Back home again after the semester away. It is good to be home, though I am not relishing the freezing cold and snow. A new semester has started and looking forward to my classes. This semester I will be navigating a host of different projects. I find that I am on one path with many choices. This is synonymous with motivation and decision-making in tourism as well as understanding the intricacies of organizational behavior. We all have a choice on what to do and what not to do. There is not just one path, one way of accomplishing goals and objectives.
I’ve been struggling with technology lately. The application and use. The interplay of the sheer number of choices presented and delivered, and in which to choose from. The quantity of information to wade through and digest. Perhaps I’m yearning for something simple. I’ve reached that point that I can feel what Marshall Mcluhan hinted at–“that technology will become an extension of ourselves.”
The medium is the message ~ Marshall Mcluhan
This quote expounds on the fact that technology influences how a language, information, voices, images, reality may be misconstrued. That we need to research extensively to understand behavior, to understand thought, choices and to develop strategies. We become lazy in our diligence to understand the complexity of the world.
That it may ‘steal’ a portion of us. We think we are ‘smarter’ for having technology, but in reality, maybe (maybe not) it is erasing a portion of our own intelligence. A whole new simplicity and complexity that we can’t see or understand.
Technology plays an important supporting role in both my classes. But does it hinder both teacher and student in grasping the full breadth of understanding? Does it cripple our thinking? Have we become too reliant on the crutch? How do we walk this path, know where it leads with and without its aid?
As I stand before the students, each with a laptop open, my own open beside me, I can see the barriers to communication. I can feel the tension that lingers in the shadow and may impose articulation. I want to have honest conversations. I want discussions that spark broader understanding. One that travels from a limited awareness to a greater awareness. I am left with questioning the facilitation of that goal. How do we have a cup of coffee, cup of tea and mutually beneficial discourse without the potential angst that can exist?
Some companies are complex, highly diverse workplaces with a lot of people to manage. A host of different departments to oversea a multitude of tasks. You can’t negate the fact that companies and their departments, their divisions have territorial tendencies.
Cue Elf: Buddy (Will Ferrell) in mail room.
That scene from Elf and others, hint at the reality that is our workforce and its continued hierarchical, top down approach. Very rare is it a company that has a bottom up approach. You can say it, you can articulate it, you can communicate that you do, but if it isn’t readily apparent, it is all just glossy shine on the outside and misery on the inside. Case in point. I won’t mention any names or companies. A few years ago, I was with a host of friends enjoying a welcome respite from the day-to-day. Eventually, our conversation turned to work. This person was a bit down in the dumps, and I asked why? They hadn’t received the commission they normally received during the holidays. This was during the hard time of the 2006-2009 recession. I asked them to explain. Apparently, during the previous get together by all staff for their annual party, the company had to downsize the festivities. Usually, everyone got a bonus, even those non-sales jobs. The previous year the company decided to discontinue these bonuses to all of their employees, except their sales staff. Someone found out, and complained. Long story short. Someone felt cheated. A person who didn’t work in sales and didn’t receive a commission went to the powers that be and called them on it. Times were tough too and the company decided maybe it was better not to give anything out. I asked a few probing questions of my friend. Needless to say, we didn’t talk for a few weeks after it.
I’ve worked in an industry for regular hourly pay, salary, and salary and bonuses. More than likely it was a turkey at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Sometimes a gift card. Not much, but I was grateful. It helped. All the Christmas parties were the same. A few had raffles of cool prizes. But our management staff wanted any bonuses or extra pay to be equal for all. We worked as a team in hotels. Everyone is rewarded for their hard work. It may not have been much, but it was something. Sometimes a word or your name on a plaque got us through the hard times. So back to my friend.
I asked the person to put their feet in the shoes of the individual in that ‘mail room’. They may not have the education you have or the experience or the job title, but they do the same hard work as everyone else. Interruption by my friend, saying that their job wasn’t equal. No, they aren’t equal, but they still do hard work. Define work. What is work? What is their job duties? Could you do their job? Do you know how to do their job? They do their job for minimum wage or just a bit above. Shouldn’t they be rewarded for their devotion just as much as you. They came back with the argument that their job captured revenues for the business that allowed those in the mail room to be paid so that they could put food on the table, pay their bills. Yes, I agreed. Yet, if they didn’t do their job or aid you in doing yours, you couldn’t close on a deal with the delivery of that parcel with important signed contracts. You couldn’t do your job without the delivery of office supplies. You couldn’t do your job without them running their butts around town, when you had to get a contract out yesterday. You couldn’t do your job if they didn’t fulfill that order made. The two jobs are linked.
They again argued about working hard and about revenues. I asked, “Is it? Are revenues the only important detail of a company?”
The look they gave me could cut glass in two.
I smiled. “It isn’t always about the bottom line. It isn’t always about making a profit. Sure profits are important and we do need to pay bills, but we cannot get to that profit without thinking and addressing the process and people who get us to that profit. If one cog in the wheel isn’t working up to its effective and efficient potential, the system slows down and could possibly stagnate. It could cease to exist. Your job is linked to the way that mail room, those people feel and work. Think you are far superior to them, that your job is more important, then you’ve lost sight of the reason to be in business.”
“How is that?” They snorted.
“This is about the relationships you make and continue. This is about long-standing relationships today and tomorrow.”
“Sure my customers are important.”
“Then who are your customers?”
“Who are your stakeholders?”
Holding off the desire to face plant my cheeks in my palms, I continued. “We could go on and on asking the same question. You do not understand your customers, your stakeholders. This is about relationships. If we do not create, nurture and maintain those relationships, our business will stagnate and decline. This is about all of your stakeholders. One of your stakeholders is that person in the mail room. They have a vested interest in the health of the firm. Not just the sales person that makes sales calls. Did you ever ask that person in the mail room how they feel? Did you ever say hi, greet them on your way into work? Say good-bye on your way out? Did you ever stop and ask them about their families?”
They hesitated, and I had my answer. No or very rarely.
“Did you ever think that they are just as grateful as you are for the job they have? That they can work for a company that even considers giving them a party and a bonus. Not every company so rewards their devoted employees.”
As the book stipulates:
I think that is something else with the people-process culture: . . . you get to know people. The people get to know each other” ( J. Cernohous, personal communication, July 25, 2014).
Kersten EdD SPHR, Jeanette; La Venture EdD, Kelly. The Human Factor to Profitability: Building a People-Centered Culture for Long-Term Success (Kindle Locations 658-659). River Grove Books. Kindle Edition.
And the discussion went on. What am I saying?
Employees should be engaged in their workplace. That they need to feel and be a part of that team. Not stranded in some oasis, ignored. Again, I argue for that point that all of us see and process information differently. We all have a unique point of reality. Sometimes the finer details are uncovered with fresh eyes. Don’t discount the person on the front lines. You need to consider their input.
Can you plan for every contingency in event planning? Yes, and no. Last week, I gave out most if not all of the information to my groups in HT 351 for their scenarios. They should now have all the information they need to complete the project for the most part. The only aspect left is for them to visit with me, which is required, to hash out any finer details. Details. That is important in event planning.
It is all about project management. As I have said before, it is about managing time.
Yet, those fresh, young faces before me, cringe when I discuss ‘curve balls’. They dread having to deal with potential problems. But they will have to deal with it. Deal with potential realities.
What do I say to them? They are looking for me to guide them on how to tackle this part of the project.
Innate in all of us is the ability to plan. Don’t forget that. We just have to get it down on paper what we need to do and execute the steps.
Yes, hard. Focus, drive and discipline will see those action steps to fruition. Not every one of us has that focus or drive or discipline.
I can raise my hand to that effect. I have earned that tee-shirt more than once. I’m stuck in a rut right now, my focus wavering from professional and personal projects. It’s hard, but life isn’t about easy. Life is about challenges.
I’m letting life challenge me at the moment. Whereas I should be challenging life.
So, what do I say to motivate them to address their curve balls. Where to begin? Since there are more than one curve ball, tackling more than one at a time, can be frustrating, stressful and tiring. Especially, if you have never been in this position before. Now, there are moments in a professional career where you will have to decide off the ‘cuff’ what will need to be done. You will be put in a position where a decision will have to be made at that precise point in time. And I will address this after, I guide you through planning for those curve balls.
Yes, planning is coming back into the picture.
To prepare yourself for any event or scenario, you have to think about your job. You have to think about all the contact points where potential problems can occur. Map them out, and get into the habit of walking around your property, your place of employment and look at it from the vantage point of problems. Don’t wait for the signs, envision them. Use your imagination and ‘see’. Ask your self of plethora of questions. As a writer who likes to develop stories, I utilize the “What if” exercise. What if this happens here? What could happen here? What if this happened during an event? What would I do? Every time I see or read about an incident on TV, like Las Vegas, my mind goes into scenario mode. I visualize what is happening at that time. I ask myself a host of questions, and run through the gambit of potential. I ask myself, “What if I was the event planner at this event? What would I have done? What should be in place already to aid me in this event?”
No, you don’t know how you would react. No, you don’t know what you would do sometimes during panic situations. But the preparation for the likely event comes with training and training the mind to think this way. And then running mock drills on you, your employees, and even now, including guest in that equation. I can remember when we used guests in our scenarios at one hotel I worked at. We asked if they would be a part of our preparation training. We sent out a message to the community that we were having training and asked if any person would like to role play victims. Is this wrong? Why? Why not? Shouldn’t we all be prepared? Shouldn’t we all help each other in times of need? The more you know as a manager, as a guest, the better you are all prepared for scenarios.
I know this to be true because I have lived through it. I have lived through training situations and real life situations. Growing up we had some great shows on TV. I can vaguely remember Adam 12. The one show I do remember from my early teens was Emergency!. It was about the organization of the first ever EMTs in LA. It had me consider at one time being one. Taking up the profession of firefighter and EMT. At school, both high school and college, I took and read about advanced first aid procedures. I took advance first aid and life saving at Penn State for my Health Ed course. I can recall playing the victim in a faux car accident and the other students extracting me from that car on a cold autumn day. I loved the water module in the pool. When I was out industry, I volunteered to be on first aid responder teams at the hotels. I obtained and renewed my CPR certification. I guess I obtained that information from my Mom. She taught the Red Cross classes in high school. She was always willing to help. Heck, in my family we are known to be teachers, police officers or doctors. I guess its in the DNA. But I digress.
Back on point.
So, where to begin. This year was different after a failure from last fall. I had to approach teaching this aspect of management development from a different perspective. Some how connections were not being made. I forgot that research has shown that this generation may or may not have the imaginative skills my generation has. They grew up with computers and technology. Some if not all, might not have been outside playing as we did as kids. Being pirates for a day out in the woods, creating our own little worlds. Yes, that play time set up my generation for problem solving. We saw something we wanted to do and figure out a way to accomplish it. The students in my class may have been immersed in a computer generated world that didn’t stretch the mind enough. That didn’t place them in hair-raising situation where you had to think. (Laughing at the image now in my mind. Cue back to that pirate scenario on a lazy summer’s day. I would give you more, but I don’t want to put any ideas into young heads. Mother just patched me up. I’m still here.) Let’s just say there is a host of divergence between my generation and today’s young students in terms of critical thinking skills.
So, given what happened, I realized this year, I needed to not only reinforce the visualization technique I have done since I was a young adult, but also guide them on how to make connections. I had to explain how to accomplish this goal and get in the habit of visualization. So this year, I told the students to draw from all of their classes on customer service and operations management. To utilize their own personal experience to aid them in understanding the curve ball. Write down the curve ball on a 4 x 6 index card and then as a group, brainstorm. Ask yourself those exact questions. What is happening here? What is going on? How are people reacting? Why are they reacting? Where has it happened? When did it happen? What should we do? What could happen if we don’t do something? What could happen? A host of questions and then brainstorm answers. Research. Google. This is always about customer service. No, it isn’t all about the bottom line, not always. It is how we get to that bottom line and back up that counts.
This was one of my curve balls from one of my scenarios. An executive board meeting was taking place in St. Louis, MO. The members were leaders of a Fortune 500 company. They were the elite of the elite. One activity that they were participating in outside of their normal duties was a visit to the local Budweiser Clydesdale farm. On the return, one of the members has left their wallet on the bus. Needless to say I wasn’t happy with the results of the group planning in terms of this curve ball. Two possibilities could have occurred. One, they had only one group member handle curve balls and that group member was tired by the time they got to this incident. Or two, they waited till the last-minute to address these scenarios. It very well could have been something different. But in the end it was poor project planning.
They forgot to utilize their experience as customer. How would you react as a customer if this happened to you? What would be your priority if this personally happened to you? What are you panicking about? Who is this person? They forgot who their target market was and is. What is in that wallet? What help are they looking for? Part of event planning is to know your target audience. If you know them, then you can best address their needs and wants. Our industry is all about customer service and we need to don that hat more than once to understand reaction. We need to walk a mile in their shoes to know how this impacts their lives and the lives of others that this would affect.
They forgot their roles and responsibility as event planners. What they need to do to aid the customer? What they need to do to make this a memorable experience? How do they help and aid their clients? They didn’t tease out the situation. They didn’t map out the cause and effect. The action-reaction-results loop. If this one incident happened in real life, consequences of not doing something can be detrimental not only to your customer but to your reputation and your business. Even our industry.
So, why do I give them curve balls. Because this is reality. This is what happens out there when they are in real life situations. Accomplishing this exercise, helps develop a proactive mindset. That they can almost see things happen before they do, and act. If this little kernel of information is in their minds, then they could plan a to do list for themselves during each event to cover any contingency.
We have a host of authors within our book by Kersten and La Venture 1 that exposes the various definitions of organizational culture. There is a theme that emerges based on shared core values, beliefs, and principles. This hints at behavior and how that behavior is communicated to a greater audience (p. 2-3). That behavior exists within and outwit the company. It governs the day-to-day operations and the lives that work within that community. Yes, a community. Marriott views their associates as a greater family.
Yet, as I decipher these words, I am left with one thought, one word. Service. Servant leadership is a common phrase we hear about the university, and incorporate it in our culture.
The definitions of organizational culture are incomplete without the inclusion of servant leadership or service.
You may be thinking: But it is all apart of that definition, when you argue for that commonality of themes within organizational culture.
Yes, and no.
Service is inter-woven and stands alone. Why? Maybe it should be the overriding concept? See still in a heated debate.
Maybe if we address behavior. Behavior is action. Behavior is developed with immersion with in a unique place. That place has three environments–physical landscape (natural/man-made environment), economic and socio-cultural. Everyone is a product of their own three environments. A host of variables will define those environments and shape how your beliefs are formed from the roots of those variables. Core values remain, but the breadth and depth of those values shifts and adapts, matures and grows over time. Some of those core values will stick with you and others you will shed with maturity, personal growth and reflection.
You bring these dynamics into any company.
Each individual of a society makes up the culture. I am getting away from service and need to bring it back. We will get to culture shortly.
Warning, service has a broad definition. For this argument, service is the want to do something for someone else. Not just because we have to, but because we want to. It is the right thing to do. We have within our hearts the want to help. And that does have its hang ups. We are after all human and considerably flawed.
Some have this ability to help more than others. They have this innate compassion to such a degree that it is second nature. No questions are asked. Deep down we all do, but we are stymied by our own fears.
That is why I want to call it a service heart. Some would label it as the heart of service. But several colleagues and I have been gnashing on changing that. I’m sure that phrase has been around for a bit. And anyone can develop a service heart.
We have come to that conclusion that that phrase incorporates those core values. In tourism, we have a lot of choice in products. Some similar, some different. What creates competitive advantage now and in the future will be the service. The human element. People will want to return because of the people helping them fulfill their expectations. Because we want them to return ‘home’ to us again and again. Thus, our behavior is paramount to fulfilling the expectations of our stakeholders. All of them.
So, at the heart of organization is a culture. We should hold commonality, without the lost of identity. That is something that isn’t really articulated within our first readings. Identity. We each bring our own sense of self to the work environment. I have posed this question before. How do we retain our own sense of self in a workplace that may or may not have the same common values as our own. Today, we are seeing disparity in our society. Not all of us possess the same beliefs. We have our own unique cultural attributes that we bring into a workplace. How do we mesh this divergence? Some are not always the same. Should we or should we not ask people to change that culture to conform (shudder) to that workplace culture? Do the mission and vision of a company posses the flexibility to handle various cultural nuances?
Acculturation exists in tourism. Simply defined, it is the moment when two or more cultures meet and something happens. You can either have assimilation of one culture with another. Yes, there may or may not be dominance of one over another. The second may be nothing happens. Or friction. There is too much difference that problems occur. Could we now extend this concept into the workplace because of the diverse backgrounds of our employees.
So, maybe I should hint at diversity. Diversity, in its simplest terms, is about the difference in a workplace. It identifies that difference and should be embraced. We can all contribute to our workplace. Yet, the definition is limiting to us in trying to understand that difference and how to handle it. It doesn’t get to the heart of everything. It doesn’t offer strategies. Laws aren’t strategies. There is still some mysticism with diversity. If we extend diversity and marry it with the concept of cultural intelligence, especially when working in a global world, we can develop strategies and broader, better behaviors to handle that diversity. Remember these are my interpretations of my own readings and research. Don’t take it as face value. What kind of Socratic professor would I be, if I didn’t ask you to think for yourself. Read, digest, understand and reflect.
Culture today is so much greater, broader in definition than what some might think.
This is when I tell you that I hate definitions. I think they are limiting. I don’t think they encompass the expanse of variety that exists. Yes, we need a foundation on which to start. But how many of us stop and do not explore the many layers, the breadth and depth of those definitions. Culture is one of those definitions. That is why later on in the semester we will be examining Cultural Intelligence.
The discussion continues…
1. Kersten, J., La Venture, Kelly, Lui, Katherine E. Welch, & Cervenka, Debbie. (2015). The human factor to profitability : Building a people-centered culture for long-term success / Jeanette Kersten, EdD, SPHR, and Kelly La Venture, EdD ; with a foreword by Kat Lui, PhD, and Debbie Cervenka. (First ed.).
As I have explained in the post Developing Managers, meeting planning is all about project management. It doesn’t matter how the sales lead is generated, how you come by the business, it comes down to managing time. It can be your breaking point. Therefore, preparation is vital. Success hinges on lining up those ducks in their right positions, and having enough flexibility for problems.
Today, marks the middle of the second week of classes, and for the next six weeks my students will be given information about their scenarios. I enjoy this time, creating this reality of challenges. This journey isn’t easy. Life isn’t always a bed of roses. They will have to think, use their respective brain power to sort out the twists and bumps. And this morning, I barked a laugh at my latest creation. One group will not be happy. Welcome, to real life. I hope they have listened to me over the course of their time here. I hope they remember that I just don’t sit in my office during office hours and at other times for nothing. I hope they have that epiphany.
[Knocks on the glass] “Hello, anyone out there! Any of my students? Hello?” Questions. It comes down to asking questions. Don’t assume anything. One lesson you must learn as an event planner is don’t assume you know what the clients want. You don’t. You may think you do, but in all reality, you don’t!
Get off your respective posterior and come and talk to me. One requirement of my meeting planning class is they have to meet with me eight times over the course of the sixteen weeks to discuss their projects. Everyone has to be there unless their team leader and I approve the excuse.
Hopefully, by now they have identified their roles and responsibilities. There has to be a team leader, one that will be responsible for getting the job done–the broader goal. The others will be accomplishing the objectives or individual tasks to get to that broader goal.
How they start is up to them. Have they researched the craft of meetings? Have they cruised around their books, the Internet or other sources to understand the process? Are they waiting to be told? I hope not.
My time in event planning and sales was during an era when paper ruled the desktop. I started out as a sales coordinator. A glorified personal assistant to the other sales managers and ran an office. Thank the good Lord, I have been a gadget girl all my life. Old school floppy disks! I worked part-time at an office supply store to supplement and pay for my schooling. I sold the first renditions of IBM and Dell computers. On my desk at the hotel was a 286 processor with probably 50 k of memory. Five and quarter-inch flimsy disks were my life saver. The convention calendar was this behemoth book that had its own desk. For a small hotel, we had two or three major file cabinets full of client files. Some as thick as the city phone book (four inches or more).
Personal planners crammed full of written notes. Notebooks full of third-party information. Day-to-day was all about pushing paper and making phone calls, pounding the pavement and finding leads as well as execution of various events or tour group arrivals. Forget cell phones. Landlines with a complex web of office numbers and only ten speed dial buttons (if that). Back-up wasn’t an option. Lose your personal planner–deep, heart stopping, whole-body anxiety attack until you found it. Total disappearance meant frantic hours of combing through all that paper to recreate your day-to-day work life. And if you didn’t keep meticulous notes, (I just laughed), you were on a bar stool later that night crying into your drink, casting curses and prayers simultaneously to the air and powers that be that you did what you had to do or your other associates had your back (another little snicker). What did I say about life being fair, it isn’t.
The will to win is important, but the will to prepare is vital.
Time management has various dimensions. One of those critical dimensions is communication which is basically the sharing of information. An exchange process. If you aren’t prepared for the encounter, it will show. If you don’t value other points of reality, a host will lose value. The process is stymied by the narrow-mindedness of others. Basically, don’t be myopic. Try to see the whole picture. See beyond that picture. Your developed skill level and capabilities at this point in time may not be as developed as others. Do not discount experience, even those with just an ounce. You do not know the complete picture. You don’t know what that experience was and the depth of impact or how they handled it. Get that through your mind. Open your mind, open your heart, open your soul to receive. The only way you can work together, and that doesn’t mean you can’t lead, but the only way you will all succeed is if you listen and contemplate.
So I guess that comes full circle to that leadership role.
But before we get into that, I wanted to over up a reminder.
I believe that there are four points to successful meeting planning from a customer standpoint:
Know your client–that means asking open-ended questions, and some closed ended questions
Know the product you sell–and it is more than you really think it is…
Know the community in which you are embedded and operate
Recall you are selling to the right person, the right product at the right time, for the right price, for the right location, having the right promotion, and employing the right people utilizing effective and efficient processes, and truthful, physical evidence, that is the right stories or testimonials to engage with the right customer.
What will the leader of these projects do? What do event planners do out in the real world?
I can tell you a fraction of what you should or shouldn’t do from my own experience. To learn more about leadership, you need to study. Study those that are successful in a variety of fields. Read trade magazines and look for case studies. Visualize the problem and look for plausible solutions.
Be receptive to ideas.
Don’t over hash things that nothing gets done. Make a decision. You can revisit it, but it shouldn’t rule your lives.
Listen to your gut. Know the difference between right and wrong.
Know standard operating procedures. If there aren’t any, create them.
Events means experience. Someone has their heart on having a wonderful experience. Own it for them. Make it happen.
Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
More than one person is affected/effected by the choices you make, especially financial ones.
Time means one thing to you, and something different to another.
Be inquisitive. Study from experts. Find a mentor. Ask questions.
Research the craft.
Keep a reflective journal
Be respectful, responsible, accountable. Take responsibility for your actions. Respect yourself and others. Doesn’t mean you have to like them, but respect means more than what you think.
Listen, just shut up and listen. And listen with your mind and heart.
Demonstrate empathy, sympathy. But don’t let anyone run you over. There is an art to negotiations, learn it. Compromise is key.
I know I’m going to get in trouble for this. The customer may not always be right in every situation. Sometimes you have to take the lead and help them realize reality. You don’t always want to be their friend.
At the end of the day, there are a host of people counting on you. Some for a pay check.
Tough decisions are painful, but manageable. Tough love is the hardest.
Be proactive rather than reactive. Damn tough sometimes to recover in service execution. (And if my PPC students are reading this, service is a broad term.)
Study ethics. Again, every single person is governed by a set of core values and not. Some don’t have core values.
But what do they mean? Do you understand them?
20. Be cognizant of your environment. Don’t live in a vacuum. Be aware. Be open to change. Change is hard. Embrace it. Look for it.
So those are just twenty odd observations to consider, digest and reflect upon.
A good leader knows when to lead, knows when to walk beside and help, and sometimes remain behind and let you on your own.
I have lived in a host of different cities, states and one country. The depth of knowledge about those locations various with experience. I love to get out and talk to people, and I’ve met some interesting people along the way. I love to explore and more than likely will get lost. I always find my way back. Every experiences brings a whole new set of learning.
Another year is upon us here at Stout, and I’m teaching Development of Tourism Attractions, Convention Meeting Planning and People Process Culture. The former course expands and expounds on concepts learned in the Principles of Tourism, extending it into the heart of the three environments–socio-cultural, economic and natural/man-made as well motivation, and planning.
It peels back the layers of tourism. Tourism is an act of doing something and depends on the viewpoint in which you view it or peel back the layers. There are tangible and intangible elements that are part of this dynamic process, and we need to know why some destinations and their attractions are more successful than others. As leaders or managers of the future, we will be part of that success and/or failure. What we do, when we do it, could be a defining moment. (For those of you in tourism, remember the mantra.)
At the heart of any attraction is a motivation.
Echoes of those reasons why people travel to a destination and its attractions, percolates through my mind, and I’m sure others.
“Something I always wanted to see.”
“It is on my bucket list.”
But that is from a customer point of view. What about the others?
Why did Disney decide to buy up a large mass of swamp land and orange groves in the middle of Florida to create Disney World?
Why place it there? Why create something in the middle of no where, and hope that people come?
Begs the question posed in A Field of Dreams: “If you build it, will them come?”
The process of building attractions is long and arduous. It takes time to build attractions from concept of the idea to opening. Disney World was conceived as a supplement to Disneyland in 1955 and opened in 1971. During that time of development, Walt Disney died unexpectantly in 1966. Disney World and especially Epcot could have died right there on the table. But it didn’t, and more on that later. Yet, that is a long time for an attraction to be built. Some rise in less time, and close just as fast. The Internet is peppered with a host of attractions that opened and closed quickly because they couldn’t sustain numbers or creativity. Walt Disney World has several areas that have been closed and abandoned because they weren’t as popular as they once were.
So, this hints at one aspect of motivation and decision-making.
Even leadership (Waves at my PPC group, bringing them into the conversation).
Your stakeholder’s needs change over time. All of them.
But who are your stakeholders you ask, besides customers.
Employees (all levels)
Others (that arm-chair traveler that hasn’t even made a decision yet, but is bombarded with a mountains of information both by word of mouth, and through other distribution channels and has an interest)
Their needs and wants will change over time as their lives change. It can be short or long-term.
Disney World’s Epcot Center is now going through a major renovation. The original vision of Epcot is a far cry than what Walt had in mind. That vision was transformed because he wasn’t there and those that came after, nixed it in the butt. Roy Disney, his brother, wasn’t the creative genius that Walt was and deferred to others. If you read any books about Walt’s life and his company, his creative style and visions were a prime directive for the company. To lose someone so young in their mid-60s, without a concrete succession plan, will have far reaching effects on the company. And it did.
An attraction is just a structure. An idea.
People make it come to life.
People are the resource that propel it into the future.
Even destinations and their success depends on the people who manage it, work within the boundaries, and even visit.
So, this then suggest a management/educational journey down two different paths.
At times these paths, one of tangible origins and one of intangible, coalesce and merge. At other times, they run parallel. And during times of stress, anxiety, and erosion, diverge.
So, we are at the precipice. On top of the mountain and have a vista to explore. We can see the concrete but the human element is clouded in degrees of mystery.
Value is that odd little derivative that we really can’t pin down adequately enough. We can skim right close to the edge, but never acquire the true depth. Value is odd that way. The old formula stipulates that it is benefits of doing something minus the cost of doing something. And one of my students in my HT 140 class asked a beauty of a question the other day. In her entrepreneurial class they speak of perceived value. Where does that fit in? (I can’t tell you how my spirit was dancing about when this happened. I saw the light bulb hovering over her head and becoming brighter).
I told her yes value is a perception. Everyone in the class, even though you may have commonality among the variables that describe your life, your point of view is uniquely your own. It is accessing that information and utilizing it to its fullest that allows me to create an experience that will meet your expectations. But I am getting ahead of myself.
I constantly reiterate that anyone that wants to work in the tourism industry, that works in hospitality, in any facet must be prepared for anyone that walks through our door. That means being prepared before, during and after decision-making. Choices are made at different times for different reasons. Purchases can be made at any time. Doesn’t mean that those choices will be ultimately acted upon, but you have to be prepared.
Information is critical.
The foundation of value is information. One of the drivers of our industry.
We are all sales people in our industry. We are always in that mode and if not, should be. Anyone can sell a product, even the housekeeper up on the floors of hotel cleaning rooms. They have to be cognizant of the product they work with, and what that product means. What are its attributes, and amenities? What is the brand? What are the core values of the company, and how it defines that brand? A host of questions. You might think it too much for our employees, but they have as much stake in our companies as others. It is after all their job, like ours, on the line.
Never turn away from an opportunity, even if it is clouded in the mist of uncertainty.
Value cannot be realized unless we are in tune with every facet of our business, every function, and every process. Product and services. Even the human element has value. It is afterall the interaction in our industry that makes or breaks a deal.
Perceived value is a point of view. Perceived value is a constant in the nature of our lives. Children know this. They can determine value quite readily without even asking. They know the difference. It astounds me that my ten-year old nephew can rattle off the advantages and disadvantages of different Infinity Characters for his XBOX game as we shop for figurines to play with. He hasn’t quite caught the concept of budget yet, but hey he is only ten years old and value has a different meaning.
And that means value to us all changes over time with our lifestyle and progression along our life span.
How do we know the changes? We ask the right questions. We have to gain information, exchange it with our customers. My nephew is constantly scouring YouTube for videos about his favorite games and characters. I am sure he has heated debates with his friends over the games that each of them plays. He’s a sponge. And maybe that is the lesson all of us that strive to work in this industry need to remember. Seek and find, soak up and digest information. Analyze and also, just let it be. Let it incubate, and watch what happens. Opportunities to act may not be readily apparent, but if we don’t watch and listen, we won’t see it coming. We won’t have that moment.
And that leads into the concept of ‘Moment of Truth’ in tourism, hospitality.
Over the course of that progression, before, during and after stages of decision-making, we can create and fulfill those moments of truth. Where perception is validated. Where the benefits of doing something have diminished the cost to a negligible register that people will act. We want to convert interest to use. We want to convert curiosity. We want people to walk through our doors and eventually return. We want to create loyalty.
So value is something measurable and not. We can’t read people’s minds or dive into the heart of their perceptions without asking the right questions. And we can’t be afraid of asking those questions. A good manager asks the right questions. A great manager questions those questions, and takes risks to find better questions. Sometimes it isn’t about the answers. It is about those questions that drive deep into the heart of something and opens the all the doors.