Kerry Ranson developed his entrepreneurial spirit at a young age—all the way back to his high school days in New Orleans, La. As a teen with a car, he learned how to parlay what he did have into something more. At that time, he would clean his parent’s house weekly for an allowance; however, he realized that he could get the work done more efficiently with a little help from his friends. So he sub-contracted the work to his friends in exchange for rides in his car and kept the allowance. It was his first foray into managing a business.
He got his first taste of hospitality a few years later while in college when he began working in the food and beverage industry, which ultimately led to a job with the restaurant chain, Ruby Tuesday’s. He held his first multi-unit role as a traveling training manager and later as a regional manager while living in Mississippi. It was in one of the restaurants he managed that he got his introduction into the hotel business.
“I was working one of the restaurants because I had to let a general manager go and there was a guy who came in everyday and inquired about my services,” Ranson recalls. “To make a long story short, I ended up at Wilson Hotel Management.”
Next came an encounter with Steve Wynn. Through an associate of Ranson’s, Wynn and Mirage Hotels recruited Ranson to help open the Beau Rivage Resort in Biloxi, Miss. “I turned down the opportunity twice, but when Steve Wynn shows up at your door it’s hard to say no,” Ranson says. The experience set him off in an entirely new direction in his career.
In 1999, he joined IHG as an area director, a position that introduced him to IAHI, the owner’s association of IHG. Today, Ranson serves on the
association’s board of directors—the youngest person ever to join the board. He serves in his current capacity as an owner and operator even though he left IHG to get back to his entrepreneurial spirit in 2002, when he was instrumental in the founding of HP Hotels.
HP Hotels started with six properties, but today has 35 hotels in 16 states with six more in the construction phase.
By chance, Ranson has since found himself on the move once again, this time closer to home. Two years ago, he and his wife, Elizabeth, gave birth to triplet daughters. With a new group to manage at home, Ranson found himself looking for an opportunity to travel less and remain closer to his rapidly growing family. “HP Hotels has properties all over the place, in 16 states,” he says. “With triplets at home it gets tough to travel so much.”
Through a chance discussion with an associate, he found himself in the running for the COO position at Expotel Hospitality Services, a hotel management company based in Louisiana. This fall, he joined Expotel and is helping the company with its growth plans, which center extensively on the Gulf Coast Region.
He points to the fact that many hotels in Louisiana and the Gulf Coast are operated by companies based as far away as Pennsylvania as an opportunity. He believes there is an opportunity to bring a more localized management to the region. “There’s a tremendous opportunity here,” he says. “I think a lot of hotels would like to have a management company that is able to be there more often.”
And as for managing his triplet daughters, he says it’s not much different than managing multiple hotels. “They all have their own personalities,” he quips.