Mr. Van

Revenue Management

Finding and Promoting Revenue Management Talent Within Your Organization

Hidden Revenue Managers

By Steve Van, President & CEO, Prism Hotels

Do you have a catering assistant whose first question each morning is Did we sell out? or What was our occupancy and ADR last night? What about a front office associate who is so hungry to earn the perfect sell incentive that every time she works the 3:00 to 11:00 shift and the hotel has just a few rooms left to sell, you can count on the fact that you are going to end up with a perfect sell? If so, you may have just found your next revenue manager!

As hotel owners and operators, we are all cognizant of the value of outstanding revenue management. We've all seen the way that revenue management has evolved-and continues to evolve-and the way that even a single gifted and passionate revenue manager can fill rooms and get you and your property over the top.

At the other end of the spectrum, we have all been in the painful position when that seat in our hotel is empty. Talk about missed opportunities and lost profits! Sure, it's not the end of the world; task force services are available, your General Manager can make a few reactive tweaks here and there, and sales can continue to book business. But all of these solutions are not really solutions at all, they are temporary fixes-stopgaps, at best. And none of them holds a candle to having that position filled with the right person - that gifted and motivated revenue manager that can be a true difference-maker.

The trick is finding that right person. To be honest, I find it more than a little surprising that we don't do a better job of that. The processes we have in place to find, train, hire and retain great revenue management talent have not caught up to the priority we place on the position. We all know by now how important revenue management is-but, all too often, we don't act like it.

That more-talk-than-action dynamic even extends to the education and training of future revenue management professionals. Think about this surprising tidbit for a minute: despite the fact that this is known to be a critical, maybe even essential position within the organization, many hotel schools don't even require revenue management courses. Sure, some offer them, but many times revenue management is just included within another subject. It's treated like an afterthought! That stands in stark contrast to other core disciplines like finance and marketing, two or more courses of which are required for graduation. Since the emergence of revenue management as a true field of specialty in the 1990s, and the evolution from just managing rooms to maximizing total hotel profitability, the preferred skillset of the future revenue manager has gotten much clearer.

Revenue management is a fascinating discipline; doing the job well means going beyond the known necessities of leadership, analytical, technical and communication skills. The revenue manager of tomorrow is one who can figure things out, and who is hungry and agile. Great revenue managers need to be able to think on their feet, manage stress, consistently demonstrate a high EQ, work collaboratively and take calculated risks. Ideally, you want the head of your revenue management team to be creative, and (while it might sound like a contradiction) someone who is both proactive and responsive to fluctuations in daily inventory and shifting market demands. Ultimately, you want someone in the revenue management seat who thinks like the owner of the hotel.

Talent Search

Here's the good news, revenue management talent is out there. The revenue management professionals in the director and above positions are working and are (for the most part) very good at their jobs. To attract revenue management leaders from this relatively limited pool of talent, however, you will likely have to put together an appealing salary and benefits package. When it comes to revenue management, it's still a seller's market out there. The best revenue management professionals are in high demand, and they expect their priorities to be addressed. While every hire is different, as a rule, they are looking for flexibility with respect to their work-life demands, they want hotel owners and operators to be willing (or at least open) to explore the idea of working remotely, and-last, but certainly not least-they expect to be compensated at a level commensurate with their talent.

For entry level positions, however, the situation is a little different. Instead of working with a fairly small pool of talent, owners and hotel managers need to hone a keen eye for potential talent. They also need to educate associates on the discipline of revenue management, and to work hard to cultivate current associates that possess and demonstrate the traits of a good revenue manager. Here's the surprising secret to finding revenue management talent in your own organization: the same strengths and skillsets that makes a great revenue manager can be found in other professionals throughout your hotel and across virtually any discipline.

If you're me, you don't have to look very far to see proof of that principle in action. In fact, you don't have to look further than Prism's own VP of Revenue Optimization, Doll Ogden. She started out with us working at the front desk, and was soon promoted into an assistant catering position. You remember my point earlier about the employee asking good questions and showing an interest in the financial nuts and bolts of your property? Well this was that employee personified. She was the one asking on a daily basis about occupancy and ADR, and wondering aloud if the hotel sold out the previous night. Her interest and her obvious talent were luckily recognized by the Director of Sales and Marketing, and she was initially promoted to the position of Reservations Manager.

The rest, as they say, is history. Just to be clear, this wasn't an isolated incident. Within our portfolio, we have a total of four revenue management superstars that came through the position of catering assistant, two from sales, and one promoted from group coordinator. And that doesn't even account for the several others who began their hotel careers at the front office and made an impression.

In-House Potential

Looking within the sales and catering departments for potential revenue management associates can prove to be especially rewarding. Sales associates tend to be hungry to close the sale, they often have great communication skills, and they tend to be very creative. Recruits from the sales department also come with another invaluable asset, deep market and competitor knowledge.

Catering associates often possess similar attributes, and the catering department is another rich source of potential revenue management professionals. Understanding the nuances of food and beverage pricing, becoming adept at upselling, and familiarizing yourself with the meeting space management skills of a catering manager are all skills that are critical to a revenue manager. Many of the same strategies, tactics and perspectives that skilled catering associates display on an everyday basis translate very well to the world of revenue management.

Whether it's food and beverage or rooms and inventory, a skillset that involves space management and a sophisticated grasp of pricing and sales is invaluable in the world of holistic hotel revenue management-with its focus on profiting on all areas of the asset.

With profit maximization continuing to become an increasingly important component of overall hotel revenue management, it's also clear that the world of finance is another opportunity for a talent pool of future revenue managers. Owners and managers should be on the lookout for those finance associates who consistently demonstrate excellent communication skills and a solid understanding of how to balance between the needs of hotel guests and the profit bottom line for the hotel. These individuals will likely already possess many of the analytical, detail-oriented and tech-friendly attributes that a good revenue manager needs. Why reinvent the wheel?

The front office is another obvious resource for bringing in new revenue management talent. In fact, many of today's revenue managers started as front office or night audit associates. Since they are the "in the day for the day" optimizers, revenue optimization is an obvious career path. Revenue management-friendly skills that are learned and cultivated at the front office also include stress management, great communications skills, flexibility and agility, the ability to manage rates and daily inventory, and a knack for working independently and figuring things out as you go.

Today's work force wants to know that their work and input is valued. What better way than to recognize their talents, explain to them the why behind what they do, and engage them in a job opportunity that is both challenging and rewarding than by giving them the opportunity to pursue a career in revenue management.

Since revenue management is a relatively new and still-evolving discipline, it lacks the dedicated curriculum and the focused and formal training and education found in most schools. That makes it even more important that owners and operators remain on the constant lookout for revenue management talent-and should be prepared to seize it when it arises. These are just a few examples and what to keep that keen eye out for when looking for revenue management talent within your own organization. Stay on the constant look-put for this talent and nurture it when it's found. Your next generation of revenue superstars could be hiding in a department you haven't even thought to look. What are you waiting for? Go find them!

Steve Van, President and CEO of Prism Hotels & Resorts founded in 1983, continues to lead the company on its mission to have The Most Satisfied Owners. A prominent speaker and sought-after expert in the hospitality industry, Mr. Van has focused his teams’ efforts on going from Good to Great in operational excellence. Mr. Van currently serves on a number of industry boards including the Hilton Doubletree Hotel Owner’s Advisory Council and served on the Starwood Hotels Owner’s Advisory Council for creation of Aloft Hotels. Mr. Van is also the co-founder of the Texas Lyceum Association. Mr. Van was the youngest Director of NATO’s US arm, the Atlantic Treaty Assembly. Mr. Van can be contacted at 214-257-1011 or steve.van@prismhotels.com Extended Bio...

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