Stories we write are changing as we type. Here’s an example of a decision I made not to run a story from an event I covered that illustrates how different our industry is today than it was just a few weeks ago.
What a difference one month makes. At this time one month ago, I had just returned from a trip to Memphis, Tennessee, to moderate a conversation among some sharp and top-of-their-game hotel industry executives, brought together by my friend Chuck Pinkowski, of Pinkowski & Company.
I came home so excited to write the story. Most of the people around the table head up companies that do third-party hotel management, and we had the best conversation I’ve had in a long time about real ways they’re building solid, measureable and effective corporate cultures to address the collective No. 1 issue among hoteliers: Labor.
Andrea Foster, SVP of development for Marcus Hotels & Resorts, talked about real ways her company recruits young people and showcases the career potential of hospitality. David Duncan, president and CEO of First Hospitality Group, talked about how he builds a management culture that helps leaders model culture across the organization. Jonathan Bogatay, CEO of North Central Group; and Nagib Lakhani, president of RevMax Investments, talked about real ways they’re dealing with wage pressure and employee retention. Jerry Cataldo, president and CEO of Hostmark Hospitality Group, talked about the real, lasting value employees find in strong corporate cultures.
It was such a fantastic conversation, and these are just a few examples from some of the participants.
But then the virus story hit. Just a few days after I returned home from Memphis, the International Hotel Investment Forum in Berlin was cancelled and dealing with a global pandemic became everyone’s top priority.
News shifted, as it does in these situations, and immediately stories poured in about furloughs and layoffs and temporary closings and tens of thousands of hotel employees losing hours and jobs.
What we’ve called “the labor issue” in our industry pivoted immediately and 100%.
I realized I couldn’t write this story. The perspective and context of the conversation around that table in Memphis in late February had changed way too much in just a few days. Writing the story based on where the world and industry sat in late February wouldn’t be doing a service to readers based on where we sit now in late March. I reached out to my panelists to see if anyone wanted to share an update now, but understandably their hands are full.
The tips and best practices around hiring, retention and corporate culture that these industry leaders talked about a month ago are fantastic. They’re worthwhile, they have staying power and they will no doubt be called upon again. Knowing these people personally, I know they’re all activating the values and calling on the cultures they’ve built to guide them through what’s happening now in our industry and the world. I’m excited to write that story soon.
But right now, priorities have changed and companies are making difficult decisions about workforce reductions. I look forward to reconnecting with my panelists in the hopefully not-too-distant future to continue the conversation we started in February and hear about how they managed through the situation. As with all periods like this, stories of resilience and values emerge.
When I was a daily newspaper reporter, abandoning stories because news changed wasn’t uncommon. But this is the first time in my trade publishing career that I’ve had to abandon a story for that reason. I’m sorry to do it. But I look forward to revisiting it.
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