In preparing for the B Corporation Certification, I modified all of Hospiamo's organizational documents and write a significant amount of new policies, procedures, standards, agreements, job descriptions, Board of Director expectations, and much more.
I had to fight off the feeling that I was doing all of this work for nothing, because most people were telling me it was "just a dream" and it would never happen, discarding my purpose, accountability and meaning like an old shoe.
I don't talk to those people anymore.
Then there are the people that are encouraging and positive, and want to be "affiliated" with what I am doing with Hospiamo, but are not willing to commit - their time, their capital resources or any other action that makes an impact versus words. Their words are no longer helpful, and we don't need relationships or credibility - our cup is overfilled with trust and personal commitment from about 250 people, regular people that are highly dependent on working for a living, and are one $2,500 emergency away from significant family-level concern.
I'll still talk with those people that say kind, encouraging things, but they will not have the honor of being affiliated with Hospiamo. They will say they are, some already have - but that's why I committed to do the work to form Hospiamo as a Certified B Corporation, a very serious Social Enterprise with a Board of Directors that will be transparent and accountable to never put the shareholder interests of a few over that of all of our stakeholders.
I do admit. My visions are a bit grand, but I do see them as possible. I understand that most people think it's easier and less disruptive to their life to not follow these visions and implement them. Okay, I get that. I aim high, and live up in the clouds sometimes, trying to pull that vision closer by working hard, being persistent and following through and accomplishing what I say I'm going to get done. I know what that looks like, most people say I'm too emotional, and until recently, I listened to them.
I've made a lot of mistakes in my life and career, and have learned from each one - but no mistake was larger, or lasted longer than the one I made by forgetting what my purpose is for being in the hospitality business. For almost 8 years, I gradually discarded my own values and purpose, executing the will of other people whose organizational values conflict with mine, and even worse, followed them blindly and without contest - because I needed money, a job, a paycheck, or to stay employed until a higher salary became available.
During that time, before and after, there is much I am proud to have accomplished, most of all the trust and respect I earned from some of the most amazing people in the industry. I will repeat, the people in the industry. It's the industry that needs repair, not the people - the once beautiful industry can be rebuilt, by and for the people involved.
I will repeat it 100 times if needed, because that is a critical distinction I want to make clear. I am for the people, to create a gift for the the industry, for the next generation of hospitality people. This is a FOR company. We do not stand against anything, we do nothing TO others. On this journey, we will defend and run over the forces that are not aligned with our mission, or try to slow us down for selfish reasons. We're doing it for our people.
Nevertheless, I did become what I despised, a sell-out - and all those people I swore to support and defend, watched me do it, or saw me in the news receiving an award for my "accomplishments".
Today, that person no longer exists. It took about 4 years, and there's a grieving process when losing someone, but when that someone is you - it's quite uncomfortable.
Here's the real stuff - when I tell people that I had to "kill off" a former self because I didn't like how he was thinking or acting, I get A LOT of head nods....a lot. "I've been there man, and had to go through it myself"....is the most common response. I had no idea. I thought I was alone and unique in my experiences - and kept it to myself. Knowing I am not alone, might be the greatest feeling any human can know, it is for me.
Now - connecting with people and creating that same sense of belonging and free environment to share and be themselves and be uncomfortable and find joy with humility and vulnerability among people that genuinely care - I rediscovered my purpose for being in the hospitality business.
So, I wrote this one-pager and inserted it into the Hospiamo Annual Report for 2022. Most people said it's too "emotional" for a business's annual report. I don't know the definition of irony, but I think there's some here.
From Hospiamo LLC 2022 Annual Report.
Title: A personal note of Gratitude and Humility from Hospiamo Founder Adam Zembruski
I’ve always been called a dreamer, and I know it wasn't always meant as a compliment.
The idea of Hospiamo started as one of those dreams in the summer of 2004. Earlier that year, I went through the last of three surgeries to complete a Total Colectomy and J-Pouch procedure, following a diagnosis of Ulcerative Colitis (UC) in 2002. A friendly way to explain it is that if I were a house, my plumbing needed emergency replacement.
Sure, it was a tough journey. After my first recovery, the UC came back with monster truck force, and I lost 50 pounds in just a few weeks. I felt lost and unsure of what the future held.
At my lowest point and in between the surgeries I was working as a hotel General Manager in Virginia with B.F. Saul Hospitality. My Mom, Dad, Brother and a few great friends supported me during this time, and professionally, it was the actions of two people, my boss Brett Ellison and Mark Carrier the President of the company, that replaced my worry and despair with a seed of career meaning and purpose. It started with Brett calling me a day after I was urgently admitted to the hospital. He simply said, “I spoke to Mark. He said you don’t have to worry about your hotel, your team, your pay, or anything except getting better. We got you.”
Between that experience and the challenging Enlightened Warrior Camp my brother forced me to attend with him later that year, I opened myself up to a new way of being. In the fall of that year, like magic, I met Beth. Everything started to get better the day I met Beth, and I wouldn’t have been able to imagine a life together if I had not gone through what I did. Every bit of joy I have in my life today, including our two amazing children Gabe and Eva is because of Beth. Although slightly lower on the priority list, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention another magical occurrence in 2004, the Red Sox won the World Series for the first time in 86 years.
After that 3-year lesson in humility, leadership and life (with a dash of humor), I spent the next 15 years trying to articulate and replicate that lesson for others. I’m proud of my work and the relationships I built and am consistently surprised by how generous my teammates have been for each other and their guests. After starting several side businesses and working at a bunch of well-intentioned, respected hotel companies, I didn’t make much difference at all. Still a dreamer. I saw HR and Training budgets turn to dust and the “staffing crisis” my industry complains about perpetuate and worsen to the point where most young people would rather rip their toenails off than to start working their way towards becoming a hotel manager. The worry and despair I felt in 2004, has grown to levels that even the writers of The Last Of Us would envy.
Sure, I kept going in the industry because of that seed of hope and encouragement Brett and Mark gave me. Over the years I received excellent salaries and have a pretty good rep in the industry. I’ve held titles like President and Independent Consultant, spoke on conference panels, was an expert witness, and even have a small investment stake in a couple hotels. That’s all great, for me.
Then, my Mom died in 2018. It was rough, still is. I was working for another management company that year and I was fortunate to have had some precious, memorable moments with my Mom before she passed. She told me to keep dreaming but start doing something about it. She whispered, “keep going.” To someone without a colon, that could mean something entirely different, but I took it as new seed of meaning and purpose. I opened my eyes to other industries and studied their models and strategies. I learned that hospitality is not an industry, it is a mindset, and in order to turn a dream to reality, we need to keep going. That’s what Hospiamo became, a vehicle and a platform, to lift others - together. I’m humbled, convinced and determined – I find that to be a powder keg of opportunity. I am feeding that never-ending sense of wonder and joy and curiosity, and I have figured out a way to tap into the energy and creativity of others.