Set your sights Featured

7:00pm EDT November 25, 2009

Peter Simoncelli wants everyone to understand his vision. But the general manager of The Westin Chicago River North doesn’t expect that he can simply speak and everyone will listen. He wants a two-way street at the hotel, which posted $38 million in 2008 revenue.

“You give them the chance to listen to what you have to say, and then you have to give them the chance to communicate back to you,” he says. “They may just need the time to vent. It’s no different than when you listen to a customer.”

Smart Business spoke with Simoncelli how to use a vision effectively.

Q. How do you create a vision?

I think what I do is not rocket science. I really think that it’s management by walking about. Creating a vision, the biggest thing might be listening to your customer. Your customer really tells you how to run your business. It’s whether or not you opt to listen to them.

You have the resources out there that you have. I guess it would be the tool kit to go out there and solicit feedback, or the gift of feedback, from your customer, then they provide it to you. Positive or negative feedback is great. Positive, you can work on and say, ‘Jeez, that’s a great idea. Maybe we should expand on that.’ Or negative in the way of operational efficiencies, ‘Maybe we need to retool our organization to better fit the customer need.’

If you have your own vision, it might be as simple as there is a crack in the sidewalk. That crack in the sidewalk, if it is a crack in one spot, what about next year? Is it going to crack coming off a cold winter? Is it going to crack in four more areas in the same thing? You better have a vision of what is going to be thrown to you. [It’s] no different than what a baseball player does: ... ‘Before the ball is hit to me, I better have somewhat of a game plan. I better go into this and say the potential exposure is here.’ We can fix that crack, but three more are going to happen, so maybe we need to have a game plan going forward.

Q. How do you know what customer information is useful?

There’s going to be feedback, and there’s certain feedback that you do get that is going to be dealt with or not dealt with. If there is a certain charge, like parking prices need to be reduced, or, ‘Boy, I wish I could stay at your hotel for half price,’ or, ‘You shouldn’t charge for this service.’ Well, there is going to be a financial platform that that’s not that gift of feedback or that vision of reducing prices.

Now, if all of my customers tell me this and continue to do that, then we will evaluate it. But, for the most part, you have to quantify it as to say, ‘Is this an individual’s perspective, or is this the majority of your customer base that is giving you this feedback?’

If you create a vision and it only impacts less than 1 percent of your client base, it is probably not a vision you want to spend a lot of time on. So, you just have to quantify, what are the certain things. It’d be nice to be able to spend money to change the color on a sign. But, realistically, is that a priority, or is that going to be something that, if you ever would get to the point that you could change the color on a sign and you had the disposable income to do that, then that’s great? But, in the meantime, you are going to have to create a vision around that or something else.

Q. How could a leader communicate a vision effectively?

The biggest thing that I say is that, No. 1, when you present your vision, do you get the buy-in from the associates? You have to. Ultimately, if people do not buy in to the vision … they may do it, but the vision, it won’t be on solid foundation; it will be cracking. If the vision is there, they buy in to the vision, you may always be able to input the vision, but does it stick and how long will it stick?

I always say that whether the focus or vision is a simple task, if you don’t have buy-in, you’ll go back six to eights months later and that vision will not be there any longer and we’ll be jumping on to something else. So, get the buy-in, ask and listen to what the people do. They may have good reasons that your vision may not, and I’ve many a time said, ‘You know what, you’re right. Wrong timing that’s a vision for the future.’

How to reach: The Westin Chicago River North, (312) 744-1900 or