Aaron Anderson, managing partner at Merit Hospitality, shares changes how he has navigated the pandemic and found opportunities in both his personal and professional life.
Do you think the last year changed your perspective on work, but also on life in general and the way that you approach things?
Absolutely! I used to travel a lot—around 120 flights a year—and I really missed my family. Now I’m much more strategic about travel that I must take versus doing it because you’re just in this mode and it’s what has always been done. I think it’s allowed me to budget better. I think I’ve learned to be more tactical—to complete my work and strategize without actually having to get on a plane.
In terms of working with partners or clients, have you changed your approach other than not meeting as much in person?
I’ve increased my approach to checking on people. I check in on my clients a lot more. I think everyone has had someone affected by this pandemic in some way, shape, or form. It’s not necessarily just the virus, but domestic violence, depression, the increase in divorce rates. I found myself calling people not even to talk about business, but to say, “Hey, how are you doing? How’s life? What are you doing to stay busy?” You just engage in people’s lives and make sure people are genuinely okay.
How have you found opportunities business-wise?
Thinking outside the box. We knew that hotels are distressed and they need people who have capital expertise to come in and help them reposition their capital, or finish up those capital projects, or finding a capital partner to complete projects. There are many people who weren’t in the hotel industry prior who are saying, “Oh I want to be a hotelier, hotel’s are going to be dirt cheap,” but they haven’t run a hotel before. So we’ve found opportunities where we’ve gotten calls from people saying, “Hey, if you’d like equity, maybe we can work something out.” So, once again, just being open-minded to where you’re going.
Are there any escapes that you’ve found?
Being in Georgia, we have Charleston, South Carolina within five hours, he have Birmingham, Alabama within four and a half hours, and we have Savannah, Georgia. There’s all these little resort markets that I’ve never taken advantage of in the past. My wife and I have hopped in the car maybe five or six times and driven five hours, stayed two nights somewhere, and you can enjoy these little markets and things we’ve never done in the past. I think it’s important to take advantage of things around you rather than just dismissing them.