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Mike DeNoma: Pearls of Wisdom

By Luke Nicholls , 22-Nov-2013
Last updated on 22-Nov-2013 at 10:20 GMT2013-11-22T10:20:19Z

Mike DeNoma is chief executive of new global hotel brand glh

Mike DeNoma is chief executive of new global hotel brand glh

By his own admission, US-born banker turned global hotelier Mike DeNoma struggles to even spell ‘hospitality’, but he certainly understands the voice of the customer and is an expert when it comes to market research. As chief executive of newly formed business glh, DeNoma is overseeing the launch of three entirely new hotel brands in the space of a year.

Clermont and Amba are two of three vibrant entrants to the global hotel market. The glh ambition is to open hotels in all of the 30 top global cities.

The third brand is still cooking in the oven. It’s as exciting as the other two but you’ll have to wait for it. All I can say is that it will be a ‘trailblazer’ rather than a predictable brand.

In the four-star market there is a significant area of unmet needs on pretty basic stuff. The fact that so many hotels still don’t offer Wi’Fi is stupid. How slow is the industry to respond to something so basic?

Conrad Hilton said ‘the key to successful business is location, location, location.’ He’s probably rolling in his grave today saying it’s ‘location, location, location and free, fast Wi-Fi.’

London punches dramatically below its weight in international conferences. The capital has 47,000 full-feature hotel rooms – it’s the largest in Europe by around two and a half times. But it is sixth in Europe when it comes to international association conferences. On number of conferences per thousand rooms, it’s number 10 out of the top 10.

I still can’t spell hospitality. But I can spell customer service and market research, and I understand the voice of the customer. My career started at Proctor and Gamble in brand management. I went to Pepsi, then I was at KFC, running 2,000 restaurant divisions. From there I went to banking, I ran marketing and sales for City Bank for Asia.

I started my own company from ground zero in China. I became an entrepreneur and I built two nationwide companies in China in the 1990s. If I had to do it over again, I’d probably pick an easier country and a different time period.  

I eventually sold off both companies and went and worked at Standard Chartered and ran the consumer bank globally for a decade. We built it into one of the biggest consumer banks in the road.

I then went back to Chin. I was the chairman, CEO and president of China Trust. At the time, I was the only Westerner there, with an employee base of around 10,000 – everybody knew when I was in the elevator.

Banking - I’ve been there and done that. I wanted a vertical learning curve and challenge – hospitality was an appropriately vertical and challenging opportunity for me. I like to take things that are average and turn them into something really special. The bigger the challenge, the more excited I get about it.

The world has evolved much more rapidly than hospitality. Many of the business models seem to be for an age that’s passed. It’s a great misuse of human potential and the employees in this industry deserve better.

The people in this industry are passionate, but it does not train well – it doesn’t multi-skill. If you run a hotel in a certain department, you may never get out of it. If you’re a concierge, why can’t you learn to do the front desk? If you’re in F&B why can’t you do M&E? The industry model is far behind the times and it does a disservice to the employees.

‘I wasn’t so good at maths so I went into hospitality’ - that’s how hospitality is unfortunately positioned. If you want to have a career engaging people, hospitality is fantastic. If you want an industry that should be the source of decision science and talent for the next decade or two, you should come here as well.

This industry should also be investing a lot more in decision science because it’s such a rapidly moving industry. An average hotel for us needs a thousand price points updated a day - it’s impossible to do that manually, it requires a sophisticated level of decision science.

Glh will hopefully be seen as an innovator on delivering around the guest experience, which is rapidly evolving. When this industry gets out of its slightly reclining position it will start to move a little faster as well.

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