Everyone Wants To Win

Starting today, I am going to post a new edition of “Winning Ideas”  on the first Friday (or thereabouts) of each month. The  subject matter may depend on current events, or simply be a function of  what I feel moved to write about.  I welcome your comments, suggestions and feedback.  Please send your thoughts to me at steve@iseburg.com .

The theme of this first edition is my conviction that in all things we do in life we should seek a “win-win” outcome. Simple enough, and probably not altogether controversial, but in practice, life and business often collide and conflict with this simple premise.  The origins of my philosophy come from my lifelong love affair with hospitality. I was one of those uncommon kids who knew early on what they wanted to do, and then went and did it. The truth is that I never regretted it for a moment, and still don’t. Hospitality, in my world, the lodging business, is the best job in the world! While I have nothing short of the utmost respect for those who grow, manufacture or sell the proverbial “widgets”, that wasn’t ever going to work for me.  Early on in my career, I took great pride in the usually small, but occasionally epic impact that “hospitality” can have on lives. 

During the formative years of my career, I had the great fortune of being part of the team at Opryland Hotel in Nashville.  At the time, Opryland was growing to about 1,100 rooms, and was the most remarkable lodging facility in the world. The General Manager at the hotel, Jack Vaughn, was an icon, and had the most impeccable standards I had ever before or since witnessed, and stuck to them like glue. (Note: much more about standards in a future edition). Opryland Hotel is part of a complex that includes the Grand Ole Opry, which is the home of Country Music, and is literally next door to the hotel.  

While working at Opryland, I came to realize that a very large number of the guests coming to that hotel were on a “once in a lifetime” pilgrimage to this fabulous place. They had listened intently to the icons of Country Music their whole lives, and now were going to have the opportunity to worship at their “cathedral”. The responsibility to provide a truly remarkable experience to those folks was not lost on me for a moment. If I, or my team, exceeded these visitors expectations, it would be a subject of pride shared around their dinner table forever, and if we screwed it up, what a shame that would be.

This brings me back to the idea of a “win-win” outcome. At the end of the day, that philosophy is rooted in my passion for “hospitality”. Merriam Webster defines hospitality as “generous and friendly treatment of visitors and guests”. If we embrace that philosophy in our business dealings as well, should we not expect a positive outcome? I think it is human nature to react favorably to someone who is sincerely looking out for your best interests. Undoubtedly, this will lead to occasionally being taken advantage of, but isn’t the risk worth it?

This philosophy applies to virtually everything we do, from our family relationships to the most critical of business negotiations. If we always endeavor to create a hospitable relationship, everyone wins. Because it is near and dear to my heart, let’s use the example of a hotel in a small town. Surely all towns need a hotel in their core, for a multitude of reasons. Residents have visitors that they cannot or don’t want to accommodate in their homes, businesses have visitors, travelers pass through and need to stay overnight, events attract folks to the town.  

These are the basic reasons for this hotel, and if it addresses those needs, it might very well be successful. However, if it creates a “win-win” for the Community, then that has the chance to be a home run! I will explain. This hotel in this small town is a lot of things. Along with being a place for people to rest, recharge, sleep, eat, drink and meet, It is an employer, a buyer of goods and services and a source of pride (or not) for the Community as a whole. If this is my hotel, there are several things that I see as critical for its success, and they all relate to creating a “win-win” environment. 

One of the first and foremost is that I want to be the employer of choice in the lodging business in town, and in general if possible. This doesn’t necessarily mean paying more than anyone else, although it does mean paying a living wage. It also means creating a work environment that attempts to fill the needs of those who work there. This involves job security, pride, fair treatment, advancement opportunities for those who want them, and the ability to stay put for those who don’t.  It requires a hands on management approach, top to bottom in the organization. It requires constant interaction with Department Heads to assure that they really do embrace that same philosophy every single day. And, it means creating standards that are exemplary, and sticking to them like glue.

This hotel buys a lot of stuff. First and foremost, buy as much of it as possible locally. Those businesses who sell you stuff have families and business relations that need a place to stay. If you buy all this stuff from the “big box” retailer because you save a buck, you may well cost yourself two bucks in the end, by alienating the local suppliers. Then, negotiate your best price, but always leave enough in the deal for the supplier that everyone leaves the table believing they benefitted from the transaction. 

“Win-lose” is not a sustainable philosophy.

A hotel should honor the community in which it resides, by being an extension of the atmosphere in that area. This isn’t always easy, especially in the cookie cutter designs of chains, but it is critically important. Exterior and interior designs need to fit the region so that the people who live there, who can be an extension of your sales effort, take pride in your hotel. Make sure that you have reasons to invite them in on a regular basis, whether it be an inviting lounge or dining facility with competitive prices,  seasonal decorations that are a bit “over the top”, or affordable local deals for weekend getaways. These all create “win-win” scenarios for your hotel. 

You can call me old fashioned if you want, but I firmly believe that if you set out to do all of the above, and work at it every day, there is a more than reasonable expectation that you might have fun doing it, and develop or rekindle a passion for hospitality.

Then without a doubt, everyone wins!