Our Business Consultancy has seen Aspire4 design, develop and conduct full knowledge audits of small and medium sized companies; we are unrivaled in this area. We are living in lean economic times, and now more than ever, we need to know what both our company and our people know, and what do we need to know to make our business more effective in order to gain competitive advantage.
Overview of business operation
Human Resource analysis
Knowledge Audit Assessment
Knowledge Audit Recommendations
Staff training/up-skilling/work rotation
On-site training, industry specific
Aspire4 has through research and development, created a number of unique Business Management tools/techniques in order to generate greater enterprise efficiency and savings. Aspire4 works with a number of key industry experts to deliver specific training needs.
In July 2013 the Aspire4 TEAM were asked to review business activity at Hazelbrook House, 85-86 Lower Gardiner Street, Dublin 1.
Hazelbrook House had been operating under the same ownership as a Bed and Breakfast for almost 20 years, and in that 20 years had seen much change, such as the coming and going of the Celtic Tiger.
The coming and going of the Celtic Tiger had the most profound impact on business activity at Hazelbrook House, as there was little or no money to invest in the product for many years, staff had become demotivated due to business uncertainty and job security issues, and guest reviews on international online platforms such as TripAdvisor and Booking.com were presenting a very negative view of Hazelbrook House to potential guests.
While Hazelbrook House was making some money, the majority of that money was coming through OTAs such as Booking.com who had their hand out for 15-18% of each booking made. Hazelbrook House had few direct bookings either by repeat guest, phone, walk-in, e-mail or even their own website. All in all, Hazelbrook House was under-performing when compared to similar businesses in the area.
The task for the Aspire4 TEAM was to turn Hazelbrook House into a profit making product that could maximise revenue and minimise cost.
An assessment of the product that is Hazelbrook House established that there were 34 rooms in the main building that was made up of 85-86 Lower Gardiner Street, two Georgian buildings joined together as one. There were an additional 19 rooms housed within two annex buildings, named as the A and B Houses, the A-House contained 9 single rooms with shared bathroom and the B-House contained 9 double en-suite rooms and one triple un-suite room.
It was clear that the main house and the two annexes needed to be separated in relation to their online presence, as the main house was suffering from negative reviews relating to the A and B Annexes, and these negative reviews had the effect of reducing the score rating for Hazelbrook House on such platforms as Booking.com.
The decision was taken to present the A and B Annexes as Hazelbrook Lodge, which offered guests small budget rooms in the heart of Dublin. And the main house would be called Hazelbrook House (Guesthouse) offering comfortable large Family rooms, quad-rooms, triple-rooms, doubles and twins.
Having divided the product into two distinct budget types, two separate websites were created and OTAs such as Booking.com were updated on the new product types.
It was also decided to turn two small concrete areas between the main house and the annexes into two small gardens and this would add value to the entire product and also encourage people not to smoke in the rooms (which was impossible to police).
Limited self-drive parking spaces were also created with lines showing clearly where parking was allowed, previously parking had been a free for all and often front desk staff could spend an hour moving cars to allow guests out, and this meant that nobody was at the front desk taking phone calls for bookings and so forth.
The decision was taken to refurnish all 53 rooms within a tightly managed budget, all of the old furniture and carpets would be removed and new carpet and furniture would be bought. The rooms would be painted to a basic standard, with the intention of revisiting all the rooms in the autumn of 2014 when the high season was at an end and some revenue had been generated.
The rooms were totally refurnished within 20 weeks and remained within a tightly managed budget. Room 23 would be the show room for the product.
The reception area which had been a bone of contention for many years was redesigned, a stud-wall was taken down and a small sitting room was opened up into the reception area. A recycled reception desk was purchased from another guesthouse and a new spacious reception desk area was created and this was now complemented by a new lobby area which was decorated in reproduction Georgian wall paper, chandelier, round tables which could be used for laptops, barrel shaped chairs, marble coffee table and large mirror for over the marble fire-place.
The basement which was damp due to several leaks, had for many years been used as nothing more than a dumping ground for anything that was not wanted in the house, and the basement was in effect redundant due to the assembled clutter of old furniture and rubbish.
The basement was completely cleaned out and new facilities were built including a large storage area where stock could be stored and accounted for, staff toilet, staff catering area, serviced offices for management, maintenance storage, mattress and bed storage and an old wine-cellar was rediscovered, cleaned out, and prepared to be returned to its former glory. Ordering/stock control was now under the control of the newly appointed General Manager and savings were quickly realised.
The kitchen which employed two staff was a serious money loser; attempts were made to resuscitate the kitchen, however, at a cost of €1000 per-week in wages and other associated running costs the decision was taken to close the kitchen. The decision to close the kitchen was not an easy one and it was clear that some guests at least would be expecting breakfast for their stay at Hazelbrook House, the decision was taken to fully inform guests about the kitchen being closed and an arrangement was made with another local guesthouse to provide breakfast to those guests who had pre-booked breakfast, the guest was simply given a breakfast voucher and Hazelbrook House would settle the bill at the end of the month. Those who had not pre-booked breakfast but wished to have breakfast were given directions to a local bar/restaurant that served breakfast at a reasonable rate and offered a good standard of customer service.
The closing of the kitchen produced automatic cost savings of €52K per-annum and any potential negative feedback from guests was off-set by a well-managed information campaign that ensured guests knew where and when to get breakfast if they so desired.
Availability and Rate Management – Technical Development
The reception desk had operated using an old book system that allowed for mistakes and poor revenue management.
Aspire4 installed the Room-master software system to manage the rooms and this system also allowed for transparency in revenue management, all transactions could be monitored and questioned. The Room-master system also allowed for the setting up of VAT charges and the report print-outs allowed for easy accounting.
Aspire4 trained the front desk staff on the Room-master system.
Aspire4 took charge of updating rates and availability and this allowed for more consistency in revenue management.
Motivation and Staff Retention
In order to improve staff motivation and staff retention, staff were offered a number of training opportunities:
House-keeping staff was provided with English classes and also the opportunity to train on the front desk with Room-master, this helped improve motivation and staff retention.
Staff were brought up through the ranks and given various appointments such as General Manager, and these appointments were supported by continuous training.
Fire safety, Manual Handling, Occupational First Aid and a variety of other training was provided in order to improve motivation and worker retention.
The transformation of Hazelbrook House and Hazelbrook Lodge was not an easy task; many difficult decisions had to be made. However, the final result has shown increased customer satisfaction (reflected in guest reviews on TripAdvisor/Booking.com/Social Media and so forth), a motivated and dedicated TEAM throughout the business and all of this has in turn seen revenue increase Year on Year by 50% and costs are down by over 40%.