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,



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!

From TX to TN

Being home for a week or two feels amazingly good. I love traveling but miss cooking in my own home. I am a decent cook, nope that is being too modest- I am good. Good as in most restaurants I leave thinking, I can do that at home- but would have to refill my own glass.

Our recent quick trip to TX for a friends wedding had the usual stresses- cramped leg space on flights, last minute choose your seats charges (when did that start?), and flight delays that have you running while praying you make your next flight. But we made it and enjoyed great Mexican food, local beer and the clean, friendly downtown of Abilene. I love unique event venues and The Mill was rustic, beautiful and perfect for our friends wedding. TX pics follow

On to Nashville TN, the following weekend for my oldest daughter’s 21st birthday. One of my sisters helped me chaperone, but really we wanted to just make sure my daughter and her friends got there safely and back. A fun road trip for sure. Now that I am older and wiser, lol, I would suggest for the more mature visitors that “day” downtown Nashville is more fun. Fun means easier parking, less crowds and more chances to sit down at the historic honky tonks or at the new restaurant & bars that the newer country stars seem to be opening by the minute.

Nights are a little more hectic, where the sidewalks of Broadway are packed. Side street venues are your friend then. Our new favorites this time? BB Kings, Bourban St. Blues in Printers Alley, Merchants Restaurant. Favorites we revisited? Wild Horse Saloon, Jack’s BBQ, Big Shots, Tequila Cowboy and George Jones Rooftop. Pics follow. I loved showing my sister around one of my favorite destinations and my daughter enjoyed walking her friends and boyfriend around as well. It is a downtown that is always ready to party.

Next? Biloxi in July. It’s gonna be hot y’all. Happy Travels!

Recent road stories

Been awhile but I actually am still traveling a bit. Just not as inspiring until recently, and upcoming travel has me stoked. Sometimes I get a little too “career talk motivational” when the truth is travel drives my creative side more. As much as task force work 4 years ago was tough on me, my family and friends – it also gave me distance and perspective. Time to think, and not just be in action mode.

For work, I have revisited some hotels in my region in the Dayton, OH and South Bend, IN. Changing markets and staffing requires an in person visual, to really assess any strategic changes to be made. I love looking at the market, the competition and the business environment. Change is constant, not being prepared for it can be devastating. I love the South Bend area and can see the attraction of the Notre Dame campus, the downtown canal area and new casino. The challenge is – so do hotel companies. There is a building boom there that seems to changing the entire market. Big challenge for the hotels that are not shiny and new.

Dayton, Ohio is also interesting as the different sides of town have distinct business potential and growth of construction is changing the city.

But my truly inspiring road trip of late? Being the navigator and passenger on a 10 hour drive to Fort Benning, GA with one of my sisters. And back. Yep, 10 hours in a car with her in high school might have meant fights of epic nature. But as we are older and more mature with kids that can drive us crazy – those 10 hours of sister therapy might have kept us insane. And I got to see one of my nephews enjoying the challenges of starting his military career. We both came back a little calmer, proud and confident that we are not horrible moms. We may even be good at, but our biggest critics aren’t old enough to appreciate it fully yet. And that is okay. We didn’t appreciate our mom fully at those ages either. But we got back home, ironically, on Mother’s Day. And we were missed.

Up ahead? 3 flights and 2 road trips for leisure in the next two months. And yeah – work trips to fit in there too. Who knows where my next blog will be from? Where are you going?

Happy Travels,