Hotel companies do well by doing good
 
Hotel companies do well by doing good
10 OCTOBER 2017 7:16 AM

Selecting a core charity affects not just your culture, but your overall operations.

It is not unusual for brands and businesses today to establish corporate giving programs. Whether it’s a worthy charitable cause or a civic or community initiative, donating time or money to charitable organizations is a great way to do good.

While charitable contributions and reminders about the benefits of giving back can certainly make an impression on employees, being strongly connected to a specific charitable mission can have a meaningful business impact—with positive effects that ripple throughout an organization in profound and sometimes unintended and surprising ways.

Some companies will achieve that level of specificity and commitment by designating an annual Day of Giving—or by sponsoring an organization in a comprehensive and continuous manner. Here at Chesapeake Hospitality, we have committed our philanthropic efforts to Give Kids the World, an organization that provides children with life-threatening illnesses and their families with a weeklong vacation of a lifetime at an 84-acre, nonprofit resort in central Florida. The Give Kids the World Village includes 168 villa accommodations, unique entertainment attractions and fun activities for children of all abilities. Since the Village opened its doors in 1989, Give Kids The World has provided memorable vacation experiences for more than 154,000 families from all 50 states and 76 countries.

While Give Kids the World is not the only charitable organization we support, it has been a constant beneficiary for going on six years now. Henri Landwirth, founder of the organization, was a hotelier himself (a Holiday Inn franchisee), and InterContinental Hotels Group was an original sponsor. Chesapeake Hospitality President Kim Sims initially became aware of and involved with Give Kids the World through IHG, but he quickly became personally involved. His passion for this organization is inspiring.

Establishing Give Kids the World as Chesapeake’s principal charity has helped us to define our mission and clarify our values. It gives our team a clear and meaningful example that what they are doing (and what this company is about) is ultimately more than just a series of business transactions. Whether at home or in the workplace, life is about more than just accumulating wealth or achieving arbitrary goals. It’s about giving back, and our affiliation with and commitment to a great cause truly reinforces that truth.

To be clear, we support Give Kids the World because we believe it’s the right thing to do—part of an approach that has become an integral part of who we are and has been ingrained into our company culture. It has led to a cascade of positive results.

Employees can and do elect to contribute a designated hourly amount from paycheck to Give Kids the World (some hotels in our network have achieved a remarkable 100% participation in this program). Properties also organize and sponsor a lot of creative fundraising events year-round at the local level, from ice cream socials to “martinis and manicures.” One of our headline events this year is the Happiness Inspires Hope Bike Ride.

All Chesapeake Hospitality employees, friends and family are invited to bike a course that runs 62 miles, beginning at the Hotel Indigo in Baltimore and ending at the Holiday Inn in College Park, Maryland–stopping at six of our local hotel properties along the way. Participants will be spreading the word and raising funds. Some of our properties nationally will also participate by biking in their respective areas and recording their rides.

Every year, a line level employee is selected by their peers to represent their hotel for a day of service at Give Kids the World Village, located near Orlando, Florida. They come back very appreciative of the experience. That enthusiasm and perspective carries over into the everyday work that takes place in our hotel properties.

The impact of that change is organic and pervasive: inspiration that comes from within—directly from their peers. That granular level of employee participation across the entire company has been a key to our success. Because while our affiliation with Give Kids the World may have started with an executive, it has evolved into anything but a top-down initiative. In every way that matters, it now exists as the exact opposite: a bottom-up effort that almost feels like a grassroots movement that extends throughout our organization.

Overall, the benefits of our association with Give Kids the World is clear. Our annual goal as a company is to raise $100,000 for the organization: the equivalent of sending 20 families for a week, cost-free vacation. But here’s the great news: Our own organization is stronger, better and ultimately more profitable because of this work, and we believe our own bottom line exhibits a corresponding boost. This was a far from intended benefit. We retain the best people, and they see that our mission is to provide a meaning that goes well beyond that of day-to-day work.

I have seen firsthand as our team members become united in their mission of service and sacrifice, building a close-knit camaraderie that strengthens our teamwork, morale and recruiting. I have seen the value of life-work balance become a part of our company DNA, and I have heard on countless occasions that this has been a differentiator for us in recruiting and retaining talented employees. We always share the importance of finding balance with work and priorities outside of their career. This initiative has served as a differentiator. There are many team members that have told me that our passion for this organization has positively impacted their work performance. That benefits our clients and our company.

The foundational belief that there is more to life than punching a clock has inspired our people to put their heart into what they do, and that continues to have a positive and direct financial impact for us as a company.

Chris Green is principal and COO of Chesapeake Hospitality and brings more than a quarter century of successful hospitality operations experience to Chesapeake's corporate team, including nearly a decade in the field at various Chesapeake-managed properties. He is responsible for all field operations of the Chesapeake managed estate, a portfolio of properties that continues to evolve to reflect the contours of a changing marketplace. Under Green’s leadership, Chesapeake has demonstrated a proven ability to deliver industry-leading financial results across a wide range of markets and hospitality concepts. Green understands how to balance a property’s long-term strategic vision with the practical immediacy of day-to-day operational demands, and he takes a leading role in actively managing, improving and protecting every asset.

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