Refreshing corporate candor

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The primary purpose of hotel conferences is to explain and promote plans for the coming year, and Best Western, like other brands, does that well. But it did a different kind of more in late October in Phoenix, when the 60-year-old membership organization mounted "Taking Care of Business," three days of executive presentations.

What was unusual about the conference was its candor. Not only did Best Western President and CEO David Kong devote much of his opening speech to Best Western's efforts to repair the damage wrought by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, he showed a five-minute video about his visit to the area that left many in tears.

Edited down from five hours of footage, the video was devastating. It showed the chaos those hurricanes wrought. It also showed Kong in a minivan driven by Dawn Boteler, a Louisiana man and Best Western owner who has worked tirelessly to get his property and other Gulf Coast Best Westerns back on track. Kong was clearly moved by the presentation—not to mention the scene.

Later on, during a discussion of quality assurance measures, Best Western executives unveiled another slide show. This time, the subject was underperforming properties, and the pictures were revealing—and not pretty. I can't recall another conference in which the phrase "warts and all" was so literal.

It's heartening to see a big corporation like Best Western wear its emotions on its sleeve. Such exposure takes courage.—Carlo Wolff, Features Editor

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