That light at the end of the tunnel. It’s not the future waiting patiently in the distance. Instead, it’s a future on high beam speeding towards us, bearing down on us, and if we’re not ready, we’ll be trampled.

What does it mean to be ready?

In our business as in all other sectors, nothing is standing still. Technology, customers, marketing strategies, expectations and needs are all changing and morphing as we look at them. Much faster than grass growing.

Long-term survival in this industry of holiday rental management requires us to remain at least parallel with those changes – to keep up to date with technology and people. We need to also look ahead, because the future is also on the move – and speeding towards us but also away from us. Remember, Future proofing for holiday rental managementThere is no choice, if we are to survive, we must future-proof our businesses.

Not in the sense of protecting ourselves from the future (like fire-proofing protects from fire and water-proofing protects from water), but in the sense of welcoming the future, embracing it, and being ready for it.

Indeed, we have to help create it!

Future-proofing is about anticipating the future and then developing strategies and processes that would minimise the effects of possible shocks and stresses of future events and technological or other changes. Future-proofing is also about being ready to make the most of what happens in the future.

The term “future-proofing” is commonly used in many industry sectors, including electronics, data storage, communications systems, industrial design, computers, health care, sustainable development, climate change planning, and product design. To date, the term has not been used in the hotel rental management industry. I propose to change that.

Drawing on the language and ideas from work in other fields, I have developed a set of future-proof principles for our industry.

Future-proof gurus (and there are several – check Google!) have prepared sets of principles for a range of industry sectors. In the main, these principles apply for material- and product-based industries, not service- or marketing-based industries. And our business is in marketing and servicing.

Below are 10 principles for future-proofing our holiday rental property management businesses. Note that it’s important to build these principles into to your whole operation of marketing, relationship building and maintenance, cleaning, work with trades and suppliers……

Future-Proofing Principles for the Holiday Property Management Sector

  1. Know and understand the business you are

Holiday rental property management business is a “marketing business that does cleaning” So where in your business is your marketing professional? After all you are a marketing business !!

Where is your marketing plan?

  1. Do no harm – especially to yourself

Get everything right. Ensure your communication and operation systems make it easy for customers and suppliers and trades people to deal with you. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot with cumbersome systems and faulty communications. Ensure your communications, marketing and booking management systems are integrated and smoooooth. You will not, “in the future“ be able to afford anything less.

  1. Build long-term relationships

It’s not just about marketing good properties and deals; it’s not just about understanding and meeting customer requests; it’s not just about technology. You need to help your customers, suppliers, trades people and staff establish an emotional connection with you – a bond with you.

This principle is about valuing people and training your staff to do the same. Invest in people as you invest in other changes. For example, help your staff have dialogue with the customers not just solve problems. Help them build intuition and read between the lines of customer needs. Guests want to be respected and feel respected as people, so help your staff learn to deliver not a script-driven welcome but an appropriate, personality-driven welcome. Know your customers, have incentives, build loyalty, train your staff, and be the best property manager the suppliers and trades people have ever worked with.

  1. Stimulate flexibility and adaptability

It goes without saying that if you cement your systems in place because they work today, your business will find itself being dragged behind by the weight of that cement! Remain flexible and be ready to adapt; be open to critically assess new ideas and take them up if you believe they can yield greater benefit than your current ways of doing things. This is as much a frame of mind as it is the tools you use, the training and support you provide for staff, the plans you put in place and the business approaches you take.

  1. Fortify against competition

This principle is not about castle towers, sturdy walls and a permanently lowered portcullis. Indeed, it suggests thinking that is opposite: being open. Open to the idea of working together, forming alliances and possibly coming together as a larger competitive force. So, lift the gate, lower the drawbridge and welcome others in to talk about how you can survive and thrive together.

  1. Innovate to reduce costs

Wherever you can, automate. Automate to reduce costs and failure. Staffing costs will be the greatest burden for any industry on the future, especially the business of holiday rental management.

  1. Become data driven

Data matters. Ensure your systems ( PMS included ) captures user behaviour metrics such as rental dates, lengths of stays, and browsing patterns. Then connect the dots: first, to check your assumptions; second, to develop and refine your marketing strategy to suit the information.

Become a data-driven organisation that approaches each business challenge objectively and with as much information as possible. Remember, it’s an ongoing, regularly-refined strategy to survive and thrive that you must keep putting put in place.

Data is gold, real data is invaluable.

  1. Invest in knowing what’s coming

Watch and listen. Think about and be aware of what’s coming. Use mainstream and specialist media, newsletters and Google alerts. Attend conferences outside your own backyard and develop knowledge networks as far and wide as you can. Keep growing and testing your own insights into the future.

  1. Market yourself to the world

Your website must be your greatest asset. Nurture it, invest in it daily, weekly, monthly. Use it as an important tool in your future-proofing survival armory. Use it to build your own business not someone else’s. Here, it’s vital to know and accept that online marketing channels are not your business. Build an amazing website that your clients love and that speaks to the world.

  1. Healthy people, healthy community, healthy planet

Customer expectations about health and low environmental impacts are rising. Customers are coming to expect eco-friendly products and services across all industry sectors. Ours is not exempt. Remember, don’t just say you care, show it – through product choice, use of resources, management of waste, support for local initiatives and businesses, etc.

Commitments and efforts in these directions don’t just win customers. If done well, they can reduce costs and build a network of local businesses that support you.

Ten future-proofing principles for our sector. One for each finger. Remember them. Let them all work together to build approaches that future-proof your business. Apply these principles to build resilience, creativity and future profits.

Glenn Smith
January 2016