Entrepreneurial Limburgers choose own course
No bullshit to four-star luxury
Entrepreneurial Limburgers choose own course
In Venlo, young hotel professionals are building their own "empire”. Director Gijs Hendrikx runs three hotels in this Limburg city. Theaterhotel Venlo, Mr. Jigs and Stadsherberg Ald Weishoès. He consciously chooses a contemporary course. A three-person MT, few staff and cooperation with external partners such as a restaurant, cleaning company and a theater. The result? A number of unique hotel concepts. From no bullshit budget to four-star luxury.
'In downtown Venlo, we offer rooms for every wallet. Our hotels each have their own story, so we are not fishing in the same segment. A tourist walker clearly has different needs than a “theater-goer”. Finance Director Stan Heijsters has been working hard with a young team since 2017. Entering Theaterhotel Venlo as a Facility Management intern, he has - in his own words – “stuck around”. He tackled everything from shifts at the hotel bar to administration. He now manages the financial arm of the organization.
Where previously he could get by with overviews and the budget in Excel, reporting started to take too much time. Stan: "In our growth phase, more control is needed. We now operate three hotels and then you want up-to-date insight. '
Dragging the team
His director Gijs tipped him off about Statler BI, from which he had received an acquisition e-mail: “So we didn't know Statler through our network, but two phone calls with owner Maarten was enough. His story about the platform appealed to me immediately. What won me over was the combination of budgeting and forecasting. The fact that you look ahead instead of switching gears after the fact is pure profit. Plus, it helps me engage colleagues in our goals from the MT. Look, I understand what is in those ledgers, but that is not so obvious to others. Statler reports via handy graphics; in simple easy-to-understand terms. Very accessible and at a glance you see all the figures that you can manage.”
“Focusing on numbers is bleak and pragmatic? No, we don't feel that way”
The fact that Stan is going to ask more of his team in terms of results has been mostly positive. “They think it's cool to put their shoulders to the wheel together and take their own responsibility. We are a small, close-knit team that has been working together for a few years. Our vision: you get space and it's also allowed to go wrong. It's about exploring your limits because that's how you grow.” In an organization with short lines of communication and an informal working atmosphere, managing by numbers can also be seen as a hard line. Achieving targets, focusing on efficiency; the typical image of business operations. According to Stan, it is not felt that way: “We actually enjoy having a clear picture of our costs. We did a lot on gut feeling - and fortunately we often turn out to be right”.
Power of habit
Stan is convinced that a fresh look at the numbers is helpful. And yes, sometimes confronting. Everything you do, you must dare to question again. From buying small room products to purchasing the hotel bar. Statler provides all the tools to quickly have the right numbers. 'We have to ask ourselves the question: Why do we make certain choices? A well-considered decision yields something, but sometimes the power of habit creeps in. Then you keep doing things, “because we always do it that way”. Based on this, we have already made a change. For all the hotels, a deal is on the table with one wine supplier.' Making costs transparent does not necessarily mean cutting costs, Stan believes. The guest experience is a guiding principle for the Limburg hoteliers. “That is also worth an investment. In the long run it pays off again, in better reviews or returning guests”.
Hotel and theater: good match
The young team dares to look in the mirror. To be creative, and sometimes to reinvent the wheel. You need that trait when you operate hotels using a different business model. We first zoom in on Theaterhotel Venlo, where it all began in May 2017. The property owner was looking for entrepreneurs who could think out-of-the-box. “The building also houses a beautiful theater, a bistro and a restaurant. The goal was to offer visitors a total package,” says Stan. “We succeeded; we joined forces. Our team operates the hotel and the hotel bar. The theater performs a reception function and handles all hotel reservations. For breakfast, lunch and dinner you can visit the bistro. For dinner with culinary masterpieces, the restaurant is the place to be. We have structural consultations together because you have to be on the same page. A hotel arrangement with dinner is only possible if everyone pulls together. From a hospitality point of view, we keep each other on our toes. How do you turn a guest into a loyal fan? Those are fun processes in which you work together.” The small occupancy in the hotel - even the cleaning is outsourced - requires flexibility. Like making an extra round through the corridor to check that everything is still tidy. Or asking if the room is to your liking, even if you're behind the bar, Stan lists. “It's about connecting the dots. Theaterhotel Venlo is a four-star hotel, we want to live up to that on all sides”.
'A parachute jump with your booking? Yes, that's unexpected luxury'
Further down in downtown Venlo is Mr. Jigs, the second hotel under the wings of director Gijs Hendrikx and his management team. Here, too, the hotel concept cannot be called ordinary. Of the 34 rooms, 24 are furnished according to the no bullshit principle. A compact room for an affordable price, including a small breakfast in the lobby. At Mr. Jigs, it's clear: what you see is what you get. “For this, we looked with a slanted eye at colleagues like Citizen M. Our theme of unexpected luxury for the 10 remaining rooms lies in great space and a service like Netflix. We also had ideas to offer a skydiving experience, for example. Nice plans indeed, which unfortunately due to corona are still on the shelf”.
Stranger in our midst
In late 2022, the hoteliers expanded with City Inn Ald Weishoès. In this former orphanage, they operate 22 tiny rooms and the restaurant. The property also accommodates students and associations looking to rent a room. It is a colorful melting pot of tourists, students, locals and Venlo residents. “Stadsherberg Ald Weishoès is an oddity, it's true. Running a restaurant is new to us, as is the open-house atmosphere. But we do like a challenge!”. Entirely in the style of the old days, the rooms are deliberately kept small. It's a nice budget option for hikers of the Pieterpad or young couples exploring the city. Stan: “If you look at a hotel concept like ZOKU or The Student Hotel, you see that a mix of target groups work. That should work here too! '
Good “connection” with Statler
The finance director thinks he has the right management tool in hand with Statler, especially in this growth phase. “It's great to mirror the operating budget flush with the result. The real-time figures and the forecast option are really a step forward for us. I think we can work better toward our goals. By the way, the real trial by fire is yet to come. I've now done my homework on filling the budget; in 2023, colleagues will start working with Statler. I am very curious to see how they experience that”. With Stan himself, the initial feeling is just good. The daily's are clear, the platform is logically structured. He is happy that he can finally stop making lists in Excel. What does he want to spend the 'freed-up' hours on? “Mainly on adjustments on the shop floor and the overall picture. If we don't work according to budget, you see that right away thanks to the current figures. Or you suddenly discover striking deviations. Then you can point it out to each other: hey guys, next week we have to be different in the game. And if I can't figure it out, I pick up the phone and call Maarten or Stefan. Statler has - just like us - very short lines of communication. That gives me a lot of confidence; I immediately felt a certain click”.