Preston Scott talks with Chip Conley

The Morning Show with Preston Scott on 100.7 WFLA in Tallahassee welcomed Power Forward Speaker Series guest Chip Conley on the show today. We are excited to share this interview with you and we're looking forward to hearing more about industry disruption from Chip Conley on Wednesday.

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Part 2


Preston Scott: Welcome back to the morning show with Preston Scott joining me this morning, Chip Conley. He is the strategic advisor for AirBNB, he is the author of the book Emotional Equations and he is the speaker, the key note speaker, and he’ll be featured at the Power Forward speaker series brought to you by First Commerce Credit Union, Wednesday at Ruby Diamond Auditorium; moreon that in a little bit. Chip welcome to the program how are you sir?

Chip Conley: Great to be with you, Preston, thank you.

PS: Tell me a little but about your decision to kind of take on AirBNB…why did you do it?

CC: Well, I’m a long time hotelier and I still own a number of hotels, but at the age of 26 I started a boutique hotel company and created 52 boutique hotels, so I have a long history of loving being in the hospitality business and when the 3 young AirBNB founders came along and said, “hey we have this little start up and were in the hospitality business, but we don’t know anything about hospitality *laughs*, well I didn’t understand their business model at first, but I loved their passion and I liked their democratization of hospitality that they were offering.

PS: So, what was it that got you to sign on the dotted line and say, “yeah, I’m in”?

CC: Well you know, Brian Cheskey is the CEO and he is 21 years younger than me and he asked me to be both his mentor but also be the head of Global hospitality and strategy. So, I would be reporting to him. The idea that I would both be his mentor and his intern at the same time because I was reporting to him at age 52, when I started I never worked in the tech company before so I liked the fact I could learn a new industry and help mentor this young genius that I felt really had a lot of potential.

PS: One of the things that is interesting to me is of the many descriptive words used about you Chip, one of them is disrupter. What do you take out of that title?

CC: Well, I was about to interrupt you *laughs* because a disruptor theme is unconventional and maybe tends to get in the way and change things, you know the word. I don’t think anybody…I’ve been a disruptor twice and, I think, probably the only person in the hospitality industry who disrupted their favorite industry twice first as a boutique hotelier, in the early days of boutique hotels, and then more recently with AirBNB home sharing, but I don’t think I am in business to be a disruptor. I’m in business to create new ideas. How they end, define the hotel segments from many decades, but at some point, people wanted something that is a little bit more experiential and personalized and unique and had flavor of the local…of the location that they were and that’s what boutique hotels are about and that is in fact what AirBNB is about. So, I think we’ve disrupted the idea that everybody just wants predictability when it came to their accommodations.

PS: Chip Conley will be at the Power Forward Speaker series, Wednesday Ruby Diamond Auditorium 3:30 in the afternoon. If you want tickets go to FSU Fine Arts ticket office or just go online to Chip when I scanned around your blog page and I read into your book Emotional Equations, you clearly enjoy the side of what you do that helps people dig a little deeper and bring a little bit more purpose and meaning into their life but there was one expression that stood out to me, explain what you mean by, “adaptively attuned.”

CC: *laughs* Well, I live part of the year at Baha, California in New Mexico and in a recent blog post I talked about the fact that you can either attain or you can attune in sports and I do a lot of sports. When I’m doing yoga, which I don’t do very well, most people do that to attune with themselves but I get frustrated because I’m trying to attain something when I’m doing yoga. But what I’ve learned with surfing and I’m 57 years old now and learning how to surf, which I’m proud of, is the way I enjoy surfing is not by trying to attain something but to attune my surfing with the wave. And I think there is a lot of lessons to be learned in leadership around this. You can be in the leadership format of just sort of like commanding and control or you can help lead the energy of a group and then attune to it and then take them along with you. And you know I think there is all kinds of great leaders, but I tend to be one who’s a little more attuning myself to the group and then taking the group along with me as opposed to forcing them into a military, sort of uniform and marching in lock step with me.

PS: Chip stand by, Chip Conley is with me. He’s an author of the book Emotional Equations, he’s strategic advisor to AirBNB, to boutique hoteliers, and the speaker at the Power Forward Speaker series coming up Wednesday. We will continue our discussion next on the morning show with Preston Scott.

Preston Scott: We are back, Chip Conley is staying with me for one more segment. He will be speaking this Wednesday, 3:30 in the afternoon, so you can work 3 quarters of your day, bring the leadership team. Tickets are available at It’ll be at Ruby Diamond Auditorium and upon hearing that Chip Conley is 57 and knowing that I’m 57 and realizing he is a lot better looking than me, I’m rethinking my decision to show up at the event because you’ve aged a whole lot better than I’ve aged. *laughs* Chip, maybe it’s that yoga thing, I don’t know. Tell me about the speed of business today. You know one of the things I’ve observed is that sometimes I worry that the speed of business is so fast that we don’t have the opportunity to kind of let a given, whatever movement we’re in or wherever the pendulum is swung in time to marinate, kind of learn from it, evolve through it before were on to the next thing. Are we learning as much as we should learn with the speed of in which business is moving now?

Chip Conley: Well, that’s a great question Preston. I think that part of what’s happening is technology has accelerated things. And the disruption in what happens in industries, whether is it’s in ride sharing with Uber and Lyft vs. Taxi cabs or AirBNB vs. hotels, a lot of technology, which can allow something to go global quite quickly. I actually think this is part of the reason why there is more of a need for people of age, people say 50 or older to be in some of these younger tech start-ups as; not the adult supervisor in the room because let’s credit these young people with their brilliant ideas, they’re adults too, but there is an element of what I call the “modern elder”. When you can actually have good judgement and that sort of holistic thinking that happens frankly as you get older that allows you to marinate on making decisions and be a little bit more thoughtful as opposed to just reactive. And so yes, I think there is a great opportunity frankly now that we have 5 generations in the work place all at once to help some intergenerational learning happening, so that young people can teach an old guy like me, technology, but I can teach them a lot about leadership and strategy because I’ve had a few more decades on them.

PS: You know one of the things my faith teaches me is that growth comes in valleys and it’s kind of, you know, nature reveals itself. Farmers grow in valleys; most farmers don’t grow on mountain tops. What was it that you might’ve experienced that you would call maybe a big setback, but you really looking back learned so much that it propelled you forward?

CC: You know I would absolutely agree with that. Well, one of my setbacks was all my hotels all in the San Francisco bay area back in around 2001 and for the prior 5 years the San Francisco bay area had gone through the Dot-com boom as the largest hotelier in the bay area we had grown double digits every year for 5 or 6 years in a row. And then suddenly, we had the Dot-com bust and then 9/11 and a recession and the travel industry shrunk and in the bay area it actually declined double digits a few years in a row. That experience taught me a great lesson, which was I had to get back to the core of why I was in the business in the first place and I called the company, “joie de vivre”, which is a very strange name but it means “joy of life’, in French and so I had to get back to my own sense of joy in what I was doing, but most importantly I had to figure out a leadership approach that helped people in the company see our mission and where we were going and I ended up writing a book called, “Peak, how our great companies get their mojo from Maslow”. It’s talking about Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a psychology theory, and applying it to business. Long story short, I learned my greatest lesson in business when I was in the biggest down turn I ever had to experience. So, I completely agree with you Preston.

PS: Good stuff man. I look forward to the chat coming up on Wednesday and again you can get your tickets at or the Fine Arts Ticket office at Florida State University. Coming up Wednesday, 3:30 at Ruby Diamond Auditorium. Chip Conley, Strategic advisor AirBNB, the book Emotional Equations, on the morning show with Preston Scott.