When Dennis Tan takes over the management of a hotel, the first thing he tells his
staff is that: "All of us are spiders building one big web. So, every little effort
that we put in, is like putting the glue to strengthen the web."
Tan is serious about "strengthening his cobweb" and this is evident in his staff
who have memorised this "mantra".
That is why when an employee, from the housekeeper who keeps the room in tip-top
condition to the waiter who is attentive to the hotel diner and the resident manager
who handles a customer's complaint in a jiffy, do their job well, says Tan.
"You are putting glue to the cobweb," says Tan. But if they did the opposite, he
tells the culprit that he is putting a hole in that cobweb.
Any problems or complaints, either from the staff or hotel guests, must reach Tan
or any of his assisting decision-makers in two hours. Then, the clock starts ticking
for the problem to be solved.
So, if Tan tells you that he is unimpressed by some of the five-star hotels, it's
not professional-envy but sheer displeasure.
Tan, group general manager of The Value Hospitality Group, is said to be Malaysia's
first and only hotel turnaround-speacialist-cum-hotel management consultant.
Value Hospitality manages hotels - similiar to what the Holiday Inn or Hilton chains
do. The group's expertise also extends to hotel design, construction management
and investment advice.
Formed in 1990, Value Hospitality manages a stable of three different hotels - the
four-star (Beverly Hotels), three star (Prescott Hotels) and two-star (Homestead
Inns) in the country. It does not own any of these hotels.
Tan's involvement in the hotel business was rather unplanned for. An industrial
engineer by qualification, Tan was representing a group of investors taking over
the Prince Hotel (now Melia Hotel) in Kuala Lumpur in 1988.
The investment action was successful and in one-and-a-half years, the investors
walked away with handsome returns. Thus, came Tan's second career-calling.
Elaborating on the company's portfolio, Tan says the group provides investors and
hotel owners with new and "profitable" ideas on designing the hotels - the rooms
and floors, food and beverage outlets, recreational facilities as well as public
and service areas.
Once this phase has evolved into actual hotel management, Value Hospitality's role
is concentrated on developing and executing the operations, human resources and
marketing strategies - all of which ensure a high occupancy rate.
As a turnaround-specialist, Value Hospitality is credited with increasing productivity
and returns. The group has a 100 per cent success rate both locally and overseas.
A unique management characteristic inherent to Value Hospitality is that the productivity
of its staff is double than that of the industry standards.
With that the income level of the staff increases as the service charges for each
staff is almost double that of an average hotel. For example, a housekeeper at Value
Hospitality-run hotel can earn more than RM1,000 a month.
"I tell them straight to their face that I want them to take more money home, provided
they do their best. This is instilled in everyone. Even a small act such as keeping
the bathrooms dry and clean is the responsibility of all. After I use a washroom
sink, I'll wipe the whole area dry. If there is litter in the washroom, anyone can
pick it up and not wait for the housekeeping guys to do it."
This "act" has resulted in high moral among the staff and increased efficiency.
Tan says his staff turnover percentage for the hotels is between 20 and 22 per cent
compared with the industry average of 50 per cent.
Staff is rotated horizontally, meaning same level staff gets to do each other's
jobs so that they can do multiple jobs. This immediately makes them understand each
other's responsibility better and would not hesitate to take over a task when the
Tan says Value Hospitality is probably the only hotel group in Malaysia where all
its hotels have gross operating profit even during sluggish economic times. The
formula according to Tan, is superior hotel management standards from excellent
and dedicated customer-oriented personnel.