A hospitality success story: How this host, coach and author became successful

Welcome to Boostly Podcast Episode 590.

In this podcast, Liam interviews Dave Cordner, a host from Belfast who manages 60 units for his business, Central Belfast Apartments.

Dave began his short-term rental journey 15 years ago by helping his parents with their properties and discovered his passion for meeting guests.

He purchased his first property in 2013 and his second the following year, realizing that he wanted to do this full-time.

Prior to this, he was working in mental health, chasing his dream of becoming a clinical psychologist.

Now, Dave has found that service accommodation aligns more with his personality and aspirations of owning a business.

He enjoys working on his own terms and has a better work-life balance.

Despite the challenges of Covid, his business has grown every year since he started, with a recent opportunity to manage student accommodation over the summer months.

Dave's experience in mental health has helped him understand the needs of his guests and provide them with a positive experience.

Overall, the podcast provides insight into the behind-the-scenes of a successful host business and shares useful tactics and tools that can be implemented in one's own business.

Here's the video for this episode:

Timestamps (audio)

00:00 – Intro
01:05 – Dave Intro
03:18 – What's your day to day role?
05:31 – What difference has it made focusing in one particular area
09:43 – Outro

Whilst you’re here

Follow Boostly on the following channels to get more tips, tactics and knowledge on how you can increase your direct bookings

Visual – YouTube

Audio – Boostly Podcast




Transcript from the Episode


[00:00:00] Liam: Okay, so welcome to another episode of The Behind the Host podcast. We're gonna be deep diving into behind the scenes business of an epic host business where you can get inspiration from. You'll start to learn some of the tactics, some of the tech, and the tools that you can implement to into your business.

[00:00:19] Uh, I love meeting hosts from all over the world, and today's host is from Belfast. So, uh, we're gonna learn, uh, what makes their business tick. And without further ado, let's introduce, uh, today's host. Uh, he looks after 60 units on the management model and, uh, his name is David, uh, Dave Cordner. Dave, we welcome along.

[00:00:39] Thank you very much for having me. So, uh, for the listeners, uh, Dave is from, uh, Belfast, as we said, and he's got Central Serviced Apartments, is the name of his business. Uh, he's an amazing. Host, he's a coach and also an author of his very own book. So I'm really excited to dive into your business today, Dave.

[00:00:56] And uh, thank you for being here. So to get started, can you just give the listeners a bit of background on how you got started in short-term rental?

Dave Intro

[00:01:05] Dave: Yeah, so I've been in service accommodation business for about 15 years and it started off as a bit of an apprenticeship really. So my parents actually had, um, a few properties way, way, way back, and.

[00:01:18] I wasn't really in it at at the time, but I was helping out. When they were going holidays, I would help out with the cleaning, I would meet the guests, and I really sort of, it was like an apprenticeship in the family business and I really got the buzz. The biggest buzz I got was from meeting guests and, um, If anyone's being to Belfast, it's an amazing city, but, um, people still are a bit nervous about coming and they aren't sure what to expect.

[00:01:41] So I loved seeing people way back when coming for the first time and not really sure about what to do, but we're just blown away by it, um, by the city and the people. And I just got such a buzz showcasing my city. Um, in 2013. I. Purchased my first property and started to do things a bit differently. And in, in, in 2014, I got my second and very quickly realized that that is what I wanted to do full-time.

[00:02:11] And yeah, started managing properties in 2016 and it's grown from there really. Um, yeah, I love it.

[00:02:18] Liam: That's cool. And, uh, just so that the listeners know, what, what did you do before this? What was your life before, uh, service accommodation?

[00:02:25] Dave: So I was working in mental health, so I have a, um, a psychology degree and a master's in applied psychology.

[00:02:30] And I was sort of chasing that dream of being a clinical psychologist for, uh, The guts of 10 years and it took a lot of big, it was a big decision to sort of jack that in and to go sort of full on disservice accommodation, but it just, it aligned more with me. It was, it was more fun. It, I'd always wanted to have my own business and to sort of work on my terms and time freedom is a big thing for me and, uh, it just, I saw it as an opportunity to.

[00:02:57] Do something just a bit more fun. So yeah, I think it's probably helped as well with, with guests, uh, the sort of psychology side of, of I put myself in their shoes and, and think about their experience and, um, but yeah, two very different customers going from mental health to, to guests. And 22,

[00:03:16] Liam: uh, what is your business like now?

What’s your day-to-day role

[00:03:18] So just remind the listeners how many units you look after and what your sort of day-to-day role in the business is.

[00:03:24] Dave: So, yeah, we, we managed, um, about 60 in total. Um, recently over the summer there we were managing some student accommodation that was obviously empty during the summer, and we worked with, um, the, the.

[00:03:36] The building to, to let it out, to service accommodation, the tourists during the summer. So that was an amazing opportunity. It's a bit of a test and I think next year it's gonna be even bigger. Um, so I'm really excited about that. Um, we grew, we've all, we almost doubled in size every year from when I started the business up until Covid obviously.

[00:03:54] And, you know, anyone else on the management model will know that. The host and the, the property owner win and lose together. And that's the benefit of the management model. You're spreading the risk. So during Covid, everyone was losing because there was no travel. Um, so we, we shrank, um, probably by about 50%.

[00:04:13] A couple of our big clients realized there was no travel coming and they decided to go to, to long-term lads. But since. Restrictions have been opened or eased again. Um, we've grown more rapidly than ever before. So we pre covid or just when Covid was starting, we were at 40 properties. We went down there by 20, um, and now we're up to 60.

[00:04:33] Um, my role in the business is I get to do all the fun stuff. So I have a team of superstars that actually run the day to day. Dealing with guests, dealing with bookings, um, everything like that, answering the phones. And I get to do fun stuff like this, work on strategy. I do a lot of social media. Um, I have two social media accounts, so I have one where I talk about how to run the business, how to set up and, and do service accommodation.

[00:05:00] And then I have another, that's the sort of front end. So we aimed at guests and trying to promote Belfast, so, mm-hmm. That was always my passion from the very start, you know? Whilst I don't make the guests anymore and sort of showcase the things and give them recommendations, personally, I know I do it on social media to a much wider audience.

[00:05:18] So like yesterday actually, I was out shooting video content and uh, I'm doing a series called Best Guinness and Belfast. So my time is spent drinking Guinness around Belfast and, and showcasing the setting.

What difference has it made focusing in one particular area?

[00:05:31] Liam: How important, and, uh, you know, what difference has it made focusing in one particular area for your business?

[00:05:37] Dave: Um, well, I, I focused in Belfast purely because it is the biggest city in Northern Ireland and it's, it gets the biggest draw of guests of all different kinds. So there's obviously the leisure and tourism, but also corporate and contractors. So there everything is here, um, to go out, to start in others towns and areas.

[00:05:57] In, in Northern Ireland, you're gonna lose some of those bets and it can be done, but, and I will be doing it, but certainly. You know, it's a no-brainer to, to focus in, in Belfast for me, in terms of other hosts, I think really the fundamentals are the same, whether you want to manage it in Liverpool and Manchester or London and Glasgow, it's, it's all the same.

[00:06:18] It's about having the right location, treating the guests the right way, knowing how to get the bookings and setting the systems up to, for it to run. Effectively, and you don't really need to even be there. It can be set up to run remotely and then protecting it and making sure that, um, only the right guests come in.

[00:06:36] Um, yeah.

[00:06:38] Liam: What is the, the biggest challenge or the biggest learning curve that you've had? Um, is there any lessons that you could share with, uh, the listeners, which would, um, really. So the things you've done during that tough time of covid, um, of, of what helped you, you know, not, not have to shut up shop altogether, but, you know, you reduced the business down, but then you've increased it since then.

[00:07:00] Is, is there any lessons you can share from it, uh, for the listeners, uh, from that? Yeah,

[00:07:05] Dave: so, um, you know what, the biggest thing that, that I felt during those early weeks of Covid, and I'm sure anyone who's in service accommodations during that period, will, will. Failures would've felt as well is complete powerlessness, you know, bookings just being canceled.

[00:07:21] And an alarm in re had hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of non-refundable bookings being canceled and needing to be refunded. And it was horrible. I, I felt completely powerless. Everything was happening to me and to us as hosts, and there was nothing we could do. We didn't know when it was gonna be over.

[00:07:35] We couldn't hold on to any bookings. You know, clients were taking their properties back and it was, it was awful. So one thing I decided to do was try and take back some control and, and focus on what I could control. Um, so we did quite a lot of work back then. Um, while everyone else was just turning their market and budget off like Tourism Ireland and visit Belfast and Tourism Northern Ireland, I decided and realized that this was a great opportunity to actually be heard.

[00:08:02] Normally it's a very loud marketplace with these big industry bodies. Um, but they roll. Very quiet. And I thought, well, okay, this is a good opportunity for me. So I started shouting as loud as I could, talking about the best things to do outside, you know, the, the, the best walks to do things that people could do whenever travel was, was, um, open again.

[00:08:22] Um, we, like a lot of businesses got, um, bounce back alone and I decided to, instead of holding onto that for a really day in, in panic to invest it. So we rebranded, we got a. Really slick looking website. Um, I started producing this video content. I'd never done a video before, before Covid, but I decided I'm gonna push myself outta my comfort zone and start doing these uncomfortable things, cuz I know it's the right thing to do.

[00:08:48] Um, and if I couldn't do it during Covid, you know, everyone uses that excuse. If I'm too busy, I'll get to it later. But if you couldn't do it during Covid, You know, you, you're not doing it. Um, I got a coach as well. Um, I'm a sort of mindset business coach and that really helped as well. And I, I was determined that, I mean, we all knew Covid was gonna end and I was determined that we were gonna come out the other side in a much stronger position than when we went in and.

[00:09:12] That that was the case. So I was a much stronger person. I was more resilient. Um, our business was much more resilient because we obviously, um, had to look at all the processes and all the costs during that downtime when there wasn't much income. So we came out much leaner. Much slicker, much faster, and I think much better.

[00:09:32] Um, so I'm not saying it was the best thing that ever happened. It was horrible and I don't know if it's a tree at all that I would say, yeah, I'm glad it happened, but um, certainly I'm very happy with how we came out of it.


[00:09:43] Liam: That's amazing. Thank you so much Dave. And, uh, this has been really, really good. So, Um, if you do want to come and join in with hospitality in general, come and join the hospitality Facebook community on Facebook, which is Mark Simpson's free group.

[00:09:57] And, uh, yeah, we look to, uh, we're always looking for hosts to come and join us on this podcast, so feel free to reach out in that group. Thanks very much, Dave, and uh, bye for now. Thank you. Having a blast. Gonna get it on the Bruce Lee podcast,

[00:10:10] Dave: Bruce Lee. Let Bruce Lee cuz it's so hard on the tee is loose leaf making up those rhymes.

[00:10:15] Don't write it, just do it loosely.

Before you leave

Please go and rate, review and subscribe on iTunes, Spotify Google Play or Anchor or visit Boostly Hospitality Podcast for the full list of episodes!  

Share this post