It’s a Relationship Business
Jack Damioli knows a thing or two about developing relationships. Having worked in the hospitality industry for nearly 40 years, he understands what it takes to run a business and cater to clients all at once. We sat down with Damioli during The Council’s Employee Benefits Leadership Forum in August to discuss relationships, the importance of independent ownership, and how business is getting done. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
There’s a lot of activity, there’s a lot of positivity, and people are so happy to be back meeting face to face. And I think that’s the one thing that we have probably learned throughout this whole pandemic is that Zoom calls are OK, conference calls are OK, but people need to do face-to-face business. People need to meet their clients and need to talk about business, and the most effective way to do that is face to face.
We’re busy, and the hospitality business is coming back and coming back strong. We’re 98% occupied right now. Our restaurants are open, our banquet activity is strong. The resort looks and feels like it always has.
The first thing that comes to mind is we’re in a relationship business. I think, if you look at your business, you’re in a relationship business. So there’s very much a similarity. In good times, you always want to make sure that you’re staying in touch with your customer. And in bad times, it’s even more important. I think that the first lesson would be staying in touch with your customer. It’s really important at all times.
The second lesson I walked away with [was] we’re a luxury hotel. When people come to The Broadmoor, they still expect a luxury service regarding everything that happens here. People still want twice daily housekeeping service, they still want valet parking, they still want a bellman to check them in and out. If you listen to the media, you’ll hear about electronic and remote ways of doing things and nothing is personal. I have found quite the opposite. Everybody wants that luxury experience. When they come to The Broadmoor, they want to forget about what’s happening in the rest of the world. They want to be pampered, they want to be taken care of, which they should be.
The third piece would be we have a unique amount of function space here. We have 315,000 square feet of meeting and function space. The program that you’re working on now [EBLF] is using what is designed to be an exhibit hall. The general sessions and the main format for the breakouts and all the business that occurs—it wasn’t designed for that. It was designed to do something totally different. So people are taking bigger spaces and using them in creative ways so there is social distancing but still the ability to network. Between Broadmoor Hall and Bartolin Hall, there is somewhere in the neighborhood of 150,000 square feet, and you’re using all that in a very open way that makes it feel good and yet achieves all the face-to-face meetings that you’re attempting to achieve.
If you think about this, all businesses come down to three things: it starts with ownership. We’ve had the good fortune of having three private owners in our 103 years of history. Mr. and Mrs. Penrose built and opened the property in 1918. Fast-forward about 70 years, Mr. and Mrs. Gaylord bought the property and held it privately. And then about 10 years ago, Mr. and Mrs. Anschutz, right here in Colorado, bought the property. Each of the owners has made their own stamp of ownership on the property—all of them simply wonderful stewards who have added development and attractions [that have] taken The Broadmoor to the next level.
The key is ownership. Our owners, Mr. and Mrs. Anschutz, decided a couple years ago that they were going to put The Broadmoor in a 100-year trust so that it could not be sold, it could not be flagged with a corporate flag of a particular brand, that there would be certain requirements from the standpoint of capital investment, certain requirements for the maintaining of service standards so that future generations couldn’t screw up The Broadmoor.
From there, loyal customers have been coming to The Broadmoor, whether socially or with a group, for years. I think our longest tenured group is at 78 years. We’re very fortunate to have a very passionate, loyal following of groups and social guests. The Council, for example, has been at The Broadmoor since 2009—so we’re working on two meetings a year times 12 years—that’s 24 meetings. Those types of relationships just don’t happen overnight. They don’t happen often. And back to one of my first comments: we’re in the relationship business.
Last but not least is the staff. For example, our longest-tenured employee is in the dry cleaning department, 63 years of service. Her daughter has already retired at 42 years of service, and her “junior” partner has 44 years of service. Independent hotels really attract an employee that is unlike most hospitality employees. There’s a certain passion, there’s a certain loyalty, there’s a soul to a historic hotel that doesn’t exist in a branded hotel around the corner. Independent hotels are special. And they’re special because of those three things: the ownership, the guests that come on a regular basis, and the staff that takes care of them. Those three elements, to me, are the secret of The Broadmoor and, quite frankly, the secret of any business.
Colorado Springs is now the 39th largest city in the country, second largest in Colorado—and our community has changed a lot. In 1918, we were about 20,000 people; today we’re approaching half a million. There are a lot of positive things happening in our community.
For [The Broadmoor], rebirthing the Pikes Peak Cog Railway, which just opened on June 30. It’s one of two cog railways in the country. A cog railway operates in tooth-in-gear fashion, taking the train car up the mountain and then back down. So it’s not a high-speed train running 50-60 miles an hour. The train goes up the mountain at 8.5 miles an hour and goes down the mountain at nine miles an hour. So it’s very leisurely paced, designed for sightseeing. America’s mountain, Pikes Peak, is located just a short distance from here—the nine miles of track that goes up the mountain, the railroad climbs to the new Summit House that also just opened on June 30.
Creating these natural Colorado authentic experiences is where our focus is. We’ve added the falconry academy and the soaring adventure and geocaching and mountain biking and rock climbing and all the things that one wants to do when they’re in Colorado. And to make sure it’s authentic and truly part of that Western experience.
Damioli is The Broadmoor’s seventh president and CEO in the resort’s 100+ year history.
Back in 2018, we shared a story of the collaboration between The Broadmoor and the Colorado Springs-based Springs Rescue Mission. With the help of The Council, The Broadmoor began an initiative to deliver leftover banquet food and other items such as linens and towels to The Mission, which provides food and shelter for those in need as well as behavioral, trauma-based residential recovery program, job skill training in facilities management, warehouse management, customer service and culinary arts. We asked Damioli for an update on the initiative.
“What I’m excited about is the fact that we are now able to send food down to the Springs Rescue Mission. As the banqueting activity comes back, so do the buffets, so do the things that you need multiples of that never get served, which gets back to that wonderful, nutritious food that we’re able to send out to the Springs Rescue Mission. The campus has continued to expand and grow, become more secure. They have about 500 beds now, which is amazing. There are different levels—the intro where you’re coming in off the street and you have a dormitory style where there’s bunk after bunk after bunk, all the way up to apartments where you’re transitioning with employment and working your way back into the community. We have a couple individuals on our staff that have graduated the program, so it’s rewarding to see them turn [their lives] around. There are success stories there.”