By Kaitlin Dunn, Writer, Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI)
Steve Rudner is one of the leading experts in hospitality law. As the founder and managing partner of the Dallas-based Rudner Law Offices, he exclusively represents hotels. In fact, 30 years ago, Rudner filed the very first lawsuit by a major hotel company against a group for violation of its sales contract.
Rudner will be sharing his knowledge at HSMAI’s Sales Leader Forum on Nov. 5–6 in Dallas, where he will present “Headlines and Headwinds for 2020: Legal Issues for Sales Leaders’ Radars.” He recently spoke with HSMAI about what to expect from his presentation.
What will your presentation be about?
I’m going to talk about the most pressing issues related to group sales contracts, including some of the trickiest clauses we see, and share some creative responses to issues that salespeople confront. For example, at my firm, we get a lot of requests for clauses related to GDPR, but as an industry, we don’t educate people about what’s required or what the risks are, so we’re going to talk about this in a more interesting way than what people will expect.
Using this example [of GDPR clauses], the clause itself isn’t the issue. For comparison, if you want a clause related to the Americans With Disabilities Act, I can’t come rebuild your showers for you to comply, all I can do is write you a clause that says you comply once you rebuild your own showers. With GDPR, I can’t make you comply with privacy regulations, but once you do that, I can give you a clause that says you do.
We have to make sure our hotels understand how to comply with the law and how to resist requests from groups. The reason this is such a challenge is that a lot of groups come in with their own GDPR clauses. Hotels can’t make changes to their systems every time a new group comes in, just like they can’t provide more showers just because a group’s clause says they need them.
What do you hope people will take away from your presentation?
They will hopefully take away a lot of substantive knowledge that I will present in a more interesting way than normal. We can’t continue to explain things the same way that we always have and expect to get different results. We have to explain why clauses protect meeting planners and groups, and we need to understand their needs in order to understand the clauses. We have to take the time to step back and look at things differently.
I want to show some creative ways to enable hotels to capture sales. Meeting planners often show up with long addenda with clauses that are cleverly written to shift the risk to the hotels. It slows down the sales process and increases the risk to the hotel. I want people to understand the risks and problems in these addenda and how they are changing the sales process and how we can remain in control.
Why does hotel sales keep your interest after all these years?
If I hadn’t been a lawyer, I’d have been a director of sales. I love the hospitality industry, and it’s a very exciting industry to be a part of. I think there are parallels between being a lawyer and being a salesperson that a lot of people don’t see. Standing up in court is just a very big sales pitch. As a lawyer, you don’t know anything about the people in the jury box, you just have to tell your story and sell it to them, but without any of the other opportunities to woo them that salespeople get.