When Ryan Amin was growing up, the family business was hotels. It’s no surprise, then, that Ryan got into the hospitality industry after college.
But, although he learned a lot from them, he didn’t go back to work for his parents… he struck out on his own in a very unusual way for a recent graduate.
He’s learned a lot over the years about the industry – including ways to overcome endemic labor shortages. But more importantly, he’s developed guiding principles to influence every decision he makes.
His number one priority: always do the right thing. A business owner in any industry – even executives – can learn a lot from his philosophy.
Tune in to find out…
- How he thrives in such a crowded and competitive market
- The three common characteristics of great managers
- What he learned from early mentors that still guide his business – and why he still has mentors today
- The value of “real talk” with your employees
- And more
Mentioned in this episode:
Jay Sparks: Hello. This is Jay Sparks, your host of Finding Unique Value, where I interview business leaders that have found unique value in their business or industry that others have not yet seen or explored. And I’m excited today to be joined by Ryan Amin who’s the owner of Giri Hotels in 60 Hospitality. And the hospitality space is incredibly competitive. And I’m really interested to learn from someone who’s been successful at finding a way to provide value in such a crowded and competitive space. So welcome to the podcast Ryan. It’s great to be speaking with you.
Ryan Amin: Thank you for having me.
Jay: Great. Well, could you just as by means of introduction, just give us a little bit about your, about your background, and I have lots of questions about how you’ve been able to structure in organizing what you’re working on now.
Familial Passion for Hospitality
Ryan: Of course Jay. So I’m I’m Ryan Amin, as you mentioned, and we own and operate 34 hotels within New England. So predominantly, we’re in four states, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Connecticut. I got into the hospitality industry at a very early age. My parents actually purchased a 15 unit cottage type motel located in central Massachusetts, when I was about the age of 15. And during that time, so through the experience of you know, being a family experience, I learned a lot, again, at a very early age, always hanging out with my dad, when he was doing maintenance projects and seeing how my parents really exemplified, you know, work ethic.
They were constant work around the clock to sustain a business, build that business and make it a successful business. I always have had a passion for technology. So I actually decided to go to college for technology, I went to Worcester Polytechnic Institute and majored in management information systems. And it was really during my time in college that I realized that, you know, my core screen business that, you know, one day I wanted to do something around business that having that hospitality background, really pushed me into, hey, I really want to do something on my own, start something on my own, and also gave me the validity from having experience with my parents that saving enough money was very important.
So during college, I had internships and I lived at home for a couple of years. And my whole end goal was to save money, live at home, and have enough capital to purchase an asset. I even started my own surveillance camera system business during college to earn extra income. It was after college that I worked at a large IT company for a couple years in which that I finally save enough capital to purchase my first hotel and resort type area along the Gulf of Maine. And really, that was my first entrance into the hotel business.
Jay: Wow, that is, that is incredible. The fact that you grew up in a family business and wanted to do the family business is very unusual, right? Because a lot of times, you know, the children, I respect what your parents do, but I don’t want to continue in that. And you also had the technology focus, which I thought would take you further away. Why did you find yourself going back to hospitality, that that doesn’t, that doesn’t look like a normal marriage, right? Between those two things.
Ryan: I definitely agree with what you’re saying. I would love to talk more about sort of the family dynamics because I think at this point, I appreciate so much being able to work with my parents who’ve shown me so much and supported me, not only through personal, of course, my life but through the business experience. And I do think that going through that experience with my family has taught me a lot on how to manage people, as well as manage hotels and work with different personalities. I think, you know, I think somewhere in college, and I really don’t know what the trigger point was. But you know, I’ve always been a business-oriented person. And I’ve always had a passion for technology.
So I think my core is always been business. And that’s probably because of my other bringing, you know how to, you know, create something and make monetary value. And my passion technology has always been How do I apply technology to maximize the business side. And that’s what I do a lot within the company now and I look for solutions. I’m very solutions-oriented to try to see, especially in our tree in our hotel industry, there’s so many trends that are changing that we’re constantly looking for how to, you know, either operation, be a little bit more efficient, operationally maximize revenues, and a lot of that times has to do with technology.
From University to Entrepreneurship
Jay: Wow. That is incredible. That makes a little more sense now. So there’s so many disconnects here that you were able to find a path because the other unusual thing besides not only learning and respecting how to work hard from your parents, which is not obviously always the case, you also learn how to manage people, which I’d like to talk about in a second.
But the other crazy jump that you made, is I don’t know, too many college students to graduate and buy a hotel of all things. How did that come to be? And how did you think that you could do that? Right? Because it doesn’t sound like or maybe you had a template in mind. But you know, most people don’t do it just because they don’t even know where to start. Right. So I don’t know if you learn that or if you got that from your parents or your family. But that I think that’s really fascinating.
Ryan: Yeah, it was, it was definitely a conscious decision. So after graduation, you know, taking a job that was close by where I grew up, you know, allowed me to continue saving some income while I was living at home. And once I had once I thought I had enough, you know, I brought this up to my parents, I said, Look, I’d saved up this money, I think it’s time to you know, start and continue the family business that I grew up in there that I loved. And they supported me a hundred percent. And that was huge for me to then start the process of, you know, looking at different buildings, looking at different hotels.
And to be honest, I’ve actually never even visited the first hotel location, except the first time when we were valuing the hotel. And I never knew anything about the area never knew what it was about. And then when we were going through that process, it was really when I learned in my career, that there are a lot of people out there that are willing to help. And that if you just ask and go out of your way, they will give you a lot of information and help you along the way. So it was undoubtedly very scary. And a lot of times I didn’t know about a lot. But I always felt that people in this world, or is always very helpful and optimistic. And I really always made sure I surrounded myself with those key individuals or those people on a day to day basis.
Jay: No, that’s really a tremendous point. Because most entrepreneurs, right, it’s you feel like it’s you against the world. Right? So how did you overcome that fear of asking for help or looking foolish? Obviously, your family was able to help you to some degree, but they don’t certainly did probably didn’t know everything. How did you find… How did you know what other types of advice that you would need? How do you find those people that were able to help?
Ryan: Yeah, I think honestly without choice, and I think once I targeted that goal of just, you know what I want to buy this business, and I want to make it great, and I want to really turn it around, I had the end goal in mind and I knew there was going to be challenges. So I think awareness was very important to know that I’m not going to know everything. And I’m going to need to ask for help. And that does include a lot of times rejection, right? And they’ve included a lot of times on learning and understanding.
But I always felt very comfortable that work ethic would overcome any of these challenges. So I always made it a point to myself that I was going to work harder or try to work harder than most people. And by that, I was going to either learn how to do things that I didn’t know or be okay with rejection and you know, humiliation of someone saying no.
Jay: Sure. Sure. Now, did you learn the was the work ethic, which you, you know, learn from your parents? So that was really ingrained at that point? Or is that something that you had to focus on? For for a different reason?
Ryan: Yeah, you know, and the more I think about at this point, and I started thinking about my childhood that was ingrained from early childhood. I mean, my mom had a full-time job, throughout the years commuting an hour and 30 minutes each way. My dad was constantly working around the house. And when we had a family business, always doing something trying to improve something he was never sitting around.
And those two individuals just growing up, just really show me that if you want to get somewhere or you know, live the American dream, that’s what work ethic will get to you. And my parents are great examples of coming to America as the first generation and living that American dream. They came from nothing and when they were about age 25 and you know, now they own several businesses, and they have a life and career and they brought other family members to America to enhance their lives and, you know, sort of follow the same footsteps.
Jay: Wow. No, that’s, that’s incredible. And now it seems like in you know, in talking to you before we started this interview, it seems like you’ve learned you did you learn all of that, but you’re teaching all that to the people that you now serve, and now work for you, which is, which is really amazing.
That’s also another thing that’s very unusual about you, Ryan, could you talk a little bit about about the you know, what you learned about management, before you actually owned a hotel, from your, from your parents, I think a lot of us have opportunities, but not everyone is listening in you obviously were. And then and then and then, you know, kind of what you learned when you had your first staff and if there was a big, big change, I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on that.
Ryan: Yeah, before so before I really opened my first hotel, and I had people that were, you know, technically reporting to me, I thought about all of the managers in my life, and what I really enjoyed and loved about them. And some of the common characteristics for they were great listeners, they truly had positive intent for me. And they were available whenever I needed to go to and chat with.
So throughout my internships throughout, talk about family, you know, I want to mention my brother as well. And my first couple jobs out of college, my first job out of college, literally, I was lucky and fortunate enough to have awesome managers who were just very supportive, so supportive. So when I had my first team, you know, I really wanted to replicate some of those characteristics. And I really wanted to, you know, duplicate what they were able to do for me because I knew how important that was to have those characteristics as a leader.
Open Door Policy
Jay: No, that’s incredible, because a lot of people have similar experiences that you do, but they don’t internalize the lessons from your brother from your parents, and the other things, but it sounds like you did, and now you’re able to, you know, to your employees, because I’m sure that not all of your employees had the same upbringing you did. Right?
So how do you help instill some of these things that you learned growing up that maybe some people that are working for you now did not have but you know, want to so for instance, they admire you, and they look up to you. And, and they understand that there’s some sort of gap, but don’t really know how to get there. What things do you have in place, now to maybe help them with that as long as they’re working with you?
Ryan: Yeah, I think, you know, all of us set the company, especially the executive team, and top leaders within the company really focused on having that open door policy. And I think that’s a common term that we are talking about. And that’s in several businesses talk about what we really continue engaging with all employees at different levels, I think it’s very important to understand their stories, understand their challenges, but then also have open forums to talk about that.
So we will engage in any conversation in which anyone wants to talk about or you know, just have a chat about something, I think it’s very important to continue to listen to what’s going out there, and different levels, different communities, so you can make better judgments on how you can you know, help or come up with solutions.
We within the company, are, are very fond of our core values. And for me as a leader, now, I typically go back to these core values that we represent to evaluate certain members, right. So some of our core values are we’re a family and doing right and the right thing and bring some change. So a lot of our conversations with people are not talking about sort of the operational items that you know, day to day, business, hospitality stuff, but it’s really turning individuals into leaders and focusing on these topic areas.
And it’s what I’ve learned now, it’s just constant engagement. It’s constant sharing stories. And then it’s also being showing humility, I think it’s very important to be transparent, showing humility, and sharing those stories that people can relate and say, Oh, well, this actually is not just happening to me, it’s happening to other people. And there are solutions or ways to resolve these things that somewhat may be challenges that someone might be facing.
Jay: Wow, that is, that’s really incredible. I see now why you’re, you’re so successful because a lot of men and women in your position are doing the exact opposite, right? They’re looking at the operational administrative tasks, and they’re using the carrot on the stick to make sure that gets done. And they kind of leave it at that, right. Whereas a company like like Ritz Carlton right there their motto, you know, ladies and gentlemen, serving ladies and gentlemen, kind of set the expectation for, you know, the people that work there, and also for the people that stay there, right, just by watering those words, it’s really amazing.
So you’re one of your core values, you know, even something as simple as do the right thing as long as it’s reinforced and coached. And you talk about it in terms of stories. You don’t have to tell people, here’s the 10 things you need to do when there’s a problem. You need to tell them do the right thing, right, and they’ll and they’ll figure it out. And if they have a problem, then they’ll come to you with you know, probably a question that you want to have versus you know, what do I do? Right?
That’s not really what you want to be there for. So that’s, that’s, that’s really amazing. Now, are you able to set aside time for your coaching and follow up? Because that’s one thing I see that is very challenging for someone in your position because you have lots of responsibilities and lots of you know, things you need to do every given day?
Ryan: Yeah, I think some I think every, I think depending on the time period, and a workload, I think we all have different ways of setting that time. For me, I found that a lot of times I’m on the road, actually. And I’m driving to locations. And that is usually my time to just really recap all the stories, all the challenges, and all the conversations, I’ve had to say, hey, do I need to follow up on that? Or hey, did someone just terminate someone that they probably just need a phone call to just check in?
And I think those are the things that leaders should all be doing. And you know, I go, I love being surrounded by again, by my partners who, you know, I’m constantly thinking of the people within the company. And so that is my method right now, a lot of times on my drive is usually I try to focus on just, you know, somebody conversations I’ve had and how people are doing and, you know, if there are any problems required over there?
Jay: No, that’s incredible because I know there’s two key drivers for satisfaction, right? In the business world, written around about a lot. And one of them is that, you know, do I matter? Not that do you have someone at the front desk, but is that person, the front desk, you know, because no one else can do exactly what they do, right? Because everyone’s a little bit different. It sounds like you found a way to show people that they matter. Which is really, really incredible, because I think that they’re missing in a lot of places.
Ryan: And yeah, you know, I think I want to I want to highlight here is as a company, we really focus on recognition. I think that’s what you’re alluding to. Whether recognition through monetary value, which is, you know, totally acceptable. If that’s what you want is recognition, we need to know that as leaders that that’s what, that’s what in some individuals want or recognition by just a thank you. So we’ve developed a couple of programs in the past year to kind of focus on that one of the things that may sound small, but I’m very proud of as a company.
What we’ve done is we’ve created an internal social media Facebook group with all of our internal employees. And really, it’s just a channel for everyone to within the community of the company to just post things on that’s going on what is have an employee appreciation party, or they want to share ideas or talk about new things that their hotel is gone. And I think that’s just very important to have that a company and then give them a channel to express something that they want.
The Importance of Showing Employees Individual Attention
Jay: Sure, sure. Yeah, again, that’s necessary for a top-performing organization. But that’s why there aren’t a lot of top-performing organizations in your industry, right? Because it’s, you know, I’m sure there are a lot of people, if you’re not, if you don’t feel that you matter you know, why would you want to go on a Facebook page and post something, right? You’re just not going to, this really not going to be, you know, where you want to want to spend your time. It’s also interesting, too, because if you’re doing the recognition, which is a lot of work.
Everyone knows where they stand, right?
That’s the other thing that’s really important for satisfaction, you have to know where you stand and some of these jobs, right, it’s hard to know, because there is no necessarily a standard of excellence, you need consistency, you need attitude. And those, you know, it’s hard to put a number on that day to day, right. It’s not like making how many widgets did you make today right? In some kind of manufacturing firm. So are you able to show that in other ways to besides the recognition? Or is that the and the Facebook page?
Ryan: Yeah, so we show recognition, and I talked a little bit of a month here. So we rolled out a couple monetary values to say hey, you know, if you hit certain targets and goals, you know, here’s you can earn extra income, we also show recognition by actually giving out individual development plans.
So any very good performers, the owners will actually get together and create an individual development plan and sign off on it to say, hey, we’ve identified you as a leader within the company who’s growing here, the things you need to complete the next level. We’re very passionate about that. And of course, all of our regional leaders are, you know, really pushing those things, pushing those things through.
Jay: That’s fantastic. I’ve never heard about that in your industry. Is that something that, how did you come up with that? Is that something that you learn from someone else, or just an idea that you and partners had? That’s really, really brilliant.
Ryan: Yeah, it was just an idea that the partner said to us, oftentimes, I think, as a business was growing so rapidly, you know, you realize that you’re already doing these things, they might not just be standardized, or they might just not be official if you will. So it’s just kind of grouping that together and saying, hey, we’re actually already doing this. Let’s just make it a standard now and then educate, you know, the rest of the group that this is something that’s available.
Jay: Yeah, no, that’s great. Well, and it’s, it’s important too because you know, all the people that work for you, they have different focuses, they’re, they’re structured differently, right? Internally, their personality. So it’s hard to, you can’t have just one solution, because someone’s going to fall through the cracks. So frontage, I’m sure you have people that are very, they want more responsibility. So you know, the title. And what they do is really important, you have other people that just want to know that they’re doing a great job, which is you know, that what you just described is really important.
And then you have people that just want to come to work and just be really happy, really have a great working relationship with everybody that working with, right? And you have to treat those kind of groups a little bit differently. And we all have parts of that. But some people certainly are going to have one more than the other. And it sounds like regardless of where your employees fall, you have a way to kind of help them scratch that itch, if you will, right? And you know, so you can keep them there. Because I have to think that based on what you’ve just described, that your turnover rate must be much, much lower than your competitors. Are you able to track that?
Ryan: So at the time, we don’t have an official tracking number, at the leadership level, you’re right, the turnover is very low. And that’s because many of our leaders have grown within the company. And either they’ve come from, you know, line level staff, and either they’ve started at the front desk or a housekeeper and now there are possibly a GM or even regional manager. So I think what you’re alluding to, is that something that we’re really taking a big aim at and saying, we have candidates within our company, we gotta keep growing that.
Jay: No, that’s fantastic. And also to I think a lot of just your attitude, I assume your partners have been are like-minded as sound like you’re also covering the two weeks the two biggest reasons for dissatisfaction, which is not the opposite of satisfaction, which is kind of unusual. But I think the you know, the biggest reasons for dissatisfaction in an organization like yours is red tape, right?
And bureaucratic kind of nonsense that we all hate, and a poor relationship with your manager. Right? So it sounds like you have these things in place, there isn’t a lot of bureaucratic mess, because you’re not telling people to do 16 things at once and fill out paperwork and sounds like you’re promoting people who want to be promoting their training, they deserve to be promoted. Right? So everyone is happy. Which is pretty amazing.
Ryan: You know It’s funny, you’re saying that because just this week, we were working on another program that we wanted to launch. And it’s just what you said that once that red tape conversation comes, we know it’s going to lose momentum, they kind of lose the point. So we really challenged that bureaucratic red tape. And we’re saying no, it doesn’t make sense, like business-wise and human wise, if you will, then we you know, we’re not going to overcomplicate things. So we really focus on challenging the status quo as a company and saying, Well, hey, why do we need X, Y, and Z? And if there’s not an answer, we’re going to eliminate that.
The Structure of Success
Jay: Yeah, no, that’s fantastic. That’s a thing that we did that’s the challenge in government, right? Because when you have too many rules, then people stop thinking, right? So how do you get just enough, you know, have a direction that people can make the right decisions, it sounds like you found a really good balance with your values coupled with, you know, that the day to day management, which is just incredibly hard to do, which makes you and your partner is very, very valuable. So that’s, it’s great to great to see the good guys win Ryan.
Yeah, no, this is this is really fascinating. We should do a Harvard Business Review study on this today, I think you’ve done a lot of things are really textbook without having to follow a cookie-cutter formula. Right? Can you try things and then see what works? Because you know, what works for, for instance Ritz Carlton isn’t necessarily going to work for your organization. But you can certainly if you understand the theory, you can maybe apply certain things. It sounds like you did that already. Anyway.
So switching topics is a little bit what are the major challenges for your day today? Is it trying to get the right, the right people to work? I know that, like in the construction industry, that’s a huge issue. I know, in the hospitality industry is a huge issue. I see you know, hotels, face with strikes, because of you know, wages, and you have the whole foreign domestic type of issues that crop up. Again, I don’t want to answer for you, but just what are the type of things that you, you have to think about today?
Ryan: Yeah, so from an operational perspective, I think for those who may not know, the hotel industry as well, you typically the busy time people generalize it mainly October. So if you kind of take an occupancy percentage-wise, you’re really going from like 40% in the winter to all the way up to 85, 90 plus in the summer. So there’s a surge and big need for employment during those months of mid-October. What we’re facing in hospitality industry is a shortage of labor specifically, in you know, housekeeping is probably the general department, housekeeping, laundry, breakfast, those departments.
And one of the things that we’ve been exploring our different programs, whether it’s getting foreign labor via the HUV program, hiring students abroad from day one programs, as well as trying to develop internal programs for domestic workers as well. Right. So I think our approach has always been tried every single channel and made the best channel win right, let us channel win whatever it is. So we’ve focused on all three. And you know, I don’t want to go too deep into detail on some of the incentives that we’ve launched a retry, but that’s really a challenge to get those surge of employment during the summer.
I think there’s a lot of conversation in the politics, of course, with these programs, and there’s a lot of back and forth, left side right side, on where they should be. So just getting involved in sort of advocating for those challenges as a company, we’re hoping that it would, it’s going to make some better policy changes in the future.
Jay: No, that’s, that’s fantastic. Yeah, we definitely need to find some better solutions, right? The old solutions just don’t work anymore. Well, yeah, what I’d love to hear some more if you find one of those, one of those channels working well, because I think that you’d have a lot of support in trying to get our government to put more focus on that. We just need to figure out what the best combination is. I know, you’re not the only one struggling with that particular issue.
Ryan: Yeah, I agree. Jay, I think it’s really just for business owners participating in these conversations, I think sometimes, you know, what we see is a lot of the policymakers are probably not as well educated and well versed in what’s going on actually at the business. So it’s very important that business leaders are, you know, advocating and communicating and sharing their stories. I think it goes back to earlier we were talking about how we have an open culture on just, you know, sharing good story being a little bit more open and challenging some of those conversations. So.
Jay: So, Ryan, I know, you’ve talked about your brother and your parents, being very important mentors, and that’s a really important part. I don’t know any successful person that doesn’t have many mentors and sounds like you’re a sponge. What are some other people you know, whether it’s your personal or professional life, that you have been really helpful for you?
Ryan: Yeah, there’s so many Jay, I think I never know where to where to start. I can talk for another two hours on this. But probably the couple of people that we haven’t got a chance to talk through is, you know, personally, my wife. She is very ambitious, she has been called a power woman, and I’m just so appreciative, you know, especially a woman who’s going through some of the industry.
And of course, we know the challenges that women face, and I just seen her grow. Also, personally from her persona, just she’s giving me, shown me a different way. We met six years ago and just really had focused on my patients and my being more empathetic with individuals as well as being supported there for any of these challenges. Business is a challenging industry.
And a lot of times I come home, and I do need to vent and she’s always been there. The other two people I just want to mention is Ash Sangani who is you know, the founder of Giri Hotels, he exemplifies all of the core values that you would want a founder and CEO to have, and it’s just truly a blessing to be side by side with him, and go through all the business ventures. And the other person is the other partner within Giri is Cider Milllavia, who’s, you know, again, very similar qualities, very similar core values and just start two individuals within the company, you were just always there to do the right thing, and really take the company to the next level.
Jay: Well that’s incredible. It’s also a great lesson, Ryan, right? No, nobody gets there alone, right? And you have to be smart enough to, to ask and then to listen. And, you know, take the advice to heart. So I’m really glad that you were able to find these folks, I’m sure you will find many more. And now we get to take advantage of what you’ve learned.
So thank you for sharing that with us. I’m very, very impressed with everything that you’ve done and I want to be respectful of your time. So I’ll wrap this up in just a second. But I will say this, is it looking at where some of your properties are and I haven’t thought of those hotels, but I certainly will now know how they’re operated.
So I’m sure that I’d have a wonderful experience with my family at any of them. And hopefully other people that are listening to this feel the same way. So what is the best way for anyone to get in touch with you, Ryan? If they want to know more about your business or if they have actually some thoughts on that last point you raised about the policies. I think that’s something that’s going to have some sort of national discussion at some point. I don’t think it’s quite there yet, but we certainly need someone to help push it. What’s the best way for people to get in touch with you and just reach out if you if you’re open to that?
Ryan: I am I’m 100% open to that Jay. I think the best way to email or I’m also on LinkedIn. So if they want to connect within LinkedIn, and I would love that opportunity to network with more individuals.
Jay: Okay, no, that’s great. Well, besides wanting to stay at hotels, I certainly would love to meet your brother and your parents they sound like incredible people if you’re the result of spending time around them so thank you so much for taking some time with me this really was fascinating.
I’m really excited for you and for both your, the companies that you’re that you own and are running I think anyone there is got a really incredible opportunity ahead of them with leaders like yourself so glad to see that that working well. And for everyone else thank you for listening to finding unique value and we look forward to sharing our next guest with you soon. Thanks everyone. Bye for now.