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What Do These Businesses Have In Common?

Matt Landau

Ambassador
Staff member
I’ve always been inspired by small business owners. Specifically, those who have used small business to create a lifestyle that fulfills.

Cajun Claws, for instance. A small crawfish restaurant in Abbeville, Louisiana, which seats a total of about 30 tables per evening. After waiting in line for several hours, I eventually get seated in what more resembled my grandmas living room and served by what was actually the matriarch of the family. She stopped at every table to schmooze —she has known her customer their whole lives. And when the crawfish run out, those still waiting are out of luck.



Bill and Shannon Oyster of Oyster Fly Rods in Blue Ridge, Georgia, who sell hand-engraved rods to avid fly-fishermen. The waitlist for a rod is many months, if not years. But you can also sign up for their multi-day workshops in which you learn to make one yourself. Both those who are lucky enough to buy a rod from the Oysters and those who complete the workshop become eligible to join in one of their private fishing charters visiting the world’s top secret fly-fishing destinations.


And finally, my dad. Robert Landau took over the family woolens shop — aptly named Landau’s — from his father when he was 30. As one of the last-standing mom-and-pop shops in ever-gentrified Princeton, NJ, Landau’s imported the finest, most unique wool garments in the world. But the majority of dad’s customers didn’t come in to buy $2,000 Loden coats or cashmere blankets. They came in to talk. To ask for advice. To connect. And while my dad technically went to work each morning to sell wool garments; to those who know him, my dad went to work to hang out with friends. (They closed the business this year).

QUESTIONS:

1. What do these businesses have in common?
2. And how might it apply to our vacation rental businesses?


I have my thoughts but I'm going to withhold them until others post first :cool:
 

Jed

Accelerator
Inner Circle
Vintory
Accelerator
Quality determines supply - not demand. The willingness of the first two examples to set limits on what they would produce shows that they both had a form grasp on their own limits and quality, as it is clear that the demand could support a higher volume. By rejecting that, they became an even more sought after product; not less.

Emphasis on lifestyle of the proprietors over total business volume. Clearly all of these business owners enjoyed engaging with their customers to the extent that it may have become a goal of the business itself to perpetuate the relationships.

All 3 seem genuinely happy and thrilled with their lives. This shows the difference of owning the means of production vs working for someone else. Freedom and life on your own terms.
 

ToonTownRob

Envoy
Inner Circle
1) What do these businesses have in common?
- They all rely on the unique experience and hands-on knowledge of the owners.
- They build business based on a unique, high-contact high-touch experience for the customer.
- They appeal to those wanting something unique and different.
- They are lifestyle businesses, in that to run effectively, they require an involved commitment from the owner, and their personal involvement in operations.
- They are very difficult to replace, or compete with within their own niches.
- They rely on the avid passion and interest of their customers in their product; both nurturing and feeding those passions at the same time.
- They represent activities that are either a labour of love for their proprietors, or an all consuming weight of stress and responsibility. Little middle ground.
- These attributes mostly also make them almost impossible to scale.

2. And how might it apply to our vacation rental businesses?
- As has been discussed previously, running a high-touch vacation rental can be very difficult at a distance.
- The answer all depends upon what kind of vacation rental business one is running.
- There are lessons, both good and bad, that can be applied.

What those things are, I will leave for others to answer today.;)
 

Susanne

Counselor
Inner Circle
1) What do these businesses have in common? Word of mouth referrals. No marketing budget would be big enough to equal the value of enthusiastic past guest endorsements.
2) How can this apply to VR businesses? Automate all mundane communication and use your valuable time to reach out to guests with a quick in person convo (if you are on-site) or phone call after they get settled in. Resolve any issue immediately if necessary. Learn a little about them and then offer a customized and value-added traveler tip to showcase your hospitality. Guests love tailored "insider information".
 

AlexC

Envoy
Inner Circle
In common: These businesses are/were run by folks who love what they do from the art of creating a service/product they get to share to the actual sales process itself. I’d theorize they were successful because they enjoyed the business they were in and being engaged with the people they shared that passion with.

how it applies: Be like that.
 

PamT

Attaché
Inner Circle
Not only relationships, but being genuine. Their customers understand the special nature of the product. Each person would not be rushed or pressured to suffer quality. If it's not available, so be it, and because they've been thorough and thoughtful with their customers, they understand.
 

Alessandra

Counselor
Inner Circle
What do they have in common: relationship, connection, realness and authenticity. My parents owned a business for over 43 years and retired in October. Mom and Pops always have a special place in my heart @Matt Landau When it comes to vacation rental businesses, it comes down to connection and building relationships as well. There are vacation rentals I have personally stayed at where the owner comes in to check on his guests daily, he would sit here and talk to you about life or the location, things to do, etc. It's about building a relationship.
 

Karla

Karla, Owner of Tropical Blessings
Inner Circle
I love these questions. These three business have several things in common. All are small, all are one of a kind, each owner clearly has a passion for what they’re doing, has fun with it, and enjoys engaging in personal conversations with their customers and making them feel important and special. No matter how much money any of these business might make the payback is obviously not all about the money.

Businesses all make sales but the sales made by these businesses are far more than transactions. That’s also the case with my own small single property vacation rental business in St. John, US Virgin Islands. I’ll take a quick look at each business referenced by @MattLandau:

1) There’s a long wait to get into Cajun Claws but it definitely sounds worth the wait. Hopefully when customers do get into this small restaurant that “resembled my grandma’s living room” although they undoubtedly enjoy Cajun claws for dinner, they also enjoy the fact that the owner “stops at every table to schmooze - she has known the customer their whole lives.” I’m sure the Cajun claws are indeed delicious but equally delicious is a business owner who makes the customer feel like a special person. I make every effort to make every guest feel special too, the most time consuming part of what I do, but also the most fun part.

2) Customers of Oyster Bay Rods have a long wait to get those handcrafted fly fishing rods or complete a multi-day workshop where they learn to make their own rods. Either way, the customer is then eligible to join a private fishing charter “visiting the the world’s top secret fly-visiting destinations.” Although the total size of St. John is only 19.6 square miles” it’s a very popular tourist destination with many repeat visitors. There are quite a few sugar mill ruins that date back to the 18th century, the most well known and most visited being the ruins at Annaberg and Reef Bay. I might mention one or both but I often prefer to bring up the Catherineberg ruins off Centerline Road. It’s easy to zoom by right those ruins since there’s no sign for them but if I explain where the turn off is guests discover a more “top secret” destination. Those ruins are remarkably well preserved and often there’s no one else there which adds to the visitor’s sense of awe when when viewing them. Sharing secrets is very enjoyable.

3) Finally, Landau’s family owned business in Princeton, NJ had many customers “who came in to talk. To ask for advice. To connect.” My small business is only a slightly more than a decade old but it’s also a mom-and-pop operation and I engage in conversations with my “customers” in the same way. We often become friends and a good number of them come back and stay at Tropical Blessings again.

Suzy arrives in a couple of days for her second stay at Tropical Blessings since her first stay n 2016. Neither one of us has forgotten the other since then. I’m almost glad that her second visit, planned for last year but Covid delayed due to a USVI travel ban, went on hold. This second visit now has a Big Secret involved. Suzy’s son and girlfriend have been dating for 8 years and thankfully will not be staying at Tropical Blessings or I don’t see how the family could keep their lips zipped about this secret. Also fortunate is the fact Suzy and others staying at Tropical Blessings live on the east coast and her son and his girlfriend live the west coast or the secret would surely be out by now. The entire group will being going out on a private boat charter together and ooh la la, eight years later Suzy’s son will propose to his girlfriend. Suzy asked me if I had told my Property Manager and if Myrna could keep the secret. I told Suzy that Myrna knew but planned on telling EVERYONE. Of course I had to add “Just kidding,” but I’ll soon be seeing photos and hearing the tale of the surprise proposal. Is this not fun or what?

Like all three businesses mentioned I enjoy what I do and do it well. I must confess that “Don’t Sell. Story Tell” seemed like Mission Impossible. My business isn’t 35 years old but my St. John story is. This is a long reply but at least I didn’t write 35 pages of story here, way too long to post. Stay tuned for my story telling story. I now think I can write the short version of it sometime soon.
 
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StacyW

Counselor
Inner Circle
Accelerator
They know who they are and what they want to do! I feel that is something we are working on finalizing in our business. Who is/isn't our client? What kind of product (house/condo) do we want? This was covered really well in the accelerator program. When you know who you are you have a love and knowledge that bleeds out of you as genuineness and flare. It makes your job fun and really, who wouldn't want to live these kind of lifestyles!
 

JFaxman

Jan Ferry-Axman
Inner Circle
They Fit into your LIFESTYLE Business profile. In past types of VR businesses you have identified. Serving customers Their way....oh yeah.....and it IS the customer way! A win Win.
 

KarenB

Attaché
Inner Circle
I see the main commonality is they made their "customers" feel special and appreciated. It is hard to reach everyone that comes thru our company with thousands of reservations every year and with the advent of e-locks & on-line booking . So, we send "Thank you for choosing us" to everyone; try to find out if they are celebrating anything; learn who people are, especially our repeaters or long term (monthly) rentals and heavily rely on our maintenance staff to pass on our southern hospitality as they encounter our guests.
 
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