“When you stop growing, you start dying.” This famous proverb by William Burroughs is probably correct, but I prefer this version – When you stop evolving, you start dying. Life is meant to be an adventure of change, innovation and transformation, and business is no different. We are meant to search out new ways of solving problems, delivering services and creating value.

Since the dawn of the industrial age, businesses have thrived by taking advantage of new technologies, processes and cultural norms. These adjustments have made us better. Our lives, our communities and our businesses have thrived and created unimagined opportunity. Three examples from my career:

  • Collaborative service: 30 years ago, many decisions were made in siloed groups losing the broader perspective of an organization. Now, experts are often brought in from varying positions to weigh in on business decisions, improving outcomes and speed to market.
  • Mobile Technologies: We used to be tethered to our desks, ready to answer the corded phone or review a critical fax. You may laugh, but it is true. Thanks to Apple and a host of other mobile technologies, we are now free to move around our business estates without losing connection unless we choose.
  • Revenue Management Algorithms: In the early days, room rates were set twice a year, regardless of circumstance. In the past 20 years, the hospitality industry has evolved from gut pricing decisions to highly sophisticated analytic pricing, leading to huge increases in gross room revenue.

So what is next? How do we find and embrace new opportunities or new areas of improvement? No doubt there are visionary leaders like Jobs, Musk or DeBoer who reset industries, but most of us fall short of that mark. Rather, we are assimilators and thoughtful managers. The majority of today’s great leaders look to their entire ecosystem for new ideas and then chase them with vigor. Innovation and transformation are the product of astute observation and thoughtful execution.

As I look around my professional and social peer group, I see multiple areas of potential new ideas for the hospitality industry. These revelations can come from our children’s schools, or friends’ work projects, or our religious organizations. All of these places serve their clients in different ways that seek to maximize customer satisfaction as well as driving entity value. Schools seek to deliver top-tier experiences to children while making work/learning fun. Do we do that with our employees? Religious organizations work to build aligned groups of people to serve their local and worldwide communities. Do our hotels seek to build strong community ties? Some consulting firms price their services based on customer value. How do we price management services?

I ask these questions to prompt discussion and thought. As hospitality professionals, we need to look beyond our four walls. We must investigate new operating maxims, ask for feedback and listen intently. I feel that often we fail to see the shortcomings in our businesses or are too afraid to shake up the norm, but isn’t that our responsibility as leaders. Aren’t we supposed to be the part of the organization that looks for opportunity, sets a vision and facilitates change?

While that may seem frightening, I would posit that these activities should never occur in a vacuum. Great change and transformation come from teams, not individual dictate. When organizations are presented with new opportunities or threats, the best companies form multi-disciplinary teams that can assess the situation from a variety of perspectives. No doubt that a finance professional will have a different perspective than a salesperson. Isn’t that the point?

My suggestion for creating new teams is to bring folks together from all disciplines as well as different levels of experience. In your office as well as your hotels, creative ideas are not restricted to tenured team members. Often the most insightful ideas come from our newest teammates. Furthermore, insightful ideas often come from folks with the most immediate access to our customers – housekeepers, front desk associates. Do not discriminate!

Once a listening team has been designated, charge it with finding new opportunities or avenues. Equally important, do not appoint the most senior member as chair. Create opportunities for younger members to gain leadership experience. Let discussions flow freely and recuse yourself if necessary. At the end of the day, leaders must make final decisions, but they must be informed by thoughtful teams and careful analysis. They must keep an open mind to change and innovation.

Our job as leaders is not necessarily to have all the great ideas, but rather to recognize new opportunities or threats, seek solutions from your broad ecosystem, and unleash the coordinated power of your organization to capitalize on the situation. Open your ears, share responsibility and prepare for success.

Newport Hospitality Group

Founded in 1991, Newport Hospitality Group, Inc. (NHG) is a leading hotel management company specializing in select and full-service hotels. They operate more than 50 hotels across the United States. Their diverse portfolio includes independent boutique hotels and top brands such as Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt, Wyndham, Choice, and IHG. NHG takes pride in delivering superior owner returns, exceptional guest experiences, and rewarding hospitality careers. Services include new hotel development and acquisitions, local market sales, revenue management, purchasing, and capital renovation.

For more information about NHG, please visit nhghotels.com or get in touch at (757) 221-0100.