The Hotel Group that Doesn’t Just Meet Expectations – It Exceeds them by Far

Tharaldson Hospitality Management
Written by Pauline Muller

Welcome to the hospitality management group that knows just how to make you feel at home – anywhere in the country. Its golden secret is anticipating guests’ needs through keeping its finger on the pulse of international trends and asking guests what makes them happiest – because at Tharaldson Hospitality Management, guests dictate the pace.
The first thing you’ll notice upon checking into any of Tharaldson Hospitality Management’s hotels is that its staff are incredibly friendly; for this team, getting every detail right the first time means the bigger picture is taken care of in the best way possible. No effort is spared in setting guests up for a great experience during their business-class stay with this first-class operator.

Tharaldson partners with only the best brands in the industry. Its hotels run under the individual banners of Marriott, Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG), and Hilton. In addition to Tharaldson’s own high standards, these franchise giants also prescribe their own standards based on predetermined traveler needs that are gathered through intensive market research. The reason for its strict standards is that, as a multi-billion dollar realty owner specializing in building and managing hotels, Tharaldson Hotel Management knows that simply building hotels is not enough.

On a visit to any Tharaldson hotel, one is greeted by excellent accommodations, the most up-to-date technology, and outstanding service. During the week, the company’s hotels primarily serve as bases for traveling businesspeople, and on weekends leisure travelers enjoy its warm, efficient hospitality. Part of its technology offering is its high-speed internet, ample bandwidth and T.V. and movie streaming that doesn’t leave one flipping aimlessly through channels. Most of its hotels also offer small meeting rooms and a select number also offer conference facilities, the largest of which is in Tempe, Arizona and seats up to 150 delegates. With or without conference facilities, however, all Tharaldson Hospitality Management’s rooms and suites are geared toward making visitors as comfortable and at home as possible.

From her office in Decatur, Illinois, Aimee Fyke, COO, told us a bit more about Tharaldson Hospitality Management and its role in building and operating some of the best hotels in America. Ms. Fyke has worked for the owner, Mr. Gary Tharaldson, for 25 years. After briefly joining a sister company for three years in 2008, she returned to work with Mr. Tharaldson when he started Tharaldson Hospitality Management in 2011. After so many years in the industry, her enthusiasm is as infectious as it was when she first started out.

“It’s been great and a real honor working for Gary,” Fyke says. “I’m so happy because I love what I do and I love the people I work with. It’s been a blessing; I’ve met so many close friends and forged so many great relationships throughout the years. People ask me how I do it and the answer is simple – with great people, and because I still have the passion.”

There was a considerable run-up to establishing Tharaldson Hospitality Management. In 1982, Mr. Gary Tharaldson bought his first hotel, not knowing at the time that he would go on to acquire more than 400 hotels in his lifetime. He also sold a billion-dollar empire, Tharaldson Lodging, only to establish another in Tharaldson Hospitality Management. Its total of 39 hotels stretch across 14 – soon to be 18 – states, and the number is growing. The secret to the company’s high-volume development success is its comfort in high-barriers-to-entry markets where excellence and acumen are the deciding factors for success. The company largely focuses on the West Coast and particularly California, as the area can support the rates that stimulate the type of growth the group is accustomed to.

To keep everything running smoothly, Tharaldson Hospitality Management has a number of strong individual departments that include sales, revenue management, operations, and e-commerce. Combined, they form a team par excellence. While the sales team ensures that targets are met, the revenue management team navigates supply and demand. While prices rise when demand is high, this department keeps a watchful eye on the integrity of the group’s value proposition. The operations department ensures that rooms are immaculate, the service is top-notch and that all staff are equipped with the necessary skills to provide service that is second to none.

This is made possible by way of rigorous training in leading industry standards and loyal brand representation of one of the best brands in the industry. Tharaldson guests know they can count on its consistent quality. They also know when they check in to a Tharaldson hotel that they can expect spotlessly clean bedrooms and that satisfaction is guaranteed. In fact, this guarantee is part of the company’s mission statement, which is to hire and supply the brightest people with the knowledge and expertise to drive the best and most lucrative establishments, globally – all while ensuring high standards and a superb guest and employee experience.

To keep its offerings original and ahead of market trends, guests receive a survey email from the hotel they stayed at where they rate their experience on a scale from 1 to 10 on everything from making their reservation to their food experience, fitness facilities, room comfort, and more. Each brand then provides the Tharaldson group with guests’ feedback, which is used to introduce novel additions and improvements.

Here, it isn’t only guests’ satisfaction that counts. The company takes staff satisfaction very seriously too and that is why its employees are its strength. A strong team of around 1,200 people makes this company the incredible industry titan that it has become over the years. It invests in staff members through its internship program called the Manager in Training – or MIT – program and has a designated training hotel run by Marriott, which every single one of its hotel managers has to pass through in Decatur, Illinois. “When they’re done with their training in Illinois, they are armed with all the tools and resources to help them make their hotels the best and the most successful they can be,” says Fyke. The company’s general managers also go through rigorous training with Marriott, Hilton, and IHG who each have their own courses. Not only do managers have to complete brand training, but they must also complete the Tharaldson training before they can run any of its hotels.

A very talented group of experts manages this large team regionally, and Fyke speaks with high praise for all of her team members. Her longest standing colleague of 22 years is Vice President of Operations, Dean Manternach. The two executives worked together on building the very first billion-dollar Tharaldson company. Mr. Manternach also played an active role in building the second billion-dollar Tharaldson collection. Fyke’s other right hand is her assistant, Julie Wrigley, who has been playing a significant role in keeping the support structure running smoothly and efficiently for over 17 years. “I’m so proud and I just get excited talking about how much they’ve helped me grow this business. I couldn’t do it without them,” she says.

The company’s current flagship projects are the Las Vegas Homewood Suites and the Hilton Garden Inn, both under franchise with Hilton. The team managed to put these two beautiful hotels and a parking garage on three acres of land – certainly no mean feat in any area. To top off its dazzling accomplishment, the hotels are situated in an exceptionally busy market.

With its formidable record of achievements, Tharaldson Hospitality Management is, of course, no stranger to receiving the very best in industry recognition. It has been honored with the Marriott Partnership award no fewer than three times – an award that it is particularly proud of. Last year, Mr. Tharaldson won the Developer of the Year award from IHG Hotels and its Forsyth Residence Inn by Marriott also recently won the Opening Hotel of the Year award.

For this company, achievement and charity are both group activities. Tharaldson Hospitality Management encourages all its employees to be personally involved in giving back to their local communities. “We ask each of our general managers who they feel is in most need. For instance, in Decatur, we give to a project called the Northeast Community Fund. We donate shampoos, conditioners, soaps, towels, sheets – things that we can’t use anymore but other people can,” says Fyke. The team is also involved in assisting people through the Red Cross, Children’s Miracle Network, local homeless shelters and the Salvation Army. “We like to think of each local general manager as the CEO of that hotel, so they choose what they feel is most important and near and dear to their hearts, and how they can give back to the community,” she says.

This fearless team has its sights set on opening another 60 hotels over the next five years. Its ultimate aim is to double in size – quite an impressive goal considering the projected timespan, but the singularly focused company is confident in its capacity to achieve this dream. “Without our strong team, we wouldn’t be where we are today or have achieved the results. We’re very lucky for that,” says Fyke. But the company isn’t only set on building new hotels. It is committed to sustaining its great hotels, and to living and promoting its mission.

Aimee Fyke’s message makes all the difference; for her, high expectations produce great results, marginal expectations produce marginal results, and low expectations produce no results. This is the lightbulb moment that filters through to every single guest’s experience and ultimately, helps create the success of sustained effort. Her unbridled enthusiasm is shared by all Tharaldson’s General Managers and in turn, by the frontline staff whose warm smiles light up Tharaldson’s entire hospitality offering. That is because Tharaldson Hospitality Management is an all-hands-on-deck company where everyone, including top management, is known for getting their hands dirty, preferring to lead through their wholesome example.

“It’s not unusual for us to be picking up trash, or emptying garbage cans, or rearranging furniture, or helping start the breakfast. Whatever it needs, we roll up our sleeves. We really understand what the hospitality business is all about,” says Fyke. At the end of the day and after many significant accomplishments, Tharaldson Hospitality Management’s ethos proves that successful teams are created by leaders as opposed to bosses.



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