Chinese Checkers, Starbucks and B & B’s: a winning strategy

I like to play Chinese Checkers with my 6 year old grandson, Brody.  That’s the game where you move your marbles across the board and try to be the first one to get them into the spaces on the other side.  You can move a marble one hole at a time, or, you can set up strings of “jumps” to move one marble quite a distance.  My longest is 6 jumps.  But Brody seldom jumps.  He prefers to move his red marbles one at a time…keeping them altogether and only makes a single jump if the move still keeps his group of red marbles together.

When processing this strategy, I realize that it is not important for Brody to win.  He prefers to keep them all together…in one group…and not having a single marble stray from the group.  It’s really hard to lose to him…sometimes I have to jump backwards to lose ground to let him win.  But he loves to play.  He is focused less on winning (an outcome) …and more focused on the pleasure he receives by being methodical and orderly (his strategy).

Katie Couric recently interviewed Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, to discuss the company’s new strategy of retail products in the grocery store.  When queried about the 50% drop in stock price this past year, Mr. Schultz made a statement that explained the failure… “We saw our growth as our strategy…not as an outcome” .  Rather than focusing on their core values of customer service and quality coffee products, they strived only for growth and expanded the company too quickly.  They have since closed over 600 of their less productive stores to get back to their values.

Both of the above stories of Chinese Checkers and Starbucks reveals an important lesson for us innkeepers.  We often focus on the growth of our bottom line (important…but it is an OUTCOME, not a strategy).  The strategy to achieve the desired outcome is to stay focused on those core values that are important to our guests.  Our guests seek the full experience of the stay.  It’s not just a room with a bed anymore.

If a guest is a history nut and asks for directions to the nearby battlefield…listen and think:  “What can I do to go BEYOND the question to make his experience more complete?”  Rather than just giving directions, do you have the National Park Service brochure and map to give him?  Did you buy the park’s Audio CD for your guests to take on an auto tour?  (He won’t buy one for a one-time visit…but YOU can use it dozens of times!).  Do you have a 10% discount coupon for their gift shop?  Can you loan him your digital camera to take a photo of his family at the park to use on your blog page or to print out a copy for their refrigerator door?

We can make our hospitality and concierge services a major part of the full experience by thinking BEYOND their immediate needs and anticipating those extras that make the experience complete and memorable.

As innkeepers, we are all good at this stuff.  We just need to make sure we stay focused on our hospitality strengths as a strategy to get to the outcome we all desire.    Scott


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