Branding and building through executive team bonding

As you may guess, I’m a big believer in team building and investing in human capital at all levels of the hotel. Rarely addressed, but of paramount importance, is the specific need to team bond at the executive committee level. These key people — by nature and profession a disparate group of individuals— hold the long-term success of the hotel in the balance. Encouraging camaraderie, mutual respect and teamwork at this level goes a long way toward establishing consistency of branding, positioning and performance — especially important for independent hotels.

A number of years ago, I served as managing director of a new independent hotel that was being developed in Lower Manhattan. From day one, I was charged with creating a brand platform that would be carried through every aspect of the hotel — from design to décor, outlets to amenities, operations to sales, and marketing to public relations.

Upon hiring my executive committee members, I instituted a series of off-premise retreats during the hotel’s pre-opening months. Participants included executive committee members as well as principals from our advertising and public relations firms, respectively.

Each retreat was held at a conference center within a reasonable drive of Manhattan. The program format included intensive think-tank/strategy sessions interspersed with relaxed dinners and planned recreation — volleyball, basketball, skiing and other physical activities — to allow us to blow off steam and to provide balance to the meetings, which typically ran two to three days in length.

What we accomplished through the discipline of these retreats was several-fold:

  • Through discussion, debate and shared perspectives, we established a new brand for the hospitality industry at that time.
  • We created operating standards, many of them innovative, by working cooperatively in a think-tank environment.
  • We fostered camaraderie within the executive team through shared meals and activities.
  • From each retreat came action steps that were immediately implemented upon returning to the hotel.
  • As a result of this kind of planned, intense interaction away from the day-to-day pressure of pre-opening, our executive team operated as a well-oiled machine within the hotel.

If you are in a position to implement this kind of program within your executive team, I would greatly encourage it. It’s given me valuable lessons and insights as well as lasting memories and friendships.