It’s hard to believe it’s been 17 years since I graduated from the hospitality program at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. As a Hotel and Tourism Management major, my most memorable assignment at the time was the creation of my own restaurant and menu, which I’m certain would have been a wildly successful restaurant chain today, had I not taken to working in the hotel industry instead! Like many of my classmates, I had fallen into the industry indirectly; first, by getting a job in a hotel and then changing my major to suit my new career objectives. I loved being able to work in the hotel at night and craved the hands-on learning experience it offered to complement what I was learning in school, taking what was learned in class and applying it to real-life situations in the hotel on a regular basis.
Shortly after graduation came a promotion to hotel general manager, and this was a huge shift in responsibility from where I started at the front desk. Suddenly, I was thrust into understanding human resources and accounting functions on a scale that I was never exposed to in college. The P&L quickly became my nemesis, and my faint understanding of Net Income and calculating it on a POR (Per Occupied Room) basis gave me anxiety.
If I only spent what I was budgeted, then why am I still not making the Gross Operating Profit budget?
My mentors were very patient with me, walking me through every line item and detail until my head swirled. After many months of critiquing the Profit and Loss Statement, the picture suddenly became much clearer—If I don’t make as much revenue this month as what was budgeted, then I should not spend the amount budgeted. It was a young GM’s realization of the direct correlation between the hotel’s actual revenue, and not what could be spent, but what should actually be spent.
With my new understanding and confidence of the relationship between income and expenses each month, I eagerly monitored my hotel’s daily report with revenues and statistics, and entered accounts payable with the accuracy and timeliness demanded by our management company’s corporate accounting office. I was unstoppable! The accounting team loved me, and my property was finally on track.
Just a few years into my hotel management journey, a new opportunity presented itself to train users on a new hotel accounting platform that was developed specifically for the hospitality industry to help hoteliers with the accounting process. Since I thought I knew a fair amount about hotel accounting, I eagerly accepted this new challenge and set off to learn everything I could about this new software. Imagine my surprise when I first logged in to see several modules within the software, when I was accustomed to using only three! What was this General Ledger screen with debits and credits, and why do you need a Cash Management module? Once again, I felt like that young college graduate, starting all over, but eager to take on the world and learn something new.
As I delved into this innovative hospitality-specific accounting platform, I realized that there were many nuances in the “art” of hotel accounting, and with a powerful tool like this, seeing things from a variety of different reporting perspectives could help me to become a better manager. It became a crash course in how everything is related to the ‘bottom line’. As I learned more and more about the big picture, I was in awe of how I had ever managed a hotel and not really understood the importance of managing the revenue, and most importantly, the cash. It was valuable knowledge that came from an experience not taught in school.
Fast forward fifteen years, and my passion for hotel accounting continues to burn as brightly as when I was that wide-eyed young general manager; only now, I like to pass that knowledge along to others who are just beginning their journey in the hospitality industry. When Dr. Cihan Cobanoglu, Dean of the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee College of Hospitality and Technology Leadership, approached our company to create a real-life learning environment centered around utilizing “real” hotel accounting software in the classroom, I could not have been more excited to be involved. Based on my own experience as a college student years ago, I immediately recognized the benefit of providing hospitality students a comprehensive picture of hotel accounting functions to help shape their understanding of the big picture. And even for those who do not aspire to be hotel managers, having an understanding of how every transaction ultimately affects the P&L and the hotel’s viability and profitability is invaluable knowledge for every member of the hospitality team.
The M3 University program was designed with both students and professors in mind. Assignments are created for students to log in to a full version of the industry-standard AccKnowledge® accounting software and follow step-by-step instructions to complete tasks. Each assignment builds upon itself, until the student ultimately has his or her very own P&L to review, and professors can straightforwardly grade the work by the results.
Now that I’m an avid fan of hotel accounting and a self-proclaimed expert on the topic, when offered the opportunity to teach as an adjunct professor at the USFSM College of Hospitality and Technology Leadership, I immediately accepted. I could not wait to use our accounting software platform in the classroom and give these students access to information that I wish I had known at the start of my hotel career.
My first class was a great mix of students with various levels of existing knowledge and experience with accounting. I was able to utilize the predefined assignments created for M3 University with ease and allow students the opportunity to work on their own time to complete the assignments. Our lecture topics for hospitality managerial accounting were easily aligned with the use of the software application. Students recorded their own revenue, expenses, and were even able to post journal entries. By the end of the semester, the students understood that money going out had to come from the money coming in, and I was confident that they were on the road to becoming competent managers who knew hotel accounting.
Technology has changed our world, both in business and in the classroom. Thanks to the tenacity of a forward-thinking educator and the willingness of a business to share its tools, at no cost, with the learning community, programs like M3 University offer today’s students a greater opportunity to be prepared for their careers than many in previous generations have had. I’m pleased to play a role in helping tomorrow’s GMs be a bit more prepared to take on hotel accounting than I was so many years ago.