Scale Your STR Business: 3 Growth Strategies from the Million Dollar Host

scale STR

By The Hospitable Team

You’re determined to grow your vacation rental management business, but you’re faced with a common problem.

Caught up in the day-to-day tasks, you don’t have time to plan for the future or focus on acquiring new properties. Instead, you’re organizing cleaning schedules and answering guest messages at all hours.

Whether you’re a part-time host eager to go all-in on your business, or you want to add more properties to your portfolio, you know that something has to change.

At Hospitable, we’re all about helping hosts scale up and succeed. That’s why we sat down for a chat with Julie George, the “Million Dollar Host,” about the best ways to grow a property business.

Scaling hosts recommend using Hospitable.com. We have plenty of solutions to get your time back while boosting the efficiency of your business. Discover now.

Julie George’s 3 pillars of scaling your business

Julie George earned over a million dollars from her Airbnb portfolio in her first year, and within two and a half years she scaled that portfolio up to 130 properties. 

She wrote a book titled “Million Dollar Host” about her experience and, after selling her business, she now dedicates her time to public speaking and mentoring for the Legends X STR Accelerator program.

She says the hosts who come through the program all have one thing in common – they’re doing almost everything themselves, and struggling to delegate tasks. 

Julie gave us her top tips for short-term rental hosts who are looking to scale their businesses and fall back in love with what they do.

One of Julie’s core beliefs is that you have to “work on your business, not in it.”

She puts forward a three-pillar approach to achieving that goal, and if you master all three pillars, you’ll be on the right track to replicate Julie’s success.

Pillar 1: A vision for your business

First, take a step back and think about the big picture, your vision of where you want your business to go. 

What kind of properties do you want to manage?

Julie has seen many hosts fall into the same trap of taking on any property that comes their way.

“If there’s a property offered to them, they’re grabbing it and running with it without considering who their guest avatar is, and what kind of properties and property owners they should be working with”

So, decide on your ideal guest and the types of properties you want to manage. You may need to narrow your focus to specialize in a certain niche.

Then, look at your portfolio and ask yourself if you are spending the right amount of energy on each property. Not all properties have an equal return on investment, and you might be spending too much time on less profitable rentals.

Julie notes that budget properties often require just as much effort as luxury ones, and are less profitable.

“A lot of people now go for the high-end luxury properties that take up as much time and effort as smaller, cheaper versions. If you’re still putting the same amount of time into each property, you may as well get a higher return on investment from luxury properties.”

Your role in the business

It’s also important to evaluate yourself and your role in the business.

Do a self-assessment,” says Julie. “Ask yourself, what are my strengths, what are my weaknesses, what are my likes and my dislikes? What tasks drain me of energy, and what tasks give me energy?

She also encourages hosts to assign a monetary value to the tasks they do. 

Answering guest messages might be worth $10. Getting a new property in the door might be $3,000 an hour.”

Once you’ve done this, you’ll be able to identify the tasks that you should be outsourcing or automating. With your knowledge and expertise in property management, you might be wasting time by doing menial, repetitive tasks yourself. 

Pillar 2: Create systems to scale your operations

Now you have a vision for your business and you know what direction you should be heading in.

The next thing to do is standardize your procedures. For your business to grow, you need the day-to-day operations to run smoothly without needing your involvement at every step.

Write the playbook for your vacation rental business

Julie recognizes that designing systems and standard operating procedures can be boring, but she insists that “If you are doing a task more than once, you need to put a system in place.

Create a playbook for your business so that everyone who works for you knows exactly what they have to do and what’s expected of them. Information should be easy to find as it’s all written down rather than kept inside your head.

Once you have this documentation in place, it’ll be easier to delegate and people won’t need to wait for you to tell them what to do.

 “Get the business out of your head and down on paper. This will help you scale the business and even sell it one day”

A cleaning checklist, for example, gives your cleaners a clear task list to complete, and all your rentals will meet high standards of cleanliness.

Julie suggests taking inspiration from large hospitality chains like Marriott that maintain the same high standards around the world. 

“If you go into a Marriott property on one side of the globe, you know you’re going to get the same experience as you would on the other side of the world, in a different continent.

Even if you only manage one property right now, you’ll benefit from acting like a bigger company. Get the standard operating procedures in place now so that you prepare your business for growth. 

Having consistent high standards can also make your properties stand out in the crowded short-term rental market.

There is a lot of room for hosts that are willing to put high standards in place,” says Julie.

Start building your team

Once you have your systems in place, you can think about hiring. Whether it’s an Airbnb co-host, virtual assistant, or cleaner, you must expand your team and take the pressure off your shoulders.

As soon as you can afford it, do it, so you can keep your sanity.” Julie’s motto is “Hire slow, fire fast,” and she advises hosts to be selective about who they hire. “Look for loyal team members who have accountability and ownership over their work.

As well as hiring team members, you can use technology to improve efficiency and automate aspects of your business. 

Hospitable.com can help you create scalable systems. You can use our automation tools to reduce your workload while keeping a human touch.

Have conversations with your guests even when you sleep.

We will detect questions and answer on your behalf; send fully custom messages triggered by events, and much more!

For example, you can automate your messaging so you don’t have to remember to send guests welcome messages or information that they might need every time they check in. Plus, instead of texting your cleaner whenever a group checks out, you can automate that text, or you can automatically assign tasks using our task manager.

You can also save time managing your listings on different channels with our channel manager. Anytime a guest books your property on one channel it will be synced across all other channels that you list on, meaning you won’t have to worry about updating the calendars across all channels and risking double-bookings. 

Pillar 3: Master marketing and PR 

The first two pillars are about building the framework to support your business as it grows.

Marketing and PR are the last piece of the puzzle that will bring in more interest, grow your portfolio and increase your revenue.

People need to know about your business, so tell your friends, family, and the local community what you are doing.

It’s amazing how a lot of property hosts or managers don’t tell people what they’re doing,” says Julie, “and you can’t sell a secret.”

Set yourself up as the go-to expert on everything related to short-term rentals in your local community or within your particular business niche. It’s also important to build relationships with people in the industry with a similar audience, for example, realtors, mortgage brokers, financiers. 

You can grow your social media profile by sharing your positive reviews, expertise, and all the lessons you’ve learned along the way as a property manager. 

Tips for scaling your rental business securely

Julie had lots of advice for ways to future-proof your short-term rental business.

There are three different ways to grow your property portfolio. You can manage properties that are owned by other people, leasing and subleasing (also called rental arbitrage), or buying real estate.

Julie explained that managing other people’s properties was a great way to start expanding. It’s less risky, and you can reinvest the income into buying properties.

When it comes to investing in property, Julie looks for properties that will pay for themselves and don’t require a big investment. “I look for properties close to the city center, or close to some sort of major hospital, airport, something that will hold its value – even in a pandemic.

Despite the setbacks of the past couple of years, Julie is optimistic about the future of the short-term rentals industry. She believes that the rise of digital nomads and remote workers presents a massive opportunity for short-term rentals. 

To attract mid-term, working travelers, Julie recommends that hosts provide a unique space with spacious desks and super-fast wifi. You can even verify your wifi speed and advertise that on your listing.  

She goes on to say:

“You can increase your nightly rate by providing extras for business travelers, even small things like a ring light, a large computer screen, or a printer and scanner. Photograph these amenities and advertise them on your listings.”

As international travel makes a comeback, Julie urges property managers to ensure their properties are equipped for international travelers. This means having signs and welcome books in different languages and being mindful of the fact that people coming from abroad may not have internet access on arrival.

“There’s lots of excitement about travel and getting out again. Put the prices up and get ready.”

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Grow your business and get your life back

To recap, these are Julie’s three pillars of a successful property management business:

  • Vision – Decide on the direction of your business, be choosy about the properties you take on. Avoid spending time and energy on properties that aren’t a good fit and don’t have a great ROI. Think about your role in the business, and focus on doing what you do best.
  • System and operations – Get organized and set up standard operating procedures. This will allow you to provide a better, more professional experience for guests. Start automating and outsourcing some tasks to employees or contractors. 
  • Marketing and PR – Tell everyone what you’re doing and share your knowledge and expertise with the world. Build mutually beneficial relationships with experts in the industry.

Hospitable.com is the perfect tool to support your business growth. Free yourself from the daily grind by automating guest messaging, syncing your calendar across all channels, automatically assigning tasks, and much more.

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