The following is the March 23rd edition of VRMB's Monday Morning Motivation Newsletter, shared via email. Due to share requests, we have published the entire email below. You can sign-up for the newsletter here.
There’s a famous moment towards the end of the story of Apollo 13 (above) in which the astronauts will die if mission control engineers don't improvise and create a makeshift carbon dioxide filter immediately.
One engineer dumps a box of random space parts onto the table — hoses, bags, ducktape, suits, canisters — and the team goes to work. “Let’s get it organized,” says one engineer. “OK let’s build a filter,” says another. “Better get some coffee goin.”
This Coronavirus crisis will force each of us to dump our spare parts — all the pieces of our vacation rental business — onto a table, and to reassemble them in a new configuration in a post-coronavirus world. It may look similar to your previous business -- it may look totally different. The trick is not to sit around and try to think big thoughts. The trick is to get more parts on the table.
THE GOOD NEWS
While the virus is completely out of our control (apart from staying home and limiting the spread in our local communities), the good news is that THIS WILL END (hopefully sooner rather than later) and when it does, the companies who have used the downtime to preserve and strengthen relationships will find that those relationships are the most precious resource in their kick-start forward again.
The good news is that if you built your business to the point it's at today, you can do it again (and better/faster) tomorrow. The good news is that if you've developed years of experience in vacation rentals, that will be more needed than ever before. Get inspired by The Star Throwers -- leaders who invest in relationships not only within their circle, but in their broader community and environment.
YOUR QUARANTINE NICKNAME
Your Quarantine Nickname: How you’re feeling right now + the last thing you ate from the fridge or cupboard
Mine: Motivated Shrimp
STOPPING THE BLEED
Even though it was only last week our last MMM went out, with the amount of change and chaos it feels like an eternity ago. I’ve spoken with a number of owners and managers in the past week, and the top concern is: How do I stop the bleed?
Below you will find some actions around salvaging cancellations, managing staff decisions, cutting expenses that may be needed in order to survive.
+ All owners and managers are handling cancellations differently. Some managers are being flexible with refunds/credit and investing in goodwill (so that guest comes back later). Others are standing firm on their cancellation policies: so long as you have signed contracts, standing firm can be viewed not only as the fair option but as the responsibility of a business owner who needs to support their family. Be confident here. There is no right or wrong here: only what feels best for you. VRMIntel explains how the different OTA stances.
+ The most precious asset to any core vacation rental business is the team. Etiquette matters. Before your tough decisions with staff, no matter how dark your finances may look, ask yourself “how can I handle this in a way that preserves respect in a post-coronavirus world?” Communication and transparency is key. Some of the bigger the companies I spoke with are making lay-offs and referencing employees individuals immediately to Unemployment. Other companies are finding new ways for staff to stay on in the downtime (Examples: doing checks of empty homes for property owners, marketing projects like new website).
+ DO NOT DIP (warn many) into advanced deposits (allocated for something/someone else). This can lead to an even bigger legal mess. Amy Hinote points out, “For many, it's tempting to use advanced deposits (monies collected for future reservations) to pay short-term expenses. The most important advice from experienced mangers is do not do this.”
+ For those with offices, reach out to your landlord and ask for a break on rent. Most of the managers I spoke with had built-up enough credibility over the years, they have earned this request. Remember, disposable cash is key.
+ Consider applying for a small business loan. Depending on where you live, several Inner Circle members have mentioned disaster loan programs that you can apply for with an application, tax returns, and other business details to cover employees/subcontractors to keep your business afloat. We've yet to see how quickly any of these disperse the cash.
Note: We will be going into "How to make the most of this downtime" in coming MMMs. Some managers are reaching out to new property owners: others are re-configuring their websites or management software: some collecting forgotten reviews. The general theme is to continue doing stuff: you will need that momentum when it's time to step on the gas.
+ We're launching a hub! Together with a group of industry experts, this week we will be releasing a new online help center dedicated to weathering the Coronavirus storm and coming out stronger on the other side. VRMB subscribers will have free access.
+ Amy Hinote has gone into hyper curation mode and I am grateful for it. If you don't already, sign up for Amy's newsletter. She is rocking it right now.
+ Vacasa has made major layoffs and we should expect to see other big names do so in the coming weeks. After speaking with Amy this past week, we agree that the horizon of vacation rental businesses after all of this will look very different.
+ We expect a lot of start-ups to close. It is unlikely that more venture capital will be invested anytime soon and with our core stakeholders (property owners/managers) seeing a dry-up of income, the companies that had not yet forged profits will have it the hardest. It will be tough to see some of our favorite young businesses shut down (at least temporarily) but anyone who is passionate and experienced will be a hot commodity when things return to normal. Those people will be very very valuable assets.
+ VRMA Chicago is going virtual! The organizers are pivoting to an all-virtual event to be held this spring. It seems like all other conferences are in 'wait and see' mode at the moment.
If you are looking for some comic relief over the coming weeks, consider taking a virtual trip with me to visit some of the greatest vacation rentals in the world! We traveled to visit Inner Circle members in Bali, Montevideo, Rio, Kansas, Park City, New Orleans, Budapest, Bowen Island, Lisbon, and St. John USVI and do all kinds of things my mother wouldn't approve of. Click here to watch!
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You may be thinking, Matt, I don't want motivational quotes in a time like this! but this one is too good to skip:
"Helping others entails learning how you are helped. In order to heal others, you must learn to heal yourself. Learning how to give to yourself is part of learning how to give to others. If you are stingy with yourself, you will be stingy with others." - Reb Anderson
The coming period of no bookings will be difficult. But let this be a reminder that we will get it done, together. Besides staying distracted by your own business, I would encourage you to look around at the ways you can help others. At least in my life, letting go of the pressure and proactively doing stuff for others has a special way of resetting the way I feel.
Matt Landau is the Founder of the VRMB and the Inner Circle, two online resources dedicated to helping vacation rental owners and managers generate more bookings.
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