Following college, I worked in France for a number of years. Upon my return to the United States, I went to work for Four Sisters Inns, a company my father founded, and named as such as he had four daughters. I began my career managing a property in Carmel. My role gradually expanded to overseeing several inns and ultimately developing a 29 room, high end, boutique hotel in Southern California. That opportunity encompassed a wide variety of activities that truly propelled my career. Learning to juggle a large construction project, travel, continued oversight of the other properties in the portfolio, developing a new marketing strategy based on a new geographic location, hiring, training and development of a large staff and the general demands of opening a new property was an incredible opportunity for a 29 year old woman. And I gave birth to my son a month after we opened!
Taking over as president of the organization in my early 30’s, I was afforded the opportunity to expand the company through the acquisition of new properties as well as the development of management services that we began to provide to other owners. Our growth lead me to Colorado, Washington and Mexico, and throughout California. I have had the opportunity to work with an incredible team of people and a wonderful set of outside owners over the past almost 30 years.
MATT WARD: Give me your sense of the overall health of the travel industry as we get set to ramp up 2016.
SHELLEY POST: I believe the overall health of the travel industry is strong. Occupancy remains relatively robust and rate, though not advancing aggressively, is still at a fairly high level. Both business and leisure travel is growing, and the younger generation, those in their 20’s and 30’s, are eager to explore the world.
MW: What’s the biggest concern most travelers have when deciding upon a lodging establishment?
SP: Travelers today are very focused on the best value for the money they spend. They research options very thoroughly using a variety of channels, to feel like they found the best deal.
MW: What’s the biggest challenge facing those providing lodging to customers?
SP: The cost of doing business continues to escalate, particularly for the small business owner. The financial ramifications of the Affordable Care Act, mandatory paid sick leave and increases in the minimum wage are extraordinarily difficult to absorb.
MW: One of the most important topics mentioned many times is the value of customer service — define the term as you see it?
SP: Customer service is the art of identifying what the customer needs or expects, before a request is made, and providing it in an authentic, caring, friendly and professional manner.
MW: How do you solicit customer feedback and have there been times when such feedback impacted a future course of action?
SP: We use an online customer service feedback tool that is reviewed by the manager, the marketing department and myself on a daily basis. We regularly incorporate guest suggestions in order to meet and exceed expectations. Over the years, we have modified our wine and hors d’oeuvres times to better accommodate those out enjoying the region, added gluten free options to our breakfast, or added in-room spa services. We also value guest feedback on staff performance, and use it as a tool to congratulate staff on the service they provide.
MW: Your biggest pet peeve in the industry?
SP: Guests who threaten to use social media as a means to receive a discount. We are all aware of the importance of online forums which can be a wonderful tool to assist people in identifying the property that best meets their needs. Unfortunately some guests choose to threaten an on-line post to receive compensation when the hotel has in fact not fallen short.
MW: Best advice you ever received — what was it and who provided it?
SP: My father, who started Four Sisters Inns, was not one to give a lot of advice, but rather lead by example. Hard work, integrity, authentic connection with people and seizing opportunities were all “advice” I received from him over the years we worked together.
MW: You have one place in the USA and one place internationally you wish to still visit on your bucket list — where would they be?
SP: I have spent far more time traveling internationally and have never been to the Grand Canyon, so that is on my list. I plan to head to Tierra Del Fuego in southern Chile next year and cross that one off!
MW: What potential trends do you see happening that will shape the lodging industry in the years to come?
SP: Technology will increasingly impact all we do. From checking in and providing amenity preferences on your phone, to in-room high-tech features, hoteliers large and small will need to invest significant sums to provide guests with the level of technology they expect.
MW: You wake up in the morning — what motivates you beyond what you’ve already done?
SP: The older I get, the more I realize what a wonderful privilege it is to lead an organization that provides fulfilling work to many. I am driven by a desire to see this continue and watch my staff expand their roles, develop new skills and enjoy great opportunities.WHAT'S YOUR REACTION?