Saturday, September 9, 2017

Trump has changed the power of the office

Everything I post today( 9/9/17 ), because Trump is an unpredictable malignant narcissist, could be worthless tomorrow. However somebody smart and manipulative like Senator Chuck Schumer could work with this guy in the short term and benefit the .American people. For example, on tax reform Trump doesn't care about the rich and has never expoused the phony "trickle down" theory but did campaign on helping the middle or working class. He has wanted to lower corporate taxes. Okay, give him his reduction, but make sure he lowers middle income taxes; give him the corporate carry over loss relief that he campaigned on but then insist on provisions to incentive corps to bring in offshore profits without taxation, but making them allocate a majority percentage to capital improvements and infrastructure. Now let him have all the benefits and adulation to pull off a massive infrastructure bill paying for it by increasing the federal gas tax and usage taxes interstate carriers (the public will agree) but with the commitment to improve the AFA (not repeal and replace)  and lower drug prices. Show him the power of the block that Sshumer and Pelosi can control. Let him bask in the positive media ratings as he climbs in all the superficial indicators he thrives on.  Finally, going into the 2018 elections Democrates can campaign on the fact that their priority is to make Government work and that they can even work with the most disliked President in modern history. Don't let the dysfunctional ambitious Dem presidential hopefuls take your party away from being a truly effective force for good. New political theory after the Bushes, Clinton and Obama - the Presidendcy isn't the office it once was---block partying vote can be the new way as long as you keep it patient and for the good of the most of .Americans.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

My thoughts on The Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead- Welcome to the Hotel Whitley?

In 1981 W.B. Johnson Properties (W.B. Bill Johnson) executed a deal with the real estate division of the Prudential Insurance Company. The deal called for Johnson to develop approximately 12 luxury hotels in the future. The first two hotels were planned for Atlanta, Georgia: one in the upscale Buckhead area and another in downtown Atlanta. An operational staff was recruited to assist in the development of these two properties. German hotelier, Wolfgang Haenisch, previously with Omni International Hotels, was hired to be president of the new Monarch Hotel Company.

The first hotel scheduled was in Atlanta's Buckhead area, the upscale neighborhood not far from downtown Atlanta on famous Peachtree Street. It's design followed the basic format of a full-service Holiday Inn hotel (500 plus rooms, limited back of the house circulation and skimpy meeting space). The same design standards applied to the downtown hotel with the exception of fewer rooms and more limited meeting space.

Haenisch didn't last long and the long term plan with Prudential didn't materialize. However, Manufacturers Hanover Trust stepped in and provided Johnson a substantial line of credit to grow the company. Also, Metropolitan Life Insurance Company's real estate division agreed to buy, before completion, the downtown Monarch Palace. The Buckhead hotel was to be called Monarch Plaza hotel and owned by Johnson.

Johnson was worried about the challenge of starting a new luxury hotel chain. It is thought that he was being asked about this from his lenders. He hired a well-known and highly successful hotelier, Colgate Holmes, from Hyatt International,as President and Joe Freni from Omni International Hotel as Vice President of Marketing and Sales. Both men had been recommended to Johnson by consultant Joe Kordsmeier, formerly with Hyatt Hotels, and brought on board in the fall of 1982. Freni immediately began working to build a direct sales force, advertising campaign and public relations program to introduce Monarch Hotels to the traveling and meeting business world. In early 1983 Holmes brought in Horst Schulz, Corporate Food and Beverage Manager for Hyatt hotels as Vice President of Operations and General Manager of the Monarch Plaza Hotel scheduled to open in late 1983/early 1984. Later, in mid 1983, other executives (mostly from Hyatt Hotels) would be hired to wear "two hats" as corporate department heads and executive committee members of the Monarch Plaza Hotel. Still, Johnson fretted about the challenge to open a new luxury hotel chain.

During this time, hotel sites were being pursued in Laguna Nigel California, Naples, Florida, Monterey, California, Greenwich, Connecticut and Fisherman's Wharf, California. Also, there was an unsuccessful attempt to purchase the Mark Hopkins Hotel in San Francisco and consideration was given to using that name for the hotel company instead of Monarch.

Coincidentally, after the successful acquisition of a highly sought after parcel of land (by many hotel companies)in Laguna Niguel, California, Johnson started talking to Gerry Blakeley, owner of The Ritz-Carlton, Boston. Blakeley had minimal success expanding the Ritz-Carlton by licensing the name to other owners--Cadillac Fairview in Chicago (Blakeley tried to develop and operate the property first but failed and his interests were bought out by the Canadian developer and operated by Four Seasons Hotel Company). And, to developer John Coleman in New York and Washington, D.C. The Chicago Ritz-Carlton then operated under a license agreement.

Fortunately, during this time, Blakeley had successfully registered the Ritz-Carlton name in all of North America, with the exception of Montreal, offering an interesting opportunity for Johnson.

Quickly, a deal was struck in the summer of 1983 for W.B. Johnson to purchase the Ritz-Carlton, Boston and the rights to the Ritz-Carlton name and license agreements to the Ritz Carltons in Chicago, New York Coy and Washington, D.C.

Suddenly, the Monarch Plaza became the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead, the Monarch Palace became the Ritz-Carlton Atlanta, the Monarch at Laguna Beach became the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel and the Monarch of Naples became the Ritz-Carlton Naples, all managed by the renamed Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company.

As much as possible and without delaying the two Atlanta hotels' openings, changes were made in the hotels in Atlanta and Laguna to better resemble the Boston Ritz. Architecturally, Laguna was not too far along and significant modifications could be made. Noted interior designer Frank Nicholson had already been commissioned to design the downtown Atlanta hotel which, ironically, reflected an luncanny Ritz type look. He was then contracted to redo Buckhead and do Laguna and Naples. Unfortunately, because it was the first to open, Buckhead's changes were mostly cosmetic. (Except Johnson had a Boeing 747 air freight pavers to redo the entrance to the hotel.)

Nevertheless,the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead opened in 1984 and surpassed all expectations. The hotel and staff set a new interpretation to the "Ritz" mystique. It was the training center of all future hotels, where "my pleasure" and "Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen" were born. Just about all the leaders in the company passed through it's doors. Lifelong friendships developed. As the growth period accelerated, all future owners and developers were guests at Buckhead--the corporate headquarters hotel. It was a worthy representative of everything the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company would become over the next decade. It motivated everyone else in other Ritz hotels to be as good or better than Buckhead.

According to recent articles RCB has fallen into some neglect. Infrequent upgrades and, when done, in a non-quality way. The current hotel industry pablum is that it is very challenging on the part of "brand" managers to keep up with the preferences of today's traveling public. The first thing they do to entertain the thought that an appealing look can't be traditional or timeless; service gets "lip service" and/or is loaded with gimmicks (loyalty points) and of course everybody talks about technology. Consequently,the universal formula to enhance the hotel experience is to introduce "with it" art, cheesy lightening, foolish looking artifacts, sharp shapes and hard colors. The result is that all the hotel interiors look the same and the guest's extential experience becomes mediocre at best. Certainly not memorable. Can you really tell the difference among the different "brand" looks?

If the stories are true that the Buckhead Ritz has slipped why couldn't the owner and management company strategize to maintain Buckhead's presence in an established vibrant market? Where is the creativity from a business standpoint to solidify a landmark hotel's position among the legion of great hotels in this country and continue to make it a profitable asset in the owner's portfolio?

As an aside, in my opinion, the sale of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company was caused not by the way the hotels were operated (with few exceptions our operating margins were above industry averages), but by over promised returns to get a great deal. The lousy deals themselves--all driven by the developer who also insisted on excessive design and construction standards the cost of which were not included in the original proformas caused deep suspicions between the operator and the owners. Further,inability to build a positive personal owner/operator relationship at the highest level and his failure to manage his own company's debts(Gulfstreams vs lower debt to earnings ratios) caused the need to sell the company.

If it happens that the Ritz Carlton Buckhead gets sold and "re-branded" to a lesser
name, no matter whether you ever worked for Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company or not, as a hospitality professional one can never be assured anymore that the more you try to improve your service skills, to make a commitment to the hotel you work for; to say nothing the lifelong comaraderie
made with fellow workers,owners don't really care and management companies can't protect you. Sadly, this episode again shows that the hotel business, one of the few enterprises whose fundamental capital is Human Resources, is slowly losing part of its soul. #end

Saturday, September 22, 2012

We need a new "Bully Pulpit"

Ever since Theodore Roosevelt the Bully Pulpit has been used to persuade and convince the public of the President's position on an issue and to get action. Our great Presidents (yes there have been some on both sides)were wise to use this powerful tool on a limited and often non-political basis when the nation's interests were what mattered.

Now,it's become an ineffective device to which no one pays attention. In fact, the influence of the Office of the President has been significantly diminished when domestic issues are at stake because of too many speeches, phony town hall gatherings, daily press briefings and the palaver the 24-hour news cycles spawn via a faineant yet opinionated media.

To combat this effluence of executive propaganda, the legislative branch responds with an eqivalent barrage of tripe. And, of course, the media gobbles up this nonsense and filters it based on their bias.

We can't count on the politicians to get anything done because of their public posturing in front of cameras and mikes. But we do suspect that, in private, some degree of modicoum and bipartisanship still exists.

So, here's what I propose as the replacement for the old Bully Pulpit. Whomever wins the Presidency should use this technique. Congress too.

1.Eliminate the daily press briefings and keep Air Force One on the ground unless for national emergencies and required foreign travel. Also, eliminate those wasteful Congressional "fact finding" junkets.

2.Schedule monthly formal press conferences.

3.Send (don't make the speech) a State of the Union message accompanied with an annual set of nine objectives for the government. Three budget and deficit reduction; three Defense; three economy and entitlements. Incidentlly, how's that Department of Homeland Security working out for us. Are we getting our monies worth?

4.Schedule monthly meetings for the year and note the agenda items for each meeting. Make sure the dates don't conflict with events of national importance (NFL games, American Idol, etc.)

5. Schedule total coverage of the meetings on C-SPAN.

6. Appoint a non-partisan facilitator.

7. Arrange meeting room with Executive on one side and House and Senate on the other. Facilitator in the middle.

8. 'Bully" the Cogressional Leadership (and that means all the players who control the votes in both parties) to attend. Include those faceless parliamentarins to ratify the legislative process and staff members as advisors to participants. The Executive Branch should have all members of the Cabinet.

9. Let all positions on each issue be articulated (time limits please). Match pros and cons so the gap between positions can be evaluated and risk assesments determined.

10. The facilitator must be empowered to narrow the gaps by negotiating with all sides to compromise toward the goal.

11. The facilitator must evaluate and grade the levels and degrees to which each side was willing to compromise and if it happens that a compromise can't be achieved identify those who were responsible for the failure.

12. The President then advocates all the positive outcomes and enforces the "no change in position" rule. That now becomes the new Bully Pulpit.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The ICON Museum is closed

We need to shut down the icon museum. For years the museum housed a modest assemblage of godlike, heroic, mythical or religious artifacts, images, symbols and idols. Attendance wasn't overwhelming but those who knew of its existence appreciated the authenticity of the collection. Sadly, in recent years,the museum has become victum to an influx of so-called "iconic" events, places and people donated by intellectually sloppy individuals-primarily from the media-who either can''t take the time to properly describe their "icon" or just don't know how. In the past, noteworthy people, places or events were made historically significant by descriptive narratives which, in an eloquent and respectful way, permanently memorialized them. Now, concurrent with an otiosity that pervades the public forum the word icon or iconic gets attached to any and every ephemeral person, event or thing that is the subject of a media snippet.One might have an academic of enormous accomplishment paired with a pop star who wears gaudy clothing as their "signature"--both being branded ICONIC!!! Shameful indeed. Before we close the musuem let's throw in for display some other "iconic" phrases like,"the fact of the matter...", "the bottom line...", and finally "awesome".

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tell all the politicians to get out of the way!.

In an ironic and maddening way  the politicians (House, Senate and White House), by way of their spineless inability to get off their "principled" positions have created an opportunity for this country to find some certainty for the next couple years-and that may be enough time for the economy to naturally "right itself". The forced reductions in government expenditures and the reinstatement of the Bush tax cuts are acceptable steps to take and might be just the right medicine to get the economy out of its funk. Are they painful? Not really. Any good businessman can tell you its easy to cut 10% out of an operation and not miss a beat and don't tell me that the Defense Department can't take the hit. That's just plain BS. Also, reinstating the tax provisions the Bush Administration eliminated were never deemed to be permanent. We'd just be getting back to a period where the economy was percolating along rather nicely and showing surpluses (from year to year) which could have begun to reduce the long term deficit). So, if you ask me, now that the politicians have shown their talents at not being able to do what's right let's tell them to go home so they can't mess anything up and let the sequestration take hold. Oh, and tell those presidential candidates to stay out of it too!