Hotels need intrapreneurs

As is now customary for this time of year, I choose a topic to write on that I hope will give you some inspiration for the coming of autumn and the denouement of 2015. 

For many, Labor Day is a time of geographical and mental change. Summer holidays are over and it’s time to get into that “back to school” mode or “back to work” mode. This means a gung-ho attitude towards getting jobs done and far less ducking out for a two-hour alfresco lunch. Early September is a great time to harness that sense of refreshed ambition and put it to good use for your property by finding and nurturing your intrapreneurs.

Firstly, a definition is in order. Like its naming forebear, intrapreneurs carry with them the spirit of entrepreneurship, only they are acting within a larger corporation instead of on their own accord. They are employees with a certain degree of autonomy to lead new projects and those empowered to break routine in order to find novel ways to advance the organization’s goals. 

The prime traits for an intrapreneur are twofold: a diehard passion for the business and an unorthodox approach to corporate structuring. That is to say, they love their work (in this case, hospitality) and they don’t necessarily play by the rules. Often, they flounder when thrown into the meat grinder like everyone else.

How do you go about finding these individuals? Simple: follow the passion. You aren’t going to uncover an intrapreneur within a person who views his or her work as “a job,” only those who are career-bound. Verifying this with a direct question to an employee is a good start. Look for those individuals who truly love hospitality and are ceaselessly curious about its operations. Often, you’ll find that the persons who are the most disagreeable or objectionable during meetings are the ones with the most zeal; they act this way because they care. In contrast, the team members who just nod their heads at every suggestion are afraid, apathetic, sycophantic or lacking in knowledge to form a counterargument – none are good qualities for senior management.

Beyond passion, the two other characteristics which help are a strong work ethic and a semblance of creative intellect. The former trait – hardworking – should be a direct outcome from an enthusiasm for one’s chosen career. The latter – creativity – is a little harder to pin down, but if you consider someone’s inventive thrust to be in part attributed to abstract integration of disparate ideas, then having your employees read the trades will certainly help. You never know where the next big thing will come from, so best to soak in as much knowledge as possible about the industry then let the eureka moments flow.

Once you’ve found people who have the gumption to lead projects or make unorthodox suggestions, it’s time to cultivate their positive energy. Intrapreneurs, like entrepreneurs, naturally operate on their own schedules. Stifle that and you’ll have one more unmotivated employee on your hands or, worse, a two weeks’ notice on your desk.

Luckily, nurturing begins with a simple conversation. Ask motivated employees about how they’d improve your business, what aspects of hotel operations they observe to be antiquated and any interesting ideas they feel would enrich the guest experience. From there, empower them with small tasks, but also with the explicit opportunity for escalation – both in the magnitude of responsibility as well as in compensation.

Mentoring is also essential as no one gets it right the first time. So, once the last glimmer of summer has come to pass with this Labor Day weekend, start by finding the young along with the veterans who are keen to grow your business, and then give them a chance to become organizational leaders under your diligent tutelage.