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How ‘Accidental Hotelier’ Navin Dimond Built A 65-Hotel Empire Spanning Nearly A Dozen States

How ‘Accidental Hotelier’ Navin Dimond Built A 65-Hotel Empire Spanning Nearly A Dozen States

Although Navin Dimond, the founder, CEO, and chairman of Stonebridge Companies, still thinks of himself as "a bit of an accidental hotelier," having initially intended to use his shiny new MBA to land him a job in construction or real estate when an opportunity to manage a hotel arose and drew him in, as he tells it, "before I fully knew what was happening," it's clear that that happy accident in the late 1980s landed Dimond right where he feels most comfortable being, in an industry whose passion continues to excite him every day, powering the subsequent success of Dimond's operation, with a portfolio of more than 60 hotels in nearly a dozen states, including eight in Denver, Colorado, where the company is headquartered.

"I was struck early on by the passion that hospitality employees bring to their job. Coming from a different background, I soon was infected with their fervor myself, and it has only grown every year, through good times and challenges—including the very trying times this past year—always drawing me deeper and deeper in."

Coupled with this passion, though, there is a strong analytic and detail orientation to Dimond's approach that is essential to success in this industry as well. Says Dimond, whose family is also known for its involvement in industry-related philanthropy, including the support of on-campus education at the University of Denver, "Passion serves us best when it's coupled with a systematic approach that Stonebridge brings to every property, irrespective of star level."

Whether it's a luxury 5-star or more economical 3-star property, he says, "while we are attentive to the surface differences that define these categories—whether you have the assistance of a bellman and the room service hours and so forth, at a deeper level we insist that all our properties offer the consistent, sustainable excellence that allows us to provide a product that our employees can take pride in and that guests can count on, property after property, stay after stay."

Let me tell you a personal story about this consistent, sustainable excellence that I wouldn't have to share with you if I hadn't pulled up one morning in my peppy little beater of a rental for a breakfast meeting at the Jacquard, a Stonebridge-operated luxury hotel that is part of Marriott's prestigious Autograph Collection, one morning. The valet supervisor, a total stranger (I thought) to me at the time, recognized me and gave me the warmest of first impressions, using and even properly pronouncing my name.

You have to understand: I hadn't ever been to the Jacquard before; hadn't told them I was coming; hadn't even known myself I was coming until the prior day when my local client told me that its Narrative restaurant was the place for a working breakfast.

I had, however, stayed at another property across town, where I had valeted the same modest rental. That's all it took for the attentive valet to assemble the clues that led to this warmest of warm welcomes.

This is the kind of precision mixed with warmth that allows Stonebridge companies to operate 65 properties at multiple star levels across eleven states, starting from a single foray "that then led to another, and another, and here we are," as Dimond modestly explains the trajectory of his company's growth.

"Each time you succeed with one property, you consider doing another, but there's also this voice in the back of the head, saying ‘we did this really well last time, but did we just get lucky? Then you look at the numbers, the particularities of the last project and the next one attracting you, and figure out that, no, it wasn't just luck and, yes, it is repeatable if we take appropriate precautions, and here we are, having developed over 100 projects, but never, I hope, taking anything for granted, whether it's on the property side or the human side, both of which are essential and need to work in harmony for success in this beautiful business."