Oklahoma native Mike Hembree developed his fi rst hotel in 1983 with family investors after working in the restaurant business for many years. Since then, Hembree and his family have continuously owned and operated limited-service hotels. Now chairman of the IHG Owners Association, Hembree currently owns a two-year-old Holiday Inn Express in Oklahoma City and is constructing a Candlewood Suites in the same location, scheduled to open in 2014.
Lodging: What was your first IHG property?
Mike Hembree: In 1988, I did a Holiday Inn Express down by the Oklahoma City airport, and it quickly became clear that we were better at limited-service properties that were a little higher end and that my company made a better team with IHG and the Holiday Inn Express brand than we did with some of the other brands.
Lodging: What do you find rewarding about being a franchisee?
Hembree: IHG is good about investing in its owners and trying to add value, which is why Holiday Inn Express works so well for us. It’s high touch, high service, and driven by a small staff that’s very engaged with customers. I think IHG works that way too. My support team there is engaged, stays concentrated on the things that really matter, and is continuing to focus that way.
Lodging: What advice can you offer potential franchisees?
Hembree: Find a great location. Keep your debt as low as you possibly can. Don’t overleverage. You can always weather the storm if you aren’t in a situation where you’ve overestimated what the asset will produce.