For more than 20 years, Tim Dixon has developed more than $120 million in commercial, residential and hospitality properties. His Iron Horse Hotel in Milwaukee has received numerous accolades and is a AAA Four Diamond Award winner. Dixon explains how the hotel overcame a rocky financial start during the Great Recession.
“The Iron Horse Hotel opened in September of 2008 and became the first luxury independent and boutique hotel to cater to business and leisure travelers, local patrons and motorcycle enthusiasts alike. The concept was simple — create an unforgettable experience representing all that is relevant and important about the Milwaukee, Wisconsin market for all guests whether they arrive on two wheels or four.
“Unfortunately, just one day before we opened, Lehman Brothers collapsed and that day is when many felt the Great Recession truly began.
“Our investors walked. We had no working capital. Only 80 rooms of 100 were done. There was no money to complete the restaurant. In simple terms, we were done before we even started.
“I had only one asset left in my arsenal: The Iron Horse staff. These people and their unwavering belief in the hotel is what kept us from being another casualty of the recession.
“There are three words I live and lead by: kindness, love and fun. These words have been the basis of what allowed the hotel, facing insurmountable odds, to not only to survive, but to thrive.
“Kindness — I am often asked how we train our people to be so nice. We don’t! We hire nice people and then train them in their skill set. The hospitality business is all about the interaction of the staff with guest. That initial and continued engagement throughout the stay needs to be genuine and comfortable.
“Love — As in, ‘I would take a bullet for the team,’ is part of our culture. We are a family. We watch out for each other. We prop up each other’s weakness and accentuate each other’s strengths.
“Fun — Work is and should be serious business. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have fun doing it. We are in the hospitality business. It’s about delivering an experience. Affability is a great trait. It’s contagious. We all enjoy each other and find fun in what we do every day. The guests feel it and our family loves it.
“So, to my point. The last three years have been challenging for most businesses. In fact, in the hospitality industry, the mortality rate has been the highest since the Great Depression. But despite opening in one of the most challenging economic environments in memory, this unique 100-room hotel and its remarkable staff and some simple words to live by, has surpassed all room revenue projections, quickly becoming the rate and occupancy leader in the market and favorite of the locals for drink, food, and fun…”