Super 8’s distinctive yellow-and-red signs are now part of the global landscape. With nearly 3,000 hotels worldwide, including 1,100 in China alone, a new Super 8 opens somewhere in the world every two days.
“It turns out that ‘8’ is considered a lucky number in Chinese culture,” says Mike Mueller ’90, who was a Marketing major at York College and is now Senior Vice President and Brand Leader for the subsidiary of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts.
Super 8’s success in China and other burgeoning economies isn’t all down to luck. “There is an appetite for roadside lodging very much like there was in the boom of the 1950s and 1960s in the United States,” says Mueller. “People got an automobile, and got out to see their big, beautiful country. We see that same thing happening now in China, Brazil, and India.”
Mueller became Super 8’s leader in 2015. He held globally-focused jobs at companies such as Hyundai and Avis Rent a Car before arriving at Wyndham in 2005 to oversee the company’s array of 15 hotel brands as Vice President for Global Loyalty, Marketing and Partnerships.
At Super 8, Mueller’s focus is ensuring the brand’s “prosperous future with the next generation of travelers.” He quips that “it’s a sea of beige out there with economy hotels,” and he has pushed for his hotels to add bold designs and uniquely local flavors to the brand’s strong reputation for reliable and affordable accommodation.
As one of a family of 12 from Long Island, Mueller says, “I needed to manage my resources, so I could get the best out of [college], if I put the best into it.” Attending York College is “an experience I am still benefiting from today.”
Mueller says Assistant Professor of Marketing Lewis Small, M.B.A., was “a key motivator for me” in pursuing his career path. “He inspired me because he was a regular guy, from humble beginnings,” Mueller continues, “but had a really strong acumen for big business, and how to sell to consumers.”
Working at the College Bookstore for his entire time on campus was also essential. Mueller recalls that his supervisor there, Fran Saylor, was “an incredible mentor…making sure that I was finding time to do what I was [at York] to do.”
Mueller believes mentors are key to success, but that asking for mentorship isn’t enough. “You’ve got to earn a mentor,” says Mueller. It requires displaying a level of skill and interest that compels a mentor “to solicit you to be mentored by them.”
His advice for York students who want to follow his path is to soak up any opportunity to obtain international experience. Learn a language. Live abroad.“Until you do that, you cannot understand how business is done globally,” Mueller says. “You have to get involved deeply in the culture. Be a local.”