The question about who should lead the commercial effort has been a debate among hospitality professionals for a long time. Most hospitality leaders would agree that implementing Total Hotel Revenue Management has been more of a mythical destination than a reality, in part due to the territorial obstacles associated with merging the traditional sales, marketing, and revenue management roles into a singularly focused effort. But now the ultimate reset button, COVID-19, presents most organizations with a unique opportunity to build the organization that matches their vision, without the cost (and pain) associated with dismantling an existing team. The big question is: Who is the ideal commercial leader today and what is the most desirable career path an aspiring leader can take to get there?
The quick answers are: 1) It depends and 2) It depends. OK, I know - that isn't too helpful! Although, it reminds me of a similar question regarding the career path of a GM. Do the best GM's have a background in food & beverage, rooms, human resources, sales, finance or something else? The answer to that question depends on the demands associated with the operation they oversee.
The same holds true for the individual who is best served to lead the commercial strategy. If the property (or portfolio) is group-dependent, then someone with a deep knowledge of group sales could be a good choice. If it is leisure-transient focused, then someone with a strong background in marketing may be the ideal fit. An individual with a working knowledge of revenue management could be the logical choice in either case. OK, so how do we decide?
The considerations in each circumstance should include assessing the ability for the prospective commercial leader to:
- think strategically
- lead a team
- understand what drives both revenue and profitability for the operation
- cultivate a culture of excellence
- communicate effectively with stakeholders (including ownership)
- effectively deal with conflict
- make decisions in the face of ambiguity
- foster collaboration and buy-in
- remain objective
The best advice I can provide regarding a career path is to gain as much experience as you can in as many areas of hospitality as you can. It may take a bit longer to "get there", but the more balanced and well-rounded you are, the more effective you will be as a commercial leader. Oh yeah - and forget the demands of any specific role as you see them today as they are likely to be different tomorrow. Or, at the very least they will evolve. Your job therefore is to garner enough experience in as many areas as you can so that you can remain flexible in your career and draw upon that experience when you need it.
Enjoy the journey!