After celebrating a 10-year anniversary, it was time to discover more about the driving forces behind SiteMinder’s ongoing success. In this four-part interview series, co-founders Mike Ford and Mike Rogers talk about their business philosophies, share their expertise, and take a deep dive into SiteMinder’s industry-leading products.
Today, managing director Mike Ford speaks about how SiteMinder has developed a unique brand personality and become a world-leading platform hotels can rely on to optimise their online distribution, direct bookings, and own brand websites.
As discussed in the first post of this blog series, SiteMinder’s ability to not only outlast the majority of start-up businesses but maintain an accelerated state of growth is more than impressive.
In just 10 years the company has become a world leader in online distribution and direct booking technology, offering hotels a holistic cloud-based platform that includes the industry’s most widely-adopted channel manager, a direct bookings engine, website creator, pricing intelligence solution and a GDS.
You’d be forgiven for assuming SiteMinder’s inception was founded on a long and rich history in the hospitality industry, given how well it serves the needs of property owners and hotel managers.
This isn’t the case.
In fact, Mike Ford makes a point of defining the distinction.
“The ethos of our company is something that makes us different, we weren’t hoteliers at all when we started SiteMinder. We took distribution purely from the viewpoint of people who didn’t know the industry but just understood the problem. We focused on using smart technology as a solution, so ultimately, we were always a technology company rather than a hospitality company.”
This approach led to the creation of integrated, sophisticated, and simple software-as-a-service technology. The focus on smart technology is not something that has changed, nor is it likely to, according to Mike.
“We’ve invested heavily in our research and development so even 10 years later we continue to be, first and foremost, a technology company. We’ve built everything ourselves from the ground up. Our technology stack is very scaleable, very fast, and very reliable.”
In the end a product will only carry you so far. It’s the service you provide to customers that keeps a business strong. A responsive and global approach to service has always been something SiteMinder is proud of, and one of the reasons Mike lists for SiteMinder’s continued success.
“We’ve had an unrelenting commitment to service from day one. We now have service, sales, and customer support in the languages of the countries in which we operate, so in any region we’re like a local player.”
Adding to this level of service is SiteMinder’s commitment to cater for the entire industry, rather than dedicating all its resources to large hotel groups.
“Our products do span the entire industry”, Mike says. “We have technology that is very simple to use but at the same time is very sophisticated so anyone from a small B&B, to a large independent, or a chain can use our platform. Features can be switched on or off depending on the requirements and the persona of who is using the product.”
When SiteMinder was initiated, the main focus was on solving the issue hotels had in updating their connections with booking sites like online travel agents. However, with The Channel Manager being so successful, the platform quickly evolved to begin developing new products and integrations to tackle direct bookings, corporate business, pricing intelligence, and website optimisation.
The upscale development of SiteMinder injected some much needed innovation into the industry, one which was lagging, says Mike.
“Travel technology was way behind other industries – it was kind of left in the past whereas other industries had modernised and started using cloud-based platforms a lot earlier. That was an opportunity we saw. Technology companies weren’t evolving because they were doing well, they had a large customer base, and hotels weren’t demanding more. We brought a new and fresh cloud technology to market.”
The past few years have seen the industry start to catch up, with many new companies emerging in SiteMinder’s field, propelling the travel sphere to equal terms with the rest of the world, something Mike ultimately sees as a positive.
“I think it’s a challenge and it’s an opportunity. Luckily we play a very important part in integrating a hotel system to all of the new technologies. As good as these technologies are, you always need integration to take place because I think data integration is a key part of the future. Basically you can have 10 different applications that do 10 different things for you but if they all operate independently the hotel gets what we call ‘technology fatigue’.
SiteMinder’s been very active in that integration space and helping applications talk to each other effectively.”
One of the reasons for SiteMinder’s success is the strategy which he and Mike Rogers employ in developing software.
Smaller, agile teams that work parallel to each other allows for greater communication and innovation within the company. Mike says this is a major weapon for SiteMinder to address the critical need of responding quickly to the industry’s shifting landscape.
“There’s still a lot of opportunities in travel where problems are being addressed by outdated methods, so we have a chance to change the way things are done in the future. That’s very exciting for us because we feel we’re very good at building software and solving problems.
Ultimately, this means SiteMinder is still fairly early on in its growth journey.”
With a company the size of SiteMinder to run, it can be hard to escape the office and switch off from work, admits Mike, but there are certain pleasures that make his busy life easier.
“Relaxing isn’t always easy, but surfing is one of my main outlets. It helps take the stress away. Water is good for that. I try to surf in the morning so I’m limited to Manly, Freshwater, or Curl Curl but it’s not a bad choice on the northern beaches of Sydney! I also try to carve out time with my young family, so that takes my mind off work as well.”