||Co-founder and owner
of MTM Management &
FST Asset Management
We all know the story of the dishwasher
who worked his way up to executive chef. Well, here’s
a story of a dishwasher who worked his way up to President
of the Westin Hotel group. The entrepreneurial spirit
eventually called him to start his own company managing
privately-owned luxury resorts and hotels. Jim Treadway,
co-founder and CEO of MTM Management and FST Management,
has a distinguished career spanning over 30 years
in the hospitality industry. Jim represents a segment
of the industry that may not be as noticeable to the
consumer, but those working behind the scenes have
an immeasurable effect on a property. At StarChefs,
we want to find the masters of industry, especially
ones that may not be a familiar name, and introduce
their stories to you. We hope you find inspiration
and advice to further your own careers or start a
Antoinette Bruno: You had a long, distinguished
career at Westin - one that included various assignments
around the world. What did you learn from being abroad?
How have you brought those lessons to bear at MTM?
Jim Treadway: In a word.....humility. Like
a lot of Americans I was born and bred with a superiority
complex with respect to my view toward the rest of
the world. I don't consider myself a global person,
but I was privileged to work in South Africa and Norway
for Westin. What I learned was there are systems,
practices, customs, processes, and "things"
in other parts of the world that are at least as good
as and often better than their American counterparts.
James Simkins, EVP for MTM and a 28-year veteran of
Westin is a South African, who has spent his entire
career in Africa, Asia, and Australia with only one
stint in the U.S., in L.A. Between us, as we try to
make the MTM-managed properties and FST asset-managed
properties as good as they can be, we draw ideas and
inspiration from the luxury lodging industry worldwide,
not just the US. As we benchmark best practices, through
our collective experience, we have more to tap, given
our personal career territory has been the world.
You'll see this in our properties - whether they be
Australian lambswool mattress covers at Willows Lodge
or elevator carpets with the day of the week on them
that change nightly at the Sorrento.
AB: You are credited with a change in the
corporate approach at Westin North America - from
a focus on customers as its consumer to one that recognized
the needs of all its corporate constituencies (the
owner and the employee in addition to the consumer).
What inspired this change? Did you encounter resistance
to this change? If so, how did you overcome this resistance?
JT: All I tried to do at Westin North America
during my presidency was to establish a culture wherein
we identified who our customer constituencies were,
and what our products should be for each. As a management
company, our customers were the owners and our product
was asset value. As hotel managers, our customer constituencies
included consumers and employees. And our products
were a great guest experience and wonderful places
in which to work. We developed strategies and tactics
to strengthen our product offerings to each customer
constituency, and the process we used we called "total
I wanted to make sure there was appropriate distinction
between how a management company should operate and
how a hotel should operate. I felt that the subject
of asset value and the owners' other needs deserved
more attention than they were getting, but I didn't
want to sacrifice the guest and employee experience
for the sake of profit. It's a delicate balancing
act. And yes, like all change, there was resistance,
which necessitated taking a grass roots approach and
enabling acceptance to percolate upwards after a strategy
of selling this change, as opposed to just directing
it top down.
AB: Inventory management is a crucial
skill for many industries - from the airlines to manufacturing.
This is no less the case for hotels, and I'm sure
you have management insights on this topic. Do you
have any specific nuggets of wisdom for hoteliers
trying to get a handle on this aspect of the business?
JT: I'm certainly not an inventory management
expert. I endorse the notion of forming partnerships
with suppliers who can produce not just the best product
at the lowest price, but the ability to fill orders
on very short notice, thereby allowing us operators
to keep our inventories low. A hotel's relationships
with its vendors are extremely important. The vendor
must share the hotel's vision around delivering excellence
to its guests and employees.
AB: In taking on a new property, what is
the most common organizational problem you see and
have to address?
JT: People working in silos, egos, and inadequate
communication. Too often the hotel's vision, aspirations,
and goals aren't shared with all its employees. I
think it's important to share these, as well as performance
information, with all employees so that they feel
part of a bigger picture and can contribute more to
the overall success of the property. We approach our
employee groups as families and don't want any of
our family members to be uninformed and/or uncommitted
to the success of the property, and therefore, their
own personal success and career growth.
AB: What kind of deals are you looking
at in this economy?
JT: We are not real estate players, so the
"deals" we are looking for are management
agreements of luxury independent properties, which
are unique, personalized, and destinations unto themselves.
Our partners only want MTM to get involved with properties
they would like to stay in themselves. That limits
our playing field to a very specific niche, which
enables extraordinary brand integrity, consistency,
and the sharing of a discerning customer base, whose
expectations will be met, if not exceeded, by all
of our properties. We have proven our ability to manage
valuable hotel assets regardless of the state of the
economy. Hotel developers and owners come to us when
they want hands on and highly personalized stewardship
of their assets. And we deliver. We're probably the
only management company in America that offers all
of its hotel owners as references.