An Inspection Story

By Harlan Butler, Past President, Innisfree Hotels

Back in Topeka, before Innisfree was established, we had a hotel near Purdue University in Lafayette, Indiana. Running that hotel was one of the finest General Managers we could ever have hired. He was young and energetic and made all his percentages – cut costs, understood his margins, was excellent in every way … presented himself perfectly, nice suit, he did it all.

But when it came to franchise inspections, even though this was a beautiful hotel in great condition, he always made bad scores. I would go and look around and think, “This is a winning hotel, why is this happening?”

At that time, the inspectors used to just walk in without notice, and the next morning was your inspection. I vowed the next time I was going to be there. Sure enough the inspector came and I was called. I drove from wherever I was, waaaay into the night to get there.

I arrived before the inspection, and I accompanied the General Manager.

The inspector would go around the room and see things and mark them down.

He’d say:

“This tile was cracked, you need to fix this.”

And our fine GM would say:

“If you think that’s bad, let me show you THIS!” (And he’d lead him to something entirely worse.)

Then he would lose two points instead of one. He just couldn’t understand what he was doing. Somehow, he thought by showing the inspector something worse, it would overshadow the minor flaw.

From then on, we could never let him go on inspections.

We simply had to look at all his positive attributes, and this was one thing he just couldn’t learn.

MORAL OF THE STORY? Focus on the good.


In order to have a great future, we must celebrate and learn from our incredible past. The Innisfree Hotels story began in Topeka, Kansas. So when the folks who were around back then start a story with ‘Back in Topeka,’ we know it’s time to listen. These are tales of the challenges, of the laughter and tears that come with building a company like ours. That’s the sentiment behind this blog series, a chronicle of days gone by at Innisfree Hotels – and a map to get us where we’re going.