Front Desk

Take Risks, But Make Them Calculated

“We don't hire leaders in this industry,” said Laurence Geller during his opening keynote address at the Midwest Lodging Investors Summit in Chicago earlier this week. He made the point there's a clear distinction between managers and leaders, and lodging is lacking in the latter. He's probably right, but there were several leaders on display at MLIS who impressed me, including the always candid CEO of Strategic Hotels & Resorts.

Later on the same stage was Mark Laport, who's created a Marriott-like culture at Concord Hospitality. He talked about the nine construction projects his company has underway during a time when most can't finance or won't dare chance a new build.

There was Bill DeForrest, head of Lane Hospitality and former head of IHG's owners' association, admitting with stark candor his buying blunders from 2006 and 2007. His honesty was refreshing (and funny), but his lesson learned was more important: “We've got to be more data driven and find reasons not to make some of these deals.”

Taking chances — whether it be building when no one else is, or passing on a deal everyone else is making, is how to get ahead. Just ask Bruce White, the founder and CEO of White Lodging, who was presented with Lodging Hospitality's Game Changer Award on Wednesday.

“The reason we've been able to grow,” he said, “is because we've taken enormous risks.”

The latest is already paying off, thanks to the well timed $1.7 billion portfolio sale of 100 hotels to RLJ in 2006. The proceeds helped fund what White says is now about a half a billion dollars of product being developed a year, including the massive 1,005-room JW Marriott that has exceeded expectations after opening last year in Indianapolis.

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