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Checking In With Kokua Hospitality President Kirk Pederson

Checking In With Kokua Hospitality President Kirk Pederson

San Francisco-based management company Kokua Hospitality was founded in 2005 when hotel investment company Charters Lodging Group decided to explore independent management opportunities. Named for the Hawaiian concept of “giving to others for their benefit,” Kokua took off, adding properties from all over the United States to its portfolio. Kirk Pederson, president of Kokua Hospitality, spoke with LODGING about the company’s unique brand identity and how it helps third-party owners “control their own destiny.”

Where is Kokua’s growth coming from?
Our growth comes from many different places. Our headquarters is in San Francisco, and a lot of our growth is bolstered by our West Coast location. Over the last three to four years, many West Coast management companies have consolidated with big East Coast operators. We see this as an opportunity to be the manager of choice for the West Coast and Hawaii-focused, because that’s where we are and that’s where our expertise is. That doesn’t mean we won’t manage assets across the country—we also have properties in New York, Chicago, and Houston—that’s just our focus for growth.

What’s the secret to a good 
management partnership?
Honesty, transparency, and communication. You have to be able to tell an owner what is and isn’t working. It could be a property, management, or market issue, but having open and honest communication with an owner lets you maximize profits and boost the value the hotel. Whether it’s good or bad, we talk about it.

How can a management company position 
itself for new opportunities?
You have to know your strengths and understand them to grow. We’re small, we’re nimble, we’re entrepreneurial, and if an owner wants something done, we can literally do it tomorrow. There’s no red tape. We pride ourselves on that. Also, we consider ourselves an owner’s manager. We’re not doing our job unless we’re making our owners money. We want the owner to be proud of their hotel and the profitability that’s coming from operations.

Is there anything that keeps you up at night?
How am I going to provide more opportunities for my team? That keeps me awake at night. I know this industry is very competitive, and I want to be able to provide an environment where my team thrives and has long-term growth opportunities. Already, we see people in our properties growing in their roles at our individual properties, moving from housekeeper to supervisor, to sales, to GM. But to have people grow in their roles, I need to have opportunities for them to grow.

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