FINDING AN EDGE
WITH SKYRUN'S BARRY COX CARVING YOUR WAY TO BUSINESS SUCCESS IN THE VACATION RENTAL INDUSTRY
’ve lived in the mountains of Colorado for seventeen years now, a transplant from the East Coast by way of the Midwest. Given that winter is coming, a snow metaphor is appropriate. When you’re skiing or boarding down a mountain, in order to turn you need to be able to tip your skis or snowboard up and “get an edge.” When you do it right, it’s called “carving.” Carving a good turn by using your edges feels fabulous and keeps you moving forward with speed and in style. In business everyone seeks an edge, and the vacation rental business is no exception. When you find an edge, you’ll be able to carve your way to business success. In this article I’m going to describe three edges that I think are becoming increasingly important as the vacation rental industry consolidates. First, a little background. I’d been working with IBM for fourteen years when I moved to Colorado in 1999 to take a new position within the company. About five years later, my family bought our first vacation home in Keystone, Colorado. To make a long story short, I started managing it and began managing other properties for friends.
Steve Falk and I started SkyRun in 2004 alongside our day jobs. We grew SkyRun to one hundred properties, and we both left our other full-time jobs. With his legal and market development background and my technology and business consulting background, we made a good team. This was 2004–2007, and property management was booming. To get back to the snow metaphor, that time frame was what we call a “powder day”: when you get a foot or more of fluffy new “white gold,” the fun and ease of being on the mountain is magnified a hundred times, and staff who are more committed to the snow than to the job take a personal day. Fresh powder is sometimes called “hero snow” because anybody can get an “edge” when turning in 54
VRM Intel Magazine | Fall 2017
powder. It doesn’t matter whether you have perfect technique, how good your equipment is, or how good your physical conditioning is—you’re in for a good day on a powder day.
It’s the same way in business. When conditions are good, business is good. Your weaknesses are most exposed during the bad times. From 2008 to 2011 the powder days we dreamed of turned into the “wind-blown, hard-packed, and icy days” we dread. This became an era when your weaknesses were most exposed and you hoped to merely hold an edge. In 2017, we find ourselves again in a powder day period. But powder days don’t last forever. Better sharpen those edges...
As Steve and I learned more about the industry, we gradually realized that the future belonged to multi-location property managers. To be competitive, we needed to have scale. Our thought process was the following:
B We could remain a single-location property manager and grow
by adding properties that compete with the hundred we already have.
C We could diversify our risk by adding a location in another ge-
ography, perhaps even at a beach, but we still would have one hundred more toilets to worry about remotely.
D Or we could license our brand, process, and systems to enable other local entrepreneurs to serve vacation guests and property owners the way the industry has for decades. Locally.
We chose option number three, and SkyRun has become a rapidly growing multi-location organization with six hundred properties
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