Bill Scott of Book By Owner
For over 20 years I sold high-end architectural products in resort towns. I came to appreciate the mindset of the distant home-owners and also of the locals that live in these towns and support them. I met some wonderful people that struggled to find a good business to own in a resort town. When VRBO and AirBNB hti the scene, I could finally own a cabin in a ski town because I could now cover the mortgage, The value of Book By Owner hit home when I found myself struggling to hire and supervise service people. Although I own many long-term rental properties, this adventure into short-term was different. I just needed someone local that I could trust. We built a system that has proven itself with sustained growth through a recession and with Franchisees that simply love what they do.
1. Tell us about the Book By Owner concept
When VRBO and AirBNB disrupted the vacation rental industry over 10 years ago many local property managers tried to compete with them. We took a different approach, we decided to join them in allowing home-owners to participate as much as they desire. We cut the typical commission from 40% down to under 10% and gave the owners more control of their investment. We had to come up with a pricing model that allowed the owner to take full control – by offering a flat fee for services, we eliminated the need to see the revenue for every booking. Because we focus 100% of our efforts on operations, we don’t get overwhelmed by sales and marketing.
2. How and when did you become involved
I was first a customer, I felt the pain that all of our clients feel – I needed a local to just show up. I liked the service so much, I decided to buy the business. And because I had spent almost 20 years setting up Dealers in resort towns, I recognized the opportunity for someone that is entrepreneurial to obtain a solid business in these towns. I kept the original founders in the business and gave them the wings to experiment with new markets and processes. They are doing very well and complete our team.
3. What was your background prior to joining
Civil Engineer and specialty contractor -- I’ve spent 30 of 35 working years in business ownership. I sold architectural products in resort towns all over the US and recognized that my success was mostly due to partnering with the right person – in virtually every case, a business “owner” out-performed a “corporate-manager”. They simply cared more about their business and modified it to fit the local market. I also own many long-term rentals and purchased a cabin on a ski hill for my personal use in addition to short-term rentals. At first, I resisted hiring someone to manage it because I do so well with my other properties, but the horror stories soon became real – I experienced so many problems that I sought out Book By Owner.
4. What are some of the advantages of being a Book By Owner Franchise.
The biggest advantage is living in a resort town and owning a solid business (that isn’t T-shirts or food!). Secondly, just hanging around nice vacation homes and the people that own them and get to enjoy them while on vacation is priceless. Our clients truly do appreciate us and rely on us to protect their precious investment. There is a strong sense of purpose. We build long-term relationships with our clients. We’ve got Franchises with over 100 homes and they know virtually every homeowner and property. With our business you can take a selfie everyday – cool surroundings. Third is the low cost to enter and run – you can run this business from your home with very little equipment and supplies. Fourth, You can provide a safe, honest job for many people that need part-time jobs – young moms and people in ministries are always looking for a few hours per week. The houses we serve are quite safe compared to hourly work elsewhere.
5. Who is your ideal franchisee?
I often say we need a “Servant’s Heart” – they must enjoy pleasing others and not be afraid of responsibility. We have many single moms and also husband-wife teams… they all do well. Our team thrives on relationships (with clients and vendors) … we don’t like selling to new clients every day – we like delivering the goods. We need people that have a sense of community.
6. Tell us a little about the Vacation Rental Market?
This is a booming market. Only 25% of people have ever stayed in a VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner). The numbers are growing rapidly. It’s hard to find someone under 30 that hasn’t stayed in a VRBO and many now exclusively use them. We are seeing an entire group of new investors that are buying VRBOs all over the country – it’s the new real-estate. At the same time, people are frugal, if they can do much of the work themselves, they save a lot of money, but as importantly, they are participating in their investment. It truly is a small business to own a VRBO. There are hundreds of companies fighting for the “bookings” (or the guests” … we let them, we focus on serving the Home-Owner.
7. What are some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned in growing this franchise.
The hardest lesson we had to learn was that the franchise must live in their market. Regretfully, we had a few territories fail a few years ago – in every case the person did not live within 1 hour of their market and never did sync up with the locals. We also had to learn the art of allowing each office to operate in a way that fit the person and the city – each situation is different. At the same time, we have processes that must be maintained. We look for people that are going to fit into our family – they are just entrepreneurial enough to make it their own business, but still want to be part of a team. Our Franchisees share best practices and really help each other out.
8. Do you have a mentor and is there someone you use for inspiration?
I actually find inspiration from every single franchisee and employee in our company. They each bring value to the team. I also find many home-owners a real pleasure to work around – we take their suggestions to heart.
9. What advice do you for someone looking to acquire a Franchise.
Think about the “day in the life” of the Franchisee. Ask yourself if you could do this business every day. Don’t look for get-rich-quick schemes – look for an honest business that will build over time and be worth something in the end. Look for a service that people truly appreciate.
10. In your opinion, why do you think that Book By Owner would be a great opportunity for someone?
We provide the “living the dream” scenario they’ve worked for. The work is diverse enough to not get bored, but you see progress every day. There is a great sense of accomplishment every day. Also look for something that builds relationships with other local business owners, you’ll be part of a unique fraternity. You’ll enjoy running into these people in everyday life.
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