Matt Landau

Ambassador
Staff member
After running my vacation rental business for 7 years, I burned out.

The fun, excitement, and focus from my "start-up" days had faded.

I was no longer passionate about the hospitality, which we always considered our greatest virtue.

And after coming to grips with that fact, I sold the business.

Part of me attributed the "burn out" to simply working 24/7 for 7 years. Gene Marks, author of The Small Business Desk Reference, says the average lifespan of a small business is about eight and a half years. And managing vacation rentals is really hard. So that seems like about right.

But another part of me wonders if "burn out" is really the right term. What we're really talking about here is the longevity of your business.

How long can it last with you at the helm?

To explore further, I've brainstormed some activities that can detract from our passion reserves.
  1. Solving problems with trial and error: for some problems in this new industry there is no solution yet, in which case you have to figure it out yourself. But in most instances, other vacation rental professionals have already figured out any given conundrum. And so not taking advantage of their experience looks like energy unnecessarily spent.
  2. Resisting software for redundant tasks: doing the same task over and over again is like death by a million papercuts: unless you really enjoy (like therapeutically) the redundant tasks, be willing to let a software do it for you. Fortunately, there is amazing and inexpensive technology available for most of these tasks.
  3. Not delegating (aka. doing everything yourself): This is the easiest trap for an independent VR pro because only you know how to do things best. It's therefore a sacrifice to hire someone else (even if your processes and talent rock).
  4. Being too dependent on any one entity: feeling helpless is exhausting. And if you have all your eggs in one basket (product, service, organization, demographic) the stress of that basket being thrown under the bus has a real cost on your peace of mind.
  5. Being illegal: OK so we weren't illegal, but we *were* unregulated (it was before the city had defined short term rentals). So the daunting nature of building our business on unstable ground, knowing we could be shut down over night, that took its toll.
  6. Finding something else (more) exciting: Small business owners are fueled by passion, which is a limited resource. For me, the "passion project" became Esperanza (a gang intervention program) where I spent most of my time and energy. This isn't good or bad. Just a new channeling of precious passion.
What are some additional activities that grind away at your hospitality?

If you have used a tool to solve any one of them, please share below.

I'd like to think that this thread can extend the lifespan or longevity of our businesses significantly.
 

Jed

Accelerator
Inner Circle
Vintory
Accelerator
I really appreciate this message because it hits really close to home for us small business owners. It is also a great reminder of how to avoid burnout by being a little less resistant to the natural evolution that come with growing a business and being a little more willing to embrace new phases (technology, hiring, CHANGE).

I'll do my best to brainstorm and see if you've missed anything here, but the list looks pretty comprehensive.
 

RalphPnv

Envoy
Inner Circle
Item 5 - hits home!!! we had to shut down our Paris apartment 18mths ago since the city found me. They have taken me to court and I face a possible €50K+ fine - still pending. Meanwhile with the covid crisis we cant even get over to France so we have an empty apartment with fixed expenses. Being burned out is close as I try to maintain the rest of our business in Nice [which is on lock down]. Why do I keep going? The fun of learning new marketing skills - mostly social media based. It keeps me off the street and has its moment of fun and success.
 

Lee

Owner of Accommodations in Telluride
Inner Circle
After running my vacation rental business for 7 years, I burned out.

The fun, excitement, and focus from my "start-up" days had faded.

I was no longer passionate about the hospitality, which we always considered our greatest virtue.

And after coming to grips with that fact, I sold the business.

Part of me attributed the "burn out" to simply working 24/7 for 7 years. Gene Marks, author of The Small Business Desk Reference, says the average lifespan of a small business is about eight and a half years. And managing vacation rentals is really hard. So that seems like about right.

But another part of me wonders if "burn out" is really the right term. What we're really talking about here is the longevity of your business.

How long can it last with you at the helm?

To explore further, I've brainstormed some activities that can detract from our passion reserves.
  1. Solving problems with trial and error: for some problems in this new industry there is no solution yet, in which case you have to figure it out yourself. But in most instances, other vacation rental professionals have already figured out any given conundrum. And so not taking advantage of their experience looks like energy unnecessarily spent.
  2. Resisting software for redundant tasks: doing the same task over and over again is like death by a million papercuts: unless you really enjoy (like therapeutically) the redundant tasks, be willing to let a software do it for you. Fortunately, there is amazing and inexpensive technology available for most of these tasks.
  3. Not delegating (aka. doing everything yourself): This is the easiest trap for an independent VR pro because only you know how to do things best. It's therefore a sacrifice to hire someone else (even if your processes and talent rock).
  4. Being too dependent on any one entity: feeling helpless is exhausting. And if you have all your eggs in one basket (product, service, organization, demographic) the stress of that basket being thrown under the bus has a real cost on your peace of mind.
  5. Being illegal: OK so we weren't illegal, but we *were* unregulated (it was before the city had defined short term rentals). So the daunting nature of building our business on unstable ground, knowing we could be shut down over night, that took its toll.
  6. Finding something else (more) exciting: Small business owners are fueled by passion, which is a limited resource. For me, the "passion project" became Esperanza (a gang intervention program) where I spent most of my time and energy. This isn't good or bad. Just a new channeling of precious passion.
What are some additional activities that grind away at your hospitality?

If you have used a tool to solve any one of them, please share below.

I'd like to think that this thread can extend the lifespan or longevity of our businesses significantly.
There are a few things that make me, at times, want to put the SPIT back into hoSPITality.

It seems as though every vendor that arises in the industry touts "More reservations", buy my product and see "More Revenue". What they are actually doing is taking yet another slice of the pie, so to speak. Vendors seem to have all these great ideas, for another percentage of sales. Sales that we have busted butt to get through our efforts at marketing, website development, SEO, etc. The salespeople for these vendors are very good at what they do. When it gets to the development stage? Not so much on delivery. I don't mind paying for these services, if they actually deliver as promised. Many times, a contract is signed, and even if they have not held up their end of the deal, the PM is held hostage by the contract.

My second rant is the guests holding us hostage with bad reviews. "If you don't give me 50% off because the hot tub quit working, I am leaving you a bad review and slam you all over social media." As long as I get it in writing, I gently remind them that what they just did is called extortion. Sometimes, not so gently.

I would really like to use the phrase, "We take the SPIT out of hoSPITality", so many of our comments remain in the walls of the office.
 

ToonTownRob

Envoy
Inner Circle
My challenges...
  1. Lack of resources: Being unable to find/hire reliable trades/suppliers because they simply don't exist in a foreign market. A cultural thing... (Not delegating? First you better have someone you can delegate to!)
  2. Exhaustion: Carrying the weight of the world can wear you down, especially when there is no one to help with the load. (How many of us take real vacations? Maintenance trips to the property don't cut it!)
 

Filipa

Envoy
Inner Circle
I started my business (like most of VR) 10 years ago as a side job with 5 properties. The portfolio grew to 12 properties. It turned in to a full-time job and a 24/7 job with a portfolio growing even more (20 STR properties). I was burning out an need to start hiring first a full time cleaner than "guest relations" one year later, covid appear, and tourism in Lisbon died ( and it's still dead).

During the first lockdown, I started looking at my numbers from the beginning, not just the total revenue but mainly the yearly profit. I realized more than 12-14 STR (I have a mixture of urban /beach) made me a huge jump in costs.

During the summer, we had some guests. Unfortunately, I couldn't keep the "guest relations" only the cleaner and I re-started to inspect the properties before check-ins, meet the guests... I wasn't doing this for 3/4 years. I realize I missed this kind of work and felt the passion for hospitality again.

Before writing this, I checked my Airbnb account and realised that in a year with the tourism dead in Lisbon, I had 49 bookings from Airbnb, and I'm Airbnb Super host for 4 quarters in a row with an average rating of 4.9. (This is not an easy task when you have 20 different STR in one Airbnb account because if you have just 1 guest or property with a problem, your overall rating goes down). Also, during this year, I win the VRBO premium partner award.

Captura de ecrã 2021-03-17 230231.jpg

I asked myself these questions: how much money do I need? What costs I really need to have? What properties I want/need to keep as STR?

I changed some properties to mid-term and long-term, so now I manage a mixture of long-term / mid-term /short-term/urban/ beach properties around Lisbon.

I invested in code locks and technology (super strong PMS), and for me, LESS short term properties it's MORE passion and more available time!
 

Craig

Envoy
Inner Circle
Accelerator
Speaking from a property manager perspective I think it's really important to keep outsourcing parts of yourself as your business grows. Last year I hit a wall and had no enthusiasm. I literally turned up at my office one day, sat down and felt so drained I packed my bag and went straight home. I realised it was because I wasn't doing the kind of work that I enjoyed doing. I had been enjoying the work but I had become bored if it. It was time to slice off another chunk so I gave up doing sales by training a new staff member. This freed up 50% of my time. Then I decided to slice off pricing analysis as I wasn't devoting enough time to it. I also realised that dealing with owners was stressing the crap out of me so I also offloaded that too. Now I am working 80% on marketing and growing the business faster than ever before. More importantly I have a great work/life balance (I work 4 days a week) and my stress levels have plummeted!
 

ROster

Ambassador
Inner Circle
Yellow Jersey
Wing Fighter
What they are actually doing is taking yet another slice of the pie, so to speak. Vendors seem to have all these great ideas, for another percentage of sales. Sales that we have busted butt to get through our efforts at marketing, website development, SEO, etc...
@Lee, this subject came up in another thread this week and I am STRONGLY opposed to giving any vendor a percentage of sales for their service or product. My sales have grown as a result of 14 years of blood, sweat and tears, and I am not rewarding a vendor for my efforts.
 

AMiller

Counselor
Inner Circle
Item 5 - hits home!!! we had to shut down our Paris apartment 18mths ago since the city found me. They have taken me to court and I face a possible €50K+ fine - still pending. Meanwhile with the covid crisis we cant even get over to France so we have an empty apartment with fixed expenses. Being burned out is close as I try to maintain the rest of our business in Nice [which is on lock down]. Why do I keep going? The fun of learning new marketing skills - mostly social media based. It keeps me off the street and has its moment of fun and success.
Oh I am so sorry about your Paris apartment. When I can get to France you will hear from me.
 

Will Franco

Efficiency Manager
Staff member
It was time to slice off another chunk so I gave up doing sales by training a new staff member. This freed up 50% of my time.
It strikes me because you've built the bottom and leaped to the top, come back down to assign responsibilities to the minutia that's in the middle. Put another way, LSI 1 up and LSI 4 down instead of LSI 1, 2, 3, and then 4. This is very helpful information for VRMBs course frameworks. Thanks for sharing!
 
Last edited:

ToonTownRob

Envoy
Inner Circle
@Lee, this subject came up in another thread this week and I am STRONGLY opposed to giving any vendor a percentage of sales for their service or product. My sales have grown as a result of 14 years of blood, sweat and tears, and I am not rewarding a vendor for my efforts.

And I strongly agree with this sentiment! (Vendors take note...) If I sign up for a service, say software, I am getting the exact same package that any other customer is. I don't see any reason why I should have to pay more money to use it, just because I may be using it more than someone else who isn't as successful as I am. What I do with it is a function of my own level of activity and success. That isn't supposed to be a source of revenue for a supplier to me. And the interesting thing is, I often experience myself as being a 'super' user of a product or software package, so I'm the guy providing all of the high-end testing, research, suggestions, input into product development, and customer consultation that these companies often pay for. But instead they want to punish me for being great at what I do.

What the people who do this don't realize is that it is a philosophy born of greed. They will say otherwise, that they are just being compensated in proportion to the value of their contribution, and instead what they are doing is actually discounting what they are providing for smaller users.

But two things show the fallacy of this position. First of all, what is the cap? At what point are you being overpaid? Did you set a maximum that you'll be paid for your work? Or are you content to rake in more money long after you've been fairly compensated?

The other great tool for analyzing things is to take it out of context. Does a different setting show the weakness in the approach?

"How much is this wheelbarrow?"

"For you, $300."

"But the sign says $50!"

"That's the price for that guy over there. But you're a much better gardener than he is, so I'm going to charge you more."

A wheelbarrow is a wheelbarrow is a wheelbarrow. It cost the same to produce, no matter who is using it. The price may be able to come down if you sell more and volume reduces production costs. But the cost of producing the wheelbarrow doesn't go up if I'm pushing it around my yard more.

(Sorry if this is wandering off topic, but Rick made a great point to consider!)
 

Catherine

Envoy
Inner Circle
In December when my best friend Pluto died, I just put the breaks on business after realizing that I'd been spending too much time on business and not enough time on personal things.
The level of success and achievement of Inner Circle members have inspired me to really hustle to do EVERYTHING better. With that comes stress and Burnout. I was fed up with being held hostage by OTA Reviews. I was fed up with short, 3 day bookings. Pete and repeat.
So in December I decided to shut down bookings for 2 months to let my creative juices flow and focus on completing my web site. I extended my minimum stay and decided to reconsider monthly stays.
Now I feel lighter, and i just had my first direct booking for a month.
My problem: OTA dependent. My solution: more time for creativity( web site) and a stronger focus on LSI.
 

Nancy

Ambassador
Inner Circle
Yellow Jersey
I find that creating protocols and processes have worked really well for me. So if in the future I need to hire an assistant or someone to take over the day to day stuff I will easily be able to create video tutorials on every case scenario. - Loom Video is one of my faves for training employees quickly. One and done for other employees to follow in the future. Game Changer!
 

Will Franco

Efficiency Manager
Staff member
There's a ton of great information in this thread.

For me, I can rattle off excuses for why I burnt out. In hindsight, I can pin it down to one key driver: the increased difficulty of generating new leads. What I refer to as "The Battery of a Business."



At my former company,
  • We didn't adapt fast enough and take advantage of new marketing channels that could give us the edge.
  • We got stuck in a pattern and didn't try new ways of doing things.
  • We created a very steep gradient in the onboarding process and overlooked the value of give-it-a-go-type clients.
The pattern. My pattern. Applying more elbow grease to solve problems.

Beating burnout [for me] has been about recognizing the importance of testing.

For example, at VRMB, we've allocated a budget to test new ideas. Every month, we launch dozens of tests. We have no attachment to the outcome.

The goal is to test, everything.

I don't get burned out anymore because a rapid iteration process does the heavy lifting for me.

In other words, I don't need to solve problems, I need to run more tests.
 
Last edited:

Matt Landau

Ambassador
Staff member
There's a ton of great information in this thread. For me, I can riddle off excuses for why I burnt out. In hindsight, facing the music, I can pin it down to a single key driver: the inability to generate new subscribers. What I like to refer to as "The Battery of a Business." I guess this is why the listing sites work so hard to prevent you from recharging your list?!
^^^ POWER POST ^^^^
 

JStevens

Ambassador
Inner Circle
Yellow Jersey
@Matt Landau I read, "Dear Jan, this post is for you."

I can proudly say that I have doubled the life expectancy of a small business........its 16 years now since I first started to vacation rent. Several factors have contributed to my loss of passion:
  1. new municipal regulations that don't make business sense. We are now legal but can legally only rent 120 nights.......but our advertising and other costs are still the same. I have adjusted my new outlook to viewing the rentals as an income helper versus a money maker......
  2. lack of quality labour especially housekeepers.
  3. knowing I will collect social security in October 2021 removes the need to expand and push the business to make an income.
I am hoping that just managing my own property will lessen the stress load and fuel my desire to host once again.
 

MarkD

Counselor
Inner Circle
Mile High Hosts

Tim Cook and Jeff Bezos Use This Simple Technique to Get More Done Than the Rest of Us​

You can get more done if you stop trying to do everything. From Inc.​

"Your job, as a leader, is to ask yourself whether the things you're doing are things that only you can do. Often they are. In that case, by all means, keep doing them.

If they aren't, you and your business will benefit as soon as you find someone else who can do them. Even if you can't find someone, it's still often the case that your business will be better off if you let go of the rest, even if that means it just won't get done.
Find the very best people you can for any given job. Then, give them the resources, encouragement, and accountability to be even better. Then focus on doing the things that only you can do for your business. It's that simple."
 

Craig

Envoy
Inner Circle
Accelerator
Craig this is so spot on. I think it’s the training process that a lot of people struggle with. Any lessons in hindsight on how to best hire and train someone new in any given department?
I think developing assets is an important step. Also promoting from within (if the person has the right mojo) is also easier than bringing someone in fresh. I had decided that I needed to step away from sales but I also knew that they needed a framework to operate within. I'm a process guy so I'd already developed a prospect database, pitch pack and a sleek brochure. It was just a case then of taking them through each of those and getting them comfortable with the delivery. Same for pricing - we already had a pricing database and a method of review, it was just a case of articulating that. I'd also recommend getting down on paper (to a procedural level) what it is that you want to outsource - you'll be surprised how much you actually do when you break it down step by step. I was lucky in that one of my customer service staff stepped up and said that they'd love to do the sales job. Inadvertently now that I've stepped out of sales the new owners don't know me and therefore I don't get weighed down by owner escalations.

There is a certain degree of discomfort when stepping away from work that you are used to doing - a feeling of guilt that no-one can do it better than you and that you are letting your business down somehow. You have to hold your breath and push through this. I felt this discomfort when I gave over my properties to my team to manage for the first time. I did it again when I gave up sales. Then again when I gave up pricing. I will feel it again when I give up the next thing...I don't know what that is yet, but I know that each time I give up the next piece of work I'm one more step higher up the mountain!
 
Last edited:
Top