As a part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan To Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Sloan F. Dean III.
Sloan Dean joined Remington Hotels in January 2018 as Chief Operating Officer and was promoted to CEO & President in December 2019. Prior to leading Remington Hotels, Dean was the Vice President of Revenue Optimization and later, SVP of Underwriting & Revenue Optimization at Ashford Inc. Additional experience includes Vice President of Business Development & Acquisitions and Vice President of Sales & Marketing at Interstate Hotels & Resorts; Senior Vice President of Revenue & Market Strategy at Alliance Hospitality Management and Senior Vice President of Revenue & Market Strategy at Alliance Hospitality Management. Dean’s experience also includes roles at Noble Investment Group, InterContinental Hotels Group and Oliver Wyman. Remington currently manages 87 hotels in 26 states with annual revenues over $1B.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I like many people fell into the hotel business after starting my career in management consulting. I loved it so much that I’ve never left. The hospitality business gets in your blood if you love people and you love travel. I was named CEO in December 2019. One could say I have a knack for timing…
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
I don’t know if is funny, but I was visiting one of our hotels in the Bay area and I was utterly exhausted from a week of travels. Last minute, I invited the executive team of the hotel to join me for lunch upon arrival. I was in jeans and was very casual (and tired). I found that a down to earth, casual lunch where I simply answered questions goes further in motivating and building rapport than any strategy session or P&L review. I subsequently always make sure I have lunch or a simple sit down with every management team when I visit a hotel. It’s my first and last priority. Being authentic, approachable and transparent are crucial qualities of any leader that want to not only lead but to inspire.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
I read a lot of non-fiction. Malcolm Gladwell, Michael Lewis, Jim Collins, Simon Sinek, and Dan Ariely are some of my favorite authors. However, the most impactful book in the past five years has been The Power of TED by David Emerald. The book is very simple but hit on a key point that I struggled with routinely…being in “drama triangle as an achiever.” The persecutor, victim and rescuer examples really opened my eyes to many unproductive relationships I had in the workplace. Ultimately, if you want “change,” then change yourself.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
To be the best hotel management company in North America. The best for our associates, for our guests and for our owners. Not the biggest, the best. “Where Passionate People Thrive” embodies who we are. We are not for everyone and the “Thrive” part represents for a long period of time.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
Life is all about people. The same is true in business. If you make a lot of money, but leave people in your wake, then what have you really achieved? Leadership is to “lead” not to simply “achieve.”
Thank you for all that. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
I have three boys that are 7, 5 and 4. I have had to juggle working from home and the constant distractions of high energy boys. I find maintaining a strict schedule and time discipline has never been more important.
Can you share a few of the biggest work related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Travel is the hardest hit business vertical, period. The job losses in leisure and hospitality dwarf other segments. At the height of the crisis in April, 93% of our workforce was furloughed. No other challenge of this crisis comes close to knowing that I have thousands of people on unemployment. One day at a time…progress, not perfection. I now have ~17% of my workforce working, and I want stop until it is a majority. Daily focus on improving revenues and profitability so we can get people back to work. The job is not about P&Ls and STR reports anymore. It’s about how many people did we bring back this week, this month.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
- Daily communication: Life is fluid and iterative. I host a daily 9 a.m. stand up with my team and weekly webcast with all associates active and furloughed.
- Transparency: People can handle bad news but they can’t handle lies or surprises.
- Share your own vulnerability: Where I’ve had a really hard day, I’ve shared it with my team and family. No one is superman in these times. This has brought us all to our knees one day or another.
Obviously we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
- Operating costs will be lower for hotels so more hotels can survive at lower occupancy levels. Daily housekeeping will be a thing of the past.
- Innovation and technology adoption will be accelerated. Mobile key contactless entry will be become the future for hotels. We partner with OpenKey.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
Permanently, I’m not smart enough to assume. For the near and midterm, large groups and conventions will be limited to no existent. I hope that following a vaccine this business will thrive in 2022 and beyond, but who fully knows.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy?
Remington will grow because of the fall out in hotel management from this. A lot of our competitors did not protect owner cash positions fast enough; thus, many managers will be fired in the coming 12 months. Also, a lot of smaller and regional hotel managers will not survive. There will be consolidation in hotel management, and we will be one of the firms that benefit.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
Ask, what can I learn from this? This is a PhD in survival business strategy and tactics. The strongest steel is forged in the hottest fire. Make sure you are seeing the positive because this too shall pass at some point.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Progress NOT Perfection.
How can our readers further follow your work?