Editor’s note: Randell A. Smith, CEO and co-founder of STR, was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award during the recent Americas Lodging Investment Summit in San Diego. Following is his acceptance speech.
This is truly hard to believe. It is truly gratifying that nearly 25 years ago the major brands of this industry, our clients, would come together and entrust us with vital, confidential performance data and continue to do so to this day. When we began, no one imagined that STR, STR Global and HotelNewsNow would eventually “touch” more hotels each week than almost any other entity.
Obviously, we could not have reached this level of interaction without the cooperation, assistance, guidance and financial support of you, the lodging industry. So for me to win this award I have a lot of people to thank.
|Randy Smith thanked industry peers, STR employees and his wife, Carolyn, during his acceptance speech.
First, I wish to thank the people of this industry. I began work in this industry when I was 19 as the payroll clerk for Memphis-based United Inns. Having been involved in the industry ever since, I can honestly say this industry consists of some of the nicest people one could ever hope to work with.
Once we started STR, the industry and specifically our clients, actively supported our efforts, constantly developing new and better uses for industry data and providing insights for new reports and analysis. I particularly wanted to thank the staff at Holiday Inns for helping us launch the first STAR report in January 1987. But through the years, we have had the privilege of working all of the major brands in this industry, and I am constantly impressed by their talent and knowledge.
Next, I wish to thank my colleagues at Laventhol & Horwath. I went to work at L&H out of college and had the great fortune of working for John Lesure, who taught me how to conduct industry research and the value of solid industry data. He passed away this past summer, and I was so thankful I was able to tell him about this award before his death. One of my greatest achievements was making him proud. Working at L&H also introduced me to a network of consultants we work with to this day. But today, that group encompasses people from PKF, PWC, Horwath, Deloitte (our partners in STR Global) and, of course, the ISHC.
About 20 years ago, I had the opportunity to help launch the International Society of Hospitality Consultants. The ideas and insights I have gained from being involved with this group of professional consultants has been invaluable to the growth and development of STR. Helping to start this group is an achievement I am very proud of. Plus we have had some great times at those conferences.
Next I want to thank the AH&LA. Twenty-five years ago when we started STR, we went to the AH&LA seeking an endorsement for a new industry survey. They agreed and thus began a 25-year relationship with the association that has clearly enhanced the flow of information to the industry. I cannot mention the AH&LA without thanking my colleagues in IREFAC. I joined IREFAC in 1990 with an invitation from Steve Brenner. Being a member of IREFAC for the last 20 years essentially gave me a front-row seat on current developments in the industry. What a fascinating experience.
Next, I want to thank the staff of STR. I can’t say enough about this bunch. As the company grew, we were able to attract an extremely capable staff whose hard work and dedication ensure those reports move out each day, week and month on time and accurate. Their dedication to quality, timeliness and reliability is known throughout the industry, and while I get most of the credit, they are the people who actually make it happen. (A number of whom are here today. We—STR, STR Global, RRC, STR Analytics and HotelNewsNow—are here to help our clients with their industry and market knowledge needs.)
Next, I want to thank the president of STR, and my best friend, Mark Lomanno. (Mark did his usual great job yesterday—excluding the dancing). Mark and I first met more than 30 years ago through our wives. He came to work at L&H shortly after we met, and he and I have been together pretty much ever since. This has to be the industry’s strangest odd couples—a hillbilly from Arkansas and an Italian from Philadelphia. Somehow, the traits we each possessed perfectly complemented each other, and with his help, guidance and management skills, we managed to build STR into the information powerhouse you know today.
Last, I wish to thank my wife, Carolyn. Throughout this brief speech I have referred to “us.” Well, she is the US. Without Carolyn, STR simply would not exist. We were married while I was working at United Inns back in Memphis, and we spent our honeymoon at the Holiday Inn North Jackson, Mississippi. She has been by my side ever since as I pursued my career in this industry. Twenty-five years ago, we put everything we had into starting STR, so to this day we refer to each other as co-founder. For the next 18 years, we shared an office together and worked side-by-side as the company grew. She left the company a few years ago and opened a successful yarn store here in Nashville. Even while running that business, she stays intimately involved the future direction of the company. With her encouragement, insight, knowledge and expertise, STR became successful. Together we created and built the company that enabled me to win this award today. Thanks.
In conclusion, there are a whole lot of people responsible for the creation and growth of STR. So therefore, thanks again for this award, and I look forward to working with this industry for a number of years to come.