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LHI-Staying There

Portfolio Hotels & Resorts


Portfolio Hotels’ employees enjoy providing boutique-level service to guests.

By Alan Dorich, Senior Editor at Knighthouse Media

A hotel needs the right staff to provide a high level of service. For more than a decade, Portfolio Hotels & Resorts has achieved that by employing professionals with “the heart of a servant,” CFO Graham Hershman says.

This essential trait, he explains, gives the employee the ability to enjoy providing hospitality services. “That’s really the starting place,” Hershman says. “With that attitude, most of the rest of it can be taught.”

Based in Westmont, Ill., Portfolio Hotels manages 20 hotels across the nation that stretch from South Carolina to Oregon. Hershman and Executive Chairman Helmut Horn started the company in 2005 after gaining extensive experience in hospitality.

In 1985, both men created the Coastal Hotel Group. They also were responsible for managing multiple luxury destination properties, including the Highlands Inn in Carmel, Calif., and the Bitter End Yacht Club at Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands.

But in 2004, the two left the group. “We were looking to make a change,” Hershman recalls, explaining that they partnered with a Chicago hotel Portfolio Hotels and Resorts infodeveloper who did not have management representation to create a portfolio of properties.

Today, Portfolio Hotels operates franchised and independent hotels, including Hilton, Marriott, IHG, Radisson, Best Western and Red Lion locations. “Our biggest markets are probably the Dayton, Ohio, market, the Chicago market and the Monterey, Calif., market,” Hershman says.

He credits the company’s success to its high level of service. “We try to approach it continually by understanding what the guests’ needs are, get to know them and make it more like a boutique [hotel],” he says.

Changing It Up

Portfolio Hotels is currently renovating multiple locations, including several that it recently acquired. “That’s been a major effort for the last 15 months,” Hershman says.

“Two-thirds of our hotels are just coming out or are [still] renovating,” he says, noting that some required minor adjustments, while others needed more extensive changes.

Its Hilton location in Oak Brook, Ill., required changes to its restaurant as well as its rooms and public space. “[We’re also] looking at doing some local real estate apartment development and being part of a world-class natatorium on the property,” he adds.

Portfolio Hotels exterior backPortfolio Hotels also has added more technology “bells and whistles” to its operations, Hershman says. This helps the company meet the desires of millennials who expect these conveniences.

“We have set up our reservation taking to being mobile oriented,” he says, noting that clients can book and select rooms using their smartphones. “[You also have] the ability to utilize your phone as your room key.”

On the Search

Portfolio Hotels is coping with an industry labor shortage. “It gets tougher and tougher to find qualified people for all levels,” Hershman says, adding that the company is taking steps to adjust.

Not only is the firm looking at raising wage rates, “We’re making sure we treat people the best we possibly can,” he says. “We’re also doing some outsourcing and we’re looking at doing whatever we can for seasonal hiring, which is where it’s probably the toughest.”

But Hershman is proud of the company’s current staff, which includes several veterans of the hotel industry with two decades of experience. “You’re only as good as your people,” he notes.

He sees a strong future for Portfolio Hotels. “Hopefully, there will be some continued growth as deals become possible,” he says. “We will close some things on the real estate side and we’ll continue to make money for investors.”

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