Q&A with Randy Hassen McKibbon Hospitality

McKibbon Hospitality’s website represents a clear vision of what matters most to the hospitality company—its people. McKibbon’s culture of family-first can not only be seen throughout its digital footprint but also within the company’s employees. Longtime employee Randy Hassen, president of McKibbon Hospitality, has followed the family-first mentality for many years, in both his professional career and personal life.

Hassen began his career with the company in 1992. At the time, he was a part-time houseman at the Days Inn Athens in Georgia.  Since then, he’s moved up the ranks at the Tampa, FL-based hotel management, development and renovation company. Earlier in his career, he was the GM at two properties: Courtyard Tampa Downtown and Courtyard Tampa North, both in Tampa, FL. He eventually became director of operations and made his way up to president of hotel management.

He has a wife, Bradley, and two sons, Jude and Luke. When the hotel executive isn’t working, he’s more than likely with his family, attending soccer, basketball or hockey practice.

Hotel Business interviewed Hassen to find out more about McKibbon’s pain points over the years and its plans for the remainder of 2018 and beyond.

What’s McKibbon’s strategy behind its current portfolio? Our current portfolio is a diverse mix of legacy brands and newer lifestyle hotels. Having hotels that are aligned with consumer preferences in each market has allowed us to stay competitive with new supply. Our strategy has been driven by our guests’ needs and, moving forward, we’ll continue to follow those trends as we look for future opportunities, especially around our newer lifestyle hotels.

What industry trends have been on your radar? With new supply coming into our markets, it is imperative we stay competitive and adapt to our guests’ needs. To stay relevant, we’re focusing on food and beverage experiences and guest-driven technology. We have grown our corporate F&B team to support these trends in our legacy brands, and have partnered with local chefs to bring unique, crafted experiences to our lifestyle hotels. Technology that caters to the guest experience has also been a focus, from upgrading locks to allow mobile check-in to increasing bandwidth to accommodate streaming and on-demand entertainment.

How does McKibbon go about hiring quality associates? For our general managers and sales leaders, we take a team approach to hiring. We have candidates come to our Tampa office to spend the day meeting with everyone who will be working with them and supporting them in their success. We have a culture and a long history of promoting from within, and the majority of our corporate team, hotel managers and supervisors have grown their careers within McKibbon.

What is one of McKibbon’s current pain points? Our property leaders are challenged with low unemployment, a shrinking labor force and new competition. Our company is doing everything it can to stay competitive with wages, benefits and career-growth opportunities to help us attract and retain quality associates.

How have management companies evolved over the years? Embracing change and welcoming new technology helps us manage our hotels more efficiently. We will always be in the people business, which requires top talent to be successful, but technology has certainly helped us dissect each area of our business and find ways to improve performance.

How do you balance personal and professional life? McKibbon Hospitality is a family-oriented environment, so we promote a culture of “family-first,” and that is the philosophy I lead with. As the father of two young boys, it is important for me to be present for sports and school activities without neglecting my responsibilities to the needs of our company and our stakeholders. We have such a talented and experienced team supporting our hotels, which helps me be where I need to be, when I need to be there.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? Our CEO, Vann Herring, has been my boss and mentor for the past 25 years. Vann has always instilled in me the importance of being humble, staying grounded and not getting “too big for my britches.” This has helped guide me throughout my career to make decisions that support our mission of serving others.

What does McKibbon have planned for the remainder of the year? In August, we will open our first dual-branded hotel in Charlotte, NC—an AC Hotel and Residence Inn with 300 rooms and an independent rooftop bar, Nuvole, overlooking Uptown Charlotte. We will be nearing completion of the Hotel Arras in Asheville, NC, our first independent, soft brand. This project is transforming Asheville’s most iconic building and will also include high-end condominiums and two independent restaurant concepts by local chef Peter Pollay. We will open a dual-branded AC Hotel/Moxy in Midtown Atlanta in December, which is owned by Noble. In addition, we are currently exploring new opportunities for third-party management contracts and lifestyle brands in growth markets.

Where would you like to see McKibbon in 20 years? In 20 years, I envision McKibbon continuing to focus on delivering an elevated experience to our associates, guests and owners. We will stay true to our core values and work on sustainable growth that is built on a foundation of more than 90 years of family, integrity, hard work and giving back to the communities we serve.

What do you miss most about being a part-time houseman? The day-to-day guest interaction, meeting new people and welcoming back repeat guests. There is an immediate gratification in short, meaningful interactions with guests that is rewarding. When I retire, I would love to be a doorman or lobby greeter, and end my hospitality career where it began—at the property level. HB

How does technology play a role at McKibbon? We embrace technology in all aspects of our business to help us keep a pulse on what needs our attention and make the necessary changes to improve performance.

What makes you happy? My family, friends, co-workers, managing great hotels, and growing our company with existing and new ownership groups to provide career paths for our associates to grow their careers with McKibbon.