Springfield Business Journal: What do you see as being the keys to your growth?
Tim O’Reilly: Hiring really good people, who are very competent in all phases of our business. We’re very diverse but very experienced. Some of the key has been the ability to hire some of Mr. [John Q.] Hammons’ team. We have some really great folks who used to work for the Hammons organization. They are used to the growth. The economy has cooperated, up until recently. Hospitality had been in a real growth cycle. Unfortunately, that probably went a little too far. There was a little bit of overbuilding.
SBJ: What are your company’s top issues?
O’Reilly: In terms of managing that growth, looking at locations for hotels and restaurants. It is a lot about selecting the right site and community, and making sure it’s the right product. People have very different tastes and those tastes are evolving. The baby boomer generation has a different appetite for hotels that are consistent – like a Marriott Courtyard or Hilton Garden Inn – and the younger generation likes the more boutique, trendy, unique properties. So, it’s trying to keep up with those trends. A restaurant can go out of favor within weeks if it doesn’t evolve. A hotel can go out of favor in months or years, and that’s an expensive asset.
SBJ: Is your fast growth sustainable? And is there such a thing as growing too fast?
O’Reilly: I don’t think the amount of growth we had was sustainable. We tried to be efficient and streamlined with personnel and that put a lot of burden on our key people. Pre-pandemic, it was a high-stress environment. But there was a lot of reward. We got a lot accomplished. My plan, pre-pandemic, was to slow down our rate of growth – to be targeted, sustainable. The pandemic has, of course, emphasized that issue and reprioritized a lot of things – quality of life, relationships. Why are we growing so fast? Really stepping back and asking those questions. It has refined our company to a great degree. This pandemic was an opportunity for us, a very painful opportunity, but one that has allowed us to reprioritize.
SBJ: Have your goals changed as business has taken off?
O’Reilly: Sometimes, when you’re on a growth trajectory you lose track. My biggest goal is to reprioritize and be more thoughtful about growth. Sometimes, the flurry of growth tends to overwhelm a company and we don’t make time to look at our goals. We have an executive committee and we do that to some degree. But we’re forming a steering committee with a very select few people that are going to be looking at just that – to help me keep a better overall view of where we’re headed and why we’re going there. Right now, we’re just in survival mode. We do need a return to business travel for us to get healthy.
SBJ: What is the worst business advice you’ve received?
O’Reilly: I’ve had several people in my life say, ‘It’s just business. It’s not personal.’ That to me is absolutely the wrong way to look at business. Business is an extension of life. And life is about personal relationships. What you do in business does matter. Business isn’t a reason to act in a less ethical way than you would otherwise.
A pair of area medical colleges that received state grant funding in the fall are now investing the funds toward technology and new programs with the intent of attracting more students to the nursing profession.