What Hotel Impossible Can Teach us about Business Continuity Standards

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I will admit that I am a fan of The Travel Channel show “Hotel Impossible.” While watching a recent episode, where the show’s Host, Anthony Melchiorri battles a resistant property owner, I found myself running through a business Continuity checklist and realized that Mr. Melchiorri was up against the very same competitor we are: Denial. I also saw evidence that Mr. Melchiorri follows a standard.

In the episode in question, Hollywood Nightmare, Anthony heads to Hollywood, CA, in an attempt to help the Liberty Hotel match the glitz and glam of the surrounding famous showbiz destinations such as the Walk of Fame and the Oscars red carpet.  The inexperienced owners purchased the property out of bankruptcy for $3 million dollars.

Immediately upon arriving at the property, Melchiorri finds disconnected fire alarms, clogged, unclean air filters, 5-year out-of-date fire extinguishers, black mold in bathrooms, and a host of other safety issues. Further investigation reveals dangerous electrical wiring and significant water damage.

When Melchiorri raises these issues to the owner however, the owner’s focus is on the minutiae of running the hotel; how to organize linens best? How to keep parking spaces free? In part, the owner may be so overwhelmed by the large safety issues (and costs involved in rectifying), that focusing on these minor items allows her to feel as if she is managing the hotel effectively. But more and more as I watched, I felt she was simply in denial.  That denial however could cost her guests their lives.

Security, Preparedness, and Continuity Management Systems

If we use The ASIS SPC.1 standard – a management framework for action planning and decision making to anticipate, prevent, prepare for and respond to a disruptive incident, we can see that Mr. Melchiorri, in his attempt to address the big picture needs of the property, and assure the business continues profitably and safely, leverages these same principles.

  • Melchiorri certainly follows the standard as he seeks to increase organizational and customer confidence by creating a safe and secure environment for both the organization and its stakeholders.  When his crew finds a used syringe in a room, he escalates all conversations with the owner to raise the level of urgency focusing on customer safety and security.
  • He continually emphasizes the planning and implementation of the core elements of Security, Preparedness, and Continuity Management, as well as the maintenance, review and improvement element. He urges an outside, objective audit by a certified professional, and pleads with the owner to follow the professional’s advice.
  • Melchiorri continually pushes for Management buy-in, requiring management to provide evidence of its commitment to implement disaster/emergency response strategies.  Mr. Melchiorri is very clear that investment is needed, and while the investment required was hefty, he clearly outlines that given the property’s 99% occupancy rate, the debt could realistically be cleared in 3 years (and double the value of the property). The property owners will never recover from a fire with loss of life.
  • Last, Melchiorri focuses on maintenance, review and improvement by providing auditable criteria to establish, check, maintain and improve the property’s management system.

As quoted by Firestorm Expert Council Member Ann Pickren, Vice President of Solutions for MIR3 in her paper The Concise Guide to Business Continuity Standards: “Through the course of every disruption or disaster, there are businesses that survive and those that don’t; aligning to a standard should help ensure that your business is a survivor. There are powerful benefits to be gained from alignment, from gaining a competitive advantage to reducing legal liability and opening the door to work with companies in regulated industries. Indeed, the benefits extend far beyond the continuity of your business; as more companies embrace the adoption of standards, the very health, happiness and survival of the populace will ultimately reap the benefits.”

I’m a fan of Melchiorri because he has a system; a tested, formal, repeatable system based upon sound business continuity standards. The ASIS standard requires an organization to implement evaluation activities that include: internal audits, exercise and testing, management reviews, input and output reviews, program maintenance, and policies aimed at continuously improving the standard.

Did the Hotel Liberty adopt standards and did they survive?  Check out the show’s webpage here and watch highlights below

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