As Vesta Hospitality sets its sights on growing externally by adding to its portfolio, the company has clearly demonstrated that it is focused on growth from within as well as evidenced by the promotion of Mark Hemmer to president last week.
Vesta Chairman and CEO Rick Takach--who had been the Vancouver, WA-based company’s only president since its formation in 1986--announced the promotion. Hemmer, who was most recently COO, joined the owner/operator in 2006 and also served as vp, operations during his tenure.
As president, Hemmer will continue to supervise all field functions related to Vesta’s hotels, which include operations, sales and human resources. Hemmer will also explore expanded management platforms for Vesta to support the company’s continued portfolio growth.
He explained the promotion and how it would help accelerate growth for Vesta.
“Rick wanted to provide additional focus for the company to continue growing the owned portfolio of hotels that we have. He wanted to divert his attention to that and leave the rest of the operation to me and that’s the direction that we went in,” said Hemmer.
Takach--who noted he vacated the president post from his title more than a year ago with this in mind-- explained why the time was right to give Hemmer additional authority.
“We’ve worked together so long and so closely that I’ve gained complete trust in his ability to operate our hotels in a fashion that I would feel proud and comfortable with and he and I are really aligned on how we do that,” he said.
Hemmer outlined some aggressive goals for the company, which currently has some 15 hotels in its portfolio, as well as a couple in development, including the AC Hotel by Marriott in Vancouver, WA, which is scheduled to open this year. He framed the company’s intermediate goals as being in the “20 to 25 range.” The Vesta development team includes CIO Mike Cryan, vp of business development Rob Gartner, and vp, investor relations, Elson Strahan.
Takach confirmed that while he doesn’t ever see Vesta becoming a real large company he would like to effectively double its current portfolio. More importantly, he emphasized that he remains focused on “acquiring the right assets at the right prices.”
In addition to the company’s increased effort to grow its owned collection of hotels--which makes up the vast majority of its current portfolio--Hemmer explained that Vesta has a renewed focus on growing its third-party management business after focusing strictly on its owned assets in recent years.
“Last year we made the decision if we’re going to grow that it’s hard to get deals done for us to own and I think that there are some owners out there that could benefit from our expertise. So we simply started saying ‘yes’ to the calls that came into the office and the inquiries that we received. We’ve gotten all kinds of traction on that. I couldn’t be happier with how the company has grown. We continue to talk to people and I expect that the managed platform will continue to grow and develop,” he said.
Hemmer--who prior to joining the company had been regional director of operations for First Hospitality Group--talked about what he sees as some of the unique aspects of Vesta Hospitality.
“I think what differentiates us from others is the involvement of senior leadership, especially in management deals. We’ll provide a nice level of support for them [owners] even as they’re working to go through the process of selecting a franchise or selecting a location. We can do all of that and then it’s a seamless transition into operating the hotel once it gets opened. We spend a lot of time communicating with our owners,” said Hemmer.
The newly named president went on to describe his leadership style. “I feel as though I support everyone else in the company. I’m there to empower people; to make sure they have the tools they need to do their job and that we’re headed in the right direction...I don’t think people that I work with feel like they work for me. They work with me and I think that’s a big distinction,” he noted.
Takach underscored the point and emphasized Hemmer’s communication skills.
“Mark is extremely strong on the people end, I think he has an outstanding management style. He continues to grow in that area and focus on that and how we communicate and deal with our team members and our supplier partners and our investors. He just to continues to advance in that area and really works at it. He’s doing a great job,” he said.
Hemmer, meanwhile, acknowledged that this promotion represents a significant career achievement for him. “There’s only so much upward mobility that you can have with any given company. I had always wanted to become president of a company somewhere, but my loyalty remains with Vesta. I’m fortunate enough to be able to achieve my goal with the company that I love,” he concluded.