The Hotel Financial Coach · 17 Jun
It is the worst lie financial leaders can tell themselves. Nothing is more important than the health of your books. If your books are not caught up and if your account reconciliations are not clean and up to date, nothing else you do in your financial world matters. Period. Full stop.
The Hotel Financial Coach · 11 Jun
Hands down one of the best experiences I ever had in my career was being part of the team that reviewed the financial performance of the hotels in my region. The reason I enjoyed it so much, and have such great memories, is because I learned so much at each one and not only did I learn about the business of hotels, I had a lesson in people.The review team consisted of my boss, the hotel GM, the hotel Controller and me. In addition to the four of us, one by one the other executives or department heads would be in attendance or be called when it was their turn to review their area. The examination was a low-tech event. No PowerPoints and no presentations - just financial statements, eyes, notes and questions. We would typically visit each hotel 2x per year to take a deep dive into what they were doing and how they were performing.There was always a bit of pomp involved in our visit. We would typically arrive the evening before and we were always treated very well. A nice room or suites and a special dinner in the hotel or some new hot restaurant were the standard fair. No expense spared here. I almost think it was like they knew we were "going away" tomorrow so they put on a big show just to deny one last time any guilt. They all knew that tomorrow the sheets were coming off and the truth would be revealed. You could feel the curious anticipation of the victims just like in the movies when you know the mobster knows he's going to get whacked!The day starts with breakfast in the private lounge where my boss and I cover some basics. He is a master at knowing what's really going on in each of his hotels. He wants nothing but a path forward to improved financial results for the hotel and he knows all the tricks. We run through the year-to-date performance to budget and the prior year. Flow through is the pulse and blood pressure of the patient. We zero in on what it should be and the difference equals what's been squandered. With our direction clear we head into the battleground so to speak, the meeting room. My job is mostly to listen and make notes. It's funny how some people see things. You see we're all friends so to speak. We know each other quite well. We have been working together for some time and it's a small world we live in. We always start with the welcome. Sometimes we're greeted by the core team for a hello and casual coffee. Often, we are welcomed by the whole department head squad like we're visiting politicians or celebrities. Occasionally they even line up as you would at a wedding to say hello. I remember one time we walked into the meeting room to be greeted by the core management team all sitting on one side of the table, their side of the table, like a military tribunal. Heads were down, books open, pens drawn. Serious business that day! What messages people send by their actions.We always start at the beginning with rooms revenue. What's going on in the market and how is the hotel performing relative to the competition, aka the STR comp set. Where is the RevPAR index YTD and what is driving the results? Product, competition, new supply, sales team, corporate resources, regional economics, renovations, asset, service levels, weather, citywide performance, etc. It all gets laid out to paint the picture of where the hotel is, where it has been and, most importantly, where it's going. A combination of the revenue management discipline, the sales strategy and the marketing plan get flushed out.The director of sales lays out the strategy and the information. You can tell very quickly if he or she has their act together. There is a very small circle of key indicators of performance in this arena and you can easily see what's working or what's missing. The sole purpose of the review is to find ways to improve moving forward. What strategies from the sales and marketing plan are working and what's not? What new ideas need testing and what old processes need to be deleted?From the rooms revenue, we turn our attention to F&B - namely banquets. What has been the performance of the conference services area with conventions and meetings and what's the social scene with catering and events? Banquets are the engine that runs F&B in any hotel with meeting space. Always an interesting aspect is a view of how the meeting space is managed. Group sales vs. catering. A good DOS knows when to release the space and when to hold on to it. Banquet performance is such that a hotel, when it's busy is like a turbocharger on your car's engine; you can feel it kicking in and propelling you further and faster.Now it's time to review the MOD's - any other department that makes revenues in the hotel. Here we take a different approach and do a top-down review looking at the whole picture. My boss is always looking for the path forward. He hates looking at a departmental statement with what he calls hooks! Or expressed another way - a loss. We sift through the revenue picture in each department and then the payroll and expenses looking very closely at each line and always asking the same 3 questions.
The Hotel Financial Coach · 20 May
I am a big fan of professional car racing. I follow the major series; Formula One, NASCAR and my favorite times 10 is Indy Car. When I think about what I like so much around the Indy Car Series there is a parallel to the hotel business that I think needs to be exposed so people will have a better understanding of why Indy Car is so special and how being successful in the hotel business is kind of the same. You might think I’m stretching things here just a little, but I promise you I’m not.
The Hotel Financial Coach · 13 May
Getting your hotel leadership team excited about accounting is like someone thinking it's fun to go to the dentist. Your average person wants nothing to do with it because they have a predisposed notion that it's yucky, boring and better left for someone who has a hard time walking and talking at the same time.What I have learned about getting your average hotel leader excited about the numbers is just the opposite. Let me explain.Hotel leaders ALL want to have the "financial where-with-all" to dazzle their peers. They know it's the secret sauce to propel their career. They all want their seat at the captain's table. Being close to the engine room and having an invitation to be part of the inner financial circle is exciting and sexy.Why then is there such a disconnect between leadership's desire to be financially astute and their typical complete lack of attention and discipline when it comes to the numbers? It's all because of the approach.Here is the typical hotel scenario as it relates to the numbers and how they are viewed by most leaders.
The Hotel Financial Coach · 6 May
When I work with hotel clients around their financial leadership it’s often centered on getting the team to do their monthly financial forecast. A greater interest in doing it produces better and more consistent results. When doing financial leadership workshops and individual coaching, I inevitably discover the same thing time and time again. It’s the disconnect between the executive team/director of finance part of the operation and the department line managers.
The Hotel Financial Coach · 29 Apr
CFO to CEO: “What happens if we invest in developing people and they leave?” CEO: “What happens if we don’t and they stay?”
The Hotel Financial Coach · 23 Apr
One of the most read articles I have written is on the topic of flow thru and how to use it in your financial statements. Understanding flow thru is not something that comes easily to most people immediately, but once you look at it and do the calculation it usually clicks. Once it drops in place you have got it for good. To take things one step further in this piece I am going to discuss negative flow thru.
The Hotel Financial Coach · 15 Apr
I use this quote to start many of my workshops. To me it’s the way I want the participants to stand in their individual power during our time together. It’s also how I see our industry. In the hotel business we all need to have an opinion and even more important we need to be able to share those thoughts. Reason being is, we all have something important to bring to the table.
The Hotel Financial Coach · 1 Apr
My primary responsibility as the head of the finance and accounting departments in the hotel was to ensure the books were clean and balanced. What I really got paid for was serving as the "chief financial information officer." The reality was the financial information I had to work with stunk!
The Hotel Financial Coach · 25 Mar
I have been around awhile and it’s not like I’m ancient or anything, but I have seen some BIG changes in how we as an industry look at numbers and what numbers we focus on. What’s important and what people are talking about for metrics is always changing—albeit slowly. Inside the current look is the driver for how we operate. For the longest time RevPAR has been the king. However, it was not always that way and I think it’s time for the king to move on.
The Hotel Financial Coach · 19 Mar
The hotel business is unique with owners, brands and assets all vying for their individual needs and attention. All the while this delicate balance has some interesting business characteristics that are essential for hospitality financial leaders to understand. It's not terribly complicated, quite the opposite. It hides out in plain sight, so it can be easy to miss if you're not looking for it. I can remember an old boss telling me his thoughts on what I call "owner spend." I thought at the time he was full of whatever, yet the concept was bold and incredibly clear. It also struck me in that moment that no one else had ever spoken of this, in exactly this way in my many years working inside a large brand. Owner spend is the key to understanding the relationship between the owner and the brands and it plays out inside each individual asset on a daily and annual basis in a managed hotel.
The Hotel Financial Coach · 12 Mar
For almost 10 years our industry has been a rocket ship of top-line growth driven almost exclusively by big gains in RevPAR driven by solid increases in occupancy and rate. You also can't go too far inside the online world without finding articles that speak to when and if this growth will stop. We all know it will and it's never been a question of if it will stop, the question is when it will stop. Knowing this growth inevitably will stop and being cognizant that when it does stop it will go backwards, what can you do? History always repeats itself.
The Hotel Financial Coach · 4 Mar
Contra, barter, trade outs, exchanges - they are all the same thing. Exchanging goods and or services is older than currency and it's still used today, especially in hospitality. How you can use this tool effectively and how to properly record these transactions on your books is the meat on the stick in this article.First thing you need to know that typically stops most people from pursuing trade out agreements is they do not have a direct positive impact on your profit and loss statement. The trade out itself if it's recorded properly will not reduce expenses. It only saves you cash. So, if cash flow is a concern and let's face it, it is for many hospitality operations especially seasonal ones, then contra agreements might be something to consider. Lastly before we get into the body of this piece is to do your local homework and get the tax facts straight. Each jurisdiction is different. What I will describe here is a generic version but don't rely on the process as it's laid out here. Get the local facts on exactly how it is treated in your location.Typically, in the hospitality business we trade rooms and food and beverage for advertising; this is by far the most common. The second most popular trade I have seen is our services for transportation - air, rail and car rentals. The third is health club memberships. In all three instances the advertising aspect is the main driver on the hotel side.It goes like this.How can I get advertising on my regional radio station to drive room nights? Or, how can I get an ad in the airlines magazine or how can we participate in a promotion that features our hotel as a prize? How can I get the local popular health club members to use my bars and restaurants? The answer many times is let's try and set up a trade out with one of these organizations so we can get some increased visibility without having to use cash.We can use our "unused" room inventory and our capacity in food and beverage operation to help drive more sales of rooms and F&B. Remember, if we don't occupy a room tonight or one night next week, we can resell that inventory. This is a main driver for hotels to use trade outs to help boost business. In my experience it's also a tool that General Managers and Directors of Sales love to use because they get to "make a deal" and for most of them this is an exciting prospect.But beware of the rules and the proper treatment of the transactions before you jump in with both feet. First off, your state or national income tax rules probably preclude your business from treating the trade out any differently than any other sale. Same with your municipal sales tax rules. You will have to come good on all taxes due just like complimentary rooms in most locations. I strongly recommend checking with your accounting leader before any deals are made. I can't tell you how many times I have had to "counsel" my fellow executives on the proper treatment of these exchange agreements that caught them completely by surprise. Don't think you can simply trade your stuff for theirs without paying the piper. Do this and you're both liable for some trouble.First off, when we trade it's important to know that rooms and F&B are very different from a cost point of view and, as such, the rooms typically should trade on a 1-1 basis at rack pricing with your trading partner's rack prices. Or we both agree on a price that's going to stand up to scrutiny, certainly an exchange price on our side that is equal to or above our average room rate. If it's below that level, then local taxing authorities will ding you for the difference, plus a penalty and interest. Don't be tempted. Second, where we are trading F&B you are going to want to get a 2-3 times exchange. F&B costs plus labor are extremely high and therefore we want to ensure we get additional advertising or travel as a result.In the F&B trade example let's say you are trading a banquet for 100 clients of the radio station and the bill is estimated at $10,000. You are going to want to bargain for at least $20,000 to $30,000 worth of advertising because you have a considerable cost associated with producing the food and staffing the event. Their costs to produce and run the adds are much less. Be a savvy negotiator and get more.Back to the room scenario and, in this case, we have agreed to exchange two suites for two nights and 30 superior rooms for two nights. The radio station will run a series of ads over a two-week period as promotion to give away two 2-night suite stays to the lucky listener. That is what the hotel gets: The radio station is going to use your hotel and the 30 superior rooms for an event for their staff and owners.The question is how we treat all of these transactions.
The Hotel Financial Coach · 25 Feb
The following is a recap of a single coaching session which turned into a coaching relationship with a client.
The Hotel Financial Coach · 11 Feb
When you are preparing your budgets, an incredibly valuable tool is what I refer to as the "citywide supply and demand analysis." I didn't come up with this, however, I am going to explain how it works, why it's so important to complete it at least annually and how to analyze it.
The Hotel Financial Coach · 29 Jan
Just like baseball has an unearned run as a scoring feature, in business we have unearned revenues. In this piece I will discuss the difference between earned and unearned revenue and how it applies to the hospitality business.
The Hotel Financial Coach · 14 Jan
The concept for the use of the reserve account is important to understand. It is also essential that hotel operators ensure the reserve is properly funded per the terms of the Hotel Management Agreement "HMA." The use of the reserve is an important tool to utilize to protect the operator's rights and long-term viability. Many people mistakenly think the reserve account is the owner's responsibility and therefore it's up to the owner to determine and ultimately control the funding. But not so fast, the manager has a right and a duty to ensure the proper transactions are performed on a timely basis using the clauses that are in the HMA. There are many important aspects to understanding the reserve and how it impacts the ultimate success of the hotel. This includes the hotel's values as well as the value of the management agreement. One could say that there is something for everyone here!First and foremost, the intended use of the reserve account is to ensure the hotel is kept looking and functioning at a high standard. It's essential that both the owner and the brand ensure this is the objective and the funds are set aside to properly maintain the asset. The reason it is not simply left to the owner to decide the amount to fund and when is because it's often the case that the money is not available. This is due to the hotel's profit performance or the owner's other needs, which can be many and endless. Whether the hotel is making its profit targets by way of the budget is irrelevant to the requirement to fund the capital reserve in most cases. Owners are usually quick to request or even try and demand the reserving be stopped when the hotel faces a bad year or a cash crunch. These circumstances are all too often and challenging for both the owner and the manager. Operators need to be on their toes so to speak and hold the owner's feet to the fire, to do what is necessary. Protecting the operator's rights is what is at stake here. Although it may appear counterintuitive to have the manager insist the owner fund the reserve when facing a cash shortage, it is what is required. It is in the agreement to begin with because it is essential for the ultimate success of the hotel, which is what everyone wants.
The Hotel Financial Coach · 8 Jan
I tell my Introductory Hospitality Financial Leadership Workshop participants that the concept behind the matching principle is "the most important concept today." Why? When it comes to producing financial information, it's the cornerstone of understanding why we do almost everything the way we do it in the business world. The profit and loss statement cannot exist and be in any way accurate without using the matching principle every step of the way. Grasp this and you are well on your way to understanding the other principles and most importantly putting these principles to work in your day-to-day hotel leadership role.Some of you are probably thinking this is for the bean counters and the propeller heads to chew on. Nothing could be further from reality. Being a financial leader means you understand and employ business principles. These principles are universal and without them, you're akin to a plumber who doesn't understand why water flows the way it does. So read on and get your schtick together.
The Hotel Financial Coach · 31 Dec
Interviews are tricky, for both the candidate and the interviewer. A GM's job interview is a challenge for the incumbent because they need to be ready for just about anything. This is especially true as it relates to the financial picture of the business as seen through the interviewer's eyes. The opposite is also true as many times the person doing the grilling does not have a broad base of experience relating to the daily inner workings and nuances of the hotel world. Here is a list of common questions and good answers as well as a few bonus questions you can ask the person doing your audition.1. What makes you qualified to be the person in charge of the financial direction and health of my hotel? This is a wide open and leading question. Wide open because the health of the hotel is like your body and every inch counts and needs to be properly looked after because it all adds up. Leading because it's designed to catch up the fair weather GM's that think the finances are the Controllers baby. The best answer here is: as the GM, my job is to lead all aspects of the hotel. The finances are what I consider to be one of the three pillars of our business. The guests, the colleagues and the money are all what I come to work to manage every day.2. Who in your opinion is ultimately responsible for the finances in this hotel?Again, this is a leading question. The inexperienced answer is: the Controller or Director of Finance is responsible for the numbers since they run the accounting department and produce the financials. The correct answer is: as the General Manager I am ultimately responsible for all aspects of the business and in this case "especially the numbers."3. As the GM what is the most important thing you will do to ensure the hotel is a financial success? This is a pinpointed question and there are several good answers. The one that I like the best is: as the GM, my job is ultimately to ensure each department in the hotel has their financial plan. I am also responsible to ensure the plan is executed on a consistent basis with a high level of success.4. What exactly does each hotel department head need to do to be successful with their financial plan and how will you ensure this happens during your tenure? This is a vision and planning question. You already laid out the vision for the departmental finances in your answer to question 3, and the best plan is to ensure each manager is trained to F TAR W on a consistent monthly basis. That is - Forecast, Track, Adjust, Review and Write. For my complete F TAR W recipe read my article at http://hotelfinancialcoach.com/f-tar-w-the-secret-recipe-for-creating-financial-leadership-in-your-hotel/5. Under your tenure as the GM what are each manager's financial responsibilities? This is a wide-open question that cries out for a cracker jack answer. Exactly what is it you will be asking each leader to accomplish with their financials? The best answer is: there are sometimes three things, but always at least two for which each manager is accountable to me. These are departmental revenues in some cases, but always their payroll and expenses. The answer is simple, but most people miss this because they don't see the effective strategy of having each person on the team charged with their own piece. Many fumble this one with mumbo-jumbo about the Controller and director/divisional organization; the simple and effective method and the response is if someone does the schedule or orders the supplies for their area, they are the ones with whom we will organize and create agreements on the necessary financial responsibilities.6. What will you do when you have a bad month and miss the forecast? This is a great question and one that you should expect. We will all have months when we miss the forecast; that's just part of the game. But what will you do when you screw up is a tough question to answer. The most effective response is: learn from what didn't work, analyze the areas where we missed, examine why and determine what we can do going forward so as not to repeat the same mistakes. There will always be challenges to overcome and learning from our mistakes is the best answer. Skip the Trumpesque answer that we never miss a month or get captured (sorry I could not resist).7. What are your thoughts on managing and measuring flow thru? This is a very technical question, but it's easily handled if you understand and utilize the concept. A super answer is: it's always our focus to maximize profits when revenues are higher in the current period compared to the last and focus on retention when revenues are lower. Each area should have a detailed plan for their payroll and expenses as well as utilize a monthly flow-thru analysis to determine exactly where costs are higher. With this information we can take the appropriate actions going forward to ensure we don't repeat the same missteps. The answer shows you know how to analyze the variances with the flow-thru concept and most importantly how to manage into the next month to continually get better.8. Can you tell me your specific ideas on controlling payroll in the hotel?These guys are tough and it sounds like they are really trying to nail you down, but again if you know your stuff the answer is right in front of you. Each department must have an approved staffing guide and formula in my hotel. An approved list of fixed positions by department and a formula for determining variable payroll should be provided based on rooms occupied or cover counts in rooms and F&B. From this a weekly schedule is produced that revolves around measuring productivity with the goal of always making or beating the monthly productivity targets. Wow - I think you just got the job!9. How do you go about writing an effective monthly commentary that the owners will find useful? This question is calling out your understanding of the "full disclosure principle" as well as your broader leadership philosophy. The seasoned answer falls off the W (Write) in #4. The commentary serves three main purposes to help your hotel move forward:
The Hotel Financial Coach · 4 Dec
Leadership can be a confusing application. Just google leadership and you will get so much information it can make your head spin. I am going to try and simplify the definition of leadership in this article. I am writing this because I believe the idea of leadership and how it's applied is very straightforward and quite practical when its used effectively. I also know that when a person has a clear vision of what's required to move ahead, the trip speeds up.I have learned, over the past 35 years in the hospitality industry, that leadership is about two things. These two things are communication and development. We don't need a longer list because these two nouns encompass everything we need when it comes to being the person who leads in their world. This being is an important distinction from the typical doing part. I learned much of this from the people I have worked with, some great examples and some rather poor ones too. Let's start at the beginning with communication. Being an effective communicator means you are faultless with your words. This ideal is one that will separate you from the field. Every word you say, in every conversation, with the entire universe, forms your personal DNA. If you say disparaging things about another person or situation, that's how you will come across. Make promises or commitments you don't honor, and you instantly and forever lose credibility with your network. As a leader, being able to communicate effectively boils down to being a positive influence in any situation, making a positive environment even better by adding to the situation in a positive way. Even more importantly, don't jump on the negative wavelength and perpetuate the gossip or the complaining. Find the good in everything. My mother would always say, If you have nothing good to say, then say nothing at all. This is what she meant: when you repeat something negative, everyone in your world sees you as part of the problem, not part of the solution. To be a good leader, be the one who has a solution or an idea that can move situations/problems in the right direction. Don't follow the sinking, smelly ship of complainers and criticizers. Try this the next time you are in a business conversation. Replay what you said and ask yourself, Did I contribute anything positive to this situation or was I also negative? Either way, its just a habit and being aware is the first step to correcting it.
The Hotel Financial Coach · 28 Nov
This title belongs to a classic 1970 Canadian movie about two guys from Nova Scotia, Joey and Peter. They moved to Toronto to seek their fame and fortune. As luck and the writers pen would have it, they found little of either. My story is about my trip from New Brunswick to Alberta, my version of trying to make a go of it in the big bad world.
The Hotel Financial Coach · 19 Nov
In life, few things make us less productive and more distant than other people's expectations of us. Expectations are everywhere, at work and at home. People detest others expectations.Uncommunicated expectations were not productive, especially when real work and strong relationships were required. Yet uncommunicated expectations were cast everywhere and they were weak.If I had a complaint in my world, it quickly became an expectation that someone else needed to fix. I tended to fixate over the injustice and in doing so I created my expectations. What I saw was that this was completely ineffective for getting things to change. Complaints were very easy to ignore and diminish; however, requests were not easy to ignore. Once we made a request we were heading in the right direction, because on the other side of a request we now have the ability to make an agreement.Let's take a hotel example. Currently, I was having a very hard time getting other managers to prepare detailed monthly forecasts and get these to me by the 30th of the month. I sent a schedule and reminders. I spoke at the department head meetings about the deadline, but I still didn't get a high success rate on submissions. It was always a struggle to get others to do what I expected. Without the forecast, I was left with two very unattractive options: do it myself or go without it. Both options meant I was shortchanged because others were not living up to my expectations.Now, I had two alternatives: 1) Complain about it, which I had done for years without results, or 2) Make another request. This was the pivot point.If I was willing to admit that my current status was due to my expectations, and I could bring myself to ask the other party for agreement, the conversation might go something like this."Peter, will you help me? I want to include your numbers, not mine, as part of the detailed forecast. Will you complete your part and get it to me by noon on the 30th?"Now it might not be easy for Peter to say, "Sure, no problem."But now the exact expectation was known because it was what was asked for. Or the request might get reviewed in a different light like, "I could, but that means I'm going to have to rearrange my week because my assistant is on holiday and our second office computer is dead."This was what I wanted to hear. This was the foundation of an agreement as now both parties asked for something. It was no longer the case of my having a single expectation. Now there were multiple balls in the air; some were mine and some belonged to other people.Turn the unmet expectation into a request and the request into an agreement like this: "OK, so I will send the systems person to your office today to switch out the second computer, but I'm not sure what I can do to help you rearrange the rest of the week."To which Peter replied, "No worries, with the computer replaced I can manage. I will gladly get you my forecast by the 30th."Let's break it down and figure out what happened in this example:
The Hotel Financial Coach · 12 Nov
I'm looking for an end to end solution to labor planning and I have yet to see one that brings it all home.Let me explain what I mean.In a hotel that budgets and forecasts labor hours, productivity, and business volumes and uses a labor planning tool to generate schedules, we need an end to end tool or set of tools that ties everything to do with labor together. Budgets, Forecasts, Schedules and Variance Analysis all need to be geared to the same measure.So now that you're confused, let me paint you a picture. For me to paint this for you it's imperative that you use productivity measurements in all your financial reporting - hours per room occupied and hours per customer served in F&B. If you don't use these in your budgets, forecasts and actual financial reporting - you should. If you don't, I'm sorry to say that the rest of this article will probably be of no use to you. If you use labor as a percentage of revenue or as a cost per room occupied that's OK, but not nearly as effective as hours per.Here is the scenario. You're in the last throes of budget 2019. You have all your numbers together and you are proud to say that the rooms and F&B labor productivity budgeted next year are better than the 2018 re-forecast. You made sure of it and your year-over-year statements prove it. Well done. You have taken the approach that you will run your hotel more efficiently next year than this year. After all that's what you get paid to do, right? Who would put forward a budget that says to the owners, "By the way my plan is to have the hotel operate less effectively next year wasting resources and consuming more costs." You're just not going to be the one who makes that kind of fatal move.Now let's imagine it's January and the budget is approved. You need to move into the new year with the business plan for 2019 in hand. With labor, you turn the ideas that are in your budget into reality with your Operation Managers. They need to put into action the ideas you conceived in the budget to achieve the increased efficiencies. This is where the rubber meets the road. You have a quick look at the month of January and you see the budgeted productivity for rooms is 1.255 hours per room occupied. Last January the productivity was 1.291. You have some work to do.Let's move from 10,000 feet down to the ground. In your hotel, you have a labor planning tool. Your departments use it to generate their schedules and they measure their schedule to the labor standards. Here is where it all falls apart. This is the missing piece and the missing link to your budget. The labor standards are essential to produce the schedules, but they must also produce an overall productivity by the same key areas we track on the financials. The labor planning tool must be programmed to spit out the scheduled productivity and analyze the actual vs. the scheduled and the budget/forecast. End to end we must always be using productivity. I have said this before and I'll say it again, "We need to be fascinated with productivity!" If we were making cars it would be hours per car; in the hotel business, we're focused on rooms, F&B, and non-operating department productivity.I am sure someone out there has put this all together in their financial modeling system and it also seamlessly feeds their labor planning tool. I would love to see your system in action. If you're not 100% sure about what I am referencing, that's OK. Call me and I can explain further.In my past life, I worked with a great financial modeling tool and a "so-so" labor planning tool. The stewards of the labor planning tool could not, or would not, see the value of having the productivity as another measure in their system. They were firmly stuck on the labor productivity standard, which ultimately meant nothing because the standard changed frequently. All that was missing was a simple additional measure which would have divided the hours worked by the anticipated and actual volume of business and voila, it would have been magic! What we ended up doing to work around this was to dump the data from the labor tool into Microsoft Excel, analyze it and see if the schedules were producing equal or better labor productivity by area, department, and division. We messed around a lot with this and very often the labor standards were producing less. This is ultimately where the labor tool sucked wind.Build productivity into each part of your reporting, planning and scheduling processes. Always be measuring productivity. Always challenge your department managers to find ways to improve productivity. Show them how the simple measurement works and have them find ways to make it better. The hotel business is a game of inches. Every day we sell hundreds of rooms and we service hundreds if not thousands of F&B customers. To do this we expend thousands of hours of labor. It all boils down to the volume of business and the hours worked and how can we get just a little better tomorrow.This article is dedicated to Dan Araujo, who analyzed all that data not so long ago. He was taken from us way to early!
The Hotel Financial Coach · 6 Nov
Flow Thru — this is my abbreviation — is a catch-all phrase that measures how much made it through your business comparing one period to another. What made it through, from revenues to profit. Another term to describe this measurement is retention.
The Hotel Financial Coach · 30 Oct
Circa 2009. Late September. I'm the regional controller for five hotels. Sitting at my desk minding my own business, doing my own work when the phone rings.It's an old friend, one-time assistant, and now the regional controller based at a hotel in another city. He explained the desire to move back to where I was but was not having much luck finding a job. His homesick wife really wanted their children educated at home. We chatted for a few moments and caught up on different topics.Then he said, "Hey, David, how about we trade jobs?""Can we do that?" I asked.Then I thought, "Wow, it's 28 years after the high school summer I planned to spend in California and didn't get to go. Now I might get the chance.""Well, there's only one way to find out," he said.We both got to work to make the job trade possible. First, I got my work visa to go from Canada to the United States. The next positive step was his application for my job was approved. It now depended on me passing mustard with the owners of the hotel in the states.A date was set for me to attend and participate in the annual budget review meeting scheduled in early November. I was briefed on the hotel's operations and finances by my friend. As the deal hinged on making a good impression on the hotel's asset managers, it was prudent to discuss how these managers operated. A total of three asset managers were scheduled for the meeting. There were two companies that owned this hotel. Convincing one of the companies was an expected breeze. The second company had two ladies managing the asset. They had a reputation for being difficult to work with.Finally, the big day arrived. I flew to the U.S. and my friend picked me up at the airport. We enjoyed a nice dinner while discussing the two ladies and the possible objections, questions and overall hot buttons to avoid.The next morning after breakfast I headed back to the room before the meeting. In the elevator I pushed the button for my floor, but as the door began to close I saw someone entering the elevator foyer. Out of habit I selected and held the door open button.I casually asked the lady, "Going up?"She smiled and replied, "Yes, thank you. What a gentleman."What a great way to start my day. I asked her, "Where is home for you?""Los Angeles."As the doors opened at my floor I said, "Have a great day.""You too," I hear as the doors closed again.Thirty minutes later in the board room, with the Hotel's Executive Team, in walks the three asset managers. Introductions were made.Who do you think the lead asset manager was? She was the one with all the clout I found out later. Yes, it was the lady I held the elevator door for. A good decision perhaps.We reviewed the budget. The hotel was not doing well as a result of some issues from the last few years and the economy. The review was painful. We were getting cut to pieces, as was the budget. "Cut this . . . You didn't need that . . . Why so much expense here . . . This should be higher . . . That was too low."The last thing on the day's agenda was discussing my appointment as hotel controller. The three asset managers, hotel's executive team and I listened as the general manager went on about all the experience and expertise I possessed. He finished his pitch. There was silence for what seemed like an eternity.Then the lead asset manager said, "I can't believe you can't find a controller in this city! Why the heck do we have to move him from Canada? With this economy do you have any idea what you're doing with our money?"I couldn't breathe, like someone sucked all the oxygen out of the room.The general manager was a talented negotiator. To defuse the discomfort, he smiled and said, "It's been a long day for us all. I suggest my team leaves the four of us to finish this discussion."Fine!" she almost stomped her foot, somewhat perturbed.Then I spoke. I didn't plan this, it just came out, like opening a champagne bottle, pop: "Please allow me. If you bring in a local person without the brand experience, he or she will be at a great disadvantage compared to me. I see from our day together how I can save you 10 times what it will cost you to move me here. Knowing how to navigate inside this hotel brand is invaluable."With that, the general manager excused the team for a much-needed drink. The day culminated with a reception and dinner in the hotel's largest suite. It felt like a celebration after a boxing match where the opponents took time to kiss and make up. For the next 30 minutes the verdict hung in the balance. My friend was sure the deal was dead. So was I. But the tiniest bit of hope lingered. The hope wasn't based on anything tangible other than our need and want for this deal to happen.The general manager arrived at the reception with a somber look. I was sure I was heading home tomorrow empty handed. Instead I heard, "Welcome aboard, Mr. Lund."San Francisco, here we come!
The Hotel Financial Coach · 9 Oct
You probably read the title and said to yourself, "No way, that's a load of BS. There is no way my managers want to do their financial forecasts. Heck, I can't even get them to submit their accruals or commentaries. We ask them to do their forecasts but rarely do we get them on time or even halfway making any sense. How on earth can I get my department managers to want to do their forecasts?"