Maryland-based management company Marshall Hotels & Resorts is celebrating 40 years in business, and has a portfolio of 73 hotels operating and in the pipeline.
Marshall Hotels & Resorts President and CEO Mike Marshall learned much about the hotel business from his father, Charles, but even more about how to treat people right and lead a business through crisis.
In December, Marshall Hotels & Resorts launched its yearlong celebration of its 40th anniversary. Charles Marshall founded the Salisbury, Maryland-based management company in 1980 after many years working in the industry.
“My father grew up in it; he was a GM for most of the time until he started the company in 1980,” Mike Marshall said in an interview with Hotel News Now. “And it was a lot of long hours and thankless hours.”
As a leader, Charles Marshall didn’t lack confidence, his son said with a laugh.
“My father if nothing else was always confident to the point where maybe it wasn't a good thing, but he certainly believed in himself,” Mike Marshall said.
But confidence in leadership passed from father to son, as Marshall oversees a management company that has grown to 73 signed management agreements between operating hotels and hotels in the pipeline and more than 100,000 employees companywide. After working for the family business as a teenager and then leaving to attend college, Marshall felt drawn back to the hotel industry, and he’s been with Marshall Hotels & Resorts ever since.
“We're in an industry that has gone through some phenomenal changes over the years,” Marshall said. “And you've had to be nimble to adjust to those changes, to the changing markets to what hotel guests are looking for and staying on top of everything. So it's been it's been a lot of fun, as well as rewarding.”
Marshall said his company benefits from a long track record in the industry, holding the cards when deciding which projects to pursue and which partners to work with. He added he doesn’t have a grand expansion planned for the company in the next decade.
“I'm not looking to get super big,” Marshall said. “I think that we're in kind of a sweet spot right now where we can pick and choose which projects we tackle. So, I am going to concentrate on working with people that we like.”
Much of the industry is facing debt crises and might be forced to sell under value, but Marshall said he doesn’t foresee his company being a part of “bankruptcy takeovers” of other hotels.
“There's still a lot of hotels that are in trouble in markets that were overbuilt to begin with,” he said. “And there's certain markets out there that are just not going to come back that quickly. You're going to see a lot of distressed assets and whatnot, so really we're in a position where we can kind of pick and choose what projects we want to take on.”
Leadership in crisis
The global COVID-19 pandemic has been such a significant disruptor to the hospitality industry, but Marshall said in his experience there’s always a recovery after a downturn.
“This will be the fourth major downturn that I've personally been involved in, and with the last two in particular we saw that it took at least five years to get back to the previous numbers,” Marshall said. “So when we look at when are we getting back to 2019 numbers? This may be different. It may only take three or four years, but it's probably going take four or five years for a lot of the industry, especially the big boxes, the markets where you rely more on airlift to get in. You look at so many different things and it's just not the hotels that are affected, it's airplanes, it's everything.”
The bright side is there’s plenty of pent-up travel demand, he said.
“Savings rates are at an all-time high right now, and Americans in particular, they're not good at sitting on that kind of money, it's burning a hole in their pocket,” Marshall said. “So once people start traveling, they're going to travel, they're going to go big for a while.”
Above all, confidence through crisis is crucial for a leader, Marshall said.
“Just leading people through this type of a crisis has shown that we all know we're going to get through it,” Marshall said. “How much we get hurt while we get through it is something that we don't know. But just remain competent, remain on top of things. I've kept the line of communication open with everybody, all of our owners, all of our employees. So, there's no hidden agenda. We know what we have to do, we're going to work hard to do it. And then unfortunately part of it's a waiting game.”