THE BLOG
02/13/2017 05:52 pm ET

CEO: Why I Force my Team to Travel

At Stash, we don't have many strict rules, handbooks, policies or dress codes. The fact is, we haven't needed them. (Only once has someone shown up at a team meeting wearing jorts. And it's because I -- I mean "that employee" -- lost a bet.)

I've been told by counterparts in the business that as a company grows, so will the need for formal rules and clear policies. With that in mind, I decided to beat them to the punch and make a couple of official policies.

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No Vacation Policy-Policy: This faux-policy is borrowed from Netflix's Culture Guide: "No vacation-policy does not mean no vacation." It just means nobody is tallying up how many days you take off because there is 12' of fresh powder in the mountains. Or because you want to take a road trip with your kids before they're too old to protest. Or because Venice is sinking and you'd better get there quick. We hire people who are relentless and empowered to get the job done, but trusted to make sure they take time off to unplug and return invigorated.

Why?
Nobody should feel like their job or their manager is running their life. Asking for time off feels like asking your 3rd grade teacher if you can use the bathroom. We trust that you'll do what you need to do, when you need to do it. Whether that's putting in a few extra hours one day to meet a deadline, or taking a vacation.

It makes us more interesting to work with. When we get together as a team we don't just talk shop, and there's very little small talk. You're more likely to hear: "That reminds me of the time I was hitchhiking on the boarder of South Africa and Zimbabwe..." or "So there I was, handing a beer to a gigantic pig at this rainforest pub in St. Croix..."

Nearly-Mandatory Hotel Stay Policy: We created the Nearly-Mandatory Hotel Stay Policy to ensure that our whole team gets out to see and experience the unbelievable independent hotels in our network. Beyond official visits, each employee must stay in Stash Partner Hotels 2-3 times per year. The company covers the cost of the room as long as the employees report back on their experience. It's nearly mandatory because we're not going to penalize anyone if they don't take us up on it. But why wouldn't they?

Why?
We need to see our industry and our product through the eyes of our members. Traveling is 10x more powerful (and 200x more fun) than crunching survey data.
And everyone, regardless of their position, needs to meet our partners, shake their hands, and dole out some hugs or high-fives (as appropriate). By visiting our partners, we learn world-class hospitality that we take into our jobs and lives.
Above all, it reminds us why we love independent hotels, and why we fight tooth-and-nail to empower them to stay independent.

As Stash grows, we'll continue to add fearless travelers to our team. People with passion for meaningful travel, the heart to defend it, and the brains to do something about it. And unless we see more jorts at company events, I don't see the need for any more policies in our future.

Jeffrey Low is founder and CEO at Stash Hotel Rewards, the largest loyalty program for independent hotels in North America. Stash helps independent hotels fill more rooms, win more groups and meetings, and recognize their best guests. US News & World Report recently ranked Stash as one of the Top Hotel Loyalty Programs in the US. Stash has also been featured in numerous publications including The New York Times, Inc., and Condé Nast Traveler, and it was named an Innovation of the Year by Hotel News Now.

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