A 'Jack-of-all-Trades' Wins Over Any Customer
With an organizational style where everyone is a jack-of-all-trades, Taipei Inn Group vice general manager David Wei has conjured an occupancy-rate miracle.
A 'Jack-of-all-Trades' Wins Over Any CustomerBy Elaine Huang
From CommonWealth Magazine (vol. 420 )
Lately, anyone surfing the Internet for the hottest budget hotels in Taipei is bound to encounter a cluster of favored picks all operated by a single firm – Taipei Inn Group, which specializes in acquiring existing hotels, giving them a thorough makeover, and granting them a fresh lease on life. With four brands under its banner – Ambiance Hotel, Hotel 73, Dandy Hotel and City Inn – the group has expanded to six locations within four years.
Taipei Inn Group's six locations employ just 157 people, about half what five-star hotels would employ. Despite the group's lack of a sales department, it has been able to bring in 130,000 guest stays annually and achieve a staggering occupancy rate of nearly 90 percent even in the midst of the current recession.
Helping group president Jimmy Dai create this business success is 38 year-old David Wei.
Every morning at half past eight, Wei walks briskly into the hotel. The first thing on the agenda is inspecting the serving carts and food preparation for the morning's breakfast, and wordlessly jotting down the score for that day's chef accordingly.
Thereafter, he meticulously goes over the shift managers' logbooks, noting any operational problems that will require discussion.
The moment a problem is found with an air conditioning unit in a guest room, Wei's jacket comes off, the sleeves roll up and, in an instant, he's a handyman. Nothing can be allowed to affect occupancy rates.
At Taipei Inn, every employee is a "jack-of-all-trades" well-versed in the specifics of hotel management.
"It's like an acrobatics act, where you can never allow one of the spinning plates to fall," says Jimmy Dai.
In his book The Ten Faces of Innovation, IDEO general manager Tom Kelley writes that one form of innovative talent within an organization is the "organizing persona," a person who can pull together various groups to create solutions via novel combinations and overlapping areas of responsibility.
Melding Ability and Background to Build New Skills
Creating high productivity with fewer employees than his competitors have makes Wei the dependable ringmaster of Dai's circus troupe.
"He really was in an acrobatic troupe," Dai says, and he's not kidding.
While studying at the Fu-Hsing Dramatic Arts Academy, the diminutive Wei was invariably the capstone to acrobatic pyramid routines.
"I got hurt once falling from the top and had to leave the troupe," Wei says. But he never imagined when he left that he'd find a venue to again showcase his "acrobatic" skills in the hotel industry.
After he graduated from the academy, a hotel boss noticed that he was a go-getter who was willing to go the extra mile and tasked him with sole responsibility for planning the group's next new location.
While still in his twenties, he was a "boy playing in a man's world," working 12 hours a day and charged with singlehandedly issuing more than 100 contract proposals and liaisoning with more than 400 companies. On weekends he would head out to sample food at various hotels and visit traditional wholesale markets, to gain an understanding of food costs and meal planning.
"Now, I've got a handle on even minor details like the cost of laundry bags and decorative neon lights – it's all accumulated experience," he says. The hotel he was charged with singlehandedly planning was soon enjoying occupancy rates of 80 percent.
Four years ago with just one hotel, the Ambiance, under his control, Dai found Wei to plan his next project, a new brand aimed at a different stratum of traveler.
"It was a stage on which to perform and also a challenge," Wei says.
With no sales department within Taipei Inn Group, Wei's responsibility lay in coordinating with the various department managers to propose commercial innovations and then set about finding ways of executing them on a limited budget.
For example, for the interior design of the hotel's rooms, Wei refrained from hiring a costly big-name designer, opting instead for interns from design schools to give each room a unique style and imbue the rooms with an atmosphere of "alternative culture." As a result, the hotel began getting rave word-of-mouth reviews on the Internet among young travelers.
It was at this point he brought his "organizing persona" into play, coordinating business projects that combine several disparate elements.
For example, for last year's opening of the Dandy Hotel in the Da-an District, Taipei Inn Group partnered with Smart Taiwan, providing guests the use of two Smart cars adorned with the Dandy logo for cruising the streets of Taipei. Even D-Link Systems Inc. saw the Dandy as a hip spot and provided broadband installations for the free use of room guests.
Replicating the 'Jack-of-all-Trades'
In a recent CommonWealth Magazine column headlined "An Organization's Core Strength," Dr. William Seetoo, chairman of the Taipei-based Commerce Development Research Institute, argued that it is key middle managers like Wei that truly determine whether a company sinks or swims.
"The core must be powerfully responsive if the power of the whole is to act in concert, efficiently transferring power from the base up through the body and upper extremities," he analogized.
Starting with the Ambiance, Taipei Inn group has gradually expanded to three other brand names – Dandy, Hotel 73 and City Inn – within four years opening six budget hostelries serving different strata of travelers in the NT$1,000 to NT$3,000 range.
To beef up the company's core strength, Wei has set about producing more "jacks-of-all-trades," holding classes to teach employees the entire process. From check-in and check-out to baggage handling, making up rooms and even minor repairs, all employees must achieve proficiency.
"At ordinary hotels, different staff members are responsible for different duties. With us, a front desk manager can get it all done," Wei boasts.
Translated from the Chinese by Brian Kennedy
Name: David Wei
Current Position: Taipei Inn Group Vice General Manager
Education: Fu-Hsing Dramatic Arts Academy (general arts), Lunghwa Jr. College (industrial management)
2003-2004: Project Manager, Lake Hotel Planning Unit
2006-2008: Project Manager, Executive Director for Planning of Taipei Inn Group's City Inn and Dandy Hotel projects.
Chinese Version: 魏秋富 經營旅館就像耍特技