Surviving Your PIP
PIPs make people upset. They’re scary. They’re uncomfortable. They’re emotional.
Current franchisees, you love your property. You’ve enriched your brand on the back of your blood, sweat, tears and mental well-being. Suddenly it’s not good enough anymore. New purchasers, you’ve taken a massive risk to purchase a property and the brand wants every penny from you. Designers like expensive things. Construction gets delayed. Customers are upset.
And all the while, with deadlines coming, you must decide which of the 18 shades of blue to put on an obscure back of house wall.
I’ve ‘shot’ many a brand messenger selling their brand’s new initiatives (though I bet I was always right). Franchises arrange PIPs to achieve maximum consistency. Whether we agree with this point or not (and I don’t, necessarily), our brands design their businesses around our customers wanting it. I won’t argue that the PIP process is fair, even-handed or always beneficial to the owner or the franchise (I will address in the future).
Unfortunately, we agreed to the process when we excitedly signed our franchise agreements. So, since this process is unavoidable, always remember these 7 key points:
1) A PIP is not a malicious attack on your property. Honestly.
Designers are passionate people. They’ve spent months trying to translate your brand’s positioning in carpet, tile and artwork. That’s what they get paid to do. They don’t hate you.
But speak up. You know your property better than anyone else. You know your guest feedback. You know guests like to slam the barn doors your brand requires shut. You know If your guests will track mud into your Super 8 prototype light gray carpet (someone explain to me honestly, why? Have a look at the pictures if you don’t believe me).
Help your brand designer and representatives make their case. Show why a standard item or colour won’t work. Offer a trade. Franchises may accept an improvement to an item not called in your PIP (or overbuilding one that is) in place of implementing something prohibitively expensive (damn cast iron tubs, for example). We learned that lesson the hard way. I am still paying for not fighting a brand designed room package that we knew was stupid.
A designer’s objective is to find common products for all hotels in their system, not just yours. Certain things will financially unfeasible or impractical for your hotel. It’s on you to prove that.
2) Use your consultants, contractors, subcontractors and suppliers – they have the experience to help
Shameless self-plug, I know, but still –
I’ve wasted a ton of time looking at for better priced alternatives to brand designs or items. Every time, without fail, my contractors, suppliers and designers have found alternates significantly quicker than I have. That’s what you pay them for.
Every minute of interest, customer disruption and out of order rooms costs money. Your time costs money. Lean on the people that you’re paying to do the job. Ensure that your contractor has hotel (or at least multi-family) experience. If you’re intent on self-performing your PIP, push your subcontractors and suppliers to recommend possible alternatives.
Most of all, look at the big picture and focus on finding margin in your biggest ticket items. Pick your battles – financially or otherwise – and ensure your contractors know you want options. If they can’t or won’t, find new ones.
3) Shop around to all the approved (and unapproved) vendors on your lists
Brands will generally provide you multiple approved suppliers for every item on your PIP. These items tend to be similarly priced.
Don’t settle. Different suppliers have different promotions, capacities and backlogs. Some suppliers will need your business more than others, some will want to get approved for the brand you’re building. Get pricing from as many as possible for your key big-ticket items.
Procurement companies (we do this too – shameless plug #2!) – can save you money over and above their fee. Be careful, though. Check their references. Talk to your brand representatives – if they frequently work with your chain your brand will know them.
4) Create a model room – fast
I know this is expensive, but I can guarantee that a model room will save you time and money. Materials perform differently depending on location. Dust levels, weather conditions and even housekeeping cart style can impact performance or longevity of the items you’re using. It’s always better to see it and walk through it up front. You, your general manager, housekeeping, maintenance and customers will all have an opinion on whether a product will make sense in your hotel; why discount that?
Furthermore, renovations can be exercises in uncertainty. Age, market conditions and availability of construction materials will range widely from property to property. There’s no way of preparing a full scope of work without understanding the full breadth of a job. Your architects will thank you – more accurate drawings and less rework. Your contractors will thank you – a good model room will make installation heights idiot proof. Your brand will thank you – pictures of a renovated room will make asking for that 3-month extension that much easier.
5) Walk your rooms – often
You test drive a car before you buy it. You inspect a house before you purchase it. Your hotel renovation can dwarf the cost of both of those. Walk your rooms and itemize changes in writing (even if your contractor is making changes for free!). After awhile all rooms begin looking the same. At some point details start to blur together and items get missed. This way everyone is on the same page.
Regardless of fault, get what you intended. You don’t want to bring contractors back. Pay for the things that you missed, have your contractor fix the things that they missed and walk the rooms with construction staff prior to accepting rooms back and checking in guests. Multiple eyes are better than one.
6) Keep your customers, employees and brand informed
Customers come and go at all hours of the day. The average construction day, however, is fairly well-defined. Our guest surveys tell us that these are not always the same.
Guests have common expectations regardless of brand; they need working toilets, beds and showers (generally in that order). Construction will impact all of those things at some point. Be honest with your customers and let them know what’s going on.
No one likes surprises, but everyone likes shiny new things. Your hotel renovations will excite them. Show them pictures and drawings of your beautiful new rooms. Keep them informed and set expectations at check-in. Your Medallia will thank you.
7) Renovations will always take longer than expected. Count on it.
Every stakeholder in a construction project use best case scenarios in their renovation timelines. Everyone wants to be done as quickly as possible. Surprises are unavoidable though – items don’t fit, lighting needs to be rewired, mold needs to be removed. Things happen.
Accept that the renovation will not go exactly as planned. Accept that you’ll have unforeseen issues. Accept that it’ll take longer than your contractor’s optimistic timeline while still pushing them to keep tight on it. But don’t sacrifice. You’re paying for a renovation that should last many years. The result will be worth it in the end, I promise.
As always, I am happy to answer any questions or concerns you might have about your hotel renovation! Reach out to me via the contact page and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can!