Chesapeake Hospitality is putting the finishing touches on a strong and active year. With a mission to drive results, the hotel management company secured 42 hotels under contract for management in 15 states and revealed a refreshed look for the brand.
But, that’s not all: In October, Chris Green was promoted to president/CEO. Former president Kim Sims now serves as chairman of the board.
“It’s been going great,” said Green. “I’ve been with Chesapeake Hospitality for 20 years and this is always an opportunity that you would aspire to. To have an opportunity to lead a company as great as Chesapeake is a huge honor. After the rebranding in the fall, there’s a lot to come.”
Green’s listening tour of the company’s employees is an embodiment of what the company views as vital to its function, a focus on the employees and a culture of growth. “We keep a finger on the pulse of what everybody believes—that’s what makes us different,” he said.
The leadership shift between Green and Sims was all about strategic timing.
“We, as a board and partner group, believe in transitioning during a time of strength where we have solid footing,” said Green. “Kim led us up to this point and moving me into this role allows me to continue the company’s momentum. But I have Kim around to call on his advice as I process through and continue to lead us into the next decade.”
Ask him about the early days of his career in hospitality and his thoughts go to his family.
“I just get energy when I’m with people. I learned from my family, my grandparents, a service mentality,” he said. “I’ve grown up in the service business, whether it’s waiting tables or bartending; I am energized by taking care of another human being.”
His passion for this work continued to evolve with each successive role. “Whether it’s making a bride feel special on the big day or seeing a team member grow in their career, nothing has changed about that feeling, but it’s expanded in scope. What other business in the world can you make magical moments with guests and employees? I get to do it with a company that is associate-focused and engaged on a broader goal,” he said.
He added, “It’s such a fascinating industry, so complex and so simple at the same time. My goal is to keep people in hospitality. We’ve been a pass-through industry and there’s a place for that, but I want people to know what can come of your career. We have one million open jobs in hospitality for smart people who are energized by service.”
Green acknowledges that other industries can be an attractive lure for hospitality workers.
“You can’t be distracted,” he said. “Right when a person gets to middle management, it’s a risky time as they’re making a good living and some other industry may pop up. If they stay the course…there’s always that opportunity to impact so many lives.”
As he climbed the ladder and built a successful career, Green points to Mike Keeler, a former SVP of Richfield Hospitality, as a mentor who served as a sounding board and educator. Keeler was Green’s first GM.
“He wanted to get back into running one hotel and pour his knowledge into the next generation of hoteliers. He spent time daily and weekly giving me advice,” he said. “I learned to hire only the best. It’s a hallmark of our company. We hire them, engage with what they’re doing and let them go be successful. We believe in providing freedom in a framework. Let talented people be talented people. We rely on the same guiding principles we always have: honesty, integrity and humility to live up to our promise to clients and associates.”
Green has been a part of Chesapeake’s multi-decade history, with 20 years of his own woven into Chesapeake Hospitality’s fabric. He reflected on the company history and it’s future. “For the longest time, Chesapeake was smaller, family-owned and operated, and then in the early 2000s, several people joined the company and we really started filling out the idea of being entrepreneurial at the asset level,” he said. “We were delivering something great. We could take assets and outperform our competitive set, and the idea was hatched for the growth of the company to offer this platform on a broader scale. We have world-class assets, growing from less than 10 to more than 40 assets in 15 states.”
Entering the company’s next stage of growth, Green is focused and optimistic. “As I look at this year, we rebranded and we wanted to speak to the marketplace,” he said. “Who we will always be is forward-thinking and modern. We’re not a secret anymore and we can deliver through our systems, management offering and our great people.”
As a self-described curious leader, Green is often looking at how different products and services can enhance the company’s business platform.
“We started ‘Project 2020,’ which we will finish up soon. It’s an audit to make sure every service we offer is best in class,” he said. “As we continue to wrap up Project 2020, there will be changes in the way we spend money and how we communicate with associates.”
Chesapeake Hospitality’s tagline is “experience what’s possible.”
He added, “This tagline is ever-changing. What is possible today is different from yesterday. It keeps our team pursuing what’s next. Change happens daily at Chesapeake as we improve on what we’re doing now and what we did yesterday.”
So, after all these years, what keeps the company relevant? Green emphasized a focus on the core values and staying authentic.
“We believe our mission,” he said. “We don’t put it on our website for show. We look at any hiccups and ask where we are in terms of integrity with the service we’re delivering. It would be against our integrity to have those values challenged, so what are we doing to own a problem and correct it?”
As economic headwinds are predicted in 2020, Green strongly believes that Chesapeake Hospitality is built for a time like this. “We’ve been through multiple downturns; the more difficult the situation, the better we perform,” he said. “When times are tough, hotel owners need expertise.” HB