Understanding All The Parts And Pieces - Mitch Parker - Defining Hospitality - Episode # 131

Dan Ryan: sitting here with Mitch Parker, partner at the Parker Company. Um, very excited to be here in your office with you. Thank you for your time and attention because I think, um, from a legacy perspective, your family has been instrumental in Um, really creating, helped create this hospitality design world that we all live in.

Um, and it was really funny, and I'll, I'll talk about that a little bit later, but I really wanted to interview your dad. Right,

Mitch Parker: well, I'm the uh, stand in. Right, well.

Dan Ryan: Substitute. He was kind enough to invite me, Lenny was kind enough to invite me into his home. Was that the home you grew up in?

Mitch Parker: Uh, no, that was his second house.

Well, technically his third house. Really? Yeah. He, uh, right after he

Dan Ryan: married my mom,

Mitch Parker: they lived in a little small house in Keystone Point.

Dan Ryan: Wow. Okay. Well, I sat down with him for four hours and he exhibited, or gave me hospitality, welcoming me into his home. Um, and we started off with, he said, you know, I listen to a couple of your podcasts and they're shit.

And I don't know why you're doing it, it's just weird. And, but, I said, well thank you Lenny. I respect your opinion. And, but we have like a really wonderful conversation about the origins of the industry. And for those of you who don't know, um, the Parker Company is probably one of the biggest, if not one of...

I like to say

Mitch Parker: the oldest and largest. When you put those two together, that's who we are. It's a venue. I'm not sure anymore what constitutes the biggest, but we're certainly... One of the biggest and clearly the oldest and largest, if you put those two together. Cool.

Dan Ryan: And then, I, okay, so then going back, I want to talk about kind of origin and, and kind of what you do and why you do it.

But, um, before we get into that, obviously we're in hospitality. You guys are doing purchasing of FF& E for hotels, stadiums, restaurants, all things hospitality. Um, And in light of the title of this podcast as well, defining hospitality. How do you define

Mitch Parker: hospitality? Well, I guess I would, if I had to quickly summarize it, I would say, uh, service, service,

Dan Ryan: service.

And what, what about service? Like how do you, how do you define, how do you know in your service, the service that you're delivering and coordinating and herding all the cats that you have to herd to open that hotel? How do you know when you check all the boxes of service, like, what does that mean?

Mitch Parker: Well, specifically as it relates to the Parker Company, it's the service we provide for, you know, FF& E, actually, and OS& E procurement.

And my father, who you mentioned earlier, essentially set the standard in the industry for providing, hands down, the highest level of service. Um, and, basically... If you want to be in the hospitality industry, let's face it, that's the name of it, right? It's hospitality. It's providing a place where you can feel comfortable and feel good as it relates to a hotel.

But as it relates to procurement, it's providing a level of service that ensures the hotel is on time and under budget. And if you can provide that level of service, then basically your customers will stick with you forever. And I still have customers, we still have customers that my father's, you know, had back in the, definitely in the 70s.

That's amazing.

Dan Ryan: As, as thinking about that multi generation, because now you're three generations,

Mitch Parker: correct? Well, technically four. So, um, my dad's father in law founded a company called the Maxwell Company. And the Maxwell Company really was the industry. innovator, along with two other companies in the U. S.

and they essentially, literally invented hospitality procurement. So my father, um, came back from the Korean War and went to work for his father in law. So, if you count that generation, this is my grandfather, my father, my brothers and I, um,

Dan Ryan: and now

Mitch Parker: the next generation, which all three partners have, uh, the next gen in the company.

Dan Ryan: Your father did share that with me, but when, when we talked to him, he told me under severe penalty, am I never allowed to repeat anything that we spoke about? So thank you for caring.

Mitch Parker: I feel like that's, that's historical facts. So you, you know, my father, uh, you know, I'm just going to act surprised. Yeah.

It's okay. Because that is historical fact. You can just look up the Maxwell company. In the city of Miami, and it will exist at some point in the history of Miami, it was essentially a, what you would almost consider a big box furniture store, that provided design and ultimately procurement services for the hotels all over the country.

And at one point... But it was almost like a dealer model, correct? It was to an extent, but they basically marked up the goods and charged for design. in procurement services at a cost plus type of basis. Um, and they were big. We, we, my grandfather had offices all over the country.

Dan Ryan: And if you were to look at all of the FF& E that they provided from that original model, version 1.

0, how, like, what percentage of what they did was

Mitch Parker: custom? It really wasn't, uh, you know, I can't tell you the exact numbers, but the reality was, uh, the high point furniture market It's where all the large furniture companies back then, everything was made in North Carolina, Virginia. Um, all the furniture, all the case goods, all the seating, lighting was made in the U.

S. Um, and you would go to the High Point Furniture Market as they presented new lines. And so this year they came out with a new traditional line, a new contemporary line. And you went shopping. That's how it worked. It really wasn't. I'm sure there was custom, but when you were looking to do a 200 room hotel or a 300 room hotel, um, you didn't really think custom.

You went to Drexel Heritage, you went to Drexel and said, you know, what's the new line this year? I love so and so, and then you bought 200 rooms worth of it. And what my grandfather did is consolidate that purchasing. Instead of the GMs going to the high point market, he took the orders from all the GMs and he went to the high point market, which gave him...

Bank power. And thus created the entire industry. Which my father then took from there and perfected.

Dan Ryan: So, cause I think one of the lenses to look at this as far as service, Um, if you look at that version 1. 0 of the Maxwell Company, Um, and not a lot of things being custom. To where you are now, doing hotels, stadiums, restaurants, Um, I'm sure you have some...

Retirement or

Mitch Parker: assisted living, not a lot,

Dan Ryan: but like what percent of things

Mitch Parker: are custom now? Well, since the Parker Company primarily focuses on higher end, so I'd say the bulk of our work is four and five star projects. Um, therefore the bulk of our products are custom. We don't do a lot of program work. I mean, of course, clients who own five star hotels also own limited service hotels.

Um, but that's a whole different marketplace, and that's really not where we focus, um, because in order to put all the pieces together for a five star hotel, it's a lot more complex. And every area of the hotel is more design focused, and if you're going to do a five star hotel, generally, you're going to hire a very, hopefully, qualified interior designer, and This is basically their opportunity to create a unique, right, a unique experience.

Even if it's a, even if it's a brand, a well known brand, it's still a unique experience. And therefore, you're taking this creation, which they are trying to do different every single time, and somehow that design has to be executed. And that's where we come in, and that's where the service comes. Because if you're buying a chair, and it's the same chair that's in every...

Marriott Courtyard times 10, 000 a year. It's pretty straightforward. Maybe you change the fabric because in Miami you want ocean blue and in New York you want, you know, dark gray because it's a business courtyard. So, but the chair's the same, frame's the same, finish might change, but the chair's the same.

So once it's designed and executed, it doesn't take a lot of service to buy the chair. But... Fast forward to Four Seasons, or Rosewood, or Ritz Carlton, it's not a regular chair anymore. It's a custom chair, so it's not the same chair. It's a custom fabric that was designed specifically for that chair. It may, if it's an upholstered chair, it may have a custom pillow in another custom fabric, and some kind of fringe hanging off the pillow, which is also custom, just to the pillow.

So it becomes, that one chair, becomes... Significantly more complex. And then multiply that times, essentially, everything in the hotel. And that's where the level of service has to change. Because to get from interior design concept to actual hotel operating with all of those custom products is a monumental task that is very rarely recognized in our industry.

Dan Ryan: I 100 percent agree, and before, um, just so everyone knows, I forgot one of my microphones before I came here. And you were kind enough to let me use your car to go drive and get a new microphone, so I hope it sounds good, everyone. Just know that I'm not, that I am fallible. Um, but, that was just a fall down on me.

And when I look at, like, what I do for the vast majority of my time of custom furniture for hotels, You know, you have that delivery window sometime nine months in the future from the time that you get an order. But we are constantly obsessing over the 150 things that need to

Mitch Parker: happen before. Right.

Dan Ryan: And the milestones and the communication and the over communication.

And really just being kind of a glue and a collaborator that helps no dates get missed so you're not displaced. Because ultimately if you're displacing revenue... It's not good. And then whatever the system is at any given moment, whatever got us to where we are right now, it's not going to serve us in the future because all the stakeholders, all of the designs, all of the operations, they're constantly changing.

So we have to have this and be wired with this service mentality where it's constantly improving and like taking all those little noise and stress points When things change and incorporating them into a continual, um, area

Mitch Parker: of improvement. Well, I think really the key for us and really for any effective purchaser is to make sure that you have what we call a proven project methodology.

So that's the same for any vendor, right? If I write a purchase order to you, you've got to execute. And it doesn't happen by accident. It just literally, I mean sure the factory knows how to make the furniture, but what are they making? Why are they making it? Why does it work? What doesn't work? You know, way back when I used to provide some articles for some of the magazines as a Purchaser, you know, expert.

I wrote one many many years ago called the three legged chair, and what it was about was Wouldn't it be cool to design a three legged chair? The coolest chair that was ever made, you know, for a hotel. Um, and have it executed beautifully and manufactured and have it come out and be the most comfortable chair that you ever sat in.

Except, big problem with three legged chairs is they fall over. They're just not stable. And why in the world would you put a three legged chair in a hotel? And the whole purpose of the article is it really has to... Complete the circle, right? So, you can have beautiful design, if it can't be executed, you got a problem.

You can have beautiful design that is executed perfectly, but it's not appropriate for the, for the contract marketplace. You can have all of these factors that contribute to success, or to failure. And being able... To have a proven project methodology, which is taking that interior design and ending up with a hotel that can withstand guest abuse, cleaning abuse, every kind of abuse you've ever thought of, just dirt, you know, sunshine, sea, air, you know, all of the things that contribute to functionality and ultimately Whether or not the furniture is going to last a long time, a little time, no time at all.


Dan Ryan: then, when my son sits in that three legged chair and leans

Mitch Parker: back. Yeah, no

Dan Ryan: problem. It's funny, I want that article because, um, earlier this week I was...

Mitch Parker: I'm not sure you're going to have to, you're going to really have to dig into the archives. I'm not quite sure, I'm not even sure what year that was. It literally could have been 20 years.

That's okay, I'll type in the

Dan Ryan: Google works. But I, uh, it's funny because, um, earlier this week... I was at a model room review, and it looked, everything looked amazing, and I won't mention what it is. But I, it was, the room was still getting set up, but I saw, we built these really amazing chairs. And they look freaking awesome, but they have three legs.

And I'm like, come on. No, we, we did a test, like, everything is fine, but I, when I saw them, I was like, I went up to the designer, I said, look, they're awesome, they're amazing, they're awesome, I know why you did it, but, I really, I don't think

Mitch Parker: that you should do this. That's pretty interestingly coincidental.

Listen, at the end of the day, you have to get to the end. But, but, it's a very complex and requires a lot of input on all parties to get to the end. And it's a domino effect for us. So, we actually work backwards. So the owner tells us, this one I have to open. Okay, and then I say, okay, well, to effectively open on this date, we have to start here.

Yeah. And I would say on about a third of the project, start here was two months ago. Yeah. And that is where having the expertise and experience make the difference. Because the methodology is a system that you've honed to work. Right? And you've created a way. The Parker Company has created a way that if we do things this way, it will equal success.

The hotel will open. It will open with the right products, executed design perfectly, um, where everyone's happy. That to me is the mark of success. You open with what the designer intended, at the client's, hopefully under the client's budget, and everyone's happy. That's not an easy task. So to do that, you create this, this way to do it, and if you're good at it, and you stick to that way, which is what we've been doing for over 50 years, we're good at it.

Yeah. Now throw into the, to the mix that you just don't have enough time to do it. And you can almost throw everything out the window, because that proven methodology doesn't work when you don't have the time to execute it. Right. So that's a... And that, and to me that... That's the key to everything. I, I tell my, you know, one of my favorite, if you call them, you know, truisms is, uh, to the client is time is your best friend.

It's your best friend, from a purchaser's perspective. Because then, I got time to present everything to you, if you don't like it, I have time to do it again. And I can give the manufacturers time to actually build it, that they really need. And the fabric guy's time to make the fabric, to send it to the chair guy to build it, that they actually need.

Not the three legged chair.

Dan Ryan: Hopefully not the three legged chair. Going into that, I think, because we can all, like, when you think about service, so much of it is about hearing your customers, but also having your customers hear you. So, and do it in a way that's not combative. It's like, hey, we have your best interests in mind.

Because in essence, you're like a fiduciary for the client. Like, oh, they're spending, you know, 40 million on stuff getting into that hotel. It needs to be there. What happens when you start it past where you're supposed to? How do you kind of manage their expectations? And an example of that is, we get purchase orders all the time.

It'll say, PO, uh, delivery date, November 15th. And I'll say, well, the first thing we do within like 48 hours is our schedule. Because we're starting backwards.

Mitch Parker: Um,

Dan Ryan: it shows December 1st or December 15th. Are you okay with that? Because this is real. And all these things also have to happen. And sometimes, like, we'd rather say, hey, find someone else that can do it, because, you know, we're only as good as our last job.

How do you manage your customer's expectations when you've started after the

Mitch Parker: fact? Well, that's a, it's a very, that's a, it's a great question, and it's a very tough answer. Because, you want, well, first you want to get the job. Let's start from the beginning. So, you, you want to tell the customer, That you can do what they want.

But if what they want is really unrealistic, um, we have always taken the approach, we tell the truth. That's just the bottom line. Um, I'm going to tell you that I can work hard, and I can tell you that because of our experience, and because of our buying power, and because of our relationships, that we can probably achieve things that very few can achieve.

We can compress time. We can ask for favors. We can... You know, we have guys that we know can execute faster than others. Um, but at the end of the day, there's reality. And I think the biggest challenge that we have is we're the last guy in. Okay, so, you know, they hired an architect, and they designed this beautiful hotel, and then they hired a contractor to build this beautiful hotel, and then they hired a designer to design the beautiful hotel, and then sometime, usually, many times, when it's too late, they've, um...

You got to actually buy all the stuff that goes in it and that time is just not enough time. And so we just basically tell it like it is. This is what it's going to take to do it right. Because if you don't do it right, the consequences, the consequences are you don't get what you want. And you're going to still spend, well you're actually going to spend more.

So you're going to spend more and get less. That's a, that's a great deliverable,

Dan Ryan: right? And potentially blow up your pro forma for the real estate

Mitch Parker: asset. So, so for us, you said managing, you know, client expectations. So, I think one of the, you know, I do, along with my brothers, you know, the bulk of the sales of the company, basically all of the sales.

I mean, our project teams, when they do a great job, we get the next job. So, they're, they're not directly selling, but their performance is, is the sale. Um, but when I'm, when I'm talking to a client, literally, the, maybe the second, what's the name of the project? Where is it? That's two questions. And the third question is, when do you have to open?

Right? And so, that's the generator of, listen guys, you know, if you hire the Parker Company, we're probably the only guys that may be able to achieve what you're looking for if you don't have enough time. But the reality is, this is the time it's going to take. And, the hardest part is when the customer hears you, but they're not really listening.

And, they're... They hire you and you get started and you get everything wrong and you produce the schedule. And they said, yeah, but I, I told you we had to open by this day. And I said, yeah, I told you we'll do everything we can, but this was the day I I told you it's gonna take. And, and you start with a conflict with your client.

You, you already have a conflict. You haven't even, I mean, you just signed the contract and you have a conflict and it creates this, this, I'll call it, you know, the level of stress. Which is not how you want to go about starting and working through a project that could go on for years. Yeah.

Dan Ryan: So, it's a tough start.

That does not align with your

Mitch Parker: proven project methodology. No. You, you know, the proven methodology is that it takes a certain amount of time to do things. And I tell clients all the time, you know, you know, if everything went perfect, this is how long it would take. And I've never done a project in my nearly 40 years where everything went perfect.

It's just not the real world. There's too many moving parts. I mean, this is not a 36 piece puzzle. This is a 2, 000 piece puzzle. And, as you can expect, the, uh, uh, the degree of difficulty in a 2, 000 piece puzzle is significant. That

Dan Ryan: has to almost land on an, do an aircraft carrier landing.

Mitch Parker: Nine months out in the future.

I started earlier by saying very few people really understand. When somebody says to me, you know, what do you do? Um, I say problem solving. That's my answer. Because, my, my, well that's my first answer. They go, well what do you mean? I say, well if you take an entire hotel and turn it upside down, everything that falls out is what essentially, there's a few things that don't fall out.

Uh, the Parker Company buys. So I said, stop for a minute, think about that. I'm talking like, every single thing that falls out, we buy. Everything. You're talking about thousands of items. People don't even think about the things like, we buy engineering supplies. Just the engineering supply order could be a thousand items.

We're talking every size screwdriver that you need to fix every single thing in the

Dan Ryan: world. And just to add some color to that, like as a former project manager at a purchasing company, And in charge of the budget and the 500 line items or 1, 000 line items that are on a guest room budget. Each line item, each vendor, there might be 80 or 100 vendors.

There could be, you know, 1, 000 SKUs. Each line item has a novel of information associated with each one. Especially because it's all custom. And there is like, I think, I don't know if you call it a cascading effect. But I think that's what you meant when we first started talking, like, there's a compounding effect or a cascading effect.

When things start going wrong or you start compressing, compressing time, it increases the odds of all of that novel of each thousand line items of information to kind of go off the rails.

Mitch Parker: There's, there's too many moving parts. So, so what, how do you, how do you control that, right? So, the only way to really control the amount of moving parts...

is to have excellent documentation. So, one of the hardest things for any purchaser is if the initial or original documentation is incomplete. And, unfortunately, or maybe fortunately to whichever, there are a lot of very, very qualified hospitality design groups, design teams, um, they have the right documentation.

You know, owners want new faces. Creative, New, and a lot of the designers who are super talented don't really understand the documentation needs in order to execute the design. Really there can't be, and you're a manufacturer, and if I say, you know, really don't worry about the finish, and your answer is, yeah, but I can't finish, literally finish, I can't even start.

I can't finish the furniture without the finish, right? It comes out as this raw box, and at the end it's supposed to have a finish. I can't, even if the finish is clear, that's still a finish. And it's not finished, I put the finish on. So, think about that. Every single item has details that have to be identified, relayed to the manufacturer, verified, checked.

Approved. Manufactured. Checked again. Delivered and installed. And in one piece of furniture, there can be seven different options. I mean, we have, you've seen it, you can have nine different vanity sizes, eleven different, uh, refrigerator bar sizes, or whatever you want to call them, consoles, that fit in an exact space.

It's complex. Um, what

Dan Ryan: I, what I like to say, like going back to the The hundred and fifty steps that need to happen that we're always obsessing over. I would even say that the designers, the design firms who have the best documentation, they really dial it in and make it so, as close to perfect as possible, there's still a grey area that needs to get defined, right?

You have to make it, because ultimately you have to turn it into ones and zeros. And, but then on that spectrum there's people who are more gestural, that like, are incredible designers, but like... They can't get it to that final, really level of detail where, and it doesn't matter what, where you are on the spectrum.

I think the value that we add and that you, you guys add, and you know, we're not the only ones, but, um, it's, it's filling in that gray area. It's turning it into ones and zeros so that it's really definable and approvable. It's almost taking something out of an idea out of air and turning it into tangible.

Deliverable product. It's not almost

Mitch Parker: exactly what it is. And that's where having the understanding of the right manufacturers for the right type of design, type of product that you're trying to end up with, in a collaborative effort. Right? So the designer has this concept. They may or may not have documented it perfectly.

Uh, the purchaser has to come in and say, Okay, I'm gonna put together designer and manufacturer. And we're gonna make sure there are no... None. Nothing can be concept anymore. It has to turn into something that can be built. And manufacturers don't talk about, well, I can build something like that. No. I can build this.

Yeah. And there's going to be a shop drawing that you sign off on, and that's what we're going to build. If you can't get to that point, then you can never get anything built. So having that collaborative effort where we participate in making sure the partners, the designer, the owner, the manufacturer...

Stakeholders. The stakeholders, right. They have to come to an agreement that this is what we're going to accept. And we don't have to get into huge detail, but the model room process is really... The culmination of that collaboration, because you think after all this effort, you know, we're going to see this product that's exactly what I want.

And let's face it, I've never, I've never been to a model room where the client or the designer walked in and said, approved. Everything approved. I've been in ones where most everything's approved. I've been in ones where nothing is approved. Literally, almost

Dan Ryan: nothing. What about the ones where most everything is approved and then the significant other of the owner comes in

Mitch Parker: Well, there's a, there's the significant other factor or the partner factor. You can call it what you want, whether it's your marital partner, your, your life partner, your life partner or business partner. Somebody may not like it. And, and I will tell you that's, and that's, you know, sadly we joke about it, but that's one of the.

I'll call it detrimental factors to the process, which is the decision making, right? I understand if you have a concept, and you hire a designer, and you put this process together, and we deliver this model room, and it is not the concept you envisioned, right? You had a color board, and you had this design concept, they spent all this money presenting it to you, and it looks like the color board, but the color board is just that.

It's a two dimensional, sometimes three dimensional nowadays, or probably more often than not. Right. The renders are three dimensional and, um, but it's still a drawing, and it may be the most perfect CAD, you know, computer drawing you've ever seen, but it's not reality. You can't sit on the drawing, right, you can't sit on the chair in the drawing.

You need to sit in the chair. It can look like a beautiful chair, but if it sits terribly, it's the most uncomfortable chair you've ever sat in, uh, it really doesn't work. And so when you get to the model room, I get it. This is not the concept we were shooting for. This is not the feel. Okay, and then you can tweak it, but, but what really throws a wrench into the system is when somebody, some third party, steps up and says, that's not what we

Dan Ryan: want.

Who is outside of that decision and funnel. They weren't,

Mitch Parker: they weren't part of it, they, or they just glanced at it, or, and, and they are a significant stakeholder, so their say is important. And to me, that. That's, I mean, sadly, it's a huge amount of wasted effort because the effort that went into getting there is significant.

So how do you prevent that? You need to make sure, which we can't do, in the decision making process, that there is this, you know, single, final say so, who can overcome that. or attempt to overcome these, let's keep, let's keep modifying. Let's, you know, it's an evolving design process and evolving design does not lead to hotel opening.

Those two things are really incompatible. I think

Dan Ryan: there's also just, for who that one person is, or that one accountable party, it's also just asking them, hey, are there other stakeholders that need to be moved in

Mitch Parker: here? That'd probably be a good idea. Yeah. But, uh, I can't say I've ever really asked that.

Well, maybe I'm afraid of

Dan Ryan: the answer. We do that because, like, with time, what we find sometimes with time, we create accountability for us. Like, we'll get drawings to you, and finishes by this time, but we need them back by this time. And we always ask. Hey, we know that you'll turn them around quickly, but are there other stakeholders at brand or ownership that want to look at it?

Because that can actually eat up a lot of time. They're traveling, they're playing golf, they're doing whatever, and they're not... Again,

Mitch Parker: it all ties back into what we said, right? There's a lot of moving parts. There's a lot of pieces. collaborators.

who understand the pieces needed to finish the puzzle. And let me tell you, that's a key. That's a key part of it, because, um, experience is really, is really, I think, is probably maybe more important than anything. That's where I wanted to

Dan Ryan: go next, because when you talk about control and the proven process, one of the things that really strikes me about the four generations is not just the four generations of family.

You have some project directors, is that, that's what you call them? Yeah. Who have been here for

Mitch Parker: 40 plus years? Yeah, 40 plus, yeah. I think we're a bit unique. I mean, maybe a few of my competitors have a couple around here, but we literally have, we did a, we did a check and I think approximately 25 percent of our company has been here for more than 30 years.

Wow. And somewhere around 40 percent of our company has been here for more than 15 years. Our own receptionist has been here for more than 25 years, which is incredible. So she's really the office manager, it's unfair to

Dan Ryan: call her a shout out because

Mitch Parker: she's amazing. Carol is incredible. So, you know, and, and I think, uh, I, I won't say it's undervalued, that's, that's untrue.

Experience is highly valued. But it's very hard, um, when I'm presenting the Parker Company, unless I really have an opportunity to talk about the type of People have been here 30, 35 year project directors. Which project director has been here the longest? Technically, Linda Hine. Linda? Okay. Marilyn Webb retired last year.

Marilyn was on 46

Dan Ryan: years. So that's also an interesting thing because they obviously started working under your dad, like for your dad. Yeah. Right?

Mitch Parker: Marilyn was, I think, the third employee.

Dan Ryan: So how, and then, but I think it's a testament to also a multi generational business where You know the next generation comes in and these people who have been like adding such tremendous value for so long They're like who are the new kids, but you guys have

Mitch Parker: really managed to keep them All my brothers experienced that my father founded the company and has some very very qualified some of which are still here, right?

People he hired And at some point though, you you know, you kind of have to Yeah, so by virtue of my being me being a Parker And by virtue of my father initially, you know, giving me stock in the company, I became an owner. Um, but I had to, you know, you had to earn your stripes around here. Yeah. Uh, you can't pretend to, to know what you're doing and it takes a long time to really know what you're doing and at some point you become responsible because it's your company and at that point if you haven't earned the respect.

Uh, it's a big problem. And it's a challenge. It was a challenge for me. We had a few people in the company at the time that were many years ahead of me and my, and the brothers. And they had a tough time understanding that ultimately, you know, the next generation is going to take over and be in charge.

And if you can't accept that, then it's very hard to be part of a family business. Um, but we have some extremely qualified people that understood. Uh, that the Parkers are going to take over the company, uh, that eventually Lenny's going to retire. And, um, are these the kind of guys that we want to work for?

Okay? Uh, I really should say work with, but ultimately we own the company and you, you, you work for us. We're the employer. They're the employees. Um, but if we didn't give our experienced project people, um, the support. Well, this is what's key. Um, we don't, we provide guidelines on how the partner company operates.

These guys have been here so long. Our, our project directors have been here so long that I don't need to look over their shoulder every day. And they understand the best and smartest way to do a project. And so I'm really just making sure that they're not making any... Wrong terms, but we give them the authority to, you know, for example, create the bid list.

The authority to think of the right solution. And of course, depending on the level of the problem, whether or not Parker gets involved. But we've designed a structure here where the Parkers are what we call the project administrators. We really call them the partner administrators. So when you hire the Parker Company...

You're getting a day to day project team with an extremely experienced project director managing your project, but one of the parkers is literally um, overseeing that uh, from start to finish. Do I worry about whether the fabric's blue or green, if it's shipped on time? No. But I do worry about

to and hitting the next one when it's supposed to. And if for any reason... There's a hiccup in the process, uh, that a parker needs to get involved, we're, we're already familiar, we're not getting briefed on, oh yeah, this project, you're, we're doing that project? Are you kidding? I didn't really even realize that.

You know, oh, I signed that to you two years ago, whoops, I forgot all about it. So again, part of the process is, um, making sure that from an administration standpoint, doing the things we're supposed to be doing, when we're supposed to do them so that, you know, there's. success at the end of the project. And I was asked, I was asked the other day, we were talking, I was talking to a furniture rep, not to be named.

They said to me, uh, that every manufacturer makes mistakes. And I said, that's a fact. The Parker Company makes mistakes. Again, there's too many pieces not to make a single mistake.

And I made a statement which was, I think it was highly challenged. Which was that we have never been, as far as I can recall in my 39 years, the reason for a delay of a project. Now many projects have been delayed. But not because of the Parker Company. And, and they challenged that statement. They said, come on, that's ridiculous.

And I said, no, it's not ridiculous. Because, as my dad likes to say, a long time ago, we made a lot of mistakes. Parker Company has basically seen everything that can go wrong, go wrong. But you're still surprised? Well, I'm not surprised. Um, I, it's just, it's part of the process. You allocate some

Dan Ryan: bandwidth to the unknown

Mitch Parker: unknown.

Sure. But we've seen so much go wrong that we've pretty much figured out how to do it so things don't go wrong. That's a little trick. It's make sure your, your methodology is tried and true. It's proven. And then you prevent things from going wrong because you're doing what you're supposed to do. And...

There are things outside of your control. I can't control the contractor. I can't control the decision making. I can't control the manufacturing. Um, but the Parker Company controls what it can do, so that we are not the reason for the delay. And we have never been. Lots of things have gone wrong. We're not perfect.

Um, but, if you already have, if you've already seen it go wrong, you already have the solution in place. You already know. What to say, what to do with the manufacturer, what to do with the designer. How to quickly, quickly, solve the problem and keep moving forward. Because, you know, it's, it's, it's like a, you know, I don't know It's like a, you know, a herd of elephants, man.

They, you gotta keep going. Yeah. Because you'll never get to the end if you, if you stop along the way. And there's lots of diversions and there's lots of, lot of, you know. Things that literally pop up and I say all the time, it's almost shocking some of the things that happen that I haven't seen before.

Yeah. But we see most of it. So

Dan Ryan: another thing that I love about this industry is, you know, ultimately I think everyone in our industry wants to build a bar that they could have all their friends come at and have a drink with and like celebrate. Um, but there's a, this is like, there's a, uh, A joie de vivre through most everyone in doing what we do of FF& E sourcing, manufacturing, purchasing, designing, delivery, install, um, and I really appreciate that.

And something that like I think is really awesome and surprising about you on that joy of lifestyle is you've always been very passionate

Mitch Parker: about camp. Don't get started on camp. No I want to get started. I want to get started. Get sidetracked for the next.

Dan Ryan: What I want to get sidetracked on that because to me, um, okay, you came into a family business, like you've earned your stripes, you work hard, but you're also an entrepreneur and you have, you love, you always loved camp and you did this crazy thing and bought a camp.

Yeah. And like, like that does also fill your bucket

Mitch Parker: so much tremendously as well. I try to make it short. It's hard for me to make a short story short, but, um, I went to college. My mother really groomed me to be a doctor. And I felt I'd be a good doctor. And I was an excellent biology student, but not a very good chemistry student.

Chemistry was my downfall. Organic chemistry, specifically, was my downfall. And I had always gone to a summer camp as a kid. I was fortunate to be sent to North Carolina along with my brothers. Camp changed my life. It's that, it's literally that simple. It made me who I am today. Um, for all the reasons camp is supposed to.

And it was the greatest experience ever. I, I counted the days... Okay, let's, actually,

Dan Ryan: for those of, those people who are not camp people, like, what are some of those, wait, just...

Mitch Parker: Well, okay, so camp, um, puts you in an environment where you may or may not have come with a friend, but you're now going to go live with ten other kids in a cabin.

You're going to have to make choices for yourself, you're going to have to understand and respect authority, your counselors, your staff members, um, respect nature, you know, you're out in the woods, in my case North Carolina, um, and so what it does for a camper is it builds self confidence. It, it helps you to grow without You know, outside of the, the umbrella of your, of your parents, um, you know, you have to make it on your own.

You have to learn how to get along. You have to learn how to make friends. You have to learn to solve problems. You know, um, you go to school, you make lots of friends, but you don't go home and live with 10 of 'em. Mm-hmm, , right? I mean, it'd be one thing. Can you imagine if you. Look at all your friends. If you've been friends long enough, you might think, God, I didn't live in this house, you know?

Um, but the truth is that's, and that's what camp does. And so what it, what it did for me is it, it, it created an environment where I could learn about myself and I could grow. I mean, I'm, I'm number four of five brothers. So there's this huge, crazy, weird family dynamic if anybody's been in a big family.

And especially if you're, you know, one of the younger. I'm, I'm number four. So, you know, dealing with three older brothers and everything that's involved there. And so, so when I got to camp, I was a, it was an opportunity for me to be me. I was no longer just one of five. It was me and, but how do I get along and how do I make new friends and how do I try new things?

And you know, there's a lot of challenges and things that are scary. I mean, when you're six years old and, you know, horse is a big animal, you know, so, you know, and. Somebody says, listen, you know, you should pick horseback riding to learn how to ride a horse. I mean, I probably weighed, you know, 40 pounds, 50 pounds.

It's a large animal, and when you learn how to ride a horse at 6 years old, which I did, learned how to water ski at 6 years old, and I still water ski

Dan Ryan: today. Such confidence.

Mitch Parker: It's, it builds confidence. It, it, it really makes you, and, and that's what it did for me. Um, and, you know, I, I, Somebody said, hey, Mitch, you know, join the Camp Play.

And, if you've ever been in drama, you know, you have to get in front of a hundred, a thousand people and, and do your best. And, so, here I am a salesman for the Parker Company. I'm, I'm not afraid of being in front of a hundred people, or a thousand. It's never scared me, not for a second. The confidence I have when I go into a sales presentation, I mean, if anything, I'm, I'm, I may be criticized for being, Overconfident.

I'm overconfident because look at my company. I'm selling the Parker Company. It's an easy sell. Our reputation speaks for itself. But if I couldn't speak in front of 10 people at a table, that would be a problem. And I learned that at camp. And so that's, that's what it, that's why it made me who I am today.

And the experience was just incredible. So I was that kid that said I'm going to grow up one day and buy a camp. It, it's literally that simple. And, and so when you were little, yeah, a lot of kids say that, but I really meant it. Mm-Hmm. . And so I graduated college. I wasn't gonna be a doctor. I had no real life plan.

You met my dad. My dad is very big on the life plan. Mm-Hmm. . And, uh, so he said, look, since you don't have a plan, I said, well, no, I, I, I, I wanna be a camp director. I wanna own a camp. And he said, well, I have an idea. Come work for me. And one day. Whether that's 5 years, 25 years, you'll own a camp. And in the meantime, you'll have a job, you'll make money, and one day you'll have a family and kids.

And so, that was my goal, was to always own a summer camp. And so, I was fortunate in that Parker Company is successful, and in a position so I could look for a camp. And... I started looking for a camp, but I didn't realize it me 10 years to find it. And I told my younger brother, Greg, that, who also loved camp and was interested in owning a camp with me, uh, when we find the camp, I still will need to work with Parker Company to finance the camp.

And if you'll run it, ultimately one day I'll run it with you. And so he agreed. He didn't realize it was going to take 10 years, because 10 years later, he's moved on. Well up the ladder, but part of the deal was for him to if you shook my hand I said don't shake my hand unless you're in and he said I'm in ten years later We bought the camp and now it's been 17 years.

This will be our 17th summer in 2020 2024 we are 17th summer. And then

Dan Ryan: where on the scale of the five Parker brothers

Mitch Parker: is Greg? Greg's five So he's younger than you. Yeah, so we were really growing up the closest because by the time I got to middle school My older partner at the Parker Company, Phillip, was already in college.

And I barely knew the guy. I saw him at the dinner table, and that's about it. Uh, Doug was sort of mostly out the door. Uh, my brother Brad, who was immediately ahead of me, Um, you know, he was doing his own thing. So Greg and I were really close. And so, we co direct Camp Waziyatah. Uh, but... He's really the director, so I come up to camp and I'll assist him and still do the Parker Company work.

So I work remotely for the summers and have two jobs during the day. It's pretty stressful. But you're living it all in a passion. I'm one of those guys that, well, I really can say that, you know, I fulfilled my lifelong dream. But just owning it. It's part of it, and you have to actually run it, so you have to create a successful business in a safe environment, and it's a lot of, it's a lot of work, it's a lot of stress, but when, when things are going right, and they usually are, um, camp is a great experience, and it's, and I've been able, my, my goal was to make a place that can do for kids what it did for me, and we've succeeded.

And the amount of,

Dan Ryan: the amount of kids that have gone through there and you've impacted in a positive way, like think about that from a, like a global impact. All those kids come up with these new skills and then they go off and do their life. That's pretty amazing. You think like dollar for dollar, the impact

Mitch Parker: that you can have.

I mean the strange thing is, we, and it sounds a little cliche, but we say all the time, if we can change one kid for the better, And that one kid, if they can learn something in our camp, I mean, we, we stress, we have core values. Courtesy, integrity, respect, and responsibility. Now, let's just face it, there's a lot of values.

We narrowed it down to those four. And we felt, if you can live those core values, you're a good human being. And so, if we can help someone to be a better human being, and, and they leave our camp, and grow up... And do one good thing for their community, for their family, for the world. One good thing. We've made a big difference.

And that's truly, it sounds so stupid, but that's really our goal. If we can help change kids for the better. We have a saying, building better kids one summer at a time. So,

Dan Ryan: with those core values from Camp Waziyatah that have impacted more than one kid a summer, I'm sure. Um. Did those core values, how have you taken those core values and what you've learned building that business and sustaining that business to here at the Parker Company?

Because we were talking about all of your experience project directors, but you also have like a really young crew in here too. So, like have you, what have you brought from camp to the Parker

Mitch Parker: Company? Well, it's funny. Well, it actually was the reverse. Oh, really? Yeah. Well, because my father, uh, really established, I mean if you, I think if you, Probably think of one word that describes my father, that I would use to describe my father, is integrity.

Um, and that kind of encapsulates where I grew up and where I came from. Um, my father is probably one of the most respected, not just in purchasing, but in hospitality. He's still around. He's 93, you've interviewed him.

Dan Ryan: No, I didn't. I talked to him. You spoke

Mitch Parker: to him. You didn't, right. For four hours. And

Dan Ryan: he was, he has an incredible amount of integrity.

I've known him for twenty something years. But he's also brutally

Mitch Parker: honest. Yeah, he's, um, I've probably inherited that trait too. I'm pretty much just very straightforward. Tell him like it is. So when I came from that upbringing, and when I got to the Parker Company, and I, and I found out, and it really didn't, That was just the standard operating procedure for my father.

But when I started, you know, becoming more embedded in the industry and talking to the vendors, and talking to the clients, and talking to the project managers and the designers, the, uh, unbelievable admiration and respect for my father, and I wanted to really know why. It's like, hey, I know that's my father, so I have a very biased opinion of it, right?

I would

Dan Ryan: even, the stories you would probably also hear from your competitors as well.

Mitch Parker: Well, okay, so that's a funny thing you say that, because I had a vision of the business world. You go to college, you don't really have the fondest idea of what the real world is like. College certainly was not the real world for me, it was college.

Um, but when I got into the company, I didn't really understand the dynamic about how close the friendships were with my father's direct competitors. And that showed me something about who we are, who my father is, and how he could be a leader in the industry and really be.

I'm talking about lifelong close friendships. with, you know, essentially all of our competitors. And that has carried on. In our industry, which is a bit unique, I'm friends with almost everyone. And I mean, like, good friends. Like, pick up the phone, friends. Like, go out and do things together, friends. With many of our, of our competitors.

And I think that's somewhat unique. And, and it really is, it gave, it gave me sort of an understanding about Who we are, and who we are as a company is really based on who my father is. He, he took that this is who we are and this is what we're going to be and he created this model and and that's what we have perpetuated and that's what we're instilling into the next generation is this integrity that we look out for the best interest of our client at all times.

But there's a lot of other players. And so, I can't just look out for his interests, I have to recognize that the designer wants a beautiful hotel, the operator wants a functioning hotel that makes sense, and, and the client has a budget that we have to meet, and there's all these parts and pieces, and so how do you do that?

How do you achieve, you know, success by all parties? Because it's very hard to, remember what I told you, my measure of success is at the end, everyone is happy, and, and that's not easy. And so to do that, if you have integrity, and you are straightforward and honest, and you collaborate so that your ideas are not the only ideas.

Collaboration doesn't mean just one set of ideas, right? So we have to all be part of this process to achieve success, and I've found that learning from my father and instilling that in the next generation is really critical to our success. You know, when you say, what did we model from Camp to the Parker Company?

We modeled Camp from the Parker Company, because that's where I was first. And I figured if we can, if we can instill, you know, It's, it's part of service, right? When you say courteous, courtesy is one of our core values, you know. I, I, I'm constantly frustrated in, in the fact that I'm on, supposedly, on the same team as all these really smart people.

And I see so much animosity, and so many finger pointing, and, you know, the blame, the blame game. If something goes wrong, something goes wrong. I told you. What do we do? Problem solving. Everything goes wrong. A hundred things go wrong. On every project. But we all want the same thing. We need a hotel to open on time.

And look beautiful. Under budget. And so, when we're all in the same... I have always tried, no matter how difficult a member of the team is, to be courteous. And that was, you know, my father could be courteous until it was time to say, Listen guys, if you, if you insist, you know, we're not going to get to the finish line.

And so, you can't be courteous all the time, but if you're a courteous person, and you have integrity, and you show respect for the, you know, I have an unbelievable amount of respect for the interior designer. Again. Rarely you walk into , walk into a hotel, you, you don't understand. The average person has no idea what went into, it's amazing, the experience.

How do you get there? Yeah, it, it's, it's, you know, try to design, try to design one room in your house and think about a whole hotel. It's unbelievable. It's really an unbelievable accomplishment. And when you walk in. And you are overwhelmed and, and you say, wow. You know, that, that wow factor. You, it's very rare for the, I'll say the average guest to understand what it took to get that wow.

And my job, Parker Company's job, is to execute it. You can, you can, you can draw it on a piece of paper. It doesn't mean anything. Those core values, uh, that we have at, at Camp, um, they're really how we operate at the Parker Company as well. And so it was really a very easy transition to,

Dan Ryan: to go from there.

Oh, that's, that's surprising. I, I thought it would have been the other way. That's really cool. Um, I, I saw the integrity part, um, just from my experience where you have your client's best interest in mind. I was working on a project with your brother, it was a big project, and I was staring down the barrel of a big problem.

And the problem was, whatever the problem was, uh, but came up with a plan to fix it. There were some other extraneous things. And he really stepped up, keeping his client happy, but also saying, Okay, well, I see why this all happened, but I'll protect you, but you've got to get this shit done. And it was amazing, because that could have turned very, very,

Mitch Parker: Again, in our industry, there's lots of different ways to approach a problem.

Um, we look at it that we're all, we're all in this thing together. And I can just, if you're made a mistake, I can just bury you. And tell everybody it was his fault. And that's why this is a disaster. But that's not getting to the end. Right? The end is, we've got to get this hotel open, and we've got to solve the problems, and we're in it together, and I don't need to bear you, I can hold you accountable, but there's a difference.

And so, if I go to my client and say, I'm going to hold everyone accountable, including you, Mr. Client, right? That's what it's about. You can hold me accountable. A partner has to do their job. And my, part of my job is to make sure that everybody else does their job. I mean, we're not the project managers.

But we're the procurement managers. And the hotel can't open unless the products are there. Okay, so, you can say anything you want. They can build the hotel, they can do, make it gorgeous, finishes. But if there's no furniture, there's no, there's no guests. Right? If there's no bed, and no drapes, you can't sleep in the room.

I mean, it sounds so ridiculous, but it's true. Um, yeah, you can live without a floor lamp in the lobby. Nobody really cares, it might be dark in that corner. But, so what? But you can't live without the bed. And you can't live without the sheets on the bed. You can't live without the drapes. There are things you can't live without.

And so, oversimplifying, right, we're part of this process. And we're part of the problem solving. And so, it's really how you approach it, right? And if you have a collaborative, positive approach. If you have integrity. If you're courteous. And you respect all the players in the room. They aren't there by accident, right?

They're there because they're talented, because they're qualified. Some are more qualified, some are less qualified, but they didn't get there by accident. Nobody just picked somebody off the street and said, hey, can you design this hotel? Yeah, you might be a young interior designer, you may not have a huge amount of hospitality experience, but that's where we can help the process, right?

I don't need to point at you and say, the reason this went wrong is because you don't know what you're doing. I'd much prefer to say, the reason this can go right is because I know how to help you make it go right. And if I bring in the right manufacturer who will help you design a piece of furniture that will perform, uh, many, many, many years ago on a project and a designer not to be named, um, they wanted, uh, a desk in the room with a very thin Uh, like spindle, leg, and the manufacturer, which is sadly no longer in business, American Martinsville, had one of the most qualified furniture, uh, designers in the world who ordered for American.

Who was that? Uh, Curtis. Uh, Curtis. It was Curtis Lessing. I think it was many years ago, uh, but Curtis said, listen, I've tried very hard to tell the designer. Um, the leg is too thin. It will not perform. Um, so... Can we just say the designer is Michael Bennett? It was not Michael. But the designer is still in the industry, so I don't want to say anything.

Okay. And so, he said, I'm coming out there. I'm going to come out to the Mallroom Revue because I want you to know something, Mitch. Um, we refused to build it the way the designer... Even though, uh, they signed off on the shop drawing. I went into engineering and I changed it. And I made it so it's not going to break.

It's not going to be dangerous. And, but I still think we executed the design. But I can't say, and if we lose the job, we lose the job. Because I didn't do what the designer wanted. But I can't do it. Right. And I know it won't perform. And ultimately, you're going to come back to me, and hopefully nobody gets hurt.

Right? So we did the model room review. So, Curtis came out there and he said, Hello everybody, I've been a furniture designer for 50 years. Uh, for one of the biggest, the oldest, American Martinsville is the oldest, you know, case goods company in the United States. And, uh, he said, I'm sorry, I know what the designer wanted, but I, I can't build it, because it won't perform, and it won't be safe.

But I think we executed the design as best as we could. And then, he did something amazing. And let me show you. What it's all about. And this, I think Curtis was probably 75 years old, 40 years ago. When he walked out, and he climbed up on the desk, and he danced on the desk. He did a little jig on the desk.

And he said, because, I don't know if anybody's planning on dancing on the desk, but if they do, it's not going to break. Wow. And the designer, they, they didn't say anything. They realized, wait a minute, there's more than one piece to this. It's, it's a collaboration. And ultimately, somebody might dance on the desk.

And it was almost, and I was young at the time, doing the project. Um, and I really saw what it means to have the right players. And part of our job is to make sure that we have the right players. And... Hopefully you have a designer who, whose ego doesn't get in the way of what's best. Right? And so, this effort, it takes a lot of, uh, you know, a lot of cooperation.

A lot of collaboration. And if you don't have it, those are the projects that are extra stressful and extra difficult. And it's unfortunate. I think if I have, you know, I've been... I think I'm getting more like my dad, you know, like you said, when he told you your podcast was shit. Um, that's not really what he meant.

What he meant was, what's the real value? Yeah. Is there, is there a real value out there? Um, and if anything, uh, from this discussion, I think the value is not that, Hey, the Parker Company is a great company. We are a great company. But I think the value is that, if you put the right team together, and hopefully it includes us, right?

But if you put the right team together, um, your chances of success and that everybody's smiling and happy at the end are so, the percentage is so much higher than the wrong team. You don't know if it's the right team, um, when you put it together. Um, and, and to me, if you have success, you should, you should repeat the team.

Yeah. And, and to me that is the, the most. Most rewarding part is when we're hired again, because what it meant was we were successful. And everybody was smiling at the end. It wasn't easy. Some were easier than others. And I think the hardest thing for me is when I'm sitting in a meeting and everybody is bad at everybody.

And I sometimes have to step back and understand, yeah, this is stressful. The owner dropped 40 million bucks and it's not going the way they want. Right? I get it. It doesn't mean he's happy, or she's happy, um, it's just, we're gonna get there. And sometimes, you know, it's a bumpy road, sometimes it's smooth.

It's just, if you have the right players, and the right team, and they're, and they're good at what they do, your chance of success is, is great. And if you can collaborate, and everybody helps each other, and supports each other, then it's, it's a win. And, and that's the hardest part. And, and what I find is, um, I am more and more frustrated as I've gotten older in this industry by, um, I'll say incompetence.

There's a lot of people out there that are hired to do a job and they're just not very good at it. And, and two, just, I don't know the right term, just nasty, mean. People whose approach is I'm going to yell at you instead of work with you. We've all, we've all dealt with people like that who would just rather yell at you.

Talk to you.

Dan Ryan: I think that that's a real lesson that I've learned. And it took me 15 years before I really figured it out, where if you wind up all the adjectives of the clients or the, or the other stakeholders that you enjoy working with and like do a word map of what they are and they, they're different for every company, but the ones that you really like and you, you can create a filter and like, Search them out, or be attractive, or be open to them.

And then that breeds, uh, repeat success. And every individual, every company, every stakeholder has a different filter. But I think it's a really valuable exercise to go through and say, like, What do we love about these customers?

Mitch Parker: Yeah, somewhere early in the conversation you said something about, I don't recall exactly, something about like professionalism or something.

Um, I've always said, if you've hired me, You should ask my opinion. You hired me because I'm a professional. Because I'm good at what I do. Why did you hire me if you're just going to tell me what to do? Right? You can tell anybody, you can tell a robot what to do. It just does it. Right? I say all the time, you know, There's way more to purchasing than just writing a purchase order.

It's easy. The easiest part, actually, is writing the purchase order. That's just, the computer does it. I press a button, the purchase order is created. But, why did you write the purchase order? Why should you write the first order? Who are you writing it to? Is it gonna make the thing that everybody wants?

Right? So, before we get to the first order, you really should be asking the opinion of all these experts in the room. And, if you're not, if there's an owner or a project manager who's just telling everybody, you have to do this by this date. This is the deliverable in the contract. Yeah. Words in the contract, yeah, they're relevant.

They're important, but at the end of the day, At the end of the day, it's how you get there, right? There's, there's lots of ways to get to the end, and I prefer to get to the end with everybody working together. And it's not, it's, it's strange. I mean, we do, you know, we're working consecutively on somewhere between, you know, somewhere on the average of 80 to 100 major hotel projects per year worldwide.

That's a lot of moving parts. Remember I just told you, it's a 2, 000 piece puzzle for one. Yeah. Multiply that times 80 or 100, and it's a lot of... A lot of things went on at once, and you have to be organized, you have to have it together. But, every one of my project directors will tell you the same thing.

You know, working with this group, it's a breeze. Working with this is a nightmare. Why? It's the same thing. We're doing the same thing. We're just doing it with a different group of people, different personalities, and different expectations, different objectives. And, to me, it's really, it shouldn't be. It's the same objective, right?

I agree. I need to get this hotel open, and there's a reason why. That's why you hired me. You hired all of us, this whole team of players to do the same thing. And I find the challenges of a difficult project, many of which could easily be overcome with just better communication. You know, better, better understanding of stress and expectations.

It's a very stressful environment. A lot of money at stake. What's going on here? We opened a big hotel, a five star hotel, and a big stadium. We have hundreds of millions of dollars. Billions. Yeah. A lot of zeroes. We just opened a couple of stadiums that, the numbers are in the billions. That's what they're spending.

FF& E budgets are staggering. Our little piece of it could be 300 million. It's insane. It's a little different in the stadium because it's not what you would call typical FF& E. But, even in a big hotel. Budget 30, 40, 50 million. It's a lot of money. It is. And people, it didn't come free. Right? Money didn't come free.

Dan Ryan: But you also have the ability to, like I said, assemble your tribes, build your, build your camp cabin, if you will. Right? Yeah. Like, who's in every bunk, we know what works, it's proven, and then hopefully everyone will come out a little bit better than when they started.

Mitch Parker: Again, it's the same kind of thing.

You send your kid to camp. You're a parent, um, you ask around, is this a good camp, um, and what makes, is it fun, is it safe, you know, those are the things a parent cares about. Um, but once again, very few people that I know of, certainly not me until I really owned one, although I worked at a camp my entire life, 14 summers consecutively, until I was a waterfront director at my camp.

But even as a waterfront director, I just had no idea of the... The workings, what makes a camp work. Or for that matter, any business for that matter. But a camp is a very different business. This is a child care, residential community. With lots of danger. Danger, and you gotta feed everybody. There's that. You forgot that part, right?

There's that too. We literally make a thousand meals a day. A thousand meals a day. It's supposed to taste good. Camp food has a reputation of not being very good. We decided to change that. We spend more money than most on camps because we want good food, a variety of food. You know, it sounds sort of silly, but I had no idea what goes into serving a thousand meals a day.

I had the slightest idea of how that works. That's crazy. And that's only one part of it. And it's very interesting that the correlation to how to make a camp run successfully. You know, now that I've run a camp for 17 years, my brother does the day to day most of it, but, um, I never realized the parts and pieces.

It's just like a hotel. I've said it five times. Nobody really grasps the parts and pieces. What it takes to start from bare piece of ground and end up with hotel. With 400 room hotel. That's unbelievable. It's, it's unbelievable. And it's the same thing at camp. What it takes to make sure. All the parts and pieces are working, and that all the safety protocols are in place, and all the, you know, everything has to work in order to make camp a great experience.

Um, it requires a lot of coordination of the parts and pieces, and the same with hospitality. And if anything, working at the Parker Company, um, and learning how we do things, and the way my father set up the company and the business, And the impact we've made on the industry really helped me learn how to run a camp and make an experience.

Because really at the end, right, that's what the whole hospitality experience is about. Camp is actually hospitality, right? So I mean, it's literally, it's a resident camp. People are sleeping there I have to have sheets and beds and I have to wash the sheets and you know, it's very similar sort of environment, but it's all about that experience, right?

So why do we build a hotel? Right? It's a business. It's a business. But, it's about this experience that makes the business successful. If you go to a hotel, and you have a bad experience, you're never going back. No. Ever. And it can be a little thing. Wait, one person treats you at the hotel, the person at the front desk.

Or, a little thing like, you just don't like the pillows. Right? I'm not going back to that hotel. the pillows. Right, so all the parts and pieces have to work to create this experience in order for the business to be a success. If you come to a hotel, and nobody comes back, and the reviews of the hotel are poor, your business is finished.

That hotel is over. It doesn't matter how much you spend, nobody's coming back. It's the same at a camp. So it's a very similar kind of environment. It takes a lot of parts, a lot of moving parts, all working together, all...

Dan Ryan: But I think it's all tied together with vision and values, ultimately, in everything that we do.

Um, and this has been a great experience for me, sitting here with you. And like, I'm actually, I'm walking into some really new perspective. That's what I love doing about this so much, is that it changes perspective. Um, so I want to say thank you for your time and being here and sharing. Because ultimately, I think...

People are going to hear this and understand another facet of what it is in this hospitality design world that they may not have known, um, and thank you for sharing your experience. I

Mitch Parker: really appreciate it. Well, thanks for bringing up Camp. Yeah. Because it's, it's a, you know, I'm very passionate about Camp.

I'm very passionate about the Parker Company. Uh, when you work in a family business, um, there's a different, I'll say, at least from my perspective. Uh, there's a whole different... Sort of expectation requirement. I have a lot to live up to. Uh, I think my brothers and I have lived up to my father's, um, standard and expectation.

In fact, if you ask him, he probably would tell you we exceeded it. Um, if we just match, I'm, I'm good with that. Well, to get

Dan Ryan: the seal, to have him tell you that you don't suck is pretty great. If people wanted to learn more about you or Camp Waziyatah, like, where do they find, how can they

Mitch Parker: learn more? Well, probably the easiest thing would be, uh, in today's website world, to access us at ParkerInternational.

com Got it. Or Wazi.com Wazi.com If you want to learn about camp, if you want to send your kids to a great place, uh, with that, That can really change your life. That's www.wazi.com. If you want to buy an insurance policy, that you can essentially guarantee that your hotel is going to open on time and under budget, that's www.

parkerinternationalhotel. com. So you have great child experience. Either way, it's a great experience. It should be a great experience. Tied together with values and vision. You know, I'll end at this. Not every kid loves camp. Even though we build a place that you can love camp. And not every hotel project works out perfectly.

Um, but, I'm gonna build, I'm, I've, the Parker Company's created a, a way so that if you hire the Parker Company, your hotel is gonna open. It's gonna open on time. Maybe bumpy, maybe smooth, but we're gonna get there. Because we're good at what we do. Um, and we care about what we do. We're passionate about what we do.

It's the same with camp. I'm gonna, I, we have built a place where you can send your kid and feel comfortable as a parent that they're going to a safe place, that they have the opportunity to have the greatest time ever. They do not love camp. The strangest thing is my wife married me knowing I was going to buy a camp and she hated camp.

It's a very odd dynamic. It's all part of the growth. She loves wazi but she hated camp.

Dan Ryan: It's all part of the growth. Seriously, thank you for your time. I appreciate it. And also, listeners, thank you if this changed your opinion on hospitality, how to deliver it, receive it, or camp, and how business influences camp.

Yeah, that's amazing. Uh, please pass it along. It's all word of mouth, and we thank you. Thanks, Dan. Thank you.

Understanding All The Parts And Pieces - Mitch Parker - Defining Hospitality - Episode # 131
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