Every GM has exhausting days that require a lot of time and commitment, but GMs at independent hotels might have a harder time creating the right experience for guests than a GM at a branded hotel would.
When successful leaders of independent properties are asked what they love most about their roles, the answers are bountiful.
There is no answer more common however, than the freedom they feel to create and mold an environment that is often more guest-centric, contains less formulaic steps than their branded counterparts and often finds an opportunity for the leaders to infuse a representation of themselves within each service step throughout the organization. Sound too good to be true? It can be, if you take a closer look.
There is an inherent cost of creativity in all that one does. Not in the traditional terms of a financial cost, but I will guarantee that as you have already begun reading this, there has been at least been one or two instances within your own mind in which you have said to yourself, “I remember doing this project and while it turned out great, it was so incredibly draining.” This is the quintessential example of what is meant by the term “cost” within this context. We all understand that feeling of becoming committed to a cause and human nature driving us to deliver a great end product. This professional correlation is no different.
Great property leaders within the traditional roles of managing director and/or GM are entrenched each and every day within the nature of these positions and the deep passion projects that come with it. With each ringing of the alarm in the morning, they are provided a new puzzle to decipher to ensure that positive culture continues to move forward. There will be new challenges with a guest or internal associate to work through Owners will be interested in what you are doing to increase the standing of the property financially. Are you doing enough to position your property as a community steward? And we have yet to even mention to this point the baseline responsibility of running the operations of a lodging destination. No matter how great the staff and supporting team is, each of these steps take a tremendous time commitment.
Let’s pause for a moment. Any GM reading this who currently or has worked within a branded environment in their past will look at the story above and say that they face the same exact hurdles every day and that their independent counterparts face no different challenges than they do. While admittedly there is some truth to that statement, when you look on a more macro level, the vast majority of independents are not supported with the tools to make quick operational pivots on a daily basis as efficiently.
For example, every step of the revenue management process including rate shops, segmentation tracking, daily rate changing within the PMS are all done in house at most independent hotels and not by a corporate manager in a corporate office across the country. Marketing is an organic and grassroots effort by one or, if you are lucky, two associates with work only supplemented by an outside agency when absolutely needed and, more importantly, when affordable. This is a different mindset versus just accepting a large box in the mail with all your materials pre-populated and ready to go. For those locations with food-and-beverage outlets, you will often see that same GM working shoulder to shoulder on the expo for dinner service assisting the culinary team. The touchpoints and subsequent demands are endless within this type of unique setup.
Going back for a moment to the previously mentioned marketing efforts, independent GMs must become the CES or Chief Executive Storyteller of the brand itself. Telling an original and hyper-local story to connect with potential community partners and clientele versus a tried-and-true brand standard narrative in which the story has been so well-crafted, guests know what they are getting almost every time just based on the exterior signage. The critical hands-on involvement in local groups such as the CVB, Chamber along with local, state and national industry associations, is essential for entrenchment and longevity within the business community.
With so many demands on one’s time in a given day, it is no surprise that career tenure for this level of property leader has continued to decline over the last five years. This industry is an ultimate labor of love rooted in a passion for serving people like family. It just so happens that the business side of hospitality and the ability to creatively move the puzzle pieces just so can sometimes cost more in the long run in terms of work-life balance than the short-term gain achieved in the moment.
Brandon M. Springer-McConnell is a Vice President for IDM Hospitality Group. His experience with both branded and independent properties has afforded a unique perspective of the operational challenges faced on a daily basis to an array of hospitality business models. His expertise includes strategic career development and succession planning for leaders, organizational structure and development, government affairs and hospitality law.
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