Francine Manilow with Jerry Roper
Jerry has been the CEO of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce for the last 20 years and is now retiring.
During a recent retirement tribute to Jerry, Manilow Suites was the only small business to sponsor at the Gold Level. Throughout the years Jerry has treated us with the same caring and attention as he has the VIPs from the large corporations.
Manilow Suites has been a member of the chamber since 1986. The first Chamber golf outing I attended was cut short because of rain, so they handed out cigars to everyone! My, we have come a long way. Not too long ago Manilow Suites was the first woman-owned business to be a sponsor of the chambers golf outing.
A few years ago when I was complaining to Jerry that I couldn’t find a way to contact some executives from the large companies, he said to me, “You tell me who you want to meet and I’ll do the introductions.” I was so overwhelmed by his thoughtfulness, I never took advantage of his offer. And now the Chamber has a woman CEO, Teresa Mendel. We wish Teresa much success! Manilow Suites will support her in any way possible.
Throughout the years I have received snippets of advice on what “defines” a successful business or business woman. In the early years, the conversation was familiar and focused wholly on profits. Today, the conversation sounds far different.
Of course a successful business is defined by its profitability, but the scope of success encompasses a much broader picture. As a pioneering woman entrepreneur, I’ve taken the time to delve deeper into the meaning of success.
After 33 years building and branding our business, temporary housing, we have incorporated numerous unique touches that are exclusive to Manilow Suites. We have listened to our clients and guests. From this experience I have learned what the true meaning of success is.
I have learned that true success is derived from the impeccable reputation that we have earned from our most valuable resource – our clients and guests. In this age of instant–access technology, reputation is a key component in defining success.
Reputation should not be taken lightly and, in fact, can make or break your business or brand. I am personally grateful for the many reviews provided by our customers through online travel-related information and review websites, including Trip Advisor.
It is this accomplishment that provides me with a deep sense of satisfaction and continues to motivate me to achieve greater success. These reviews … make the years of blood, sweat and tears worth every moment. These reviews … equal success.
An incident recently happened at Manilow Suites that would best describe our definition of the word, “Responsive.”
It was Saturday morning just a couple weeks ago when the Manilow Suites telephone started ringing. The frantic calls came from the Grand Plaza building in Chicago.
A massive leak emanating from the 17th floor was flooding the tier six apartments all the way down to the ninth floor!
Someone turned on their bath faucet at 3 a.m. and fell asleep!
Manilow Suites had three apartments in the flood path and all were occupied.
Literally, within 15 minutes of the calls, Manilow Suites staff members were in the building. One of the apartments was badly damaged and our guest was quickly transferred to a vacant apartment within the building. The staff stayed late into the day until all three guests were comfortable in clean, dry apartments.
That is the Manilow Suites definition of Responsive.
We were thrilled to have Dr. Sharon Hadary as our special guest speaker for our recent luncheon. She has a new book out titled, “How Women Lead” and she has been a leader in creating social change for women for over two decades.
A small group of our top clients were invited and were part of the discussion about women in leadership roles.
The setting was perfect for lunch and our roundtable discussion. We utilized the party room at 215 W. Washington in Chicago.
The building is new, and Manilow Suites provides a number of beautifully furnished apartments for short term corporate housing.
Upon leaving, all guests expressed how much they enjoyed the thought provoking dialogue, and the food was great as well!
Sarah McWhorter, VP of Client Relations
I was working for a competing temporary housing company when I first met Francine.
I was asked to have lunch with Francine after the word that my current employer was closing their offices in Chicago. I had never met Mrs. M but was privy to the industry gossip surrounding her 30 year old company. Naturally, I was anxious to meet this legendary entrepreneur and curious as to what it might mean. Would she be offering me a job or was it simply a thank you recently assisting with some apartments for their overflow guests?
We met for lunch on the last week of my employment with my previous company. It was a lunch of mutual curiosity. Francine asked me certain questions to figure out if I might be a good fit and I answered honestly while trying to ascertain exactly what this woman wanted from me. After the lunch she asked me if I might want to join her team. I had to think about it. I was only 23 and still trying to figure out exactly what I was doing in Chicago. Naturally, I had to call my parents for advice.
I spoke to my mother and had her go to Francine’s website so they had an idea of who I had met with and the company I was potentially going to work for – immediately my mom said “Your father knows her!” It turns out, in 1982, during the first years of Manilow Suites, my dad rented apartments from Francine for a number of years for the Chicago Hardware show.
I thought, if she’s been in business that long and my dad has had a good experience, it must be a good company to work for!
I couldn’t have been more right. It’s incredible the freedom of working for an entrepreneurial company! I’ll admit it took a few months of getting used to, but now, I do not think I could ever work in any other environment. Each of us is able to make things happen every day with this company and launch Manilow Suites’ reputation even higher.
-Sarah Wynn McWhorter
Francine Manilow with Head Referee, Renee
We were so thrilled at how many people played our “guess the score game.” We had four tickets to give away to the Bulls 2nd home game. We asked our clients and guests to send us their predictions for the combined score of the Bulls home opener. Talk about luck! The gentleman who guessed the exact score was the same person who won the right to throw out the first pitch at the White Sox game. Our runner up, who was only two points off, is one of our newest clients.
I had the thrill of handing the game ball to the referee to start the game and even received a kiss from Benny the Bull! Sarah and I were on the court and some of the players actually came by to greet us. Six foot Sarah finally felt short!
Sarah and Francine on the court!
Our Manilow Suites team has so much fun finding not only new amenities and services for our short-term housing but many special and different events we can share with our clients and guests.
Two department stores in the Boca Raton mall sell the same product, but one sells it at a higher price. Some customers buy the product at a higher price knowing it is more expensive than the other store.Why?
The store with the higher price instructs its sales people to only take care of one customer at a time. The other instructs its sales people to assist as many customers as possible during the same time period. It only makes sense that if people want the one-on-one service they are willing to pay for it.
Now, is it not possible to receive the one-on-one service at the lower price? Yes, that’s what Manilow Suites is all about! We have been doing it year after year for 32 years.
An elderly man was sitting next to me on a flight from San
Diego to Chicago. He told me he was from Australia and spent a wonderful month
in Chicago a couple years ago. When I asked him where he stayed, he said with
gusto, “Why I stayed with Mrs. Manilow!”
Before I told him my name, I sheepishly asked, “How were the
accommodations?” “Great!” he said with excitement.
Relieved to hear the answer, I proudly presented my business card to him.
Word of mouth is still the best marketing technique when trying to acquire the right customer.
In small business, finding your niche is so important because it greatly limits the
amount of valuable resources spent marketing to the wrong customer.
I was looking at the web sites of other corporate housing companies today and I get so upset when I read copy or see pictures that I know are grossly exaggerated or not true. What seems like centuries ago, most print, radio and TV advertising had to be factual.
Today, on the web, anything goes. Rather than complain, with my 32 years of experience in this business, I will suggest several things to look for when choosing a short-term housing provider. I welcome anyone’s comments and let’s all expand on the theme.
When looking for corporate housing, the most popular key words are: corporate housing, temporary housing, and short-term housing.
Look at the pictures. Are they real pictures of their apartments, or are they pictures of model apartments? Does the web site only show pictures of the buildings and public spaces–such as the fitness room, pool, or lobby? If so, why aren’t they showing the interiors of their own apartments?
Hopefully, much more will follow next week.
Elegant corporate housing at 215 West
I have been looking at a few corporate housing companies’ websites, and there are things I found that are very troubling…
Have times changed! “Truth in advertising” really meant something when I first started this business. Now, on the internet you can make any claim and get away with it. I was just looking at some of the corporate housing companies’ web-sites and a few of their claims made me laugh. A couple of them even copied ideas I implemented long ago, and of course this is the sincerest form of flattery. But others are fooling people, and that gets me mad.
Let me continue to give you, from 32 years of experience in corporate housing, some tips on what to be aware of. Today, there are virtual companies. They claim they have temporary housing in X cities. Not true! They use local companies–and are looking, in many cases, for the cheapest rate so they can mark it up higher. Virtual companies are fine if their main concern is to find the very best to meet your needs. They will do the shopping for you.
Check back in a week for more on corporate housing!
Manilow Suites' Three Bedroom at North Harbor Tower
I was recently looking at the web sites of other corporate housing companies. Some of the claims are so exaggerated if not down-right untrue, so I would like to tell you what people should be aware of while looking for short-term housing. I’ll mention a few every week.
One site stated that someone was available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We called once on a week night and then on a weekend. The phone continued to ring and nobody answered.
Another company had a virual tour. Since so many have suggested I do the same, I thought I should take a look at it. Much to my amazement, the tour was of a model apartment in the building, not one of their short-term apartments. We all know that apartment models are strictly for show and are not functional.
While looking for corporate housing just check out some of the claims and ask what pictures actually show the type of the apartment they would have for you.
More to come next week!
Beautifully furnished apartment at Grand Plaza
Two ladies were talking about how concerned they were renting a house on Captiva Island for themselves and their fellow sorority sisters this past weekend. They rented the house using the internet and the pictures looked great. Ah, was the real thing going to look like those great pictures? This was going to be a very exciting time as they were all graduates from Bradley University in Peoria and all were turning 40 this year.
Just in case they were met with bitter disappointment, what was their recourse? None!
Many corporate housing companies show pictures of model apartments on their web sites but in some cases, that’s not what you find when you open the door to this dream apartment or house. What can you do before hand to avoid a potential disappointment or disaster?
First, ask for pictures of the apartment or pictures of apartments similar to what they are renting to you. Tell them if it does not meet their promises or expectations, what options will you have? What type of satisfaction guarantee do they have, if any. If they will not offer you anything, I suggest you find a different source.
Manilow Suites is one of few corporate housing companies that offers a satisfaction guarantee!
There is a special lady I would like to tell you about. I’m just sorry I cannot mention her name. Anyway, a little over two years ago she came to Chicago and toured all of the corporate housing companies.
We did not give her any rates other than our average rack rates. Yet, she called a couple weeks later and awarded us the contract to provide the short-term corporate housing for a large company going through a merger. That meant everyone from the CEO to the CFO, numerous senior and executive vice-presidents and so on.
Manilow Suites broke all records on the company’s survey. Out of over 100 employees, we had a 100% “yes, I would recommend Manilow Suites.” We also had other record breaking results never before attained by a vendor.
This lady is not special because she selected Manilow Suites, she is special because she trusted us.
She gave us the freedom to provide the corporate housing our way and asked us the “how’s.” And for that, we thank you. You will always be a special lady to us.
Actual Manilow Suites' apartment
Just as in any business, I have seen incredible changes within corporate housing. Often times I can equate the corporate housing world with “The Wild West,” where anything goes. Just look at some of the web sites. There are claims that companies have apartments all over the U.S. when in fact they do not have one of their own. Manilow Suites advertises that we partner with a select group of providers in a number of major cities.
When the internet really became available for small businesses, there were search engines that would not allow us to put in any keywords other than, as an example, “corporate housing Chicago.” They made companies prove to them that it actually had a physical location in any city it listed.There certainly is nothing wrong with partnering with other corporate housing companies; however, is it ethical to deceive potential customers? Do you view it as deceitful having people think the property belongs to your company, or does it really matter?
I’m certainly not going to change the world, but I would like to put this thought out there and hear what others may think about this.
Our beautifully appointed apartments are only outmatched by our responsiveness and flexibility.
What is corporate housing all about?
32 years ago, Manilow Suites was the first company in the United States to offer short-term housing. My frustration then was to prove to middle management, “no, we are not a rooming house!”
Now the greatest frustration is, “corporate housing can mean so many different things.” I just realized that I am doing very little on our web site to really show the incredible difference. We all talk about the building and apartments, but very little do we talk about the flexibility, responsiveness and quality.
A friend of mine has been an RN in a well-known Chicago area hospital for quite awhile. When I asked “would she be a patient there,” she surprisingly said, “no.” Her reason was that there were not enough doctors and nurses to take care of the number of patients.
Now, I know I am stretching it a bit comparing corporate housing to a hospital, but when a top executive yesterday had trouble hooking up his Mac to our Wi-fi, a Manilow Suites staff member was in his apartment within the hour. What price do you put on that? Manilow Suites has more staff members per number of apartments so that we can respond better and faster than any competitor.
All of our apartments are personalized for each individual guest.
Isn’t it amazing that so many corporate housing companies show pictures of apartments and have long lists of items the housekeepers should check (which of course is important), but very few temporary housing companies take the time to find out what the guests really need. Many times, the guest doesn’t know anything other than a location and possibly the size of an apartment.
Let me give you one recent example: Last week I had a call from a client who needed an apartment for a couple with two children. Meeting his request for the closest location would have been most inconvenient for his family. The closest location to his work is in the heart of downtown Chicago, which completely lacks any facilities for children. I suggested another location which is only 5 minutes further, but it would be far more convenient for his family. It has a playground, and with so many children living in the building, they have “play dates” in the hospitality room.
Sadly, too few corporate housing companies take the time or have the staff dedicated to truly finding out about the guests and suggesting better alternatives that may be more suitable to their needs.
In any business, from short-term housing to the local restaurant, consistency in quality and service can make or break you.
McDonalds best exemplifies the ultimate in consistency. When I was a flight attendant, I visited McDonalds in so many countries, from Paris to Beijing and Tokyo. They were all the same: clean, with gracious service and the same quality of food. No matter where I travel, my milk shakes always have a cherry on top of the whip cream. That is not true at Steak & Shake.
McDonalds always develops new offerings and is constantly updating their stores.
In my opinion, they know what to do to maintain the best company, and they never stagnate.
I have made sure that Manilow Suites follows in the same direction. Our apartments are always updated and maintained by our own staff. We spend time finding the best of everything from bathroom tissue to comfortable chairs. We are the only corporate housing company that provides something as simple as salt and pepper.
Yes, just like McDonalds, everything must be scrutinized and revisited.
If a member of the Manilow staff is not extraordinary, they will shortly take their talents elsewhere.
Courtney Ewing, Marketing & Communications Manager
I came to Manilow Suites via DePaul University’s online job board. I was thrilled by the prospect of working in the hospitality industry, a subject I was minoring in at DePaul. When I was called in for the interview, I didn’t know what to think when I was shown upstairs to an apartment. I walked in to find another intern had already been hired, my chances looked bleak. I was so thrilled when I got the call saying I was hired that I ran in my then boss’s office screaming that I had a new job and would be leaving.
Knowing nothing about corporate housing, except what I found on the internet, I was shocked to learn that Manilow Suites worked with the same relocation companies as my father. Having worked in a small business all of my life, I was not overwhelmed by the fast paced environment of a small business. My first day in the office, I was immediately thrown into the mix and began managing all of the social media, meeting with the CEO and training with a consultant. Two years later, I am still building my role at Manilow Suites with fun and exciting projects.