SoCal Power Women: 5 Questions With Chartres Lodging Group's Maki Bara
This limited series profiles SoCal Power Women who have helped shape cities, neighborhoods, businesses and lifestyles in Los Angeles and Orange counties. These women will be honored at Bisnow's SoCal Power Women event Dec. 13.
Chartres Lodging Group President Maki Bara founded the company in 2002 with CEO Rob Kline, drawing on her experience in the lodging sector.
Bara, an expert in redeveloping and repositioning urban hotels, resorts, convention hotels and conference centers, has acquired and repositioned nearly $3B in assets in the U.S. and Japan through Chartres Lodging Group and completed nearly $800M in renovations.
She enjoys the camaraderie within Chartres Lodging Group that is part of the company culture, such as on a company trip to New Orleans for Mardi Gras last year. Bara said it reflects the company's motto of "work hard, play hard."
Bisnow: How do you describe your job to people who are not in the industry?
Bara: We buy hotels that have potential, fix it, and sell it when the timing is right.
Bisnow: What is the biggest business problem you have faced and how did you solve it?
Bara: One of the biggest challenges facing our industry is that it is cyclical. While we need this cyclicality to induce buy opportunities, it causes strain on running a business. In other words, we mark our success by realizing gains, which typically, although not always, means a sale of our assets. While this is good for our returns on invested capital, it means less ongoing fees that keep the lights on. One way we have addressed this issue is by allowing all of our employees to invest in the deals. Any returns including promotes flow to them but they are risking their own equity up front. This aligns interests and our team always thinks like an investor first vs. worrying about job security. In the end, we have been fortunate to have different opportunities arise even during a downturn. For example, during the last downturn, we had just acquired and were busy absorbing and renovating a portfolio of large convention hotels.
Bisnow: What is one thing you think companies can do to address wage and gender inequality?
Bara: For us, we only focus on who is the best for the job, regardless of gender or ethnicity. Over the years, we have had more women and minority executives than not. We are also an approved Women and Minority-Owned Business partner of NY State Common Retirement Fund’s program led by Artemis for this reason.
Bisnow: What piece of advice do you give others entering the industry?
Bara: It is extremely important to find a good cultural fit. Since we are often with our “work families” for more hours than our real families, it is important to like and enjoy your environment. This will lead to fulfillment and ultimately bring out your best work.
Bisnow: What do you do to unwind when you’re not working?
Bara: While I’m not sure this counts as “unwinding”, my 14-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son keep me extremely busy on weekends. My daughter is a devoted dancer and performer and my son is on a travel hockey team, which demands much of the entire family’s time and dedication!
Meet Chartres Lodging Group President and co-founder Maki Bara at Bisnow's SoCal Power Women event Dec. 13 at the LA Grand Hotel Downtown.