Paul Prudhomme was a larger than life creole chef known for inventing blackened seasoning...a recipe/technique that went on to become a staple on every restaurant chain menu in America (albeit with varying degrees of authenticity).
Chef Paul passed away earlier this month, so it was with a special gravitas that I sat at the head of a giant back-room table at K-Pauls (his flagship New Orleans restaurant) and ate a plate of true Louisiana blackened flounder for the first (and probably the most important) time.
I was eating a piece of history!
I couldn't reflect back on what made Paul Prudhomme so successful without observing the private group of 11 community members sitting with me: owners, managers, vendors, and bloggers who came from all walks of life to the vacation rental industry...and are experiencing unprecedented levels of their own respective success.
Such diversity in a group of strangers might seem -- on paper -- to be conflicting. But listening to the interactions, it was clear that Chef Paul's breakthrough spirit was seeping out through the walls:
After getting over that intangible feeling that "something special is happening here," I asked myself the following question about these pioneering vacation rental professionals:
"What are the common threads of their success?"
Identifying the common threads is the key to the kingdom and I've shared my personal beliefs on what makes all these individuals special below...
And it's worth noting that I most certainly DID NOT know these things when I first started in the vacation rental business. I basically stumbled into the job and eventually found a really incredible mentor who helped me identify these structures. In looking back, I would have loved to embrace these things sooner:
The more social capital you form, the more success you see. Social capital is a metric we use in my gang reintegration program that basically dictates "your value in the community." A graduate's social capital "score" (how many people he knows) is directly correlated with his chances at success. In other words, if a graduate is recognized by his community, he tends to do well (and vice versa). For this reason, Esperanza's methodology is designed primarily around building social capital and in 2 years we've succeed with 43 former members from 3 rival groups.
The vacation rental world is really no different. "The term social capital emphasizes not just warm and cuddly feelings, but a wide variety of quite specific benefits that flow from the trust, reciprocity, information, and cooperation associated with social networks," according to The Harvard Kennedy School. "Social capital creates value for the people who are connected and, at least sometimes, for bystanders as well."
No matter your skill level, company type, or geographic location, work on building social capital in the vacation rental industry quickly and easily (and for relatively little cost). When curated properly, bringing different people to the table can be an incredibly powerful thing. Unfortunately, building VR social capital is limited online.
They say curiosity killed the cat, but in vacation rentals, I believe in quite the contrary.
Being inquisitive and wanting to know how stuff works is not a universal trait. Testing a new piece of software or researching the pricing landscape of your region...not everyone has this inquisitive gene. But I found it to be a common denominator of all successful dinner attendees: their desire to try new things and be open to ideas of different perspectives...it gives them a more balanced view of their business and a unique ability to pivot their business in special ways.
When I look at some of the least successful vacation rental professionals that I know, it's almost always based on the fact that they're closed-minded, sheltered, or simply unwilling to change. So if you aren't really interested in knowing how stuff works, the vacation rental hosting may not be for you.
In my community-building research, one of the toughest things to overcome is the demand that serious challenges be fixed easily. This is common in our Esperanza graduates (who wholeheartedly believe they are victims and that the world has done them wrong and so stealing your wallet is simply the only way to put food on the table) as well as for 76% of the country's population (who believe that oppression or "putting everyone in jail" is the only way to reduce crime).
When I listen to many vacation rental owners and managers, I hear a similar weakness and that is limiting one's thinking in terms of sustainable solutions, or thinking that relying on listing sites is the only way (this is why you see all the complaining about listing sites). The philosophy of Listing Site Independence can mean a range of things to a range of people: but at its core, what all the Inner Circle dinner attendees embraced was the desire to constantly be "in the loop" on their quest to own not just the racehorse, but also the racecourse. What LSI really means is that you have full control of your business.
"Sustainable VR professionals are in the minority. They take full control of their business." @bookmorenights #VRMA2015
No matter what kind of vacation rental business you own, try to remember that alternative solutions DO indeed exist...and that you DON'T have to rely on the status quo if you don't want to. Call it "a conveyor belt of best practices" with a non-stop flow of new ideas (see 3 examples here) to keep you constantly inspired.
And lest not forget: part of this mindset is understanding that in order to build a sustainable VR business you need patience, hard work, and measurement: that these alternate solutions are not easy, but they are most certainly rewarding (especially when in the company of others doing the same).
I ask myself this question all the time. And I still don't really know the true answer of what our Inner Circle community looks like in 5 or 10 years from now. What I do know is that surrounding ourselves with different people like the ones from dinner is a magical thing...
And equally important is keeping the community private from those who do not share our values.
For this reason, I have adopted the "marketing strategy" to simply share this kind of information with the hope that it connects with you...that you resonate with these perspectives, and that you make the decision to join based not just on our personality but on the value our membership brings to your vacation rental business.
That said, most members would look back and see their joining as a gateway into a brave new world of pioneering vacation rentals in their respective spaces.
So if you're open to the idea of innovating like Chef Paul Prudhomme, realize that it takes time, risk, and a certain special somethin somethin...
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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