David Williams and Dexter Tom
David Williams (left) & Dexter Tom (right)
David Williams is president and Dexter Tom is senior vice president at Houston-based Andaaz Manufacturing, a manufacturer of custom casegoods, lighting and seating for timeshare resorts and other hospitality properties, and a certified minority-owned firm. They talked with us about their backgrounds, the founding and development of their company, the changes in the timeshare industry since then, and the benefits of ARDA membership.
What did each of you do before you were a part of Andaaz, how did you first intersect with the timeshare world, and how did your company get started?
David Williams: I started in the hospitality business with a Holiday Inn, almost 45-50 years ago, at age 15, as a bellman. I decided in high school that I was going to study hotel-restaurant management, and I went to Cornell. After that, I traveled many years working for a number of hotel ownership and management companies to operate a variety of chain-affiliated hotel properties around the United States. In the 1990s, I started my own management company with some of our investors here in Houston—which [eventually] led to Andaaz—buying distressed hotels and flipping the properties. We decided that we were not getting the quality of the casegoods and other furniture products we needed, so we started sourcing ourselves, in China. And then we had other investor clients engaged in building and renovating hotel projects who noticed our quality product and, before long, a growing number of owners started asking: “Can you get us furniture, too?” It just morphed into a business, and about 10 years ago, myself and the partners, we sold basically all our interest in [the real estate company] and shifted our focus to Andaaz, 100%. We subsequently bought a shipping company and a logistics company to ensure timely delivery of our product [from overseas] without any issues.
Dexter Tom: David’s [original] company understood the expectations when it comes to all the different aspects of what defines quality, and creating value in our products. It’s all about getting your money’s worth, whether it’s a hotel business, or a vacation club/timeshare business. A little bit about me: I started in hospitality industry consulting, based in Miami with a firm called Kenneth Leventhal and Company, which became part of Ernst & Young, working across all the different major hotel brands. Being based in Miami, we did a lot of work in the resort sector, down in the Caribbean and throughout the southeastern United States. Then I joined Marriott International and worked in hotel feasibility and development, in the regional office in Southern California, for about 10 years. And in 2006, I joined Marriott Vacation Club International, which was eventually spun off to become Marriott Vacations Worldwide. I spent two years working with the corporate office in Orlando in feasibility and resort development and subsequently relocated to Singapore, to work out of the Asia-Pacific regional office, developing and expanding the Marriott Vacation Club timeshare property portfolio in key leisure markets within Thailand, Australia, and Indonesia. I’ve been working with the Andaaz team for about three years now.
How did you come to focus on your three main lines of business, as opposed to anything else?
Williams: Because strictly those are what we can control from the manufacturing standpoint. Carpet, as an example, we’ve got to go to another vendor. With casegoods, lighting and seating, I actually have U.S. teams that live in China or Vietnam, so we can control the outcome from start to finish. We try not to buy anything from another vendor other than maybe handles, hardware, electrical outlets, etc. Other than that, we manufacture everything ourselves. We designed the company to be a one-stop-shop. Since we work with designers and procurement companies, with our background, we understand exactly what people are looking for, from an operational standpoint—what they need in the hotel, plus what we need from the construction standpoint. Since I’ve worked on both sides of it—operations and manufacturing—we were able to develop better construction standards to withstand different climates and customer segments (e.g., business traveler vs. family market), and then to engineer the specifications, construction and finishes to accommodate the operating environment.
How has your approach or your client base changed over the past decade?
Williams: We wanted to build a solid infrastructure, and we did not go after the timeshare market at first. We built ourselves almost like an OEM in the beginning, initially focused on limited-service hotels until we got our factory, our logistics, and our quality assurance programs standardized to ensure consistent, premium quality. And we designed manuals to work with the factories, in all the other languages, so that we can educate our onsite factory team on U.S. product construction, and what’s required by the major brands. Once we got very comfortable with that, then we’ve moved up to that next scale, and eventually into timeshare and full-sized resorts.
Tom: As the new kid on the block here, I reflect back on the economic challenges that have occurred. Obviously, the global financial crisis was full-blown around the beginning of the decade, and then we just came through the pandemic. In each one of these highly catastrophic events, Andaaz has come out even stronger. It really is a testament to the company’s experience and capabilities to handle increasingly sophisticated projects. As an example, the supply chain disruption that occurred during the pandemic affected everybody, certainly in this segment of business. Because Andaaz has their own in-house logistics team that are more than capable and highly experienced, they were able to, no pun intended, navigate through those challenges; identifying sources of shipping containers, number one. And more importantly, being able to work around the bottlenecks that occurred at some of the ports, and identify alternative ports to get the product on delivered on time.
Anything else you want to mention?
Williams: We have transformed our network of modern factories to meet a very high standard, including certification for sustainability by MindClick (a hospitality industry consortium founded by Marriott International and premier design firms); and we’ve applied these rigorous environmental standards to projects, such as changing almost all our lighting to an LED-type lighting. For cabinets, dressers and other casegoods, we’re working with different surfaces and finishes such that, say in three to four years if the client wants something newer— they only need to change the drawer face and panels, and not the entire cabinet. So we've been working a lot on creative initiatives that support the concept of sustainability.
What prompted you to join ARDA, what do you hope to get out of membership, and what do you have to offer ARDA’s other members?
Williams: What I wanted to learn is understanding better what the client needs, what issues that they're having. What I’ve developed, from being at a couple of ARDA events, is I can actually talk with operational people and understand the challenges when I get into designs. I understand how the program works, how the industry works, because it’s completely different than the true hospitality industry.
Tom: Joining ARDA was a natural progression for Andaaz where we can leverage our favorable track record in creating value for hotel operators and owners, and continue to leverage our expertise, production capacity and corporate talent to support successful newbuild and renovation projects. We also understand the unique differences and technical requirements inherent to timeshare given the higher occupancy levels, larger travel party size, greater length of stay, and the need for furnishing with improved durability, safety features, inspired and innovative design, and modern technology features. ARDA offers an excellent platform for staying current and improving our knowledge of the timeshare industry. We are excited to be a resource to support ARDA’s members.
How did you enjoy your first ARDA Timeshare Together, as a member? Anything you found especially inspirational?
Williams: The networking and the discussion panels were very informative, hearing not just from one sector, but hearing from different avenues of the sector. It gave us all-around [view], rather than just having one person up there. They gave you an idea of what each company believes about where they’re going. I was very impressed with how they kept everybody very engaged. And we had a good chance to get a break in between, and network in between setup, private meetings and VIP rooms and things. So it was just very well set up.
Tom: The conference was amazing: highly informative panel discussions addressing hot topics and trends, while providing highly engaging and enjoyable venues for networking and social events. After spending more than a dozen years with MVW, it was terrific to reconnect with former colleagues. What was most inspirational is the industry’s amazing leadership and seeing the level of engagement and determination by the senior executives to successfully deliver the brand promise, manage the business, realize strong growth during the pandemic, and effectively position their companies.
What is your favorite place to travel, and why?
Williams: My favorite place is probably New York City. I grew up in Connecticut, so I always had a chance to kind of go to New York, and I’ve really loved the hustle and bustle. I get there probably about five times a year, a couple times for events, and I still have relatives that live in Connecticut.
Tom: My all-time favorite destination is Bangkok, Thailand – a vibrant city which offers tremendous cultural experiences through its culinary, arts and historic districts, fantastic shopping districts, sightseeing along the Chao Phraya River, and convenient excursions to nearby beaches and leisure destinations.