Lessons in Leadership from Florida’s Largest Independent Hotelier

“Hotels are a service industry, and the key is to have happy associates.”

There are many reasons Harris Rosen, president and COO of Rosen Hotels & Resorts and Florida’s largest independent hotelier, is a masterclass in hospitality leadership: his willingness to take enormous risks, his wise approach to scaling up, and most importantly, his steadfast, decades -long devotion to giving back – both to his employees and his community.

When HITEC was in Orlando, Florida last year, Rosen led a special, bonus session as part of the inaugural HFTP Leadership Excellence Series. In this gripping session, Rosen regaled attendees with anecdotes, lessons and experiences drawn directly from his 40-plus years as a successful and thriving hotelier – and at the end, left attendees with a singular, resounding phrase to guide them in their future careers.

First, some important facts about Rosen, founder, president and CEO of Rosen Hotels and Resorts:

  • Rosen Hotels & Resorts boasts seven hotels, 6,338 guest rooms and suites, and over one million square feet of convention space.
  • In addition to hotel holdings, Rosen operates a technology company called Millennium Technology Group, an insurance company called RosenSure, and owns a medical center exclusively for associates called The Rosen Medical Center: A Place for Healing and Wellness.
  • Apart from being a successful businessman, Rosen is also a dedicated philanthropist, with a foundation that serves children in underserved communities, programs that provide free preschool to children ages 3-4 and college/vocational scholarships for high school graduates, and more.

Keep reading for Rosen’s take on how supporting and rewarding your employees can pay off massively in more ways than one. Then, watch Rosen’s session in its entirety here to learn more about how Rosen Hotels and Resorts got its start, Rosen’s secret to financial success when scaling up properties, the philanthropic programs that Rosen created for youth and underserved communities, and more.

The following was transcribed from the original session recording and may have been condensed/edited for clarity. Please refer to the session recording for the original audio.

Rosen: I have worked diligently to do whatever we can to keep our associates happy.

We have our own medical center. If you work for me, you visit the medical center. If you’re in the hospital, the most you pay is $750 twice a year – after that, you don’t pay anything. One of our associates had a little baby born prematurely. She was in the hospital with her baby for a long time, and the bill was $1,041,000. I know that because I paid for it. She paid $750. If you have a prescription and you go to Wal-Mart, it’s free, 90 percent of the time. If you’ve been with me for three years and you have children in college, I’ll pay their tuition.

About 30 years ago, wanting desperately to lower our healthcare costs, I worked diligently to make that happen. And it worked. I called the insurance company, and they said, “we’ll have your numbers pretty soon.” I got my bill, and my insurance rates went up by 25%. I called. That was a mistake, because we worked diligently, and we lowered our healthcare costs by about 30 percent. Yet, there’s an increase in my healthcare costs. I had to check. “It’s because of the group you are in.” I said, “No, no, no. I’m an independent little hotel guy. I’m not part of a group.”

[The insurance representative] said, “No, we put you in a group.” I said, “I don’t want to be in a group.”
“You don’t have any choice.”
“I guess my choice is not to do it.”

One of the dumbest things I’ve ever done in my life. I had no insurance company. I had no medical center. I have no affiliation with any hospital, any doctor. What have I just done? I said, “Take a deep breath. Number one: let’s get a clinic.”

The accounting office needed more space. And we created a beautiful little clinic there, hiring a nurse practitioner, a physician and an admin. And we were in business. What about insurance? Well, let’s start our own insurance company. We did. One of the finest insurance companies here in Orlando. We had insurance. We had our medical center. What about hospitals? Let’s talk to them.

We’re not afraid to talk. We spoke to the hospitals and made a deal with them. What about all the other physicians. We’ll talk to them. And before long, we had a program called RosenCare®. We controlled our own destiny.

What impact would that have on our healthcare costs? At the end of the first year, we’re on the cover of Florida Trends magazines. why? We’ve cut our healthcare costs by 50 percent – ​​from about $1,400 per covered life to $700 since we started our program. If you compare our cost per covered life with the national average, we have saved our little company over $500 million.

Yes – we’ve had crazy ideas. Have they all worked? No. But we don’t give up.

(The final question of the session) From a leadership excellence perspective, if you were to leave this room with one professional thought or idea to take home, what would that be? What would you say is a phrase to live by?

Don’t ever give up.

HFTP Leadership Excellence Series Returns to HITEC Toronto 2023

Don’t miss the opportunity to learn from an established industry leader at the next “HFTP Bonus Session at HITEC,” taking place Wednesday, June 28 at HITEC Toronto 2023. While this session is officially part of the HFTP 2023 Leadership Excellence Series program, it is open for all HITEC attendees to observe. Visit the HITEC website in the coming months to learn more and register for HITEC if you have not done so already. See you in June!

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