Concord Hospitality Enterprises
Concord Hospitality remains a leader in hospitality by putting people first,
which results in the continuous growth of its portfolio.
By Janice Hoppe-Spiers, Senior Editor at Knighthouse Media
Thirty-three years ago, Concord Hospitality Enterprises was born out of President and CEO Mark Laport’s entrepreneurial and ideas-driven spirit. His mission was to develop and acquire high-quality hotel properties and to provide dedicated hotel management services to both full-service and upscale select-service properties.
Laport founded the company alongside a team of four committed people who set their sights on growing Concord Hospitality’s portfolio from zero to 25 hotels, which he says seemed lofty at the time. Today, the company operates 100 hotels with a rich pipeline of more than 32 properties slated for 2018 and beyond.
“Concord Hospitality is an owner, operator and developer in the hotel space and that’s what sets us apart from ‘competitors,’” says Debra Punke, senior vice president of human capital and communications at Concord Hospitality. “We have best-in-class programs and processes that attract partners and associates alike, and the customer experience at a Concord-operated hotel is everything you’d want it to be and more.”
Over the past three decades, the company has partnered with owners and investors on more than $2.5 billion in properties across the United States and Canada. Concord Hospitality aims to continue diversifying its portfolio by moving into lifestyle, independent and soft brands in the coming years. “It’s evolving,” Punke says of the company portfolio. “We were once an all select-service hotel company, and now we are opening brands like Canopy by Hilton, Hyatt Centric and Marriott’s Autograph Collection.”
Concord Hospitality opened the first Canopy in the United States last year in Washington, D.C., a Hyatt Centric last month in Miami and has two Autograph hotels currently under construction in Pittsburgh, Pa., and in West Palm Beach, Fla.. “Moving into the lifestyle space has enabled us to showcase our expertise in design, branding and food and beverage.”
While the company is open to expanding throughout North America, it has to be the right fit. “If there is not an alignment of values, it won’t work. We are looking for the right partnership, right location and right brand to fit the market and, of course, it has to make sense from a financial standpoint.”
The Right Fit
Concord Hospitality prides itself on not only its hotel management expertise, but also on having a rich and vibrant culture, which evolved as Laport set the tone for the company right from the start. Its five cornerstones, including delivering quality, living integrity, supporting community, growing profitability and having fun, have always been its guide.
“At our 30th-anniversary celebration, we unveiled the fifth cornerstone of fun. We had a contest to see if anyone could guess it; no one did, but in every guess was the word ‘fun.’ This is a testimony to our cornerstones and that they do stem genuinely from who we are – this is our DNA,” Punke remembers.
Punke has been with the company for nearly 25 years and says the sincere care for people and focus “outside of the boardroom” is what makes her and many other employees stick around. Concord Hospitality believes in sustainability, charity and encourages a harmonious work and home life, which they believe drives people to be their very best in life.
Concord Hospitality employs more than 4,500 people and says finding the right individuals is a challenge not only because the pool is limited and there is a war for top talent, but also because not everyone fits the Concord persona. “When we find passionate and genuine people, it’s easy to get them to buy into who we are and what we do, ” Punke says. “We are fortunate to have a stellar reputation and people seek us out.”
But what makes someone the right fit for Concord when they do approach the company? “It is not just the skillset; it has to be the right cultural fit,” Punke notes. “We are looking for a character that is above reproach and holds a genuine desire to serve others because, in this business, you can train everything else,” she adds. “We use all of the latest technologies and some good old-fashioned eye-ball to eye-ball conversations. HOOPS is an online screening tool that enables us to engage with candidates in a way that helps us to get a feel for whether they are the right fit.”
Concord Hospitality prides itself on providing its employees with career and advancement opportunities. Nearly seventy-five percent of the organization’s leadership positions come from internal promotions. “In a world where hospitality is regarded as a job and not a career, we have worked hard to inspire people through classroom work and career fairs to let them know it can be and is a fun and rewarding career,” Punke says. “We offer everything from certifications to management courses for development and tuition reimbursement programs for continual growth and learning.”
Concord also encourages its employees to embrace diversity across its 100 properties. Just this year, the company evolved its mission from “The Employer and Manager of Choice” to “A Great Place to Work for All” through the launch of a new diversity and inclusion campaign. The internal initiative aims to address and instill an appreciation for everyone’s differences, promote authenticity and to treat others how they deserve to be treated. “Our biggest differences are our greatest strengths,” said Punke. “We want associates from all over North America to share their stories to gain understanding and appreciation for everyone’s differences, celebrating ‘I am free to be me.’ Concord believes that when a person feels safe enough to be themselves and be accepted, they are sure to bring their best selves to work – which translates into improved performance, innovation and results.”
Five years ago, the company reported more than 2.5 million dollars in accident-related claims in the workplace, which was not up to anyone’s standards. Mark Laport stepped in to set a goal for the company to eliminate accidents. He stated, “Zero is the only sustainable goal, anything more would say that accidents are ok in the workplace.” As such, the company made safety part of its everyday culture, too. They began talking about it, measuring it and schooling people on safety. Today, accident related claims are under $400,000 annually. “It just goes to show that if you engage people about a topic, set a goal, measure it regularly and celebrate it when you are successful – you can do anything.”
To further the company’s support of its associates, Laport and Principal Partner Richard Branca set aside funds annually for associate needs. If an employee’s home burns down or someone is diagnosed with a severe illness and can’t pay their medical bill, for example, the money is there to assist. “It’s not something we broadcast to everyone, but we tell our managers that if they see an associate who is struggling because of something outside their control we want to help,” Punke says. “This has made a tremendous impact on the lives of so many of our associates.”
Concord also encourages its employees to partake in charitable activities. Over the years, associates have distributed more than two million meals to people in need, rebuilt dozens of homes for seniors and people with disabilities and donated thousands of hours giving back in the communities where they live and work. “Our charitable mission is to provide food and shelter to people in need throughout our local communities because that’s what we do in business,” says Laport. “Through our partnerships with Feed the Children and Rebuilding Together, we have been able to do great things, and will continue to do so in even more significant ways as we continue to expand and grow.”
Concord believes we all must be responsible for our environment. The company builds LEED-certified hotels and pays close attention to the areas where hotels can save energy, be more efficient and less wasteful. Since 2010, Concord has partnered with Clean the World, a global health organization committed to improving the quality of life for vulnerable communities internationally. “We donate our used soap and shampoo for them to recycle and provide hygiene kits to countries around the globe,” Punke says. “Their impact on the world is enormous. In seven years, our hotels have diverted 100 tons of waste from the landfills, created about 700,000 bars of soap and saved an estimated 175,000 lives.”
Every year, Concord sponsors two leaders from the hotels that collect the most soap to go on a distribution trip with Clean the World. Punke participated early on in a trip to Guatemala where she was able to see Concord’s donations in action. “People were standing in line for a bar of soap like we do for iPhones,” she remembers. “It was wonderful and humbling at the same time, to witness first hand the difference we are making in the lives of so many people.”
It’s easy to see why Concord has been certified as a Great Place to Work for several years and is ranked in the top 100 best companies for both women and millennials.
In fact, many Concord associates would most likely tell you they’ve never worked a day in their life because they love people they work with, the company they work for and they love the work they do on a daily basis. As Concord’s portfolio continues to grow over the coming years, the company will continue to instill these ideals and missions across its North American properties.