Nick Horgan, Chief Commercial Officer of Amaze Insights in conversation with Megha McSwain

What The Data Says: Hospitality Revenue Analytics and Trends, with Nick Horgan of Amaze Insights

Episode Topic: In this episode of TravelPreneur, our host Megha McSwain interviews Nick Horgan, the Chief Commercial Officer of Amaze Insights, a hospitality reporting platform. They delve into the challenges faced by hotel brands and management companies in the world of group sales and event hospitality, and how Amaze Insights tackles these challenges. Nick shares real-world success stories of how Amaze Insights has helped hotels optimize their revenue and make better decisions.

Lessons You’ll Learn: Throughout the conversation, several valuable lessons emerge. One of the key takeaways is the pivotal role that data analytics and reporting services play in the hospitality sector. Nick highlights how Amaze Insights is streamlining the hospitality reporting process, making it more efficient and actionable. Moreover, he emphasizes the importance of nurturing a people-centric approach within the industry, as human relationships and teamwork are integral to success. Additionally, the discussion touches on the promising prospects of AI in decision-making and optimization within the hospitality field.

About Our Guest: Nick Horgan, the Chief Commercial Officer of Amaze Insights, shares his extensive journey in the hospitality industry, spanning over 25 years. From starting as an intern to his current role, Nick’s experience underscores the transformative potential of accurate and comprehensive hospitality reporting and analytics within the industry. Nick’s dedication to making the industry better through transformative solutions is evident in his career trajectory, making him a valuable guest on this episode of TravelPreneur.

Topics Covered: During the conversation, Nick and Megha dive into the challenges that hotels and management companies face when consolidating information from various sales and catering systems. They also introduce Amaze Insights’ latest offering, the function space utilization report, simplifying the complexities of data analysis. The importance of maintaining a high level of service and quality as a company experiences growth is highlighted. Furthermore, the conversation underscores the significance of building an exceptional team and nurturing positive attitudes.

Our Guest: Meet Nick Horgan, Hospitality Reporting Expert of Amaze Insights

Nick Horgan is a seasoned professional with over 25 years of experience in the hospitality technology industry, particularly in the realm of hospitality reporting. His career has been defined by transformative growth, a relentless focus on customer satisfaction, and a proven track record of expanding relationships with key decision-makers across major hospitality brands, hotel management companies, ownership groups, and individual hotels. 

Before joining Amaze Insights, Nick served as the Chief Sales Officer for a leading digital marketing firm. Following his tenure in this role, he assumed the role of strategic advisor to companies pioneering digital solutions for the hospitality sector. Additionally, Nick played an instrumental role as a board member for HSMAI San Diego, further demonstrating his commitment to advancing the industry. 

A significant portion of Nick’s illustrious career was dedicated to Amadeus Hospitality, where he held various leadership positions and was responsible for crafting growth strategies for strategic accounts. During this tenure, Nick consistently led the charge on multi-million-dollar deals, including enterprise agreements with some of the largest hospitality brands globally, all with a keen emphasis on improving hospitality reporting processes. Notably, he orchestrated a global rollout of services to over 6,000 hotels, showcasing his ability to deliver at scale. Throughout his career, Nick has been unwavering in his commitment to driving year-over-year revenue growth while ensuring that his customers reap substantial benefits and achieve successful outcomes.

Nick Horgan: Chief Commercial Office of Amaze Insights - Hospitality Reporting Solutions
Amaze Insights: Arming our partners with Hospitality Reporting

Episode Transcript

Nick Horgan: You will see AI not just as a buzzword, but AI in really helping to make better decisions and pull the right information together to then be able to optimize the offerings and what’s happening, and directionally that’s where we’re going. So if we look at really the past and the future, you’ve seen a pretty big jump in capabilities that’s already happened. And then the rate of change is happening at an exceptionally fast clip, so that’s where we’re really excited to be part of that change.

Megha McSwain: Welcome to TravelPreneur, the weekly business show for the travel industry. I’m your host, Houston-based travel journalist Megha McSwain. Each episode, we’ll be exploring what it takes to thrive as a business owner in the travel industry. From conversations with leading travel business executives and industry-focused venture capitalists to exploring the innovations that are shaping the next generation of travel business, if it impacts the travel industry, we cover it here on TravelPreneur. 

Hello and welcome back to another enlightening episode of TravelPreneur. I’m your host, Megha McSwain. Today we have a true industry veteran joining us, Nick Horgan, the chief commercial officer from Amaze Insights. Hello, Nick. Welcome to the show.

Nick Horgan: Hello. Thank you so much. And I’m really excited to be here. And this is a great first meeting with you Megha. I’ve watched your episodes and heard a lot about you and read what you have written on the Food Network before. So I’m really excited to meet you, semi-in person.

Megha McSwain: Yes, as close as it gets for now. Thank you so much for joining us. Let’s dive right into Amaze Insights. Can you tell me a little bit more about Amaze Insights and how it’s changing the game in hospitality reporting?

Nick Horgan: Absolutely, I’d love to do that. It’s one of my favorite things to talk about. So Amaze Insights is a reporting platform that is really focused on the event side and sales and catering. So the team from Amaze Insights really saw a window where there’s a massive opportunity in hospitality where it was a really big challenge to get the right information to the right people at the right time, where you have a lot of different sales and catering systems and they’re extremely good at what they do with booking events, creating sales and doing all of those details where they’re not quite as strong is on the reporting and analytics side. And what you’ll also find is mixed flag management companies will have a variety of different sales and catering systems. So the way to think about Amaze Insights is a single pane of glass view that will show performance across many hotels for the investor community, the hotel management companies, and really anyone that needs to see a very deep dive of exactly what’s happening. And then we also do a really good job of making that information actionable so you can see what has happened, what will happen, and then the best way to optimize your decisions to move forward and make your way. 

Megha McSwain: Okay. Right. So sounds like you’re making life a little bit easier for these companies.

Nick Horgan: That’s exactly right and that’s really the goal. So when we started building this company, and Jamie Jobe and Mike Kennie, who are both phenomenal leaders in the industry, they had been working on this for a couple of years before I joined, and they had done a truly exceptional job of understanding what the platform would need to do. They also had Sonesta as the launch partner, and really you can’t ask for a better company to help you understand how to grow and build the platform to really make a transformative change in the industry. And that’s really exactly what happened. And that’s what first drew me to joining the company really was Mike and Jamie. Each of them I had known for literally decades don’t want to say how many just because it certainly dates me. And they both had exceptional reputations in the industry. And then when I saw the tool that they had built, I truly was blown away. So I had spent about 25 years in this space, and what they did is, built a platform that answered the questions I had been getting asked for about 25 years. So when I saw that in the chance to be a part of it, I was extremely excited to join.

Megha McSwain: And tell me a little bit about your journey. What were you doing prior to this and you’re a very prominent figure in the hospitality space. So share with me your experiences, before joining Amaze Insight.

Nick Horgan: First off, thank you for that. We’ll have to make sure my wife knows that I’m a prominent figure in the industry. Just on that, I’m sure she’ll be excited about that part. So as mentioned, I was about 25 years with Newmarket International, which was then acquired by Amadeus, which was and is the leading sales and catering platform in the industry. So I started actually, while I was still in college as an intern, and I was fortunate enough to have some really exceptional mentors that helped me and guided me along the way. And I also learned a great deal from the customer side. So really understanding what the needs were and then getting to know people really well, understanding the challenges that they were facing, and then aligning the new market offerings to help fix those challenges. So that’s really for 25 years what I was doing. And I just found that as my network expanded, I was fortunate enough to be successful in really building out and then partnering with some major brands and hotel companies on helping them to make changes and move forward. And this is also going back again, dating myself. But it was the days before you had LinkedIn or even Google. So, really the only way to understand what was truly happening was either telephone conversations or face-to-face meetings, then email was certainly a big part of it. But really building a network happened truly through people. Now, tools that are out there such as LinkedIn allow that to happen at scale and much faster. But I’m still a huge proponent of the face-to-face and I’m including video like this. I’m really enjoying spending time with you on this right now. So leveraging technology to do the same things that we were doing really for years. And so I think that part really helped me because I was fortunate enough to have those mentors and key people and then really grow and expand my network and understanding of the industry.

Megha McSwain: Right, we forget or maybe we don’t. But how just a few years ago we weren’t using LinkedIn and we weren’t using social media and all of that. And so it’s, I’m 40, so I feel the same way. I know exactly what that was like, where you didn’t have those networks and you had to pick up the phone or you had to write letters. Can you imagine? I sound like a relic, but our generation, I feel like to know how to utilize all the resources we have now with kind of that old-school way of still doing things. It’s really magical, I think, to use both.

Nick Horgan: Yeah, you make an excellent point and I think that is really key. So in the ability to use both, where we still are comfortable face-to-face calling someone instead of just texting, having that conversation. But understanding the technology as well and how that can help you to get to scale and really expand the network.

Megha McSwain: Can you share a real-world success story where Amaze Insights played a pivotal role in helping a hotel or a brand optimize their revenue?

Nick Horgan: Absolutely, and so what I’ll key is it did optimize the revenue, but the part that was even more important to me is, this was a very prominent chief operating officer in the industry. And we did a kick-off with about 75 people. And as we were running through and looking at it, there was a lot of talk in the room about how they used to need to be spending 3 to 4 hours on a Sunday night compiling reports and pulling together, and with Amaze Insights that 3 to 4 hours of work they needed to do literally was reduced to minutes. And so what he shared with us is you’re just making their work lives better.  You’re actually making their lives better. So that really, spoke to me because it was massively changing things. And then when you look at what they were able to see is a major uplift in revenue. And the reason for that is they were able to see trends while they still had time to make decisions that would impact the change. So historically, before Amaze Insights, because it took so much time to pull the information together, you would have an understanding of what happened and make your adjustments and changes. But you may not see those trends where it’s early enough that you can have a major impact on it. So one example of that is, and this is a different company, but during the SVB Bank crisis, they were able to see that there was a spike in cancellations, which turned out to be very different than the earlier spikes in cancellations we had seen within Covid where there were they were sustained spikes that cancellations kept happening with the SVB crisis. What happened was, there was about a two-day period where cancellations started increasing in the industry, and those were also highly centered on the banking and finance side of group business. But that leveled out very quickly. And they could see that this was not a long-term problem, at least at the time that it happened. So by being able to see that it was a short-term spike in cancellations, they could make better decisions to protect what was already on the books and then go after different businesses coming in. So that to me is extremely interesting. And just to be able to see that spike. And then another thing just on that exact same thing, we had kind of forgotten about that spike, at least I had several months later. And then we were reviewing data with a customer and looking at it and we’re like, wait, what happened on this date? And then when we look back, we realized it was the SVB crisis. So I thought that was pretty interesting.

Megha McSwain: So on that same token, in the world of group sales and the event side of hospitality, what challenges do hotel brands and management companies face and how does Amaze Insights tackle those?

Nick Horgan: Sure, so I’d say one of the biggest challenges they face is the siloing of information. If you think about each of the major brands, has standards that they use for sales and catering, which make perfect sense because they are doing it in such a way that they need their right information. But when you have those mixed flag management companies, they also need to know exactly what’s happening all the way across the board. So it can be very difficult to do that when the information is in a lot of different systems. So what Amaze Insights does is really consolidate that and then give a very visual view into what’s happening. So a lot of us learn in different ways. In fact, Jamie Jobe, my CEO, and I, we look at information very differently. I like to look at graphs and trend lines to understand what’s happening. Where Jamie is very much a numbers person, she likes to see the tables to be able to understand exactly what’s happening when you’re looking at patient activity. So the tool is optimized for really each of us to be able to see the information in the way that makes us most.

Megha McSwain: So you can do it either way. You can sort of take away. Wow!

Nick Horgan: That’s exactly right. So you can see it across and then you can choose whether you want to see the visual graphs or whether you want to see the tables. So we capture all of the information and show it in either or both.

Megha McSwain: So smart. Yeah, that’s brilliant. Just because you’re right, there are those kinds of people. It can be the exact same information, but we have to view it differently just to make sense of it.

Nick Horgan: Absolutely right. And then I think what you’ve also found is, especially since Covid is there has been so much transition and change in the hospitality industry. And sadly, a lot of the strong people have actually left hospitality and gone to other industries. So where at some of the hotels where we may have a VP of Sales or a Director of Sales who just doesn’t have quite as much experience as some of the others with this tool helps to do is have the less experienced leaders of sales be able to make decisions that are close to those people who have been doing it significantly longer. Now, I won’t discount that experience though, because it still is massively value. And so what we also do is for those people that already are at the top of their game, we give them a better view into the data so that they can make decisions much more quickly as well.

Megha McSwain: So with your experience, I mean, been in the industry a long time, how have you seen the landscape of data analytics and reporting services in the hospitality industry evolve over the years and what trends do you see happening now or maybe coming up in the future?

Nick Horgan: Sure. So what I’d say is historically hospitality has lagged other industries. So we have been a little bit behind what you see in some of the other industries. And part of that is just based on the length of time different systems have been available. And then there are so many different systems in hospitality and they all need to work together in certain ways. So what there was a big jump. I’d say probably ten years ago, where everyone was building their own data warehouses and details, which they a lot of companies did a really good job on doing that. But what they didn’t necessarily do is a deep enough view in each of the specific areas, and that’s where we come in and play a really a pivotal role in going just unbelievably deep on one specific area. And that’s a specific area where really the biggest challenge to get the information together, which is why we we also chose that specific lane. And what I’d say the trends and what’s happening and this is what we’re also focusing is you will see not just as a buzzword but AI and really helping to make better decisions and pull the right information together to then be able to optimize the offerings and what’s happening. And directionally, that’s where we’re going. So if we look at really the past and the future, you’ve seen a pretty big jump in capabilities that’s already happened. And then the rate of change is happening at an exceptionally fast clip. So that’s where we’re really excited to be part of that change. And I just look at from the time I joined Amazon sites with that product looked like in December of 2022 to where we are right now. So a little bit more than nine months past that, we have seen just huge growth in the product and the offering. So I’m really excited to see really how far we can go since I’m seeing how far we’ve already come today.

Megha McSwain: And what would you say sets Amaze Insights apart from maybe other options in the industry that stand out?

Nick Horgan: So I’d say the biggest difference is the people and I really look to Jamie Jobe and Mike Kenny. So each of them, because they understood this at such a deep level, this was not people who had data and analytics backgrounds in other industries and then tried to apply it to hospitality. These are people that knew, the hospitality industry inside and out, so they were able to see exactly what those challenges were, but they also understood the technology behind it to be able to then bring a solution that was truly transformative into the space. So I’d say that is really what sets us apart. And we also just in general, we don’t take ourselves overly seriously, so we like to have a lot of fun and bring that together. So we’re willing to do creative things as part of trade show activations and my friends at Vitac allowed us to bring a Tom Cruise impersonator that we did as a surprise at the event and bring together. So we want to do little fun things like that and then we are also building the product based on the feedback of our customers. And we have been fortunate to have some really exceptional customers that have spent the time with us to say, This is how you should focus, this is what you should do moving forward. And we’re really taking that and building it right into the product. So that’s giving us another pretty significant advantage.

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Nick Horgan: I absolutely agree with you, Megha. I think that is the key to a great company. And then when I look back on my earlier career, that is what differentiated Newmarket in the business was, it really was the people. So the product was one thing and in the early days there were multiple sales and catering offerings and they were all more or less the same. But, the people were different on the new market side, and that helped grow the company to what it became when it was acquired by Amadeus. And I will also say I spent about seven years at Amadeus, and Amadeus also does a phenomenal job on that side. So they have very deep technology, but also really good people. And so I learned from that and seeing what other really successful companies have done, and that’s why I was so excited to join this one. So although far smaller than those other companies where I had previously worked, I saw all of the foundation that was necessary to build something truly exceptional. And that’s where we have seen some pretty tremendous growth just in the time while I’ve been there. So we had planned at the beginning of the year to maybe get to about 500 hotels and we’re actually over 1800.

Significantly ahead of our planned pace, which does bring its own set of challenges. So as we come through and bring the scale. So I think we’re handling those well, but it certainly is not the easiest thing to grow as quickly as we have. And we want to make sure that we deliver the right level of service and really deliver for every single customer.

Megha McSwain: And so much has happened, like you said, since you joined, I mean, in less than a year, what is your vision for the future for next year? How do you envision this company continuing to shape the hospitality industry?

Nick Horgan: That’s a great question and that’s what our team is really focused on right now. And so it is continuing to focus on growing in the right way. So bringing on more companies and hotels and ensuring we deliver exceptional service and an exceptional product and then really grow out that platform so that we can build on the really strong foundation we have today and then take into account the other components of really helping hotels to be far more efficient and successful with their group business. So I’d say our focus is to keep the growth to be extremely strong and fast but do it in such a way that we’re growing. We’re we’re not. Breaking things that we cannot easily fix is what I would say.

Megha McSwain: So you want to maintain that quality and the level of.

Nick Horgan: And to be extremely high touch. Yes.

Megha McSwain: And your team is growing as well. You brought on an executive chairman.

Nick Horgan: We did. So Ford Blakely, he is extremely well known in the industry, and he has really helped us with how to grow in a way that makes sense and build for the future. So Ford was the founder of Zynga, which really transformed the hospitality industry when it comes to messaging and texting. So when you are in your room and you get a text from the hotel that asks, do you want X, Y, Z, quickly respond with an I component. So Zingle was really the first of type in that. So Ford helped to not just grow a company, but really an entire segment, which is now become a big part of hospitality. So I’m really fortunate to call Ford a friend and also someone that I can lean on and look at with any challenges that we do face because he has done that and seen that before.

Megha McSwain: Can you share I mean, it sounds like a wonderful person to have on your team. Can you share any other upcoming innovations that may be Amaze Insights? Is working on to further improve customers or?

Nick Horgan: Absolutely. So a big thing that we have we have added to the platform now and we are just now rolling it out to our customers is our function space utilization report. And that is something that was a big challenge for me for many, many years because it came up time and time again where you would think it would be relatively easy if you have the information as far as what events you have on the books. But it really isn’t it’s not the easiest thing to see what your revenue per occupied room is, how many covers all of those details. The information may be in your sales and catering system, but it’s a lot of pulling into Excel sorting and looking at it to understand exactly what’s happening. We have now brought function space utilization into our dashboards so you can instantly see across an entire hotel or for a specific function space in a hotel or even across multiple hotels. Exactly what the percentage utilization of your function space is and then the revenue associated with it? So it is something that would take hours, days, weeks to be able to pull together where we now have it, where you can immediately see exactly what’s happening and then sort and go through there. So I’d say that a big change that we’re really excited about and then we have another big announcement, which I figure I’ll just I’ll share right now only for your listeners.

Megha McSwain: Great idea.

Nick Horgan: So we we haven’t even done the press release on it but think he’ll forgive me because I am relatively close to this person. So I will say he is my brother, but that’s not why he joined. But we do have another exciting board member on the team. So Lee Horgan, who’s the former CEO of Amadeus Hospitality and I also want to point out he is still the CRO over at Unigis, so that still will be his full-time job. But he is joining or I should say, has joined the amazing sights board as well. So having someone that helped grow a company and was CEO of a company that sold for 500 million is, I think someone that’s very helpful to be able to go out, reach and have advice to, And someone who I have literally known for my entire life is really great for me as well. So Lee and I had worked extensively together when we were both on the new market team and I’m really excited that he joined this. And I’ll also share that as I was looking for what I should do next in the industry. It was Lee’s advice to focus on the reporting side. So what he had shared was this is where the major challenges are and this is where you can make the biggest impact and difference, because that’s the part that he knew was really important to me because I think without it sounding wrong, you can make money in a lot of different ways and with a lot of different companies. But I really wanted to do something that helped make the industry better. And Lee knew that part, and that’s where he had shared with me that you really want to focus on the reporting side of it because it impacts all of these other areas. And he also knew it’s an area where there were some pretty significant challenges that hadn’t been solved. So I’m really excited to have him on our board as well.

Megha McSwain: So that’s wonderful, I mean, you couldn’t ask for a better person. Your brother, he sounds like a wonderful mentor as well. We’ll have to have you guys both on next time.

Nick Horgan: That would be great. He’s a little more camera-shy than me, but we may be able to pull that off that.

Megha McSwain: Yeah, we will. That’s very exciting news and thanks for sharing it here. So aspiring entrepreneurs and professionals in this might be listening. What advice would you give them as they embark on this journey, whether they’re starting out, whether they’ve been a veteran 20, 30 years and maybe you want to make a change and be innovative as you have been, what advice would you offer?

Nick Horgan: So I would really get back to it’s all about the team. So thinking about the people you want to be working with because you’re going to be spending a great deal of time with these people and you want to make sure that you have alignment in where it is you’re trying to go. And then the path how to get there. And everyone’s not going to agree all of the time. But really, you want to focus on the right people and the right team. And that’s really what I did and what I saw in this opportunity. And at least so far, it’s absolutely proved to be the right way to look at it. So that’s what the advice I would give to entrepreneurs is really finding people that have a shared vision in what you would like to do and that you would want to spend a lot of time with those people. And then also hiring as you grow and scale the team, hiring those same people as well. And this is where I really look at skill is extremely important, but it is easier to teach a skill than it is to teach attitude. So if you have someone who has all the skills in the world but less than stellar attitude, it’s going to be very challenging even in good times, to work with that person. And if things get a little bit rocky or choppy, very challenging. Where the flip side, if you have someone with a really good positive attitude and a growth mindset, you can upskill those people and then really help accomplish some pretty transformative things with the right people and the right attitudes.

Megha McSwain: You really wonderful advice and truly you can use that in in so many aspects of life. It sounds like you have a great team and it sounds like your team is getting even better. So that’s truly something to live by. Absolutely, Nick, thank you so much for sharing this information. It was so insightful and clearly, there’s a lot going on with the Amaze Insights, so we look forward to talking to you again in the future and seeing what all has happened because things are moving fast with you all, it sounds like.

Nick Horgan: Absolutely, and I really enjoyed my time with you today and I would love to be on again. And maybe we can even talk Lee into it, too.

Megha McSwain: Definitely. We’ll do that. We’ll work on him. So share with our listeners where they can learn more about amazing sites or where they can contact you. Where can we find you all?

Nick Horgan: Absolutely. So the website is all normal spelling. And you can also feel free to send me an email, or I’m very easy to find on LinkedIn as well and I’d love to hear from all of you there. Thank you.

Megha McSwain: Wonderful. Thank you so much, Nick. And to our listeners, please remember to follow and subscribe and leave a review or a question, or a comment if you have one. Thanks so much, Nick. We’ll talk to you again soon. Thank you.

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