How to Build a Bench

One of my best recession readiness tips is to ask yourself the what-if questions. What if your top sales person inherits a private island and disappears into the sunset? What if you are required to reduce expenses by 4% across the board (as my home state of Georgia has been for next year)? What if a competitor hotel poaches 25% of your team members before Christmas?

In their "2019 US Travel and Hospitality Outlook," Deloitte reported that job openings across the leisure and hospitality sector swelled to 1,139,000 in 2018. That's a lot of open positions to fill, and you know how long it takes to fill a position in your hotel. 

A. Loooooong. Time.

I'm a planner, and planning for the sales staffing what-ifs in your hotel will protect your top line revenue. If you read no further, read this tip:

Make a list of at least one potential replacement for every member of your team.

Making the list doesn't mean you hate your team. It doesn't mean you have a scarcity mindset. It just means that you hope the best for the people you work for and want them to win the lottery, so you're going to make a plan for when they do.

Identifying External Bench Strength

You can find bench strength outside of your hotel by, well, getting outside your hotel. 

  • Do a site tour at another hotel once every two weeks, both in and outside your immediate area.

  • Attend industry events once a month, and connect with people who impress you.

  • Meet the sales people at your sister hotels, particularly hotels in a different chain scale. And don't ignore the admin! The sales coordinator at a focus service hotel is very likely working harder than your full-service senior sales manager and could be a great candidate for your next opening.

Also, don't sleep on Glassdoor. I don't mean that you will find candidates there, but you need to know two things:

  1. What does Glassdoor list as the average salary for each of the positions on your team? How close is your budgeted salary to that average?

  2. What do former and current employees say about working at your hotel? Are there any kernels of wisdom in there that you can use?

Pro tip: It doesn't matter if this stuff is accurate on Glassdoor. Don't get mad about it. What matters is that you know and are prepared for what a candidate will find when researching you online. 

Identifying Internal Bench Strength

If one account, or even a small handful of accounts, make up more than 25% of your business, it's important that more than one person on your team own that relationship. Build internal bench strength by broadening the hotel's relationship with key accounts

  • Include a junior seller in client meetings and sites.

  • Encourage your Event Services Manager to work directly with the client rather than running everything through the Sales Manager.

  • Make sure your General Manager in included in regular account touch points.

Evaluate your deployment, even if no one is complaining about it. Keep your ear to the ground. Very senior teams may not complain because they feel like nothing will ever change, while junior teams may be afraid to raise concerns. And, always, people are afraid of confrontation, so they may be keeping their dissatisfaction to themselves. 

Make sure that individual goals match up to opportunity. Be fair. For example, if the association segment makes up 75% of your budget and past actualized business, the sellers deployed to association need to carry 75% of the goal. If your most junior seller is responsible for your biggest source of business, you are at risk. 

Consider switching up deployment to develop your team's skills.  The more well-rounded your team members are, the more able they will be to cover a different segment or size of business should the need arise.

  • Give the SMERF manager a corporate account to work.

  • Deploy an account to the EMM to work regardless of size of business.

  • Designate a catering referral goal for your BTSM.

Look around the hotel. It is often easier to train someone with hotel experience - any hotel experience - to be successful in hotel sales than it is to teach the hotel business to an experienced sales person from another industry. Identify conscientious, smart people in other departments.

What am I missing? Have you ever found a great candidate in an unusual way? 

To find out if your hotel is ready for a dip in demand, take the Recession Readiness Stress Test.