Successful businesses require good leadership. Progressive communities require input from concerned citizens. Peter Zimmerman leads by example.
Zimmerman is general manager of Minot's Holiday Inn-Riverside, a seven-story hotel, convention center and restaurant complex that has become a focal point for east Minot. The family-owned business has become a preferred destination for many guests to the community.
"Yes, it's rewarding. Obviously when you build a facility you can't move it," said Zimmerman with a smile. "We've gone through that forgotten time on the east edge of Minot. Right now it is exciting. The city and MADC (Minot Area Development Corp.) has done a wonderful job. The energy park has helped bring a rebirth to east Minot and with the Port of North Dakota and the Highway 2 and 52 corridor, it's been great from a business standpoint and it's been great for the community."
A necessary requirement for the hospitality business is a friendly atmosphere, something that Zimmerman practices naturally and regards as an important point of emphasis for his employees. He reminds his staff that while he may sign their paychecks, it is the customers they meet everyday that create the income.
"You try and instill that friendly feel atmosphere in your team," said Zimmerman. "Hotels are hotels, by and large. Some are nicer than others but, really, it's four walls, a bed, a bathroom and a TV. We try to create a friendly feeling with our staff so this isn't just another hotel. When people come here we know them, or at least recognize them, or make that attempt."
Zimmerman can often be found sharing conversation with customers at Holiday Inn-Riverside or closely watching how banquet attendees react to the food and atmosphere. He admits not all days work out perfectly, but he says the important thing is to maintain a positive outlook and make the following day a little bit better.
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"All of us have challenges, those outside of work you have to check at the door," said Zimmerman. "I try to lead by example, for lack of a better term. People probably emulate what their leaders do or don't do. We want our team to take care of our customers and their co-workers. Obviously, that starts with attitude."
For Zimmerman it is much more than that. He takes an active role in the community, something he regards as an important duty. Among other things, he has served the Minot Area Chamber of Commerce and is a member of Task Force 21 that is closely involved in efforts to keep Minot Air Force Base a fully operating military facility.
"They are volunteer positions, but you want to try and give back to the community and help the community grow," explained Zimmerman. "Those who have the time, means and ability to do it, I think, are obligated to make where we live a better place. You can offer a little insight through community service and then move out of the way and let somebody else come in and do their thing."
Zimmerman said there are occasions when doing volunteer work for the community takes away from business time. It is then that he relies on his employees to make decisions that will benefit the business and maintain friendly relations with customers.
"You can't do it alone. You have to have a good group of people around you to make it easier," said Zimmerman. "We've tried to spend the time cultivating our executive team to make decisions. They know what the culture of the organization is and what the end result should be for the customer. They have the autonomy to make decisions to get from A to B."
The "culture" of the organization goes well back into Minot's history. Zimmerman's maternal grandparents were immigrants who owned an early grocery business in the city. That evolved into food service and, eventually, the hotel business.
"The third generation is trying to stay involved and carry on. It makes us a little bit unique. We try to pass that family atmosphere along to the team that is around us," said Zimmerman.
It's working. The hotel has been operating for 28 years. Zimmerman has been involved for 22 of those. During those years he has witnessed many changes to Minot and the surrounding area, both highs and lows. Right now, he said, is an exciting time to be in business in Minot due to growth that is spurred by energy development.
"As a community we always look at Fargo, Bismarck and Grand Forks and think it would be great to have development like they do every year. Now we have it," stated Zimmerman. "It is very exciting, as a community and a state. Now we have an opportunity. It's certainly not without challenges for the region and the community, but we're extremely fortunate compared to other parts of the country. We try to get involved, give back and make Minot a better place for everybody."