What I Learned on My Vacation Rental Road Trip

LiveRez VP of Operations Shares Her Insights from a Recent Trip to Visit Partners

By Tina Upson, LiveRez VP of Operations

Tina Upson - LiveRez VP of Operations

Tina Upson, LiveRez’s VP of Operations.

Earlier this month, my LiveRez team members and I took a road trip to go and visit some of our awesome partners in the southeastern part of the country.

In just one week, we were able to get into the offices of no less than 10 LiveRez partners. Plus, we had another two partners stay with us in our vacation rental – who said sleepovers have to end at 17?

We observed office procedures, coached on underutilized tools, and then worked our butts off to help partners with any work involved in implementing the new features.

Along the way, I learned a lot not only about our partners, but about myself as well. In this post, I’ll try to touch on the big things I learned and share some of the advice I gave to the partners we visited.

Vacation Rental Managers Are My Type of People

Our beautiful home for the week!

Our beautiful home for the week!

I have a reoccurring thing that happens to me, where I am talking nonstop about the Vacation Rental industry to just about anyone who will listen. Then, I see that look in their eye…They really have NO idea why I’m so passionate about what I do for a living.

Ultimately, I’ve come to realize that it’s the people in this crazy industry that I really love. Mostly, because they are my kind of people – fast-paced, social, hard-working, with about zero healthy work boundaries. Most of them are on call 24/7, striving to keep two people – the homeowner and the guest – happy at all times. Holding it all together is quite the accomplishment!

So, when we can make their lives even a little bit easier, it’s incredibly rewarding. And sometimes the best way to understand how we can help is to go visit managers on their home turf.

Changes in Distribution Channels a Big Concern

The common topic that came up at all of the onsite visits I did was distribution channels, especially all the changes we’ve seen in the past months. Overwhelmingly, this has been the topic of conversation throughout all of our partner base. But, sitting face-to-face with partners and walking them through what we are seeing across the industry made me realize the level of unrest there is right now. I felt like after each deeper dive into what partners need to know and what they need to do, there was more confidence and less fear of the unknown.

That being said, how in the world was I going to get an hour-long, face-to-face with each partner at LiveRez? The truth is, I cannot. So I’ve decide to blog about it, and see if I can reach a few more people and help add some transparency to a murky situation.

Distribution is NOT a new topic of conversation. Many people know that at LiveRez we have preached listing site independence and diversifying your marketing portfolio since the beginning of time. But seeing a problem isn’t the same thing as taking steps to fix it.

So let’s talk about Step 1 – the first thing that a PM needs to do in order to feel in control of their business – and that’s getting the data.

DATA is Key

Growing up my dad owned a truck scale company and always said, “You can’t improve what you cannot measure.” So my advice to all partners and others navigating this ever-changing VR space is to get data.

First, you need a list of ALL avenues or channels that bring bookings to your company. This would be any OTAs, your own website, and any other places where you list your properties or advertise your business. The data needs to be sorted by channel. And, here are the questions needing answered for each channel:

  • What percentage of your overall bookings does this channel bring in?
  • What is the Cost Per Acquisition (CPA)? That’s how much you spent on that channel versus how much money that channel brought in (shown as a percentage). For example, you spent $1,000 on HomeAway advertising and made $3,000 in booking commissions and fees from this HomeAway advertising (that’s a 33% CPA).
  • What’s the Booking Pace (rate at which bookings are made for a particular date)?
  • What’s the Booking Window (time between guest booking and arrival)?
  • What is your Average Daily Rate? This is the average a guest pays per night to stay in one of your properties.
  • What is your average Length of Stay? This is how many nights each booking is on average.
  • What are your margins? How much of your revenue is profit? Are you working harder to fulfill bookings from one channel versus another? Are increasing marketing costs cutting into your profit?

Once you have this data, you’ll understand which channels you’re most dependent on and how each channel is performing. Armed with this data, you’ll be ready to put together a plan to make the necessary changes to be successful.

I’ll cover Part II in an upcoming post.

Your Brand Matters

A huge part of taking control of your business is building your brand through a diversified marketing portfolio. Every partner I talked with wanted to build up their brand. They just needed a realistic plan to get started.

These conversations really reinforced my confidence in what we’re planning for the 2016 Partner Conference. This year, every company that attends the conference is going to walk away with a both a business plan and a marketing plan. And, we’re in the process of lining up some of the top experts in the industry to come in and teach them how to do this in our “Coaches Track.”

The other training track, the “Athletes Track,” will teach your on-the-ground team members how to better utilize the system…which bring me to my final point.

Getting More Out of LiveRez

Even before my trip, I had noticed that even our best partners could still get more out of their LiveRez software. As much as we try to let partners know about new features and how to use them, there’s still a lot of partners that don’t realize all the awesome things LiveRez can do. Others know there are parts of the system they could be using, but haven’t had the time to implement them yet.

In our visits, we were able to help our partners start implementing some of these time-saving features. And, just like our partners who wished they had more time to implement some of these new feature, I wish my team and I had more time to go visit every LiveRez partner and give them that final push to help them get set up.

It’s funny how sometimes a lack of time is what’s holding us back from implementing something that will save us a TON of time in the future. Sometimes all you need is a little push.

That’s why I think events like the Partner Conference are so important. Not only do I get to see all my LiveRez peeps from around the world, but it’s also a great time for them to focus on their businesses and take the time to implement all the functionality they haven’t had a chance to yet (and with the whole LiveRez team there to help!).

Closing Thoughts

If you take away nothing else, let it be this…

  1. Our Partners are Incredible People
  2. Your Brand Matters
  3. Get Your Data about All Channels before I Blog about Step II
  4. Register for Partner Conference (if you haven’t already)

UPDATE: Check out the second part of this blog series: Asked and Answered: Am I Too Dependent on Listing Sites?

Learn More About LiveRez
LiveRez is the most widely used software platform for professional vacation rental managers. The company’s cloud-based, end-to-end platform offers fully integrated solutions for reservation and property management, websites with online bookings, trust accounting, CRM, housekeeping and maintenance, reporting, reviews and more. LiveRez is a proud Gold Sponsor of the Vacation Rental Manager’s Association (VRMA).

Visit LiveRez.com to learn more:

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Community and Technology Steal the Show at 2015 LiveRez Partner Conference

Newsletter-Cover-Conference1We were just blown away by how awesome last week’s Partner Conference was. We were so lucky to have hundreds of amazing partners attend, as well as have the opportunity to experience incredible speakers like Decorated Navy SEAL and Best-Selling Author Marcus Luttrell, Olympic Gold Medalist Picabo Street and Airbnb’s Head of Global Vacation Rentals Shaun Stewart.

It’s hard to describe what we experienced at this year’s conference. It was so much more than just a technology conference. It didn’t feel like business; it felt like family.

Sometimes it’s hard to describe the concept of partnership that drives LiveRez, but for the past two years at the partner conference, we didn’t have to say anything. You could just feel it.

In the following post, we’ll do our best to use words and pictures to describe what happened, both for those that missed it and for those that want to re-live it.  But, words can’t do justice in describing what we felt. It was simply a transformative experience.

LiveRez's Shane Carlson with partner Leigh and Dean Bateman

LiveRez’s Shane Carlson with partner Leigh and Dean Bateman

Kickoff Party

The 2015 LiveRez Partner Conference officially kicked off with a reception at the River Run Day Lodge just south of Ketchum. Multiple shuttles were needed to transport the nearly 400 attendees to the off-site venue, located at the base of the mountains.

It was truly like a big family reunion. We saw people we hadn’t seen for a full year. We connected with new friends. And, we all shared in the excitement of what was to come the next four days.

Tuesday Opening Session

Maurice Maio of King of the Beach

Maurice Maio of King of the Beach

A thick line of fog may have prevented both Tuesday’s MC and Tuesday’s opening speaker from landing at the Sun Valley airport the night before, but it couldn’t keep them from energizing attendees Tuesday morning. Serendipitously, when their flight was grounded in nearby Twin Falls, they (and about a dozen other partners) found their way to Sun Valley on a party bus. And, on Tuesday, they officially got the party started.   

Long-time LiveRez partner Maurice Maio – San Diego’s Beach King – got the conference started on Monday. And, after the traditional prayer and pledge of allegiance which have become staples of the Partner Conference, LiveRez CEO Tracy Lotz announced his friend and Idaho native Picabo Street, an Olympic Gold Medalist downhill skier.  

Olympic Gold Medalist Picabo Street

Olympic Gold Medalist Picabo Street

Street’s inspiring speech focused on overcoming the odds – something she is all too familiar with as the first American woman to win the World Cup downhill season title. A week earlier the local Sun Valley newspaper wrote that the conference was a homecoming for LiveRez, which was founded just down the road in Hailey. But, the conference was also a homecoming for Street, who was born in nearby Triumph, ID, and frequented the slopes of Bald Mountain. In fact, after her silver medal run in the 1994 Winter Olympics, the resort named an entire ski run after her.

Powerful Breakouts

LiveRez's Brian Sevy speaks at the Power of Community breakout session.

LiveRez’s Brian Sevy speaks at the Power of Community breakout session.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, attendees were treated to a series of powerful breakout sessions. These sessions gave on-goers valuable information that will fuel their business growth in the coming year — from learning how technology can transform their businesses to the announcement of a new online community and referral program to a stellar presentation from All Star Vacation Homes on owner acquisition. The breakouts also included Ask an Expert round tables that allowed partners to discuss important topics and learn from industry experts.  

The breakouts followed two major themes of the conference: community and technology. A big goal for the coming year at LiveRez is to really leverage the power of community within our network of partners. Through bringing our partners closer together, we can help them learn from each other, and we can better understand how we can help them through the development of new technology. That goal become evident in the very next session, the new technology showcase.

LiveRez Live

After the breakouts, the entire conference moved over to the classically styled Opera House for LiveRez Live and the big reveal of the new technologies LiveRez has been developing.

The anticipation was at a fever pitch as attendees lined up outside the Opera House and then packed it to near capacity. It was even more exciting for the team at LiveRez. We knew what we had in store for partners, and we were excited and anxious to finally share it.  

As attendees sat patiently, popcorn and soda in hand, suddenly the lights dropped, and a video – one that attendees will be talking about for years – played on the big screen.

A key theme of the video is “Live.” The idea of “Live” is driving the future development of LiveRez and even pushing a new approach to our branding of new and existing technology. The short clip examines what the term “Live” means to the origins of the company, how it has driven us in the past, and what it means for the future of our solution (check it out below).

As the video finished and the crowd erupted into applause, LiveRez VP of Technology Brian Sevy took center stage and kicked offed the live presentations with just one line: “Let’s talk about the future.”

Members of the LiveRez development team stand on stage after revealing a vast array of new technology the company is about to release.

Members of the LiveRez development team stand on stage after revealing a vast array of new technology the company is about to release.

The LiveRez tech team then proceeded to bring down the house, revealing one amazing enhancement after another. Here’s just a quick sample of some of the new technology they revealed for the first time:

  • A new “live” accounting system
  • A new “live” guest experience portal
  • A new “live” notification system
  • A new online community and enhanced help center
  • An NPS-powered review system
  • A new referral network program
  • And more!

Toward the end of the presentation, Sevy called the members of the LiveRez development team on stage. It was the perfect opportunity to highlight all the hard work they’ve put in over the past year. Building technology that makes a difference in the lives of partners is a real motivation for our engineering team. So, it was only appropriate that the team got to see first hand the potential impact their work will have on partners and be recognized for it.

An Evening to Honor LiveRez Partners with “Lone Survivor” Marcus Luttrell

LiveRez CEO Tracy Lotz after giving STRASD another donation to fight VR regulations in San Diego.

LiveRez CEO Tracy Lotz after giving STRASD another donation to fight VR regulations in San Diego.

Later that evening, attendees migrated to the ballroom, where they would be treated to an unforgettable night of heartfelt presentations.

LiveRez Director of Support and Implementation Tina Upson started off the night by honoring partners for both their charitable giving and their relentless fight against unfair regulations. Bluewater Vacation Homes’ Paul Becker, who is spearheading the fight in San Diego, took the stage to give us an update on the regulatory battles in San Diego. But, just as he was exiting the stage, LiveRez CEO Tracy Lotz stopped him.

“We’re not done, Paul,” Lotz said. Minutes later, Lotz presented Becker and the Short Term Rental Alliance of San Diego (STRASD) with a check for $5,000 – the third donation the company has given STRASD to fight regulations.

We also heard the heartwarming story of Full Circle Exchange, a non-profit social enterprise dedicated to empowering women to rise above poverty through training, education and entrepreneurship. The business is dear to the heart of LiveRez, as many of LiveRez’s team members have donated countless hours to help fulfill the vision of Full Circle here in Boise.  

Finally, it was time for the main event, the keynote speech from decorated Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, author of the New York Times best-seller “Lone Survivor.”

Decorated Navy SEAL and Best-Selling Author Marcus Luttrell

Decorated Navy SEAL and Best-Selling Author Marcus Luttrell

Luttrell is one of the most sought after speakers in the country, having delivered his inspirational account to hundreds of groups around the country. “Lone Survivor” is his story of the bravery, perseverance, and dedication of four Navy SEALS who fought dozens of Taliban fighters in the mountains of Afghanistan.

Securing Luttrell as a keynote was a huge deal for LiveRez, not just because of his popularity, but because of what he stands for. Throughout its existence, LiveRez has been and will remain shamelessly patriotic. For those that know the background of our CEO Tracy Lotz, they know that his success is a perfect example of the American Dream. And, he has always had a deep respect for those that risk everything to protect that dream. Luttrell is a shining example of that ideal.  

Luttrell’s speech took attendees through a gamut of emotions. We laughed. We cried. We smiled.  And, most of all, we left the building yearning to lead better lives, inspired by Luttrell’s dedication to his friends and his country. It was the perfect cap to an amazing evening.  

Wednesday Opening Session

On Wednesday morning, it was time for another partner to take over the role of MC. Just like Maio did the day before, Angie Leone of Coconut Condos kicked off the day with an impressive and heart-warming speech.  

She yielded the stage to LiveRez Chief Strategy Officer Steve Trover, a past president of the VRMA and CEO of All Star Vacation Homes. Drawing on his incredible depth of experience, Trover spoke about the history of distribution efforts in the industry and how both he and LiveRez CEO Tracy Lotz were first approached by Airbnb about a partnership. It was a perfect segue to the day’s special guest: Airbnb’s head of global vacation rentals, Shaun Stewart.

Keynote from Airbnb’s Shaun Stewart

Airbnb's Shaun Stewart tell how the company choose to partner with LiveRez.

Airbnb’s Shaun Stewart tell how the company choose to partner with LiveRez.

Stewart’s keynote address focused on the future of the vacation rental industry. You could feel his vast industry experience as he talked about the history of the travel industry and shared his vision of the future of the vacation rental industry.

An Ivy-league grad, Stewart is a rising star in the travel industry. In just his mid 30s, he has already played key roles for major travel industry players such as Expedia, TripAdvisor, Travelscape and Jetsetter, and was recently chosen by Airbnb to lead their expansion into the professionally managed vacation rental industry.

In his address, Stewart talked about Airbnb’s pilot program into the traditional vacation rental market and hinted at the company’s future plans to make a big splash in the industry. LiveRez and its partners will play a big role in this push. According to Stewart, Airbnb researched more than 80 property management software providers in North America, and choose to pilot a direct integration with just one, LiveRez.

 

Sponsors

In addition to Stewart and Airbnb, partners had an opportunity to hear from many of LiveRez’s industry partners throughout the conference. Platinum Sponsors VacationRentPayment and CSA Travel Protection shared information and took questions live on Tuesday and Wednesday, and Silver Sponsors PointCentral and Beach House Logos spoke before the breakouts on Wednesday. All four sponsors were readily available for questions and product demos throughout the entire conference.   

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Epic Bash at Whiskey Jacques

Ron and Judith Hemstreet present CEO Tracy Lotz with a honey badger cake.

Ron and Judith Hemstreet present CEO Tracy Lotz with a honey badger cake.

Wednesday evening closed with an epic party in downtown Ketchum at Whiskey Jacques. If you’ve ever been to a LiveRez event, you know that the company knows how to throw a party.

This night was no different. Attendees were treated to amazing food, incredible libations and the rocking tunes of 80s cover band Pilot Error, a favorite from last year’s conference in Boise. The party even included a special custom-made “Honey Badger” cake, which was presented to LiveRez CEO Tracy Lotz by partners Ron and Judith Hemstreet of Sun Palace Vacation Homes.  

The honey badger theme comes from a speech Lotz gave when the company won the Boise Metro Chamber’s 2015 Travel Industry Excellence Award (click here to see it).

Workshops

LiveRez's Brian Sevy plays Jack Bauer in the company's 24-themed workshop on housekeeping and maintenance.

LiveRez’s Brian Sevy plays Jack Bauer in the company’s 24-themed workshop on housekeeping and maintenance.

The conference wrapped up Thursday and Friday with a series of workshops designed to help partners supercharge their use of the LiveRez solution. These highly-rated sessions covered everything from vacation rental marketing to data analytics to real-time housekeeping and maintenance technology.

Although positioned on the last two days of the conference, the workshops provided the bulk of the hands-on training provided at the conference. Because, as much as the conference was about amazing presentations by keynotes and big technology reveals, it was just as much about providing training to partners that they could immediately leverage to grow their businesses.  

On to the VRMA Conference

For many of our partners, Friday marked the end of an unforgettable week in one of the most beautiful places in the world. But, for a select few die-hard partners and LiveRez team members, it was on to New Orleans for the 2015 VRMA Annual Conference.

In fact, yesterday the momentum created at the Partner Conference was already being felt at the VRMA Conference, as LiveRez opted to have its partners give its gold sponsor speech at the conference. VRMA Board Member and Topsail Realty President Mike Harrington echoed the sentiment of the attendees, calling LiveRez’s speech “The best (presentation) I’ve seen at any conference.”  You can read more about what happened in New Orleans in an upcoming post.

Thank You!

In closing, we want to thank all of the amazing partners, sponsors, speakers and friends of LiveRez that came out to Sun Valley for the 2015 LiveRez Partner Conference. We are truly humbled by your kind thoughts and words these past days and are blessed to call you all friends. Here’s to another amazing conference! Thank you all!  

Learn More About LiveRez
LiveRez is the No. 1, most-used vacation rental software on the planet. We’re an all-in-one, cloud-based platform, powered by Partnership! We give you everything you need to run your business, all in one place – from best-in-class responsive websites to the most comprehensive and intuitive back office software available anywhere. Plus, amazing support and direct integrations with Airbnb, PointCentral Smart Home Technology, QuickBooks, CSA Travel Protection, VacationRentPayment and more!

Visit LiveRez.com to learn more:

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Photo Gallery: 2015 LiveRez Partner Conference – Opening Night

If the opening night was any indication, the 2015 LiveRez Partner Conference is going to be one to remember. On Monday evening, hundreds of partners from all across the United States arrived at the iconic Sun Valley Resort. It would mark the beginning of what’s expected to be another epic Partner Conference!

At 6 p.m., the conference officially kicked off, with a reception at the beautiful River Run Day Lodge. Multiple shuttles were needed to carry partners to the other side of Ketchum, but within 30 minutes the Lodge was packed.

The opening reception was a perfect opportunity for partners to see old friends, meet new ones and share their excitement for the stacked lineup of events planned this week.

Today, we kick off the first full day of the conference. Stay tuned for more coverage here at the LiveRez blog, and also follow the hashtag #LiveRez2015 on social media for live, crowd sourced coverage of the event.

Here are a few photos from last night’s event!

VIDEO: Vacation Rental Managers Explain Why LiveRez is More Than Just Software

At LiveRez, we believe in partnership. More importantly, the hundreds of vacation rental professionals that use our software believe in it, too. Come find out why they say that LiveRez is more than just software.

Watch-Demo

Learn More About LiveRez
LiveRez is the most widely used software platform for professional vacation rental managers. The company’s cloud-based, end-to-end platform offers fully integrated solutions for reservation and property management, websites with online bookings, trust accounting, CRM, housekeeping and maintenance, reporting, reviews and more. LiveRez is a proud Gold Sponsor of the Vacation Rental Manager’s Association (VRMA).

Visit LiveRez.com to learn more:

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2014 LiveRez Partner Conference: The Photos!

Although we’ve been posting partner conference photos to our social media accounts and this blog for the past week, we wanted to share all the photos with you in one big gallery (see below). Whether you attended the 2014 LiveRez Partner Conference and want to re-live it again, or missed out on attending, the photos below will help tell the story of this amazing event. We can’t wait to see everyone again next year!

NOTE: To start a slideshow, just click on any of the images below.

Learn More About LiveRez
LiveRez is the fastest growing vacation rental software provider for professional vacation rental managers. The company’s cloud-based, end-to-end platform offers fully integrated solutions for reservation management, trust accounting and online marketing, with high-ranking, high-conversion dynamic websites and an extensive affiliate marketing program. The company is a proud Gold Sponsor of the Vacation Rental Manager’s Association (VRMA).

Visit LiveRez.com to learn more:

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