Expert’s Voice: What do Peter Pan and your hotel career have in common?

by | 17 Jan 2021 | Opinions, People

Learning how to do the numbers properly is a vital part of becoming a successful hotel manager – and growing as a person, argues David Lund, The Hotel Financial Coach.

“All children, except one, grow up” – Peter Pan

In the hotel business we don’t want to grow up either. That’s why so many people find our business so exciting and interesting and that’s why they stick around and work crazy days and super-long weeks. Why else would anyone want to do these things?

In my experience many of the people in hospitality who really excel in their careers came for a summer job and stayed a lifetime. That’s the unexpected magical spell that lands on you when you fall in love with the hotel business.

Falling in love is exciting and everything seems effortless and new. But what happens next?

Well, our summer of work has somehow turned into five years and we have gained a lot of experience. We have changed jobs three or four times, maybe even departments, and now we find ourselves in a management position. We like this because we’re engaged in what we do. We’re passionate about service and the people, both the customers and the colleagues.

However, there is the dark part of what we’re now tasked with – it’s the underbelly that we avoid at all costs. We avoid it because no one told us there was this part. And it scares us because it looks dangerous and unruly.

No one told us what to expect. They didn’t even explain what it was that they needed or how we were supposed to proceed. They just threw it at us and left us to fend for ourselves. Who does that? And why would they do that to us?

The numbers are the scary part and the reason no one tells us how to handle them is because they had to figure it out on their own so you should too. That’s the black eye that we gave ourselves.

If we’re lucky we find a mentor, someone to help us sort it out. If we don’t, we’re left to do the dog paddle in the deep end. The budget, the forecast, the payroll and the expenses land in our lap and we want to push back. Those people in accounting should be doing all this stuff. Why do they bother me? It’s numbers so it’s their job, right?

Wrong. It’s your job to be the master of your department’s financials and you need to turn your thinking around. Shift how you are looking at this situation. Change gears from seeing it as a drag to realising this is the biggest opportunity of your hospitality career so far.

Why is it a literal pot of gold waiting for you? There is an old saying that goes like this:

“There is a tide in the affairs of men [or women] when taken at the flood leads on to fortune, if omitted it leads to sorrow and misery. It is on such a full sea that we are now afloat.”

This is your time to shine. You are the one to clean up the mess that you have probably been left with. Take it all on and show your masters what you are made of.

Not only will you see it’s not so complicated and mysterious. You will gain a great and powerful understanding that will serve you well for a lifetime. Mastering your numbers and your understanding of the business strategy is the ticket to career prosperity. Without financial leadership skills you will not be satisfied, engaged or reach your potential. Don’t believe me? Listen to Susan Colantuono.

If you ignore this chance and blame others for the mess it will backfire. The financial piece is no different than the mess you inherited with service and your colleagues. Rewards in hospitality go to the doers not the victims. You are right when you say it’s a mess and you don’t have what you need to clean it up but you are wrong to wait for some miracle. It’s not coming. Get in there and dig and you will figure it out.

Get help. Find a lifeline. A friend, a colleague, a mentor. Look around your hotel and ask yourself, who has their stick together with the numbers. Who can speak with confidence at the department head meeting? Go find a way to get the help you need. Heck, even go visit your financial person/s.

Don’t let the disguised supernova opportunity pass you by. Be the one who wrestles it to the ground and grow up! There are lots of great things waiting for you on the other side.

This is an edited version of an article that appeared on Hotel Financial Coach.

David Lund
David Lund

The Hotel Financial Coach

David Lund is The Hotel Financial Coach, an international hospitality financial leadership pioneer. He has held positions as a regional financial controller, corporate director and hotel manager with Fairmont Hotels for over 30 years. He is also a speaker at many hospitality events and delivers financial leadership workshops to hoteliers in the industry.