Bruce Haase on Creating an Action Plan That Stood Up to COVID-19

Bruce Haase President and CEO of Extended Stay America

Extended Stay America, Inc., CEO Bruce Haase says the pandemic has been a challenge, one that demonstrated the importance of leadership, as well as that old scout adage: be prepared. However, he makes clear, he has not been leading the charge alone, saying, “It has absolutely been a team effort.”

Haase points out how the company was prepared for the inevitable crises that nearly all businesses face—although this one, in particular, came as a surprise. “We were financially well-prepared for this moment, so we faced the pandemic with a well-funded, solid balance sheet. We did not have to dip into reserves or take Paycheck Protection Program funds.”

Haase says their transient business was largely impacted to the same extent as that of their competitors, so they quickly switched gears to identify and secure new sources of business. “When it became clear in March that transient business was going away, we scrapped our old incentive plans in the field and put in new ones, so everyone was aligned on driving extended-stay business. We rewarded and incentivized our field sales, revenue management, and property operations people to go out and find business—mainly in essential services, including construction, healthcare, warehousing, and distribution.”

Of course, ESA was not unscathed by the disruption. Some properties struggled on rate, and it took time to reach the occupancy levels they are at now.


Haase maintains that being able to keep its corporate and field management teams in place throughout was crucial to the current and future viability of the company. “Unlike many of our competitors, we did not terminate, furlough, or cut back hours of our corporate or property management teams. In fact, we were able to pay incentive compensation for the extraordinary performance that our particular field sales, revenue management, and operations teams were able to deliver to fill up our hotels. This has not only gotten us through this crisis but enables us to focus on the future of the company, something that can be difficult to do when you are trying to survive.”

In the spirit of “what does not kill you makes you stronger,” Haase says, this experience has led to an even stronger company. “People feel like they’re winners, and we are focused on the future.”

Read LODGING‘s full story on how Extended Stay America is making the best of the worst of times here.


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