The hardest thing

Steve Trover – Better Talent


I am a rather forward-looking guy. Some would say to a fault. But when you spend over two decades in one industry, going through all of the ups and downs of business I have, it may be helpful to stop, look back and assess things.

How did I end up here for all that time? Am I happy I did? Am I still excited to be in this industry? One question I asked myself recently was….what is the hardest thing about this business?

I thought about it long and hard. I’ve been both extremely successful and gone through some spectacular challenges. There are times when I was so happy to have chosen this profession; and other times when I wondered if I should just jump ship.

When I really dig deep, think long and hard about the hardest thing, I come up with an answer that would most likely be the same in any industry.

You see, growing a business is all about people.

In the vacation rental industry, it’s about the great guests and the really challenging ones. It’s about the homeowners you love to serve and the ones that challenge you to the limits of your endurance. It’s about that first person you hire. It’s about that last hire. And it’s about all those hires in between. We live and die by the people we work with.

When I think about the best times. I remember the people part being “right”.

The times when we’ve had the happiest guests and the happiest homeowners are the same times we had a cohesive team of people who were “rowing the boat” in the same direction. The challenge in this industry… and I’m sure it’s the same in every industry…is to keep everyone rowing hard in the right direction at the same time. The trick seems to be having an environment where this is sustained over time; with a culture that never lets it waiver.

For a business leader in today’s environment, distractions are an ever-present danger. Challenges and opportunities come at you faster than ever before. These distractions can easily take you away from the most important thing...the hardest thing.

On a daily basis, we focus on driving revenue. We constantly push our marketing efforts to reach new heights. We focus on operating at a high level with our housekeeping, maintenance, and guest services. We focus on guest reviews. We strive to increase our property count. We constantly consider new technologies to adopt that will make us faster, smarter, better. We focus on the ever-evolving competitive threats and how to address them. We put our time, money and efforts into all of this and more. We have meeting after meeting and stare at numbers to see how we are doing.

Yet, despite all this focus, it’s easy to miss the most critical element of our business. It’s the people. I’m not talking about the guests and homeowners, important as they are, I’m talking about the people on our team who make it all happen. I’m talking about the companies we partner with and how those people interact and work with the people on our team.

Everything in our industry seems to be in a constant state of flux. The way we go to market, the way we operate, the technologies we use have to change and adapt to this ever-changing market. Yet even this constant flux isn’t the hardest thing.

The hardest thing is having the right people, in the right job, doing the right things.

People are the one constant in an ever-changing business environment. Even so, it’s a constant that is always on the move. People call in, they go on vacation, they come to work in a bad mood. Sometimes the right person is in the wrong job. People come and people go. A few are always at the top of their game and a few can be full of drama. Most are simply good people who have the capacity to be great if they are matched to the right job for them and placed in an environment that encourages them to excel.

Identifying, hiring and inspiring the right people for the right job within our organization is more challenging than any other aspect of our industry. While technology, operations, and our business models grow and adapt, a solid business needs people who can grow and adapt with it while continuing to thrive. The business may change, but the right people are a constant that helps it navigate through those waters.

I say this because I have noticed that as I go to conferences or read industry news, the emphasis seems always to be on the latest “cool new thing.” I’m as prone as anyone to be constantly looking for the latest marketing trend, the newest technology or the next great idea in improving operations.

But if the one, most important, constant is having the right people in the right job and, if putting together the best team is the hardest thing, maybe…just maybe…we should put more emphasis on that.

To conclude, I would encourage you to look at the hardest thing and realize it’s also the most important thing. Perhaps it would be helpful to put down the marketing plan or new pricing tool or new operations manual or new maintenance schedule just long enough to consider the hardest thing and then to do something about it. Focus on getting the right people into the right jobs. Work to ensure your hiring process is the best in class. Develop an orientation program and an onboarding process that ensures your new team members start off in the right direction. Make the decision to have a people strategy that closely aligns with your business strategy. By doing this, you may just discover that by focusing on the hardest thing, everything else becomes just a little bit easier.

In my next chapter in this industry, which I am as passionate about as ever before, people will be my focus and I’d love the opportunity to discuss the hardest thing.