Agellus Hotels was founded in 2004 by a group whose members had no experience of the hospitality sector other than as discerning customers.
They brought an intelligent, business-like and creative eye to a series of smart acquisitions. Their starting point was to develop a very strong brand identity with a clear mission, vision and development plan for each of the 4 properties they now own. The result is a highly successful and expanding family of boutique hotels with a strong reputation for quality, friendliness and excellent dining.
In 2011, Wingivers began a dialogue with Agellus, and we agreed a specific purpose for the project; to investigate how a consistent and exceptional customer experience is created in all four hotels. Sales uplift was of course the overriding aim.
We chose Appreciative Inquiry (AI) as our methodology for two reasons; i) it is a suitable approach for an operation which seeks to extrapolate the data and behaviour patterns which explain its success, by focusing on what works, ii) it encourages inclusion, storytelling and confidence amongst subject participants. AI is unusual in that it tracks positive from the start rather than attempting to find and fix what is broken.
One of our favourite findings was the glorious concept of ordinary people doing extraordinary things . We became inspired, enlightened and humbled by the magnificence of people caring, really caring about each other and their customers. After a while we became used to the often observed twin cultures that merged and sang together in harmony – for the benefit of staff, customer and owner. We saw it as a rich, repeatable formula – not just within Agellus but elsewhere.
We offered a number of conclusions and findings to Agellus, some of which confirmed what they knew and others which introduced them to new avenues for developing their staff and business. We had much to say on the exquisite nature of “what you create on the inside will be expressed on the outside” – the whole brand inside, brand outside idea. This is a business which puts much emphasis on natural, honest service and authenticity – humanity if you like. They know their customers can spot bullshit and pompous, pretentious service as well as any of us. The spirit of AI prevailed in some of our recommendations which included entreating them to officially adopt a practice which some are doing anyway for which they have no name; Servant Leadership (thank you, Robert Greenleaf). We also offered some thoughts in a similar vein (ie. affirming what they do and naming it) with something we called matching the talent to the brand – being deliberate and specific about recruiting more ordinary people capable of being extraordinary.