Janis Cannon—senior vice president of Choice Hotels International’s upscale brands Ascend Hotel Collection and Cambria Hotels—has often been noted as one of the most powerful women in hospitality. When she was a kid, she wanted to be a farmer. “It’s so multidimensional,” Cannon explains. “You have to be a bit of a scientist, biologist, preacher, meteorologist, innovator, accountant, mechanic—it goes on and on.” Hospitality, she asserts, is not a significant departure from providing and growing something that benefits others. “I’ve just found a way to farm in the hotel business,” she muses. Cannon grows brands from the ground up.
Since joining Choice last year, Cannon has made strides in solidifying a market-dominant position for Ascend and Cambria. The upscale brands have opened or are slated to open soon in all of the top 10 U.S. markets.
Ascend will add 45 U.S. properties to its portfolio this year in addition to the 186 open hotels worldwide. At the same time, Cannon is pushing to make sure that upscale owners and operators have access to the resources in Choice’s toolkit and know how to leverage and maximize them for market-leading performance.
With more brands entering the arena every day on top of increasingly frequent mergers and acquisitions, positioning Choice’s upscale brands to stand out in a crowded field is critical. “We’re staying really close to our customer and making sure that our brands stand for something, stay true to guests, and provide a really valuable, relevant, and differentiated experience,” she explains.
Providing that level of tuned-in service is key, and one of Cannon’s biggest concerns is the industry’s race for talent, particularly at the property level. “It’s really important that our hotel owners attract the best and brightest talent and achieve a diverse workforce as well.”
While attracting talent is a challenge, Cannon says, the career growth that the hospitality industry offers is a strength. “Say you’re new to this country, you can get an entry-level position, and work your way up to a top-level role,” Cannon explains. “Our business is strong and will remain strong in the long term. We have new hotels opening, which creates jobs. And, we ultimately enhance the quality of life for people who work in our hotels, as well as for guests.”
Cannon sees leadership as a partnership to engage stakeholders in a shared vision—whether they are employees, management companies, or the like. She’s a strong proponent of celebrating success and employee accomplishments, both big and small.
“If I can help other people to achieve their goals—growing people, growing brands, and also growing our business and industry—then that’s the greatest satisfaction of all,” she explains. “You don’t build brands without people.”