Master Your Finances Kurt Baker with Scott Sussman – Transcript

Written by on July 27, 2022

0:00:00.0 Speaker : So you wanna know the ins and outs of managing your money. Well, lucky for you, you are just in time for another episode of Master Your Finances, with certified financial planner professional, Kurt Baker. Kurt and his panel of experts are here for you and we’ll cover topics from a legal and personal standpoint. They’ll discuss tax efficiency, liability, owning, managing and saving your money and more. Master Your Finances is underwritten in part by Certified Wealth Management and Investment, and Rider University. Rider offers continuing studies programs for adults who need flexibility. Want to add new skills to your resume? Take a continuing studies course at Rider University. Now, let’s learn how we can better change our habits with Kurt Baker.
0:00:45.8 Kurt Baker: Have you thought about how the pandemic has impacted where and how you work? Are you aware that you can still create a culture, an atmosphere where building teams that strive to exceed your customers’ expectations is possible? Today, you will learn how to curate an experience we have all come to love and expect from the hospitality industry, and what the right questions are to ask to bring out the best in your employees. You’ll enjoy results to go directly to the bottom line of your business. With over 10 years of experience in operations and hospitality, leading business development, optimizing financial results and building teams, Scott Sussman is a leader who’ll help you feel uplifted and excited to get back to work. Alright, Scott, you’ve seen it all, so to speak, I know through the pandemic, there was a big bump in the road there, so… And you had to endure that, but before we get into that, give us… How do you get into the hospitality industry? To me, it’s one of those things that is out there and people enjoy it. But you’re like would you know, I wanna go and help people all day long. Can you give us a little bit of your background? So I know it’s a very interesting one, your family background and so forth, maybe start there.
0:02:00.9 Scott Sussman: Absolutely. Well, first, thank you for having me, really appreciate it. Happy to be here. Yeah, so my background coming into the hospitality industry, I was working with the United States Rowing Association. I was doing marketing, I was working with their membership, I had worked in sports for many years, and all around sports really meant… What that came to mean to me, for me was all about experience. Creating experiences, making sure that people were having a great time having a great experience. And my family had just purchased the Peacock Inn in Princeton, New Jersey, and they needed some marketing help, and that was really my background, marketing and operations, and they… My father talked to me and he was like, “I need some marketing help. Can you join us?” I was gonna leave the United States Rowing Association, I had just finished the London Olympics and was looking for that next opportunity and it kinda just worked out perfectly.
0:02:56.8 SS: And so being at the Peacock Inn and really getting my first real experience in hospitality and being of service and what that meant, I learned that the most important thing that we needed to do was have a story to tell, and with having a story, you needed to have a mission, so that we were all pulling in that same direction and created the mission to create the perfect personal experience for each person who walks through the door. And what that really meant to us was whether it’s the CEO of a leading company, or it’s the person delivering wine, or anything in between, not everybody needs the same service, but what they do need is personal service and giving them what they need, how they need it, and anticipating their needs, and that’s really what we focused on and got the whole property to buy into that. And through my time there and putting in the hours and the effort, I transitioned into being the hotel director and then ultimately the general manager.
0:04:01.0 KB: Just for those people who don’t know what the Peacock Inn is, it’s kind of a unique property here in Princeton. You wanna tell us a little bit about it. It’s got… You can stay there overnight, you have a nice restaurant, it’s right outside of Princeton, kinda give us the description of it, if so to speak, because it is a unique property. It’s very interesting, actually.
0:04:17.7 SS: Absolutely, yes. We are a 16-room luxury boutique hotel and fine dining restaurant, and really focused there on the experience that people were having and making sure that when they left that they wanted to come back. For me, hospitality plays really two things, it’s the experience, and then ultimately it leads to loyalty. So, whenever somebody comes back, we’re the only place that they think of and how do we get to that point?
0:04:48.9 KB: Yeah that’s amazing ’cause we talk about how small businesses, they claim, “Well, I can’t compete against the big ones”, but you absolutely can if you focus on what you just talked about and making it, “That’s the place where I’m coming into the area. That’s where I’m gonna have dinner. That’s where I’m gonna stay overnight.” So you can absolutely differentiate yourself and be better, and that’s doing it through the service that you’re offering them, by making it very personalized.
0:05:08.4 SS: Absolutely. Anticipating their needs, being extraordinarily grateful for each person who walks through the door. In any industry, any space that you’re in, just being grateful, being gracious, because they did have a different choice, they did not have to walk through my doors, they didn’t have to walk through your doors, they did that for a reason, and so be grateful for that.
0:05:31.3 KB: Okay. So you had a wonderful experience there, it sounds like. I know you guys did an awesome job over there, and so I have to tell you. I have to compliment you on that. So where did you head from there?
0:05:40.0 SS: I did. Thank you. So built up the property, ended up selling the property, and I had the opportunity, I wanted to do something a little bigger. I went to WeWork. So I went… I had never worked in New York City before, I was in my early 30s and just had a second child, and I was like, “Now is the time to start working in New York City and commuting”, and that was a great experience, but WeWork, That’s really… Being at WeWork during that rocket ship, that was WeWork, I got there they were worth, $50 billion. They got up to $69 billion. And then when I left, it was at $9 billion. And so it came down pretty hard and pretty quick. But my experience there, I was there, not for that long. But what I got to experience was building, I was given a building with three floors, and we were at 70%. And by the time I left, we were at five floors with 95% occupancy. And again, they’re really focused on the atmosphere, their culture and the experience that people were having that made them want to come to work. And that was the people who were actually paying their lease to be there, but also the team that I had the opportunity to lead, and make sure that they were excited to show up to work. Because if they were ready to come to work, then they could give the experience that was expected of them.
0:07:05.8 KB: So what were some things that you did, that you learned from the employee experience? How do you inspire them to do this? All of us say, I mean, the business owner is like, “Yeah, I wanna come to work, I wanna do a great job.” But how do you get the employees to be on the same page, like you said, with the Peacock Inn, they’re rowing in the same direction? So what are some things that you do to encourage those employees to really come along for the ride and enjoy it the way you’re enjoying it as the owner or the entrepreneur, so to speak?
0:07:28.1 SS: Absolutely. Well, being of service is such an important factor in the hiring process, knowing that those people that you’re bringing in, are willing and able to be of service, and to make sure that they’re helping in bringing people in the right direction, I would say, every place where I’ve been when my first all-hands meeting, and each time I bring in a new employee, the first conversation is, “I wanna know about, what was the best customer experience that you’ve ever had? Where were you? What were you doing? What was that best customer service experience that you’ve ever had?” And go around the room, we learn what that experience was for them. And within doing that, we realized at the end of that conversation, that it didn’t take a lot of… Either a lot of money, it took just some time, it took some effort, it took just something that made them feel special, made them feel good. And at the end of that conversation, I’m able to say to them, in every conversation that we have, that you have with anybody, you have the opportunity to give somebody that feeling so that when they have this conversation, they talk about you.
0:08:44.5 SS: When that conversation happens, and it resonates with people, it’s really a lightbulb moment. People really understand like, “Wow, I can have that impact.” People don’t think that they can have that impact until they realize that they can. Until they’re told that they can and to go out there and do it. And it makes a big difference. It makes it… It changes the atmosphere in the building, it changes the atmosphere every single day, when somebody’s always trying to strive to give you that best experience you’ve ever had.
0:09:18.1 KB: And I caught a couple of things there. One is that it sounds like a top-down thing. So if the person at the top is like, “Hey, let’s be good to people, ’cause one thing I found whenever you’re giving to somebody and not really expecting anything in return, it actually makes you feel better. That’s why we’re very charitable as a country. Because when you do things, yes, you’re doing it ’cause you wanna help people. But you also feel good about helping others. So when you go out and you actually do this on an ongoing basis, you actually enjoy your job more correct? I would think.
0:09:42.8 SS: 100%.
0:09:46.0 KB: Yeah, yeah. So now you got your employees rowing in the same direction. You had the WeWorks. I know, we’ve heard the story where it got really, really busy. And then it kind of had a little bit of an issue there, so to speak. And then you, I guess you came back to the area at that point correct is that…
0:10:00.8 SS: I did, I was laid off with 2500 of my colleagues. And it was time for me to look for something new. And while at WeWork I really got that startup bug, I was excited about the energy and the ambiguity, but also being able to lead and all these different things that go into making this run, making something run bringing something from nothing. And the power of that was really exciting to me. And so I started networking again, and getting back into the Princeton area and having an understanding of what I wanted to do, how I wanted to do it and have it be based around that experiential, about the operations about just finding a way to build and create loyalty for people.
0:10:56.8 KB: And so, did you come up with any kind of ideas in that process, maybe?
0:11:00.8 SS: I did. So I was working first with this incredible group of people from the hospitality industry, from people from Disney and Marriott, and Choice Hotels trying to create this private club, a network of private clubs, that was on the luxury side, where you could go and you could enjoy a cigar and you could go on adventures and you could just be a part of this group. And started that, then the pandemic happened, and that took a… It took a big setback, and it took a lot longer than they had anticipated. They did just open their second location in Princeton, and I’m a member and it’s phenomenal. I love to be there and I love to bring people in and to just experience what it’s like to be part of a membership, be part of a group. And…
0:12:01.1 KB: So we’re gonna get right back in it. We’re gonna take a quick break. So you started up the pandemic hit, but they’re doing well now. So you’re gonna tell us a little bit more about this place that you opened up when we come right back. You’re listening to Master Your Finances.
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0:12:11.5 Speaker 1: This is Master Your Finances with Kurt Baker, certified financial planner professional. Learn about tax efficiency, liability, owning, managing, and saving your money and more, from Kurt and his experienced panel of guests. Master Your Finances is underwritten in part by Certified Wealth Management and Investment and Rider University. Rider University offers flexible education for adult learners. For more information it’s rider.edu/nextstep.
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0:12:40.2 KB: Welcome back, you’re listening to Master Your Finances. I’m here with, Scott Sussman and we’re talking about the hospitality world and how it’s just awesome to be good to other people and how that makes you better yourself. And I like how you talked about how screening the employees really about… Through the hiring process, make sure they’re really people that want to help others, because attitude is the main thing, right? You can teach the others items, but you gotta get that attitude down. If you don’t, that’s really a hard thing to change. And when you came back from WeWorks, you started this, The Private Club Luxury Club. You wanna tell us all about that and then, go from there?
0:13:12.6 SS: Absolutely. So yeah, so it’s at Earth’s End. It is a group of people designed by this gentleman who worked for Disney, his name’s Mitch Gorshin, his father Frank Gorshin was the original Riddler. And just one of the most unbelievable human beings. He can see a space and just transform it immediately, and was really focused on creating spaces. There’s one in Haddonfield, there’s now one in Downtown Princeton. It’s a private membership and it’s an unbelievable group of human beings, who want to adventure and want to have a drink and want to smoke a cigar and just enjoy kind of the better things in life, the finer things in life I should say. Not all for me, but it is all… It’s really been a fun experience. I’m helping them still with business development and just through my network and growing that membership and a lot of people who are… Through events and [0:14:17.9] ____.
0:14:18.4 KB: It sounds like this is where the movers and shakers of Princeton head off to have a drink and maybe a cigar, if they do like to indulge, it sounds like that kind of place.
0:14:25.9 SS: Yes. But secretly.
0:14:26.7 KB: But secretly? But…
0:14:27.4 SS: Yes, because nobody knows that they’re in there.
0:14:29.0 KB: Oh, oh. We just let it out. [laughter]
0:14:30.0 SS: Right.
0:14:30.7 KB: Sorry.
0:14:31.6 SS: That’s okay. We’re allowed to talk about it.
0:14:33.4 KB: But it’s a private club, so you have to get… You have to make your pitch to get in, I’m sure, right? So… [laughter]
0:14:37.8 SS: That’s right, we’ll vet you.
0:14:39.2 KB: Exactly, awesome. So, you got this great club going, you got it set up where, now you got… Now you met all the movers and shakers in Princeton, it sounds like in the area. So what happened from there?
0:14:50.0 SS: And so while I was in the process of launching the Princeton Club, I was introduced to my now business partner. A landlord in Princeton, David Newton, who had become a really close friend while I was at The Peacock, and he had just met this woman, Sneh Kadakia, who was looking at one of his locations to open a commitment free co-working space. And with my hospitality background and background of co-working, he thought that I would be a great advisor for her. And so we scheduled a time, and we met, it was actually, I remember it was June 10th of 2020. We met at the time of that afternoon was like, “Let’s do this together.”
0:15:39.8 KB: Well, this sounds like an interest business model. Just… Maybe you can help me out with this a little bit. You went to WeWork, it exploded, and then it went back a little bit.
0:15:47.4 SS: Yes.
0:15:47.7 KB: And now you’re doing something similar where there’s no lease, it’s like, “Hey, come in whenever you feel like coming in.” So, I’m assuming you have a business model on that. So what is your theory behind how all that work… I’m sure you learned things from WeWork. So, what did you figure out from that business model that you think this maybe is a better approach to take as far as getting people in and just… ’cause the pandemic’s happened, a lot’s happened, so, I’m sure you know all…
0:16:11.1 SS: The pandemic is raging right now, right?
0:16:12.0 KB: Yeah.
0:16:12.3 SS: So, the pandemic is happening, we’re having all our meetings outside and we’re trying to figure out what we wanna do and how we wanna do it. And for me, the reason that this resonated so much, was because it was that hospitality play on co-working. It was that co-working space where we… It was on us to build the loyalty and the advocates and the sales people to go out there and find a place to work. It was for us… In doing that… In doing that loyalty… Focusing on loyalty, it was on us to make sure that the customer experience within our space was perfect every time, because if it wasn’t, they weren’t going to come back, because they didn’t have to. They didn’t sign a year long lease, they’re not signing three years or anything like that. They are coming in because they want a place where they can be safe, comfortable, and productive. And that was what we crafted on paper in June of 2020, the… What the pandemic taught us, a lot of things, but one of the things that it taught us is that people could be productive working from home, or at least working away from their office. But at the same time, people want a change of scenery. They wanna get out of the house. They… Everyone’s seen the videos of people with their kids walking behind them or the dog is barking and everybody’s been… Everybody’s got… Had that experience.
0:17:41.1 SS: So finding a place where they can come for a couple of hours and just focus on themselves. We’ve had people come into our space, and just say, “This is my business spa, this is my spa day. This is the day where I focus on myself.” Is really what we were going for. It’s trying to just create something that was techy, that people understood, and people could come and work. And so we put this together, we opened our first location in October of 2020, I’m sorry, 2021. We had our grand opening in December of 2021 in Plainfield, New Jersey, our Princeton Junction location will be opening in September of this year. And our goal is to continue to grow and to be a part of this suburban area. Because, as we talk about, WeWork and what they’ve done really well. But also what they have not gone into, is that there are a lot of people who are now hybrid workers or remote workers who don’t need that Monday to Friday, 9:00 to 5:00 office, they need a place where they can come in on Tuesdays from 3:00 to 5:00 and take that Zoom call. They need a place where they can come and just sit and get the paperwork done. They need a place where they can… People can come and just leave the house and just binge Netflix, just anything that they need space for outside of the house. We’re here for them.
0:19:08.0 KB: It sounds like you’re focused on parents, young parents, [chuckle] that need to sleep.
[laughter]
0:19:11.4 SS: Yes. As a young parent…
0:19:14.3 KB: You’ve got the baby, you’ve got the baby tonight. I’m gonna go over there.
[laughter]
0:19:16.0 SS: Yes, yes. As a young parent it was very difficult to work from home and figure out what we were gonna do. My wife is a teacher, we had… When the pandemic started, my kids were under three. And so it was a lot. There was… The solace for us was at least their memories from this are going to be that mom and dad were around a lot. But it was hard. It was, there was no break. There was… People were learning how to cook and how to… And binging shows, and we didn’t get that experience.
0:19:50.7 KB: Right. No, I think it’s an awesome concept. I could see it taking off. Especially, we just did a workshop earlier today. And the State of New Jersey still has people working from two days a week. So that’s an enormous number. I mean, the ones that can, not the ones that are fixing the potholes, hopefully, right? Their driveways look awesome. I’m sure.
[laughter]
0:20:09.0 KB: If they’re working on them two days a week. But yeah, so a lot of large organizations have really adopted that. In fact, I remember reading once that a large firm in New York City, investment banking firm was wanting people to come in another day, and they essentially refused. And, “We’re gonna walk.” And like, “Wait a minute, I can’t have all my investment bankers walk out the door because I really need them.” So it’s an interesting dynamic that’s happening where employees have gotten used to working at home. But the employers want them to work. So now you got this nice little piece that kind of fits in the middle where hey, they can go off and beyond their own quiet, I need… Personally, I need quiet time to work, I can’t work. I have six dogs at home. So if the dogs are going crazy and I need to work, I’ll go to my office for sure and work there, but otherwise, so I think it’s an awesome concept. And I think the timing is right on because I think this is never gonna go away. Now that we’ve gotten used to it, right?
0:21:04.6 SS: Absolutely, that’s what we’ve experienced. And that was what we bet on back in June of 2020, was that this is going to be the way of the future. People are not going to commute and be in the city five days a week anymore, they’re not gonna be in any office five days a week anymore. It’s just people have been shown that they’re productive, and what we’re giving them and what we’re giving companies is that benefit. So we are having, people are coming in and paying with their corporate cards because their company’s saying, “Okay, this place is five minutes from your house, you can go and you can work and be productive and not have your kids running around or your dog running around. And it’s only $10 an hour to be in a private office, go, go be productive, and then go home and then do what you need to do.
0:21:50.9 KB: And that’s a lot less expensive than setting up an office themselves. Because traditional ways they would do a monthly rent, like you pointed out where they would just have some of… Those large chains out there. I won’t mention any names. But I mean, there’s large chains out there that have these monthly rentals and things and they’re pretty expensive. So I can see where it would be an inspiration to a small employer or even a startup. Somebody just starting up, “I got a brand new business, we need to get together” I assume there’s ways to meet with people, like let’s say, I’ve got a small group, I’m starting my business, three or four of us need to get together and have a meeting and things like that. I don’t really wanna do it in my garage or my living room with my kids on the floor or whatever. So, it would be nice to have a place to do that. Right?
0:22:30.6 SS: That is very true. And that is one of our biggest use cases, is those people who need to meet but are not meeting in their homes anymore. Or their company gave up their office. Yes, so we do have two, four, six-person meeting rooms where people can come and network and be together, all equipped with video conferencing technology that’s super simple and easy to get on. And so that is a huge piece of what we’re doing. We also have lounge areas and we have our hot desks and we have day-passes that are height adjustable desks and we have our private offices, secondary monitors, those are the pain points that we were finding and what we’re trying to solve for is really giving you the better coffee shop, the better Internet cafe, the better home office. And what we were finding that people… When we were doing our research what people really wanted and needed in their office, was that secondary monitor was really good fast wireless internet, was really good coffee. And those are the things that we have within our spaces that when people come in, they have that.
0:23:37.4 KB: Oh, you got coffee on there. Cool.
0:23:40.0 SS: Excellent coffee.
0:23:42.2 KB: We’re gonna take a quick break you’re listening to Master Your Finances. We will be right back.
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0:23:46.8 Speaker 1: This is Master Your Finances with Kurt Baker, Certified Financial Planner professional. Learn about tax efficiency, liability, owning managing, and saving your money and more from Kurt and his experienced panel of guests. Master Your Finances is underwritten in part by Certified Wealth Management and Investment and Rider University. Rider University offers flexible education for adult learners. For more information, it’s rider.edu/nextstep.
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0:24:15.2 KB: Welcome back you are listening to Master Your Finances. I’m here with Scott Sussman and we’re talking hospitality and interesting business model you kind of learn from WeWork. We have the optional thing but now you got the high-end luxury. I think you took it from your private club at Princeton you’re blending… It sounds like the private club you’re blending with WeWork blending with the new pandemic reality, which is companies are now okay with people working remotely. And employees are pretty much demanding and now that it’s kind of a little bit more of an employee market. So maybe what you can help us with is a little bit, how did you create that luxury experience in kind of the WeWork type of thought process where people can work remotely and they literally they can come in like a Starbucks and come in for an hour or two or don’t have to come in at all. So how do you hire people to really give you that kind of quality experience on an ongoing basis? Right? ‘Cause if I have a bad Tuesday one day, I may never come back again.
0:25:10.6 SS: That’s absolutely right. As you talk about my career in winding and it has ended in a, or it’s at a spot now where, everything has really melded together in a way that makes sense. And, it’s an exciting thing to have been able to do and to be, but yes, it always starts with the team. It always, because as I said, unless the team is happy and fulfilled, there is no way that they’re gonna be able to give the service that your customers expect. And so finding ways to make sure that those employees are happy and fulfilled is number one. But the first thing is bringing them in.
0:25:51.0 KB: Yeah. So how do you hire them? You wanna walk us through the hiring process? ‘Cause I think we could all learn from how you hire for hospitality. ‘Cause if you hire for hospitality, you probably hire for anything. ‘Cause to me that sounds like one of the toughest jobs, because everybody says, “I love my business. I just don’t like working with clients.”
0:26:03.6 SS: Yeah. So…
0:26:04.6 S1: Right? So that’s not a good thing, right?
[laughter]
0:26:06.8 SS: Not the best.
0:26:08.7 KB: You need to like… But that’s, just the opposite. You better like working with people because that’s literally your job right?
0:26:13.9 SS: And everybody in every interview says I’m a people person.
0:26:16.5 KB: Right.
0:26:17.0 SS: And most of them are not, but yeah, that hiring process is really important. Just looking at a resume, understanding, you know, where they’ve been, what they’ve done can sometimes tell you like, oh, this person might be a good fit, but until you have them in front of you and you’re talking and you know, you screen them on the phone and then you have them come in, it’s the way that they speak to you. It’s a way on… Their voice, it’s… Everything that goes into making sure that, that person’s gonna be qualified to stand in front of your customers.
0:26:52.4 KB: How do people speak to you? How do you determine that? ‘Cause I agree because people have professional resume writers now and they’ll send it out and you know, they’ll pay all kinds of money and they’ll have this perfect resume. But when they’re sitting in front of you, you’re like might be a totally different person than what you’re seeing on that piece of paper and you’re…
0:27:04.3 SS: And, most of the time it is.
0:27:05.6 KB: Right.
0:27:06.2 SS: And it, is hard to navigate and to… That is why I always, I like to blind call people before I even… Like if I think their resume is interesting, I blind call them and I say, you know, “Thank you for applying.” And you can know pretty immediately on the phone if there’s like, if they’re friendly, if they’re excited, if they’re, you know, just are, if they’re listening, that’s one of the keys in hospitality, is being able to listen and really having an understanding of what people are saying. And most importantly, why they’re saying it.
0:27:41.2 KB: Right.
0:27:41.4 SS: Because they might be complaining about something that has nothing to do with what they’re upset about.
0:27:47.0 KB: Right.
0:27:47.5 SS: And really being able to sit back and listen and anticipate those needs, those are the things that I need to know that people can do. Because I can teach anybody how to work a computer system or the script or what to say when you answer the phone and things like that, but I can’t teach them to be a nice person, a person who listens and a person who can think for themselves. One question that I always ask in my interview is, I’ll give the example from when I was at The Peacock Inn, and I would say, on reunions and graduation, it’s a three night minimum and people are paying over a thousand dollars a night to stay here. How is your service different then than it is on tonight on a random Thursday, or on a random Tuesday, how is your service different? And if the answer isn’t that my service is not different, that it’s the same always. I always strive to give the best service at all times, then you’re not gonna be a fit for us. And it’s a hard question because they almost have to tell me that I’m wrong because I’m saying, how is your service different? But at the same time, it’s them being able to think for themselves and being able to think like, I’m always going to give phenomenal service no matter who it is. Things might… Somebody over those time might need something different, but that doesn’t mean your service is different.
0:29:14.4 KB: Right.
0:29:14.5 SS: It’s just that the way you’re acting is, the same, but what they might actually need is different.
0:29:21.7 KB: No, that’s awesome. So yeah. So I think you’re right. You could, if you call… So, I like that the blind calls, so basically, you get a resume in and before you actually ask them, you just call ’em up on the phone and see how they respond.
0:29:31.6 SS: Absolutely.
0:29:32.2 KB: How do they answer the phone? How do they talk to you initially? And that’s interesting because then you… They’re not expecting it.
0:29:39.5 SS: Right.
0:29:39.9 KB: You’re coming right outta the blue.
0:29:41.6 SS: And especially in hospitality and, and more of the line level positions, those people are… They’re typically of younger generation, they are used to just texting or emailing and they don’t necessarily… They are not necessarily great on the phone, but they might be.
0:30:02.9 KB: Yeah.
0:30:04.4 SS: So it’s, almost… It’s way easier to just shoot an email and say, what’s your availability? It takes much less time. It takes much less effort, but that extra step, nobody wants to waste their time. So that’s something that everybody has a finite amount of, right?
0:30:22.0 KB: Right.
0:30:22.6 SS: So nobody wants to waste it. And if somebody answers the phone in a way that is just not a way that I would want them answering my phone, it’s all… I already know it’s not worth my time of bringing you in.
0:30:34.7 KB: You just brought up a great point, which maybe you can help me address is that, I think one of the things that a lot of us been worried about, in fact, when people get out of like college and things, one of the first things that employers complain about is they don’t know how to interact with other people one on one. So has that been an experience of yours? It sounds like you’re finding people, but it sounds like because those skills aren’t being developed because they’re literally communicating on the phone, they’ll be in the same room and text each other. They’ll be in the same room using electronics, and they’re not doing the one on one that you and I grew up with. I mean, that’s just the way we had to do it. We didn’t have phones like this. So we had to talk to each other. How are you finding that? And what are you… How are you finding that? Because you’re in the hospitality industry, literally where this is gonna be impacted more than any place else. We can’t get on social media and talk to each other that way. We have to talk to each other one on one. Right?
0:31:23.6 SS: That’s, absolutely right. And it is really hard because most people are… In that young gen are just texting or in their phone, in their social media. And it is hard to find people that care to actually look you in the eye, who can look you in the eye and have a conversation. And those are those things that are hard to develop, and as a leader in hospitality it’s a hard thing to teach. Sometimes it’s worth it ’cause they know the answers, they know… They are friendly, but they just need that extra coaching. And in coaching for… In hospitality, it’s really focused on making sure that people are listening, they’re given the experience, they’ve… They’re learning the space, they know how to anticipate needs, and they know how to handle conflicts. And when people come at them upset and I always… One of the things I like to say is, “There’s 5% of people who no matter what, are going to be nasty and rude and horrible to be around. No matter what. Then there’s also 5% of people that no matter what, are happy and friendly and easy… “
0:32:37.8 KB: That’s true.
[laughter]
0:32:38.4 SS: And wonderful to be around.” But it’s those 90% of the people in the middle that we have the ability and opportunity to impact every single day. Because somebody might come in and they might have just gotten a ticket or their flight was delayed or… Whatever it might have been brought them in, in a mood that is not desirable.
0:32:56.9 KB: Right.
0:32:57.6 SS: How can we listen to those needs and bring them to that top of the percentage? And that that’s our job in hospitality.
0:33:05.4 KB: And another thing you said that was… That I thought was interesting is, and I’m not sure exactly how you do this, but maybe it’s just through experience and understanding. How do you anticipate people’s needs? To me, that’s the ultimate in service. They know how you would want things done before, maybe you even know that you want them done that way.
0:33:21.5 SS: That is the hardest thing to learn and the hardest thing to coach. So, the way to do it is really, they need to know the property, the space, the job, the… What you are offering, like the back of their hand. They need to know that they’re empowered to do these things and to make these decisions. And they need to know, “This is what we can offer.” And that only comes with time and effort, and again training. Training is the most expensive and the most rewarding thing that you can do as an employer is have people prepared to show up to work every day, ’cause that’s what’s gonna make them feel fulfilled and excited.
0:34:08.0 KB: So I assume you’re setting up a training program that’s modeled after the hospitality industry. So how are you doing it for your new… The new venture here that you have?
0:34:16.2 SS: Yeah. It… When it comes down to training and the… Everything is about holding people accountable, making sure that we’re all pulling in the right direction, making sure that we have a mission, that we know what we’re going for. And with that, having an understanding of what those processes are, really having clear, set processes, set KPIs. Knowing kind of what we are driving for, making sure that that is communicated. And those are… That’s really what the training comes down to, is how… Knowing that people are being held accountable, that they’re driving for the same thing, and that we all have these same goals that we’re working to strive for.
0:34:56.6 KB: Interesting to say, ’cause we hear that a lot in, I’d say, the regular business, so to speak. I’ll say like in our business, it’s all about the process and the system in place. So hospitality, it’s not just like this just happens, it’s… There’s actually a process and a procedure in place that you’re training people and teaching them how to go through. It just looks like it’s… They, “Oh, wow, that was wonderful they did that for me.” But there’s actually some science behind that as well. Correct?
0:35:20.5 SS: They know that they can do those things for you. Yes. And they… There is a limit to it like anything else, but within hospitality and striving for that perfect experience, yes, there is… There has to be accountability and processes in place to make sure that people know what they can do and how they can do it to make sure that those experiences happen.
0:35:45.6 KB: Awesome Scott. We’re gonna take a quick break. You’re listening to Master Your Finances. We’ll be right back.
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0:35:50.4 SS: This is Master Year Finances with Kurt Baker certified financial planner professional. Learn about tax efficiency, liability, owning, managing, and saving your money and more from Kurt and his experienced panel of guests. Master Your Finances is underwritten in part by Certified Wealth Management and Investment and Rider University. Rider University offers flexible education for adult learners. For more information, it’s rider.edu/nextstep.
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0:36:19.0 KB: Welcome back. You’re listening to Master Your Finance. I’m here with Scott Sussman and, we’re learning to be hospitable. So we can all learn from this because anytime you’re good to your clients, your customers, your employees, everybody’s a little happier and then we’re more productive. When you’re in a good mood, you’re more productive, and I think it’s great. Teaching how to anticipate people’s needs and putting the systems in place to understand what latitude employees have, so you give them that latitude. ‘Cause I know every once in a while go to a restaurant and they say, “Hey, we’re gonna throw in a free dessert.” I’m like, “Wow, that’s awesome.” But I know that’s somewhere in the business model, somewhere. I know the employee that I’m tipping is not paying for that dessert for sure.
0:37:00.8 SS: But it feels good.
0:37:00.9 KB: Oh, it feels awesome because it comes out of the blue, their manager comes by and says, “Hey, by the way whatever.” And you’re like, “Oh.” It’s totally out of the blue, and he just catches you off guard in a positive way. So these are the kinds of things you train and teach them how to do that, right?
0:37:15.2 SS: Absolutely.
0:37:16.3 KB: So now that you’ve got this whole thing set up, so we’ve determined that now you’re gonna have the best coffee in town, people are gonna come there and can work in peace and quiet and it’s an awesome combination where it’ll be nearby. So what do you see happening moving forward from here now that you’re kind of… You’re getting ready to open up the second one I think in September you said. Correct?
0:37:35.0 SS: That’s right.
0:37:35.6 KB: In Princeton, right? So tell us a little bit about that, and then we’ll head it from there.
0:37:38.8 SS: Yeah, so we’re getting close, we are past inspections, and we are closing up walls and sheet rocking and painting and things are coming along really nicely. We’re really excited about our Princeton Junction location. We are across from the Princeton Junction train station. We’re on the bottom floor of a residential building that has 232 fully leased apartments, and we’ll also have a dedicated coffee shop that’s open to the public there. So we’re really excited about that opportunity. We will have a podcast booth there as well, and also a HIPAA-compliant room, so we really are… We’ve learned a lot from our Plainfield location, and we will continue to learn as we continue to grow, and so we’re really looking forward to everything… We’re open Monday to Friday, 9:30 to 5:30, or evenings and weekends. Early mornings are open for events, so that’s really what our focus is on, making sure that we’re bringing the community together in ways that make sense. We’re calling ourself a neighborhood workspace for that reason. We really wanna be a part of the community.
0:38:43.8 SS: And moving forward, one of the big initiatives we’re working on right now is, in Plainfield, we’re starting an innovation hub, an accelerator program, where we’re going to send our applications, we’re gonna bring in 20 entrepreneurs from the Plainfield area, either they will live there or they will have an… Their business address will be there, and we’re gonna go through a year-long program of networking, programming and just bringing… Trying to grow the… Help these people grow their businesses, and we’re really excited about that opportunity. The city has dedicated $25,000 to this program. We’re raising more money from the New Jersey Economic Development, and the Union County, and then also local private companies who wanna be a part of this program and see these companies grow and really be able to keep people in their neighborhood. And looking forward to doing this in many different locations.
0:39:52.0 KB: Wow, that’s incredible. So explain to us exactly what an innovation hub is, and what an accelerator program is, just to kinda explain to the audience, what does that mean? So… I mean, I’m a guy that has a great idea, right?
0:40:04.1 SS: That’s right.
0:40:05.1 KB: Now, what do I do? And this is where you step in, right? So how does that… If you mind explaining to people exactly how all that works for people.
0:40:10.5 SS: Of course. So typically, when people think of innovation hub or accelerator program, a lot of the times it comes down to tech. It’s a tech company that people are developing an app or something along those lines. Our… What we’re really focused on here is industry agnostic, whether you’re a beauty company or you’re a food company or a drink company, or you are a tech company, but come in and grow your business with the programming that we’re gonna have to help you, whether it’s banking help or it is how to get an EIN number, how to start an LLC. What does local marketing look like? What does social media marketing look like? And all these things that we can have lunch and learns, and we can have all these different events that will bring people together to help grow their business, whether…
0:41:03.3 SS: And at the same time, it’s also wherever you are in your business, that’s what we’re really excited about. It could just be a great idea that you have, or it could be something that you’ve been operating and you have employees. We wanna find ways to bring people together that make sense, that people are excited about and really help people grow, and then at the end of that year-long program, we are going to have a… We’re gonna have a pitch competition where there’ll be money to be won and we’ll have it at a big venue and there’ll be… Our next class of entrepreneurs will be in attendance, but also it will kinda be like that culmination, and we’re looking to do this for years and years to come. So it’s something that we put together because we’ve been asked so many times like, “Are you an innovator hub? Do you help companies?” And we went through a lot of different iterations of what this could look like, and is it like a seminar or is it a two-week program, but we decided that the best way to go about it was, let’s bring people in for a year and really grow some companies.
0:42:07.2 KB: And that’s something that a lot of people aren’t aware, that we really are trying to push the tech… Keep people here because a lot of times people develop things and they move away.
0:42:14.9 SS: Yep, they’re in San Francisco.
0:42:17.2 KB: Right. So… But there is a very concerted effort to try to maintain the tech base here, because a lot of people do start here, and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t stay here, is kind of what the idea is, so there is a lot of support going out there. Another thing I’ve heard about these hubs is that not only do you have that program going on, but you also have your… The other people going through the program with you. The other entrepreneurs…
0:42:38.5 SS: That’s right.
0:42:39.0 KB: A lot of times you learn from the other entrepreneurs, even if I’m in the… Let’s say I’m starting a beauty chain or something, but the other person is starting a tech company, you actually learn from each other because you have similar issues that you might… Other people might have different perspectives on those issues, they may see something you’re not seeing.
0:42:55.9 SS: That’s exactly right. For us, it’s all about networking. It’s about putting people together with like-minded because they’re entrepreneurs and they’re trying to start something from scratch, but also… They’re also from the same community. They know the same people. How can we be a part of that and make sure that the community grows as well?
0:43:16.9 KB: And I assume there’s some mentors in there somewhere that are helping with people that have never done this stuff before, like, “No, I’ve started 15 businesses. This is cool, like I know what to tell you to do. Don’t worry about it. I know how to do this.”
0:43:27.3 SS: Of course. Of course, yeah. We have some amazing mentors. We’re working closely with Kean University and Fairleigh Dickinson and Union County College, and there are the professors there, but also people who are entrepreneurs in the area who just wanna give back and be a part of what we’re doing.
0:43:45.8 KB: And that’s something a lot of times people miss is that people are like, “Well, I can’t ask them to do it. They’re in the same business I’m in, right?” But it’s rare, extremely rare you’re in the exact same business, and you’re in a different place, many successful entrepreneurs, in fact, most that I know personally love to help young entrepreneurs, ones that are just starting out, ’cause they’re all set, they’re good to go, they’re not really worried about you as a competitor. They’re more worried… They would rather help start a new person in it, understanding what they’ve done and learn from mistakes that they made, ’cause we all make mistakes as entrepreneurs.
0:44:16.1 SS: That’s right. And the thing that… About small businesses is, what sinks a small business is very rarely the competitor. It’s very rarely that somebody comes in and just takes you out because they’re doing exactly what you’re doing. What sinks small businesses is themselves, is the people, is the… Just maybe the business model, right? Their processes aren’t in place, they’re not all pulling in that same direction, and that’s… Or funding, there’s a number of things that could do it, but typically it’s not competition.
0:44:51.0 KB: Or the budget, they underestimate the expenses and overestimate the revenue.
0:44:55.9 SS: That happens.
0:44:56.9 KB: We see that happen a lot. [chuckle]
0:44:58.8 SS: Yes.
0:45:00.1 KB: It’s like, “Oh, we’re gonna be fine, we’re gonna get all these contracts”, and then, wait a minute, the contracts didn’t come in, we need to plan for the whole thing, right? What’s most likely a realistic scenario to go. So, that’s awesome. So, once you got the innovation thing going… So what about your chain that you start? You started one and now you have the second one getting ready to open?
0:45:16.9 SS: Yes.
0:45:17.5 KB: Is that it and you’re done?
0:45:18.9 SS: That is not it.
0:45:20.2 KB: [chuckle] Okay. I didn’t think so. Somebody just didn’t think so.
0:45:23.0 KB: Right, no, you are right about that. No, our goal is to be on every corner, in every town. Where are you going to work today? I’m going to work at From Here. And we chose the name From Here for a very specific reason, it’s like that from home, play, work from here, meet from here, connect from here. And our tagline is, “Do anything from here.” And that’s really what we’re focused on and there should be a From Here on every corner in every space. And our goal is to maybe eventually get into that franchise model and have some people licensed and have us do the training, right? Have us put our systems in place. Our systems are good and they’re proving to work, that you have the empty space in your mix of retail, give us a call, right? Let us come in, put this… Our concept and space in place for you and here you go, this is gonna be a successful business. If you go out and you follow these rules and you follow the processes and you go and you do the marketing and you have people who wanna run a space that really makes people want to come in, be productive and ultimately be loyal.
0:46:39.4 KB: This almost sounds like the next generation of the Starbucks model, right? Where they bring you in and you sit at your desk, but everybody’s coming and going, right? But now you can sit and have your own private office, still get the services, but have the solitude, the quietness that you need or put a meeting together, whatever, but you have that expanded. It’s to me… Like it’s the larger, more complex, better version of what we’ve had for years now that’s been pretty successful. So it sounds like, to me, on the surface, sounds like it’s pretty good.
0:47:05.5 SS: That’s right. The hardest thing that we have to do is flip those people, right? It’s flip that mindset of, “I need to go to Starbucks to work,” because that’s what they’re used to doing and having them come to From Here to work and see the difference.
0:47:21.3 KB: Well Scott, amazing job, I appreciate it very much. We just talked a lot about how we now can use what Scott has learned in the hospitality industry, what he shared about how to screen employees essentially on their attitude and their personality, make sure they offer the same high service at all times, and they have the right… Because you teach them anything, and with that, you can hire a great crew and offer awesome hospitality no matter what business you’re in. You’re listening to Master Your Finances, thank you very much.
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0:47:49.3 S1: That was this week’s episode of Master Your Finances with Kurt Baker, certified Financial Planner Professional. Tune in every Sunday at 9:00 AM to expand your knowledge in building and managing your wealth. Missed an episode? No worries, you can subscribe to a free weekly episode of Master Your Finances to listen to on your favorite podcasting platform, Apple, Spotify, Google Podcasts, whatever. Master Your Finances is underwritten in part by Certified Wealth Management and Investment, and Rider University. Rider offers Continuing Studies programs for adults who need flexibility. Want to add new skills to your resume? Take a Continuing Studies course at Rider University.

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