There is nothing like learning from the best.  Students in The School of Hospitality Business at Michigan State University recently welcomed Visiting Leader Mark Laport to the classroom, where he shared what he has learned in co-founding and serving as president and CEO of Concord Hospitality Enterprises since 1985.  Mark spoke in Dr. A.J. Singh’s HB 382 – Real Estate Investment Management class, as well as Dr. Ron Cichy’s HB 451 – Emerging Leadership Journey and HB 489 – Hospitality Business Strategy classes.  He also met with members of The School’s Real Estate Investment Club.

Mark Laport with HB 382 students.Under Mark’s leadership, Concord has earned recognition as both a hotel management company and an active developer of hotels.  Concord is one of the largest hospitality companies in North America with 90 hotels in both the U.S. and Canada.  Mark’s aptitude for locating, developing, and operating hotels in niche markets has been crucial to Concord Hospitality’s sustained growth.

Concord has earned numerous industry awards over the years and is a ten-time winner of Marriott’s Partnership Circle Award, the company’s highest honor for hospitality excellence.  Additionally, Marriott and Hyatt have recognized Concord with their Developer of the Year Award.  Recently, Concord was named one of Fortune’s Best Workplaces for Women. This list is based on employee surveys and highlights companies where women have high representation in the total associate population and particularly in management positions.  In addition, in late 2015, the company was named a Great Place to Work® and was recognized as one of the Best Workplaces for Millennials earlier this year. Concord Hospitality is one of just five hospitality companies to receive this year’s designation, and it is the only independent hotel developer and operator to do so.

Mark Laport, president and CEO of Concord Hospitality EnterprisesMark was named The School’s Alumni Association Industry Leader of the Year for 2015.  He also serves on The School’s Real Estate Investment Management Advisory Council.  Mark has also been in key roles on various franchise committees, ranging from full service to select service hotel brands.  He has been a chairman of the Courtyard by Marriott Franchise Advisory Council and is currently a member of the Renaissance Franchise Advisory Committee, as well as several others.

“It adds so much to the class to learn business strategy from someone who has to make strategic decisions every single day,” says Eliot Lamb, enrolled in HB 489.  Indeed, Mark candidly discussed Concord’s strategic processes, involving all aspects of developing, managing, operating, and thinking like the owner.

Concord, Mark explained, has a “5-6-4” philosophy.  Five cornerstones:  quality, integrity, community, profitability, and fun.  Six success metrics:  associate turnover, customer satisfaction, financial success, RevPAR index, internal controls, and workplace safety.  Four global initiatives: wellness, charitable giving, sustainability, and safety.  He discussed Concord’s plans for growth and its strategies to adapt to change.  Then he urged the students to “know who you are,” and be the best leader you can be, “hold yourself to high standards, don’t let yourself off the hook, trust the process, set goals then execute, build a team, and go kick some butt!”

In Dr. Singh’s class, Mark took the students through the lifecycle of a “development deal,” which he said is an “Art and a Science.” He discussed site control, due diligence (involving market information, brand identification and application, and construction cost estimates), site acquisition and construction, land closing and construction process, building a “capital stack,” pre-opening operations and sales, readying to open, and opening day.

But that isn’t the end of the story.  Mark used the real life Renaissance Meadowlands success story to describe hotel operation and value creation; refinancing/returning equity to investors; and hotel sales/distribution of funds to investors.  In a separate and smaller meeting with students in the Real Estate Investment Club, Mark shared his personal journey and the fun he has had along the way.  A particular project in North Carolina took eight years to complete, highlighting that real estate development is not for the faint-hearted, and requires a certain obsessive personality, competitive spirit, and a can-do attitude.

Both Dr. Cichy and Dr. Singh expressed gratitude for Mark’s having taken the time and effort to share his wisdom with students in detail about hotel development and management.  “Mark is an extraordinary leader in our industry,” says Dr. Cichy.  “We appreciate his stepping into our classrooms today, as well as the other ways he adds value to our School.”