Fine, Spend Lots of Money

One of the many things I am doing these days is trying to arrange for hotel rooms for the many performers who will be appearing on stage over the course of the next year. I figured, since I have 100 people needing about 60 rooms over the course of about 30 dates, I might be able to get a good rate. Wrong. This is partly because the economies of Japan and the US are improving enough that people are traveling and there aren’t enough rooms to be had.

However, I also can’t get a good rate because of the hoops I have to jump through to get it. I could actually get some very excellent rates via a hotel broker (a savings of $30 a night per room and considering I need 10-11 rooms on average…)–the only problem is I need a credit card to do it, but the university system isn’t set up with coorporate credit accounts, etc.

I know this is essentially the trade off in working for a university–you don’t have to fear going bankrupt as much, but the fastest you can make a decision is 3 weeks. I also know there are good reasons not to give state employees access to easy credit. However, given that so many transactions are taking place on the internet, state institutions are going to be left behind and left out of the savings. (And god knows, the state could really do with watching what they spend.)

There is a thinly veiled metaphor in there somewhere about how any organization has to keep their policies and procedures fresh and reflective of the current business climate to avoid missing out on easy opportunities to save.

The situation places me in a tough position because I want to cut costs, but the best I can do is the lowest possible price I can get for a purchase order–not the lowest possible price.

The other lesson I am reminded of is the importance of internal communication and networking. Because I am new to the area and haven’t made a lot of contacts, I don’t know the decision makers to call to get a good rate for my substantial needs. Even when I try to get in a back door and talk to people in marketing and sales, I get intercepted by receptionists who direct me to reservations and those folks aren’t interested or empowered to talk about sponsorship opportunities, etc. which might reduce my costs.

Maybe I would be too much of a small fry for the hotel anyway. However, no one is directing me to a person who would make that decision. This is something of a cautionary tale that reminds me to empower my staff to make decisions without consulting me, but that I also must encourage them to bring proposals for interesting opportunities to my attention as well. 80% will probably be people who haven’t really thought through their proposal and have nothing to offer, but 10% might have something of potential to offer (even if they too haven’t though through their proposal.)

Then of course, there is the other 10% who are out and out crazy and are looking of a whole lot for nothing. Those are the folks you hope your staff sorts out before they get to you…(heh heh)

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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