Article (February-2021)


Change or Challenge?

Editorial Team

Designation : -   Editorial

Organization : -  Business Manager HR Magazine


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Omkar Singh was the only son of his father who successfully ran a business of general finance dominating the market share in a class II city for last three decades. When his father got the feel that Omkar has no interest in carrying forward his legacy of general finance business, he decided to send him to higher studies in hotel management where Omkar's interests seem to have been. Omkar after completing his formal studies and internship in a renowned five star hotel, came back to his town and desired to start hotel business.

His father supported, invested money and built initially a 40-room budget hotel. Omkar with his ability and management skills made this hotel a reputed brand in no time. He employed his batch mates and close school friends in the management team. The workplace culture that slowly evolved was informal and flat. Every management team member, be it of F&B production, service, front office, Housekeeping, Sales or Admin/HR, committed their heart and soul in making the venture successful. Morning meetings were an occasion for all to meet, greet, put ideas, discuss and review the previous day's business achievements, complaints and appreciations of customers taken through feedback system, plan for the next   day and ideate to achieve team-initiated upward targets.

The decision making was shared-- everyone was consulted, participated and gave his/her inputs before finalizing any policy of the hotel. Being the CEO, Omkar was also closely handling finance. Neeraj, his school friend was General Manager (Operations), Madhu was heading Sales and Marketing, Preetam was heading Housekeeping, Wishwanathan was looking after F&B Production, while front office was handled by Mehul and F& B Service by Raj Mohan.

Neeraj and team can never forget their first New Year event, in which they conceived, planned, aggressively pushed in market and flawlessly executed which concluded in abundance appreciation, 100% occupancy of hotel and overbooking of banquet. All adorned the hat of sales persons to book seats and rooms for that event. Neeraj and Omkar, and Omkar's father were overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and level of commitment of management team. After finishing New Year party at around 2 am in night, the feeling of making the project successful was roaring and flowing from their eyes with tears. Everyone felt so tired that they did not eat anything and all slept on the chairs lying here and there and on floor of banquet.

In another incident, when hotel was booked for marriage event and guests were residing in rooms, front office got a call from a room around 4AM. The request was from one old lady who inquired about possibility of arranging Indian toilet as she was finding using European toilet uncomfortable. The staff on duty was taken aback. It was an unique request of a guest. No room in the hotel had Indian toilet. Staff apprised with the situation to Preetam, Housekeeping head. She was perplexed listening to kind of request but she asked the staff to give her ten minutes to resolve the issue. She immediately called one steward residing in bachelor hostel room which was having Indian toilet and instructed her to vacate the room for one hour, clean it well and keep ready for using the toilet by one lady guest. Housekeeping staff rushed to bachelor hostel room to set everything right to the standard of an elderly female guest. When it was done, she herself went to hotel, met the lady guest, apprised her with the alternate arrangement and requested her to come along. Preetam brought female guest to the bachelor hostel room, waited outside till she used toilet, again took her back to the hotel room and then came to her flat. The marriage party guests while checking out appreciated the staff and managers with overflowing emotions, about their service attitude with smile all the time to the extent of going beyond their call of duty. When this incident was shared with Omkar by Neeraj in next day's morning meeting, everybody welcomed Preetam with applause and Omkar ordered an evening party in appreciation and recognition of all staff and especially Preetam's efforts in making adding delight to guest experience in all situations. Enthusiasm, energy and elation of all were high.

The reason behind this level of oneness, ownership and commitment towards hotel was that Omkar took care of his team members of the highest level and treated them all like family members. All came to his city from far places just on the faith and trust of Omkar he earned while studying along with them in college/school and the reputation his father had earned in the city due to his ethical business practices. Within first year, in spite of reluctance from his father he further invested and constructed few flats for all managers and small bachelor hostel for employees to retain staff and give them all comfortable, secure and safe abode.

Within two years, Omkar hotel was numero-uno in the area and he started getting business from tour and travel agencies including group bookings. Hotel occupancy average hovered around 70-80% all the time.

While his hotel business was growing leaps and bounds, he was approached by one three-star brand hotel chain which was also managing many properties apart from their own. Omkar got attracted with brand name and decided to lease out the property to them for five years with their brand name. He did not discuss this with his team members before taking decision and communicated them after things reached final stage. Initially, all management team did not react to the arrangement but when property management company's HR, finance and sales team came to Omkar's hotel to audit the systems and processes and they started questioning the way team was working and sent detailed observations with directions to change the processes and system according to their way of working, it did not go well down the line.

Omkar forwarded the observation mail of the company to Neeraj with request to share with all and prepare themselves accordingly  as the next meeting was scheduled, next week with the MD of that company.

Neeraj after going through the observations and their proposal of change, observed that the new arrangement indicated   towards making things formal, documented, structured, process driven rather than result oriented with more control of the company than Omkar's management team. Their proposal of having their own general manager to take over the control of all affairs of the hotel made Neeraj upset. There was no mention of how Neeraj's position would be utilized under changed management system. He never imagined that he would have to see this day. When he studied the business plans projections, it seemed superfluous and imaginary as total business coming at present was only due to Omkar and his family's reputation in the city and their strong network. It was not coming due to any brand strength but only because of their name and the lessor company wanted to exploit this strength of Omkar and his father and capitalise it just by repackaging the processes and systems more professionally to match with national hospitality standards.

Next week when company's MD came to address the management team members, he said, "You should thank us for uplifting you to the national level by lending our brand equity to this property. Now your uniform will have our logo and not this present one. You will be governed by our systems, processes and directions. So the time is to forget what you have learnt and done so far, unlearn, and relearn the new things. We hopefully are going to write new history in this city with innovative guest services and add more rooms to the property. We will be taking over from next month. Any questions please?"

Preetam asked, "It means you will be our new employer now and we will be governed by the employment terms of your company, because we will be working under your GM's directions and not Neeraj's". Have I understood correctly? MD replied, "No. You will not be in our company employment. It will continue as before. But service conditions will be changed. PMS, rewards and recognition, productivity measurements methods etc will be changed.  Your salary will still come from Omkar's Company, not ours." Wishwanathan, F&B production intervened, "I think we all should welcome this change as it will open up new opportunity for all of us to learn new things." M.D. smiled quietly. Omkar and his father were reading the expressions on the faces of all management team members. While Neeraj did not open his mouth in the meeting, Madhu from sales and marketing inquired, "How much business you expect to bring with your name that will add value, which we don't have at present, because we are already running at 70-80% occupancy and our restaurant and banquet's bookings remain in waiting. We are now getting bookings at premium."

"You will not understand the value of our brand now. We will increase the ARR (Average Room Rent) from the start, which will be our brand value". Quipped MD.

"Then what kind of things we intend to increase in our quality of service to match that extra cost", countered Madhu.

MD looked at Omkar as if saying that he should answer this.

Omkar said, "I think we can discuss all these details in our internal next meeting."And with this, meeting ended.

By the evening, the rumor market was hot in the hotel. Everybody was discussing this matter and worried about his job and future.

Neeraj felt drained out by the night after replying to the enormous queries put by employees and their managers. He himself was not very much clear about his role in new setup being created by Omkar of running his hotel under Lessor Company's Management. All, including Neeraj, decided to have an open discussion with Omkar next morning to sort out the confusions. Next day, the morning meeting was all about this new arrangement. Madhu asked Omkar, Why are you doing this? What extra they will bring in terms of value and revenue which you do not have today?

Omkar said, Madhu, it is all about leveraging the brand value of property by having their name. We need to grow. Today guests pay extra for brand. We should grow from local to national.
"Unable to understand this arrangement Om, where we will be on our company's roll but will be governed by their service rules. They will decide our performance standards, increment and what not. Looks like you have sold us to them. We all came here for you, you treated us with love and affection. We never felt that it is not our hotel but now we are made to feel that someone else is coming to govern us as employee and teach how to run the hotel. Are we so incompetent? Let me tell you the truth, they will simply re-pack our processes and systems with more fancy titles and new nomenclature, take royalty from the sales which we all bring from our efforts, penetrate in to our strengths to capitalize on that and then take one more property in the city or in nearby area to create a competition for us. The two hotels will fight and they will earn money from both. Sorry, I am not going to work under the new arrangement and ready to put up my papers and go back to my town." Preetam announced her decision.

The situation was peculiar. On one hand there were persons like Wishwanathan who were ready to adapt to new arrangement like a duck to water. On the other hand, were people like Preetam and Madhu who were resisting change and Neeraj became a mystery as he kept simply listening. Omkar was perplexed as he was to find a solution to the problem soon or else he may land in a place with his entire team disbanding.