CEO Spotlight: From Hospitals to Hotels – How Pinnacle Hotels CEO Dr Barry Lall went from doctor to hotelier


At first glance, it may seem that there is little overlap between the work of a doctor and that of a hotelier. One must attend medical school, while the other would be better served in business school. One takes care of the patients, the other of the guests. Some would argue that a doctor has a more rewarding career, but for Pinnacle Hotels CEO Dr Barry Lall that couldn’t be further from the truth. Moving from hospitals to hotels, Lall was able to continue caring for human beings while allowing himself to pursue his lifelong dream of being an entrepreneur, and in many ways caring for a hotel is similar to caring for a human.

“I think they’re patients or guests, I think they’re all the same,” Lall said. “And generally, clients just want to be well taken care of and not be treated as just a routine mechanical process.”

Born in the British colony of Nyasaland in south-eastern Africa, Lall grew up in a small village devoid of modern necessities such as electricity and running water. During his younger years his father worked as a teacher in a primary school, but when Lall was a teenager his father moved the family to Zambia where he opened a clothing store. There, his father would sometimes ask Barry to help him as a salesperson and sometimes even leave him in charge of managing the storefront. Rather than feeling overwhelmed by this, Dr Lall said it was around this time that he first felt a spark of interest in the freedom and enthusiasm that comes with entrepreneurship. However, the instability her family felt growing up led Lall to believe that the best careers were those that were in high demand and could offer job security, such as being a lawyer, engineer or doctor. Lall felt the desire to take care of human beings so he decided to pursue a career in medicine, obtaining his medical degree in England before attending medical school in Scotland and moving to the United States for his internship in medicine.

Lall moved to the United States with his family and worked hard to provide them with a good life. During his career, he appreciated the problem-solving nature of diagnosing and treating the causes of a patient’s illnesses, but found that the overall environment brought no joy or satisfaction to his life.

“During my internship after I graduated from medicine, there were many days when I shed tears from being mentally and physically exhausted from having the responsibility of caring for human beings,” said Lall.

He started playing around in his head with the idea of ​​a career change, and one fateful day in November 1989, he stumbled upon an ad in the local newspaper for a small 12-room motorhome on the California coast. for sale. The beach motel was run down and hadn’t been renovated in years, but Lall saw it as just another set of issues he could diagnose and then fix. Although initially suspicious, his family saw how unhappy he was in his current career and how excited he was to pursue his dreams, and so they supported his decision and let him know that they were ready to make the sacrifices necessary for him to achieve them.

Lall’s interpersonal skills and diagnostic abilities that he developed during his medical career translated well into his new quest for hospitality entrepreneurship. the once run down motel. However, there was also a whole new set of skills that Lall had to teach himself on a daily basis, but for him it was a worthy way to spend his time.

“There was a lot of laughter, joy and fun and although there were rough days it was never so painful that I was helping to clean a room, that I was waiting on tables for serve coffee or take guests to the airport. I felt it was all stress free and fun. Those early days bring back fond memories of all the self-study I did including learning how to check a cash register, count money and even use the software. Excel. I have not been exposed to this in the medical world.

Dr Lall and his family quickly moved to Tucson, Arizona, where he had purchased a Days Inn with 117 rooms and a restaurant, swapping their spacious home overlooking Mission Bay in San Diego for three rooms on the property so he could devote himself fully to revitalization efforts. He quickly learned that many of the skills he had learned during his time in the medical field were directly applicable to both hotel management and hotel investment. In 1998, he had incorporated his own company, Pinnacle Hotels USA. Having learned the ins and outs of what makes a hotel successful, Lall specializes in identifying hotels in need of turnaround.

“I thrive on finding hotels that are underperforming for a variety of reasons, for reasons that can be corrected,” said Dr Bharat Lall. “If the hotel is underperforming due to a bad location, this is something you cannot change. So it’s not a variable you want. No, you want to focus on the factors that can be improved. I think for me finding this rough diamond is what I love to do. And it is difficult and requires a lot of patience and discipline.

For Lall, when it comes to being a good businessman, he thinks people often try to overcomplicate simple ideas. To be a good hotelier, he thinks it is essential to listen. Just as listening as a doctor helped him understand his patients better, Lall has found that listening and communicating well is all about adjusting your levels of communication to the person you are talking to while still having the trust that allows him to earn your respect.

“It was largely a hands-on experience, even talking to people. Just because you see so many patients over the years that alone was important to me. For many of my peers, my colleagues, they didn’t care. As soon as the patient enters, he writes his prescription to get him out. But for me, I got really interested in my patients and their families, I talked to them, I listened to them. And so I think that gave me a lot of confidence, and when you communicate with confidence it makes a real difference in the message you’re trying to get across, ”Lall said.

Decision-making skills were another skill that translated directly from the work of a doctor to that of a hotelier. Comparing it to the medical world, Lall said if a patient presents with a complex problem but isn’t likely to get worse, they could take their time diagnosing it, ordering lab tests and whatever else they need. to understand when consulting with them. . However, if the patient went into cardiac arrest, he should have intervened immediately and taken action, doing everything in his power to revive the patient and remove him from immediate danger. For Lall, this taught her to think carefully about how to approach each situation, remembering that some issues such as hotel flooding need to be addressed immediately, while others can and deserve more planning and provident fund.

Hotels are in many ways like the human body. They have different departments which must all work in a coordinated and harmonious way to produce the most effective results. that his passions fully aligned with his actions.

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