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Our Culture Difference

By Matthew Woodruff, EVP & Chief Brand Partner Officer

The seeds of our BE EXCELLENT culture were planted during a very challenging turn-around project. The subject property, which we'll call Hotel X, was in the reddest of Red Zones, and the lenders were given one last chance to make the project work. We were brought in to right this sinking ship, and we had to make dramatic improvements in a short period of time.

If you've ever worked at a struggling business, you know that struggle can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Hotel X was in need of renovation and guests could tell, which caused dissatisfaction. Unhappy guests took their displeasure out on associates, which created unhappy associates. Unhappy associates don't always provide very good service, which in turn results in more unhappy guests, creating the endless downward spiral that this hotel was spinning through.

This comeback journey didn't have time to detour through a renovation, so we focused our efforts where we knew they would have the greatest immediate impact -- our associates and our guests. Using a "feet on tile" strategy, we sought out the "invisible" guest, meaning, the traveler who wasn't satisfied but might not mention an issue until completing an anonymous survey. By correcting the course of these stays before departure, guest satisfaction started to improve.

This was positive news, but it wasn't an overnight success. We need to inspire the team to keep their spirits up while we pushed our scores up, so we celebrated -- even the smallest things. We told each other to have an excellent day -- not a good day, not even a great day, but an EXCELLENT day. And without even being asked, Hotel X's associates started wishing guests an excellent day and an excellent stay.

In other words, we interrupted the "Red Zone" mindset and replaced it with an Excellent one. Our culture isn't just built on saying "Have an excellent day," but that tradition is symbolic of how HVMG works to foster associate mindset, which in turn impacts the guest experience.

In the nearly two decades since our initial experiment in mindset shifts, we've built out traditions, celebrations, and programs that support and reinforce our BE EXCELLENT culture.

· Our Excellence Development Plans are career roadmaps that help associates achieve their goals.

· Our Be Excellent Celebrations continue the tradition of celebrating achievements large and small.

· The results of our Brand Partner Excellence Surveys say that our culture is unique.

More than that, our associates tell us that our culture keeps them around. Even in the hardest year ever faced by our industry, we read anonymous comments like, "Best management company I have worked for so far. Lives and breathes the culture. Tough year and did a good job," in our General Manager Satisfaction Survey.

An unexpected byproduct of the culture within our hotels is how it spills over into life outside them; the mindset shift from "OK" or "good" to EXCELLENT impacts the families of our associates, as evidenced by the stories we hear about teachers at school noticing big differences in children of our team members.

There is no easy fix for the hotel industry's current labor shortage. We know, because our solution started almost 20 years ago at Hotel X. People want something more than a time clock and a paycheck. We want to feel proud of our accomplishments and challenged by our work. We want to belong to a team, have inside jokes and a common language. And most of all, we want to reach our potential -- to BE EXCELLENT. Our BE EXCELLENT culture allows HVMG to attract and, most importantly, retain talent.

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