Our Thought Leader Spotlight series is a regular profile interview of interesting and notable ‘game changers’ in the international vacation and short-term rental industry.
We ask these industry experts, all with different backgrounds in the industry, questions that aim to get to the core of what they view as both the challenges and opportunities facing the vacation rental industry.
We also delve into how our Thought Leaders personally relate to the industry, and what they, and their businesses, bring to the collective table.
What businesses, organizations and enterprises are you currently involved with, in the industry?
I own Taylor-Made Deep Creek Vacations & Sales along with my husband, Joe Refosco and my brother, Chad Taylor. We are focused on vacation rental management in Deep Creek Lake, Maryland with over 400 homes in our rental inventory and 140 non-renting, property service homes.
Currently, I am the President of VRMA and have served on the board for 5 years. I have been a member under Taylor-Made for almost eleven years and for nine years prior to that with my family’s company. Taylor-Made is also a member of Vacation Rental Housekeeping Professionals. I founded the Vacation Rental Exchange, formerly known as The Big 8, with some of my close colleagues in order to foster networking in a small-group setting.
What do you consider to be the key to your success?
Passion. I love this industry, and I love the way it moves and changes from year to year. I am driven to learn how to improve the owner and guest experience. From guests and owners to employees and co-workers, I love working with people. Raising the bar for our industry is always a goal that is top-of-mind. I strongly believe that on-going education is key to our future.
In your view, what are the biggest challenges and or threats to the vacation rental industry?
Staffing is a big challenge for us. As we grow, we have to learn to scale and with that comes growing pains. Also, technology is always evolving in this space, and we have to stay on top of it. However, it is challenging to find one solution that fits all of our needs.
And that’s the great part about being involved with VRMA: we have an opportunity as the industry’s trade association to work together and address these challenges, and at the very least provide options. Our conferences are loaded with education on these and other relevant topics, and our exhibit hall is filled with product & service solutions for our businesses.
Then, at the board level, we are strategically focused on tackling threats and turning them into opportunities. We are built on advocacy and education, which gives us multiple opportunities with threats. Take onerous regulation, for instance; we give our members the tools they need to fight regulations at the local level while educating them on why they need to, even if the discussion isn’t currently taking place.
Take navigating the marketplace: we educate our members on the importance of data to drive business decisions, and also provide resources like VRMA Insights to help them make those decisions. So we are constantly having these discussions on how best to serve our members in this constantly-changing industry.
What counter measures would you suggest to minimize these risks?
For the staffing risk, do not just hire to hire. Do your research and look for ways to improve the process in order to attract high-quality applicants. Regarding technology, stay in tune with the industry by attending conferences. They are your best opportunity to learn about emerging tech and the latest trends.
For the bigger picture risks I mentioned, start by joining VRMA. Come to our events. See and learn first-hand. Then get involved!
In your opinion, what are the greatest opportunities for both individual property management businesses, and the industry as a whole, both now and in the short to medium term future?
I am curious about Google becoming a bigger player – it will be interesting to see how that plays out. Consolidation of technology may also prove to be a nice opportunity for the property management companies.
And at the VRMA level, we are focused on those tools to support our education and advocacy efforts. Professionalism through our certificate program and company accreditation, data through VRMA Insights and other partnerships, and much more coming soon.
If you were to start over again in the vacation rental industry, what would you do differently?
Not one thing! Pick your partners carefully, promote, grow and be willing to try new things. If you fail or have a hiccup, get back up and use what you learned to try it a different way.
And finally….. what and where would your dream vacation rental be, and who would you invite to share it with you?
I love St. John! I have been there several times, but this year I get to bring my children with me. I am so excited to show them all of the cool spots for snorkelling. Also, Australia – that is another one to do sometime in my lifetime – and I would, of course, take my husband!