BIG Shoes; Super 8 Hotel
Local business owner Ryan Rivett, grandson of Super 8 Co-Founder and hotel franchising pioneer Ron Rivett, spends a good portion his days in an office located in one of the original Super 8 administrative buildings. The windows lining two of the four walls offer a great northwestern view of the edge of town, a promising stretch of uncultivated land. The calm of the open landscape contrasts with the busy hum of ringing phones and clicking computer keys. Yet the contrast becomes synchronized when you meet Ryan, a young visionary whose calm demeanor suggests he’s found a place of balance somewhere between the quiet and the chaos. And in that place he’s made a humble vow to utilize the opportunities that have been given to him (through his multigenerational family business) in order to create opportunity for others.
At what point in your life did you decide to become involved in business?
I’m not sure I ever consciously made the decision. I’ve sort of grown up in it. From going to Super 8 conventions when I was six or seven years old, and being involved in all the cool stuff that was happening, to spending a lot of time with my grandfather and others who’ve been involved in the business. It’s just something I kind of always wanted to do and was expected to do when I got there. In high school and college I was a decent student, but I wasn’t very interested in school because I was anxious to get to where I could experience first hand the fascinating business world that I had observed as a kid, but going to college was mandatory. Learning the responsibility and work ethic, and obtaining the knowledge, and the degree was critical before anything could go further. The interesting thing about family business (at least in our family) is that family is always given the opportunity to participate and the opportunity to come in and work and become successful through their work, but they always have to actually work. The opportunity is there, but it’s what you make of it. That is the important part that will get you somewhere. I’m very fortunate, very blessed, to have a family business opportunity here in town that I can take advantage of, get into and make more out of. If you don’t know how to handle what you’ve got, it’s pretty hard to keep it.
What are the companies that you are involved in, and on what level are you involved?
It does get very complex to try to understand how everything works around here. We’re involved in every facet of the hotel business so there are lots of different moving parts. Currently what we have are a lot of small companies sort of lumped together by common ownership and objective. I’m not personally involved in all of them, but I am personally involved in many of them. Not necessarily from the standpoint of ownership either, just from the point of occupational responsibility.
The newest local property I am involved in is Paramount Village Retail. The property opened in April, Four Brushes- Paint Your Own Pottery Studio was completed in September, and Flatlanders Kitchen & Tap House opened in October. We are about half full now and soon to be adding a new business called Hush Boutique, a mother and baby boutique.
Beyond that, the My Place hotel chain, founded by Ron and I, has been our primary focus for the last 24 months or so. It’s been very exciting to have an opportunity to get back into the hotel franchising business with a concept and a product that has thus far been so well received in every market we’ve ventured into. Since February 2012 we’ve opened five My Place hotels. We are currently under construction with three more. The most recent ones to open were in April of this year, and we expect to open a few more in January.
What would be one or two of your favorite things about this community?
The entrepreneurial spirit around here. It’s interesting to see new businesses come up and people come out with new ideas almost on a continual basis. We have a population of 26,000 people, yet we seem to have something new happening constantly. That makes living in Aberdeen very rewarding for me. If you look at Aberdeen compared to other midwestern cities of similar population, you don’t see that as much.
There’s just something about Aberdeen. What else I like about Aberdeen… well, I like hunting and fishing, and we certainly have plenty of that. I like the summers here. They’re great. The changing seasons are a lot of fun. When people we know that don’t live here get a chance to visit they say, “Wow, it’s amazing how drastic your changes in seasons are!” So there are a lot of great things about living in Aberdeen.
You hear about a lot of people that get out of high school or college and move away and end up coming back, whether it’s for family reasons or for professional reasons. But a lot of people end up coming back to Aberdeen just because it is a really great place to live, and there are opportunities here despite our relatively small population.
Why do feel confident Aberdeen is a good place to continue opening businesses ?
Aberdeen is home. You always want to see your hometown continue to grow into something better, something more satisfying, and something that as your children grow up they’ll learn to appreciate. I can’t necessarily say that I hope my children have better things than I have one day because I’ve had a pretty great experience in life and been very blessed, nonetheless progress is important. I have four children. They’ve all been born and raised in Aberdeen and wouldn’t know what to do living anywhere else. Aberdeen is safe. There are a lot of family values here. It’s a great place to raise children and a great place in general. I’ve lived elsewhere and there’s something about Aberdeen that is so rewarding to come home to. Yesterday I was in five different cities in Washington and Oregon and back by dinnertime. I’m fortunate in that through my business I get to meet a lot of different people and see a lot of different things, but there’s just always something about being back in Aberdeen even if you’re just gone for a day. So with all of that being the underlying emotion about my hometown, it’s sort of natural that you would take all of the opportunities that come along to better your environment.
Also I think there’s a lot of really tremendously talented people in Aberdeen. People with a very great entrepreneurial spirit. So that’s another great reason why you’d want to locate a business in Aberdeen and why it’s so important for us to remain here. I say “us” somewhat loosely as all of us in Aberdeen who own and operate businesses here. The people have been the greatest part for me as we’ve transitioned into a larger focus of becoming a franchise company again and growing the hotel chain My Place. None of that growth happens without a lot of good people coming along. If I was in this building with two or three people working for me, and that’s all I had for my resources, I’d never be even close to where I am today. The greatest part about growing a business has been the opportunity to bring new people in and work with them. The new ideas that come in and the new work ethics and the motivation and drive are really great. It’s really cool to watch. I’ve had some people come in that are downstairs right now working primarily on the My Place brand, and are working with me on a daily basis to identify the brand and grow the brand, and that’s been the most rewarding part about it. Opening a property is opening a property regardless of what the sign says, but working with people who come up with ideas on how you create a larger concept is really cool.
What’s been the biggest challenge for you as a business owner?
Probably the biggest challenge thus far in my career has been learning the difference between responding and reacting. It really goes through to everything, whether I’m negotiating a price on a piece of real estate, or I’m negotiating a subcontract in our construction division, or whether I’m dealing with an employee who maybe didn’t make the right decision, and we have a problem to fix subsequently. That’s probably the most challenging thing. What we do around here is generally fairly simple because we have a lot of knowledge and experience at hand, and it’s just a series of steps to get through the process of developing, building, and managing a hotel, or apartment building, or retail building or whatever. But when dealing with all of the variables of life, and family and business and employees and clients and others, responding versus reacting is the biggest challenge.