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From busboy to CEO: David Kong

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  • "I started in the business being a busboy and dishwasher"
  • "I believe in hard work, I believe in being dedicated to whatever you do"
  • "We are not a Coca Cola"
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- He wants you to have a good night's rest at a good price.

David Kong, CEO of Best Western

David Kong is the CEO of Best Western, the world's largest hotel chain, with more than 4,000 locations around the globe. A company man by nature, his management style is as smooth as the fresh linens on the beds.

At the Best Western in New York's historic South Street, he tells The Boardroom about the difference he sees between the high and low ends of the hotel market.

Maggie Lake: What's your memory of the first time you stayed in a hotel?

David Kong: Well, that's easy, because when I grew up in Hong Kong my parents used to take me to hotels, and back in the '50s and '60s the hotels are where people went for nice dinners or nice brunches. And that's my childhood memory and that's why I am actually in the hotel business -- from those memories.

Maggie Lake: You are in the service industry, where customer satisfaction is so important. How do you keep your employees motivated?

David Kong: I think the most important thing is to really care about the employees that work for you. I started in the business being a busboy and dishwasher, so I have a special appreciation for people in those jobs. But I have also been a housekeeper to clean rooms, I have been a front-desk clerk, I've been a PBS operator. I've done all those jobs, and it helped me understand that those positions are really important, they are the backbones of the company.

Maggie Lake: How would you describe your management philosophy now, though?

David Kong: You know, I learned a lot throughout the years from the time when I was growing up -- My mom and dad had tremendous work ethic. They worked very long work hours, they were very dedicated for their work, so when I was growing up I was instilled with that work ethic.

I believe in hard work, I believe in being dedicated to whatever you do. And when I was going to high school, I went to a Jesuit high school, and what they taught me was the thirst for knowledge, curiosity, and always reinventing yourself, the need to always improve.

Maggie Lake: What do you gives think Best Western an edge over the competitors? And who do you see as your biggest competitor?

David Kong: All the discount brands are competitive. Best Western really straddles across the whole spectrum of the mid-scale market. What we are really different about is we are not a Coca Cola, we don't take the same approach to building our hotels.

Best Western hotels are independently owned and operated, what that means is when you check in to someone's hotel, you are really checking in to someone's home. There's a whole sense of hospitality. Because our members are the owners of the hotels. And they want to care for you as their guest.

Maggie Lake: What's the biggest challenge for you as you look out in the next couple of years for the hotel business and for Best Western?

David Kong: When the economy softens and the stock market goes down, then the hotel industry suffers as a result. And we want to be careful about the years coming, because the economy is only softening.

And in addition to that, because after the very good years that we had just recently, there's been a lot of construction activities. There's many more hotels coming on board, so without all the supply, we need to be careful.

All About Best Western International Inc.

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