Motel Association of New Zealand Conference 2012

The Motel Association of New Zealand held their annual conference in Wellington recently which was as usual a valuable benefit for it’s members. Below is a brief description of the event.

Day One

John Key was as usual a very dynamic and informed speaker.  Information of the economy, the world and tourism in NZ all delivered with a good dollop of laughter and affinity to the ordinary kiwi person.

Following this Steve Lange the owner who grew Tony’s tyre service to 20 stores gave plenty of advice about customer service, expectations and tips to get all your staff on board with the ethics of your business. Turning complaints in to loyal customers and exceeding your competitors was another strong message to come through.

Debbie Mayo Smith followed up with 8 tips to free up time and make more money. Smart phones were a tool of the customer and needed to be considered from a business point of view. Outlook tips also gave ideas to be far more efficient with the email tasks.

A good time for visiting all the suppliers enabled delegates to make the most of having them all in the one place and get the maximum amount of information without having to spend hours by phone or email contacting them all.

The day was wrapped up with two workshops from Harman’s lawyers and Blakemore group valuers. Seaton Read and Brian Burke discussed improvement rental and the impact on both lessee and lessor and the factors effecting the termination of a lease for various reasons. Bruce Mainwaring gave delegates an insight in to valuation and arbitration processes and highlighted points in a lease which could affect a valuation

All in all it was a very full day loaded with information and tips for delegates. Top this off with the networking and discussions between moteliers and it is not surprising there were so many positive comments from delegates at the end of the day saying how glad they were they had made the decision to attend.

 

Day Two

Day two contained the AGM where Peter Blackwell was awarded an Hon life associate membership and the marketing plan of where MANZ is heading in the future. After lunch delegates were given a look at the new website from Maree Surrey along with the capabilities it had and tools it would provide for members. There was also a raft of tips and things delegates should be doing with their own websites. After lunch Jennifer Rolfe gave a fantastic insight in to branding, what it is and how to review or develop your brand.

Of course the night displayed all the delegates in their finery at the Gala Dinner. The mass of black ties and fancy dresses created an amazing atmosphere which set the scene for a great night. During the night The AA host supreme award was won by Roselle and Peter from Shadzz in Palmerston North. Congratulations to them on this. Then in typical conference tradition there was dancing well in to the night.

Day Three

Today had Kerry Prendergast describe the direction and activities of Tourism New Zealand and then a final session by Pam Corkery Which was highly entertaining but also very poignant and reminded us to make sure our life was full of good memories by ensuring we create them with the way we live our life.

This conference certainly delivered what it needed to for its delegates. Everyone should go home with ideas for their business, new skills and highlighted areas to expand their learning and knowledge, but also with new friends or further cemented old friend relationships. Moteliers are a special group of people and those proactive ones who attended conference have shown just how good they are.

August 02 2012 | Articles for current moteliers and Changes in Motel Trends and Entering the Motel Industry and Uncategorized | No Comments »

Tourist Tax. How does it fit in New Zealand and in your business.

Lots of talk at present about Tourist Tax and lobbying your local MP’s and councillors so they understand the full implications of this being implemented. How would it effect your business if you were required to pay a tax on all guests who were tourists.

One line of thinking is that not only is this another burden in gathering and passing on the tax to the relevant authority it also creates an unfair playing field. If accommodation providers have to pay a tourist tax, then does it not follow that petrol stations, restaurants etc should also be subjected to this tax?
Interesting reading in this article on tourist tax. http://www.taxationinfonews.com/2012/04/tax-authorities-eye-up-tourist-taxes/

If this is a tax which as a motellier you object to then you should be looking at putting in submissions to local and central Government on the issue. Either individual submissions or local association ones all add to the knowledge of councillors and politicians and possibly prevent the scales tipping too far against accommodation providers.

April 23 2012 | Articles for current moteliers and Changes in Motel Trends and Uncategorized | No Comments »

What business services do you provide for your guests?

I have just read the blog post by James Hacon http://t.co/vYqUXQfY on the Hotel . Com survey for guest amenities. The pattern shows a trend as discussed in my blog on 3rd February http://bit.ly/HvMwFs
Good reading but also thought provoking especially one comment from Anna Pollock which stated it can be very difficult to get business services including printers whilst travelling.
I have recently purchased a new printer and following on from Anna’s comment I thought it would be great to have in a motel situation. The printer is an HP wireless 6500A which obviously prints wirelessly so any personal or office computers can print without the need for cables. Great to tidy up that precious office space in a motel. The function which I thought would be more beneficial however is the ability to print via the internet. This means provided someone has the access codes to the printer they can email print jobs to it and voila the printer churns out the required hard copy. This would be a great function to enable you to provide your guests with an easy to use print facility.
I am sure there are other brands which do the same thing or can even provide more facilities but it is food for thought to look for extra functions with technology when purchasing new items and think of ways these can provide an even better experience for your guests.

April 11 2012 | Articles for current moteliers and Changes in Motel Trends and Entering the Motel Industry and Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Tourism New Zealand adds Trip Advisor. Good or bad?

There is an interesting comment thread on The New Zealand tourism Industry Blog at present about the attachment of Trip Advisor to Tourism New Zealand’s web site. Here is a link to the discussion.

http://linkd.in/zCEtiJ

It is obvious from the comments in this topic that there are many differing opinions on the benefits and disadvantages of Trip Advisor. The reality however is that this type of advertising is here and isn’t going to simply go away. It is in a way no different to the old traditional word of mouth advertising but is able to reach far more people far quicker.

One benefit I see is that at least service providers know what is being said about them and can reply or take appropriate action to fix a problem if necessary rather than being completely oblivious to the old word of mouth be it good or bad stories being told about them.

It is important for any service provider to be confident in their product and their pricing structure so that when a customer threatens a bad review in return for something free the operator can refuse. It is only by these people being refused they will realise that the practice won’t work and then it may cease. It is the same as people who seek a discount on a quoted price. If there weren’t any operators who gave a discount then people would stop asking for one.

Confidence in your product, pricing structure and service will alleviate most customer problems.

March 20 2012 | Articles for current moteliers and Changes in Motel Trends | 1 Comment »

Does your business have an SOP?

You may think I hope not to the above question but in fact it is a positive for a business to have an SOP. This is an acronym for Standard Operating Procedure and is really a necessity for a business to ensure things are consistent and your customers always receive the experience you want them to have.

For instance one of your cleaners may leave 4 coffee sachets in a room and another may leave 6. If you have a client who is a heavy coffee drinker and drinks five coffees during their stay, they will sometimes have enough to last the night but when the 4 coffee cleaner prepares their room they will get frustrated and annoyed at missing out on a cup of coffee. You may say well they can always come and ask for another one, but that is a nuisance that the customer may not want to have and it may be the catalyst for them looking for alternative accommodation.

The SOP will ensure that all tasks are completed to a consistent standard in a safe and economic manner.  This means happier customers, less accidents and more efficiency within the business making it stronger and flowing down to a healthier profit.

So how do you prepare an SOP.  First you must analyze the task you are writing the SOP for.

1)      Choose the task

2)      Perform the task and document each step

3)      Identify the critical elements which must be done a specific way. Eg: 6 coffee sachets.

4)       Identify any hazards

5)      Isolate or eliminate the hazards by documenting the correct procedure and materials (eg: chemicals and dilution rates) for the task and any safety equipment or clothing which must be worn.

6)      Set out the steps within the SOP and the order in which things must be done.

Next it is important that everyone is aware of and follows the SOP for these tasks. When you employ new staff they should be given a job description and the SOP for the tasks you are expecting them to perform. This clarifies things for both parties. It is not just the staff however who should adhere to the SOP, the business owner must also perform the tasks in the same way.  If you do things differently why is this? Does the SOP need to be changed?

When you look at your business it is often too big a task to work on things like an SOP. Where do you start? There are just so many things that happen. When things are very big and daunting however you just have to remember this saying. “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time” It would be too hard to sit down and write SOPs for your whole business but one winter afternoon when it is quiet (looks like we are heading for some of these soon) just sit in front of your computer and pick one thing and document an SOP for it. It can be anything from checking a guest in to cleaning the pool to cleaning a bathroom to taking a booking.

Keep this process up and eventually you will have enough SOPs that you will have created an operating manual for your motel. This will add to the value of your business, make it clearer for staff,  managers and minders and will help when it is time to sell your motel. It is completing a number of small tasks that eventuate in completing a major one. Just like eating an elephant one bite at a time.

May 11 2011 | Articles for current moteliers and Changes in Motel Trends and Entering the Motel Industry | No Comments »

Do you have a buyer persona?

Do you have a buyer persona?

If you are like me before you can answer this question you will say “what is a buyer persona” A buyer persona is used to identify the needs of the people you are advertising to. That is your buyer or customer. Basically it means developing a persona or character which fits your clients. This then means that you can identify the features and functionality which will make your advertising or website a success by catering to the needs of your persona and the people who will be using your products. Thus the persona drives the content you are creating for your advertising.

When developing a persona what’s important is not necessarily that you get the persona 100 percent right, but if you can get it kind of 90 percent right it is okay. Having that ability, having that understanding of who that person is, will help you decide what content you should be producing, what content those people are more likely to share in social media, what content they’re more likely to subscribe to, what things they’re probably searching. Having a deeper understanding of who that person is can be really, really helpful.

                 Although personas are fictitious, they are based on knowledge of real users. Some form of user research is conducted before they are written to ensure they represent end users rather than the opinion of the person writing the personas. Do you research your guests? Who are they? What do your guests need? What makes things easier for them to use you? The persona should be developed to create advertising which suits the client rather than what you think as the writer of the persona.

Creating a persona

Step One Decide on the research method:

                 To develop a persona you must first do the research. This can be done by various methods but an interview if possible is one of the best ways to gather the information.

                 Decide who to interview by listing the groups of people that might use the website. Trends are usually seen after talking to around 10 or so users, however you may need to speak to more if there are a lot users with vastly different needs. Once you hear the same thing over and over again, it’s time to stop.

                 If you really can’t get interview users then attempt a combination of research methods. Try not to rely on a single method, rather use at least two avenues of research. Also, if you interview users, consider supplementing the interviews with one of the research methods below. This will produce richer data and can verify your interview findings: 

  • Interview business stakeholders that interact frequently with users. Respect the wealth of knowledge your business stakeholders hold and get them involved early on in the persona research. This helps to build their buy in to the persona technique.
  • Review market research, again these people have frequent interaction with end users and are trained to pick up patterns in attitudes and behaviours.
  • If you are designing a web site, talk to friends and family that are users of the current website or potential users of the new website. Chat to people over dinner parties or at the pub.

 

Step Two: Conduct the research:

One way of creating a persona is to conduct interviews and the type of information gathered could be as below. Remember to prepare a list of interview questions, but remain open to an alternative path of questioning if it leads to uncovering user attitudes and behaviours. Also, don’t ask questions like ‘What are your goals when using the website?’. You will need to infer the goals from questions like ‘What things frustrate you the most?’, ‘What makes a good working day?’, and ‘What will help you to do your job better?’

Information to gather during interviews could be.

  • Basic demographics such as age, job, family, hobbies and interests
  • What a typical day looks like
  • Common questions or tasks in relation to the website’s domain
  • Major frustrations when trying to achieve goals related to the website’s domain. For example, if it is a travel website, what frustrates the person most about researching and booking travel (online and offline)
  • What the person likes best about the website’s domain. For example, what does the interviewee like best about travel
  • Who does the person interact with most when completing tasks. For example, does the person rely on the travel agent for advice or do they like to make their own travel decisions.
  • Skill levels relating to tasks as well as technology
  • How time poor or rich the person is
  • Goals, attitudes, beliefs (conscious and subconscious)

 

Step three:  Analyse research:

 

Review all the research data and look for patterns in attitudes and behaviours. For example, if you interviewed people about your motel, you might find patterns like users who are price driven as opposed to quality driven, users who travel frequently as opposed to infrequently, and users who prefer to research their holiday rather than asking others for suggestions.

Whilst listing these patterns, you will begin to see clusters of attitudes and behaviours that make up different personas, such as the frequent traveller that is skilled in researching holidays and finding the best prices. This persona is motivated by keeping the cost of each holiday down so they can travel more in the future. The persona’s goal is to go on as many holidays as possible.

Once you have defined these clusters of attitudes and behaviours, give each persona a brief description, such as ‘independent traveller’ or ‘bargain hunter’. There is no ideal number of personas, however try to keep the set small. Four or five personas work as effective design tools, whilst over ten personas may introduce the same confusion as a large user requirements document.

Step Four: Write the persona

 

Start writing the personas by adding details around the behavioural traits. Select details from your research, such as working environment, frustrations, relationships with others, skill level, and some demographics. Give each persona a name and a photo, unless you are better suited to the more generic personas such as a series of bullet points.

Here are some tips to follow regardless of whether you write your personas as narrative or bullet points:

  • Keep your personas to one page, so they remain effective communication tools and can be referred to quickly during design discussions.
  • Add personal details but don’t go overboard.
  • Include goals for each persona. This can include experience goals as well as end goals. In the case of Jane the budget traveller her experience goal might be to have an enjoyable holiday now but her long term goal is to have a number of holidays within her budget.
  • Once your personas are written, review them to ensure they have remained realistic and based on your research data. Check that you have a manageable number of personas, and if two personas seem close in behaviours and goals, see if you can merge them into one persona. Finally, to ensure you have a polished product, ask someone to review the personas for accuracy in spelling and grammar.

 

Step Five: Using personas

 

            Once the persona is developed you have a fictitious person who you can ask yourself questions about. “Would this persona like this content?”  Say things like, “Well, would Mary really like this website? Is that the thing Mary would be interested in? Why would Mary share that with her friends?”  If you can have that mindset, you’re going to start to think a little bit more like a media company and having that capability, to maybe compete more with the media moguls and have a better shot of attracting your audience.                                                  

            The personas will allow you to make many marketing decisions based on how they would react to it. You can identify the features which are relevant and deliver value to your clients. Decide if one size fits all or if you need to have a different approach in different areas of your advertising.

            Your personas should be used in all areas. If you are talking with your web designer give them your personas and make sure they are creating something of value for your guests and ultimately for you. Any branding or print advertising should also be created from these personas. Even get your staff to buy in to the personas. If they know who they are doing things for and it is a person with a name, even a fictitious person, it is easier for them to have a connection and understand what they should be doing and why.

Conclusion:

Personas allow you to identify and communicate user needs efficiently and effectively. By developing ‘stand in’ users, based on real user data, you can create a culture within your business which meets the needs of your broader customer base, gives them a good customer experience and enhances the value of your business.

Reference: http://www.steptwo.com.au/papers/kmc_personas http://www.hubspot.com/optimizing-your-website-for-maximum-lead-flow-thank-you

March 16 2011 | Articles for current moteliers and Changes in Motel Trends and Entering the Motel Industry | No Comments »

Choosing the correct business structure in New Zealand.

There are three main types of business structures in New Zealand to choose from when purchasing a business and the type of structure you use will be determined by the needs you have and which structure will best suit your individual circumstances.

 

1)      Sole Trader

A sole trader operates the business on his or her own. This is easy to set up in that there are no legal requirements for registration or formal processes to follow.  The owner in this business structure does everything themselves controlling, owning and managing the business. They are entitled to employ staff to help run the business but are entitled to all profits and are personally liable for all taxes and  debts.

 

There are some disadvantage to this structure including that you have unlimited liability for your debts which may put your personal assets at risk. It can also be harder to secure loans or investors in the business and the sole trade structure can only last for the lifetime of the person.

 

2)      Partnership

Partnerships are where two or more people run the business together. Each partner shares responsibility for running the business shares the profits and shares the liabilities. Partnerships are usually formed with a formal partnership agreement. The profits from a partnership are not taxed in the partnership but are distributed to the partners as per the partnership agreement and taxed as individual income for that person.

 

The partnership structure is not as common as in the past as more people are now able to use a company structure. One of the disadvantages of a partnership is that each partner is liable for all debts within the partnership even those incurred by another partner and thus may put personal assets at risk. Also if there is a conflict within the partnership, a partner wishes to leave or a partner dies it can cause problems in the running of the business.

 

 

3)      Limited Liability Company

A company is a formal and legal entity in its own right and is separate from its shareholders (group of people who own the company.  Because of the formal structure the company governs the relationship between shareholders, directors and creditors and so usually fosters more confidence in a business than the previous two structures.

 

The liability of the shareholders is limited to their stake within the company, unless they have given personal guarantees, the company has traded while insolvent or has been trading recklessly, and so provides more protection for investors. This can make it easier to attract investors or loans. It is important for directors to clearly understand their responsibilities under the company structure though as the limited liability can be eroded by personal guarantees.

 

These are the three main company structures but there are other structures which may be relevant to your personal situation. It is very important when purchasing a business that you consult with your professional such as accountant or lawyer to determine which is the best option for you.

 

Information Sources: http://www.business.govt.nz/companies

November 29 2010 | Changes in Motel Trends and Entering the Motel Industry | 3 Comments »

Motel Lease for Sale: What is it and how does it work?

for leaseFor those of us who have been in the Motel Industry for a long time the answer to the above question seems obvious but we forget the day when we first entered the industry and asked the very same question.

There are three ways of entering the industry. Buying a Freehold Going Concern motel ( land Buildings and business), buying an Investment Motel (land & Buildings only) or buying a lease motel (business only). The lease business is the most common way of entering the industry with approx 90 to 95% of motels run under a lease situation.
In the lease situation a purchaser buys the right to operate the motel business from the premises for the number of years determined by the lease, the goodwill of the business and the chattels.

The lease is the document which dictates the terms and conditions within which the purchaser must operate the business. There is no standard motel lease and they can be quite varied so it is essential when purchasing a motel that the purchaser has a solicitor familiar with the motel industry review the lease and advise them on the various terms. The lease will specify the obligations of both the lessor (landlord) and lessee(purchaser). Once the lease is set up the terms are valid and can only be changed by mutual consent of both parties. The terms of a lease are usually relevant to the use of the land & Buildings and not specific to the way in which the business is operated. For example the lease may stipulate the building must be painted every 10 years but would not stipulate where the business was to advertise.

If the lease is purchased from an incumbent lessee then the purchaser is assigned the lease with the current terms and conditions and therefore becomes bound by those terms. The length of the lease is an important factor as this provides for you to operate the motel in the premises for that length of time. It is usual for a purchaser to want a lease with at least 20 years still to run. If the lease is shorter than 20 years the lessor may extend the term and it is usual for this to attract a cost.

The goodwill of a motel lease business includes the client base and business procedures which the current owner has developed. If a purchaser was buying a new motel with no previous history they would need to develop a customer base and would only gradually build the occupancy and turnover. By purchasing an established business this has already been developed and means the incoming lessee can expect a general level of income right from day one. This goodwill may also include branding, logos, websites etc. and the database of customers for the motel.

The chattels are a tangible asset; they usually consist of all the furniture within the motel, the carpets, curtains, appliances, fridges, stoves etc. If anything is hired this should be disclosed within the information provided to purchasers enquiring about the motel. A chattels list will be provided with the motel information or as part of the due diligence process at the latest and these items become the property of the purchaser.

Thus when buying a motel lease a purchaser is bound by the terms of the lease but has the ability to operate the actual business in a manner which they wish to. The financial decisions, the choice of chattels & soft furnishings, the marketing decisions and the operational decisions such as staffing are all undertaken by the lessee without needing the input of the landlord.

If you have any specific questions relating to motels or leases please feel free to comment or contact me directly and I will endeavour to answer them for you.

October 18 2010 | Uncategorized | 10 Comments »

Stick to your knitting.

At all times but especially in these tough economic times it is common for moteliers to be reviewing their business and looking at ways they can increase their profit. This is an integral part of operating your own business be it a motel or any other type of business. The ideas and solutions which you arrive at must however be analysed properly to ensure they are in fact a benefit and not a detriment to your business.
What is your core product? This is the backbone of your business and will be the bread and butter profit for you. Many will say well all motels have the same core product. They all have rooms with a bed and bathroom. It is true that all motels have rooms with a bed and bathroom but all of these rooms are not the same. Some are luxury rooms with expensive fittings and unique bathroom accessories, some are rooms of a modern design with standard fittings and some are older rooms with older style fittings and chattels. These are all motel rooms but each offers a different core product to their customer.
Find your identity from your core product and build on this. What are you good at and what are you not good at? If you have a luxury style complex you will not be good at servicing the needs of the budget conscious client. An older style mid range complex will not be good at servicing the needs of a client looking for luxury. What is it that you are best at? Establish your core product find your identity and build on this.
When you are looking at expanding your business you must look at the ideas in relation to your core product. You cannot be all things to all people! When analyzing a new idea put yourself in your clients shoes; is it something they would want. Would a luxury client want a frozen meal to zap in the microwave or would an anti-pasta platter be more appropriate? What can you add to your product that your current customers would want to pay extra for? It is a far more economical way of making profit by taking more revenue from your current clients than by spending marketing dollars to try and attract new clients.
When you implement a new idea it is like any other aspect of your business you must be able to monitor and measure the effect of it. If you have a new product on offer then you must set a time frame (say monthly) to measure how many customers have taken up this product and how much profit was made from it after all costs were taken out. Ask your clients for feedback. Was the product beneficial, would they use it again, how could it be improved? Then it is vital to act on the information and measurements you have gathered. If you have given a product sufficient time to develop and it is not making profit or being used then you must put it in the tried but didn’t work basket and move to the next idea. Business is a perpetual cycle of evaluation and ideas.
Most importantly be good at what you are, “Stick to your knitting” and grow your business from this to be the best of its own particular kind.

August 30 2010 | Articles for current moteliers and Entering the Motel Industry and Uncategorized | No Comments »

Manz Conference 2010. Workshop: Preparing your Motel Business for Sale.

This workshop was conducted at the recent Motel Association of New Zealand Annual Conference, by a panel of the MANZ Consultant Motel Brokers: John Griffin, Malcolm McCrae, Kelvyn Coffey and John Harrison, answering questions and giving advice as to how you should prepare your motel for sale.

It was a very informative workshop with many points raised and many questions answered by the professional brokers. The key points being; Profit & Loss accounts, Chattels, Presentation and Leases.

Profit & Loss Accounts. It is from these accounts that the purchaser will calculate the return they will get on their investment and therefore the accounts need to be accurate and presenting as much profit as possible. A purchaser or their accountant will expect 3 years accounts not just last years, so you need to ensure your accounts are showing the best profit for the three years not just the year you decide to sell. If you take cash from your business and people are looking for a 20% to 25% return then every $1 you take out costs $4 or $5 on your sale price. $20 dollars in your pocket is $100 off your selling price.

Chattels: When selling it is important to have a complete and up to date chattels list available. The purchaser will want to see this in order to assess the business and a delay in receiving it sometimes looses your buyer.

Presentation: This is paramount when purchasers are looking at a motel. Any deferred maintenance should be completed. Fix that leaky tap so the purchaser doesn’t wonder what else needs doing that they can’t see. Clean and tidy, so it all looks pristine and orderly. A disorganized and dirty complex may make the purchaser think the reason is that the motel is too much work and put them off buying it.

Leases: Leases were the major topic in regards to the length of the lease and terms in them. Currently The Motel Assoc of NZ is working on a draught motel lease to try and replace the old ADLS leases and others which are not motel specific . This new lease will be availabe to new properties as those with existing leases in place cannot be changed unless by mutual agreement. It is becoming common for new leases to be 30 or 35 years in length and most buyers are looking for at least 20 years. Extensions can be granted by lessors but this is usually at a cost per year. There is no set figure per year as it is an individual agreement between lessor and lessee and each motel is a unique business so age & condition must be taken into account. Buyers are insisting on leases over 20 years so it is important to ensure you can extend your lease. This does not have to be done at sale time and can often be negotiated as a part of a rent review. A trade off for a rent increase could be the lessor extending the lease.

For more information on any of the above you can contact one of your professional accredited motel Brokers John or Kathie at John Griffin Realty ltd. Hamilton. E-mail kathie@shepard.co.nz

August 13 2010 | Uncategorized | No Comments »

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