You were named CEO & president of Remington in December 2019. Three months later, the world was immersed in a global pandemic. How would you describe your first six months in your current job?
“Untraditional.” In all seriousness, I do not think anyone would have predicted what we’ve lived through over the past 4.5 months. The impact on our business has been monumental. I feel blessed to be in a position to lead and to help; however, the hardest part is the impact on our associates. It keeps me up at night that we still have 5,000 associates on furlough and the recovery is gradual. On a positive note, the pandemic has allowed various leaders I work with to grow and shine. The strongest steel is forged in the hottest fire.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned during the past six months?
Transparency and frequency of communication is everything in this crisis. Applies to Associates, Guests, Hotel Partners & Owners. People can handle bad news, but they cannot handle being misled or left in the dark.
I have learned from other company’s mistakes that I’ve observed ... I continue to see other operators 1) not react quickly enough; 2) not prepare for the pandemic to go on for 12-18 months; and 3) not communicate weekly with their furloughed associates.
So, the biggest lessons are:
• Speed matters.
• Plan for 2020 & 2021 now, don’t merely hope for a vaccine.
• Weekly communication with active, furlough & owners. It must be part of your culture DNA.
You have an extensive background in revenue management, which is somewhat rare for a CEO/president of a hotel company. How has that background helped you in your current role at Remington?
True Revenue Science at its heart is simply math and numbers. If you look at past pandemics and you looked at the numbers in China then Italy, by the first of March, it was inevitable that the US was headed to the same place but so many folks were in denial. Thus, Remington reacted faster to protect cash than anyone I’ve seen because we simply looked at the data.
I’m a behavioral economist at heart. All my favorite books are behavioral economic books. The application of math and economics to real life & business problems. I developed those skills while growing up in revenue management.
I don’t rely on years of intuition that I garnished while growing up in operations as many of my peers do. I was never a GM. Intuition can be helpful during normal times, but it can actually be a negative during black swan events. Leaders are fooled by their past experiences or circumstances. I rely on data and analysis. One of my two favorite sayings is “Correlation does not equal causation.”
I think my generational gap to other CEOs as well as untraditional background only helps set Remington apart from the pack.
The majority of Remington’s portfolio encompasses properties in the Ashford Inc. portfolio, but you are trying to add more portfolio diversity. How do you see the third-party management business evolving over the next 12 months?
When I became CEO, we managed for 3 owners. We now have 9 partners and growing. We will pick up another half dozen to ten third party deals over the next 12 months. By 2025, not counting M&A, I think we have a chance to become the second largest third-party manager (behind Aimbridge Hospitality) with a majority of our business being non-affiliated. Over 10 years, the sky’s the limit.
What role should the hotel industry play in the social justice movement that the world is currently experiencing?
Our workforce is already a very diverse representation of America; however, it is not diverse at the top or in certain key manager roles. We must continue to promote and lift minorities and women in hospitality. I’m not talking quotas but an active focus on having more racial and gender diversity at the top. Embracing local community programs as well as national partnerships through organizations, such as AH&LA with its ForWard conference, is essential.
The majority of the apprentices In Remington’s Apprentice Program are women and/or minorities.
What’s the key to recovery for the U.S. hotel industry?
• Cases trending down unlike what we are seeing now in most states because most consumers only hear the headlines and avoid travel.
• An effective & widespread vaccine to enable business travel & group business to come back.
• Schools to return to normal so parents can have a predictive schedule for business travel.
• Consumer Confidence to return, not only in the US but abroad.
• Businesses to remember that travel is essential for commerce. Zoom to not be the new norm.
• It will be a 4- to 5-year recovery. There are pockets of exceptions; however, we took the elevator down a 1000 story building, and we are taking the stairs back up.
What’s the one takeaway people should know about Sloan Dean?
That my number one priority in my career is to have Remington Hotels be the BEST Hotel Operator. Not the biggest, but the BEST. I’m very proud of the culture we have built at Remington as “the place where passionate people thrive.”
My favorite quote is “Great minds discuss ideas; Average minds discuss events; Small minds discuss people” by Eleanor Roosevelt. That’s a philosophy I’ve tried to bring to Remington.