Over the last couple of years, I have had the opportunity to travel as a hospitality consultant. This was an unexpected shift and one where frankly, I did not know what to expect. My career, spanning over the last 25+ years, has allowed for great fulfillment as I have been lucky enough to be mentored by some of the best hotel operators in the industry. As a result of changes both professional and personal, I found myself wondering what Next looked like. It did not take long to answer the question. I was fortunate to receive a couple of unique opportunities. One would have consisted of a stand-alone property that, from a timing perspective offered no appeal. The other one allowed me to go to a new environment with a mandate to offer stability in an unstable environment.
I began what has been an interesting and intriguing stint as a Hospitality Consultant. I have remained challenged in a number of unpredictable projects that strengthened a mindset to improve and pivot. A few things became clear as I worked to navigate thru new hotels with a staff that was curious, confused (about the circumstances), and hopeful towards new beginnings. During my tenure as a Hospitality Consultant, I have engaged in a number of conversations from people curious about what life in this type of position really looks like. There are some obvious benefits that many are quick to point out. You get to travel, experience new communities, and work for a short period of time before wrapping up and moving on. I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that this experience has allowed me to see and experience parts of the country previously unknown to me. Each one of my conversations with professionals who want to travel for a living is designed to provide a full consideration of what to expect.
There are some awesome reasons to do it and yes, there are a few things to consider before embarking on this life. Before you pack your bags for an adventurous trip across the country, take note of some of the realities you will face. This is in no way to discourage you from taking the plunge. I do believe that you will find a quality of life that sparks a new excitement within your spirit. However, it is critical to fully recognize what you are about to embark upon as you balance the pros and cons of traveling full time.You will be away for an indefinite period of time. At first glance, this is the first step of a real venture outside of our normal day-to-day. Be prepared for those moments where you will see pictures on social media of events you miss back home. There will be periods where you may miss family events or special moments only captured by video. You will miss community events that you were a part of and this will spark several memories. This description is not designed to be a downer. No, it is a reality that must be compared to those places and events in your new city that you otherwise might never have gotten to experience. For me, it is a necessary price to pay to remain in the NOW.
You are walking into an unknown environment. You are replacing someone who has had an impact on lives for a period of time. No matter the reason for their departure, people have developed habits and become attached to a routine that has suddenly stopped. How you address and handle this will set the tone towards any forward progress you and the team are able to make. The best approach is one where patience and progression are based on a positive presence. Your first priority is to serve as a calming influence while recognizing the challenges and steps that must follow. Further, your presence represents change and for some, that is difficult. Yes, change was and is necessary in this situation but look before leaping. People are going to have questions and wonder if perhaps they are next. The example you set is critical towards guiding the team, especially in the first few days and weeks. Set your expectations but do so based on the balance of both your experience and that of the particular hotel. Each project is unique and our ability to recognize what is going on around us is critical towards the necessary next steps. You might be a change agent but be sure to recognize the impact of your decisions. Many clients tell us to bring stability and structure while we are there. It is critical to recognize the needs of the client and the staff. There is a happy medium and this requires diplomacy of an experienced operator. Some of what you put into place will not be fully realized until long after you are gone. You are setting the hotel up for success and this is your lasting legacy. We never know how long the assignment will last. My average has been 2 1/2 months although the last two spanned over 5 months. During these times, you are preparing the team for a permanent change. Your leadership is crucial towards preparing the hotel for long-term success. This is what places you in such a unique situation. You are the right person at the right time.
You are a consultant but not a babysitter. No, I am not referring to overseeing a child care facility. You have a job to do and that is to operate the hotel as if you are the permanent choice. You are not there to simply take up space and tour the particular city. You are a representative of the client, the staff, your company, and most importantly yourself. Carry yourself in a manner such that the client will ask you to handle other projects moving forward. This is a small world and all of us are connected in some fashion. As an example, a lot of us are at least 2nd connections on LinkedIn. What that means is we have one mutual connection separating us from one another. Our reputations will follow us long after the assignment is completed. You are in a value add situation towards moving the hotel forward by your skills, experience, and passion. Use the time wisely and recognize why you are here in the first place; To provide leadership!
You have an important job and quite a number of people are depending on your expertise. Your client needs to follow a clear due diligence towards identifying a permanent choice. They need to know their interests are represented while going thru this process. There is an expiration date for your services on a particular assignment so don’t needlessly waste time or put off until tomorrow. Your presence can create an invaluable impact and that is what sets you apart from others. While some may only see the walls of their hotel, your circle of influence has crossed into a new and exciting territory. Enjoy your new surroundings. Learn about and become involved in your community. My exposure into this culture has provided a new and growth oriented appreciation of experiences I might not have had under other circumstances.
Enjoy the experience. It can be quite rewarding and beneficial in your journey. In my time on the road, I have had the opportunity to enjoy numerous college and professional sporting events, cool concerts, presidential libraries, festivals, city-wide extravaganzas, and so much more. I have gained new contacts, established life changing friendships, and gotten to travel to some awesome cool cities throughout the US. I have enjoyed time in places such as
Round Rock, TX
San Antonio, TX
Asbury Park, NJ
Each place has captured a piece of my heart which will forever remain in my spirit. While North Carolina has and will always be home, I have witnessed first hand why people make these particular communities their home. I would not trade this experience for anything as it has guided me towards continued growth and development. There is a lot to do and see outside of your hotel room. Capture of the essence of the sights and sounds of what each community has to offer. Take advantage of the opportunity to learn, grow, and become a part of a network of professionals. You will have a chance to be a part of something greater than yourself and capture it from an evolving lens. Use this time to define who you are becoming as you reflect on where you started. Sure, there are aspects that may seem difficult. However, any setbacks I have experienced pale in comparison to the worthwhile exposure I have had in each of the 7 cities listed above.