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Choice Hotels Franchisees Get A Lot Of TLC From Headquarters.

State of the Art, High-Tech Facility Puts New Franchisees on the Fast Track.

If there is one franchise company that really enjoys putting TLC into welcoming its new franchisees, it's Choice Hotels International, which franchises the Comfort, Quality, Clarion, Econo Lodge, Sleep, Rodeway Inn and MainStay Suites brands. The company's five-day training program, called Total Lodging by Choice, or TLC, is a mandatory orientation for hotel owners and general managers new to the Choice Hotels franchising system, and it's designed to show them all of the resources that will be available to them for as long as they are franchisees.

What's really impressive about Choice's training program is more than the course material, albeit thorough; it's the facility they built to run the classes. More on that later.

TLC training has several main components, beginning with the way students are grouped. They fall into one of three categories: those who have never owned a Choice Hotels property, those who have never owned a hotel, and those who have never owned a franchise. Once in the right class, the training begins. Topics include competition, marketing, building the hotel, reservations, guest relations, staffing management, operations, and budget, which leads to the second TLC component: case studies.

Students' mornings are spent participating in presentations on each of the above topics. Their afternoons are spent applying their new knowledge to case studies that mirror the opening of a new hotel. After a day of orientation and overview, the week goes something like the following.

Students jump right into an intensive program beginning with a presentation on the company's marketing programs and strategies for developing a marketing plan. During the first case study session, students determine their sales and marketing budget, complete a marketing activity planner, plan a grand opening event, including finding entertainment, developing advertising, writing press releases, revising revenue forecasts, and recording sales and marketing budget figures for use later in the week.

By Day Four, TLC students are learning all about staffing and the legal issues of hiring and interviewing. Here the case study allows them to prepare job descriptions, create job announcements, write interview questions, conduct interviews, select candidates, negotiate salaries and update the budget, all the while making sure their staff selection process is legally sound.

Then, it's on to outlining the first year's budget, including allocating for payroll, insurance, royalties, and other non-negotiables, such as electricity and cable television bills. At the end of the week, each student presents his or her budget to the class.

What really knocks new franchisees' socks off is that all this training is conducted at Choice's new, high tech facility at the company's Silver Spring, Md. corporate headquarters: a $2.3 million state-of-the-art building made up of "team rooms" that upon entrance gives the not-so-subtle impression that the future is here, now. Students learn all about their new undertaking at computers with Internet-connected infrared keyboards, or at laptops with online connectors.

The operation has video teleconferencing capability, the latest audio-visual gadgetry, and DVD technology. Instructors can project class materials onto wall-sized screens for all students to see, or scan students' work and zap individual aid right to their Pentium III-powered PCs.

The final aspect of Choice's training is a tour of corporate headquarters, where new franchisees meet with the people that will help them for the duration of their franchise contract. At points during the week, all students have lunch with President and CEO Charles Ledsinger, Jr., Senior Vice President of Franchise Operations Steve Schultz, and Senior Vice President of Administration Tom Mirgon.

"When they leave here, they have 20 other people they can call for support," Choice Learning Center Director Pat Murphy said in a recent interview. "In terms of professional growth, being able to network in a positive setting is key."

Now, if you've got training center envy and wish you had a facility like this one, Choice is willing to make it available to other groups for both on-site and distance learning when not in use by businesses in the surrounding county, according to Murphy. She can be reached at 301-592-6672.
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Title Annotation:Total Lodging by Choice training program
Publication:Franchising World
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2000
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