A PMS With a Different Spin: The Full Package

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In this Behind the Host podcast episode, host Liam Carolan explores Clark Anderson Properties, a Scottish holiday management company, with founder and CEO Simon Anderson and digital marketing executive Sandie Donaldson. 

The discussion covers the company's growth, strategies for success, and a shift towards emphasizing direct bookings, especially during the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Simon and Sandie highlight the unique partnership dynamic and stress the importance of defined roles and open communication for effective decision-making.

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Timestamps (audio)



[00:00:00] Liam: So welcome to another episode of the Behind the Host podcast. This is the mini-series on the Moseley podcast with me, Liam Carolan. And today we are diving into the business of Clark Anderson Properties, uh, based in the East coast of Scotland. And today we're joined by the founder and CEO. Uh, Simon Anderson and also, uh, Sandie Donaldson, the digital marketing executive.

[00:00:25] And we're going to be talking about their business. We're going to be talking about some of the things they've done to succeed in their business, which you may be able to pick up, uh, you know, sort of success stories and things that you can utilize to put into your hospitality business. So thank you for joining me, Simon and Sandie.

[00:00:40] Welcome along.

[00:00:42] Simon: Yeah, thanks for having us. Thank you.

[00:00:44] Liam: If you'd just like to introduce the business and, uh, you know, sort of where you're based and, uh, what sort of thing that you're, that you cater for, what sort of hospitality business you are.

A bit about Simon and Clark Anderson

[00:00:52] Simon: Yeah, of course. Um, so Simon Anderson, I'm the Anderson of Clark Anderson.

[00:00:57] My business partner Stuart Clark is the other half. Um, we are a holiday management company. We started with a few properties of our own and then slowly migrated into the management side of things. Um, based out in Dundee here personally, uh, is where the head office is and we cover all of Scotland at the moment.

[00:01:16] We're trying to grow particularly in areas such as Aberdeen, Glasgow, uh, Edinburgh. Bit of a whirlwind the last few years. It's been good fun. Um, and the team has grown and grown since then. And we're fortunate enough to have Sandie on the team as well. And she can tell you a bit more about what she does.

[00:01:34] Liam: So Sandie. Yeah. Thank you, Simon. Sandie, if you wanted to introduce yourself and what you do for Clark Hanson. Yeah,

More about Sandie

[00:01:41] Sandie: so I started at Clark Anderson in November last year and, like Simon says, they have experienced significant growth in a short period, especially over COVID. So I think the main aim now is you've got your OTAs that we are quite successful on at the moment, but thankfully we discovered Boostly and now…

[00:02:07] That I am working towards, just like I kinda focus on direct bookings. So that's my main role in, the business moving forward anyway.

How many properties?

[00:02:18] Liam: How many properties are you on at the moment, Simon, that you look after and manage?

[00:02:21] Simon: Uh, well, we're currently sitting at eight and I believe we're closing this month at 85.

[00:02:28] Wow. Yeah. Stuart and the PMs, property managers, they look after. That side of things, uh, but yesterday Stuart was saying that he's got another five lined up, uh, this week, which is fantastic. Um, it's, you know, the team have got a lot to do with that. Um, everybody gets involved, everybody is contributing in some way.

[00:02:50] Um, but yeah, 85, it's kind of, it's hard to believe actually, when we came in, uh, to last year with 12 properties. I don't even know where the time's gone. I kind of blinked and we're talking about 85 and saying we'll be up to 100. You know, that's happened.

[00:03:03] Liam: There's, uh, there's a couple of points I want to say.

How important is it to have defined and different roles?

[00:03:05] Let's dive into that. You mentioned, uh, your, your business partner and how important is it to have defined different roles? Cause there'll be a lot of people listening who, you know, want to have a business partner or thinking about starting up a hospitality business with a business partner. What advice would you have for them?

[00:03:22] Simon: Yeah. I mean, Stuart and I met. and started the company in quite an unorthodox way. Uh, you know, I won't give the full story, but the bullet points are that we met through a networking group and we went for a coffee to catch up. That first time kind of meeting each other tends to be the usual, you know, family, friends, Woody, what are you into, the golf, the read, blah, blah, blah.

[00:03:44] Uh, and I actually can't quite remember how it came up, but We both discovered that we liked the idea of doing something on the property. Mm-hmm. , uh, we're kinda speaking more about longer-term in life. We might like the idea of flipping in or developing or something like that. So after a couple of coffees, we landed on why don't we try something?

[00:04:01] Um, we didn't have a whole lot of money to put into a flip, which means the return wouldn't have been fantastic. So we didn't like the idea of that. Um, buy to let's weren't something we were too keen on. And then my background was in hospitality. his background was corporate insurance, and we saw a way to put them kind of together.

[00:04:19] Um, so we just kind of shook hands, and we still to this day don't have an agreement in place, but we're fairly committed now, so I'm pretty sure he won't leave me hanging, and I certainly won't do it to him. In terms of, the question, uh, so Stuart and I, right at the start, we just had an agreement that defining our roles was key.

[00:04:40] Yes, we're both 50 50. We're both co-owners. We're both directors. Uh, we have interchangeable titles. You know, I have a CEO, he is the managing director. It doesn't mean that I'm higher than him or vice versa. There, they're the same, but We always said, you look after the sales, I'll look after the operation, uh, we will make decisions together, but ultimately, when you define it into one of those, we have the final say, and if it goes wrong, there's no blame culture between us, it is, we'll learn, we'll move on, and we've always stuck to that, so even earlier this week, Stuart went out to see, uh, two properties from the same owner, Uh, he came back, he wasn't overly keen with them, there was a couple of things he was nervous about that would impact the guest experience.

[00:05:24] At that point, you might be thinking, well, hang on, it's another two properties, it's revenue, it's this, it's that, but ultimately, it's not the right decision for the company, and he decided we wouldn't be taking them forward. They haven't thought about it since. That was his decision, he believed it was best for the company, and we move on.

[00:05:38] Likewise, if I come to him and say, I think we need a digital marketing executive, I think we need two operations assistants, his head might be thinking, okay, sales, what's coming in? Do we have money for that? Can we make it work? Whereas I'm saying it needs to happen, otherwise I'll not be able to grow.

[00:05:54] He allowed the decision to move forward and it worked, which is great. If it hadn't, there wouldn't have been any blame culture. So I would advise that you just have those open, candid chats, and get everything on the table. Don't leave the table thinking he or she said this, but did they mean that make sure you're clear with your message I'm confident like Stuart and I, it'll work and you'll be able to grow together and if there's any failures, you'll both learn from them and get on with it.

[00:06:22] Liam: How excited were you when you, um, started working for Clark Anderson about marketing, uh, you know, sort of the hospitality company?

[00:06:30] Sandie: Excited actually. I've worked in marketing for about five years. Six years, but it was a new industry for me, so I've learned a lot in the past few months, but I enjoy it, and I think there's a, there's a good energy in this kind of industry, and especially after coming out of what was a difficult time for maybe tourism.

[00:06:59] And because they've experienced that growth, it is a fun, it is a fun place to work. And when Simon was explaining there about the relationship they have, the two partners.

What makes Clark Anderson different?

[00:07:15] Liam: When it comes down to some of the things which make Clark Anderson different, I know on the website, one of the things that, uh, is promoted is the concierge sort of services and the sort of digital guides and that side of things.

[00:07:26] Um, talk me through how they work. So if I'm a guest looking to book, how does that work?

[00:07:34] Sandie: Yeah, so it's all incorporated into our automatic responses. So 24 hours before they check in, they'll get a link to our Digital air guide. So, I actually think it's a, it's a brilliant tool that we, so we have one for each property and then that allows you to have all of your troubleshooting, you know, Wi-Fi, heating, whatever, your checking instructions, but then you can also include the local area recommendations, food, drink, places to go, people, you know, anything around that area.

[00:08:09] So, yeah, yeah. Brilliant tool, and although I'm big on air guiding, I would never want to step away from that as a company, and I know the word digital is my job title. I do still think that it is there, you know, there's no harm in also having a point of sale in the actual property itself, and especially when it's Airbnb and you know, you're so strict on, you know, you can't openly speak.

[00:08:44] It's sometimes quite nice to just leave, you know, like even a little card or something on the property to say, follow us on social media or here's our, you know, go online and look at our AR guide. And it's almost just kind of reminding them to move to, you know, to go from what's in front of them. Do you know, we've got too much information that we can give you and it's just a click away.

[00:09:07] Liam: Having a blast. I'm going to get it on the Bruce Lee podcast. Bruce Lee. Let Bruce Lee 'cause it's so hard on the teas, loosely making up those rhymes. Don't write

[00:09:15] It, just do it loosely.