Armed with a brand known for leaving the light on for guests, G6 Hospitality LLC is now shining the light on its new leader. And while Julie Arrowsmith’s path to the C-suite may have been unconventional, she is making it all add up.
Arrowsmith—who was elevated from CFO to president/CFO in August—took on the CEO responsibilities in January when longtime CEO Rob Palleschi departed and she was named president & interim CEO. Having started her career as part of the audit team at accounting firm Deloitte & Touche, Arrowsmith joined G6 nearly 30 years ago and never looked back.
She recently spoke with LODGING and offered her perspective on climbing the corporate ladder.
“I thought I had a really broad view of the business coming from a financial perspective, but being in the C-suite is even cooler. I’ve always been that nosy person that likes to be in all parts of the business, and I think you never stop learning. That’s what really sets people apart,” she said.
Arrowsmith has clearly set herself apart. She was promoted to CFO in 2012 when the company was acquired by Blackstone and has been on the fast track ever since. And while she acknowledges that “we finance people kind of like being in the background,” Arrowsmith seems to have made a seamless adjustment to the top spot.
“It’s been interesting and fun being the face of the company, which is not necessarily something I realized the full breadth of. But it’s good, I really like getting out there and meeting the franchisees and my peers in the business. So I’ve really enjoyed it,” she said.
Reflecting back on the start of her career, Arrowsmith pointed out that the Motel 6 brand started as one of her clients when she was with Deloitte. She subsequently discovered a passion for hospitality and was determined to make a difference, and the rest is history.
“I wanted to work for a company and help them grow and be successful versus going from company to company and not being a part of their growth story. As a result, I came on board with Motel 6 and I loved it. I really have enjoyed working for a company that is across the U.S. geographically,” she said, later adding, “I just moved up within the company and it’s kind of one of those stories of work hard and be in the right place at the right time.”
In January, Palleschi decided the time was right for him to move on from G6, creating the opportunity for Arrowsmith to take the reins of the company. (She noted she expects the interim tag to eventually be removed as there is no ongoing search for another CEO.) Arrowsmith described Palleschi as someone who “just embodied hospitality” and credited him with helping to take the company to another level.
“The previous CEOs that we had were very good and certainly were part of Motel 6 becoming what we are. But I think that Rob really helped us become a grown-up brand, really part of hospitality as a whole and a major player. Certainly, we were in the economy segment, but we have a lot to bring to the table, and the pandemic showed that,” she noted.
Arrowsmith elaborated on how G6 can leverage the positioning of its Motel 6 and Studio 6 brands following the pandemic and subsequent downturn. “There is overall increased interest in the limited-service space since COVID as the economy segment yet again showed its resilience in difficult economic conditions. Strong margins and cash flow in this segment are valued more than ever. This has created increasing demand for both economy and extended-stay lodging and resulted in a huge opportunity to leverage our successful economy lodging model and expand our Studio 6 extended-stay brand,” she noted.
The venerable Motel 6 brand first debuted in 1962 in Santa Barbara, California, and some 60 years later the economy chain has more than 1,200 hotels in the United States and Canada. But that doesn’t mean the brand is standing pat. “I think quality in the economy space can sometimes be hard to find. But just as our Phoenix design—which ushered in the room style that has become today’s standard—was completed across the entire network, our next generation Gemini design is well on its way to completion over the next two years,” she said.
Arrowsmith further added the company has tweaked its marketing message around Motel 6.
“We’ve done a lot over the past few years to really show our soft side,” she said, noting that the brand’s well-known mantra of “we’ll leave the light on for you” now places on emphasis on you.
“There was a little bit of nuance there and we really made an emotional connection with the guest. Our quality scores are vastly improving. I think we’re outpacing most of our competitors when it comes to the quality of the brand, and that continues to be a focus to make sure that a clean, comfortable, safe room is what you can expect when you walk in our doors,” said Arrowsmith.
Meanwhile, the company’s economy extended-stay brand, Studio 6—which was first launched in El Paso, Texas in 1999—continues to gain momentum. With roughly 200 properties in its portfolio, approximately 60 percent of the company’s development pipeline is made up of Studio 6 Extended Stay and Studio 6 Suites properties. The company introduced Studio 6 Suites last year as a less costly option for developers targeting guests seeking shorter stays. G6 also recently built upon its marketing and pricing tools for the Studio 6 brand, according to Arrowsmith.
She noted the company has also invested in a handful of technology initiatives. With a focus on easing the booking process for its guests through its mobile app, the company has made enhancements over the past year to website landing pages and mobile functionality. In addition, G6 remains highly focused on data analytics and the systems that support business insights on the development process, guest needs and behaviors, and revenue optimization. Lastly, G6 invested in back office and platform tools for added efficiency.
Further acknowledging her deep financial background, Arrowsmith conceded she “probably brings a little bit more of that process into the mix” when making key decisions.
“I do approach things probably a little bit more from a quantifiable and logical perspective. I want to understand the processes a little bit better and nail those down to be crisper. What is our development process? What reporting and information are we gathering as we go through the development process? We have information that we can lean on and learn from,” she noted.
Finally, Arrowsmith pointed out that the company’s brands are completely franchised as of 2022 and suggested that has helped G6 gain efficiencies. “Now that we’re fully asset light we’ve actually become a smaller organization,” she said.
Arrowsmith touted the company culture, which she describes as “highly collaborative,” and how that has helped further fuel its growth.
“It’s not only about how we work with each other, but it’s also how we work with our franchisees. That’s the main comment I get as I travel and go to conferences. Our franchisees come up to me and they say, ‘You guys are the best. We just have such a great relationship with you; you listen to us and you’re focused on us.’ What I hear from our franchisees is I think also what makes us attractive as a company,” she said.
Diversity in the DNA
Being a woman at the helm of a major brand company is certainly noteworthy, even in 2023, and while G6 Hospitality President and Interim CEO Julie Arrowsmith acknowledges the “responsibility” associated with that distinction, she also insists it doesn’t change how she approaches her job.
“I’m just being me. That’s kind of how I’ve approached all of this, whether it was as CFO or CEO; it’s like this is Julie and here I go,” she said. Arrowsmith elaborated on her outlook.
“I don’t necessarily look at it on a daily basis as ‘I’m a woman running the company.’ I get a lot of requests from that perspective asking me to come speak, and I’m happy to do it. I do feel that it’s important to be a good ‘role model’ if that’s the right term. I want to represent women in a leadership role and let them know ‘you can do it.’
“It’s not easy and it takes some support systems around you to make it possible, especially if you’ve got a family. I’ve got three kids and a great husband and I think that’s important. That’s some of the messaging that comes with being a woman that’s moved up in her career, but when it comes to the business itself it’s about working with my colleagues and making this company as great as it can be,” she said.
The company’s commitment to diversity has been evident in a number of ways, according to Arrowsmith. As an example, G6 Hospitality last fall launched its “Light Her Way” program, which provides tools and resources to women seeking hotel ownership opportunities.
Arrowsmith further pointed out that the company also boasts a well-balanced executive leadership team, many of whom were promoted internally. “There’s a lot of internal development, and I think that speaks to our culture as well. We value diversity with four women on our executive team and four men, which I think is unusual. You can talk about all these catchphrases of diversity and equity and inclusion, but it’s just all been in our DNA for a long time,” noted Arrowsmith.