A few weeks ago, I stayed at my first luxury hotel. Most of my life has been spent gorging on the breakfast buffet inside various Holiday Inns, so you can imagine that this prime time resort was a big upgrade.
And while the giant chandeliers were nice, I’m a pretty simple man. The biggest thing I brought back from my stay at the St. Regis Bal Harbour resort was a handful of lessons on entrepreneurship.
If you’re building a business (or thinking about building one), then I think you’ll find these 7 lessons useful. If nothing else, I know they have been important learning points for my own entrepreneurial career.
1. Know what you stand for and the rest will become clear.
The whole operation at the Bal Harbour resort runs like clockwork. Everyone knows their role and the customer’s experience has been planned out from the moment they step out of the car until the final checkout.
How do you get your business running that smoothly? It all starts with knowing what you stand for. If you’re the manager of a luxury hotel chain, you can look at your employees and say, “Service is our top priority. When in doubt, always, always, always do what serves the customer best. We will bend over backwards for each and every person who walks through our door.”
Knowing what you stand for clarifies the mission for every employee. It makes work easier. It makes delegation easier. It makes cooperation easier. It’s not just about having a common goal. Increasing revenue is a common goal, but that doesn’t tell you what to do. It’s about having a common mission and a common belief system that can guide your actions and those of your employees.
Knowing what you stand for makes all of the decisions about what to do and how to do it much easier. Know your principles and you can choose your methods.
2. Know your target customer.
I am not the target customer for luxury hotels. It doesn’t calm me to have five people tending to my every need. I don’t need to have a remote that controls all of the lights in the room. I don’t need to have my bed “turned down” and prepared for sleep.
(True story: when the maid came to turn the bed down the first night I had no idea what she was talking about. We went back and forth for two minutes before I figured out that this was just a normal service they did every night.)
But here’s the thing: some people love that stuff. They want everything to be taken care of. Based on what I saw at the hotel, the target customer for a luxury property drives a Ferrari, Bentley, Rolls Royce, BMW, or Mercedes Benz. It was very rare that I saw a car besides those brands.
This is important because if you’re a luxury hotel manager you should not be wasting your marketing dollars on me when you could be spending them wisely on someone with a nice car.
Do you know who the target customer is for your business? I mean, do you really know? Do you know what kind of car they drive? Or what other businesses they typically shop at? Or are you wasting your efforts trying to recruit new customers from people that aren’t interested?
Spend some time mapping out your target customer. It could save (and make) you a lot of money.
3. You can either blur into the crowd or be one of the few to stand up and say something.
A luxury hotel is different. It prides itself on being different. It flaunts each unique piece of its service offering.
As a result, luxury hotels get talked about. When people leave Bal Harbour, they probably talk about the private bungalows by the pool. Or about the staff members walking around and offering little cups of sunscreen to patrons.
You don’t need a unique business to be unique. Luxury hotels do the same thing that Motel 8 does: they offer people a place to stay for the night. But the way they do it is very different.
Is the way you do business different from the rest? Or do you blend into the crowd?
If you want people to talk about your business, then stand up and say something by serving your customers in a different way.
4. Too many people are focused on too small of a problem.
Luxury hotels have TONS of employees. At any one time, I felt like I could see a dozen criss–crossing people and headed off to do various, small tasks.
The goal, I think, is to minimize the amount of time the customer needs to wait. The result, in my opinion, is that too many people are working on too small of a problem. Do you really need to have 6 people pacing around the pool refilling water glasses? Probably not.
When I look at my own work, I find that I struggle with this same problem. Many days, I spend hours and hours focused on things that, in the end, are really just a small problem.
Do you know what your most important tasks are for today? Are you actually working on them? Or are you spending all day refilling water glasses?
5. Happiness isn’t something you find, it’s something you create.
Imagine this scene…
You’re staying in one of the nicest hotels in the world. You’re eating incredible food by the pool. The ocean is just a few hundred feet away.
And yet, even in this paradise, you hear people complaining.
When I heard people whining at this incredible hotel, it reminded me of an important lesson: happiness isn’t something you find, it’s something you create.
Some people are determined to be unhappy no matter where they are and it’s important to realize that happiness isn’t something that is handed to you.
Maybe your business isn’t as big as you would like it to be. Maybe it’s tough for you to watch your friend have tons of success while you toil away in obscurity. Maybe you feel confused or overwhelmed because there is so much to do.
Guess what? You can still be happy!
This is a common pitfall for entrepreneurs. We delay happiness and satisfaction until we reach some imaginary mark of success. You won’t find happiness in a luxury resort or with a million dollar business. You’ll have to create it when you get to those places as well. So, you might as well create some happiness now and enjoy the ride.
6. The more you take care of yourself, the more you can take care of someone else.
The employees at the resort all had one thing in common: they were relatively healthy. Because they were always walking to the next task, they spent a large amount of their day moving. As a result, they were in decent shape.
At one point, I realized that they were only able to serve each guest because they had already taken care of themselves. An unhealthy or severely overweight person would not have been able to perform the job in the same way.
The lesson is clear: take care of yourself.
It doesn’t matter if you want to serve customers or your family or your community. It’s hard to help others if you haven’t first helped yourself.
7. The best way to get famous is make amazing stuff.
Why do people rave about luxury hotels? Because they create an amazing experience.
Will people rave about your business? Only if you create amazing things.
Blogging, networking, marketing, and promotion all have their place. But the truth of the matter is that creating something incredible is the best way to make a splash.
Get to work on something amazing. Everything else is secondary.
Would you like to stay at a luxury hotel?
American Express and Starwood Hotels are official sponsors of Passive Panda, which is how I ended up at the Bal Harbour resort. I had a great time there and I’d love to share the experience with you.
For that reason, I’m giving away 60,000 Starpoints to one lucky reader, which can be redeemed for a free hotel stay at any Starwood hotel property.
How to Enter: Leave a Comment Below
To enter, all you need to do is leave a comment below telling me where you why you would like to stay at a Starwood luxury hotel. You can enter once per day until Monday, November 19.
The Fine Print: the winner will be chosen at random on November 19, 2012 at 3pm EST.
UPDATE: Congrats to the winner of the giveaway, Jonathan Clark-Harris! Stay tuned for more giveaways in the future.
Disclosure: American Express and Starwood Hotels are official partners with Passive Panda and they have donated 60,000 Starpoints for Passive Panda readers to win.