We are a team of students from National University of Singapore, specializing in Revenue Management and mentored by Professor Sherri Kimes. We were invited to witness and participate in a roundtable discussion where professionals holding directive and managerial positions related to the hospitality and travel industry shared their insights on the future of Revenue Management (RM). The discussion agenda was divided into three portions; RM’s transition into asset profit optimization, RM’s integration with marketing and leadership & selection within RM.
It was truly an enjoyable roundtable session with astute points and strong opinions on various subjects being shared from each participant. Students were also given the privileged opportunity to interact freely with the participants and gain enlightening insights during the casual tea break and lunch session.
Our team is presented with the opportunity create a blog post which summarizes the key points of the third agenda of the roundtable discussion – leadership and selection in RM. This agenda discusses the future prospects of RM in the hospitality industry and some key characteristics hirers are looking out for when employing new people to the organization. Advice on a successful and fulfilling career in hospitality were also shared by the roundtable participants.
Is Revenue Management in high demand?
It is agreed by the roundtable participants that RM is a generalist function and does not necessarily require a specialized background in hospitality. In fact, RM is expected to direct various organizational functions including Marketing and even general functions expected from a General Manager.
As RM people are expected to rise up to managerial positions in the future, the participants discussed the different leadership types in a team.
Leadership can come in various forms: There are the backend people that portrays “behind-the-scene” leadership with their technical skills and expertise. There is also strategic leadership for those who exhibits good foresight, can visualize and plan well. Charismatic people can also be leaders, where they can improve the team’s morale and motivate people and influence their behaviour to get things done.
What is interesting to know is that good leaders are also good followers in various situations. They are people who take a step back and allow the rest of the team to take charge as a way to develop them whenever deemed necessary.
As RM students, it is encouraging to know that there is a high demand for RM in many other industries as well, and many organizations are just starting to scratch the surface in identifying and applying RM for their decision making processes.
The reasoning behind why organizations demand for RM skills is largely attributed to RM’s strategic and quantifiable approach in making revenue maximizing decisions which is generally universal for various functions and industries. This is increasingly important as future external environmental trends are potentially massive, diverse and unpredictable. Thus, in light of all these, organizations require a systematic executionary approach based on the strategic decisions recommended from RM experts.
Is relevant experience a must?
Although not a must, naturally, it is still beneficial to have prior knowledge and relevant background experience in the respective industries a candidate is applying for.
To gain an advantage in this highly sought after and competitive field, students are also encouraged to attend summer programs or participate in internships as a first step to gain exposure and specialized industrial knowledge.
Being inquisitive is also another factor that will help in one’s pursuit to excel in revenue management, the willingess
What are some behavioural traits organizations value?
The candidate’s attitude and passion for the industry are placed in high regard. RM is not looking for a particular skillset, but an individual with a to-do attitude and enthusiasm which reflects interest, willingness to learn and motivation to get things done. To identify these traits, there is usually a degree of interest in a candidate’s hobbies, because it gives an insight of the person’s attitude, passion and commitment to a cause.
Having a good attitude is also being proactive. Being constantly motivated is not easy. To keep things interesting and challenging, one should proactively request for greater exposure through job enlargement or job rotations, because every employee is responsible for his/her own personal and professional development in an organization.
- Analytical Skills
Although the demand for candidates interested in RM is high, it is also essential to understand that organizations are also seeking for analytical individuals. In fact, the RM department prefer to conduct the hiring processes themselves instead of the Human Resource department because Human Resource may not necessarily know the job technicalities which may affect the quality and relevance of the shortlisted candidates. Afterall, RM requires analytical skills to justify and quantify decisions. Some of the most commonly sought-after traits are, the aptitude to be analytical, possessing technical forecasting skills and the ability to draw useful implications from the data results for the management.
Soft skills like negotiation skills, communication skills, and listening skills are highly valued. “Geeks who can speak” can articulate well which enables that their opinions, ideas and conclusions to be received in full effect by the organization. This then allows the management to make appropriate and strategic decisions based on their analysis and recommendations.
The ability to express opinions succinctly will nurture an environment of effective communication among bosses, colleagues and customers. Two-way communication like this is required for understanding, empathizing and considering everyone’s inputs and also nurtures leadership qualities.
To demonstrate these desirable qualities which can be learnt overtime, students are advised to practice effective two-way communication and express their views in their everyday life. If necessary, taking courses on business communication will definitely help individuals articulate better.
To succeed in any job, it is necessary to be open minded to listen and consider ideas that might even be in conflict with the status quo. It demonstrates good foresight to look at processes from a fresh and analytical perspective and identify new ways to improve a system. This also nurtures lateral thinking and flexibility in a highly dynamic environment.
Individuals should be aware, accept and rectify the potential challenges and failures that come along with new implementations. It is encouraging to know that some organizations do allow failure. These organizations realize that failure enables individuals to experience, learn and review the strengths and weaknesses of their decisions which will help in their future personal development as well as contribute better to the organization in the long run.
During the job search process, in the heat of the moment, students might overlook the importance of pursuing a job that they are genuinely interested in. As a professional in the future, some might even move to other career opportunities for the sole purpose of money. It is essential for students to realize that a job will take up a significant portion of their lives and there is more value in engaging in a job because of interest, a belief in the organizational vision and personal development rather than focusing simply on the monetary benefits.
Unfortunately, many organizations in today’s context faces high turnover rate, causing human resource to actively find ways to improve staff retention. Students should also be aware that the business landscape is dynamic and littered with numerous challenges and opportunities for improvement. Thus, they should be comfortable with these challenges and have the tenacity to commit themselves to the organization and thrive over these challenges.
Acing the Interview
As some students are graduating from NUS in May, the roundtable participants shared some tips on acing an interview. Being prepared for a job interview is a given. To prepare themselves, candidates should understand the panel of interviewers better from networks like LinkedIn, and familiarizing themselves with the job scope. It would also impress interviewers if candidates are able to accurately articulate the company’s vision, recent performance and have some opinions of the company. As mentioned previously, the business environment is constantly changing and dynamic, thus, interviewers will value candidates who are aware of the current changes in the industry and some of the implications they might entail.
Our group is extremely honoured to be invited for the second roundtable session in NUS.
To all roundtable participants, we have learnt plentiful from the insights and perspectives discussed. The knowledge shared has sharpened our business acumen, not constrained to RM in particular, but also from a macroscopic business point of view as well.
To Professor Kimes, this has been a very meaningful session and we deeply appreciate this rare opportunity. We sincerely hope that there will be more sessions for our juniors in the following years to come.
We are a group of National University of Singapore (NUS) students currently taking Professor Sherri Kimes’s module on Revenue Management.
On 21st March, our class had an amazing experience of having 18 of the top Revenue Management (RM) leaders at our campus for a series of thought-provoking and insightful roundtable sessions. Our group took on the third session of the three-part roundtable, concerned with Human Resources in the Revenue Management industry. In this session, the participants had an honest conversation about careers in RM, and we took home some very useful insights as well as a peek into how it is like working in the Revenue Management industry. We also had a chance to speak to many experts from the industry who shared with us their valuable experiences and knowledge.
The roundtable event was a casual and open discussion between the managers where they exchanged ideas and discussed about the future of revenue management. Understanding that most of us were really keen on finding a job in this industry, the participants very kindly dedicated a long period of time to answer our queries and explain the possibilities that Revenue Management holds!
Based on a ninety-minute discussion and Q&A session, here are a few ideas that left a lasting impression on all of us, which we would like to highlight and share, while adding on our own takeaways from the experience:
1) Why should we consider a role in the hospital/revenue management industry?
It holds great prospects
Industry leaders of the roundtable are of the opinion that revenue managers will assume senior positions of leadership of companies in the future. “The revenue manager today become the GM tomorrow”, declares Mr. Maunik Thacker, Senior VP of Marketing at Marina Bay Sands. Revenue management is a cross-departmental function that must connect and understand all other departments to work well and succeed. This is why the function prepares its employees well to undertake management positions in the company.
It has a competitive compensation plan
Gone are the days where the hospitality industry offers sub-par salaries as compared to other popular industries, such as banking and finance. Today’s hospitality job positions, especially positions in revenue management, offer competitive packages and attractive salaries. Nevertheless, the participants opine that money is not the priority – make the right decisions, and the money will come.
You get to travel a lot
As Mr. Patrick Andres, Regional Managing Director of Rainmaker Asia Pacific shares, he has been around the world in many countries as part of his career in hospitality. A career in revenue management gives us the opportunity to learn from different cultures and experiences – few other industries have such global career tracks!
Revenue management is growing, and will only grow bigger
Revenue management as a function is increasingly being recognized for the value it creates, not only in the hospitality and airline industry but also across other industries such as food and beverage, tourism and other recreational services. This means that the skills you pick up will only become more valuable and sought after in the years ahead!
2) What can I prepare for a career in revenue management?
Prepare for the interview
In this day and age, with the aid of technology, we need to do our homework before any interview. Looking up LinkedIn, finding the interviewer, and learning about the business and about the job scope have become basic requirements that interviewers expect of you in any interview session. As the businesses are also complex in nature, knowing about the business and the industry can give one a significant edge in striking a good impression.
Speak up and ask questions
The ideal Revenue Management candidate was described as a “geek who can speak”. If you already are a geek, then you must learn to speak. Geeks in this context are the ones who can easily read the data and understand the implications, but it is equally important that they are able to communicate these insights to the rest of the team. One can develop communication skills by learning to speak up, asking questions, and striking conversations. It is also important to not shy away from public speaking environments and be comfortable with attention.
Don’t be afraid if you don’t have experience
The participants admit that experience definitely holds an advantage, but Ms. Siv Forlie, VP for Revenue Management for Shangri-La, also points out that sometimes, no experience could be a plus too. The flipside to having no experience is a fresh pair of eyes, which could prove to be valuable to an organization. Besides, it is not a deal breaker if the candidate in question is unable to fulfill all his responsibilities from the start, as long as he begins with an attitude to learn and picks up the necessary skills along the way – Ms. Forlie states that it is fine to admit incompetency and simply ask for help.
3) What can I expect during my journey in revenue management?
“Loyalty in your younger years should first be to yourself”
Our esteemed roundtable participants collectively believe in the need to invest in yourself in your early years. Do not be afraid to change jobs, as it is in the interest of the company to create a dynamic and meaningful environment that retains talent. Always be conscious of your own growth and opportunities, and invest in yourself for the years ahead.
Hone analytical and leadership abilities
Analytical abilities that require numerical literacy are extremely useful in the earlier years of one’s career, where you might be expected to make quick sense of data and numbers and prepare information for the higher management. Later on, however, it is your ability to communicate, convince, negotiate and influence that allows you to climb higher. Senior managers no longer look at numbers, but instead require more leadership abilities. The transition must happen mid-career.
What is leadership? How do we develop leadership?
The participants initially discussed leadership as the ability to influence and command respect in the workplace. While many believe that leadership can be trained, there are also opinions that there may be a certain disposition for leadership in some individuals – i.e. charisma might be something that people are born with. We quickly moved to question the definition of leadership – perhaps leadership also exists “behind-the-scenes” through analytical ability and strategic thinking. We also cannot forget the fact that it is the first follower that makes a leader a leader, and following is equally important.
Stick to a good boss and the potential to learn
“Don’t go for something that has the money” says Mr. Clive Hawthorn, Director for Marketing Management for Expedia, Singapore and Malaysia, “but instead -” (he is quoting Mr. Andres on this) “go for something where when you wake up in the morning, you are passionate to learn something new”. He believes that two things keep people in their jobs – a great boss, and having something new to learn every day. If we have both these things, the money comes by itself. These two ingredients are the keys to a successful career, and a career that keeps one engaged.
The Roundtable event has been an eye-opening experience for all of us. It is not often that we get to meet so many talented and experienced Revenue Managers and listen to them share their thoughts and views on RM. They truly inspired us with their vision and passion for RM. Before we end our blogpost, we would like to share some of our takeaways from the session:
- Neither choosing the right industry nor the right position is more important than the other. It is all about doing something you love and being good at it.
- Learn to speak up! Beside gaining class participation marks, communication skills pay off at every moment in your lifetime.
- Leadership exists beyond commanding respect, and can manifest in the form of a more “behind-the scenes” strategic way. Furthermore, following is equally important.
The third session of the roundtable discussions on 21st March 2016 commenced after a wonderful lunch session with the guests from the Hotel Industry. This session focused on the topic of Revenue Management Leadership as well as Human Resource.
Entering the RM Industry
After prompts by the guests, some of our fellow students plucked up the courage to ask some of the questions that were on their minds.
The one question that we students would be most curious to know the answer to, was “What does it take to be hired as a revenue manager?” Some of the common qualities that were pointed out included:
- A knowledge/background in Business or Economics. Familiarity and aptitude for numbers and Analytics was a shoo-in. Such skills can indeed be learnt and picked up on the job, but being comfortable with number and large data sets is a definite plus.
- Being ‘geeks who can speak’. Having the ability to communicate your ideas and thoughts is an important skill to succeed in the workplace. A good revenue manager needs to not only be able to generate wonderful models, but he/she has to have the ability to tell others about the model in a way that others can understand. Communication of ideas is a vital skill for a successful revenue manager, or most other positions for that matter.
- Leadership ability. Many graduate programmes now offer ‘Management Trainees’ track where a candidate with potential is put on the fast track and given many opportunities to show and develop his leadership abilities. Being able to take on the role of a leader when required to will allow you to progress further in your career as well as open up more doors in the workplace.
Surviving in the RM Industry
Another question that was highly relevant to us students was “How does a/your company retain talent within the company given that many of the younger graduates are switching jobs every few years?”
As people who have gone down that road before, the guests had very good advice for us. “Loyalty in your younger years should first be to yourself.” As a young graduate, the first priority should be to your own growth and learning. If your current workplace does not provide you with the opportunity and environment to grow and be learning new things, then you should start looking elsewhere.
This led to some discussion about talent retention within their respective companies. The common consensus was that having a good boss, or in this case a good mentor who is willing to invest time and effort to groom you, that was what made people stay and grow with the company. Job rotation or opportunities to work overseas/ rotate between departments is also another plus point when it comes to talent retention. The bottom-line is that people need to be challenged and to be learning something new every day, and at the same time, they have a mentor who coaches and guides them along. This combination of factors is what keeps people coming to work every day.
The advice given to us students? “Don’t chase the money when you are young.” As young graduates, we should be looking for jobs that gives us experience, that puts us in tough situations while enabling us to deal with them, we should look for someone who is willing to invest in us. We may have to work longer hours, fly to different places, be put in uncomfortable situations, but these are the sacrifices that we have to make at the beginning of our careers. If we follow our passion to learn and grow, the money will come by itself later.
The Future of the RM Industry
The session ended off with a question by Professor Sherri, “What excites you in terms of the future of Revenue Management? Or what keeps you up at night?”
There was one common topic that kept surfacing and that topic was technology. Technology has certainly changed the face of Revenue Management even in the present day. With the rise of mobile and the penetration of the internet in so many parts of our lives, the amount of data that we as consumer volunteer to these companies is enormous. Moving forward, if all of these different data platforms can be aggregated into a single system, then what this system can do and tell us would be something to look forward to indeed. With all of these information that can be collected and analysed, we can look to using it to optimise everything from revenue management to customer interaction.
Another one was the rise of wealth in the Asia Pacific region. This means that in the coming 5 to 10 years, there will be more leisure travel in and around the region as more people move into the middle classes. So it is a good time to be in the hospitality industry. This also means that as a region we will have to build up the capacity to handle the extra demand for hotels and leisure, and in order to have all of these, there needs to be an influx of talent in the revenue management industry. This is definitely exciting news for us as students who may be looking to be Revenue Managers in the future!
Overall, the roundtable has been an extremely enriching and fruitful experience for our group, and the student attendees. Having the chance to interact with them is indeed a valuable opportunity. Having the privilege to hear their thoughts and views on Revenue Management has certainly given life to the textbook knowledge we have learnt. Having the fortune to hear them share about what they have learnt being in the workplace for 20 years and the advice they have for us, that is certainly the most valuable takeaway and something that we will certainly keep with us going forward.
Here is a handy infographic summarizing the issues that we have discussed: