John Manderfeld has spent his entire life in the hospitality business, and it was that experience that led him to found Marin Management in 1990. According to Manderfeld, the time he spent as an officer for several hotel management companies in the 1980s left him feeling like there was a better way to manage properties to make them more successful.
“I didn’t like the way sales and marketing was given a fourth, fifth or sixth priority over everything,” Manderfeld says. With this philosophy in mind, Manderfeld founded Marin Management and immediately won a contract to manage a brand-new, four-star Mayfair Suites hotel in downtown St. Louis. From there, the company was off and running, and today Marin Management manages a portfolio of more than 25 hotels across the country and provides consultation services for numerous other hotel, motel and restaurant owners.
Whereas other management companies try to organize their properties behind a unifying element, Manderfeld says Marin Management works best by remaining in the background and letting the individual advantages of each property take center stage. Because of this approach, the company’s services can benefit a broader range of property types and brands. The company’s flexibility, expertise and internal culture all add up to make Marin Management one of the most successful companies of its kind.
One Size Fits All
Marin Management’s diverse portfolio of managed properties makes it unique in the industry, according to Manderfeld. Many management firms choose to focus their attention on specific brands or specific types of properties. Marin Management, on the other hand, takes a different approach. “I’ve always taken the approach that everyone needs our help,” Manderfeld says.
The company’s philosophy also differs in terms of how it focuses its efforts. Manderfeld says Marin Management’s primary concern is generating revenue for its properties through marketing, as opposed to many firms that concentrate on the service inside their hotels. Manderfeld says all hospitality properties should be concentrating on having the best service no matter what, but many management firms concentrate on this while overlooking the importance of marketing.
Marin Management’s marketing plans include comprehensive services aimed at helping properties increase their revenues. Manderfeld says the company helps properties develop a sales action plan, conduct competition analysis, develop an advertising plan and set goals. This includes an on-site evaluation of the property as well as on-site training for staff.
One crucial aspect of marketing that has become especially important in recent years is online reputation management. With the rise of sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor, hotels and other hospitality properties have to be aware of what customers are saying about them online and provide feedback when warranted. “It’s a difficult process to control, what people are going to say about you,” Manderfeld says, adding that Marin Management manages 5,000 to 10,000 Internet comments for its clients each year.
In addition, online travel brokers like Priceline and Expedia change their offerings on a daily basis, making it essential that hotels know what deals are being offered in their markets. Manderfeld says Marin Management has staff dedicated to monitoring these sites and keeping all of its clients up to date on the latest deals. “It’s not a static condition; it’s changing all the time,” Manderfeld says.
One of the greatest advantages Marin Management has over other firms is an internal culture that fosters a greater sense of teamwork, Manderfeld says. By cultivating a focused but relaxed atmosphere in the company, he says, everyone at Marin Management pulls together to provide the best service.
“It’s hard work and a lot of fun,” Manderfeld says. “The people who tend to join us and enjoy it the most are people who are willing to work hard and just want to have a good time with their colleagues doing it.”
Marin Management also works hard to foster a greater sense of community in the industry as a whole. Manderfeld says that starting out as a small company, Marin Management benefited greatly from its membership in the California Lodging Industry Association. “It’s a critical part of getting us to where we’ve gotten,” Manderfeld says.
Inspired by that, Manderfeld helped found the Independent Lodging Industry Association three years ago as a way to help independent owner-operators find their voice in the industry. Today, the group has more than 10,000 members and continues to grow.