Unfinished Business

How do you know when to make a change? I have always given the advice that no one should make a job / career change out of desperation if at all possible and I stand by that. I think it is possible and a goal to still be in good standing with your current employer while considering next steps.

And look at possibilities even when you are happy where you are. Why? Because your career is not just about being happy where you are, it is about being challenged to take the next step. Or revisiting something that you know wasn’t done to your satisfaction before. Or maybe making a change for your family. Either way, it is not taken lightly.

I had been in a regional role working with 18 hotels for a brand for almost 4 years. And it has been a great way to grow my experience and see if I could handle a multi hotel role. I did, and worked with some amazing colleagues in Operations and Sales. I was able to have a home office and schedule travel as needed to the hotels in my region as needed.

But – I started to miss the day to day operations of a hotel and working with one team on a daily basis. I wanted to have more time to directly work with clients and be able to leave the office at the office and have home be just home again. I thought about the times earlier in my career and which companies that I would enjoy working with again. And I made a change.

We had planned a weekend in Nashville a few weeks before this change occurred, and we would get back just before my first day of the new job. We had a great time of course, and explored a “new to us” part of Nashville – the Gulch. We visited new places like Peg Leg Porker, Hopsmith, The Row, Hattie B’s, Tailgate Brewery and Biscuit Love. And had great views from the rooftop bar at the Thompson Hotel. It was a great way to start my new job on Monday with a clear mind.

So – one week in and I think most of the log-ins and passwords have been set up. My online training has begun, and a plan is forming for more clients, more revenue and business that is well suited for the hotel. The first revenue meeting answered a lot of questions, and the staff has been super friendly. My office is starting to look like mine, and I love seeing the four legged guests walk by. ( Hotel is pet friendly and I have a few favorites already).

It is an adjustment but one I have made before. Happy staff, beautiful hotel, great business potential – all we have to do is exceed budget goals. Wish me luck!

Keep traveling,

Jill

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Is face to face networking dead?

Back in the day, ( yep, I am old enough to use that phrase) – a new hotel salesperson could gain valuable contacts, practice social skills and learn a lot when attending local business functions. The convention associations, chamber of commerce and other area functions were crucial to expanding your circle of colleagues in the industry and meeting other business contacts.

I loved them. Especially if you had a good partner to attend with, and keep you focused. There was usually good food, drinks and you would feel great about the business cards you had given out and received. Times are different, we have tools like LinkedIn, Facebook, etc., But does this replace actual human interaction? It is more time efficient, I get that but when you still want salespeople to get appointments and have face to face time with clients – how do they get that experience?

I hear people say they want to be more present, less on-line and more in real time – but given the chance, do you schedule a phone call or Skype instead of visiting a client’s office? Efficiency is good but losing the human touch can be bad. I love technology and wow, has it changed the hospitality business. We say we want for our guests to feel more loyal to us, while we come up with more ways to interact less with them. Our social media is all about connection and “tell us how we are doing” but when a guest wants to talk with a manager in person – how often do they get that experience?

So help me out- I would love some feedback either as a guest or someone who works in hospitality. Is networking in person still a valuable tool to gain business? Do you feel guest / client interaction is better due to advances in technology? As a traveler, do you like more interaction or less – and how much of that is face to face?

Looking forward to your responses, keep traveling,

Jill

Would love your feedback ( but only if it is good)

We live in an instant feedback world – we get new hairstyle, outfit, job etc and we post a picture anticipating all the positive comments we hope to get. If you work in hospitality, our hotels and restaurants base promotions, bonuses and raises on the feedback our services inspired. It is a very big deal, your opinion has never been so important before. In fact, I know I am not the only one who has been “threatened” by a bad review if we don’t do exactly as the client wants. But there are limits, and ideally – the mix of reviews ( if enough people respond) should give other consumers a fair visual of how good your business and staff is doing their jobs. People have done a lot of crazy things to get better reviews. Oh, the stories I could tell.

There are those times where you get defensive or even find the wrong information was given ( location of business, name of manager) but a lot of branded hotels and travel websites have strict guidelines for having a review removed. We tend to take the good reviews to heart and are naturally skeptical of any bad ones.

And when you are about to try a new restaurant, you likely check reviews too. And make judgements, we all do. That one bad day for a manager is relived every time the scores are discussed. Hopefully those of us in the hospitality industry realize that we are on both sides of the fence – and there is room for understanding and encouragement when we experience a lack in services we pay for. After all – tomorrow could be our next mistake and I fully believe in karma.

I would feel better about giving someone a good tip and compliment when they are obviously having a rough day – then I would to “blast” them on social media. But if there is poor service and poor attitude, I would likely email a manager or website for a business as a courtesy. I look at it as – I wish my experience was better and giving feedback on how it could have been better. You choose which way you want a review to go – do you intend to hurt a person or possibly impact a business for the better?

Okay, rant over. One request though, if you have read The Red Book by Jokima Hiller and myself – we really do want your feedback in the form of a review on Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble. Jackson has already begun his next journey and we would love to know what you thought of his first year in management. Did you enjoy it or did it remind you of some challenges you did not want to relive? Are you curious what happens next?

Until next time,

Jill

Torn between two worlds

I love the glossy bright world of working in hotels and traveling to cities, where I can explore downtown with numerous restaurants, shopping and architecture that is almost overwhelming. I don’t fear getting lost, I almost hope to – knowing that I will find something cool off the beaten path, unplanned. How each hotel has a different feel and look to their lobbies, and I can usually find what I love about each one.

But – there is nothing, Nothing- that beats unplugging from that life and coming “back home” to my in-laws farm, and the simple hospitality of Celina / Moss TN. I am different here, from the moment I see the cows in the field and have my morning coffee on the porch. I am still long enough to notice the hummingbirds that visit the bird feeders on the porch. I have nothing to do here but be still and drink in the scenery. I am thrilled at going to “town” and having a burger at a lunch counter that is busy with everyone in town. Bag of chips, can of coke and the best cheeseburger served on wax paper. An evening drive to the drive thru beer joint to pick up a cold six pack might be the end of the day and no more business is discussed.

My phone “works” here sometimes, but when it doesn’t – that is a good thing. I enjoy nature and not a list of things I fear I won’t get done. I pride myself on being super efficient, getting a lot done in a small amount of time. But here, I dream – I imagine a different life, not out of desperation but curiosity.

I love what I do, but there is more. Here, I imagine the “more”. I guess that is what having balance is all about. We should press forward with the goals we have, while being happy with what we have already accomplished.

I wake up early, excited to watch the sunrise from the porch with a cup of coffee and walking down the drive to see where the cows are. I imagine doing morning chores before checking my phone for email or text messages. I imagine writing more, less out of frustration and more out of inspiration.

I love the relaxed version of myself but I know it is temporary. I am naturally a little high energy, a little too focused on being more efficient. How can I get more done today, tomorrow, next week? My goal is to mix the two me’s, and get more Quality things done – not just quantity.

For each thing you do, are you checking items off on a list? Or does each thing matter and to whom? Is it something that challenges you and your skills? Is it relevant to your job, your goals or both?

This weekend will be about both, my first public book signing for the second book I have published with my writing partner. It takes our passion for hotels, and our imagination to create a story from real experiences. As long as I can write, both sides are represented well. And that is a quality goal I can achieve over and over.

Do your goals reflect your passion?

I recall a time where if someone asked what do I want to accomplish, I might have given a typical answer involving my family being happy, healthy and comfortable. And I do want that for them. But that was about them, not me. I think I am very comfortable now being honest in my mid-4O’s and saying exactly in detail what I want.

Which means when one if those goals happens, it is no surprise to anyone least of all me. I intend to reach those goals, some with my friends, some with my husband and some with my family. And some by myself with that stubborn independent streak I have in me. I have finally gotten to that point of life where my goals reflect my passion.

This week, I co-authored my second book with my writing partner and after 7 years, it is published. We had a lot of life changes in that time but never gave up. And yes, we will shamelessly self promote it when ever possible. No big book deal yet, we are keeping our day jobs ( but should anyone have a deal ready for us – we are all ears), but we are on Amazon and it is about hospitality in a more personal view. We dreamed of being writers, then we made it a goal – and we are writers. And I am passionate about it, as there are always stories to tell especially in our chosen field. Hospitality, hotel management, sales and training – these are not for the faint of heart. From the housekeeping to sales to revenue management, this ever changing business never lets you rest on what you already know. And I love that.

So when you are on Amazon ordering the next best sellers to add to your shelf – consider The Red Book by Jokima Hiller and Jill Woods. We would love to be your next favorite authors, and give you a very insightful look into the wonderful sometimes wacky world of hotels. If you like it, review it – we would love to hear any feedback. We already have ideas on what will happen to Jackson next, are you curious?

Can you take a hit? How many?

I should have known, expected it. I felt it in my gut something was off.

I read a tweet from Barbara Corcoran – “All phenomenal salespeople know how to take a hit.” It was twice in my Twitter feed in the past week. Not a coincidence. In hotel sales we live and die a little by our latest wins or losses. Some losses you see coming and can prepare your response. Some knock the wind out of you. I had one of each kind this week. Big ones. Not easily replaced.

When it happens, you go through all the phases. From who can be blamed, to second guessing your entire strategy, to the overwhelming feeling that you won’t recover. I told myself I could wallow in despair for the weekend but by Monday – I had to be ready to kick ass again. I wasn’t convinced but I said the words.

Today I drove the scenic route to visit my grandmother on my dad’s side in Nashville IN. It was our regular monthly visit to lunch, chat and maybe shop. I looked forward to the newly discovered drive that took me through Morgantown, then Bean Blossom to Nashville. Great way to clear my mind and enjoy a more leisurely pace. Nana is 2 weeks from her 94th birthday, and a little rain was not going to stop our lunch out. She had a new place in mind and I found a new shop during our walk back to the car. A small teak wood statue of an elephant from Bali tempted me there and I had to bring it home. Nana insisted on a small metal sculpture of an elephant that holds a tea light candle to go with it.

We had our usual talk after I took her back to her apartment- family, how we were raised, how we try to raise kids now. I never told her about my big bad week of work, I didn’t have to. But somehow she knew to remind me where I come from and that we are people that rise up to the challenge, that we calmly face whatever comes our way.

So, now I have to set the tone and be the elephant, not easily moved or distracted. Wallowing in despair time is over. Plus, who doesn’t love a good comeback story?

Annual honeymoon- Biloxi this time

Finally it was that special time of year where my husband and I get away from work, dogs, kids and the usual daily grind. We don’t plan much except the flight and hotel – as the goal is not to do much except sleep well, relax and do what we want when we want.

And we did. We stayed at Harrah’s Gulf Coast, enjoyed the pool and walked on the beach. We slept in and through the night ( I almost never sleep through the night), each morning later and later. We ordered breakfast at the poolside side bar and enjoyed a very friendly and helpful staff. It’s funny how one associate can set the tone for your vacation. Constance at Harrah’s did that for us from day 1, just by being nice and making suggestions. We got there Sunday and by Wednesday, we knew we would miss her the most. She was off Thursday and Friday and there was a difference in service. Still good, just different.

My oldest daughter had just came back from a cruise and we were catching up. She told me about the excursions they went on and the activities on the boat. But the best part? The staff on the cruise. She was most impressed how they would remember her name and greet her every time she saw them. How collectively they all worked together so their guests on the cruise felt welcome and it was genuine. They were from all different countries but all had the same goal.

You have heard this before, you can teach skill but not personality. Well, in hospitality – you have to hire people who are professional but above all, know how to put aside whatever is going on personally and be hospitable. Those people that guests can connect to, feel welcomed by and will overcome any challenges that happen. And your company has to have the traits that attract those kind of hospitality rock stars.

Your hotel can have the most basic of amenities, your staff makes the difference.

Okay, ready for some pictures?Biloxi has some great resorts, casinos and beachfront dining. Enjoy!