When Purpose & Culture Are in Alignment

This is our annual owners and developers issue. And, as always, we ranked the top owners and developers based on the surveys submitted to Hotel Business. If you missed your chance to be on this list, you have another one: Go to hotelbusiness.com and fill out a survey for our annual Green Book, which publishes in December. We’ll send out e-blasts and post on social media to remind you, as we always do, as the time draws closer.

In addition to this issue’s ranked list, we also profile five of the companies who place on our list: Atma Hotel Group (p. 16), True North Hotel Group (p. 18), AWH Partners (p. 27) and Sandpiper Hospitality (p. 28), as well as our cover story, Strand Hospitality Services (p. 32), which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Hey, Strand is in good company with Woodstock and a man on the moon.

While the focus of our survey and, in part, our profiles speaks to the numbers we’re all interested in—how many rooms, how many properties, how much is in the pipeline, etc.—it’s the stories of the companies, their origins, philosophies, cultures that speak to their success and give some color to the black-and-white chart we run in this issue, and the many we print in the Green Book. The hotel industry is one very much focused on data—as it should be—but, at the same time, is one focused on people because, after all, it is the hospitality industry. How many times have you heard that? Said that? And “people” doesn’t just translate to guests or coworkers. No, in hospitality, it goes beyond the front door and beyond the boardroom, and into the community at large. In fact, here’s the first definition that popped up when I Googled the word: the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors or strangers.

Hotel Business recently held a roundtable in Columbus, OH, hosted and sponsored by one of the companies on our annual list: Rockbridge. The roundtable was held in conjunction with Rockbridge RTRX, an annual event with the tagline “Inspire curiosity. Ignite conversation. Enable meaningful action.” Impactful words, for sure. And ones that promote purpose. The annual event attracts business leaders and visionaries from across various industries and disciplines who convene to connect with each other, advance optimism and accelerate funding for innovative cancer research. And Rockbridge has raised more than $4 million since 2011.

But rather than discuss topics that are important, yes, but more typical at Hotel Business roundtable events—economic climate, brand segmentation, market health—Rockbridge chose for this roundtable to focus on social enterprise and philanthropy, a topic that aligns with its RTRX initiative.

An impressive group of industry leaders, including Rockbridge’s CEO Jim Merkel, Vesta’s Rick Takach, Davidson’s John Belden and HVMG’s Robert Cole, among other executives from Hilton, Aimbridge, Interstate, Hyatt and Wells Fargo, gathered to share insight and stories about hospitality—helpfulness, generosity, warmth—and how it is critical to the very fabric of their respective organizations and to the people who staff them. And these days, it goes beyond raising money and writing a check. That’s old-school “giving back.” The evolution of social conscience, so to speak, has changed the way companies do business. It’s not just business, it’s responsible business. And that means getting involved. And better yet, the roundtable participants all agree: Working together on a social cause not only helps that cause and those people, it helps define your company and its culture.

I’ll sum it up by ending with what I think is, perhaps, my favorite quote from the executive roundtable. And the credit goes to Jon Witter at Hilton: “We have talked about purpose. We have talked about culture. All of those things are critical to building an engaged workforce that is willing to bring their whole selves to work every day to deliver more than just a product, but to deliver the types of experiences we all talk about.”