5 Tips on Running a Successful Vacation Rental Operation

By: Sr. Director of Operations, Daniel Garcia 

The thought of running a vacation rental business or operation is, at bare minimum, a daunting task. But we’re hopeful that through our experience of managing 200+ rooms and properties, our continued learnings can translate to help you feel a bit more confident in diving into the vacation rental business yourself. 

1. Implement processes that ask two simple questions: 

  1. Will this process lighten the mental load or stress for our team?* 
  2. Will this process add value to our customers or owners?*
    *Note the alignment of interests here.

Thomas Edison said, “Vision without execution is hallucination.” In other words, ideas without action are nothing but dreams. 

In the operations world, our job is to breathe life into those visions and provide real, measurable results for both owners and guests. 

Our team’s goal every day is to be better than yesterday. So how do we make it happen? The two questions listed below: 

Implement processes that ask two simple questions: 

  1. Will this process lighten the mental load or stress for our team?* 
  2. Will this process add value to our customers or owners?* 

*Note the alignment of interests here.

What I’ve noticed to be true is that there's one constant across all departments at Brightwild: We share the common goal of leveraging a proactive position and constantly being ahead of those “what could go wrong” scenarios. This approach minimizes the frequency of those potential ‘issues’ from actually occurring. 

We’re constantly working to fine-tune procedures and processes that aim to align the interests of all parties, ultimately creating an environment where guests’ and clients’ issues are few and far between. 

Are you ready to work with a team who is constantly pushing the boundaries and norms of the status quo? Learn more about partnering with our property management team at Brightwild!

2. Take one bite at a time

Our ops team eats an elephant every day. And how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. 

When dealing with multiple projects at once, I like to focus on keeping things simple. 

We break each project into bite-sized pieces that are palatable for you and your team each day. 

I create a task matrix giving projects and tasks importance and timeliness rankings, creating a hieratical structure where we can sort them in order of importance. This narrows the team’s field of view in the short-term and, by design, allows our team to produce a daily load that is not only manageable, but also reinforces our people-first philosophy. 

3. Figure out what’s working and what’s not working. Repeat.

This is where Brightwild stands out: The freedom to experiment starts at the top and trickles down to each and every team member. 

We never stop refining procedures or experimenting with new ideas, constantly pushing the envelope for how to be the best we can be. We encourage every team member to think outside of the box and vocalize their ideas. 

Most of my meeting agendas with team members are pretty cut and dry: 

  1. What's working? 
  2. What’s not working? 

If something we’re testing consistently shows up in the “it’s working” category, it’ll get rolled out as an official set in stone–Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)–that is until, undoubtedly, a scenario pops up that makes us question that SOP, reminding us nothing is sacred and sending us back to the drawing board. 

We pull that SOP out of the “completed” box, break it down again to a granular level and examine each piece of the process to determine what fits and what doesn’t fit the Brightwild vision. We may replace a couple of steps or change who the responsibility falls under, and boom, it goes back to the “working or not working” conversation until we feel it’s bullet proof (or so we think.)

4. Become proactive decision makers 

In the Brightwild ops family, we live, breathe and obsess over proactive action. 

On the surface, being proactive in every aspect of the operation can appear counterintuitive or even daunting to a person with a short-term mindset. 

Proactive decision-making requires a lot of upfront work that, in many ways, may not provide immediate gratification. It can be viewed by some as preparing for something that may never happen, but at Brightwild, we like to think long-term and on a far enough down the road timeline where there is no doubt that even the most rare of scenarios could occur. (Think: hurricane preparation and see photos below.) 

The truth is that the costs associated with resolving a reactive situation are exponentially higher than the energy and time it takes to develop preemptive procedures. 

It’s much easier to be efficient and productive when you are operating with a clear mind on your own terms, rather than from a defensive (reactive) position. We prefer to be on the offense and keep our team prepared and be miles ahead of those situations. A happy team equals happy clients and happy clients equals continued income. 

At Brightwild, we try to operate on an ‘always prepared mentality’ so when we found out Hurricane Ian was headed our way, we quickly jumped into action ensuring our properties were as protected as possible. If you’re considering a property management company and want to work with one that is always prepared, consider partnering with us at Brightwild.

5. Ensure your teams’ interests are aligned 

Our guest experience manager(s) (GEMs) would absolutely prefer to discover, report and resolve a maintenance issue in a unit prior to guests checking in. 

Similarly, our facilities team would opt for having to handle said work order at 12pm in a vacant unit instead of at 4:30pm with frustrated guests who had to discover the issue. 

In many ways, we beat our guests to the punch by being proactive and the result is mutually beneficial. 

When guests inquire about staying with us, we try to lay out realistic expectations and do our best to understand the guests’ needs so we can prepare in the right way and truly provide a unique experience catered to their specific wants and needs. 

Additionally, we are currently working on a standardized “unit report card.” The goal of this report is to provide owners with a summary of the strengths and weaknesses in their unit, how it’s performing against comparable units and to provide the owners with our recommendations on how to drive higher revenue in their unit(s). 

The report card also provides us with a way to measure the success of the team assigned to that specific unit. We are quickly approaching a point where we can recommend owners specific products or finishes in their units that not only provide them with a high-end look, but also minimize our maintenance load… aligning interests! 

BONUS TIP: The ultimate secret to Brightwild’s Success

Our ops team sleeps just three hours a night - anything more makes you sluggish (and the ops team doesn’t do “sluggish.”) 

For those three hours, we listen to ‘Meditations’ by Marcus Arelius at 2x speed. 

I, as well as the entire ops team, are also on the warrior diet, so we eat once a day–Precisely, only 14 almonds daily at 1pm. Extreme? Maybe. But believe me, these guests aren’t going to create a memorable “experience” on their own.

For more information on Brightwild or to visit one of our locally curated travel experiences, visit www.brightwild.com.