hospitality technology made simple by kevin sturm Consulting

a new title for what i am

I just learned what I am...

While reading Escape From Cubicle Nation I found out about Anywired and read the post Become a Lifestyle Entrepreneur: Complete Guide and 40+ Resources.

I'm a Lifestyle Entrepreneur! What does that mean you ask? You really should read the post, but here is a great description from Skellie over at Anywired.

"If you are — or would like to be — an entrepreneur, yet you’d be happy to earn enough to live the life you want rather than becoming filthy rich, lifestyle entrepreneurship might be a good fit for you.

Lifestyle entrepreneurs will generally base their ventures around time minimalism, or something they love, even if there are more profitable (but more time-consuming, or less interesting) options available.

The goal of a lifestyle entrepreneur is not to amass a huge fortune, but instead, to achieve certain definable goals and, beyond that point,
to ensure business does not interfere too much with the enjoyment of those goals."

Now don't get my wrong, I think it would be cool to be really rich. But not at the expense of the relationships with my wife, kids, or current freedom. I spent 9 years climbing the corporate ladder and had a good position with a good salary. The next step in my plan was a VP position which would lead to a C-level position. But ultimately what I found is the stress of those positions, the time requirement, and the sacrifices I was going to make just weren't worth it.

I quit my job and started my own consulting firm to create freedom in my life. Here is my current daily schedule - which I adjust daily as I need to fit into my lifestyle.

7:15 am - Wake up to alarm clock of "DAAAAADAAAA IT'S LIIIIGHT TIIIIIME!"
7:45 am - Get breakfast for the alarm clock and take a shower
8:15 am - Make coffee and lunch for Bubba
8:30 am - Catch up on my favorite blogs and/or take Bubba to preschool
9:15 am - Blog or grab breakfast or read news
10:00 am - Work on client projects (yes I start "work" about 10:00 am)
4:00 pm - Stop work to play with my alarm clock
4:05 pm - Play with Bubba, Chrystal, and Mianna for the rest of the day.

I say this not to brag or gloat but to say it's possible. We are not getting rich and sometimes money issues are stressful, but we (my family and I) live a good life and love it. We have more freedom (though not necessarily financial) than we have ever had. Join what Tim Ferris calls the NR and break the chain!

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mail call...what's the scoop on SaaS solutions?

I received an interesting email a while back from Carson Mehl at Lumiere Hotels.

"I am curious to know if you have heard of any robust hotel software being developed that is web-based. Our company has started using a number of web-based software solutions such as Google Docs and Basecamp by 37signals and they have been a huge asset as far as ease-of-use, collaborative ability, and no-need for extensive/expensive hardware. The great thing about web-based software is that it all operates inside the browser so it can be easily accessible from a number of devices."

Regrettably I was not able to point to any truly web-based solutions that I felt would meet the needs of a boutique hotel group. There are a few out there but none that I have extensive experience with or have been impressed with.

What Carson was really asking is why hasn't a hospitality technology vendor come up with some true SaaS applications that fulfills the requirements for a boutique hotel or resort location? For those that are not familiar with SaaS it means Software as a Service. Wikipedia defines it as "...a software application delivery model where a software vendor develops a web-native software application and hosts and operates (either independently or through a third-party) the application for use by its customers over the Internet. Customers do not pay for owning the software itself but rather for using it. They use it through an API accessible over the Web and often written using Web Services or REST."

In our email conversation Carson was good enough to expand to what hoteliers are looking for...

"...The newest evolution of internet browsers and runtimes like Adobe AIR are really opening up the possibilities for rich internet applications. Applications like Google docs, basecamp, ZOHO, buzzword (my fav), even Facebook that are stored in the cloud and accessible from anywhere, offer such an advantage. The ease of collaboration they provide is alone and tremendous improvement on traditional software not to mention the accessibility factor, ease-of-use, elegant design, and simple hardware requirements. I do not have super-deep ranging experience with hotel software, but what I have used is far short of what is possible today.

From an hotelier’s point of view, I see a demand for a well designed software platform that is easy to use and is far reaching ie: pos, pms, booking, web-booking, reporting, etc. What is currently available in this regard is very expensive and complicated from both a hardware and software standpoint. The existing platforms work well for companies with deep pockets, IT experts and central reservation departments...

I guess the dream software would provide seamless connection between web reservations, pms, and the gds. It would allow an administrator to provide different levels of access to employees. It would automatically create and update guest profiles. It would show activity feeds for a property (similar to a facebook newsfeed, but showing reservations made on the web, pms, or gds, and more). It would be dead simple to use. It would look elegant. Training would be obvious and intuitive. It would be a subscription based service or maybe annually licensed. The system would be complete so there wouldn’t be any interfacing problems between disparate types of software. All the data is indexed and searchable. Reports are automatically generated and distributed. Data is backed up securely. The software works in multiple languages. Software updates are seamless, because it is web based. Housekeeping could carry around a tablet pc or iPod touch and update their room list. Guests could check out from their tv or laptop. The list goes on and on. It may seem like a pipe dream, but I think it is a possibility especially as we are reaching the age of ubiquitous internet connectivity.

From a software company stand point I think there is demand for such a service. It might be a long long time before a large hotel company would make the switch but there are so many independent and small hotels for which this service would be a blessing. In addition, if the service was successful the access to data would be invaluable."

I thought the question was a good one and the desires well stated. So the question stands to why are there not more SaaS applications for hotel/resorts?

In my experience the main reason has been a data access issue. For pure web based applications the data is held (and often owned) by the vendor. Data security standards and PCI regulations make it difficult for vendors to effectively and affordably deliver on the needs of a hotel/resort. PMS, POS, and GDS solutions are generally considered mission critical to the business. If you don't have immediate access to the data then you cannot run your business successfully which often means inconveniencing the guest. And unless a company like Google with an almost infinite budget for infrastructure redundancy and fail-over brings a solution to the table the costs of effectively delivering a solution like this appears to be too high for a start-up looking at what is really a limited market (unless some of the larger brands like Hyatt, Hilton, and Marriott joined in).

Ultimately I hope I'm wrong because I believe we need this. A corollary could be made to what people thought about CRM solutions until rocketed to uber-status of success and took over that space as the darling of the market.

If you know of a SaaS POS, PMS, GDS or other hospitality technology solution leave a comment as I'd be interested to find out more about them. Or if you have other thoughts on this topic post a comment and share your wisdom.

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