The Surprising Conclusion To A Small Business Makeover [Case Study]

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This is the final installment of a three-part case study of an inn’s transformation into an award-winning hotel. In part one, you were introduced to the client, their challenges and the success roadmap. In part two, I shared some of the changes that took place and why. Today we finish the story and draw more lessons for you from it.

So based on the case study, these are some of the things you might look at in your own business:

  • Are you concerned with getting people in and out quickly - instead of building a relationship with them?
  • Do you make sure your business is a place people want to return to? Start with the things they will see or touch.
  • What do you need to purchase to upgrade and differentiate yourself from the competition?
  • What stock have you wanted to buy but were afraid you didn’t have the customer base to justify it? Maybe you need to court a different customer...
  • What systems can you put in place to make your business remarkable?
  • Are you monitoring what your employees say and do to sell your merchandise? Do they have a cowboy culture where everything is negotiable? If so, how’s that working for your profitability?
  • How are you keeping your face in front of your customers? Are you communicating through a variety of channels on a regular basis?
  • Would partnering with competitors help you all grow your businesses?

Now the story concludes .....

Phase 4

Never stop upgrading
interior hotel makeoverTo give the property a unique surfing persona, we contacted artist Jon Severson and bought the rights to have his work made into murals for the common areas and guestrooms. The property was re-landscaped and new furniture was added for the balconies.

A separate computer desk was added to the lobby so guests could print their boarding passes and check e-mail. Fresh flowers were ordered for the guestrooms, lobby, and breakfast room. An apartment building next door was purchased to provide suites.

Phase 5

A Moment of Clarity
As property revenues increased over the years, the nagging question about our brand alliance loomed larger and larger.

It all came to a head when the chain’s inspector showed up for the usual inspection...

One of the owners had taken him around to show him all the improvements since his last visit, including the Severson murals, the large flat-screen TVs, the remodeled breakfast room, and other guest amenities.

Expecting a top-notch review, the front desk and housekeepers awaited the best inspection score ever.

That’s when it fell apart...

The inspector began his report with a picture he had taken of the underside of a hinge that had a bit of rust on it. The owner became incensed at his lack of consideration of the extreme makeover.

No one had installed crown mouldings like that, had murals like that, presented a unified upscale image to that brand’s customers like that! No, for the sake of a rusty hinge behind and underneath a bathroom door, the inspector chose to point up something no guest would see.

The owner stood up and said, “Get off my property!” The stunned inspector said he was just doing his job causing the owner to repeat the command again. The inspector packed his things and quickly got in his car and left.

The owners reviewed their agreement to see how quickly they could debrand from the chain and sent the letter off that week.

small business makeover resultsA few months later, the new brand debuted with a red surfboard in its logo. Frequent travelers commented they always wondered why it had been aligned with the previous brand.

The Results

You Like Us, You Really Like Us
Beginning in 2002, the front desk agents started getting a new response to one of the standard questions, “How did you find about us?”

“TripAdvisor,” they answered. That day we went online to see what they were talking about.

Lo and behold, we had been reviewed a couple times and they liked us, they really liked us! In fact, the reviews quoted the reservation and checkin speeches because the benefits mentioned in those speeches resonated with our guests. Out of 17 hotels, we quickly rose to be the #1 hotel in Newport Beach, where they still stand today ten years later.

Award Season
tripadvisor award 2006 traveler hotelFast forward to 2006 - we received a call from TripAdvisor telling us the hotel had won the Top Travelers Choice Award.

Fast forward to February 2012 - the hotel received word from TripAdvisor that they are the number one rated hotel in Orange County, California, that’s number one of 381 hotels and inns representing 19,574,187 rooms.

example makeover results business

While one of the owners has retired, the other enjoys a reputation second to none. The front desk staff and housekeepers, some who have been there twenty years, are deservedly proud of their hotel.

Hats off to the owners who nearly twenty years ago embarked on a customer-focused program that continues to deliver the goods. Their investment of time and money cannot be overstated.

What it takes to succeed hasn’t changed; it’s about being customer focused.

As these owners proved, when your passion runs deeply, you can compete.

Recap For Retailers, Restaurateurs and Hoteliers

  • Know what you have to work with.
  • Acknowledge your limitations.
  • Act “as if” until you are what you aspire to be.
  • Know you probably need to raise prices.
  • Look at your competitors to help grow your market.
  • Know that without training, your employees will probably turn to a discount to get the sale.
  • Learn your customers but don’t be afraid of focusing on more profitable ones.
  • Success begets success.
  • Always be upgrading.
  • Find ways to stay in touch with your customers and remind them of you - not just a sale.
  • Form your marketing around benefits to the customer, not features.
  • The world is changing fast; if you base your operation on how you’ve always done it, you're missing it.

One final thought, imagine what that award-winning hotel could have provided to the brand that couldn’t see the forest for the trees...just sayin’...

I hope you enjoyed this story, and I would love to read your comments below. If you missed the first parts they are here:

About Bob Phibbs, the Retail Doctor

Companies from some of the very largest, to some of the smallest, from luxury brands to startups, from franchises to regional chains contact me as a retail consultant because they are looking for results. An owner may have read one of my books, seen my videos, seen me on TV, heard me speak or read this blog to get a taste of my people-focused philosophy and my methods.

While every client and project is different, the ability to enlist me as a retail consultant who has a fresh set of eyes to look at the challenges you are facing results in a focused, effective and creative path to profitable sales.

No matter what your size, let's see how I can help you; click the Take the first step button below to contact me.