Competitive Advantage

During extended travel, my wife and I usually prefer to stay at chain hotels. We travel often, prefer the familiar big brands, and know what to expect when we arrive. I don’t particularly like surprises, especially when dealing with the stress of travel, and I have become accustomed to and comfortable with the amenities provided by specific chains.

On one occasion, my routine was interrupted when I was asked to speak at a small town in the Rocky Mountains northwest of Denver in an area that didn’t offer the usual hotels. I became apprehensive, not only from the uncertainty of an unfamiliar place but because of the potential of letting down my wife if the hotel turned out to be a loser. I had experienced some horror stories in my earlier years of travel and didn’t want to endure any repeats. Searching for positive reviews, I rolled the dice and booked a 15-room, boutique hotel near my upcoming engagement.

The hotel was a rustic mountain lodge positioned over an Italian restaurant and bistro. This place was the antithesis of a major chain hotel, but I fell in love the moment I stepped inside for one simple reason. Everything in the hotel environment told an amazing story!  For starters, the receptionist was incredibly hospitable. He told us about the history of the owners, the hotel, and the area. We were made to feel like we weren’t simply customers, but long-time friends and valued guests. When we entered our room, three elements immediately stood out.

First of all, attention had been given to every detail. There were custom painted ceramic mugs with unique wooden stirrers for our coffee maker, which was stocked with gourmet beverage accompaniments. The bathroom was furnished with the hotel’s proprietary brand of shampoo, conditioner, and lotion, all which I learned later was manufactured and labeled exclusively for that location. I would have never expected that level of attention at such a small hotel. Details told the story of excellence without exorbitance.

Secondly, the design of the artwork in the lobby and our room combined elements of both regional and local scenery. We saw paintings from area artists and posters from nearby attractions, including the ski area and national park. Images all told the story of this location’s uniqueness and distinction.

Thirdly, the hotel was very old and had been recently remodeled. I marveled at the ingenuity the owners had placed into preserving the tradition and history of the building while providing modern colors, amenities, and comforts. The balance of old and new told the story of the possibility of bridging nostalgia, tradition, and innovation. I instinctively knew why the establishment was a success.

I fell in love with the concept of this hotel, as it represents to me the importance of a story. Just like this hotel, each of our stories has a unique impact on the world around us. Allow me to humbly offer three suggestions as a fellow traveler.

First, draw out the details of your story. You may think that your story is insignificant, but inside the seemingly meaningless grind of your daily work resides guiding principles and wisdom that are sure to add value to other people’s lives.

Second, embrace where you are in your story. Your physical and emotional location may be valuable to others in their journey. Just as a tour guide is essential to wayfarers from distant lands, others will be glad you are able to guide them in your market, industry, or profession.

Third, combine elements of your past with ideas about your future to push your competitive advantage over the top. Integrate your heritage, culture, and business practices with innovative leadership and technological strategies to craft a story that inspires others. In Guatemala, the IRTRA is a wonderful example of this concept.

Large or small, don’t belittle your story, as others are sure to benefit from it. There may be thousands of professionals in your industry, but only one with your story. You don’t have to be a chain hotel to make a difference. You simply have to be the most excellent version of yourself.

My highest regards as you continue to write your next chapter.


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