Every industry is crowded. And, everyone thinks they’re different. What gives?
Most business owners look to their peers and follow the leaders. This makes for “me-too” businesses that are all pretty much the same, and, well, boring.
The hotel industry is a crowded space in any city. And especially in the city of Nairobi, Kenya.
To discover a funky, creative, unusual hotel in Nairobi is pure delight.
And we did. It’s called The Socia! House. (this is the correct way to spell “socia!” 😊)
What they have pulled off is remarkable. It is a focused, disciplined, principled creativity.
This is what we observed.
Principal #1 – Break Down Barriers
When you walk into The Socia! House it hits you like a bullet. There…is…no…reception…desk. Ok, what’s the big deal you are thinking? Tell me the last time you did not spot a reception counter or desk in the lobby of a hotel?
No? Right, I thought so.
Right smack in front of you is a 24-hour coffeehouse with its own roaster. (Had the best latte – ever! There is something rich and pure about Kenyan coffee. You must try it).
The whole lobby is a living room. You are invited to take a seat while a juice is served.
Paul, (the general manager) came over. He said, “why do we need a reception desk with online check-in?
Bang! Right on! They removed a barrier – the front desk – that is there in all hotels. (Not just hotels; think dentists).
The reception desk is a barrier. A physical object between you and “them”. It separates the “staff” of the hotel from the guests. You are a guest at your friend’s home. Do you have to register first before being ushered in?
The reception desk is a barrier and they removed it. It makes The Socia! House different and daring.
Principal #2 – Be Consistent
You have created your brand theme. You must follow it into every little detail. This includes – the uniforms, the signs, the layout of halls, the bedrooms. It includes the meeting rooms, the gym, all of it.
At The Socia! House the Gym is The Jim. Cute, clever, and it makes you smile.
The numbers on the rooms are 2.13 not “213”. The meeting rooms all have cool names with homey, quirky touches. In one meeting room, on the shelves, laid a football, a football helmet, a worker’s construction hat. And great books. Don’t ask. It just works!
Take a look at their wonderfully quirky website:
Be – ruthlessly – consistent.
Principal #3 – Do Not Compromise Your Brand
It takes courage to step a few degrees to the left or right in your branding. The “leaders” in your industry will think you are nuts. Ignore them.
We had the joy of meeting the brand designer of The Socia! House, named James. He is uncompromising. We shared a glass of wine with him in the lobby, whoops, I mean living room.
That evening, James spotted a team member standing behind a table. He got up and moved the table. It was no longer a barrier between a guest and the Team member.
We asked James what he liked best in working with this “hotel”. Right away he said – Juliet, the owner (in red in the pic), was his best client – ever.
Why, we asked?
Juliet gave James free rein to unleash his creativity in the space!
Don’t do things in half-measures is the lesson here. Be bold. Be daring.
Principal #4 – Over-Train Your People
A brand is not just about the things or the “look”. It has to broadcast a message.
This message will attract your people. It will repel the ones who “don’t get it”. No problem. That’s what you want. That is the purpose of the brand. To attract and repel. When you attempt to be “all things to all people” you become nothing to no one.
This is where training comes in. The people you hire will likely be from “your” industry and not used to your ways.
The extensive training at The Socia! House is crystal clear from the second you arrive.
They call their training The Shift. Perfect name!
At The Socia! House there are 150 Team Members in an 83 room hotel. Wow!
It is easy to figure out that they give their Team free rein to be themselves. They spoke to us as friends, authentically interested in us.
They do not stand beside you, nor in front of you. They sit with you!
It is a gathering place. More than a place to sleep and eat – a place to make friends, to gather and meet.
Principal #5 – Take Risks
When you step outside the box of your industry expect to be judged.
Ask yourself this – who is doing the criticizing? A competitor? Great! You are on the right track. They are nervous, and they are timid. You are not.
You know who you are. You know that it will be risky to be daring in your industry.
Listen to your best customers to tweak your brand and make it better. In the beginning you may feel a wee bit vulnerable – exposed even. Hold steady. You will attract the ones who “get what you are doing”.
Just One More Thing
We did what The Socia! House did too. We stepped outside the boxes in our industry and did things few others dared try.
Fixed price agreements for starters. Since 1997 we have not billed a single hour. Clients hate hourly billing. (OK, a few don’t, and they won’t be our clients).
We went fully virtual before it was fashionable. We used cutting edge online technology at the dawn of the Internet.
Our name is ControllershipPLUS, not Mark Holland & Associates.
We only do one thing. Online, full-service bookkeeping and Controllership for growing multi-million dollar businesses. And we are very good at it. I dare say, the best.
What makes you different? Who are you? Who do you dream of becoming to show what is truly possible?
Huge kudos for the brilliance of Juliet and Francis Njogu of Kenya. They have taken the risk to be different and create an exciting space to meet, have fun, and make new friends. The Socia! House, Nairobi, Kenya. Be sure to stop there when you are in Kenya!
Thanks for reading…