Lights On Helps Independent Hotels Manage the Business Side of Hospitality – Hawaii Business Magazine

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2024 SmallBiz Editor’s Choice Award winner: CEO Will Song and President Patrick Ahler use revenue management and digital marketing to keep rooms filled.
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Will Song, left, and Patrick Ahler | Photo: Aaron Yoshino

Lights On just celebrated its 10th anniversary, but as with many small businesses, its early days were less bright.

CEO Will Song and his business partner, Patrick Ahler, who serves as Lights On’s president, started out in the hospitality industry at Aqua Hotels & Resorts. They realized their skills – revenue management and digital marketing – were in high demand with independent hotels and resorts and decided to start their own business.

“We were so excited to help shape the market,” recalls Song of the launch. There was just one problem: no clients. “We flew to Kaua‘i and knocked on doors. We literally got rejected by every single hotel. But rejection is good. When you get knocked down, part of your growth is getting back up.”

Jonathan McManus of Hotel Wailea became Lights On’s first client, says Song. “He entrusted us to help transform his hotel; he’s a visionary and he’s still with us today. He renovated an amazing property, turning a three-star property into a five-star hotel.”

From there the business took off, and today, Lights On has about 50 clients.

Lights On is unique, Song says, because it combines revenue management with marketing. For hotels, that means helping to control inventory and pricing. “So, if demand is strong, rates should increase for certain days, or when it’s softer, we generate promotions or decrease price. We understand and anticipate the events, like the Honolulu Marathon, and incorporate that into the strategy.”

“The key thing is that not all promotions will work for every single hotel,” he says. A recent success was a Step Into Spring promotion for Kaimana Beach Hotel, which advertised 10% off rates, with two welcome beverages at Hau Tree or Sunset Provisions. “We like to tap into the vibe of the hotel. It performed very well for a property like this,” says Song.

Leisure-destination hospitality will continue to be the core of Lights On’s business, says Song, but the company also works with companies in other industries, such as ABC Stores and UHA Health Insurance.

Song’s team is up to 15 full-time employees, and in 2023 the company moved into new offices on Kapi‘olani Blvd., just across from Ala Moana Center, to accommodate the growth.

“But we want to grow smart,” says Song. “Working at other companies, we’ve seen the dangers of growing too fast and then the quality of service will degrade. Patrick and I are committed to maintaining quality service to our existing clients, who have been by our side year in and out. We don’t take that for granted.”

 

 

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