My guest today is Francis Davidson, founder and CEO of the hospitality brand Sonder. Francis launched Sonder in 2013 as an alternative to traditional hotels and rentals with a specific focus on technology and design. During our conversation, we discuss where Sonder fits into the hospitality ecosystem and why design is so key to their offering. We also touch on Francis’s unique views around customer-centric focus, the nuances of hiring a team, and how they approach decision-making. Please enjoy my conversation with Francis Davidson.
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[00:02:38] - [First question] - Thoughts on the obligation of a business to deliver the best possible customer experience
[00:03:43] - Making a decision that actively went against improving the customer experience
[00:06:00] - What Sonder is and the key insight that led to building the business
[00:08:43] - Ways they cut down costs by leveraging technology available today
[00:10:44] - The economic model of the business and where it differs most from other hotels
[00:12:15] - The journey of $100 coming in to Sonder and working through the company
[00:13:20] - How the building or asset owner is integrated into the business model
[00:14:18] - Network density and how he thinks about it when it comes to scaling Sonder
[00:16:18] - His philosophy on design and why he thinks it matters in hospitality
[00:18:05] - What you can overspend on and underspend on to keep a guest happy
[00:21:05] - Making decisions on building in house or partnering to provide a new solution
[00:22:29] - Do property owners dress up their own hotels or are there guidelines and retailers
[00:23:51] - Lessons learned from working with overseas manufacturers
[00:24:44] - The key levers that will drive the growth of Sonder
[00:26:59] - What a typical occupancy rate is for them versus other hospitality options
[00:28:23] - Category creation and design that influence and change how people behave
[00:29:45] - Qualities of a new market and what drives success in attacking it
[00:31:15] - His contrarian viewpoint on building a business and talent density
[00:33:40] - The features of his job’s product and the interview process
[00:36:21] - Does everyone at a company need to be an A player?
[00:38:00] - His philosophy on team culture and developing synchronicity
[00:41:01] - Ways to build strategic competitive advantage inside of Sonder
[00:43:22] - What the most successful version of Sonder will look like ten years from now
[00:45:16] - New features and tech improvements that are coming soon he’s excited about
[00:46:48] - Trends in hospitality that have been accelerated and changed by COVID
[00:48:36] - Growing changes in the glamping and nature-forward guest experiences
[00:51:04] - The kindest thing that anyone has ever done for him