Breaking Barriers to Innovation in Hospitality Today

with Calvin Tilokee, Co-Founder at Lighthouse

Together with

Today, we’re learning about:

  • Breaking barriers to innovation

  • Deepening relationships in person

  • Hospitality design firm of the year

  • …and more

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Breaking Barriers to Innovation in Hospitality Today

with Calvin Tilokee, Co-Founder at Lighthouse

Calvin Tilokee // Credit: Lighthouse Hospitality

Calvin Tilokee has fascinated me for years. He's been named a top influencer in hospitality, the mastermind behind the Instagram comedy account @revparblems, followed by tens of thousands of people who enjoy the memes and hilarious videos he creates that often go viral.

But that's just one side of his life. Calvin is also an experienced revenue leader for hospitality companies in major markets like New York and just recently cofounded a new strategic advisory firm, Lighthouse.

Today, we’re learning about the challenge he saw that led him to start this company - and some eye-opening insights about what might be holding your company back from providing the innovative hospitality it could be.

Recognizing the Challenge

Calvin’s journey towards launching Lighthouse began with conversations with his business partner, an investment banker. They identified a challenge in the industry - the lack of diversity and its impact on innovation.

When you only have the same kind of person making all the decisions, you're not going to be nimble. You're not going to be thinking forward. The whole industry needs a shakeup. We need more younger people. We need more women. We need more minorities.

By diversifying the boardroom, the industry can overcome its resistance to change and embrace new technologies and ideas.

We need that boardroom to look different to be able to impact things like why does a front desk person have to write a checklist every day? It’s 2023! You're manually checking it. This is stuff that was going on when I got in the industry in 2000. These are things that we need to evolve. And the reason we're not evolving is because those boardrooms don't look different enough.

The Power of Social Media

As one of hospitality’s top social media influencers, Calvin understands the impact of these digital platforms on businesses. He believes hotels have been slow to adopt technology and media like this because of a lack of understanding among the decision-makers.

To me, it had to start with what I was doing on social media because even now, I think hotels are behind the curve. They don't understand how impactful it can be to your bottom line by doing things on social media.

The reason for that is that the people making these decisions are not on social media. They don't have it, so they don't really understand how it works. You need people in that boardroom who are making decisions that are nimble of mind.

They don't need to be a certain age, but somebody willing to say, you know what? Yes, this is different. I may not do it, but let me get somebody who knows about it.

We need to start thinking outside of the box. Let's get more people who understand, who are not in the same age bracket, in the same demographic, of the same gender. We need different people in there so that way we can impact the industry from the top and the bottom.

Being an Ally

Hertelier named Calvin an “Ally of the month,” and I asked him what that meant to him.

He told me about the importance of this in driving change. He drew parallels between the Black Lives Matter movement and the need for allies in the hospitality industry.

The Black Lives Matter movement didn't gain the steam that it gained over the past couple of years without the help of people who weren't Black. Because when it's just the community that's talking about the problem, eventually, it just sounds like complaining because nobody can relate to it.

But if someone who's not Black starts talking about the issue, then you can relate to that person. Right? A white male talking to another white male about this issue, all of a sudden it sounds differently. People are more receptive to a message from people who look like them.

Calvin believes that change is more likely to occur when individuals outside a marginalized group speak up and advocate for diversity and inclusion.

Promising Initiatives

I believe change is best understood through examples, and Calvin highlighted several initiatives already making a difference in the industry.

He mentioned attending conferences where diversity is increasingly represented on panels and discussions. He also mentions working with Tracy Prigmore, the founder of She Has a Deal, a Shark Tank-style competition for women hotel owners.

Preparing for Ownership

Calvin ultimately co-founded Lighthouse to help more people become owners in the hospitality industry.

Educate yourself as much as possible.

When asked how people can prepare for this in the future, he advises building a comprehensive understanding of the industry. He suggests educating yourself in all aspects of the business, such as accounting, revenue management, and sales. Attending investment conferences and networking with industry professionals can also provide valuable insights.

Above all, Calvin emphasizes the importance of continuous learning and being open to asking questions, even if it means admitting you don’t know something!

The Role of Partnerships

While you need to learn and educate yourself, you don’t need to know it all - but you do need to know people who know about what you’re trying to do.

Calvin's own business partnership with an investment banker highlights the importance of collaboration in achieving success. By combining their expertise, they can provide comprehensive support to aspiring hotel owners.

Those are just some of the ideas we discussed. I highly recommend you listen to Calvin talk more about this:

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