A few words about PMI Travel – A Boutique Team of Vacation Rental Managers
As the director of PMI Travel, I wanted to write a little bit about our first year and what it has entailed. This is a shout out to our team who’s helped build the coolest Ohana of vacation rental vendors, managers, and support staff in the business. You deserve a pat on the back. You are amazing!
PMI Travel isn’t just a family of hundreds of managers who are all at the top of their game, this team is made up of all shapes and sizes of businesses, from managers who have just a few rentals to managers who bring in millions of commissions each year. Having a sprinkle of every type of business in our pillar is what’s made PMI Travel the most fun, challenging, and exciting project of my nearly twenty year VR career.
We’ve come a long long way in such a short period of time. When I took the reigns almost a year ago, I had access to a brilliant mind in my office who’s the king of Operations (Jeremiah Cundiff, I love you man) and thankfully he had the bandwidth to help. We started breaking down his “7 portfolio multipliers” that franchisees use to grow and figure out what content, lessons, videos, etc. were needed for the vital parts of the business. If you don’t know what the magic seven are, I’ll list them below. In hindsight: Any business being built lives and dies by these seven pieces so make sure that whatever you are doing, you have these in mind.
1. Lead Generation Activities. Whenever I think of lead generation, I think of one person. Gary Keller! His impact on my life as a Keller Williams team leader, owner, and agent for about a dozen years is tattooed on my brain. It’s a good thing. Possibly the best tattoo I have, written in invisible ink smack dab in the middle of my forehead. If you can be ANYTHING in this business, be a lead generating machine. I’ve never ever heard of someone complain about having too many leads or too many referrals.
Gary Keller said simply that you need to generate leads for three hours every day. 9-12. Don’t take appointments during that time, don’t get your morning exercise, don’t text your buddies.
Generating leads is what I love to do most. Thank you, Gary Keller. You are the Jedi of Rainmaking. Aloha.
2. Sales Conversion. This is simple to explain but harder to do. It’s the ratio of how many deals you close based on how many leads you get. This is where we talk about the “Help, not Sell” idea. If you are an expert or budding expert in your field and you lead with value and aim to be ultimately helpful and happy all through the process, people will flock to you and when they do they’ll be stoked to work with you and thus… You convert!
3. Revenue Per Key. This is a fun one. How do we make our managers more money per property via extra revenue streams? In the vacation space we can help you build out business units like in house cleaning and maintenance, make extra money by selling trip insurance, activities, grocery delivery and more! The way I look at it, the more fun you have, the more money you make via fun activities.
4. Operating Efficiency. This is Jeremiah’s zone and my absolute weakness. Luckily our software, vendor partners, and my team here at PMI corporate really help with this. For instance, just the fact that we do your books for you (you rock, accounting team), gives you a giant operations head-start over any of your competitors in your area. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, our vendor stack and the pricing we get thanks to discounts are unbeatable. Getting a better deal than anyone else will give you more operating capital and help you operate smoother. I doubt anyone will argue with that statement!
5. Profit Margin and Financial Health. This goes back to a few of the multipliers above. Adding the power of revenue per key and operating efficiency together with data tracking and measurement helps us figure out exactly where we make money, how to do more of those activities that make the most money, and improves our overall financial health. And if you ask me, your health IS your wealth so they work hand in hand.
6. Referral and Networking Activities. This is the long play version of #1. Still, I lean on relationship wizards like Keller and others for the tools to network your way to success and convince the people in your sphere that when people think about management, they think about you. This is also a great place to think about what seats you have at what tables, organizing networking events, and being a leader that people want to send business to. It’s the multiplier of magnetism. The more people are magnetized to you, the more you’ll have people wanting to work with you and send you their referrals.
7. Management Contract Retention. The art of keeping the people you work with. This all boils down to honoring the relationship: I love to work on this multiplier by focusing on communication, expectations, and the overall relationships with the owners you manage properties for. Yes, they are your bosses but if you treat them like partners, they’ll respect you more and stay around longer. Trust and honor are the two keys to success here.
If you have a bit of extra time and want to learn more about Jeremiah and see just why I love this guy, check out this article he wrote… It’s DYNAMITE!
During this portfolio-multiplier exercise, I developed a training roadmap. We asked what do new and veteran managers alike really need to get more of their time back, what scripts they can use to convert more leads into sales, and how they can scale up without losing their work/life balance, and farm, hire and develop a fully integrated marketing campaign. This was a true brain-rain. What came out of the first winter I spent at PMI HQ in Lehi was a few hundred pieces of content including checklists, documents on how to prospect for new owners, systems we use to run efficiently, example videos, you name it. Our resources are constantly changing and growing as we add more data, managers, and intelligence to this ever-growing braintrust.
That word, braintrust, may lead to the key to this whole program: YOU. If you are reading this and want to be a part of something that is truly a brotherhood/sisterhood of humans who are working to be the gold standard family of vacation rental managers, you have come to the right place. We aren’t mega managers. We are owners of a common franchise with ideals and values that align with yours. This isn’t about us, the franchisor or corporate in any way. PMI corporate is only around for you. Without you there is no braintrust, there is no us. You are the lifeblood of this team and the culture we have as a group is absolutely awesome.
Concurrently I started re-interviewing all the software providers, vendors, and anyone else we thought could add value to what would be the best technology stack in the industry, available to our team instantly upon joining PMI as a conversion partner or even as a brand new franchisee with zero experience in the Vacation Rental Industry. This process hasn’t ended and it never will, as new technology comes into our space we will continue to look for ways to grow/pivot our stack to ensure our team has the best of the best, all the time.
After we poured all that work into the program, we needed to stress test what we had so we opened up a beta. We took about fifteen of our current franchisees who were managing vacation rentals, corporate rentals, or any other kind of STR and we started adding their properties into Streamline, our nucleus. This went relatively smooth compared to the carnage I’ve witnessed and personally experienced when adding centralized software or any kind of PMS (Property Management Software) into the mix of such a fast-moving business.
Next, we needed bookings. So we took the beta properties and started working on direct integrations with OTAs (Online Travel Agencies), including HomeAway, Airbnb, and the other big players in the space like Booking.com and Trip Advisor. We also added Booking Pal to gain access to more sites like Agoda, Despegar, Canada Stays, and others we felt would work to bring in more of the international crowd. At the same time, Bizcor was developing our very own “No booking fees” online travel agency.
Now we have a place to bring guests so they can book in many many destinations all over the world and expect a gold star experience with a local-boutique manager. But we still needed a website for each of our franchisee partners to feature their properties and not the whole team at one time. Bizcor came up with www.PMIsaltlake.com, and a customized site similar to this is available for each of our franchisees.
Next came building the accounting suite in tandem with StreamlineVRS.com, our software partner. Mike and his team up on the second floor thought of every scenario of STR management that we would need to account for. This included what vendors would be needed, the frequency they need to be paid to keep people happy, transient taxes, cleaning, maintenance orders, Rental Guardian insurance waivers for both trip insurance and damage waivers, and more. We started performing these tasks for our managers every month so they can go out and grow without getting bogged down by paying bills, collecting taxes, and being drowned in paperwork. We also developed a program where our team creates owner statements, pays owners and managers, and even manages chargeback claims! They are rare but when they happen they can be a giant pain that takes days or weeks to sort out.
At this point, we are cooking! Training, websites, software, booking engine, accounting… The money is flowing, the guests are having great experiences, and the owners are benefiting from their assets under management.
So what comes next? Constant polishing and growing our team with the best partners possible. Weekly and monthly coaching sessions, one-on-one meetings with me and the rest of my support team, ideas, inspiration, social support, and even on-site visits.
It’s been a whirlwind of a year, full of excitement. Here’s to many many more years as we grow our Ohana!