Stephen Mooney

Hospitality Developer

Stephen Mooney is a Hotel/Business Development professional with over 25 years of experience. While most of his experience is in hospitality development, he also has experience in startups, including the EV industry, and AI.

Stephen’s background is very broad, as evidenced by his experience in hospitality development, franchising and funding. He also was involved in the startup of an EV charging company, and now is involved in an AI startup. Additionally, he owned part of a retail chain in the 1990s. The key here for Stephen is that he has done a lot of things in different disciplines. Stephen enjoys learning and building new businesses.
managing a diverse pipeline of both acquisitions and new development.

He also has International Business Development experience with Thunderbird Resorts in Latin America. Steve has traveled extensively internationally. He is responsible for over $500 million in hotel projects in the U.S. and Latin America. Steve brings an entrepreneurial spirit and flair to his endeavors and is comfortable dealing with C-level executives, as well as entrepreneurs and owners. He has extensive expertise in Relationship Management as well as an MBA. He is close with the AAHOA community, having visited India with clients.

Steve has an MBA from The Kelley School of Business, is active in several charities, including LA Animal Rescue, and is being vetted for Pets For Vets, an organization that matches US Veterans with PTSD with therapy dogs. Steve is a member of the Porsche Club of America and Internations. He enjoys surfing, reading, playing tennis, travel, music, F1, and Ducatis.

Where did the idea for your career come from?

After working in hotel/franchising development for years, I thought there was a need for an integration of the various workings of putting a deal together. This includes brand selection, location, selection of a management company, financing, and pulling together all the parts of successful development. HD does all those things.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

Although there is no typical day, I like to work from a list. I start the morning early with exercise, and then I tackle my list of things to do. I’ve prioritized which things need to be completed first, and that makes it easier. I do the difficult things first, as that makes the day seem easier. I only check email twice a day, as I think that can be a big-time waster. Personal calls are only accepted/made during lunch. It keeps me focused. The busier I am, the more I seem to accomplish!

How do you bring ideas to life?

I am a big believer in lists and outlines. When I have an idea, I outline the principles first and then fill in the details. I also call my Brain Trust for help if necessary. Getting opinions from people I trust who are not necessarily vested in the idea is a great formula.

What’s one trend that excites you?

There is a move toward using AI to enhance hotels’ Property Management Systems. I like what I see so far, because hotels are using everything they can find to attract and retain new guests. There is tremendous competition for guests, and anything that enhances the guest experience is invaluable. I hasten to add that AI does not replace personal experience. Rather, it adds to it.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Lifting weights and exercising. Richard Branson, when asked what one piece of advice he would give to people said “lift weights”. I have followed this and strongly believe it. Exercise is great for the body and mind. The second would be reading. I have great ideas while I am lifting weights, hiking, or just walking.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Relax! You will accomplish far more by approaching things calmly. Change is inevitable, so learn to live with it, and benefit from it. Realize that downtimes (and there will be downtimes) don’t last. You can’t see the future, but you can prepare for it. Ask yourself, “will this be an issue in 5, 10 years”. You will find it usually won’t be in 6 months.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Experience and a willingness to work are more important than a degree. I see kids competing to go to the “best” schools, but have no life experience. I have an MBA, but I have learned far more by working with people, listening more than speaking, and doing. I would hire someone who has been out in the world (worked during school etc.) over someone with just a degree every time.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Read! Mark Cuban reads 3 hours every day. Bill Gates reads 3 hours every day. Elon Musk reads every day. There is a wealth of information out there if you are willing to find it. It’s amazing how quickly you can become an expert on something by reading.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Networking is a big part of my strategy. I also love the idea of giving things (ideas) away. Attending various conferences is a big one for me as well. People drive business, so being connected is imperative. I know I am on the right path when I get a call or an email that starts with “You were referred to me by”.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I owned part of a record/CD store franchise in the 90s. Nothing prepared me for the big box stores coming in and selling products at less than we could buy. I think I let my ego get in the way, in that I refused to believe their effect would be long-term. I was wrong! I eventually sold, but that was a lesson that has stayed with me.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

There is a tremendous need for mental health services for our veterans. Veteran suicide is at an all-time high. Animals have proven to be amazing therapy for vets. At the same time, our animal shelters are overflowing. Figure out a way to match vets with rescue animals and monetize it. I do some animal welfare work, and it is amazing to see how happy an animal makes people.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I bought a gravity inversion machine. You hang upside down and stretch your spine, counteracting some of the gravity pull of the day. I love it.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

Google will literally find the answer to any questions you may have, from cooking to surfing to choosing a franchise, to choosing a management company, to selecting a lender. It’s a wealth I can’t do without. I am on a search engine daily.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss. Tim has collected nuggets from some of the people he has interviewed (Mark Cuban, Tony Robbins, Tim Cook) and their insights are amazing. It’s like having several private mentors.

What is your favorite quote?

“Hire great people and get the hell out of their way”. Steve Jobs.

Key Learnings:

  • People will give you 100 reasons why your idea, plan, or business won’t work. Look for the reasons why it will work. Confidence in yourself is crucial to your success.
  • One thing I hear and see a lot is the belief that “things have always been done this way”, meaning that must be the only way to do it. Don’t buy into that. Explore, question, and innovate. Most successful products and services are ones that were built by making a slight modification to an existing idea.
  • Cast a wide net when recruiting. Steve Jobs said he hired for the person, not necessarily the position. I get a lot of correspondence from companies and outside recruiters seeking to fill a job with someone who has already done exactly what is written in the job description. Give me a great person instead every time.
  • Read, read, read!