September often signals the end of summer and the busy season in our industry. September is a time of reflection. This September marks Sun Hospitality’s 15th Anniversary so we took a moment to sit down with our President and COO, David Fries, to reflect on the past 15 years.
This year we celebrate SUN’s 15th Anniversary. What thoughts and emotions come to mind when you think about that?
Hospitality is my passion. There is a great feeling of self-fulfillment and pride in leading an organization that embraces and delivers a meaningful service of creating a pleasurable and memorable vacation experience.
SUN is very fortunate to have good people. We strive to be a good employer and help people take care of themselves.
Take us back to where it all started, where did you get the idea to start a housekeeping company?
A friend owned a commercial janitorial business that had begun to diversify into vacation resorts, but he was unable to provide his full attention to resort housekeeping. The concept was conceived to partner up, separate resort housekeeping into its own company and I would run it. I had been working in hotels and resort management for decades – it was a perfect opportunity to build a business model that addressed challenges that we saw in housekeeping operations.
What inspired the name Sun Hospitality Resort Services?
Originally conceived as “Sunshine Hospitality” inspired by our operation concentration in the Myrtle Beach area. I personally designed the logo (original below) and after several iterations, decided on our current name.
(Perfection takes time… and lots of revisions.)
What was it like just getting started? Instant success, right?
There were four of us in a 4-room rental on the 2nd floor of a small office building in Surfside Beach – myself, along with an administrative assistant, a part-time Director of Operations and a part-time Director of Administration (Rick Pailthorpe) … and one service contract. At the time, we relied on my professional relationships for new business. Soon after, we added more contracts.
Our goal is and always has been to add 3-5 contracts per year. It’s a maintainable goal for the size of our company. It’s a delicate balance between growth and support resources.
What were your visions in 2004 and how have you met them or even surpassed these visions?
My desire was to succeed – growth and sustainability. We embraced our mission and philosophy of delivering unparalleled service as we grew our team.
I cannot say that we have surpassed my vision, there is always room for improvements in any company, but my vision has been met and will strive to continue meeting objectives.
What were some significant challenges you’ve had to overcome and how did you get past them?
Staffing and recruitment is our number one challenge. When I came to Myrtle Beach in 1991 the story was the same but the solution was different – back then we bused people in. We strive to be a good employer with a culture of mutual respect and appreciation. Over the last 5 years or so we’ve added more employee focused programs. Our turnover ratio is half of the industry average for housekeeping departments.
There is always a challenge of getting an entire organization to feel as passionately about hospitality as I do. We are breeding a culture and our goal is for every individual in every position to embrace our mission and philosophy – delivering the most pleasurable vacation experience.
We are a service company, so our clients and guest satisfaction are a top priority. Dealing with people from every background and skillset takes incredible relationship management and flexibility.
What do you see as your biggest accomplishment?
Longevity within the hospitality industry. We’ve been able to adapt and customize to the needs of both our clients and staff.
What are the most valuable lessons you’ve learned along the way?
- Exercise staying power. Hospitality can be an extremely rewarding industry.
- Have no fear of failure. It’s all part of the journey.
- Be service-minded. Always listen and communicate to achieve solutions.
- Roll with the punches. Maintain a positive attitude and perspective.
How do you see advances in technology affecting the role of the housekeeping department?
I anticipate greater efficiencies in communication and transparency.
What is your 5+ year goal(s) for SUN?
To continue with our tried and true method of growth and sustainability. We are currently in 13 states with approximately 700 employees – we want to be in 20 states with more employees.
While our focus has been the vacation resort servicing, we have some diversification in hotels, vacation rentals and HOA common area servicing. Looking to the future, there may be potential for greater expansion into these segments of servicing.
Focus on personnel professional development for our team members that supports greater levels of individual growth and responsibility. We want to set our employees up for long-term success.