This past weekend in a closed-door meeting at the Drake Hotel in Toronto, Canada, I concluded one final piece of information about the vacation rental industry, then placed a confident bet that independent vacation rental owners and managers will triumph over the larger listing sites adversaries.
The ongoing theme of David versus Goliath in the vacation rental industry is an intense one:
It's hard to find any property host who doesn't have a passionate viewpoint on how big listing sites like HomeAway and Airbnb have changed the industry. And very rarely will you meet an industry professional without his or her own unique prediction of shifts, changes, or acquisitions still to come.
So what did I observe in a time of such uncertainty that pushed me over the edge to fully commit all my time, my money, and my faith to one side?
The private event in Toronto was a "hot seat" style workshop, designed to help twenty select independent owners and managers solve one big challenge in their vacation rental business using the collective wisdom of the greater group: after all, how often do we as sole proprietors get stuck solely because we're trying to grow alone?
Immediately following the Drake Hotel event on Friday, we all headed over to a larger event called the Vacation Rental Success Summit. It was hosted by the vacation rental industry's godmother, Heather Bayer, as the first step in uniting our fragmented industry. This event drew over 100 independents from around the world and managed to fantastically avoid any corporate sponsorship or spindoctory.
I made an effort to personally talk to every attendee for at least a few minutes: hearing their challenges, goals, life experiences...etc.
At both the Drake and the Summit, a concept I had been mulling over more and more lately -- a perspective that you don't always get to see when reading blog posts or interacting with people on email -- began to concretize:
And that is, what distinguishes independent vacation rental owners from the larger conglomerates (not to knock their success at all) is our purpose as it relates to vacation rentals.
Passion vs. Paycheck
Independent vacation rental owners really love hosting guests and becoming entrepreneurs!
While we still have plenty to learn in terms of running more efficient businesses, our passion is what comes first in our career choice. Not the money.
It's proven that people whose motivation is "self-authored" (doing what they love) always show more interest, passion, confidence, persistence, creativity, and performance than those who are motivated by rewards (doing what would make them money)[1. University of Rochester's Human Motivation Research Group: http://www.psych.rochester.edu/graduate/motivation/].
Think about how this advantage might apply to economic hard times.
Think about how this advantage might apply to ethical dilemmas and exit strategies.
Our Zone of Genius
None of this is to say that executives and employees at Airbnb and FlipKey and VRBO are not passionate. But for most of them, the passion in vacation rentals didn't come first, it came second (behind the need or desire to work and make money).
The bigger listing site folks would fall into what Gary Hendricks (in his book The Big Leap[2.The Big Leap by Gary Hendricks: http://www.amazon.com/Big-Leap-Conquer-Hidden-Level/dp/0061735361]) calls the Zone of Excellence: areas that we excel in...things we do really well and are generously rewarded for.
But one step higher than the Zone of Excellence is Hendricks' Zone of Genius, in which individuals are thriving on every level. Individuals are not just successful in the Zone of Genius: they are also fulfilled by doing what comes most naturally.
To me, the triumph of vacation rental independents over the big listing sites lies in our devotion to doing something we love, rather than just listening to conventional business logic or riding a profitable wave.
In Toronto, I met one new owner -- a retired beekeeper -- who is in the process of creating the world's first ecofriendly bee-friendly vacation rental, complete with a HoneyFlow[3. HoneyFlow: The World's First Beehive Technology: http://www.honeyflow.com] beehive device (right) on tap.
I met another who is so passionate about hosting guests and so aware of all the stuff she doesn't know about running her luxury vacation rental, that she was offering two free nights to anyone who wanted to come and stay for the weekend to mentor her growth: relationships and learning, not dollars and cents.
My Big Take
What I learned from Toronto's group of independents and the reason I am confidently putting my money on the these folks moving forward, is that they keep doing what makes them happy without regard for how old they are, how skilled they may be, or what their competitors think. This is, in a lot of ways, the new face of the vacation rental industry moving forward.
It's surprisingly simple and admirable logic if you think about it.
And the best part, it doesn't depend on anyone's judgment but our own.
If I had the opportunity to meet you in Toronto, please use the comments area below to share your feelings on this notion and where you stand on the future vacation rentals...