hospitality technology made simple by kevin sturm Consulting

secrets to a successful . . . breakfast?

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. And my favorite thing to do at breakfast is to share good conversation.

I'm on a workation in Phoenix and when I travel to any city I try to connect with at least one person over breakfast (this is great way to network with other consultants, meet prospective clients, or catch up with friends). Last week I sent an email to John Burns to meet for breakfast. I'd met John once before at the HOT Conference and was eager to learn how he got to where he is and hear his take on consulting in this economy.

For those of you who don't know John, Mr. John Burns is and has been one the most influential figures in hospitality technology and was honored in 2006 with an induction into the HFTP Hall of Fame (yes . . . there is a Hall of Fame for hospitality technology). He is arguably the expert in electronic distribution systems for hotels with a very impressive list of clients all around the world.I'm not sure if I can say it's a "goal" to be in the HFTP Hall of Fame but it would be an honor to be recognized among the names in this group.

John recommended we meet at Cafe ZuZu in Hotel Valley Ho. It was AMAZING and we were blessed with a summer storm. We enjoyed awesome food and great conversation on the outdoor patio (which is not generally done in Phoenix in May) as a light rain pattered on the tin umbrella over our table with casual 50's classics offering a chic atmosphere. I had Brioche french toast with lemon cream cheese and fresh berries . . . can I say "AWESOME!" Hotel Valley Ho is cool retro-modern hotel that was renovated a few years ago to highlight and capitalize on it's 1950's style. I'm in Phoenix often and I will now be frequenting Cafe ZuZu.

John lived up to his reputation of being amazingly knowledgeable, but beyond that he was amazingly open about projects he was working on and an wonderful breakfast companion. He left me with some gems of wisdom to take away as a consultant. I have been extremely blessed and always grateful for the guidance and direction other consultants have given me (mainly this amazing guy).

So thanks John for a wonderful breakfast!

An interesting thing I've noticed throughout my career is those with the most success are also the most willing to share about how they did it. So here's a question . . .

Are you working to keep your reasons for success a secret and why? Or, do you openly share your secrets for success and why?

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santa barbara zoo

I always enjoy when the effort invested into a project culminates in a successful go-live. But occasionally I get to be involved in very special openings. By special I suppose I mean memorable. Memorable because it is a miracle the venue actually opening on time (ya'll be there, right?), or memorable because of witnessing something I'll only get to see once, or memorable because I get to be part of something historical. . . even if my part is just a bit part in the periphery of the actual event.

Once I got to see the Eagles jam together in a warm-up sound check at American Airlines Center in 2001. It was the only US stop on their 2001 tour. The day before opening the stadium was supposed to be completely empty of anyone but the band, security, and roadies. But me and few others were preparing for opening the next day and had the opportunity to sneak in and listen to them warm-up. That huge stadium seemed tiny to us in that moment. . . like the warm-up was a jam session was for us. It was awesome!

My most recent client go-live at Santa Barbara Zoo was my recent memorable opening. Not because of a classic classic-rock concert, but because they made history. And not because of the technology. The logistics of the project were not complicated. The Zoo was opening a newly remodeled retail outlet and a new restaurant with the Agilysys POS system. By the way, the project went very smooth if I do say so myself and ended about 25% under budget. But that's a side point really. . .

The point is the Zoo made history with this opening. In addition to opening Explore Store, a very eco-friendly gift shop with most items made entirely of recycled material, Santa Barbara Zoo became the third zoo in the world to open a California Condor exhibit (they were heavily involved in the first exhibit in Baja California, Mexico).In 1987 there were only 27 California Condors in the world! Today there are now 325 with 138 now living in the wild. This exhibit is amazing and these birds are HUGE. The Zoo is a wonderful place which has only been enhanced by this new exhibit. I so appreciate and commend the Zoo's achievement in helping return these majestic birds to the wild and continue educating the public on their importance to our environment.I got to be a part of the Zoo's Grand Opening and felt honored to be there. . . if only to make sure the point-of-sale was working. It gave me another reason to be grateful for my job!

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i can't make up my mind

Here's the deal...

A few months back I switched this blog to Wordpress from Blogger. I felt the UI for Wordpress was better as well as some of the other stuff they offered. What I did not account for was my free blog was no longer free if I wanted to republish the layout with some customizations. For that I had to purchase Wordpress CSS editor...LAME!So I'm back to Blogger with a new layout and new RSS feed. For the 5 of you that actually read this blog sorry for the confusion. But I'm here to stay now!

By the way, if you want to know how I got the sweet Flash header leave a comment with your email address and I'll shoot you a message.

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new digs

kevin sturm Consulting has been updated with a really awesome new site. Take a tour and you'll see what I mean. I think the new site expresses what differentiates my consultancy. The bottom line of which is "I am my brand."

kevins turm Consulting

When a company selects my firm to advise them on a technology solution, they get me...not just the business part of me, but the whole part. All my passion and all my enthusiasm. My passion for technology, and travel, and great customer service can't be separated from my passions about living life to the fullest, loving my family, and helping others. Without my other passions, my company is just like any other company...simply someone trying to make money. But I think (and hope) I'm more than just that.

My company is the avenue that allows me to live out my passions:
  • Spending as much time with my family as possible
  • Using my knowledge and experience to help others be more successful
  • Creating freedom in my life to do the things I love to do
  • Traveling...both for work and pleasure
  • Being directly involved in technology and how it can change our lives for the better
I am my brand, and it became important that my website reflect that.

Thanks to the genius of a few folks over at Showit Fast, I was able to build this site myself WITHOUT ANY HTML OR FLASH coding. Given the current economic conditions I have to say saving the dinero on a web developer and graphic designer was a huge help. If your a consultant and wishing your website better reflected your brand, better represented your company, and allowed you to update it on a regular basis then go download Showit Sites.

Make sure to use the promotion code "SIMPLE" to get the first two months FREE. And if you have any questions email me because I'd love to help you get you started in building a site that matches your brand and simplifies your life.

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sweating the small stuff - part two

I frequent this site to keep up with who is doing what, where and when in hospitality. I've found about half the content recently is either economic-doom-and-gloom or hopeful-economic-optimism. So which is it? If you've come to this site to find the answer, I don't have it for you. Sorry...

What I do have are tips on how to optimize your existing technology solutions to either increase profits or decrease costs. Today we are specifically focusing on lowering your Cash Cost.

Cash Cost is inclusive to each area your business incurs a cost in receiving cash. This includes cash accountability on the part of the employee and cash accounting on the part of management. Multiply this process for each individual employee that accepts cash and your Cash Cost can get expensive.

The prolific way to eliminate this cost is to go cashless. Many venues across the hospitality space have adopted this model: such as this one, this one, this one, and this one. But getting completely cashless requires cash, sometimes a lot of it. Instead, let's look at some small ways you can alleviate Cash Cost.

prevent cash theft

Most POS systems (probably yours too) have built in cash accountability to help prevent theft and cash counting errors. The first step in taking advantage of this is to ensure your employees are not sharing POS User Accounts. My experience is if employees get to share accounts, there is a good chance they have also get to share in an " unofficial" employee bonus pool. Second is to require employees to enter a Cash Drop at the POS. (Whether this is a blind drop or a not should be based on your business requirements and employee job function.) Requiring a cash drop allows the management staff to review system reports that highlight over/short employees saving time by focusing first on the problems.

increase credit transactions
Increasing Credit Card transactions is a good way to decrease Cash Cost (and is a type of cashless payment), but you need to do the math for it to make sense. Getting the most from your merchant services provider requires transaction volume and aggressive negotiation. If you are not sure about how to go about negotiating your fee contact a company like this that does it on your behalf and gets paid based on your savings. To make any meaningful savings here you should also have a software based payment solution integrated with your point of purchase system(s).

The best way to increase credit card transactions it to market it, but you also have to incentivize the consumer. This can be implementing a no-signature transaction policy (moot if we ever migrate to EMV) or joining programs that encourage customers to pay with their credit card (i.e. here and here).

implement gift cards
Offering gift cards creates the opportunity to decrease Cash Cost and encourage customer loyalty. However, this is the type project where scope creep can kill the initiative so be conscientious and realistic in defining what you are going to implement. There is a very good chance your point of purchase system (PMS, POS, etc.) or credit card solution offers or includes a gift card solution. It will most likely not offer all the bells and whistles of this or this or this, but the goal remember is to initiate low cost steps in decreasing Cash Cost.

customer account integration

This is an often overlooked but simple option to move in the cashless direction. Additionally, this option has the HUGE upside of tracking your customer's purchase habits. Again there is a good chance also your existing point of purchase solution some sort of customer account charge. For larger venues the better option is to implement an integration between the point of purchase system(s) and the customer account system(s).

The basis of this solution is an interface from your POS system to your customer account(s) system.

Property Management System to POS: guest transactions are paid with a room key and/or name
Membership Accounting to POS: member transactions are paid with a membership card and/or name

As with automated product/item depletion there is a very good chance your vendors already have the interface in place, meaning you can implement it with a minimal investment.

currency counting integration
If you handle enough cash to use currency counting machines another interesting option is to investigate an interface from the currency counting solution to the POS. I have only seen this integration implemented a few times, but it has proven to be a highly cost effective solution with a convincing ROI. It usually is accompanied with a higher investment cost however as this type of interface is generally custom integration that uses the POS Accountable Cash data, POS Cash Drop data, and Cash Counted data consolidated to a single report for simplified cash accounting.

If you have someone on the payroll that has the sole duty of counting cash and reporting discrepancies, this is probably a worth while option to investigate.

Obviously this list is not comprehensive, but hopefully stimulates some ideas. If you have successfully implemented other options or have other ideas post a comment and share your knowledge. In times like this it is worth it to share our experiences so we all come out ahead.

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