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Stanley Shapiro

Stanley Shapiro, author and teacher, started his presentation by illustrating the practicality and importance of  strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analysis. I could tell that Stanley Shapiro had a great mind for marketing as he broke down presentation by typical marketer jargon. He started with his weaknesses; he was not confident in his technological capabilities. His strengths came in the form of many years of marketing and teaching experience. As he begun to describe his life as a marketer I remembered the creative feelings, which drew me to a marketing management diploma at my last university. He had seen the rise and fall of every major technological innovation since the invention of the television. Technology changes the way we market products; for example, television popularized mass media advertisements and multi-million dollar marketing budgets.   Television changed the marketing industry forever. Mr. Shpiro described television marketing as a mass blast of product information (personal communication, February 26, 2010). Before television, how did companies advertise their products? I was surprised to find out it had everything to do with using world and national fairs. Products were demonstrated to the public through fairs and as products grew in popularity, they were advertised by word-of-mouth. During this time, before marketing became mainstream or became background noise advertising survived on word-of-mouth. In my experience, although companies dump millions of dollars into advertising each year, the most powerful form of advertising is still word-of-mouth. I believe any advertising campaign should base its success on what its customer’s perception of the product.  The term “marketing” was developed in 1900, and it evolved over the next 100 years to encompass something outrageous. Marketing, in the current marketplace, is building relationships with customers and looks more like friendship than selling. Throughout the early days of marketing as a business, it was discovered that it was possible to influence people’s desire to buy goods (R. Bartels, 1976). Early advertising fascinates me and hearing how marketing grew in Canada and the U.S. was very interesting. I was shocked to learn that even before the world fairs of Pairs and national fairs in Canada, the first important step forward in marketing technology was the electric elevator. Inventor Werner von Siemens developed the first electric elevator in 1880 and, as Stanley Shapiro discusse, was installed into shopping malls to increase the attractiveness of multilevel shopping centers (personal communication, February 26, 2010). Marketing’s growth as an industry has wound itself into modern society, and one can see its effects in every aspect of daily life. In school, at Royal Roads University, common teachings focus on targeting specific consumer segments, building relationships with these consumers, and servicing their needs after purchase. The dynamic change in how marketers illustrate their product has changed so much since the early days, of untargeted mass advertising commercials, I find it fascinating that in a few years we may see another shift in the methods of advertising. Television used to be simple; it contained a massive audience viewing only a few networks. However, the current television programming targets specific viewer demographics with a diversified product (S. Shapiro, personal communication February 26, 2010). Television advertisers, due to the diversified entertainment markets, must constantly revaluate their advertisements and re-focus them on continually evolving markets. The internet now provides the most popular medium, which allows further diversity of business markets. Furthermore, it provides advertisers a cost effective way to connect only to the customers who they wish to target.  As of 2007, the average Canadian spent 68% of their 41.3 hours per month browsing information-sourced web pages. These statistics are too large to ignore.  Social media is the next technology innovation, which marketers are utilizing to narrow their focus on individual consumers. Through a bit of research, I found that 43% of the U.S population, in 2008, watch T.V programming on the internet. Although, television still occupies over 50% of advertising, internet has a vast and diverse viewership that is very targeted. The smart advertisers, in my opinion, will use this medium to open dynamic two-way relationship building. Although social media seems to be the new cool thing which allows greater personalization and relationship building, as Stanley Shapiro illustrates “ it is only a new weapon in the marketing arsenal, not a nuke” (personal communication February 26, 2010). I think this quote really illustrates the liquidity of this industry. A marketing innovation will never fully utilize its full potential until the next innovation is released.  Companies, in my opinion, must learn to adapt quickly to the next new method of advertising or face their message becoming lost in the “white noise”.

References

Bartels, R. (1976). The History of Marketing Thought [ebrary Reader 2nd edition]. Retrieved from http://faculty.missouristate.edu/c/ChuckHermans/Bartels.htm

Canada. (2008). Retrieved February 28, 2010, from http://www.culturalpolicies.net/web/canada.php

Simon Rose, Director of talent for Aviawest, “helps people live better” (personal communication, February 18, 2010). Aviawest is more than a stereotypical timeshare property; in fact, it operates as a vacation resort. Having not heard about Aviawest prior to this presentation, I was presently surprised to find that this company had merged the service and atmosphere of a hotel with the real-estate benefits of owning property. Through this presentation two concepts interested me the most: the concept of time shares and Aviawest’s hiring process. This paper will my reflection on the two concepts and will demonstrate what I learnt from Simon Rose’s presentation

When one google’s timeshares they are faced with a myriad of possible options. Fourth on this list is  Resort Condominiums International (RCI), which is the association Aviawest belongs. Their “Vacation exchange” properties offer hundreds of global options to visit (Resort Condominiums International (RCI), 2010). I was amazed how accurately Simon Rose illustrated the image of the timeshare industry. When asked what AviaWest’s largest challenge was, Mr. Rose responded “the image of timeshares” (personal communication, February 18, 2010). It seems this industry has a nasty reputation of “being the biggest scam on the market today”(Dave Ramsey, 2009) I did a bit of research on the topic and discovered that in order to rebrand timeshares their owners must dispose of the derogatory name and re-educate their sales staff to be transparent, honest and ethical. A profitable timeshare must, in my opinion, illustrate itself as a hotel that offers ownership. They must remove the uncomfortable sales atmosphere, which people speak about after a vacation to Mexico (Ted Wykes, personal communication, February 18, 2010). This is truly a great challenge, and I am surprised there is such negative response over the concept of timeshares.

The art of finding a job or hiring an applicant is a skill like any other and must be practiced to get better. I was never naturally good at creating resumes or cover letters and still today I am no professional. The process of creating your personal brand takes time, energy, research, and self-reflection. As a writer for the Rockport Institute website suggests “a resume is a one-of-a-kind marketing communication”(2010). I believe this resonates with Mr. Rose’s presentation on February 18, 2010. Simon Rose discussed the importance of remaining genuine while engaging the interviewer during the resume/application process (personal communication, February 118, 2010). When he first said this, it did not seem any different from what other people have told me in the past. Until later Thursday evening, I looked back over my job hunt history and applied what Mr.Rose said to my life. During my interview process, I would portray an image of what I thought was their ideal candidate. After speaking with Simon Rose I realized the interview processes is a two-way communication; it is a chance for both parties decide if the job, in question, is the right fit for that individual. I never truly understood the importance of this prospect until now. The prospect becomes even more important when I begin applying for my internship. I must use this interview process to ask questions and screen prospective employers. For example, if I was interviewing at Aviawest, I know they have a great employee selection program, so I would probe into specific information about their “F+A+S=T” program. (Simon Rose, personal communication, February 18, 2010). These questions would benefit both Aviawest and me; these questions would illustrate each party’s personality and assist in making a final employment decision.

Simon Rose breaks down “F+A+S=T” in to three applicant traits: fit, attitude, skill. Examination of specific interview questions, should deliver facts to draw a personality picture that Mr. Rose can use to determine the applicants quality. It is this selection process, which fascinates me. Simon Rose spoke about how asking questions, which have no initial bearing to the actual interview can, evaluate an applicant’s attitude and fit. A concept so simple, yet I never thought these initial questions played a part in the actual selection process. It is this icebreaker conversation at the advent of the interview, which may have the greatest impact during the interview process. Mr. Rose explained if an interviewee does not illustrate the traits which Aviawest’s company culture seek, they do not get hired, no matter their experience (personal communication, February 18, 2010). I was amazed at how confident Mr. Rose was on this point. During his presentation I thought, how could Simon Rose turn down a highly qualified applicant on the basis of their attitude? However, as the presentation unfolded it began to become clear that if a person’s personality does not fit the company’s culture, no matter their qualifications the company and employee would never synchronize their interests. For instance, “Aviawest look for dynamic people to carry their corporate image; I hire people who are ambitious and show integrity” (Simon Rose, personal communication, February 18, 2010). Aviawest looks for a decisive applicant who has the ambition to assert his/her personality to create an engaging conversation. I find fascinating the complex situation which hiring a new employee illustrates. It seems that only experience, in the interview process, can prepare either party for a smooth and effective interview.

This presentation has inspired me, once again, in my quest for an internship position. Although not all human resource managers operate around the same company culture as Simon Rose, Aviawest has the culture, which I desire for my career. Using the Aviawest company culture as a model, I can research prospective internship employers and question if their company resonates with my ideal culture. This type of pre-interview preparation reduces the chance I will apply at a hotel, which is not parallel with my personality. The most interesting point to this presentation was that the interview is a conversation. It must be a two-way dialog to determine whether the company and employee can work together to accomplish their similar goal.

References

Ramsey, D. (2009, May 27). The truth about timeshares. Message posted to http://www.daveramsey.com

The Rockport Institute. (2009). Resumes. Retrieved February 19, 2010, from http://www.rockportinstitute.com/resumes.html

Hiring the Best People is a website that presents tips and statistics on hiring the best person for the job

(http://hiringthebestpeople.com/spotmotivation.html).

Speaker Observations

Mark Hope, Executive Director of Brand Development, calls himself a “fixer, a broker” (personal communication, February 17, 2010) a person which consults potential and current hotel owners in an effort to maintain Coast Hotel’s dynamic brand. “Properties are carefully selected to complement and enhance business-oriented properties, resulting in a diverse network of unique hotels and resorts” (Coast Hotels, 2010). Mr. Hope investigates potential Coast Hotels on a rigid management and franchise requirements. I was very surprised how very complex this process is from inception to completion. In order to brand a managed or franchised hotel the interested party must follow a myriad of restrictions.  Each restriction is specific and un-adjustable, Coast Hotel’s management is proud of the brand they build and I can’t blame them for being picky surrounding who uses the Coast Hotels brand. “Mark Hope goes on saying if you want to be a Coast, here is what it is going to cost” (personal communication, February 17, 2010). For example if a hotel wants Coast to manage its operations, it must meet the full service 130+ room hotel requirement listed in Coast Hotels management contract. When this requirement is not met, Mr. Hope and Coast hotels do not accept the interested hotel; “it’s not worth the time or energy for Coast and its employees.” (M.Hope, Personal communication, February 17, 2010). This presentation really illustrated how slim hotel margins are. I knew that hotels do not earn quick ROI, however Mark Hope specifically highlighted the financial importance of forecasts and estimates. For example, The Cost, Coal Harbour hotel will not make a profit until the fifth year of operations. It is shocking that this hotel will operate at a loss for five years! The hotel developer must book rooms in advance to secure business even before the hotel is built. A simple concept really, however pre booking a hotel was a step to opening a new hotel I did not think of. This example solidifies the complexity of planning and forecasting necessary to successfully, one day, open my own hotel.  Mr. Hope makes if blatantly clear that one must be honest with themselves and the people they work with. I whole-heartedly agree with being a honest businessperson. Inconsiderate and over-confident business people will ever meet their full career potential. A successful businessperson, in my opinion, will accommodate his/her potential client even if the project does not work out.  Just because this one project or job is not successful does not mean you will not feel the effects from that person again, the hospitality industry may be global, but its people love to talk to each other. “Utilize your contacts. It is why you keep in touch with them” (personal communication, February 17, 2010). This industry, as I understand bases itself very heavily on whom you know. It is a very closely linked industry and word travels fast. Your contacts might only guarantee you and interview, but that is all your need. He speaks about capitalizing on the contacts one has in the industry. Use these contacts or lose them, they will make your life easier. From this presentation, Mr. Hope kept discussing the importance of staying in contact with your business acquaintances. I have always tried to be successful in life by myself, but I am starting to realize this may be vain. Without my business friends, I make throughout my life, I will not see the full potential of my career life. This relationship goes both ways, as explained by Mr. Hope. Help your contacts as much as you can, the favour is returned (Personal communication, February 17, 2010).

During Mark Hope’s recruitment process, he looks for employees that maintain an understanding of financial documents. It seems that there is no way to succeed in hospitality management without understanding financial documents and spreadsheets. You may not be the best at reading spreadsheets, but you should have a basic understanding so you can communicate intelligently with your supervisor. Like Mr. Hope discussed, “the best general manager is not an expert at any one thing, yet he surrounds himself with experts in each department” (Personal communication, February 17, 2010).  I finally realize why education is so important; it provides you with the basic tools to understand business financials. Companies teach their specific business processes once you start with them, but having that basic understanding makes learning easier. This education, however, does not secure you a job. Mr. Hope illustrates that education is never negative and it “demonstrates an aptitude to learn” (personal communication, February 17, 2010). Mr. Hope really highlighted the power that a blend of experience and education has on your career. Furthermore, I believe to be a successful hospitality manager, on must have a balance of both.

The hotel industry is like any other industry, which one may consider as a career. You must start at the bottom and work your way up. Mark Hope described how important it is for recent graduates to understand this concept. I believe that this key to accelerate my upward mobility is working weekend and night shifts. These very unpopular hotel shifts prove your dedication and aptitude to succeed. Mark Hope spoke about one’s ability to multitask and I think this skill is very important for the years approaching. As the speed of business increases and people are pushed to do more with less time, the art of multitasking will prove an essential skill to practice. One overriding goal in my career life is to maintain an active work/life balance; it seems that in order to achieve the balance, multitasking is required. Multitasking will not work if I do not organize my work and personal life. My once simple cell phone, now becomes my mobile desktop which I can organize and arrange my life. With this tool, I believe I will be able to interact with my business contacts and respond to emails while I am driving or on the subway. I must learn to utilize every available min of free time, during my business day, to frontload my workload. This front loading will free up time for my family and friends when I am home after work. “If I don’t do work in between the times of day that I am traveling, it all piles up until I get home, and that is in direct conflict with my work/life balance.”(M.Hope, personal communication, February 17, 2010)

References

Management &Franchise.(2010). Retrieved February 17, 2010, from http://www.coasthotels.com/about_coast/management

I am sitting at the Swartz Bay ferry terminal, looking back into the last 2.5 months. It seems like my time at Royal Roads University is passing faster each day. I keep telling myself, “slow down enjoy Victoria, you only have 9 months here”. Yet I just can’t seem to slow time down…. But that’s enough, it’s all about living in the moment, and that’s my promise to myself. For the third semester I must take my time and not take life too seriously.

So to start things off, every moment over my break will be spent with family and friends. Those closed to me will experience my new energy. As internship selection comes to the forefront of my mind, it seems like my options are opening up. It is a great feeling to see all the hard work, sending cover letters and CV’s “over the pond”, finally starting to pay off! 🙂
Life is great! Look forward to some more reflections about local Victoria hospitality experiences.

Daniel Edward Craig started his career aspirations as an aspiring writer.  After starting his studies in international relations, he realized that he wanted a change and began working at the Delta Chelsea Hotel in Toronto. Hearing Mr. Craig’s wide variety of career moves inspired only by his aspirations at the time motivated me. Furthermore, his career progression attitude seemed to encapsulate the message do what you thing is best for you, not what society demands of you. Mr. Craig spoke about three relationships within the hotel industry and his experience which grabbed my attention

  • The effect of University on critical thinking
  • Lifestyle concierge and demographic segmentation
  • Online reputation – personal and corporate

University

As one progresses through their post-secondary education, it becomes ever more obvious that university is designed to offer more than an education, but also perspective on life. Mr. Craig, in his presentation, illustrated the difference of a hotel employee who has a university background to one who does not. I was interested in how differently he spoke about the thinking patterns of university grads. Bill Lewis, General Manager and previous speaker, spoke about a utilizing a fine balance between university grads and experienced workers (personal communication, October 28, 2009). This fine balance is essential in maintaining an efficient and effective work culture. Critical thinking has become the cornerstone in resourceful problem solving suggests D. Craig (personal communication, November 18, 2009). In university one is forced to think about a problem from multiple angles or approaches; this skill otherwise known as creative thinking, illustrates the importance and demand for a university graduate in the hotel industry.

Lifestyle concierge

With occupancy rates for 2009 sitting at 55.2% (Hospitality net, 2009), it is paramount to be creative with hotel marketing strategies.  “Lifestyle concierge” (D. Craig, personal communication, November 18, 2009) is a fascinating example of this. Opus Hotel development team, created five different types of room; the decor spectrum, different in each room, was profiled on five fictional characters. Each character was created to illustrate the different physiographic s associated with Opus’ target market. This form of interior room development is extraordinary, yet simplistic. This is a very intuitive method of type casting each guest’s personality to their ideal room. From this template, Daniel Craig developed an marketing phenomenon.  The lifestyle concierge program segments guests into 5 sub-demographics, all of which focus on the young and affluent business person. For Opus Hotel’s opening night they casted models to represent each character, this astoundingly simple, yet dynamic marketing strategy was felt throughout Vancouver B.C. This amazing method of creative advertising is so effective Vancouverites still speak about it (D.Craig, personal communication, November 12, 2009). It assisted in developing Opus Hotel’s brand; “Uniquely stylish and always fresh” (Opus Hotel, 2009). Opus Hotel does not maintain a specific concierge, the responsibility is shared by all front of house staff. The lifestyle concierge offers a more convenient method for Opus Hotel to reach its guests. D. Craig continues by stating that The Lifestyle concierge program was so well received, other hotels use it to assist their concierge segment guests (Personal communication, November 18, 2009). Lifestyle concierge is effective yet stunningly simple. In my opinion Daniel Craig and Opus Hotel build a unique and fresh brand image. This image will assist management to optimize occupancy and maintain healthy revenue management percentages.

Online Reputation

The evolving inter-connectivity which is the internet “has enabled individuals to make their personal thoughts and opinions accessible to the global community of Internet users” (Dellarocas, 2002). The business and consumer world is becoming more aware of the reach the internet has. The internet has a way of bringing out the best and worst of people, and companies. Daniel Edward Craig is another industry professional who speaks about the importance of social media awareness. It is fascinating to observe the companies that are finally paying attention to social media and its effect on brand reputation management. Hotels, as D. Craig made reference to, need to skim travel sites and use this medium as a two way communication channel (personal communication, November 18, 2009). Since customers prefer to rate hotels online, it is important that hotels make the effort to provide an intelligent, grammatically correct rebuttal. A comment thanking them for their feedback, or assuring the problem will not occur again, is all that is needed. It is fascinating how simple a concept this is; the difficulty lies within how to delegate this opportunity. A specific position(s) within the hotel are mandatory to assure adequate customer feedback coverage for the hotel brand. For the past few years, individual people have become more attune to monitoring their personal social media reputation. To project a positive and media aware brand image, the company must adapt to its customers and monitor its online reputation.

References

Dellarocas. C. (2002). The Digitalization of Word-of-Mouth: Promise and Challenges of Online Reputation Mechanisms. Retrieved from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sloan School of Management Web site: http://ccs.mit.edu/dell/digitization%20of%20word-of-mouth.pdf

Hospitality Net. (2009). PricewaterhouseCoopers U.S. Lodging Industry Update Forecasts Beginning of Lodging Demand Recovery in 2010. Retrieved November 19, 2009, from Hospitality Net database.

The Opus Hotel Vancouver is a website dedicated to the promotion of the Opus Hotel brand (http://www.opushotel.com/vancouver.html).

Throughout my program there will be 10 guest speakers. I will write a reflection, on each of the ten, so that others may share through my experience.

This is the First in the series

Reflective Paper # 1

Bill Lewis, General Manager

This guest speaker session shed light on the Victoria hotel industry from the eyes of a Royal Roads Graduate. It was a great experience to “pick the brain” of an experienced industry professional; to see the potential corporate movement experienced by a young business professional.  There are two areas which Mr. Lewis touched on, during his presentation, which intrigued me:

  1. Revenue Management/ over-supply in Victoria B.C.
  2. Customer Feedback/Complaint

Revenue Management

Revenue management is a crucial aspect of running any business; the bottom line must to be positive. B. Lewis stated, occupancy rates this summer are even with last summer however, revPAR has decreased 18% since summer 2008 (personal communication, October 28, 2009). This suggests that hoteliers have cut room rates to achieve occupancy but at the expense of efficient revenue generation. Reducing room rates restricts the hotels ability to generate maximum revenue over the long term. In fact this type of revenue management “most often results in slightly increased occupancy; only at lower rates and much lower profit” (The Marketing Coach, 2009). Using the information which Bill Lewis discussed, one begins to understand the trap, management fall into, to reduced room rates and increase occupancy. Reduction of room rates has the following negative effects on business profitability:

  • Decreased brand prestige
  • Reduced profitability with the intention to increase occupancy
  • Increased negative market awareness of the hotel’s decreasing ADR
  • Increased difficulty raising room rates once occupancy increases

B. Lewis discussed a far more profitable method of increasing occupancy; develop a creative rate forecasting analysis (personal communication, October 28, 2009). A general manager must seek creative methods of increasing occupancy and revenue without decreasing brand prestige of the hotel. This can be accomplished through the use of:

  • Reduce corporate rates (invisible to the public price points)
  • Increase the percentage of rooms sold to opaque travel websites (Hotwire, Expedia etc.)
  • Build hotel’s corporate image in the local community
  • Couple value added options to weekend packages. (eg. 20% off spa day)

These types of guest incentive programs all have the ability to increase the hotels revPAR without reducing the hotel’s prestige. These creative business practices are easy to overlook, but as obvious as these above methods are one can underestimate their impact on revenue management.

Customer Feedback/Complaint

It is exceedingly more important, due to the contribution of web 2.0 and social media, that managers of hotels properly handle customer issues. “99% of customers truly experience a misunderstanding or issue that they what resolved” (B. Lewis, personal communication, October 28, 2009). Customers are generally good hearted and want a good experience; 1% of guest, however, tend to make ridiculous claims about ridiculous issues. These customers will threaten to take their claim to a higher power, head office, or travel advisor, in order to push management to offer complementary service. It is important, to the employees who look to the General Manager for support, that the hotel manager seeks the truth and acts accordingly. If the customer is the 1% which cannot be satisfied, then the manager must stand firm on his decision to support his staff. “The best way a manager can resolve a complaint situation is to rely on his experience and gut instinct” (R. Wiggins, personal communication, May 26, 2009). In this order, the manager will usually decide on the correct course of action.  I, as a Floor Manager at Cactus Club Cafe, dealt with a customer complaint; the customer had wine spilt in her eye. I attended to her, gave here all aid and care I deemed reasonable. She seemed ok, and happy I cared and helped her relive the situation. When the cheque was presented; the family demanded their meal be complimentary. This is was one of those grey areas which Bill Lewis touched on when speaking about customer relationships; the party spend upward of $300.00. I had seen a couple of the party’s guest in my restaurant before, and therefore I made sure their dinner was taken care of. I saw this party as the type of customers our company would like back; in the long term their party would return and spend more than the tab I took care of. Interpersonal interaction is a very important aspect of a manager’s daily duties. Without social, interpersonal and critical thinking skills, a manager would find it impossible to elevate tense situations. A general manager looks after his customers vicariously through his staff; the employees must feel supported by their management. For this reason, a general manager must satisfy the concerns of both his guests and his employees. He must critically analyze each situation differently and use his experience to alleviate the situation presented.

References

The Marketing Coach. (2009). The Benefits of Revenue Management. Retrieved October 28, 2009, from http://www.hotelmarketingcoach.com/Revenue%20Management.htm