M3 Minutes is a show centered around M3 and what’s going on in the hospitality industry. Just like our company this podcast is made by hoteliers for hoteliers. Each episode we bring in experts to talk about industry specific topics you want to know about. Check in with us this season to hear stories and advice that span various areas and generations of our industry.
An edited version of this episode is provided below. To listen to the full podcast click here.
For this episode of M3 minutes we talked to M3’s President Allen Read. This interview focused on his experience in the hospitality industry as well as M3’s 20 year anniversary.
About Allen Read:
After graduating from Mississippi State University’s College of Engineering, Allen spent over 30 years working in hospitality while also becoming a Certified Hotel Administrator. He began his career as a front desk associate at the Best Western Hotel in Natchez, Mississippi in 1986. After he moved to Georgia in 1990, he joined McKibbon Brothers as a front desk associate at the Thomasville Holiday Inn. Over several years, Allen broadened his knowledge of the industry by working in a variety of roles, leading to his position as General Manager at several McKibbon-owned hotels throughout Georgia. In 1999, he transitioned to Director of Information Services. With the development of the new McKibbon Company, M3, Allen became one of the company’s first employees, acting as Business Manager. A few years later, he was made a Partner in the company, and promoted to Vice President of Operations. After a successful stint in that role, he was eventually named President and Chief Operating Officer.
Key topics from the episode answered by Allen Read:
What does M3 stand for?
• It basically stands for the third millennium. It’s funny because when we first started the company it was the turn of the century in 2000 and Y2K was happening, so we thought let’s name it the third millennium. Once we started writing it down, figuring it out, and seeing if we could enter it into the URL space though, we realized nobody could spell millennium correctly consistently. So then we decided to shorten it to M3 and change it later on when we came up with a better name for the company. M3 just stuck though and that’s what it has been for the past 20 years. Whenever I have an orientation class for new hires that is always one of my first questions. What do you think M3 stands for? And nobody ever comes up with the third millennium. Instead I get a lot of creative answers such as that it pays homage to John McKibbon, our CEO, and maybe he’s the Third in his family or that it is the reverse of 3M, but no it stands for the third millennium. Another interesting fact about our name is that even though we have always used the M3 abbreviation, it was originally M3 Accounting Services, and that’s the reason our website is actually M3as.com to this day.
How did the company come to be?
• Most accounting systems before M3 were not fully satisfying the needs of hoteliers, so we developed one that was unique to the hospitality industry. John McKibbon has always been an entrepreneur and a leading edge person for the company. Back when he was running the McKibbon Hotel Group in the early ‘90s, he used a general accounting software for his own hotels but it just wasn't quite getting the job done. Whenever you wanted something changed, you'd have to go to the vendor and explain to them different hotel terminology like what a rev par was, what occupancy was, and how it was calculated. When we needed even the smallest things changed, we spent most of our time explaining to the vendor exactly what it was and why. Eventually John decided we just needed to create our own software for Mckibbon Hotel Group to use. We started developing and because our software was so good we decided to market it out to other people. And that's basically how we got started.
• John Mckibbon started the company with a dream and a vision, and we’ve carried it through for him.
How did the company actually get started?
• The company had been doing accounting software for decades, all the way back into the '80s. We knew that Y2K was coming up, back then everyone was on DOS systems and there Windows wasn't really out that much. But apparently back in Y2K, that was when the end of the world was supposed to come up, because nothing was going to work, dogs and cats were going to live with each other, and all kinds of crazy things.
• You know, as a hotelier, which is what I was back then, we actually had to have emergency kits in the hotels because we weren't sure if all the power was just going to end at the year 2000, because of all these kill codes that were supposed to be out there. But anyway, we had this existing accounting software we'd been using and we knew that it was not going to work in the new Windows environment, so we rewrote the software. We got actually about halfway through writing the software and one of the developers came up to John and said, "Hey, there's this new thing coming out. It's called the internet, and we think we should distribute our software that way instead of installing software in each hotel and then pushing us back to us." So John stopped and actually rewrote the software from scratch, even though we were halfway through, and redesigned it to work in the internet only.
• 20 years ago, the hardest thing I had to do was convince people that the internet wasn't just a passing fad. I mean, we take it for granted. We pick up our phone, we get on the internet, we go to a computer, we go to the internet. When it first came out, the internet was this new, cool, interesting thing, but it wasn't anything people were sure was going to work. The other thing I had to do was get people to accept that their data was not going to be on site, on premises. Nowadays there is iCloud storage, Azure, or AWS, Amazon Web Services, and you just know your data's up there, safe and secure. Back when we first started, when I'd say, "Hey we're going to keep all your financial data in a little private personal cloud," they would look at me like I was some alien. I had to explain to them it's actually safer doing it that way than keeping it on premises. So those were the two things we had to do: explain to people the internet was here to stay, and that your data was safer with us than it was with them.
Why set roots in Georgia?
• M3 was born of McKibbon Hotel Group. John was the visionary for the company, and he had his company based out of Gainesville, Georgia. The interesting thing about John though is that he is a third-generation hotelier. Both his father and his grandfather were also hoteliers, so M3 isn't just a Johnny come lately company. We like to brag that we're a hotel software company designed for hotels by hoteliers. That’s at our roots, it's in our DNA. The McKibbon’s started here in Gainesville, so we started with our home base here as well, eventually breaking off to become our own separate company.
• We were your classic garage startup company. We were originally set up in John McKibbon's father's garage. Our corporate office was in a small apartment over the garage that had been converted into an office space. As the company grew, we got to move out of the garage and into a real space. But we started in downtown, it used to be the old Holiday Inn, Gainesville downtown. And it was their corporate office, and we started in their garage.