Does the world need another management company?
By Bashar Wali
Management (n.): the process of “dealing” with or “controlling” things or people.
In 2019 BC, an employee—a total badass—walked into my office with a piece of white paper folded in half. Her resignation. The work she was doing was stellar, so what the—? I pressed. She wanted appreciation. Verbal acknowledgement. The barometer of her success was words of affirmation, and I blew it. She didn’t need to be managed, controlled or dealt with—she needed a relationship. Nurturing. And, as our economy reemerges in fits and starts, I am reminded that we all want and deserve so much more than management.
We’re hotel people–but we’re also people-people.
A hotel is merely a building, it’s the humans in it that give it life. I’ve carried this sense from the day the idea of hospitality started swirling in my brain, in my case conception (what can I say the nurses were accommodating).
While I may have dropped the ball with that employee, throughout my career, I’ve been committed to nurturing my team. In the wake of the pandemic, it is increasingly clear that we need to change the way we manage people.
But, the way we manage hotels needs to change, too.
I always hated that word, “management,” Seems so cold. Impersonal. Passive. What if I ditched this “management” word altogether? What’s our mission, anyway? In my view it is to spend our days engaging with people. We got into hospitality because we wanted to connect with people.
Does hospitality need another management company?
We’ve been to the puppet show and seen all the strings. Management companies have spent years showing their hand—their cookie cutter approach. What we need is a new way. A new perspective. The time has come for us to care and nurture, NOT manage.
After the year we’ve had, are you really settling for “management”? You have agonized over every little detail. You lost sleep for a week choosing the right finish for the drain cover, and you want to hand that entire dream to someone to “manage”?
We’ve got to rethink management and as we rise again. For those still in the business—the industry lifers or the ones who believe in resurrection—hospitality is like standing in the kitchen after a 500-cover Sunday brunch service. Dazed, confused, wondering where the time went, and relieved you made it through the afternoon breathing in the heavy bacon air.
If I built my company not around management, but around people—from employee to guest to owner—what would happen? What if we came from a place of “care”?
For owners, the stakes are BIG. You’ve invested all your savings, blood, sweat, tears, sleepless nights, and too many scotches to count. You’ve poured your heart and soul into this project. It is YOUR hotel. Your BABY. And now you’re going to hand it over to some company—to manage?
Your hotel deserves better. You deserve better.
If you were looking for someone to care for your child, the apple of your eye, you would never hire a manager. You would seek out nothing less than a nurturer. A teacher. You would spend every waking moment making sure the person you hire showers that kid with wisdom, and you’d watch them grow into the brightest version of themselves. You would never settle. And you shouldn’t.
Often, too many management companies put their interest above all. It’s not about what’s best for you or your baby. It’s about their fees. It’s about feeding their machine on your back. It’s time for us to put what’s best for the owner first. We need to put the asset first.
In my hotels, we put you first. Plain and simple.
If it feels transactional, like management, we’re doing it wrong. It should feel like a relationship. A partnership. Trust. Understanding. Respect.
I think about Chip Conley who did this incredibly well at Joie de Vivre. He knew every one of his hotel owners. He knew their families. Birthdays. Breakups. Barbecues. He made it personal. The owners weren’t managed, they were relationshiped. If you’ve been to his hotels, the ROI on that personal investment is indelible.
We put the owners first and the asset first, not our egos. We find people smarter than us and let them do their thing. If I win and you lose, I lose by definition. If you win, we both win.
It’s unrealistic to think that any company could provide this level of attention to 100+ hotels, but that’s not my endgame. The big keep getting bigger, and owners are getting lost in the shuffle. The way to do it right, and do it well, is to focus on quality over quantity.
One-on-one relationships—with the owner, the asset, and the people you’re counting on to walk through your doors. Because no one wants to be managed.
To the world, your asset is one hotel but to you and your manager—partner if it’s up to me—your hotel should be the world.
Be relationshiped, not managed. Human to human. Hotel by hotel. The choice is yours.