- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The District’s Pod DC opens its Crimson View rooftop bar is just one of the many accomplishments overseen by Aaron Katz, president and CEO of the Modus Hotels. The new bar, which opened in September, is a fitting pearl in Mr. Katz’s crown as he celebrates 10 years with the hospitality group. Mr. Katz holds both a J.D. and MBA from Georgetown and previously was vice president at Choice Hotels.

In a Q&A with The Washington Times, Mr. Katz discussed his time in the hospitality industry and how he believes the business continues to grow and change in the nation’s capital.

Question: What led you into the hospitality industry?

Answer: My route was accidental but fortunate. I was a consultant for several years. When I sought a change, a close friend recruited me to Choice Hotels as a senior director of corporate development, focused on mergers and acquisitions under the direction of the CFO. My job morphed into a real estate-based role when Choice sought to utilize its balance sheet to support development of its hotel brands. I was then given the opportunity to take responsibility for brand management and strategy in addition to hotel openings and design and construction.

These things together stoked my passion for the business, which was only heightened further when I joined Cafritz Interests to develop and grow the hotel platform.

Q: What are you doing to celebrate your 10th anniversary with the company?

A: Developing another Pod Hotel in Philadelphia.

Q: In your 10 years with Modus, how have you seen the company grow?

A: The company has grown and improved each year over the past 10 years. When I joined Potomac Hospitality Services, I put out a five-year strategy for the business, which I rewrote every year. As a real estate company, the strategy was simply to generate superior risk-adjusted rates of return on invested equity. On the operating side, our strategy was to develop a long-term, sustainable competitive advantage by offering guests a unique, lifestyle oriented experience in each hotel.

The strategy has evolved, and some of the measurable goals have changed, but we have never strayed very far from these original ideas, which still represent the foundation of our company ethos.

My goals have always been to develop a strong organization by restructuring each of our operating units. It started with finance and has moved to each of our major disciplines (sales, revenue management, etc.). The next step was to build the business processes necessary to support our new operating structure and ensure more consistent performance of our hotels. Finally, it is about the development and implementation of new tools to support our operations along with an investment in new and better technology.

Over the past several years we have been refining our operating strategies, improving the strength of our operating team and building long-term, sustainable competitive advantage by heightening our focus on delivering guests a unique lifestyle hotel experience. We do this through focus on the food and beverage, fitness, wellness, entertainment and technology that we bring to each guest’s stay. And delivering our hospitality in ways that are both personalized and approachable.

As a leading lifestyle hotel company our goal is and continues to be the continuous improvement of our service delivery to each and every guest. Achieving these goals is purposefully elusive as our path is to focus on the journey not a destination.

Q: What does it take to be a successful leader and CEO?

A: Continuous learning, unending patience and a calm approach to solving business problems. On the development side of our business, this requires maintaining a close eye on the real estate and capital markets and on hotel trends. On the operating side, it means strengthening your emotional IQ and having the patience to gradually make progress against a long-term vision.

In many ways it is more about tuning out the noise so you can focus on the priorities.

Q: How does your fitness and triathlon training relate to your success as a leader?

A: To swim a couple of miles, bike for three or four hours and then run until you drop requires a lot of strategy, goal setting and patience. But it is the competitive team sports that I have participated in that I believe translate more effectively to the business world. Working with a team to achieve a common goal with continuous progress and setbacks, constantly monitored and measured through performance against your competitor. The parallels and lessons are endless.

Q: What’s next for you?

A: Try to live life one day at a time and not be focused on what’s next but rather understand what is now so that I can better prepare for what’s next, whatever it may be.

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