A Day In The Life...

Tammy Farley
President, The Rainmaker Group

 

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What time do you normally get up?

I’m an early riser. I’m usually up by 6 a.m. or 6:30 a.m.

What’s your early morning routine?

I try to start every day with a protein bar and a workout. But, more often, it’s a conference call, a few text messages, emails and coffee. (laughs)

 What kind of workout do you do? Do you have a specific routine?

I really enjoy my Peloton bike and try to ride every day that I’m not traveling. I’m naturally competitive, and I love that I can connect with other riders and take classes with real live instructors in real time. Plus, it tracks my progress toward my fitness goals. (Did I mention that I’m competitive?) And, although I’m not a runner, I recently completed a half marathon at Walt Disney World with my daughter. It was so much fun to share that experience with her.

How do you get to work?

I drive to work. My office and home are both located in the northeast Atlanta suburbs. It’s a short commute.

Give me a quick overview of your company.

The Rainmaker Group provides cloud-based revenue and profit optimizations software solutions to hotels, resorts and casinos. I co-founded the company with a colleague in 1998, and we now have customers around the globe and offices in Atlanta, Singapore and Dubai. For the last seven years, we’ve been named to Inc. 5000’s list of ‘Fastest Growing Privately Held Companies’, and we were recently included in the 2018 HotelTechReport list of ‘Top 10 Places to Work in Hotel Tech’. I’m especially proud of the Rainmaker team. We have a talented and dedicated group of employees who are committed to our customers and our products. Our work environment is very positive. We’re always encouraging each other to step out of our comfort zones and tackle the next big challenge. And our customers are a true extension of the Rainmaker family. We host an annual user conference at a luxury resort where we offer panel discussions, educational talks, and plenty of fun time, too. It’s one of the highlights of our year.

What’s the first thing you do when you arrive at work in the morning?

I usually catch up on industry news and then walk around the office and talk with the team. I like to get a feel for what our priorities are for the day, and there’s no better way to find out than to catch up first-hand.

 What’s a typical workday like?

My primary job is to spearhead sales and customer-related operations, so I’m always asking what we’re doing to make sure clients are getting what they need. Are we delivering the right features? Are we listening to our customers? I meet regularly with the customer experience team to make sure installations and support are the best they can be. I’m also responsible for growing the business, so I’m constantly talking with employees to make sure we’re generating new prospects and exploring partnerships that will propel the business forward and help our customers optimize profitability.

And, of course, I’m involved in product strategy meetings. We regularly update our solutions to incorporate the features and functionality customers want. And, as we grow the hotel and resort side of the business, there’s always the conversation about how to help hotels do what casinos have done for so long, which is to earn the loyalty of their most profitable guests. I’m constantly challenging our team to help hoteliers define loyalty. It’s typically not about the number of room nights a guest stays on property.

I also want to make sure we have the right integrations with other software solutions, such as property management systems and customer relationship management solutions. So, I regularly talk with other solution providers to make sure we’re delivering the integrations customers want. The hospitality industry is about relationships, and I see my primary role as building those relationships – with customers, employees, partners, and developers.

Are you involved in activities outside of work?

Yes, I’m involved in several philanthropic endeavors, including helping to build a school in Zambia and a soccer field for boys in Uganda. And, almost every day, I’m doing something for Make-a-Wish Georgia. I’ve been involved with the organization for many years, and I’m currently the Board Chair. There’s nothing more rewarding than making children’s wishes come true, especially when those children are battling critical illnesses. I’m also involved in several hospitality-related organizations, including the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI), where I serve on the Revenue Management Advisory Board.

What time do you typically leave the office?

I try to leave the office by 6 p.m.

What do you do in the evening?

I travel a lot, so when I’m home, it’s as peaceful and quiet as we can make it. Most evenings, I enjoy dinner at home, catching up on TV shows I missed, and finishing ‘Spelling Bee’ in the Sunday New York Times.

What’s your favorite city to travel to?

That’s a tough one, but if I had to choose, it would be New York City. It’s such an exciting and vibrant place, and the fact that my daughter lives there makes it even more so. It’s fun to visit her and explore the city together. She works in the fashion industry, so we do a lot of bonding through shopping excursions!

What’s your favorite TV show? Are you binge watching anything?

My guilty pleasure is mindless reality TV, so I love The Bachelor, Vanderpump Rules, and all things HGTV. I’m getting ready to binge watch Downton Abbey, and I can’t wait!

What are you reading right now?

Bachelor Nation by Amy Kaufman

And, finally, the big question. . . flip-flops or heels?

Oh, that’s a hard one. Can I say both? (laughs)

The Importance Of Collaborations And Partnerships For Boutique Hotels

By Nick Hartwright
Founder, Green Rooms Wood Green

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In May 2016 I launched Green Rooms, the UK’s first independent arts-led social enterprise hotel. While the hotel is open to everyone, it is aimed primarily at people who work in the creative industries. Creatives are a discerning bunch but most of them don’t have hundreds of pounds to spend on hotel rooms when they come to London. So their funds are limited, but by the same token the last places they want to stay are soulless, formulaic, budget chain hotels. Green Rooms is a godsend for them. It is an affordable, well-designed space with a pared-back, utilitarian feel, and somewhere for artists to sleep, eat, work and spend down time with congenial people. It’s a creative haven, a melting pot of ideas – a place where lateral thinking and new approaches are actively encouraged. And a place where sharing is key.

From auspicious beginnings the hotel has developed and evolved over the past 10 months, and partnerships have been intrinsic to its success. They permeate all aspects of Green Rooms and run right through it. They’ve enriched the whole proposition, added piquancy and delivered constant ‘newness’. New partnerships give customers reason to return – they’ve impacted the bottom line and I’d argue they can do the same for any boutique hotel.

However, I believe that for partnerships and collaborations to pay dividends they have to be truly authentic, and symbiotic. You can’t fake them and you can’t hoodwink people or pull the wool over their eyes. My business card says ‘Green Rooms founder’ but it’s not a title I buy into really, I’m more the chief facilitator or enabler. 

For starters, Green Rooms funding structure is rooted in partnerships and the hotel simply wouldn’t exist without the financial support we received at the outset from Haringey Council, the Greater London Authority and a number of impact investors. The beautiful 1930s Art Deco building which houses the hotel was earmarked for demolition and would very likely have been turned into a block of luxury flats – not something the area needed. I had an alternative vision for the building, a vision where everyone would benefit. And when we sat around the table together it wasn’t hard to convince people to invest, they could see right away that Green Rooms was an altruistic project. A project that would benefit the local community and the wider creative economy in London. What’s pleasing is that Green Rooms is being held up as a glowing example of how local authorities, social enterprises and private investors can work together to deliver game-changing cultural entrepreneurships. Not to mention the fact that all of our stakeholders use the hotel, whether that be to stay a night or two from time to time, or to put on events in the communal spaces.

And then we have our institutional partners. I believe you have to speculate to accumulate, and while Green Rooms ‘rack rates’ are more than competitive, to help secure block bookings from arts organisations we offer discounted prices to the likes of Somerset House and The British Council. All we ask in return is that the artists our partners’ put up at the hotel share their work – so if a group is working on a show we’ll have them put on a truncated version for guests to enjoy. It’s all about content. If you’re a ‘normal’ customer at Green Rooms there’s a fair chance you’ll see some sort of artistic endeavor when you’re with us, whether that be a piece of immersive theatre, an exhibition or a musical performance. 

Of course, we programme our own events too. Some are esoteric, others more mainstream, but I like to think there’s something for everyone. Just recently we started a series of ‘city showcases’. Every month we celebrate a different culturally progressive city. We put artists from said city up in the hotel, let them exhibit their work and have renowned DJs play at the launch night. Bristol was the first and it was a roaring success. In the coming months we’ll be focusing on other UK cities and international arts hubs as well. 

Our restaurant programme is all about partnerships too. Green Rooms isn’t your average hotel – so it follows we didn’t put an average, run-of-mill-club club sandwich restaurant in the lobby. The restaurant space runs as an incubator project, which means every six months we bring in a hot up-and-coming restaurateur, give them the kitchen and dining space free of charge, and provide them with expert tutelage at the same time. Said tutelage comes courtesy of Johnny Smith – co-founder of the Michelin-starred Clove Club restaurant in Shoreditch. Whilst at Green Rooms restaurateurs gain experience in running their own joint, and they get financial advice and help finding permanent premises after they leave. Our guests get delicious food and the chance to try something new every six months. It’s a supportive, creative and holistic programme where everyone wins. We’re currently on our second residency, Pop’s Kitchen, a modern take on Caribbean food, and it’s going great guns. The constant newness keeps people coming back.

Above all else, what really sets Green Rooms apart is the collaborative ethos we’ve fostered. A few years back I set up a pop-up hotel for a number of theatrical companies visiting the UK and it was a resounding success. It was what convinced me that Green Rooms could work. What struck me were the interactions the groups had; it’s one thing working together but another thing to stay with like-minded people too. Conversations spark ideas, which in turn can become projects, and in some instances these projects evolve into fully-fledged creative businesses. 

Green Rooms brings people together from a wide range of creative disciplines and some brilliant ventures have already been conceived at the hotel. Mostly at the bar over or a cocktail or three. But make no mistake about it, the partnerships and collaborations we’ve set up have made it the success story it is. I just preside over it all and steer things in the right direction as best I can.

The Hostel Revolution

by Anne Dolan
Co- Founder, Clink Hostels

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It's hard to believe that it’s been twenty years since my sister and I went backpacking, post-university. I love travelling. Besides opening our minds and horizons, it combines two of my favourite things - meeting people and seeing new places. Clink Hostels is the company I co-founded with my sister after our travels together, and fuelled by our love of hostelling. 

Wherever we were in the world, finding a good hostel was like finding a home on the road. And there are so many great hostels, each with their own particular character. In those days, the set-up was usually pretty basic, but the sense of camaraderie and community at some of the places we stayed in was tangible and addictive. We knew it was the business we wanted to be in, but we wanted to do it better whilst still capturing that sense of warmth and friendship. Clink now has three ‘homes from home’ - two in London and one new and ambitious one in Amsterdam. There are plans afoot to open more Clink locations across Europe over the next few years. The aim for us? To be the affordable places to stay, where amazing city experiences start for our guests, to provide them with the knowledge they need to make the most of each city and, last but not least, to deliver unique surroundings that are friendly, fun, social and creative. 

I’d certainly agree with BLLA in saying that there’s a kind of ‘hostel revolution’ going on right now. It’s a really exciting time to be in this industry and I’d venture to say that Clink are riding the zeitgeist with the best of them. Years ago, hostels catered solely to the backpacker market - travellers on the tightest of budgets who were willing to compromise on the comforts associated with hotel accommodation in return for a cheap bed. That’s all changed. Hostels today, certainly in the European market, have come to stand for something more; they’ve opened up to a new kind of traveller who is looking for affordable, well-designed, hip and social accommodation.

The average guest staying at Clink is around 24 years old. Today the traditional backpacker, like yesteryear, still wants to spend their disposable income on experiences in the cities they visit rather than paying for a smart hotel. A budget ‘no-frills’ hotel serves its purpose, but the new ‘boutique’ kind of hostel will win out for the discerning millennial traveller… and GenZ, who are already on their way! With a mixture of private and dormitory options, sharp event programming, and friendly, clued-up staff, the convivial atmosphere facilitates opportunities for authentic connections between both the city and people.

The word ‘poshtel’ often crops up in commentary surrounding this new generation of hostels. And it’s not hard to see why. An astonishing amount of time, effort and money is spent on ensuring that the interiors and furnishings are inviting, extremely comfortable and exciting. Alongside great interiors there are often an array of services you’d expect at top end hotels; bars and nightclubs, comfortable relaxation areas, great places to eat, well-trained, helpful and knowledgeable staff who often have as much local insight as the concierge in five star establishments – but a lot more price savvy!

At Clink we place emphasis on great design and great service – we worked closely with innovative Dutch architects on our recent renovation of the old Royal Dutch Shell Head Offices in Amsterdam. But, first and foremost, we pride ourselves on the friendliness of our teams at every Clink hostel. We aren’t flashy and we don’t really align ourselves with the word ‘poshtel.’ The main focus at our hostels is to make visiting a great city accessible to all. We want our guests to feel completely welcome from the moment that they step through the door, fostering a fantastic social experience and helping them to make the most of their trip.

For that reason, communal areas make up a big proportion of Clink's interiors. They’re designed in a way that’s really geared up for social interaction, with a perfect mixture of cosy corners and livelier areas. Our events teams do an amazing job of lining up in-hostel events most evenings, from cocktail making classes to scrabble nights! The teams are always happy to share their favourite local hotspots with guests. ClinkCREATIVE is our collection of programmes that bring art and music into the hostels. Musicians stay for free in exchange for playing a gig for our guests, artists can use space to paint and exhibit. Our initiative is to engage and connect creatives, travellers and the local community. 

We’ve tried to maintain the idea that hostels are, above all else, about interactions; between places and people. We like to think that you can turn up alone or in a group at a Clink hostel and immediately feel part of a community. That’s what my sister and I loved so much about the good places we stayed in when we were backpackers. The standard of hostels has soared – and that’s a great thing – but I’m determined to make sure that Clink remains true to the essence of hostelling; the ‘home from home’ feeling that is at the heart of what we do.