Yannis Moati is the CEO of HotelsByDay, a booking platform for daytime hotel stays. Yannis has a rich background of 15 years in travel, from guiding tours in Europe at a young age to co-founding an exotic travel agency and then directing a New York-based global tour operator company. In 2015, Yannis gathered some of the hospitality industry’s brightest to form HotelsByDay & FlexBook, two innovative solutions for hotels to monetize unused room inventory by giving guests new ways to stay.
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Tell us a little bit about your current projects. What exciting milestone would you like to share with our readers? (Don’t hesitate to delve into your achievements, they will inspire the audience)
Yannis Moati: As it turns out, Covid has been an opportunity for our company: While we did lose 82% of our business back in April 2020, we actually bounced back faster than the night operators, with a strong segment of our demand being the use of a private room for the day to use as a workstation, as a means of escaping the confinement of working from home!
That segment of using dayrooms as workstations shot up from 9% of our traffic to more than 35% now. And it makes complete sense! Hotels are phenomenal real estate for work: just like any coworking space out there, they can offer comfortable chairs and desks to work on, strong coffee, strong and secure WiFi, and a whole lot of kombucha!
But better even than coworking, hotels also offer amenities that you can enjoy! Like a swimming pool, so that you can take 30 minutes to break for a swim and come back reinvigorated. You can also use the fitness room and the Spa. You have breakfast available, sometimes included in the daytime rates, as well as the option to order food and drinks all day long.
As it turns out, a realization smacked us in the face during Covid: Hotels are THE ONLY real estate in the world to perfectly marry work & living altogether! No other piece of real estate offers that spectrum of services and versatility. And that’s why we’re on a tear right now: bookings are stronger than ever before in the history of our company, as we’re now offering both leisure and work options, all on the same roof.
And to crown this achievement, for the very first time in our company’s existence, and as a matter of fact, for the very first time in our sector of daytime rentals, we are contracting with a global hotel chain, for direct connectivity to supply and rates! It’s a major big deal, as it will allow us to jump to a whole new category, and 5X our current supply!
To summarize, Covid helped us establish our company and bring our sector to new heights.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up?
Yannis Moati: Yes. I absolutely did think of quitting that first year!
You see, in year one, our results came below the rosy scenarios we set ourselves in during the seed fundraising round. We faced strong resistance from the hotels we attempted to sell our model to, and the poor results at the end of the first year lead to some finger-pointing. Very regrettably, this led to open battles with our lead investor, which poisoned the well in our company’s culture. The original founding team quit, and things looked very bleak. Yet at that time, I was doing customer service, answering emails and phone calls from our guests, and most were very positive about the daytime experience they had at our partner properties. They loved the service and wanted to let me know of it, by calling, emailing, and asking for more cities to provide our service to. It was a wave of good feedback which forced me to stick around for another 6 months, for their sake… And the rest is history.
What are the most common mistakes you see entrepreneurs make and what would you suggest they do?
Yannis Moati: Frankly, I think there’s a rush to build, launch, fundraise, that I find quite unhealthy, to be honest.
It leads to cutting corners, cheating, and lying about past errors. I’ve seen countless entrepreneurs drinking the kool-aid thinking they’re in a much better position than they really are. And when you lose the genuine core of the why what, how you do things, then you lose yourself as well. And that’s a shame. I think it’s due to the influence of the media & social networks that always bring to the forefront the success stories and when you cannot relate, you twist yourself in a pretzel to attempt to achieve the same success story.
Don’t get me wrong: fake it till you make it real, but that’s more like a white lie, or a mindset of positive thinking so that you build the reality you wish for yourself. That’s fine. But the rush, the breaking, the pettiness, for the sake of the ego trip of building fast and failing fast seems to me like a mad rush to nowhere. On the contrary, I gain a lot of sense of peace and relativity when I put myself in the mindset that I am building a company for the next 100 years, not 100 days. That allows me to build stronger relationships, plans for the long term, it gives me time to listen and grants me the serenity that we’re on the right path, even at the worst of times. Or possibly: particularly at the worst of times.
To conclude: my advice is to build for 100 years. Build strong. Be patient. Believe in what you’re doing and don’t compare yourself to anyone else. It’s hard to unplug from society’s pressures and unfollow the beaten path. But it’s daily work. After all, what leads us to be entrepreneurs is to stray from the beaten path. So let’s follow up on this spirit of non-conformity. It will pay off.
Is there a particular podcast you listened to, or business thought leader that you find helpful while maneuvering this pandemic?
Yannis Moati: Yes! Quite a few as a matter of fact!
First, for perspective and intelligent conversations on the zeitgeist: The Prof. G podcast by Scott Galloway. Then, a daily dose of philosophy with the ‘Daily Stoic’ podcast. Of course, a bit of the ‘Tim Ferris show’ for super smart and inspiring life stories. Without forgetting the classics, like ‘Master of Scale’ by Reid Hoffman, as well as Simon Sinek’s podcast for mental vitamins! And on weekends: ‘Revolutions’ by Mike Ducan, exploring the most fascinating political revolutions from the 1600s to today.
What is most important to your organization—mission, vision, or values?
Yannis Moati: Our mission ties up to our values, and I am proud to share them, as follows:
- Serve Happiness – HotelsByDay adds flexibility to peoples’ schedules and generates extra revenue for hotels via rooms that would otherwise sit empty during the day. It’s through these roles in the on-demand and sharing economies that we aim to be a source of continual satisfaction for our guests and partners.
- Empower People – To us, empowerment means giving people options they did not have previously. From our internal team and hotel partners to our beloved guests, our partnership honors the individual and protects their identity.
- Create Experience – Our mission is to offer memorable lodging experiences through a convenient, on-demand booking process. A tarnished experience is unacceptable to us. We’ll always do everything we can to make things right.
- Think Respect – Our most important value, respect, starts with self-awareness. To radiate respect in every interaction, one must think about it first. We hold ourselves accountable and empathically aware of everyone with whom we interact and do business.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success?
Yannis Moati: Resilience, Diplomacy, Ingenuity.
Being a CEO of the company, do you think that your personal brand reflects your company’s values?
Yannis Moati: Yes of course! As we lead the ship, we imprint our Modus Operandi on it.
So a resounding yes: who you are as a leader will come through in the company’s culture, values, and MO as well.
Larry Yatch, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Yannis Moati for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Yannis Moati or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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