Culture Factor 2.0

A Struggling Economy, the Hotel Industry and a Pandemic are no Match for this COO that is Focused on Culture

Episode Summary

Rich Tuckwell-Skuda is the Chief Operating Officer at Platinum Companies. He's out to help revolutionize the hotel sector with everything he does. And his effectiveness in a struggling industry is nothing short of miraculous. His superpower may be in recognizing the diverse and unique strengths of his talent pool. Or perhaps it is the respect he bestows upon every employee regardless of role. Nevertheless, Rich has some definite opinions on company culture and how it has served him as the best strategy a company can deploy.

Episode Notes

http://www.companytribes.com

https://www.linkedin.com/in/richtuckwell/

Episode Transcription

Speaker 1:
Welcome to The Culture Factor where we talk to founders and influential leaders about company culture. We share stories from the C-suite that help executives engage their business from the inside and create a map to transform their culture. Because the truth is, culture eats strategy for breakfast. 

Holly Shannon:
I want to thank our listeners for joining The Culture Factor, and ask that you subscribe, rate and consider leaving a review. We'd love to hear who you'd like to listen to next. And a thank you to our sponsor, Company Tribes. They have an app and a virtual experience to help keep your tribe together during difficult times like now and business as usual. How strong is your company culture? Reach out to Paul at companytribes.com. 

Holly Shannon:
Rich Tuckwell-Skuda is the chief operating officer at Platinum Companies. He's out to help revolutionize the hotel sector with everything he does, and his effectiveness in a struggling industry is nothing short of miraculous. His super power may be in recognizing the diverse and unique strengths of his talent pool, or perhaps it is the respect he bestows upon every employee regardless of role. Nevertheless, Rich has some definite opinions on company culture and how it has served him as the best strategy a company can deploy. And today, we welcome him to The Culture Factor. Hi, Rich. 

Rich Tuckwell-Skuda:
Hello, lovely to be here. 

Holly Shannon:
We're really happy to have you, and we're co-hosting today with Paul Jones. Hello there. 

Paul Jones:
Hello Rich, it is always a pleasure to have you and chat with you. I'm so excited to get into it with you today. 

Rich Tuckwell-Skuda:
Likewise. Likewise. 

Paul Jones:
All right. Hey, tell the audience a little bit, in the hotel industry, occupancy is one of those metrics that really measure success. So can you give us a little bit of an overview on Platinum Co, the type of properties you guys have? And then if you could just dive into what your occupancy was when we went into COVID and where it's at now, I think that'll give us a great baseline as we start this conversation. 

Rich Tuckwell-Skuda:
Yeah, sure, no problem at all. So pre-COVID, we as a group, we have 13 mid-range select service hotels and a full-service. We're predominately Marriott, Hilton and IHGs, so we have a certain amount of control mechanisms inside the properties that come from brand. We also do all of our own digital marketing for all of the hotels internally using our agency. Before COVID, we were sitting about 75, 80% occupancy, so standard middle of the road. I joined the group in January and my purpose of coming into the company, I was brought in by the family office that owned the group, was to have a culture shift inside the business, look at maximizing our revenues, look at how we engage our employees, how we can do better and how we can obviously increase revenue and minimize costs. Then halfway through that process, COVID happened, so we [inaudible 00:03:04] pretty quickly.

Paul Jones:
You got your hands full. 

Rich Tuckwell-Skuda:
It was dumb. I mean, we went from 75, 80% occupancy to 6% occupancy every night like the rest of the world. But we had already at that point started analyzing the staffing structure and we knew that the hotels were fairly bloated with staff anyway, and there was going to need to be, I don't want to say a call, but there was going to need to be a realignment of team members and it was possibly that the GMs that were operating some of our properties, weren't really focusing on their talent pool and what they had internally and were just overstaffing it rather than paying attention. 

Rich Tuckwell-Skuda:
So COVID came in, that wiped out everything, and we had to term over 300 staff, which we'd already started doing before COVID, but COVID meant we lost another 200 that we weren't planning on. And so we went from being 400 to being 120 overnight, and that's a huge shift in mentality and culture. Everybody overnight became fearful of their jobs. Everybody knew a dozen people that had lost their jobs overnight and we were hemorrhaging staff as well. So the first thing we did was take the remaining staff aside and we did a big outreach to everybody saying, "Hey, where we are now is where we are going to be for the next three to six months, so don't worry because we have enough funds in the business to keep all the hotels open, operating at almost no occupancy. We've stockpiled enough cash to keep everybody's jobs. So now we need to focus on the fact that yes, COVID is a terrible, terrible incident in the world and it's nothing we've ever seen, but this is our chance to press reset." 

Rich Tuckwell-Skuda:
And actually we went into COVID knowing we were broken and we needed to go through COVID mending it, and we needed to come out on the other side fixed and stronger and more aligned and better equipped and a better company and a better team. And I was super lucky in the fact that I had 120 people that went, "Okay, cool. How do we do that then? You show us." We had no pushback. Everybody just went, "Okay, we trust you. If we're keeping the job, then we trust you and we'll do what we need to do." And we killed digital marketing for a couple of weeks. And then we started actively targeting FEMA, the National Guard. My sales and marketing director, my eCommerce director, is amazing, and she absolutely looked at the best ways to maximize our occupancy by doing government structures and government schemes. And by mid April we were back up to 50% of occupancy. May, we sat in the mid 50s. This month we are hitting 60s. 

Paul Jones:
That's amazing. 

Rich Tuckwell-Skuda:
I have four or five properties that have sat at 95% occupancy. I have an airport hotel that drags my average down because nobody is flying. But I would say half our group are over average occupancy for the month of 60%.

Holly Shannon:
That might improve in July because actually the airlines are starting to really fill up with flights. 

Rich Tuckwell-Skuda:
Yeah, absolutely. And one of my other properties is a resort property in Florida that we were super lucky because we were the only one that didn't close. We kept that property at 90, 100% occupancy pretty much through the entire of COVID, obviously adhering to social distancing and all of that stuff. And there was other properties around so that one's dropped a little bit because the market just is not there at the moment, because again, people can't fly in, it's a drive only market, it's the Panhandle so it's difficult to get that property when you don't have a big transient market moving. But yeah, we've come out the other side. And I say come out the other side of it, we're not out on the other side of COVID yet. We've still probably got at least another three to six months in it. But we are in a position where quite honestly, with everything we've done with the group and the team, we're in a position where we're financially better than we were now, at the occupancy we are now, than we were pre COVID. So we're recruiting now. We're bringing more people back. We'll have another 80 members of staff on board, reboarded, by probably the end of this month, beginning of next.

Holly Shannon:
Rich, That's amazing. I would actually want to dive in a little further now into your company culture, because obviously you've been working hand in hand with that smaller staff and now you're ramping back up. So one of the pieces of this is your open door policy and that you have always walked the walk company culture and why they probably brought you in to do that. So can you elaborate a little bit on how you deployed that over the past few months and how you're going to do that going into the months ahead.

Rich Tuckwell-Skuda:
Yeah, when I came into the company it was very siloed, so nobody really spoke to anybody, financials were kept inside finance, nobody really inside the business knew that, Hr stuck to HR. The hotels ran as independent entities with a regional that oversaw them and they sat inside their little boxes.

Rich Tuckwell-Skuda:
And the first thing I did when I came into the business was say, "Yeah, that's not going to work for me." So I did a tour of all of our properties. I met with every single person on site almost, housekeepers up, and said to everybody, "Here's my number, here's my email. I'm with the business, you have something that's a problem, obviously go the appropriate channel, but know that you can always reach me, know that you can always speak to me. I'll always listen. I'll always look. If you bring a problem to me or an issue I will always look at it for you. I won't just pop you off or delegate it to somebody else to do. And internally I now want you to all start monitoring each other. So I want you to look at and look after each other. And if you see somebody as struggling, if you see somebody is holding down, if you see somebody's work isn't up to scratch, you bring it to their attention as well as everybody else's and let's work as a team, not as an individual. Because actually the only way we can improve the organization and the only way we can move forward is if we are one unit, not 13 separate units and a corporate entity." 

Rich Tuckwell-Skuda:
And as I said, we looked into a couple of practices that were employed by some of our senior team, that didn't match what I believe is a good culture. And so those individuals were removed from the organization and that overnight has massively changed the way that people move around the organization. We have a very open culture. So not only me, everybody can approach me, but everybody will speak to our regionals. Our GMs will speak to the regionals and they'll speak to me. We now announce financial results for the group per individual property out to the individual property, right all the way down. So everybody knows the financial performance within the group now and why we make the decisions we make and why we do the things we do. And we make everybody accountable. And so we have a monthly meeting, we have a weekly meeting, the team members inside the hotels now have daily meetings. We call them huddles, but obviously they're not huddles anymore because we have to be six feet apart. So they're like socially distance huddles which is an odd way of doing things.

Paul Jones:
You could probably call those maybe just standings instead of huddles.

Rich Tuckwell-Skuda:
Yeah, arms length groupings.

Paul Jones:
Arms length groupings, exactly.

Rich Tuckwell-Skuda:
Gatherings in the same place. And everybody is encouraged to look at everything within the business. And it's really bizarre, after our last conversation, I have another... So I have quite a lot of these instances because the way we operate is quite unique inside hospitality and so people aren't used to being able to go straight to the COO with something. And I had a situation on Friday after we spoke where one of our maintenance engineers came to me and said, "Okay, I need to have a conversation with you about something. I had these two housekeepers come up to me, they're massively overworked, they can't cope, they don't want to speak to you because they're worried and he gave me all these stats, and I was like, "Hey, you leave it with me, I'm going to look at this now." And so I spend 20 minutes analyzing our HR and of course it wasn't the case because we have metrics in place to mean that people won't be overworked. 

Rich Tuckwell-Skuda:
So going back to the case without giving too much information away, because this is confidential, no, these people are not overworked. They haven't worked more than 45 hours a week for the last 12 weeks. They're not underpaid. They are actually two of the higher paid housekeepers within the entire company. They haven't worked seven days a week. They've worked five and a half days a week max. And they both signed up for that and actually have requested it. So I'm going to reach out to them. I'm going to find out why they're saying this. Because obviously there's something broken there and it's slightly concerning that they are the only two people in the organization that don't feel they can reach out to me. 

Rich Tuckwell-Skuda:
And so I contacted them and it's just a fatigue thing, and it turns out that they're tired. They normally work 35 hour weeks and they've signed up to do 10 hours more because they wanted to ensure that they were indispensable, which is lovely that they do that, but it has a knock on effect because these people aren't used to working 45 hours a week. And by just speaking to them, immediately the situation is diffused. We reached out to somebody else that we'd let go during COVID, brought them straight in, assigned 20 hours a week to them, and both housekeepers are now back down to 35 hours, which is actually what they're more comfortable doing. And immediately because of the culture within the business of somebody feeling that they can reach out to us immediately and have that conversation, we diffuse the situation and we ensure that we keep our team happy. 

Rich Tuckwell-Skuda:
What that also led to was me tasking HR with doing a salary comparison across all of our sectors. And we identified 20 members of staff in the group under that 120 that we feel should be paid more, so we gave instant pay raises. And 20 people got an email on Friday saying, "Hey, guess what? You're getting a dollar extra an hour now because we've just realized that you're probably under what we wanted to be paying you. You're still over what we should be paying you, but you were under where we pay everybody else so we're going to bring you up in line with everybody else." Good things happen by people feeling like they can speak to you and identifying those things. And so it's yet another case where we look at how much would it cost us in HR costs and recruitment costs to reemploy those two housekeepers or those 20 people, significantly more than just giving 20 people a slight pay increase and reaching out to two housekeepers and saying, "Hey, we hear your pain, what can we do about that? 

Holly Shannon:
What's interesting is you told them from the beginning that you want them to be part of your success. That they're part of the new team and you're showing that they... like financially, you not only gave them their job, they were not let go, but you're actually identifying that they're part of the success over these past three months and you want to make sure they're rewarded going forward. 

Rich Tuckwell-Skuda:
Absolutely. And one of the things, we're actually announcing it later on today to the entire company, so we are about to bring in a completely European, which has nothing to do with my accent, but just is something that I've done with every company I've ever had. We're about to bring in a completely European benefit system, which now means that we're increasing the entire company's holidays. It doesn't matter whatever level you are at the business, you automatically get 21 days paid holiday a year, you get 14 days paid sick leave, paternity, maternity leave, compassionate leave is all being brought in. And we're just bringing in a raft of new things to say, "Hey, we know that for the last three, four months, you've all worked your socks off to keep these doors open for us. We know you've gone above and beyond your call of duties for what we needed you to do. And now we're saying thank you." 

Rich Tuckwell-Skuda:
And everybody coming into the business now is going to get a completely different package to what we've been running on because we've identified that actually life has changed. Weeks are going to be longer. People are going to get more tired. And so you need to be able to take more leave and that can't affect your salary. I can't have housekeepers feeling like they can't take time off because they can't afford to not get paid. So now we're going to open it up to everybody else. It will cost the company around half a million dollars, but it is absolutely worth every penny of it. And we have saved so much money with all of the other cost savings that we've done and identifications and just by the general shift in culture that we can absolutely afford to do it. So we're just going to give something else back. 

Paul Jones:
I love that that point, Rich. And it seems to me that one of the first things you did is you brought in transparency into the company. So you decoupled this siloed organization, and by doing that, you've created the sense of team across all of your properties. And then at some point you've got to get information to be able to flow up into the executive suite. So it seems like that's what you've been working on now is how do I make everybody feel like they're on a team? And it seems to me like you've had to break this idea of role hierarchy inside of your business. The housekeepers are just as valuable as the executive team is. Everybody is getting the same paid time off. There is no role differentiation. Could you dive into how that has impacted your culture? I'm absolutely fascinated by that. 

Rich Tuckwell-Skuda:
They know it's coming, so we haven't announced what it's going to actually be. It gets announced this afternoon. But when we had the original consultation with the team and said, "Look, this is what we're going to do. How would that impact you?" When I came into the business, we had a 3.2 times churn per year on staff which is insane. Like we're talking about a hiring, losing and rehiring 900 members of staff a year. It's ridiculous. And we know that's because the culture was broken. We know that there wasn't enough investment in listening and so that's why I was brought in. And we already know that just with what we've done now, our churn is probably going to drop to 1.5 and we're fairly sure with the new incentives packages with the holiday... We're also bringing in a bonus structure that goes from housekeepers up. That means that so long as we hit various metrics, everybody gets rewarded with monthly bonuses and quarterly bonuses based on our success. And we are fairly sure that that will take us from the 3.2 times churn to an under 1% churn. 

Rich Tuckwell-Skuda:
My goal within the business is to have a culture that means that when you come into this business, you are part of a family and you stay. So the only time you should really leave this organization is when you retire. And in my previous company, I started the business myself, we had a business for 12 years. The same people that were there at the start of that, were there at the end of that when we sold the business and we were a huge business by the end of that. And our average tenure of staff was five years, and in a fast moving tech pace environment, that's good.

Rich Tuckwell-Skuda:
And so what I wanted to do with Platinum is ensure that we have that as well. I want an organization where my housekeepers feel as valued as the COO does. I want an organization where housekeepers, when their nieces and nephews say, "I want to go into hospitality," say, "Okay, the place to come is Platinum. They will train you. They will carry you through." I want families working for me where they feel that they are safe, valued, and that this is the best option for them as a group, because then if you inspire that culture within your business, you A have an immediate talent pool of people that are willing to learn and push and manage and monitor each other for your benefit as well as their own. But you also immediately kill that churn. I just think in hospitality, I think it's a trick we miss, to remember that we constantly say we are a family and it's a home from home and blah, blah, blah. And then we do nothing to encourage people to bring their actual families into the business and say, "Hey, I want you all. If there's 30 of you, come on, we'll staff a whole hotel. 

Paul Jones:
Right.

Holly Shannon:
You know, Rich, there's a lot of brands out there, a lot of hotel brands, having been in the industry myself, and there's a lot of brands that I think customers actually almost have a hard time differentiating one from the other. It's almost a little bit homogenized on certain levels and certain brands that are out there. What I find interesting is that you, from the inside out, you're differentiating your culture and your talent pool. You're treating them very differently than what is actually typical in the industry. Like you're saying we're a family business, community, everybody likes to say those things, but you're actually really creating that. And so I think in doing that, you're actually differentiating your brand. And I think that the people that work for you are going to be giving a very different product to your customers as they walk in the door. It's not going to be the same product. It might be the same price point as some of your competitors, but the product that the customer receives is going to be very different. And I've been on both sides of that fence, So I really understand what hospitality means. 

Holly Shannon:
So I guess what I'm getting at is that in differentiating your brand, it's going to be very interesting to see how your brand gets elevated amongst its competitors, that people are going to be like, "Yeah, but there's a real sense of family when I show up at that hotel. It feels different. The housekeeping speaks to me differently. The wait staff speaks to me differently. The GM speaks to me differently." Like you could feel it as a customer.

Rich Tuckwell-Skuda:
I honestly think housekeeping, it's getting back to something you said, Paul. It is, for me, housekeeping, waitstaff, front desk, they are all so much more important in our organization than our C-suite. I try and engage with guests as much as I can. I try and put things in place to ensure our guests have amazing times and our staff are very happy, but fundamentally I cannot hit... I mean, last night we had I think 700 rooms out last night. I can't hit 700 rooms full of guests in three states. The people that can do that for me are my housekeeping team, first thing in the morning, when they smile and say good morning, they clean those rooms and they clean them to a better higher standard without a doubt than I would because I mean, I've done every job inside of hotel. I pride myself on that, but I'm not a big fan of making beds. Sometimes I do it lackadaisically but I probably don't have the same eye for detail as somebody that does it all day. 

Rich Tuckwell-Skuda:
But it's that thing where they are the people that make the difference. They are the people that the guests see. They are the people. And I do not want housekeepers walking through a hallway with their head down, not looking at guests because they don't feel that they are the same level as a GM. I want housekeepers that walk down a hallway, smile at guests, greet them, ask them how their day is going, see if they can do anything for them, ask them how their stay has been. I want my housekeepers to recognize repeat guests and speak to them as if they are a part of our business, because those guests are a part of our business. We've had long-stay guests in two of our properties due to the tornado from FEMA. And those people have been on site three to four months. And if you look at our guest reviews, they will tell you that the overall feeling of family inside our properties is like nothing they've ever experienced before. 

Rich Tuckwell-Skuda:
It was just all part of building that brand And I think where that pays dividends is in the current climate when hotel management companies are closing and going under. We have daily, I am approached by other hotel companies saying, "Will you take on our properties, please?" So as a management company we only manage, at the moment, our own properties that we own and build. That was the other thing I was brought in to do, was open the outtake on third party properties. And absolutely our reputation is now starting to get out, that we are the place you bring your hotel if you've struggled with culture and revenue. And by putting it inside our collection, then actually you get a completely different engagement. 

Holly Shannon:
That's amazing.

Paul Jones:
So you came in, you aligned, you decoupled the siloed properties, you've created transparency, you've offered some great incentive packages to everybody. So you're creating this idea that hey, we're all on the same level. What are some of those other things that you've done? When you talk about a customer experience journey, obviously you want everybody to feel like they are saying hi and that they're treating the customer as part of that journey. What are some ways that you've done to help create an experience that's the same across the board at the level that you want it to be at?

Rich Tuckwell-Skuda:
So we run case studies on all of our hotels and all of our employees. So we're now doing active recognition through our ERP system. So we have weekly, monthly stories where we talk about somebody and about their life and we identify them across the group, not just their hotel. We already had a fairly decent recognition structure in place for recognizing monthly, quarterly employees of the year. And it sounds ridiculous to say this, one of the hardest decisions that we were faced with after we had just shed 300 staff was we had just awarded one of the people that was kept, employee of the year. And that came with a big cash bonus, it came with some stuff and HR said, "What do we do? We've just lost 300 staff. What message does it send if we now give one person a big bonus and say, thanks very much, you're employee of the year." And I said, "It sends the message that it doesn't matter. Whatever happens in this world, when we recognize somebody for excellence, we'll take the money out of our own pockets if we need to, to follow through on our promise of what they get for achieving that status." 

Rich Tuckwell-Skuda:
And we did, and we paid out and they got a big cake and it was again, a very socially distanced, awkward ceremony where we're taking pictures from... You can't even see the cake because they're that far away at that point. This is literally it's [inaudible 00:26:42] and we announced this award at the end of March. So it was literally the worst possible time and we still put out through the ERP system and we said to everybody, "Look, we get that you think this may be a bit strange that we've done this, and we've given this big bonus, but we need you to understand that it's not your fault we're in this position. And we made promises and we'll keep them." That constant recognition of cycling out case studies and cycling out people's stories and employees and where they are and what they're doing and how they are within the business and where promotions are happening. I think we enforce the team's idea that even in the worst of possible times, we will still continue to keep to our word of what we've promised them and vice versa, that we expect even in the worst times for them to keep to their word of what they promised us. 

Rich Tuckwell-Skuda:
I think we have an amazing environment to work within, both the property level and the corporate level and all mixed in between. And by constantly keeping that recognition, identifying and showing people that are rising stars in their business, I think it self-perpetuates because now people are saying, Oh, do you know this person is doing this? And do you know this? And we've recently taken somebody that came into the business and had a weird experience and ended up being a server instead of a GM. And we've recently given her her own property and we regularly cover staff because her property is absolutely just obliterating the previous GM's figures and facts. And that's because she feels invested in, she feels valued. 

Holly Shannon:
Yeah. I'm going to just jump to a conversation that we had previously. So I apologize segueing this, and maybe it's not an awkward segue, but you had spoken about your good human movement, and I want to make sure that I give you the opportunity to share that because I think it speaks a lot to the culture for sure.

Rich Tuckwell-Skuda:
So one of the things, I'm a bit of an eco bot really, and I hate waste, which I don't think is a bad thing. I always think people are going to judge me for that and then probably in a good way. And one of the things I identified is obviously we have a lot of hotels, so we do a lot of PIP, we do a lot of renovations, we have a lot of kitchens, we have a lot of bathrooms. And when I came into the business, I was kind of saying, "Okay, so what are we doing with soap? Obviously we have Hiltons and they have a system in place, but what do we do with the other properties?" "Oh, well we don't really do anything." "Okay, fine, let's go and find a soap recycling scheme. Let's get that in and let's start looking at minimizing all of that. So any soap wastage, any cleaning product wastage, needs to go to a source that can do something with that to help minimize that in other areas of the world or our country. 

Rich Tuckwell-Skuda:
Let's look at our food waste. What happens with our food waste? We have 13 kitchens, stuff is not going to get used. What do we do with that [inaudible 00:29:45]? So we basically said to each of the properties, "Right, we want you to identify charities within your local area, a food bank that needs that food, we want you to identify homeless shelters, we want you to identify good causes that need furniture and then every everything inside our property now that we are not going to use, that it's going to go to waste if we don't find somewhere else for it, needs to find a new home. We need you to find incentives inside your areas that we can have maximum effect without really it breaking the bank. And that's been achieved in certain ways by... One area, we donate 200 propane tanks a month which costs us a couple hundred dollars. But what that does mean is that is enough propane tanks for homeless people within the area to cook and to have hot food in their various different camps and wherever they're sleeping rough. They can keep warm in the winter, and that for me was a major good human incentive to be able to provide others. 

Rich Tuckwell-Skuda:
We donate huge amount of food waste now, and I say food waste, obviously you know what I mean by food waste. Stuff that is going out of date that we're not going to use. And when we closed down the kitchens, because obviously when COVID hit we closed down all of our kitchens, we donated every ounce of food, whether it was dry goods and could have been kept, we just donated everything to charities. Because we knew the COVID was going to really put hardship on our local communities. So we wanted to do the best thing we could do there. And then with the good humans thing, every time we do a renovation of a property, now what happens to the furniture... And again, this furniture is three, four years old and is industrial grade high quality furniture, so it's built to last. So we now offer all of that furniture out to the hotel staff first and it goes in order of lowest paid the highest paid. So the people on the lower end of our employment scale can get furniture completely free of charge. They can take what they want. We have big hotels, so we know that our average housekeeper, for instance, could refurnish a three bedroom condo just by taking furniture out that we are donating or throwing away. 

Rich Tuckwell-Skuda:
So it goes firstly to the internal staff, then it goes to our wider corporate staff, and then whatever's left is donated to charities that will reuse it for homelessness or people that are in lower income or people in need. And so we don't waste anything. So we recently replaced I think 120 bathrooms and even things like the marble from the tops of the old vanities were donated to charity to be reground into chopping boards and smaller work tops and units and to be reused. Because for us, or definitely for me, but for us as a business, knowing that we haven't wasted that, that that is going somewhere else and it has now got a new life with somebody who really needed it, I think just the karma points in that outweigh any financial losses.

Paul Jones:
Absolutely. What's cool about that is, I love the part when you were saying that when you guys turn over one of your hotels, you're giving the furniture away to employees, employees who are... I think that helps an employee think differently about their job, right? Like five years later, if they know, hey, I've got first dibs on this, they're going to take care of that property in a different way than if they didn't have that. So, wow, what a great way to create an idea of ownership, a mentality of ownership that your employees probably now have. 

Rich Tuckwell-Skuda:
Yeah. And actually I think as well, if I am an employee, and again, our furniture is not cheap, although we have mid-range hotels, we spend a huge amount... Our hotels are probably some of the best you'll find in their classes, and we've just refurbed a Hilton Garden Inn and the whole thing is Restoration Hardware furniture from top to bottom. So the thing is very, very expensive. And the furniture that we're donating is thousands of dollars worth of stuff. And you're right, I think an employee looks at that and says, "Actually, I know we've got a PIP coming in three years and that stuff's going, I'm going to really look after that now because I want first dibs on that. 

Paul Jones:
Right. 

Rich Tuckwell-Skuda:
We have enough to go around. Our average properties is... and again, it's really bizarre. You think that that would create a bun fight, like you'd have everybody diving in. You really don't. It's bizarre. We sent out this spreadsheet for Hilton Garden Inn to the team and said, "Right, this is everything, there's like 100 mirrors, there's 100 vanities, there's 100 this, there's 100 that, there's showers, there's all this bedroom furniture, there's all this lounge furniture." And we just expected like three or four people just to put their name against 40 things and we said be sensible. And they don't, they have the conversation in the break room amongst them, who needs what most, and then they share it accordingly. 

Holly Shannon:
That's so nice. 

Rich Tuckwell-Skuda:
It creates such an amazing vibe and I think it helps the team members bond with each other because they know everybody is helping everybody and nobody is just in it for themselves. And so I think by proxy, not only do you become a good human, you automatically create kind of like a ripple of that where everybody else just wants to be that much better to everybody around them. And it's amazing, I've been a fan of it for a long time. So just to put it into practice here where it's made such an amazing difference, and again, we have another PIP coming up shortly and everybody's like, "Cool, okay, so we're going to do the same thing then. Absolutely."

Holly Shannon:
That's great. Rich, let me ask you something, when we spoke you spoke about how you support your leadership team. So as we go into the close of this podcast, I was hopeful that you could share a story of how you source in your leaders and how you support them. And I'm asking that question because you're starting to grow. So people are going to want to know that.

Rich Tuckwell-Skuda:
So I'm a huge fan of inward promotion. I think we have an amazing talent pool within our businesses and I always like to inner promote wherever we can. I try and bring in, when we look at sourcing leadership, I try and bring in from groups with similar ethos' and from similar divisions. I think at a corporate level, it's easy to go out, and especially in the current climate there are thousands of amazing people looking for work, so I don't doubt it's going to be very easy to source amazing people. But by looking to bring in people that are already within the culture, already have the values that we are instilling inside our business, we can ensure that continues to grow. Our corporate team is very focused. 

Rich Tuckwell-Skuda:
So we have a monthly meeting with heads of department, which again, is something that's quite unusual, but we have everybody, so from facilities to construction because obviously we build hotels. We have a team head on all of those calls and all of those meetings. And again, we actively ask across, okay, so we're looking for this within this side of the business. Does anybody have a contact who we think matches what we're looking for when we're recruiting out? Let's involve different departments in that. So we don't just have housekeeping recruited by GMs, we have other departments come in because we want to make sure that those values are being instilled across all levels. And again, that seems to mean that we get an amazing recruitment structure for new hires.

Holly Shannon:
Can you share with us the story when you were having breakfast one morning, how that came into play? 

Rich Tuckwell-Skuda:
Yeah, sure. So I was having breakfast in one of our properties one morning and I was chatting to a server, which is the lady that I hinted about earlier, and we were just engaging really. And I love talking to everybody. I want everybody in the business to feel like they can have an open conversation with me. And I said to her, "What made you do this?" And she said, "Well I used to be a GM before you." And I was like, "Really, and now you're serving coffee. I'm confused. How did that happen?" And she told me this story, the fact that the previous GM, or it was that the current GM at that point, had felt that she'd abandoned us by moving to be a GM of a different property. And that hadn't worked out, she hadn't liked the environment there so she wanted to come back to us. She came back and he was punishing her by leaving her in this lower server's role, which is bizarre. You just can't make this stuff up. And was making her work off her penance as it were. And I said, "That's fine." 

Rich Tuckwell-Skuda:
So I checked her record, we checked that everything she told me was true, and so I promoted her immediately to interim GM, gave her one of my properties and said, "Right, knock yourself out and fire the GM at that property immediately." It was just the worst possible direction of duty I can think, is to take somebody who is significantly qualified, has worked for your business for a number of years, has proven loyalty, couldn't excel because there was no place for them to excel to. And so when they go and try and make that path somewhere else, and it just doesn't feel right and they come back to you, to put them in a position where they are suffering financially and you are not utilizing that talent inside the business is shameful. And we kind of made a bit of a thing about that internally and just said, "Look, this will not be tolerated. Like if we find anybody else anywhere in the business doing this, that is what we do. We support growth, we support people that support us and it won't be tolerated." And that in itself had a massive shift overnight. And it's really bizarre. She's doing amazing things with that property, it's significantly more profitable than it was before she went into it. And to think that we had somebody serving coffee for four months that should never have been in that position. It just baffles me.

Holly Shannon:
That really speaks to company culture. I'm sure there was a ripple effect from that as well. Right?

Rich Tuckwell-Skuda:
Surprisingly yes. Yeah, absolutely. And immediately people of all levels feel so much more valued. Experience matters and they know that. You can never have your business in a position where one person has the ability to create that situation. It just cannot be. And if you are within a business where you have enabled that, then shame on you. That rests solely with the C-suite and the senior team there, you should be able to identify everybody in your organization. And yeah, I don't profess to know 120 people's names. I wish I did. I really wish I could do that. And when we're at 300, absolutely. But what I can say is to any C-suite person, "If you are walking around one of your properties and you do not engage with every employee, then shame on you because you are not finding out who you've got and you are relying on one person who's managing that property to give you the information you need to be profitable. And that is open to manipulation, should we say? And you need to make sure that you're regularly policing that."

Paul Jones:
You know, there's a lean principle called "go a gemba" and go to gemba means rather than learning about the problem in the upchain, go to gemba means to go in, look and see. And I think it's applied to processes, but you've applied that to people. You've got to go to your properties, you've got to see your properties, you've got to see the people inside of your properties. I think when we first chatted on the phone you were sharing an experience with your marketing team and using the same mentality of going and seeing and experiencing it for yourself. 

Rich Tuckwell-Skuda:
Yeah. Nobody within the organization should tell you that they have a problem if they haven't been on side the property. So their marketing team is a classic example. Don't tell me you don't understand why occupancy and revenue is down when you've never even been to the property. I don't run businesses where the C-suits sit in an ivory tower and never go on site and get their hands dirty. I expect everybody to go onsite. I expect everybody to understand what we are marketing, what we have, what the issues are. We have amazing properties. And when I came into the business, I was given this list of, this is why we're at 75, 80% of property and 90% of the property's this, the property's that, and you go around and you go, "This is nonsense. You've just never even been to the property have you? You don't even know what you're marketing. You don't even know there's this massive shopping center opposite it and you don't do any marketing for it. That would probably explain why we're there." 

Rich Tuckwell-Skuda:
So, that's been adjusted and again, unfortunately due to COVID, we lost a lot of our sales and marketing team and we're recruiting new and now, and that emphasis is being put in at the very start. You are expected to travel. You are expected to go on these properties at least once a quarter. I'm expecting you to touch base with GMs. I'm expecting you to have monthly meetings remotely with them to understand where you are and what's going on and what events are happening. And it's important that you utilize that property to ensure you're marketing correctly. 

Paul Jones:
Great. This has been fantastic. 

Holly Shannon:
Yeah, thank you, Rich.

Rich Tuckwell-Skuda:
One tries. 

Paul Jones:
I'm excited to check in with you again a year from now to see this momentum that you're building. I've learned a lot about how to lead a positive culture and appreciate you coming on. 

Rich Tuckwell-Skuda:
It's been an absolute pleasure guys, and I'm always open for anybody to connect. Obviously I'm guessing you'll smash my LinkedIn on there somewhere. So anybody that's listening that wants to connect and have a conversation, I'm more than happy to. I'm not one of these people that think that I need to keep this to myself because that's my competitive edge. I think if we were all doing this as businesses, we would have such a nicer industry to work in and such a better world to live in, that I'm cool to share.

Holly Shannon:
That's great. Thank you rich. I love leaving on that note. You're cool to share. 

Rich Tuckwell-Skuda:
Thank you so much guys. Thank you. 

Paul Jones:
Thanks a lot.