015 | Online Hospitality Training, eBooks and Best Practices with HMBookstore.com COO Rick Tomljenovic

Rick Tomljenovic has been in the hospitality industry for more than 35 years. He’s an owner and Chief Operating Officer of Tristar Hotel Management, a midsize company managing between 15-25 properties on average per year, including 5 properties that they own.

LL015-Rick_TomljenovicRick is also Chief Operating Officer for HMBookstore.com – a cutting edge online hospitality and tourism training company with more than 70 eBooks published. HMBookstore’s eBooks have been adopted by professors at top U.S. hospitality universities, and over 13,000 eBooks have been sold to university students since 2012.

After high school, Rick attended Forrest Park College and earned a hospitality degree. He worked for several midscale and largescale management companies, and spent a lot of time working for Holiday Inn managing several of their properties in the Chicago/Midwest region.

Early on, Rick had the pleasure of working with the Holiday Inn training program and he was enamored by the experience. Those early examples of great training programs and materials planted the seed of what would later evolve into HMBookstore.com.

Resources & Links

Rick Tomljenovic

Company Websites & Pages

eBook Course Listing


The Why

As a growing hotel management company, Tristar wanted better training materials for their employees, so they began creating their own in 1998. Back then, the materials were CD Rom-based, and they distributed the materials to their employees for training and testing. As the materials and technology evolved, they began to put their content into a Learning Management System (LMS) to improve the overall training process.

They found that most of the brands offered training at the management level, and some line-level training, but it was more specific to the brand and less specific to the job. They set out to develop line-level training for employees that was consistent and hit the mark as far as customer service and guest satisfaction.

The What

More than 70 eBooks are available for purchase on HMBookstore.com and through several universities. The materials can be purchased as individual eBooks, in bundles, or via hotel subscription. Their main markets are:

1) Universities – over 13,000 eBooks have been sold to university students at institutions such as Northern Arizona University, University of Nevada Las Vegas, and Buffalo State. They primarily use them to augment their internship programs.
2) Hotel subscription model – Rather than paying a traditional “per seat” license, hotels can pay a subscription fee for full access and, as new employees are on-boarded, the hotel administrator can easily set up new access for that employee at no additional charge.
3) Online – All of the 70+ eBooks can be purchased individually or in select bundles via the HMBookstore.com website.

Each of the books are broken down into modules (chapters), so the employee/student can complete them at their own pace. At the end of each module, employees are given a quiz to measure their proficiency. When the eBook is complete and the student passes, Hospitality Management Online (HMBookstore) issues a certificate of competition.

HMBookstore.com is also test piloting an employee suggestion program, iInnovator, that provides a real-time process for employees to become more engaged and provide valuable feedback and suggestions to management. Employees are encouraged to give ideas that will either enhance guest experience or that can help generate revenue for a hotel. “You’d be amazed at what the line level employees are telling us that we need to do at our hotels,” Rick said.

Problems that hoteliers face today

Rick believes that “Probably the biggest problem that we (hoteliers) face today is human resources – getting the right human capital to run our hotels. I think we’re really, really, really at a point where, when we get these employees, we gotta hang on to them, and it’s tough to do.”

Rick shared a conversation he had with former Carlson Exec Nancy Johnson regarding the breakage in human capital in our industry. “We have all these people getting great hospitality degrees, and they’re coming out into the field, and the problem is that we can’t marry them up with enough management positions because that’s their expectation coming out of a 4-year university. And, it’s still an industry where they have to learn from the bottom up. You can’t understand a hotel until you’ve worked in the various positions, at least, to be very good at it. So people are coming and leaving because they don’t see the upside.”

We (management) should consider placing them in various positions with good training and communicate the desire to grow them into positions of higher responsibility.

Rick also cited technology as being a major challenge for hoteliers, stating “The expectation is, when I check in a hotel, I want my experience to be like at home, and you and I both know it really isn’t that way because technology changes so fast.”

Consumer expectations continue to change and the investment to meet those expectations and keep up is high. For example, televisions are no longer about just providing flat screens – guests now want smart TVs so they have the ability to view/stream their own content (Chrome Cast, Apple TV, Hulu etc.). Delivering the asset side of this expectation, including bandwidth, smart TVs, hardware, etc. is expensive.


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Until the next …

  • Rick, so glad you are where you’re at and happy that you married my niece! very proud of you. Great write-up. Richard Armstrong

  • Rick Tomljenovic

    Thank you for your kind comments. Proud to have such a fine person in my life such a yourself and your niece who has been very inspirational in my life as well.