Question: How much of business success is predicated on personality?
Chip Conley: Maslow would say that each of us was put on this earth for a reason and one of the secrets of life, the magical life over the course of your life time, getting clarity of what that is, recording in a different level of say it’s all about purpose and I think that there’s something be to said for people feeling like there’s a unique reason I am here on earth.
Forget about the spirituality of the religion attached to that, but just know that you’re here and there are certain things that you’re supposed to actually learn, discover and do and be in your life, and so each of us is unique in that way. And we are going to have a different you know reason and purpose for being here. So Maslow would buy into that, absolutely. How companies can buy into to that and how the commercial world can look into that is to realize that we live in an era of mass customization.
The question is if we’re going to have every single customer be different, how do you create a product that is not the generic one size fits all? How do you do it in a way where everybody feels I got something that was meant for me? Just like that Yvette the hotel matchmaker example where we created a psychographic profile of the customer and then we can deliver back mass customized travel advice. That was a way of us to actually reaching out to every single customer feeling like they’re different. But doing it in a way that actually worked for us so that we didn’t have to have a concierge or a human concierge, having a phone call from every single guest who’s coming to stay in our hotels. So I think, the key is to know that what I look at from the boutique hotel business and hotels in general is that retail has made a big shift in the last ten or fifteen years. Fifteen tears ago, it was Sears and JC Penney’s and Montgomery Ward and they’re the big bucks retailers. And today, those guys are in trouble or going away and it’s either Wal-Mart or Target who are lower end they’re fighting against or some of the higher and luxury ones or most importantly it’s the smaller retailers, chain retailers Anthropologie, Pottery Barn, [Whims ‘n Noma], Abercrombie and Fitch those are the players who in their own little niche way have sniped at Sears and JC Penney’s ankles to the point where the big dinosaurs are actually falling on to the ground.
How’s that relevant to boutique hotel business or hotel business?
Is we are the Anthropologie or Pottery Barn of the hotel business.
The Holiday Inns, the Radisson, the Wyndhams and the Doubletrees, these sort of big behemoth mid-price hotel companies or hotel brands are all very generic and they all have the same potential of becoming the Sears of their own industry, of our industry. And as boutique hoteliers, we are realizing that in fact, just like retailers, the sort of lifestyle or designer in retailers have moved into the suburbs, so have boutique hoteliers. I mean, used to be, ten years ago, you would only find a boutique hotel in Manhattan and South Beach and San Francisco and New York and Seattle and Boston but you would never see it in a secondary city like Sacramento and you wouldn’t see it in the suburbs, you know. So what we now see is one of the biggest trends in the hotel business today is the suburbanization of boutique hotels. But it’s just like retails. We’ve seen the retailers move into the suburbs, and seen quality, designer and stylish retail immersed itself in retail shopping centers throughout this US. And so it’s not surprising that boutique hotels will have to do the same.
Recorded on: April 14, 2009