March Madness and the hotel management team

March madness and the hotel management team

I’m a sports fan, and every year, I especially look forward to March Madness. This past Sunday, I happened to be sitting in one of our numerous sports bars, enjoying an adult beverage and watching the engagement of all the fans and their reaction to the bracket lineups. And as the network shuffled through showing each team’s reaction to the bracket choices, I began to think of the similarities between the teams at the hotels we operate and these college basketball teams. Regardless of the game, top seed or underdog, winning teams all have several things in common. 

1. Trust  

Legendary NBA coach Phil Jackson said, “Good teams become great ones when the members trust each other enough to give up ‘me’ for ‘we.’” When a basketball player goes in for a layup, he needs confidence that his teammates will cover his zone and grab the rebound if necessary. 

When a DOS books a piece of business, he or she has to count on the catering team, the front desk staff, housekeeping and maintenance doing their parts to ensure that big group has a great experience. The DOS puts the ball in play, but the others score the points.

2. Confidence  

When a winning team walks on the floor, there is no doubt in their minds that they are going to win the game, regardless of the opponent. They know they have the team, the training, the plan and the desire to win. 

That same aura of confidence is immediately apparent when you walk into a winning hotel. It’s a little cleaner, the smiles are a little wider and the attention to detail is a little sharper. They might not have the best location or the most up-to-date property, but they exude the confidence that creates memorable experiences and repeat customers.

3. The right game plan  

Every team has to know what its strengths are, how to compensate for its shortcomings and how to apply that knowledge to beating its opponents. Whether it’s recovering from an uninspired first half or turning around a troubled property, you need a great plan.  Improving a top-performing hotel requires an even better plan, just as it takes discipline to keep a basketball team playing hard when they’re way ahead.

4. Flawless execution  

I don’t believe people perform to perfection normally. It takes constant practice, personal sacrifice and a relentless pursuit of executing your plan details. It takes daily focus, review and sometimes frequent course corrections.

5. Caring more than the competition  

Like many of you, I have been involved in numerous hotel takeovers and turnarounds, and I am always amazed how much difference you can make in results when you care more than your competitor. In sports they say the team has “heart.”  I like that. 

If the best team on paper always won, I would easily win the office March Madness pool every year. Everyone would. But, in fact, it is pretty rare that the “best” team wins the championship. More often than not it’s a team with a combination of these five qualities that wins, and that’s what I look for in my picks for the pool and for the teams we build at the hotels we manage. The result is tremendous excitement in watching my underdogs move up the ladder and helping my hotels win market share.

My March Madness picks this year are West Virginia or Louisville. Regardless of how they fare, I know their fans will get an exciting, hard-fought game. I have the same confidence in our management teams.