001 | About the Lodging Leaders Podcast with Jon Albano

Jon Albano is the Founder and CEO of the LodgingMetrics dashboard for hotels, and host of the Lodging Leaders podcast.

Jon AlbanoFor more than 13 years, he defined Membership Services for AAHOA, one of the fastest-growing organizations in the hospitality industry, with more than 12,500 members owning more than 20,000 hotels that total $128 billion in property value. After effectively executing 13 national conventions, hundreds of regional trade shows, and attending numerous industry events, Jon is recognized by many as a leading hospitality needs expert in bringing owners and vendors together for mutual gain.

As Vice President of Membership, he led the Membership, Education & Professional Development, Public Relations & Communications, and Information Technology departments. Jon used his engineering background and passion for efficiencies to improve staff productivity and enhanced members’ experience by implementing countless technology solutions, designing custom software, and overseeing the development of multiple websites and mobile applications.

Resources and Links

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The Vision

Thank you for joining me for the very first episode of the LodgingLeaders.com podcast. For this first session, I’ll share the vision for this podcast so you know what to expect. I’ll also talk about what it means to be a hotel professional and the responsibility that entails. And finally, I’ll share a little bit about myself, my background, and my “why” for doing this.

LodgingLeaders is about bringing together the best and brightest minds – the collective intelligence of the hotel industry – to share their stories, their insights and their advice. It’s engaging interviews with inspiring hoteliers and industry professionals that have produced amazing results, both professionally, and personally.

It’s also about effective leadership – in your business, in your communities, and in the industry. The fact that you are listening to this podcast suggests you’re already a leader. Leaders are always learning, right? They’re on the lookout for new ideas, trying new things, constantly measuring, evaluating, and adjusting.

You know, running a hotel is a BIG job, and it’s an awesome responsibility. I want to take some time today to think about the service you provide, because I think it will help set the context for this podcast.

People stay at a hotel for many reasons. It may be a businessperson away from their family in an unfamiliar place, or a family taking that vacation they saved up for all year. It may be a couple trying to recharge and rekindle their relationship. It may be a family member in town to spend quality time with loved ones, to celebrate the birth of a new child, or to support a loved on in the hospital. It may be a displaced family who just lost their home, or a family moving to your city and looking for a permanent place to live.

Whatever the reason, your guest is longing for the comforts of home at your hotel, right? They may expect to be pampered by your housekeeping staff making their beds or cleaning up behind them, or a good meal from room service that they didn’t have to prepare, or a refreshing swim in your pool, or drinks in the hot tub (lol). Staying at your property is so much more than a bed and shelter. Your guests expect a clean room, a safe and quiet environment, and good service.

Hotels make it possible for people to do business globally, take vacations, bring friends and family together. They add value to a community. Many provide the space for people to do business and celebrate special occasions. Hotels provide many jobs and stimulate growth in the economy.

The profession you have chosen has the potential to add tremendous value to tens of thousands of people, to create lifelong memories, to make difficult situations more tolerable, and joyful occasions even better.

As leaders, we need to honor this responsibility any way we can by exceeding expectations of our guests, taking care of our employees, by constantly measuring, evaluating, listening and improving.

So that’s the expectation, right? It’s a pretty tall order. How do you deliver that?

How do you thrive in this industry, not merely survive?

The economic downturn that began in 2008 hit the hotel industry very hard – many lost their properties – others had to let staff go and work at their properties to make ends meet. If you’ve been in the business for any length of time, you know too well how challenging the last several years have been.

Guest expectations continue to rise, they want more amenities, and that costs you more to deliver.

Franchisors change brand standards and you have to meet them.

And while OTAs can drive higher occupancy, they take a piece of that already dwindling pie making it harder and harder to make a profit.

The bottom line is that the industry is changing. You have to keep up to stay in the game.

How do you do that? Well, listening to this podcast is a great start. Each week, my intention is to extract actionable advice from industry rock stars that virtually any hotelier can implement. So whether you’re just starting out, or you’re an industry veteran, these interviews are designed to inspire, inform and entertain you.

So, that’s the vision of the Lodging Leaders podcast. Now I’d like to share a little about myself; my background and my “why” for doing this.

I grew up in Northampton, Massachusetts, and my first experience in hospitality was at a little bed & breakfast called the Autumn Inn. I worked in their restaurant and took great pride in providing excellent service.

I’m also a musician and I attended Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA, and graduated with a bachelors degree in Music Production and Engineering. I interned at top studios for a couple years and quickly learned that being a studio rat wasn’t for me.

In 2001, I was hired by AAHOA (The Asian American Hotel Owners Association) to manage their membership department. At that time, AAHOA had about 5000 members. People join associations for many reasons – it may be to receive discounts on products and services, professional development and certifications, advocacy, or even community and networking. My job was to get to know hotel owners, understand their needs, and address them. And I did that very well. I stayed with AAHOA for more than 13 years, working my way up through the ranks, and was eventually promoted to Vice President. In that role, I led the Membership, Education, IT and Public Relations departments.

The part of my job that I loved the most was interacting with the members. I have always dreamed of being an entrepreneur (hello – I did go to music school) … so being able to work with successful entrepreneurs on a daily basis was extremely inspiring.

I started listening to hours and hours of business podcasts, and in July of 2013 while on a business trip for AAHOA, I listened to Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income podcast, episode #46, featuring Dane Maxwell. Dane is an entrepreneur that has built several successful software businesses which, at the time, were generating nearly 6 figures in monthly reoccuring revenue, and he created an online training program called the Foundation that teaches people everything they need to know about building a SaaS (Software as a Service) business. That’s when the light bulb went off.

Because I’m a technology guy at heart and I’ve always dreamed of being an entrepreneur, enrolling in the Foundation was a no-brainer. Since I already had strong ties to the hotel industry, that’s where I focused my efforts. In February 2014, I made the tough decision to leave the security of the corporate job and focused on consuming the Foundation content and building a SaaS business full-time.

Part of the Foundation process is to conduct Idea Extraction calls with successful people in the industry, asking open-ended questions and digging deep to uncover problems that a technology solutions could solve. I spoke with well over 100 hoteliers, and quickly learned that 4 out of 5 had a problem with their business metrics. Whether you own one property or many, every hotel has the same challenge … they have multiple, disparate systems, and the data from each system doesn’t talk with the other, so for a hotelier to determine their break-even point, cost per occupied room, spend per guest, etc., they often result to using complex spreadsheets and spend countless hours running calculations. It was obvious that hoteliers needed an easy, affordable way to manage all of their business metrics and keep track of their businesses. The solution – a secure, fully customizable cloud-based dashboard would give hoteliers the information they need in real-time, make informed decisions, and grow their business. And that’s what I built – LodgingMetrics.

By September (a mere 6 months after quitting my corporate gig), I had launched LodgingMetrics to my Founding Members, and the next few months continuing to iterate to ensure the dashboard was exceeding expectations.

So why did I decide to do a podcast? That’s easy. It’s in alignment with “my why.” I made a decision last year take charge of my life; to make choices that bring me closer to having the life I want. I want to live a joyful, purposeful life. I am a family man with an amazing wife and 5 incredible children. I want to spend quality time with them. I want to do work that I can be proud of, that makes a difference, and that is fulfilling. One thing I learned as I built the LodgingMetrics dashboard is that I could use my unique talents and abilities to add value to the lives of thousands of people. I know hoteliers. I know what they need, what their challenges are, who the rock stars are, and I’m in a position to bring these people together to raise the bar in the hotel industry.

I’m the kind of guy that knows the life story of the cashier before he finishes checking out at the grocery store. I naturally connect with people and make it safe for them to share openly. A podcast is a natural extension of that. It’s a public forum for me to bring the thought leaders together, to make a difference.

In general, I love the raw, intimate nature of podcasts. Most of them are interview-based and done over the phone or via skype. Since it’s usually a casual conversation, I find the guests are less guarded, and the responses are more authentic. I often listen to podcasts while exercising or driving in my car, and hearing a conversation like that makes it feel like I’m sitting in the room with them. How cool is that? I’d much rather hear a guest in this setting then on a stage or in front of a camera.

So we talked about the vision for the podcast, about what it means to be a hotelier, and a little about me.

Are you inspired? Are you excited? I certainly am. Let’s take this journey together and commit to always learning, to embracing the challenges and honoring the opportunities we have each day to make a difference.

So if you like what you’ve heard today, and you think this is in alignment with your goals, please take a moment to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or Stitcher. Leaving a review on iTunes will help others find this podcast and increase our rating. And, please share it with others.

Thank you for joining me today. Let’s raise the bar in the hotel industry together.

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Thanks for Listening!

Thanks so much for joining us again this week. If you have some feedback you’d like to share, leave a note in the comment section below!

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Also, please leave an honest review for The Lodging Leaders Podcast on iTunes! Ratings and reviews are extremely helpful and greatly appreciated! They really do matter in the rankings of the show, and I read each and every one of them.

And if you haven’t done so already, don’t forget to subscribe to the show on iTunes. It’s FREE. All it means is that you’ll automatically be notified when the next episode is released. There are options for subscribing on Apple and Android devices!

Until the next …

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