The Silicon Review
It’s hard to be named one of the best places to work when you are a nonprofit organization. In addition to governmental regulations to maintain nonprofit status, nonprofits have lower salaries, benefits and their staff has to work as hard for-profit businesses.
At Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals (HFTP®), an international nonprofit based in Austin, Texas, USA, they have been successful by integrating a hospitality service attitude as well as a for-profit enthusiasm into a nonprofit environment. In order to select this year’s best 50, we asked the CEO of HFTP, Frank Wolfe, CAE to share his thoughts with The Silicon Review.
Interview Snippet with the CEO of HFTP, Frank I. Wolfe:
Q. Tell us about HFTP.
Established in 1952, we are a nonprofit association, headquartered in Austin, Texas with offices in Hong Kong, The Netherlands, and Dubai. HFTP is recognized as the spokes group for the finance and technology segments of the hospitality. Due to our unique position, we understand the industry’s specific issues and assist our stakeholders in finding solutions to their challenges.
Our HITEC is the world’s oldest hospitality technology conference and has recently expanded into Europe and the Middle East. HFTP also owns the world’s only hospitality-specific search engine, PineappleSearch.com®. We have recently been entrusted with the Uniform Systems of Accounts for
the Lodging Industry (USALI), which is the official accounting system for lodging globally.
Our core purpose, “to lead and advance the hospitality profession by providing a forum for continuous learning and knowledge sharing”, has always been part of our DNA. We don’t undertake anything that isn’t tied to that purpose.
Q. Why HFTP was set up? And how did you expand your company and its offerings over the years?
The association was originally established as the National Association of Hotel Accountants (NAHA) to form a U.S. - wide group of hospitality accountants, joining together already formed state organizations. It was officially formed on October 26, 1952, when 25 hospitality accountants created the National Association of Hospitality Accountants. Our roots go back even further to 1925 when the Hotel Accountants Association of New York was established to prepare a uniform system of accounts for hotels.
The association served as an organization to support the professional interests of a specific profession by providing face-to-face meetings for members, sending out newsletters with industry news and commentary, and educational programming. The group also served to help support young professionals by fundraising for scholarships contributed to hospitality education. It also continued to help maintain the USALI. The current name was adopted in 1997 from the name International Association of Hospitality Accountants to reflect the growth in members’ professions of finance and technology.
It was in 1972 when members organized a hospitality technology conference, currently known as HITEC. HFTP produces three HITEC events annually. The main event is in North America in June with over 6,500 attendees (the descendant of the original technology convention); and in 2017, two smaller events were added: HITEC Europe and HITEC Dubai.
Recognizing a need for industry certification, the Certified Hospitality Accountant Executive (CHAE®) was established in 1981 and the Certified Hospitality Technology Professional (CHTP®)was established in 1994. The certifications demonstrate an individual’s commitment to the profession – either in hospitality finance or technology. Both certifications continue to be popular and are sought out to help applicants stand out as employees.
HFTP dedicates resources to the development of industry reference texts, research and white papers. One primary way it does this is by supporting widely-used reference texts such as the Uniform System of Financial Reporting for Clubs (USFRC).
In 2014, HFTP created the world’s only hospitality specific search engine, PineappleSearch.com, which includes almost 1000 industry resources globally. In 2015 HFTP added a hospitality technology pitch competition: Entrepreneur 20X (E20X) and was instrumental in creating a hospitality startupfund, Wayfair, LLC.
Q. What do you look for when hiring a new team member?
I try to surround myself with people who are smarter than me. Often employers want to know how much experience someone has in a particular job. But, experience does not necessarily equate to intellect, talent, or dedication especially when you can’t peek behind the curtain of the job where the experience was gained. Sometimes it is better to find a “diamond in the rough” than to hire an experienced staff member. This is especially important in a nonprofit organization when you can’t pay high salaries in an extremely competitive environment like ours.
Q. Why do you think your team has helped HFTP to have such consistent growth as an organization?
We have 28 staff members and more than one-third of them have been with us for more than 10 years. So, I would say at least there are some long relationships from the days when we were much smaller. And because of our dedicated staff whose work is not a job to them but a way of life, we have grown.
Here, in their own words is what some of the team members said what they like about HFTP during a recently completed “How Are We Doing?” survey.
“I’m still finding new things to learn about the industry, or our history, all the time. The fact that I still love every conversation I have with prospects is very telling to me. I think I fell into the perfect opportunity, and I’m very fortunate for it.”
- Matthew Chambers.
“My interaction with everyone is overwhelmingly positive. I appreciate the opportunities to tackle new projects without fear of failure because I have good support.”
- Briana Gilmore
“HFTP cares about its staff more than any organization I have ever worked for.”
- Jennifer Lee.
Meet the Chief
Frank I. Wolfe, CAE is the CEO of Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals. Frank oversees the association’s operations, as well as represents the association worldwide at industry events, boards, committees, and the news media. He frequently speaks on hospitality finance, technology, social media, and travel issues and has presented in 26 countries. Frank also appears occasionally on television network interviews and programs including CNN, CBS, ABC, NBC, TV Asia, and Bloomberg.
He was also recognized as a “Champion of Hospitality Education”, a “Paragon”, “CEO of the Year”, “Most Influential Hospitality Association CEO” and a member of the HFTP International Hospitality Technology Hall of Fame. Frank love to speak to students and currently serves on two university advisory councils: the University of Houston Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management and the University of Central Florida Rosen College of Hospitality Management.