The changing global economic dynamics has had its impact not only on fiscal aspect of conduct of a business but a very severe effect on the business leaders - the managers personally. While this effect converts into physical and emotional pressure on the manager, it can also act as a key factor to identify the dead wood within any management team giving an opportunity to the ownership or entrepreneurship to restructure their organization.
Hotel industry, or for that matter, the entire niche of service industry is, as I reckon, worst hit. Why? Simply because the product it carries has no shelf life, it perishes as the clock strikes midnight. You lose anything that you could not sell up to 2359 hrs. Vacant rooms, unused restaurant covers, empty banquet and party rooms, unused massage beds…all wasted for the day, written off completely.
Even in normal economic scenario the nature of product would have remained the same, but then the market would also have been normal. Not shrunk as it is today with a very low surplus spendable income with the user segment. What this means to the demands created on those who are managing the industry outlets, be it a hotel, a restaurant, a travel agency or an airline. It means that the manager has to be one who has the ability to weather the storm and ensures survival of his enterprise, team and himself.
Naturally this is a tough call, but then that is management, to be able to manage a situation rather than getting managed by a situation. All this leads us to concentrate on one seemingly simple aspect. Who should head our hotel? What traits and qualities should he or she possess and what skill sets should he or she have? Looking at the enormity of the task, the most appropriate solution to the question will be to opt for someone who has multi dimensional skills, but just not superficial, deep and thorough.
I personally feel that the present scenario demands that a result oriented, profit purpose focused and challenge seeker hotel general manager should have knowledge of hotel operations and in addition he should be very strong in hotel finance and marketing fields. He will need all these traits to combat the competition, capture a fair market share and establish the property as the sought after brand in the city or location.
Let us try to analyze the basis for this conclusion.
It is taken for granted that a successful hotel general manager will be an expert in sound hotel operation techniques and skills. He will be very thorough in operating systems of key revenue producing areas like the accommodation, food and beverage and recreation and services. I hate to call departments like business center, laundry, telephones and other similar revenue areas as "minor operating departments". The reason being that the moment you term them as MOD, the executive attention on this important revenue area gets diluted. They pay "minor attention" to a minor revenue stream. It is a fact that while the revenue from recreation and services areas may be less that other areas, let's not forgets that this revenue has a potential of contributing over 60% as departmental contribution.
The next major skill and knowledge need of a good hotel manager is marketing. The general manager has to be an expert marketer more than anything else. He should have a solid grip on the market dynamics in his city and location, must know his competition on his tips. Unless he has this knowledge it will be futile to expect the desired results. While he will have a qualified and experienced sales and marketing functional head under him, his ability to guide and advise him should be unquestioned. I have come across a number of independent hotels where the general manager assumes the responsibility of this important function upon himself. I feel that in such hotels, expecting attainment of results could best be left to anyone's guess. Sound marketing skills in the general manager of the hotel will reflect in the soundness of hotel's marketing plan. The most important management tool that defines the "how to" for attaining objectives.
Having talked about operations and marketing, let us turn our attention to another important skill set required of a result oriented hotel manager. He should have a good knowledge of hotel finance and accounting functions. He should appreciate that this knowledge will become his biggest secret weapon for effective, efficient and profitable operations. I personally believe that numbers tell the story. They don't need any elaborations. Those who tend to twist the story that numbers tell live in illusions and will make them dispensable. His appreciation for numbers will be reflected in his mastery for crafting a realistic yet challenging business plan for the hotel. His ability to analyze and interpret the results and above all to take immediate steps to ensure that operations and marketing initiate actions that will make them stay on course will demonstrate the depth of his knowledge.
There was a time when we saw the hotel manager walking around, talking to guests, workers, giving instructions to the functional heads and so on with hardly any time to concentrate of his core function. Today things have changed drastically. You sense presence of the general manager by an immaculately kept and maintained property, profitable, efficient and crisp operations because the general manager has re mastered the art of delegation. He empowers his team to take decisions in their operating field and holds them accountable for that. The result; a highly charged and motivated team that is aware of what is expected of them. This leaves the general manager with enough time to sit back at his desk and plan his operations, strategies and actions which establishes his property as the market leader by product quality, service delivery, revenue per available room, occupancy and so on.
The job of any manager and especially hotel manager cannot be executed in the 9 to 5 time frame. It continues way beyond all time restrictions till the goals are achieved, over and over again.
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Ram Gupta is a professional consultant for hotel industry. Hotel & Restaurant Consulting & Advisory Service. His web site can be viewed at www.bcgglobal.com
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