Five Considerations in Hiring a Hospitality Consultant - By John Hogan

Understanding the Qualifications for Effective Hospitality Consultants

HTrends "My greatest strength as a consultant is to be ignorant and ask a few questions"Peter F. Drucker, (1909- 2005) American Educator and Author

While Peter Drucker was not specifically a hospitality consultant, his contributions to both the "people and the process "components of business consulting are enormous and lasting, as evidenced by his significant works and books.

In a recent column in this publication, I shared a number of observations I made half way through a multi-city series of programs where I am leading discussions and sharing ideas on optimizing meetings success for Meetings Quest 2010.


The observations I shared were about the stimulating and interactive discussions held on ways to optimize meeting success from various perspectives of professional meeting planners and hotels. Almost 50% of the time for the program has been committed to small group discussions on problems facing all of these professionals in the same industry, but that have slightly different roles and responsibilities. Attendees comprise professional meeting planners from corporations and associations of every size, hotel managers and sales teams, representatives from convention and visitors' bureaus, suppliers that serve all of the previous groups and independent professionals in the hospitality business.

I wrote the column, titled "5 Reasons Using A Qualified Consultant Could Make a Huge Difference in Your Hospitality Business" because there was such extensive cross-fertilizing of ideas and solutions among participants in the discussions mentioned above. I also received a number of emails on the column, including this one: " Having been both an exec using advice from consultants and now a consultant myself, I can only fully subscribe John Hogan's comments and five reasons for a (good and qualified) consultant. I would like to add a sixth reason: The consultant is not emotionally involved and can thus provide very objective reasoning for a specific business situation.

John F. Edmaier CMM."

Comments from other readers and attendees at the above-mentioned sessions generally complimented the potential value of consultants, but there was also caution sheared that consultants could also be a source of negativity if not used properly and effectively, as evidenced in this tongue in cheek "motivational message" from

This message paints the negative image of consulting, as that of people who "hang around until" it may be too late. When a project nears completion, new troubles seem to inexplicably appear. Those challenges could be in staffing, communication, technology, equipment or distribution of global reservations. Each challenge extends the consultant's assignment and before you know it, the financial and time costs for the consultant's services affect your income statement in an unexpected way.

To avoid this danger, I offer the following

Five Considerations in Hiring a Hospitality Consultant.

I don't believe in just ordering people to do things. You have to sort of grab an oar and row with them." Harold S. Geneen, American Executive and CEO (1959-1977) of ITT, then parent company of Sheraton Hotels

I was a management trainee at the 1500 room Sheraton Boston Hotel near the end of Geneen's affiliation with Sheraton. He was known as a taskmaster, but he also had the reputation for involvement with identifying problems and solutions.


  1. Involve key staff. Staff buy in is critical when deciding to engage the services of a consultant The danger of failure grows enormously unless key associates are involved in the decision making process of hiring a consultant. I have seen organizations that did not take this proactive approach, and the resentment or negativity can torpedo the project before it really begins.
  2. Set specific and clear expectationsResponding to RFPs and making effective presentations is one thing, but those proposals may not include measurable outcomes or results. Expectations should have clear and defined deliverables, including time and expense details.
  3. Establish Accountability for each phase of a consultant's time and interaction. Consultants may research, discuss and seek to get buy-in on solutions, but they cannot execute the final plan for an organization. It is therefore essential to identify those steps and actions the consultant is responsible and accountable for.
  4. Define levels of authority. A consultant according to Drucker's quote is one who asks questions and then shares counsel. Hospitality businesses, hotels and restaurants can receive exceptional counsel from consultants, but one should not allow them to run your hospitality business unless that was part of the expectations and accountability mentioned above. They probably do not know your hospitality business as well as or better than you do. They may have recommendations that can help you and your team, but senior management and/or ownership should stay involved in the process if you retain a consultant.
  5. Match your needs with the specific consultant for your assignment.By this, I mean to be certain you retain the correct individual, as well as company (if applicable). Someone with exceptional credentials as a chef may not be able to design your dining room layout. Success as a sales manager in select markets may not translate into global marketing planning. Running accounting department receivables does not mean the same thing as effectively managing cash flow in tough economic times. If applicable, you might ask questions such as:

  • What were the largest revenues they personally oversaw?
  • how many people were on their staff?
  • What was the turnover rate?
  • Were they ever entrepreneurs who had to meet their own payroll?
  • Did they ever have to pay their own business and property taxes, or did they rely on others?
  • Other questions unique to your situation

There are advantages to both specialists and generalists in consultants, attorneys, doctors and other professionals. We are probably familiar with the expression to "walk the talk". For purposes of this discussion, this means having personally handled similar challenges facing your hospitality business. My personal experience in retaining or serving as a consultant is to understand and match situations on a case by case situation.

Most consultants have some hospitality industry background but may have never owned their own business. They may have never owned or sold their own hospitality business prior to becoming consultants and do not understand the stress and pressures of operating a family owned business, as are so many hospitality businesses.

Consultants can be excellent resources. Use them effectively, by choosing wisely.

Keys to Success Hospitality Tip of the Week:
Focus on Continuous Learning
Hotel Common Sense Philosophy #11
Dr. John Hogan, CHA CHE CMHS

part of the 15 Timeless Philosophies In Hospitality - A 2011 Keynote Address and Workshop


Feel free to share an idea for a column at  anytime or contact me regarding consulting, customized workshops, speaking engagements … And remember – we all need a regular dose of common sense.

John Hogan is a successful hospitality executive, educator, author and consultant and is a frequent keynote speaker and seminar leader at many hospitality industry events.  He is Co-Founder of a consortium ( of successful corporate and academic professionals delivering focused and affordable counsel in solving specific challenges facing hospitality today. is a membership site offering a wide range of information, forms, best practices and ideas that are designed to help individual hoteliers and hospitality businesses improve their market penetration, deliver service excellence and increase their profitability. Individuals wishing to contribute materials may send them   Special introductory pricing is in effect for a limited time that also includes a complimentary copy of LESSONS FROM THE FIELD- A COMMON SENSE APPROACH TO EFFECTIVE HOTEL SALES.

Consulting Expertise and Research Interest

  1. Sales Management and training                                   
  2. Turn-around and revenue management
  3. Professional Development for the Organization and the Individual
  4. Customer Service            
  5. Making Cultural Diversity Real                                   
  6. Developing Academic Hospitality programs
  7. Medical Lodging Consultants 

If you need assistance in any of these areas or simply an independent review or opinion on a hospitality challenge, contact me directly for a prompt response and very personalized attention.

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