Shared Vision

Ramiah addressing the corporate team of Auromatrix Hotels, Appollo Finance, Aloft Starwood & Sparsa Hotels General Managers and Finance Heads… Chennai, 14 Mar 2014

In a recent presentation made out to the corporate team of Auromatrix Hotels, Appollo Finance and Aloft Starwood and Sparsa Hotel General Managers and Financial Controllers, my theme revolved around the fact that a “Shared Vision enhances Profitability”.
  • Bill Marriott famously once said “I want our associates to know that there really is a guy named Marriott who cares for them“. He understood that if his team were to share his vision, they needed to know of his existence as a caring, understanding and existing personality!
  • Ricardo Semler who pioneered the Semco story and articulated his success in empowering and creating a common vision believed in a decentralized, participatory style and has let his employees set their own hours, wages, even choose their own IT. In 1990, the Brazilian economy went into a severe downturn, forcing many companies to declare bankruptcy. Workers at Semco agreed to wage cuts, providing their share of profits was increased to 39%, management salaries were cut by 40% and employees were given the right to approve every item of expenditure. How has he fared? Semco’s revenues have jumped from $35 million to $212 million in NINE years, with an annual growth rate of 40% and the firm grew from several hundred employees to 3,000—with employee turnover of about 1 percent.
  • Henry Ford said once that “if everyone moves forward together, then success takes care of itself

Beyond a point, an employees primary need has less to do with money, and more to do with how he’s treated and how valued he feels. If you are losing good people, look to their immediate supervisor/manager. Findings through a survey by Marcus Buckingham & Curt Coffman revealed that “People leave Managers, not Companies.

Is a shared vision possible? If so, then is it also possible that senior resources who hold the reins of a hotel company re-look at these phrases?

  • The General Manager… a) must take ownership… b) is the owner of the P&L… c) is a stake-holder.
  • The Owner / Investor / Promoter must… a) have empathy… b) understand operational needs… c) care for the operational team

With the Auromatrix Corporate Team, Apollo Finance & Aloft and Sparsa Hotel GMs/FCs

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What makes Training Exciting?

The answer is simple… Think on your feet as a trainer and don’t be afraid to challenge the edges. While trainers teach participants to think out of the box, how often do we do this ourselves?

Our recently concluded workshop on “Guest Delighted” had a participant who happened to be a state level bodybuilder. During one of the sessions on sharing success stories, he was called upon to talk about the ‘blood, sweat & tears’ behind building one’s body for a championship. Apart from the rigorous training schedules, the kind of diet and abstinence of food, as well as zero water consumption during the competition day had the audience gasping in empathy. At the end of this short talk, we asked him if he would be comfortable to do a live demo as he would at a competition. He happily removed his shirt and did a demo for all amidst loud applause from all. Not only did this make him feel good, the participants had a good break from the regular training style and yet learnt something during this short breaker!

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Trainers Humbled

Enhancing DSE Effectiveness 23-24 Aug 2013

Hospitality Paradigm recently concluded two sets of two day training programs for the Distributor Sales Executives (DSE) of United Spirits Limited (USL) in Bangalore and Hubli, Karnataka, India.

We underwent a most humbling experience – when at the close, the DSE’s one by one came up to summarize their learning and experiences over the past two days. Most had never been to a training program and they not only learnt a lot and enjoyed whilst learning; but they also appreciated the opportunity to come in front and speak several times during the program… a first for many of them and an opportunity for them to overcome stage fear. They made two significant observations about us: Firstly, they noticed how passionate we were in ensuring discipline, cleanliness and neatness of the banquet hall set-up… how we detailed issues with the hotel team and insisted on perfection without compromising at any stage. Secondly, they felt very involved as we made them feel comfortable and allowed them to speak in the vernacular; we appreciated their good points instead of pointing out their faults; we tried to relate to their issues and also tried to further understand their business. In short, we connected with them in spite of the fact that language may have been a challenge.

Every once in a while during training, comes a magical moment… this was one of them and it made us aglow with the warmth of purpose in what we do. If we can impact people in this manner, I think we are achieving our objective!

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Need to upgrade?

In our recent public workshop on Managerial Effectiveness, a point came up on how it is important that management spends on upgrading equipment constantly. When reminded that upgrades take a lot out of a capex budget, the young managers still insisted that they need to keep with the times and newer hotels springing up constantly around them. One of them gave an example of how the airport transfer fleet need to be upgraded every year. But is this really practical? Can a hotel change it’s cars frequently? What about innovative ways to offer guest exciting experiences along with the pick up and ensuring that the costs are covered or minimal?

Guests arriving by air for stays at The Little Nell in Aspen, Colorado, can ask to be met at the airport by pro cyclist Scott Kasin, who provides them with a bike jersey, a water bottle and their own top-of-the-line Orbea road bike. Kasin then guides them along for an incredibly scenic transfer to the hotel—and high-altitude workout.

Dig around and you’ll find that hotels can offer a lot more than just a limo when it comes to helping you make a grand entrance—options can include helicopter, boat, motorbike…even horse-drawn carriage. In India, we have so many novel transportation options like a auto-rickshaw, a cycle rickshaw, etc… assuming the hotel is close by of course!

A chauffeur can greet Milestone Hotel guests upon arrival at London’s Heathrow Airport, take their luggage and escort them to the Heathrow Express for a 15-minute ride to Paddington station. That’s where the transfer gets unusual: At the station, they are met by a butler who escorts them to a horse-drawn carriage for a royal gallop through London’s streets to the hotel, which overlooks Kensington Palace and Hyde Park. To be treated like royalty, expect to be billed like royalty: The cost for this carriage is $1,275.

If a horse and carriage is too staid, too slow or too expensive, you can opt for a ride on the back of one of Virgin’s Limobikes for the trip from airport to city. Drivers of its fleet of Yamaha FJR 1300s can zip around London’s famous traffic jams. Passengers are fitted with protective clothing (and even a blanket on cold days) and a helmet that allows the passenger to speak with the driver and make phone calls while in transit. There’s even room for a carry-on bag. And you don’t have to fly Virgin Atlantic to get the service. The price for the ride from Heathrow to central London runs about $125.

At the Maldives resort of Dhoni Island, guests arrive at their private island sanctuary after a five-hour sail aboard a handcrafted Maldivian dhoni, where a personal butler will pop open a bottle of bubbly to ease any lingering jet lag.

And if all this still seems too pedestrian, try something truly unique: flying to Oman’s Six Senses Zighy Bay on a paraglider (with a guide)—a James Bond–like entrance that will make you forget there was ever such a thing as a hotel minivan.

It’s not about only spending and investing money always… sometimes one can even make money on innovative and creative options… one has to keep ahead of the competition and not necessarily the times.

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Ethics – 4th Accountancy Concept

Ramiah Daniels and Vice Chairman C.A. Ravindranath with the 106th Batch of ICAI – Bangalore Chapter

Hospitality Paradigm recently delivered a talk to Chartered Accountants on what I call the 4th concept of Accountancy – “The Code of Ethics” for the 106th Batch of General Management and Communication Skills on 01st September 2012 at Bangalore Branch, ICAI.

Accountancy outlines the three concepts of accounting, “Money Measurement Concept”, “Separate Entity Concept” and “Dual Entity Concept”, but what puts this together to make a trustworthy and reliable Finance Manager is eventually his or her code of ethics. Having superior accounting skills without honesty is akin to a rotten fruit in a beautiful skin!

What was also nice to see is that all Chartered Accountants since the past few years, in order to achieve certification must compulsorily attend the 15 day in-house program which hones their behavioural skills in terms of public speaking, presentation, neuro linguistic skills, time management, goal setting, team building & interpersonal skills – thereby improving their personality before they set out into their first job.

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It’s not about the Money, Honey

Just concluded a one day program on “Enhancing Promoter Effectiveness” for ‘Promoters’ of United Spirits Limited (USL) in Bangalore… Promoters are tertiary employees who are placed in outlets to promote their brands over other brands displayed in the mall or retail outlet.

It was interesting to see how the promoters unanimously felt that the customers they engaged with and tried to convert were targets for achieving their revenue budgets. Nothing wrong in this principally as the bottom line of all business is profitability. However, what if we try another approach?… try to service the customer empathically and watch how he helps you with your revenue targets and conversions in the long run?

Doing role plays showing this principle of caring for the guest’s needs before ours, we were able to make them understand that if we become guest-centric, then the guest will help us achieve our targets, rather than if we remain totally revenue driven and oblivious to the guest / customer.

It was heartening to see that the Promoters were able to grasp this concept quickly enough and they have pledged to be more customer oriented than earlier. I am sure that they will see improvements in their conversions in the future.

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“Dar ke Aage Jeet Hai”

Hospitality Paradigm just concluded a two-day program with The Leela, Goa on “Managerial Effectiveness” and I could not but reminisce during the final presentation by the participants, on Tagore’s poem learnt during my schooldays.

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high… Where knowledge is free… Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls… Where words come out from the depth of truth… Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection… Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit… Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action… Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake… Rabindranath Tagore (1900 A.D.)

Amongst the participants, all of whom were at various managerial levels, Ajith Kumar – Horticulture Executive stood out with a different profile, perhaps one that spoke of his hard work and dedication to The Leela, Goa rather than his educational qualifications. During the presentation at the end of the two day program in front of their departmental heads and General Manager, many of the participants spoke on specific learnings over the past two days and how they planned to implement the same in their daily work. Ajith Kumar came up at the end and spoke purely from the heart…

Describing his humble background and his growth from being the Chairman’s butler to Horticulture Executive, Ajith confessed that he was extremely anxious when he was nominated for this program by his manager. He tried to squirm out of it, saying that he would not fit in, that training was not for a hands-on person like him and that he would rather be working on his 75 acres of landscaped gardens at The Leela Goa than sitting in a classroom for two days. His manager would hear none of this and insisted that he attend this program. When he sat in on the first day, he hoped that he would be ignored, but to his dismay he realized that he would have to participate in the interactive program and group exercises. Ajith said that he gradually began to feel comfortable thanks to our coaxing and encouragement and he soon began sharing experiences at his workplace, spoke words of respect about a recently deceased colleague and even participated in an exercise on talent management, identifying his subordinate as the high performer for this assessment exercise.

Thanking us – the trainers for helping him get over his fears, as well as his manager for nominating him for this program, Ajith said proudly that he now felt he was no less than anyone else and that he would be most glad and willing to attend similar trainings in the future.

We recieved  many positive compliments from the participants during this session. See However the greatest compliment was from Ajith Kumar and a trainer can experience no better joy than to know that he has contributed in making a participant believe in the importance of training!

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Strategic Role of HR in the Hospitality Field

Strategic Role of HR in the Hospitality Field

We conducted a workshop on 19th/20th Feb 2012 on “The Strategic Role of HR in Hotels” for the HR and key Line Managers of Zuri Hotels. This program was facilitated by Mr. D. R. Nagaraj an eminent trainer and assisted by Rajan Parulekar. Some of the key learning’s were as follows:

HR needs to add Value: HR needs to ask a fundamental question: why do organizations need us? In a fiercely competitive market, companies need to keep costs under control. The concept of core competency has led to outsourcing of facilities and administration functions. The day is not far off when HR may also get outsourced if it does not add value. Currently tasks like recruitment are already being handled by manpower consultants.

Traditional Approach: One of the main problems is that HR executives work on a cut & paste approach. They presume that what has worked in other countries or companies can work equally well by just adopting those practices. But they do not realize that each company has unique challenges and the one-size -fits-all solution may be an inappropriate proposition.

Difference between Talent and Competency: In order to move from a reactive to a proactive role, HR has to think creatively. If talented executives leave the organization, leading to a high attrition; it is not only because of the opportunities outside, but also because of the strengths without. An important difference between talent and competency is that talent is inborn but competency can be developed. Talented people do not need training as much as they need opportunity.

Concern for Guest: If one looks at his job as a means to one’s livelihood then he says I work to get paid. But an exceptional performance happens only from the guest’s perspective. One must think of the guest while doing a job. Think of a housewife adding salt while preparing a dish. As a mother she thinks of the children to make it tasty but also thinks of her husband to keep his BP under control. In a similar manner if the team members think of their guests while discharging their duties they can produce superlative performances.

Ever increasing demands of Customers: The changing profiles of customers like Gen Y have much more expectations than Gen X. Today’s customers are gadget savvy. Customer service is also changing. Remember the iphone? Steve Jobs wanted to have a gadget having only one button to switch it ON and OFF, and users must not be troubled with complicated menus. In a similar vein, everything should look simple in front. The customer, internal or external wants a one-stop solution for most things todays.

Importance of Mentoring: Managers are necessary but leaders are essential. They think differently and act differently. Leaders contribute in a significant way. Leaders have followers but managers have subordinates. In leadership even failure is success, achievement happens because of risk.

Mentoring is to put the other person on the right path. For mentees the Guru is one; whereas for mentors there are different mentees, each of them unique people.

If you have one acre of land, there are three approaches to cultivate it: In a traditional approach you grow paddy you get 100% returns in the short term and 0% in the long term. In a conceptual approach you grow coconuts you get 50:50 returns in the short and the long term. With a spiritual approach if you establish a school you get 0% in short term but 100% in the long term.

 HR needs to make a paradigm shift from a traditional approach of looking at the short-term to a combination of the traditional, conceptual and also the spiritual approaches so as to reap not only the short-term benefits but also the long-term advantage not only for the organization but also for the employees.

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Seminar: “I did it OUR way”

Recently we conducted a program for a 5 star hotel in New Delhi on Teamwork. The most interesting part of the program was the interaction between the participants who had never really sat together for an entire day. Speaking about their issues made them feel liberated and the feedback shared with us was very encouraging.

At times, unless we are watchful, the daily grind at work comes in the way of creating bonds and fostering positive work relationships, especially when cocooned in departments. The big picture is by-passed and employees tend to play the blame game instead of the same game!

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Feel my bottom-line

Just concluded a two day public seminar on Contextual Selling with participants having sales experience from 1 – 15 years in selling heavy to light machines, real estate & hospitality, high-end cables etc.

Surprising to note that after all these years of selling, sales persons are unaware of the concepts of bottom line and top line. Some of the answers on top line were “management”, “high quality”, “top down approach” & “booker” while their take on bottom line ranged from “customer” to “low quality” to “bottom up approach” & “guest”. In an audience of 19 participants, not one came close to the concept of revenue and profits!

Organizations must seriously ensure their sales personnel understand the basic concepts of their financial statement as then only will they sell with a better understanding of their contribution to the organization.

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