Updated: Mar 23
Ryan Pryce is currently working for Carpedia Hospitality, a firm based in Toronto, Ontario. Graduated from Wilfrid Laurier University, Ryan did an exchange in Nova SBE from 2017 to 2018. Ever since, Carpedia was his home, having started as a consultant, and growing to be a senior consultant nowadays.
NHC: As a hospitality consultant, could you tell us more about what you do and what is a weekday like for you?
Ryan: The one thing that drove me to this industry specifically is that every day and every week is very different. So, every project we work on has different problems, different obstacles to go through and that keeps me excited and eager to keep moving on in this career as I can learn so much that way.
Regarding what I do, a typical project is usually structured in the following way: the first part is called the Analysis phase when we really dive deep into the business that we are working with and gather as much data as possible to understand their operations as if we were in the client´s shoes ourselves. In the second part, we develop recommendations to go back to the client; then, once everyone is on the same page, we go into the Implement phase and that is when we start putting some of our thoughts, ideas and recommendations into tangible results. Lastly, there is the 4th and last stage: the Sustainability Phase: We stick to our clients for as long as possible so that the recommendations implemented are sustained throughout multiple months after we have started. In that way, we are making sure that the client is getting a return on their investment and things are going according to the plan.
Additionally, we also track certain KPIs, something that is starting to be a lot more common now. That data is very empowering and usually all the corporations have access to it, they just don’t know how to use it or how to present it. I think that when you start giving this data to the employees and managers, and even presenting it in meaningful ways, you start seeing teams be a lot more effective and efficient.
NHC: How different would you say your experience in hospitality consultancy is when compared to the one of a consultancy firm with a broader focus? Do you think it is more dynamic or less?
Ryan: I think regardless if you are talking in the financial, manufacturing or retail industry, they are going to do those previous steps of analysing, developing, sustaining, etc. We often see a lot of consulting firms out there that focus on different types of industries whereas we are dedicated just to the hospitality industry. As it is a very specific industry, it can really stem from hotels and resorts which do make up the majority of our business but we have also worked with fast food restaurants, fine dining restaurants, golf courses, convention centres and housing communities; cruise ships are another big one. When you start to dig deeper, the opportunities are endless, but they all operate in a very similar fashion which helps us and our clients.
When you start to dig deeper, the opportunities are endless, but (consultancy firms) they all operate in a very similar fashion which helps us and our clients.
NHC: From our perspective, there are two types of hospitality consulting, one related to investments and asset management and another which focuses on operational improvement - in which we would include Carpedia. Do you agree with this division?
Ryan: Yes, I totally agree. Our main focus is within operational consulting; however, we have had a few clients or reworked with actual asset managers and ownership groups that, for example, look at properties that might be in distress or even reopening projects. They also evaluate how should we forecast revenues strategies, etc. We do the 360º offer of services, but I would say that your categorization is correct and that our focus is operational consulting.
NHC: Focusing on operational improvements, does Carpedia look for different profile employees when compared to other consulting firms? What are the specific skills you search for in a candidate?
Ryan: Half of our firm´s employees do not have previous experience, so you do not need any hospitality background at all to join us. When we are looking for specific candidates, it is great to be analytical: we are pretty much on Excel every day. We also look for candidates with good communication skills, especially to deal with the clients.
Within the hospitality industry, getting to know how the industry works will definitely benefit you but it is not a necessary asset, I have learned so much on the three years I have been here. You definitely learn a lot just for being on the ground, observing your surroundings, sitting on client´s meetings and really trying to engage as much as possible.
NHC: In terms of competition, are there other companies focused on this operational consulting in North America? How does Carpedia differ from the competition?
Ryan: Carpedia Hospitality officially started in 2016, so we are only a couple of years old. As the industry started to notice this need for such a niche and we were getting high demand for services within the hospitality industry, we decided to open a hospitality branch within Carpedia. In terms of competition, there are many big consulting firms that just have more resources, capabilities and reviews than Carpedia, such as Accenture and Deloitte. However, we have partnered in some projects with them.
Regarding our clients, many of them come back due to our great reputation. We are really starting to get our name and image all over the world. As such, it is natural that more clients start to show up, but we have our foot ahead of many of the competitors. We like getting on the ground with our clients, serving face-to-face, and getting as much data as we can: that is what I consider to be the main difference and our competitive advantage.
We like getting on the ground with our clients, serving face-to-face, and getting as much data as we can: that is what I consider to be the main difference and our competitive advantage.
NHC: Does the firm ever get out of projects to work on?
Ryan: The hardest phase we went through was when the pandemic first hit, exactly a year ago. It was not necessarily our business model´s fault: when you have hotels with limited occupancy and cash flows then you just cannot spend money on consulting services. Businesses want to make sure that they are offering services as efficiently and effectively as possible. We know it will take a while to recover and they want every single dollar they are spending to be essential. Unfortunately, we had to temporarily lay off a few consultants back in early March, but projects are starting to appear again.
NHC: What is your outlook on the situation in North America? Are you positive about the future and how are you successfully overcoming the low demand of clients in hotels, for example?
Ryan: I will start by saying that the United States is in a much better situation compared Canada and lot of places in Europe. We are seeing a lot of recovery, so we do have a very positive outlook, since most of our clients come from the United States. They are going to pick up more on the leisure side of travel. The thing we are more worried about is the corporate travel, which is a huge part of the hospitality industry. Nobody is traveling for work right now and there is still uncertainty of when corporate travel will resume.
To overcome the low demand and find new clients, we are trying to diversify as much as we can. We can now do all our consulting services and analysis virtually. It is obviously a different structure, but we have been able to adapt our offerings and make sure that our clients can still be as successful as possible.
Furthermore, we have been looking at housing communities in big cities across North America. We were in four properties here in Western Canada that are big ski resorts and they are quite busy right now. There are areas within the hospitality industry that are doing relatively well and others that are not, so I think it is all about finding the balance between them and we have been able to do that.
NHC: What are the most common reasons that make a firm seek for your consultancy and advice?
Ryan: It comes down a lot to financial issues. If we can improve their bottom line anyway or their profits, through revenue enhancements or cost saving measures, that is obviously enticing to our clients and a huge part of the reason why they hire us. We also look at engagement of the employees and customer satisfaction. We would never bring forward an idea to a hotel that may save them a ton of money, but it is going to destroy their employee or guest satisfaction. It really must improve all three: employee satisfaction, guest satisfaction, and profit. And then profit could come from two ways: either from the revenues side (e.g.: room pricing) or from the cost saving side (e.g.: labour and technology).
NHC: Carpedia’s group works with several industries, not only hospitality. How relevant do you find to implement a customer centricity approach in the operational part of your businesses?
Ryan: Most of the methodologies that Carpedia Hospitality uses were derived from our parent company Carpedia International, which is where many of our directors also came from. Hence, they brought all their experience from working with the banking, retail and insurance sector, and noticed that the same methodology is being used in all of them. So, they adapted it to the hospitality industry and found out that a lot of restaurants, hotels, etc. did not really have any consulting type of services to reach out to if they wanted. That is why Carpedia Hospitality ended up being so successful. The Carpedia Hospitality and International teams are always exchanging ideas and best practices. A lot of similar methodologies, tools and analyses are being shared and can be implemented across multiple industries.
That is why Carpedia Hospitality ended up being so successful. The Carpedia Hospitality and International teams are always exchanging ideas and best practices.
NHC: Have you had any experience in which implementing a customer approach strategy and improving customer satisfaction was the only change needed to drive the business success?
Ryan: We have done that. Even if you are not specifically focusing on financial improvement, if you do improve employee engagement and customer satisfaction, that usually results in better financial performance, as they are always connected.
NHC: In your time with Carpedia, what would you say was the most exciting project you've worked on?
Ryan: The one I was on a year ago, in Costa Rica, since it was my first project outside of North America. It was super interesting to look at how a hotel resort operates somewhere outside that region. You would think they would all be fairly similar, but when you go into a different country, it is very eye opening and we have to make sure we can embrace that perspective and understand the client. It was one of my most challenging projects, but it was great to be a part of it.
NHC: When working in a business, doing everything online can make things easier, but at the same time makes it so much harder, especially in consulting...
Ryan: I agree. There is so much you cannot do virtually. Relationship building, which is essential, is very difficult to do at a distance, especially with clients. And even things such as collecting data can be hard. Sometimes you must be on site and experience the business in operation with your eyes. Additionally, there is just so much more meaning to in person presentations and sessions.
Sometimes you must be on site and experience the business in operation with your eyes.
NHC: One last question to our student audience: what can you recommend for young talents who want to develop a career as hospitality consultants?
Ryan: Read the news on the hospitality industry in your region and across the world, just so you have a basic understanding of how the industry works and how things are going. Be as analytical as possible, the more you know on Excel and other visualization data softwares the better. Storytelling is also important, so take advantage of any school presentation you might have and appreciate any feedback that your professors give you.
Carolina Carraca. Mafalda Domingues.