How Healthy Is Your Business?
By Gene Ference
Friday, 6th October 2006
There is considerable value in undertaking a regularly scheduled complete health exam. The health of any hospitality business is determined by the relationship of internal systems, functions, processes and human relationships.

The shelves of bookstores are groaning with the weight of publications explaining, encouraging, and promoting improved personal health. The global psyche is barraged with health suggestions and programs. All include a range of preventative measures. Moreover, the annual health (physical) examination is on that list!

There is considerable value in undertaking a regularly scheduled complete health exam given the consequences of unknown medical ailments compounded by the failure to promptly introduce corrective measures. Studies consistently indicate that early detection of serious ailments is a major contributor to favorable treatment results. Self-diagnosis is feasible, but the risk exists that indicators are misdiagnosed, resulting in a failure to take proper corrective action. Corrective measures and appropriate monitoring are necessary to ensure continued good health. To avoid the self-prescribed illusion of good health, assessment and diagnosis by a neutral qualified third party is desirable.

An analogy can be made between the complexity of the interactive systems of the human body and the functions of operating hotels and resorts. The health of any hospitality business is determined by the relationship of internal systems, functions, processes and human relations. The dynamics of these internal elements are impacted by the external factors of customers, competition, geography and time. A comprehensive "health" examination of a Business Unit can have considerable positive impact.

Early detection coupled with proactive measures is a desirable prescription. However, traditionally this becomes a self-diagnostic process. The complexity of a business unit with its numerous interacting systems render this a short-sighted approach since it usually only deals with selective functions. Vested interests, territorial positioning and organizational dynamics can serve as additional deterrents to objective analysis. A prudent approach to the aforementioned situation is to consider the involvement and input of a qualified third party hospitality professional who has the technical capacity to:
  • diagnose data
  • understand linked consequences of business systems
  • define potential risk factors
  • prescribe necessary actions to insure the prospects of sustained or improved Business Health
  • ensure that an objective and uncompromising process is concluded
The "Business Health" diagnostic process is conducted in a departmentally segmented approach. It includes the participation of the entire departmental leadership. A series of on-site sessions are structured as a discussion/documentation process with focus on the creative means with which to improve overall effectiveness of the department and the organization. The third party facilitator provides a range of benefits, as does the health professional.

The facilitator must have both operational and team dynamics credentials! The program solicits input from the entire departmental staff, maximizing creative contributions, while at the same time offering the participants a broader understanding of their inherent challenges. As a neutral participant, the facilitator questions existing approaches while helping define options, benefits and risks. Further, the facilitator defines linked consequences and opportunities within the various components of the business. By guiding and coaching participants, the facilitator can help them evolve into a more dynamic, interactive, creative, proactive team and organization.

As with any comprehensive health exam, it is crucial that all aspects of the Business Unit are subject to examination. Each operating department undertakes assessment in the context of structure, staffing, standards, systems, financial performance, organizational dynamics and product quality. As service providers to internal and external customers each department of the business undergoes an analysis of performance against defined benchmarks. These findings must be analyzed and evaluated. The process results in the documentation of a "health report" which serves as a blueprint offering a range of recommendations. The continuing overall objective is to structure a focused, proactive program intended to improve the efficiencies and effectiveness of the business.

The Program offers:
The Staff: Understanding; involvement; accomplishment; professional growth.
The Business: Quantifiable operational and financial improvements; process efficiencies; enhanced organizational interaction and stability.
The Owner: A comprehensive report on the "Health" of the business; improved performance; a game plan for the future.

A timeframe is established to incorporate the findings into the business with benchmarks governing measured progress. In the 10-year history of the program applied in diverse international business environments, "Business Health" has had significant, measurable impact. As one example, a 500-room resort, already operating above industry averages, in the first year of implementing the "Business Health" program findings generated the following results:
  • Revenue growth through product pricing, yield management, rate season adjustments and discretionary spending enhancements generated an additional $400K in revenue
  • Organizational realignment resulted in $150K in savings
  • Operational efficiencies and productivity enhancements provided $300K in savings
  • Guest (customer) satisfaction scores improved 4%, helping generate a stronger repeat following
  • Staff satisfaction survey scores improved 8%, attaining "excellent" status on an industry scale
  • Turnover was reduced 10% to well below industry averages
  • EBITDA grew 5%
  • Results of the 360-degree management surveys identified a more cohesive Executive Team
"Business Health" is a comprehensive team dynamics and management development program that promotes interaction, creative thinking and structured, monitored action. The benefit to the organization as a business unit is multi-faceted, quantifiable and continuous.

As with any program that defines a road map to improve health, derived benefits are a consequence of the level of commitment. Whether it is lower cholesterol or higher profits, total focus, initiative and perseverance are essential if better "health" is the goal.

HVS/The Ference Group & The Center For Survey Research specializes in organizational surveys, performance cultures, and brand development. We work closely with companies regarding their customer and employee satisfaction, quality service standards, operational efficiencies, and brand loyalty initiatives. We have assisted companies with successful applications for the Malcolm Baldrige Award, as well as the national quality awards of Great Britain, the Netherlands, Brazil, Mexico, Australia, and Singapore.

Receiving a Doctoral Degree in Organizational Development from Cornell University in 1977, Gene Ference earned post-graduate certification in Change Management Leadership from the NTL Institute for Applied Behavioral Sciences. For over 25 years, he has conducted management retreats in Strategic Focus, Leadership Development, Team Dynamics and served as an Executive Coach to many of this industry's business professionals.

For more information on how a "Business Health" program can have a positive impact on your enterprise, please contact HVS/The Ference Group at + or GFerence@HVSInternational.com
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