Talking Shop: Lisa Jenkins, Gateway Inn
Lisa Jenkins, general manager/owner, The Gateway Inn, Grand Lake
How long have you been in business? 13 years
How did you get started in this business? My parents Tom & Debi Jenkins bought the land that the hotel sits on. While visiting the area on weekends, the family just decided to build a hotel. No experience, no knowledge, just on a whim.
Business mission statement:
We will go to extraordinary lengths to know our guests, creating emotional attachments by delivering highly personalized service with humanity and grace. We will create lifelong memories. We will embrace and reflect the heritage of our destination. We will take an active role in serving our community. We live by our values as we perform at extraordinary levels. We are prepared and empowered to always do the right thing for our family, our business, our guests, and our community.
Success in the mission: After 13 years we can reflect and feel that we have been and continue to be on track with our mission.
Challenges to the mission: Believe it or not, guest satisfaction is our greatest challenge. We are continually striving to be the best that we can be. Sometimes you just can’t please everyone.
How do you cope with Grand County’s seasonal surges? Budgeting! We have had 13 consecutive years of profits despite the extreme seasonal surges. Staying on track with our annual budgets is what has made us successful.
What do you think is the biggest business barrier in Grand County? Economic uncertainty.
What do you think is your biggest business barrier on a state and/or national level? Again, economic growth and health of the economy.
What can government here do to help? Entrepreneurs regularly assess and take risks that are known because they recognize that without risk, there is no possibility of return. The only true area of certainty is in the past. By implementing bold and timely measures, policy-makers can reduce policy-induced uncertainty. This can in turn help kick-start economic growth and strengthen the economy.
How does your business give back to the community? Like most businesses, we donate as much as we can to organizations as they approach us. We volunteer for organizations within our community. We participate and support most efforts and projects within our community.
Give examples of how you are environmentally responsible. When we built, there was great consideration placed on energy efficiency. We recycled the dozen or so trees that we had to remove for laying the foundation. You will see all of those trees inside of our building. We have a recycle dumpster that we pay for and have recycle bins in each guest room. I am a member of Protect The Flows, a coalition of businesses that seek to maintain a healthy and flowing Colorado River system. Healthy rivers support economies and communities.
How do you support other local businesses? Our staff is all well-versed in what our community has to offer our guests. We all act as concierge at The Gateway. Promoting other businesses to our guests is part of fulfilling our mission.
How do you feel about direct competition? I think of them as my friends, not competitors.
What business products or services do you get outside of Grand County? Very little! We shop local as much as we can. My brother who lives in Denver is our IT guy and our attorney is out of county.
How do you market yourself? In 2003, we went all digital in our marketing efforts. Every year we see increases in traffic from our digital marketing efforts.
What’s the main thing you have you learned in your years in business? Don’t take yourself too seriously!
Where do you go for help when you need it? My mentors.
Who is your biggest business influence/mentor? My dad.
What do you think is the most significant economic driver in Grand County? Tourism, without a doubt.
If you could go back in time and start up your business venture all over again, what would you do differently? Nothing. It has been a great venture and the mistakes that were made needed to happen to help us learn to be the best that we can be.
What’s the best compliment you received from a guest? “We had the time of our lives thanks to you and your staff!” We hear that pretty often.
What do you consider to be your biggest mistake in business? Not adjusting quickly enough to unforgiving market dynamics.
What organization(s) is (are) most useful to business owners? The chambers and visitor centers.
How much of a role does technology play in your business? Moderate role.
What are the technology challenges in your business? Just keeping up with what is new. Every time I think I have the best of the best, the next greatest thing is released.
What’s the general key to making a customer/client/guest happy? Comfort. Making our guests feel like they are cozy at home and safe.
Is their any certain trend you’ve noticed in consumer habits lately? I think with so much talk about trends and innovation, there’s a shift toward the timeless, which can be more innovative than always trying to find the latest and the greatest. Doing things that are fundamental and pure appears to be receiving more guest raves. Our guests are also much more last minute than ever in making decisions.
What are some tricks such as signs or window displays that you’ve noticed work in attracting customers to your front door? We had a great walk-in rate this winter and I think it was all of the trees that we lit up out in front of the hotel. We did it to light the parking lot but it appears to be a great way to attract drive-by traffic.
What are some ways to keep up staff morale? Our staff feels like they are invested and a part of the family.
What are some ways you train your staff on an ongoing basis? One-on-one every day we communicate coming and going. My staff actually trains me more than I train them on an ongoing basis.
If you could give advice to a novice entrepreneur, what would it be? Remove yourself from any negativity and seek positive mentors and support systems.
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