Turning the tide
Business View Magazine interviews representatives of Broadband Hospitality for our focus on Innovation in Communications Technology
The true measure of a company’s performance isn’t how it looks during times of prosperity and abundance, but where it stands in moments of challenge and uncertainty, and how quickly it adapts and adjusts itself to bring the situation back into balance. As the pandemic moved headlong in 2020, profoundly affecting the global economy (mostly the tourism and hotel markets) and disrupting the lives of billions, Broadband Hospitality (BBH) had its hands full uncovering opportunities to survive and thrive in the “new normal” of a post-COVID-19 world. In a lesson about what can happen when the leader and heart of a company – in this case, CEO and owner, Vince Lucci – is temporarily taken out of the equation, BBH banded to create what’s likely to be an enduring shift in strengthening its management team, its customer base, and product offerings moving forward.
Headquartered in Youngstown, Ohio and currently supporting over 1,000 customers nationwide, BBH is a single source provider of innovative communications technology solutions that help hotels, resorts, apartment complexes, student housing properties, and senior living communities enhance the experience for their guests and residents. In late 2019, BBH was fresh off the acquisition of Fort Lauderdale, FL-based Allin Interactive, which expanded BBH’s reach into the casino, resort and work-live-play multi-use development markets “We quickly generated significant momentum showing the overall value of bundling BBH and Allin technology,” reports John Troutwine, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing. “That’s where the Allin acquisition and the interactive products that it brought to the table – mobile applications, in particular – was really felt.”
Taking advantage of that momentum in the midst of COVID-19 was challenging but in 2020 the company was proud to announce two exciting new partnerships with the privately-owned hotel-and-casino combos, Circus Circus Las Vegas and Treasure Island, plus a 10-year exclusive technology marketing agreement to provide services to the Eastfield Crossing development currently under construction in the Raleigh, NC metropolitan area. “These agreements affirmed our justification for the Allin acquisition and as a result I think the future’s extremely bright,” says Lucci, with words weighed by the experience of having contracted the coronavirus himself. On March 21st, 2020, Lucci was admitted to hospital and spent the next 14 days in an induced coma, requiring intubation and invasive ventilation to fight off the disease.
“When I step back and reflect on the last year, the Las Vegas partnerships and the North Carolina deal alone have given us an amazing ‘leg-up’ and, quite frankly, some very good exposure in our industry,” Lucci says. “We’re set up for a significant amount of growth in the next two years.” During Mr. Lucci’s extended recuperation, the flexibility of BBH’s operations to deal with so many adverse conditions gave the CEO confidence that, even in his absence, his team would continue to deliver work at the highest possible standards. He wasn’t wrong. The staff rallied under Chief Operating Officer Jason Yu’s command, and the company arguably came out stronger on the other side.
“It all goes back to the Allin Interactive acquisition,” Lucci states. “When we merged the companies together, Jason assembled the executive team that would ultimately carry us through this whole thing. He was brilliant at singling out the outstanding performers and placing them where they’d be most effective. When I went down, I didn’t worry one bit about all this. And through my recovery, which took about six months, Jason was instrumental in allowing me to take the little step back that I needed.” Lucci insists he’s better positioned in his professional role now than he ever was before. “It’s not a bad thing to be more hands-off, and I am now,” the CEO admits, with the same kind of candor and refreshing lucidity that have underpinned BBH’s narrative and overall message since the pandemic began.
“We can all hide behind anything that we want,” says Troutwine. “But transparency was of utmost importance to us in 2020. In fact, I think it was the foundational core of how we got to where we did. Because when your CEO is in the hospital, there’s a part of you that says, ‘Well, I don’t want our customers, our vendors, our potential clients, to know about that. I don’t want it to reduce the confidence they have in us being their partner.’ But at the end of the day, people wanted to know. People wanted to reach out to us, and to Vince. And the fact that our leadership team was able to just take the ball and run with it in Vince’s absence, that turned out to be a big positive in their eyes.”
Like so many businesses, BBH headed into January of last year with a crystal-clear picture of who they were, what they wanted to do, and where they wanted to go. “We had this vision of 2020, and we’d created strategies around that vision, like capitalizing upon the acquisition of Allin Interactive to combine the power of the BBH technology infrastructure products and services with the Allin guest and resident-facing applications,” Troutwine says. “No matter what happens, we thought, we’d stay on point on our strategic initiatives. Well, then COVID happened, and it really tested that philosophy. But in the end, those strategic initiatives did ensure our success.”
One initiative that quickly received extra emphasis was the determination to continue to expand BBH’s practice into senior living and multi-dwelling unit (MDU) apartment living. “As hotels, resorts, and cruise ships were shutting down, you can imagine that we had to apply more resources to that effort,” says Troutwine. “But that shift wasn’t about starting from scratch with everything. We simply said, ‘Alright, let’s adjust our priorities and put more activity towards residential’.” As a result, BBH was able to secure a significant number of senior and apartment living clients, which built the bridge partway across the chasm that COVID-19 had created.
At the same time BBH doubled-down on its Las Vegas efforts. “We approached our casino market contacts collaboratively to see if we could help in some way,” Troutwine says. “There were entities in Las Vegas – again, terribly hit by the pandemic environment – that had the foresight to accept our invitation to look to the future, and to try to take advantage of building closures to prepare for their reintroduction. I’m going to specifically call out Phil Ruffin, who owns Treasure Island and Circus Circus, as one of those visionaries that was in the position to give an emphatic, ‘Yes’.”
In early December 2020, BBH announced that it would be delivering a ‘quintuple-play’ of five guest-facing services to Treasure Island Las Vegas, offering coordinated content to on-site guests via a new Treasure Island mobile app and in-room ITV, as well as public and guest-room Wi-Fi and DirecTV channel programming. Then, on December 15th, BBH announced its agreement to design, install, and support guestroom Wi-Fi and DirecTV programming, and to design and launch the Circus Circus Las Vegas mobile app for guest Android and iPhones.
A third area to receive more attention and investment was BBH’s low voltage cabling practice. “We reminded our good customers that we had certain capabilities,” offers Troutwine. “Not only could we deliver services on the existing hotel infrastructures, but we could actually lay some of that infrastructure ourselves. That just enhanced our all-in-one, ‘total unified technology solutions’ message and created some new revenue opportunities for us that we hadn’t anticipated.” Now, having been selected as a key technology partner (including low voltage cabling) for the 500-acre Eastfield Crossing site southeast of Raleigh, their first major work-live-play development agreement, BBH is poised to make significant contributions to the way people think about mixed-use telecommunications ‘meshworks’ in 2021.
“We’re supplying all of our technology to a 2.8-million-square-foot development, covering everything from retail to office to residential to senior living,” says Troutwine. “It’s exciting, these huge projects that are underway. Next, you’re going to see us continue to represent our development capacity in products and services like our mobile app, which can be adjusted to approach each one of these different markets. Take senior living, for example. What can we do? What can we put in the hands of residents to make their lives easier and safer? How can we get communication and real-time information to a resident in a senior living centre, versus somebody in attendance in an apartment, versus a consumer who’s interested in going to an on-site restaurant next week as restaurants fully re-open? Those are the kinds of questions we’re focusing our time and energy on.”
Troutwine says he’s tremendously optimistic about leisure travel once the vaccine roll-out is complete.
“Everybody’s saved up money,” he says. “They didn’t go on a vacation last year, and they’re going to feel safe to travel pretty soon. So, we’re spending a lot of time and effort in approaching the Florida market, to make sure that those resorts and hotels meet the guests’ expectations. We see a huge opportunity to make sure that Florida and other sunny destinations across the U.S. have the kind of technology amenities that make an impression. We want to be there for those types of properties. Resiliency, humility, and creativity. Those three words summed up the year 2020 for us, and they’re the lessons that will set the tone for the next.”
AT A GLANCE
What: A single source provider of innovative communications technology
Where: Youngstown, Ohio
CommScope’s hospitality portfolio of RUCKUS solutions builds simple, reliable and adaptable network solutions that unlock the potential of your network – from online check-in to in-room services to Wi-Fi connectivity, guests expect speed, coverage and personalized experiences. At the same time, we help keep the property secure and your staff safe.