• Vacation rentals can be life-changing. But due to a surge in popularity, the requirements of the job are more challenging than ever. VRMB Communities is a private forum that helps thoughtful owners & managers automate and delegate tasks, so you can focus on the activities that win loyalty and direct bookings. Preview Private Forum Here
Note: I learned this idea from Bryce Leonard of Key Data Dashboard at (where so much conference learning takes place) the hotel bar.

Perhaps Obvious Fact #1: Technology is the single biggest game-changer that propels today's vacation rental pros (compared to their hospitality predecessors) to entirely new heights: so taking advantage of all the new technology is a no-brainer to make more money (and have less stress) doing a job that you are already great at.

Perhaps Obvious Fact #2: The requirements of the job have gotten insanely complex, your (and your team's) bandwidth is THE biggest limiting factor to how much you can take advantage of all this great technology. (Shout out to @Sibylle who was first to articulate this).

Which begs the question: How do you know what technology is obligatory versus what technology is optional (aka. great, but you can't handle it right now for fear of burn out)?

To answer this question, consider self-administering: 🏴‍☠️The Mutiny Test 🏴‍☠️

1. Do a demo with a tool your colleagues have vetted (for inspiration consider VRMB's Keystone Awards 2021 ft. @Terry)
2. If you like what you see, sign up to use the tool
3. Several months into using the tool (the more the better) ask yourself: If we discontinue this tool, will our team start a mutiny?

If the answer is No (our team would not start a mutiny) then cancel the tool.
But if the answer is Yes (we confirm that we will start a mutiny if we can't keep using this tool) then keep the tool as part of your core tech stack.

What I love about "the mutiny test" is that it (a) uses a hypothetical question to (b) take into account all the people involved in your business (maintenance, cleaning, management...etc) and (c) determine how important something is to your business in order to (d) find your sweet spot with the conflictingly Perhaps Obvious Facts #1 and #2 above.

Question For the Community: What tool(s) that you are currently using -- if you were to cancel -- would start a mutiny in your business?
 

MikeH

Attaché
Inner Circle
As someone that has seen the industry progress first hand on a technology side, and as someone that has been willing to adopt just about every new tool in the toolkit to enhance our business of 330+ vacation rental properties and 75 boutique hotel rooms, our tech stack has actually shrinked over the years. The core systems we use, we could not live without. However, alot of the tech out there that while a compelling sales pitch, are not foundational to what we do as a business, and can turn into distractions. This is why we describe ourselves as a "People + Technology" style of business, and not the other way around like some like to think they are..!
 

paulmanzey

Attaché
I think this is a phenomonal test because it allows you to surpass some of the vanity metrics and re-evaluate what you really consider to be a Key Performance Indicator.

If the numbers you're seeing and tracking aren't really affected by the software that is supposed to be creating a solution (that's SaaS, right?), then are you measuring the right numbers, or is the software really helping to facilitate (and better -- enable) your team's ability to do their jobs more effectively/efficiently/etc?

I think the one barrier to "The Mutiny Test" is true adaptation by the user. If someone has recently transitioned to a new software from a legacy brand that they loved, they may not be interested in learning about how the new software MAY actually make them more efficient, allow them to provide a better experience, or even make more money. So much of getting the most out of your SaaS is really understanding what your solution can and cannot do, and ensuring you're getting the most out of the product.

Love this discussion @Matt Landau and interested to seeing what others have to say!
 

Matt Landau

Ambassador
Staff member
our tech stack has actually shrinked over the years
Yessss! I once read "to newcomers there are unlimited possibilities. To experts there are few." Are you willing to share any of your SS (shrunken stack)?

I think the one barrier to "The Mutiny Test" is true adaptation by the user. If someone has recently transitioned to a new software from a legacy brand that they loved, they may not be interested in learning about how the new software MAY actually make them more efficient, allow them to provide a better experience, or even make more money. So much of getting the most out of your SaaS is really understanding what your solution can and cannot do, and ensuring you're getting the most out of the product.
Great point. What's a good time-window for adoption before self-administering?
 

paulmanzey

Attaché
Yessss! I once read "to newcomers there are unlimited possibilities. To experts there are few." Are you willing to share any of your SS (shrunken stack)?


Great point. What's a good time-window for adoption before self-administering?
I think you want to give your team an opportunity to go through a high season and a shoulder/low season with the solution because you're likely going to have a different experience during each of those times. Depending on your destination, I would say that's in the 6-9 month range, and I think it also depends on the complexity of the system you're using.

Comparing Constant Contact and MailChimp is something that you can do over a limited time period (30/60/90 days). Evaluating your Property Management Software is probably something you want to do during your high season, low season, and maybe most importantly -- Tax Season 🤑. After all, that Trust Accounting system is a big selling point for most PM systems.

We all want to be fast to fail so that we can find a solution that works for us, but make sure that we're giving our teams not only enough time to learn the system, but to see how far the system can go and truly become experts. Ultimately, that's going to give owners, renters, and everyone in between a better experience (and that's what everyone's really looking for).
 
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Matthew

Counselor
Inner Circle
I agree with what Mike
As someone that has seen the industry progress first hand on a technology side, and as someone that has been willing to adopt just about every new tool in the toolkit to enhance our business of 330+ vacation rental properties and 75 boutique hotel rooms, our tech stack has actually shrinked over the years. The core systems we use, we could not live without. However, a lot of the tech out there that while a compelling sales pitch, are not foundational to what we do as a business, and can turn into distractions. This is why we describe ourselves as a "People + Technology" style of business, and not the other way around like some like to think they are..!
I like what Mike says here..... as property mangers our role has changed over the years. When new tech comes on the scene we are quick to see the benefits and adopt it, sometimes out of desperation. Once the dust settles we see what tech "truely" makes sense and is worth paying for. As with so many things its trail and error. I believe its important to keep and open mind and not to get complaisant. Our landscape is changing almost daily.
 

JPrugh

Envoy
Inner Circle
From my vantage point, the majority of ancillary tools are expressly tailored for the high-count VRMs such as @MikeH and @Matthew. As a VR owner with no desire or opportunity to segue into VR management, my staff (property manager + cleaning + maintenance) are honored to work for my small business, so there's very little turnover. Since I have <10 properties, each within five minutes' walk, we can continue high touch operations with some exceptions, such as our property management system (which certainly works well enough for us), Mailchimp, Grasshopper and PriceLabs. I'm anticipating that our PMS will go away some time, so I'll look for another one when the need arises.
 
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Terry

Ambassador
Inner Circle
Wing Fighter
PMS > (Mutiny)
Website (Mutiny)
Booking Engine (Mutiny)
CRM (Mutiny)
Distribution
Revenue Management (Mutiny)
Guest Relations/Communications (Mutiny)
Home Automation (Mutiny)
Operations
Digital Marketing (Mutiny)
 

RuthM

Envoy
Inner Circle
Ahoy! Such a smart post that makes sense for small owner/operators like me (2 properties) to the large property managers. I started using a new PMS in April, had a great AND hectic high season and I will now monitor how my slower season goes. Besides the mutiny factor, I have been asking myself if I am using all the bells and whistles on my PMS. If I am not, WHY? It makes sense to revisit your PMS with fresh eyes sometimes: what do you like? what do you need help to do better? Then do the math: does it make your business more successful AND profitable? Are you getting more direct bookings as a result AND managing any other channels you use?
 

Karla

Karla, Owner of Tropical Blessings
Inner Circle
Tech of any kind has always intimidated me but I’ll jump in here anyhow. I’ll even drop my shame and confess as @Matt Landau might recall that back in 2016 I couldn’t figure out house to cut, copy and paste. Matt was of course very kind about that and said: You CAN do this. He tried to explain it as did countless others but I still couldn’t figure it out until one day something went “click” and I finally got it. Today I’m totally comfortable that with it, so much so that it now seems like I’ve known how to do it forever.

The design of my website was completed in 2016 and then I needed a PMS. I spent 6 months looking for one and tested out any number of them. Every single one of them seemed impossible but then I finally found ResNexus which seemed to be relatively easy but frankly NONE of them are. ResNexus was included in the PMS test but did not end up in the Keystone Awards. I pay only $48 per month. Compared to the prices of other PMS systems $48 per month seems cheap. That being said, with such a low price am missing something??

Although ResNexus is “easy” I usually need Customer Support. I do not like charging cc’s and usually get payments by personal check. I intend to up the fee for PayPal invoices (much easier) and increase the cc charge enough so that people will be more inclined to use PP than cc, that’s how much I dislike processing cc payments.

I do little that is automated but I could definitely streamline a few very basic things that would obviously save time.

Probably the most important thing on my technical To Do list is the digital guidebook, I know people would love it and that would absolutely be a time saver too. I studied Hostfully (no free trial) and TouchStay. I definitely prefer the latter but I’ll have to look at both again to articulate why.

Vetting guests is extremely important, especially with instant bookers. I signed up for TruthFinder awhile ago for other reasons but it enables me to to privately do background checks and nobody needs to know unless I discover something disturbing. With one VRBO instant booker I did in fact uncover alarming information, politely challenged the person about it, got zero cooperation, so I cancelled that reservation without penalty.

Most people are totally forthcoming and willingly provide requested info without hesitation. I don’t even bother to check backgrounds about most people. However, I believe I need to tweak my Rental Agreement since it says “Photo ID must be provided upon arrival if requested.” Some people seem uncomfortable about providing a photo ID even though they know they must provide one when they check into a hotel.

One guest who has an October reservation sent me a pic of his driver’s license but crossed out the license number because he thought the information was “too sensitive.” I don’t want to invade anyone’s privacy but I want a government issued photo ID right away instead of saying they “might” have to show one when they arrive.

I want to vet every single guest including those who find Tropic Blessings independently, not just on an OTA.

I have looked into Safely, but there’s another one that I have not seen anywhere on VRMB, that’s Superhog. Does anyone have any opinions about that and what do you think about TruthFinder? With that I can obtain info privately and know one will know I’ve done it unless I need to confront them about something that raises red flags.

VRBO says each guest is “verified” but they don’t do that at all. I want to verify guests myself and I want info from them right away, forget “maybe later.” The biggest problem for me seems to be the possibility of offending some by asking for ID. I’d like to know how others do that.

As owner of a single property overall I probably do not need as much data analysis or tech shortcuts as some people do. Growing but tech skills is clearly something I need to do but if my experience is not extensive and my learning pace is slower, it is what it is. I’ll just keep going and drop fears about being “inferior” or fretting that others might be rolling their eyes. I’m definitely a rockstar in some non tech ways so I high five myself about those and if I happen to remain on a steep learning curve with tech matters the fact that I still want to learn is a plus so I hereby commend myself for that.
 
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AFirmani

Counselor
Inner Circle
I feel like I am beginning again and this topic makes me a bit overwhelmed. We have the small corporate rental in Vegas still but it books months and months ahead and really - I do not do much...

BUT we are now on the hunt for 2-3 more and I have to plan and set things up. WHAT am I going to need? I am starting over and since I began this in 2011, so much is different! What will go on my Mutiny Test? I do not know!

I do know one thing - I am research heavily on this lovely blog. Let's see what I find! :)
 

CarlaC

Vacation Rental Content Marketer
Inner Circle
This is such an interesting way to see if your technology is really working for your business. As you pointed out, what might be essential for some members of your team, might not be as important for others so I think the mutiny test should be in some way "segmented" for each player...I guess that would, of course, also depend on the scale of your business.
If your newly added software sets out to streamline reservation management, your maintenance, cleaning, and marketing crew might not see the benefit, causing it to fail the mutiny test. So my next question would be, what types of software and technology are we willing to put to the test?
 

Matt Landau

Ambassador
Staff member
I feel like I am beginning again and this topic makes me a bit overwhelmed. We have the small corporate rental in Vegas still but it books months and months ahead and really - I do not do much...

BUT we are now on the hunt for 2-3 more and I have to plan and set things up. WHAT am I going to need? I am starting over and since I began this in 2011, so much is different! What will go on my Mutiny Test? I do not know!

I do know one thing - I am research heavily on this lovely blog. Let's see what I find! :)
I love how in less than one year after formally declaring "I'm leaving the vacation rental industry" Amy Firmani is now back and looking to acquire 2-3 more. LOL. I adore you.

For someone in your position @AFirmani (and heck if I was entering to start from scratch again right now) I'd recommend using everyone else's "Mutiny exercise" as your guiding lights. First you want to establish your goal (ex. My goal is to build a small fleet of 2-5 special vacation rentals in communities I adore) and then start looking at others (in this community would be a great start) who currently run that sized business (off the top of my head, people like @JohnK @JohnO @NickP @Kim @RuthM @JPrugh @Barry @Debi @JStevens) and simply inquire: what does your tech stack look like? Or even more relevant to this thread, "What tool could your team simply never do without?

There's a certain strength to starting from zero right now in our industry because you don't have any bad habits/broken tech flows to worry about. And since the tech has improved so much over the last few years, you're skipping straight to the good stuff.

@Terry and I have some solid findings here for guidance: https://www.vrmb.com/keystone-awards-winners-2021/
 

RuthM

Envoy
Inner Circle
I love how in less than one year after formally declaring "I'm leaving the vacation rental industry" Amy Firmani is now back and looking to acquire 2-3 more. LOL. I adore you.

For someone in your position @AFirmani (and heck if I was entering to start from scratch again right now) I'd recommend using everyone else's "Mutiny exercise" as your guiding lights. First you want to establish your goal (ex. My goal is to build a small fleet of 2-5 special vacation rentals in communities I adore) and then start looking at others (in this community would be a great start) who currently run that sized business (off the top of my head, people like @JohnK @JohnO @NickP @Kim @RuthM @JPrugh @Barry @Debi @JStevens) and simply inquire: what does your tech stack look like? Or even more relevant to this thread, "What tool could your team simply never do without?

There's a certain strength to starting from zero right now in our industry because you don't have any bad habits/broken tech flows to worry about. And since the tech has improved so much over the last few years, you're skipping straight to the good stuff.

@Terry and I have some solid findings here for guidance: https://www.vrmb.com/keystone-awards-winners-2021/
Great advice as usual from @Matt Landau ! Feel free to contact me directly. I will share my experience:
Started in 2018, with 2 apartments we own and operate in Vernazza, Cinque Terre. Didn’t know anything but, since I was a strategy management consultant in a previous life, I started with research and benchmarking: research online, interviewed 2 friends running STRs in my community and a friend who runs a boutique hotel. Found Inner circle: the key to my success! Seriously, Inner Circle is truly the best resource out there.

I decided on two key focus areas: hospitality/guest experience and cleanliness. I focused right away on my target guests. My not-so-secret sauce is treating all guests as if they were friends-of-friends: make them feel welcome and share my deep insider knowledge. Our apartments are beautiful but people truly rave about the concierge-type service I provide. Added bonus: I already have repeat guests (booking direct!) AND since our guests feel like they know me, our damages are very minimal. People treat our apartments with care, which makes my life and my cleaner’s life easier!

I originally used Airbnb and Lodgify but found Lodgify to be expensive and not worth it. I trialed an Italian Pms and hated it. This year, I am using Hostfully as my PMS and I am liking it. I worked with a web designer to launch a new website, incorporating Hostfully in order to allow guests to book direct online immediately. Still working out some kinks with PMS and evolving website: remember it is a process. If I were starting out and expanding, I would use Hostfully and it could be a good idea to use their website builder (while you are branding, expanding, etc.)

I have a cleaner and lots of local sources for work on the apartments but, with 2 apartments, I can manage everything myself. If I had more than 5 apartments, I would definitely look at Breezeway.

Revyoos is another software to consider: grabs all your reviews (from multiple OTAs, etc.) so that you can place the widget in your website and list all reviews.

Feel free to message me with questions. My awesome website designer is "Bellano Web Studio" (Utah) and we did everything together online notwithstanding the differences in time zones. With software or website design, look at 2-3 options, test them, and find what feels right to you.
Hope this helps!
 
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Terry

Ambassador
Inner Circle
Wing Fighter
I love how in less than one year after formally declaring "I'm leaving the vacation rental industry" Amy Firmani is now back and looking to acquire 2-3 more. LOL. I adore you.

For someone in your position @AFirmani (and heck if I was entering to start from scratch again right now) I'd recommend using everyone else's "Mutiny exercise" as your guiding lights. First you want to establish your goal (ex. My goal is to build a small fleet of 2-5 special vacation rentals in communities I adore) and then start looking at others (in this community would be a great start) who currently run that sized business (off the top of my head, people like @JohnK @JohnO @NickP @Kim @RuthM @JPrugh @Barry @Debi @JStevens) and simply inquire: what does your tech stack look like? Or even more relevant to this thread, "What tool could your team simply never do without?

There's a certain strength to starting from zero right now in our industry because you don't have any bad habits/broken tech flows to worry about. And since the tech has improved so much over the last few years, you're skipping straight to the good stuff.

@Terry and I have some solid findings here for guidance: https://www.vrmb.com/keystone-awards-winners-2021/
@Matt Landau, love that advise. That is worth repeating > There's a certain strength to starting from zero right now in our industry because you don't have any bad habits/broken tech flows to worry about. And since the tech has improved so much over the last few years, you're skipping straight to the good stuff.
 

Terry

Ambassador
Inner Circle
Wing Fighter
@AFirmani, the most important piece of tech anyone possesses whether they have one property or a thousand is your PMS. You can't have a tech stack without a PMS. Find the right PMS for you and then build out from there.

A great place for you to start in no particular order is OwnerRez, Resnexus, Hostaway, Hostfully and Lodgify.
 
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