“A lot of people in our country are so burned out right now. I want to help them see what it’s like to have fun through providing hospitality. I want to help them better manage their time and empower others so the process is enjoyable. We need to get back to having fun in this business.”Stan Kennedy, COO, Remington Hotels
Stan Kennedy is the Chief Operating Officer of Remington Hotels, a management company with 120 hotels under management. In this conversation, we talked about why he’s focused on bringing the fun back to hospitality, why ‘true hospitality’ matters, and how he inspires his teams to provide this.
Bringing the fun back to hospitality
“I just got back from one of our leadership conferences, and we’re doing all we can to help people have fun again,” he told me.
“If we have fun with our associates, our guests are going to notice that. And that’s what our objective is.”
Stan’s role today in leading operations for Remington involves a lot of property visits, and he always looks forward to spending time with his teams at each hotel. “I love seeing our associates having fun in their work and smiling.”
Why? Having fun is key to unlocking what he calls ‘true hospitality.’
Why ‘true hospitality’ matters
“I define true hospitality as the welcome someone provides as if they are inviting you into their own home. It’s something everybody at a hotel can provide – whether they are a room attendant or a cook in the kitchen. It shows up in the pride they have for the place they are welcoming you into. It shows up in how they read the body language of each guest and engage with them on their terms. It shows up in making sure every guest is taken care of.”
“True hospitality is rooted in heartfelt service that has become all too rare in our often transactional world. We have an obligation to remind our staff that we have the opportunity to have an impact on all of our guests’ lives. We’re doing all we can to reinforce this now.”
True hospitality starts with how you treat your associates, Stan observes.
“If you’re transactional with your associates then they will be transactional with your guests. Providing true hospitality starts with how we interact with our associates. I can deal with mistakes, but what I can’t deal with is being rude or indifferent.”
Inspiring teams to provide true hospitality
Stan has found hotel leaders that do the best job of inspiring their teams to provide true hospitality are the ones that respect their associates and spend more time with them than average.
“One of the best hotel general managers that comes to mind for me does an exceptional job of connecting with every hourly associate, leading by example. There is not a job he asks others to do that he won’t do himself. As general manager of a very large hotel, if a guest were to call and ask for something like extra shampoo, it would not be unusual for him to deliver that himself if needed.”
“True hospitality shows up in the little touchpoints – things like writing handwritten notes to associates. I don’t ask our leaders to do this, but I hope they do. I try to make a practice out of getting postcards from places I visit and send them to different members of my team to let them know I’m thinking of them and appreciate them.”
“Some of the best operators I’ve known do this naturally because it’s part of who they are. They send thank you notes, birthday, and anniversary cards because it’s an automatic part of their nature. I find people with this instinct end up being very, very successful in hospitality.”
“We are in the service industry, and if you’re not excited about serving other people you shouldn’t really be in this business.”
Stan is very active on LinkedIn, and for him, it’s a tool for achieving his mission of inspiring his teams to have fun and provide true hospitality.
“For the past few years, through our CEO Sloan Dean’s leadership and vision, Remington has gone through an evolution, and Linkedin has been a great platform for us to communicate the story of this change. We find a lot of people in our industry are very engaged on the platform and it allows us to interact with them and show what we are building.”
“Of all the social media networks, LinkedIn is the most professionally focused, and that’s why we’ve made it our priority to engage there. We are very proud of our culture and enjoy telling the story about who we are. We love sharing our team having fun, and encourage all of our teams to share their experiences with others on LinkedIn.”
For Stan and his team, sometimes this includes sharing photos of site visits, and other times it’s photos of incentive trips such as the recent President’s Club trip took to Alaska.
“Sometimes I forget how many people I’m actually connected to on LinkedIn. I’ll post pictures or thoughts I have and find people haven’t spoken to in years commenting on those and reconnecting with me. I find that really fun.”
Advice on work-life balance
If Stan could travel back in time to give advice to his younger self, it would be to focus on work-life balance.
“Work-life balance is so important. As a young general manager, I used to sacrifice all kinds of family commitments and personal time because I felt the job was always more important to me. I thought my job might be threatened. Turnover was pretty rampant and I would put in 70-80 hours a week because I thought I had to be on the property.”
“What I learned over time is that if I develop others and delegate properly it’s good for them and it’s good for me. I didn’t understand this at first and thought I had to take on everything myself. That was a big mistake. Part of being a truly effective leader is preparing your team to perform whether you are there or not.”
“To be an effective leader, you need to figure out how to manage your own time so that you’re always in a position of being happy and you can share that happiness with others regardless of whether you’re at work or at home. That’s the most important advice I could give.”