Years ago, it was simple – reaching 65 meant retirement. You got your gold watch, or other memorabilia of recognition, and set out into the sunset of your time on earth. Perhaps a life in Florida or Arizona was in the plans, with many thinking that their last days would be spent in the bliss of endless golf games and beach walks or inspirational hikes.
At least, that is what the television commercials wanted you to believe. I vividly remember advertising for Sun Life Insurance where the current marketing slogan was ‘Freedom 55’ which envisioned a happy future starting ten years earlier than the mandatory retirement age.
How times have changed. No longer is there a fixed rule on retirement dates. At the same time, our overall health has improved, attributed to a reduction in tobacco use, less alcohol consumption, better eating habits, more exercise and improved medical options. This means that you can be in perfectly good health and still performing at your mental peak well into your senior years. That’s great news if you love what you do and indeed many veteran hoteliers have already answered the call by remaining on the clock well into their emeritus years, lending their wisdom to every task and extending their mentorship to all new hires.
Setting aside the ability to work longer or a financial need to do so, all these older team members make retirement a question rather than an answer. So, how do you know if it’s your time to throw in the towel for good or if you are perhaps just going through a temporary malaise with your line of work?
For this, we must look beyond the telltale signs of aging like lower energy levels, shorter attention spans and general impatience. With the average life expectancy now reaching upwards of the high 80s, there is no reason to retire just because you’ve reached 65. Here are some ways to breathe new life into your current job so you can stay active and help inspire those around you.
- Tackle technology head-on. I’m sorry if you’re not a gearhead, but you have to become one! If you can keep abreast of technology and all its jargon, you will never be anywhere close to the top of your trade. As painful as it seems, you have to read the journals, visit the websites and attend the webinars. Ask questions and learn. Review your property’s technology capabilities as well as all current trends in other industries and consumer behavior in general.
- Mentorship. Take on one or two newbies in your organization and work with them. Let them understand your love for hospitality and tutor them on all the elements of guest service they just don’t teach at college.
- Get out of the office. Attend the key tradeshows like ALIS and HITEC. Or better yet, drop in (as a surprise visit without advance warning) to a few of your sales missions to see your team in action. Be a roving ambassador for your business.
- Departmental cross-pollination. Spend a half day working in each of the following departments: housekeeping, laundry, front desk, reservations center, concierge, kitchen, sales, marketing, public relations and catering. Go on a sales call to a corporate client or be a part of a wedding sale. I guarantee you’ll learn a lot more about your business than what is told in planning committee meetings.
- Eat in the company cafeteria at least twice a month. Talk to your team. Learn about what the issues are. Ask how things are going. Want to learn about the competition? I’ll bet they know more about occupancies and issues in your comp set than your sales team!
- Take all of your vacation. You’ve been in the business for over 30 years, so a week away once a quarter is mandatory. And make it a real recharge by telling your second-in-command that you will accept only one email per day, delivered at precisely noon summarizing the previous day. Do not read your daily reports or any other nonsense. Read hotel journals or a novel instead. Stay at hotels where you can learn something to bring back to the home front.
- Move or redecorate. You’ve probably had the same office for years. If you cannot move it, then while you’re away have it totally redecorated. Get rid of those old mementos because, remember, you want to live in the present and future, not the past. Make your office look 20 years younger. One of the best GM offices I ever saw had no desk and just two sofas, two chairs and a coffee table. When asked, the reply was, “If I need a desk, I’ll go into a boardroom.”
- Spend more time with your senior staff. Plan your month to have one-on-one meals with all of your planning committee members individually. Seek their personal counsel on issues where the business is heading as well as those within their own departments. Diarize key thoughts and take advantage of initiatives that are identified.
- Lead a local or national hotel association. With the advent of new competition on steroids from the sharing economy, now is the time that our hotel associations need help on all levels. Don’t just be a member sitting quietly in the back sipping on crappy coffee. Participate and be a part of an active leadership team.
- Remember your family. Your spouse and children are everything. While it is difficult to involve them in the business (assuming you do not own the property), ask them for their opinions on your property. Your children are a wealth of information just waiting to be tapped, especially if they are millennials or younger as they are the future and see matters sizeably different from previous generations. Bet that they know the best restaurants in town, the most useful apps for branding your business and what makes Airbnb so terrific compared to every other hotel chain in the world.