeback narrative, it feels like it misses an important point.

The performer and poet James Todd Smith once urged all of us to “don’t call it a comeback, I’ve been here for years.” You might know Mr. Smith better by his stage name: LL Cool J. And as unlikely as it might seem, his anthem to brash defiance and vocal self-confidence might have some important lessons to teach us about how to operate—and how to think about identity and profitability in the weeks and months ahead.

There is a lot of well-written and well-articulated advice out there right now about the tactical and practical steps hotel management professionals should be taking, from staffing strategies and safety protocols, to marketing and messaging changes. To be clear, those changes are critically important. Every experienced hotel management company is working hard to design and implement those critical measures.

But success in a post-COVID world will be defined by much more than just bulleted lists of new safety measures or ubiquitous hand sanitizer. The bigger question is how to stand out when everyone is trumpeting their new tactics. Inspiring that critical confidence in both hotel owners and guests will ultimately be less about the operational specifics and more about the philosophical foundation that will allow hotel management companies to navigate this rugged and unfamiliar new terrain.

Here are some tips about how to stake out higher ground on that terrain: to emphasize and embrace the attributes that will instill confidence and determine success not just for today but for a long time to come.

A sense of urgency
One critical characteristic that has enabled hotel management leaders to sustain success over time is an underlying resolve to never stop at the status quo. The best are always building, always learning, and always moving forward—not out of a sense of inertia, but a sense of urgency. They don’t do something just because it’s new, but because it’s the right thing to do. That ingrained institutional momentum and accompanying eagerness to evolve and embrace change will serve you especially well during times like these.

Cultural connection
Lots of hotel management companies talk about the strength of their culture, and about the benefits of a connected and supportive team. There’s a good reason for that. Hotel management companies with the strongest professional cultures have long understood the profound tangible and intangible benefits of great culture—and that the ROI for investing in your team, and for cultivating and embracing a genuine family atmosphere is significant and even dramatic. Hotels that live and breathe that philosophy—and who have backed their words up with meaningful support for their teams during this difficult time—will discover that that belief and that investment is paying off today more than ever.

Crisis and character
The difference between “pretty good” and “great” isn’t always obvious—and is often slimmer than some realize. In times of plenty, that difference may not even be visible. But crisis reveals character. Doubts and uncertainties and financial stresses will help you recognize who are your true performers, whether they be individuals or entire companies. Virtually everyone in a service industry is recognizing just how true that is.

Steady as she goes
When you’re sinking, you don’t want a rickety raft, you want a sturdy vessel. While smart, strategic and thoughtful changes to optimize safety, efficiency and financial viability are both unavoidable and important, wild strategic swings and massive structural changes are unlikely to instill confidence or be a recipe for success going forward.

I’ve been here for years
Ultimately, the reason it’s a mistake to think of what’s next as a “comeback” is because the best hotel management companies were never down and out to begin with. Even in a time of turmoil, it’s clear that some things will never change. If you have planned for rough moments, if you have recruited great talent, and if you have built a great culture of people and performance, you already have the pieces in place and you are fully prepared to leverage your company’s strengths in new and meaningful ways.Those are the building blocks of strength and success that endure, and that hotel owners and guests alike care about—both in good times and in not-so-great times.

Chris Green is president and CEO of Chesapeake Hospitality.

The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Hotel News Now or its parent company, STR and its affiliated companies. Bloggers published on this site are given the freedom to express views that may be controversial, but our goal is to provoke thought and constructive discussion within our reader community. Please feel free to comment or contact an editor with any questions or concerns.

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