From Corporate To Host: An STR Success Story

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In this podcast, Fouad Bazzi shares his journey from a 21-year corporate banking career to becoming a successful short-term rental investor. He owns six high-end properties in different locations and manages them himself with a reliable team, including a virtual assistant.

Fouad focuses on providing top-notch amenities and service to attract a high-end clientele, modeling his business after luxury hotels like the Ritz Carlton and Four Seasons. His proactive asset management and dedication to excellent guest experiences ensure steady bookings even during economic downturns.

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[00:00:00] Liam: Welcome back to the Boostly podcast. This is the podcast that gives hosts the tools, the tactics, the tips, and most importantly, the confidence to go out there and get some direct bookends. My name is Liam Carolan. I'm Mark Simpson's co-host. And today we're diving behind the host. We're going to find out how this host has started their hospitality business, the tools that they use, and any of the tips that you may, you may be able to implement into your business, uh, to help you along your hospitality journey as well.

[00:00:27] So Today we've got Fouad Bazzi. Um, did I pronounce that correctly? Perfect. Lovely. Fouad is from Detroit in Michigan, uh, USA. Um, he's a super host and he's sharing, his journey today, uh, all about creating your path. And controlling your time. Um, he's got some wonderful properties worth going to check out and they're in Scottsdale and Huntington Beach.

[00:00:53] So quite a long way away, from where he is at the moment. And we're going to talk about how he manages that from afar. So first of all, give yourself a little introduction, but then dive into it. What sort of model that you use? Is this investing? Is this management?

A bit about Fouad

[00:01:09] Fouad: Yep, so it's investing. We're all owners.

[00:01:11] Um, I'm a 21-year corporate banker with, a finance background. Um, so I'm a numbers guy at my core. Um, and having been in corporate for 21 years, consulting banks, I was travelling quite a bit and I was on the road a lot. In 2019, we had our third child and it was time for me to kind 21 years of corporate you know, give up, my, my aeroplane.

[00:01:32] I would say I give up, my days on the aeroplane and my nights in hotel rooms, but God, that's only doubled since I got into this business. But it's optional. It's selective. And now it's on my own time, which I love. My wife is a, is an attorney here in our local market. Um, and she runs her firm. So, you know, it was, it was very easy for me to kind of give up the corporate world, come to be in the dad and turn into the investor, uh, you know, that I've always wanted to be, but I love the McDonald's model, which is ultimately investing in really expensive, nice real estate and have, you know, your, your cash flowing business on top of that, that's paying for your assets and that you build up the generational wealth, uh, that way.

Why short-term rental?

[00:02:14] Liam: The history that you've mentioned there. How did it feel when you gave up, the sort of corporate job? And can you talk us through the steps that led you to, I guess, why short-term rental out of all the choices and lots of places to invest, but, why short-term rental?

[00:02:31] Fouad: Boy, I can get long-winded here if I wanted to, you know, it was, um, it was, it was amazing and it was scary as hell leaving corporate, right?

[00:02:38] I had built a 21-year career. I was on a pretty good path and I knew that I would continue to climb in my journey, but You know, regardless of how well you did and how well you performed, your cap was, was limited and measured by somebody else. And, that just didn't feel right for me. I knew I was made for more.

[00:02:55] Um, I knew I could, uh, do more, um, if I controlled my destiny. And so I, I, I trusted myself and I, and I also trusted if I failed miserably in entrepreneurship, that I'd be able to go back to corporate anytime. And so I gave my boss an eight-month notice. Did it the right way, not a two-week notice, but I, you know, I cared deeply about my clients and my, and the relationships that I had built, and I wanted to do it the right way.

[00:03:19] Liam: What made you settle on that first one? And, uh, how did you feel setting up?

[00:03:26] Fouad: So we, we didn't have a choice. We had to have number one in Huntington Beach. And I say that because my daughter, who's now three at the time, had severe nut allergies. and the number one food allergist in America is in long beach california and so we were going to have to be there every two months to visit her doctors anyways so rather than bearing the cost and the expense of renting every time we go there we said let's just buy a house and put it on Airbnb when we're not there and then we'll use it when we're there right So, but simultaneously with getting that one under contract, we had one in Phoenix and one in Scottsdale under contract at the same time.

[00:03:59] So we went from zero to three all at the same time, which came with all kinds of stress and panic attacks and all that other stuff that you see. But, uh, but you know, it's, it's worked out nice and we've scaled up to six here pretty quickly.

What is the day-to-day?

[00:04:12] Liam: Right now you're full-time in the business. Does anybody else help you?

[00:04:16] And, um, I guess what is the, the day-to-day roles now that you've got six? I've got a

[00:04:21] Fouad: team in the Philippines, um, for colleagues that, that handles all the administrative side when we get our bookings, they're the ones that are getting our rental agreement signed, getting our electronic guidebooks out to our guests, you know, making sure that the guests are going to be welcomed and onboarded correctly.

[00:04:38] Boots on the ground, we've got three team members, we've got a property manager, we've got a maintenance partner, and we've also got our cleaning team.

[00:04:47] Liam: Amazing.

[00:04:48] Fouad: What I, what I have found in Scottsdale is the leverage of having multiple properties in one location is, is key because when I call any one of those three, um, you know, I'm not somebody that's just got one property with them where they don't care if I fire them.

[00:05:03] Right. It's, I've got, I hold some clout and some leverage with them and, um, and, and they, and they appreciate and respect my approach with them and my partnership with them. So, They take care of me as equally as I take care of them.

[00:05:14] Liam: How would you recommend that somebody listening who hasn't got a virtual assistant, you know, somebody based in the Philippines or anywhere else in the world, and the benefit of obviously for people who haven't necessarily heard of a virtual assistant is the fact they can do anything that you can do on a laptop from anywhere with an internet signal and help you with your hospitality business and of which there are lots of tasks.

[00:05:34] But I guess the question is, how did you find yours in particular? And then after that, we'll dive into another aspect of your team as well.

[00:05:42] Fouad: I just used, you know, online jobs. ph, which is, you know, a shameless plug for that website, but you've got to have a membership there and, um, and you find, you can find anybody from just entry-level up to former Airbnb employees.

[00:05:58] On that website. Um, so very experienced, uh, in that sense. They're very affordable, they're very grateful, and they're very accountable. And those, the two things that I look for in a teammate are, are you grateful and are you accountable? Because if you have those two things, you can teach anybody to teach it, to

[00:06:12] Liam: do anything.

[00:06:13] So your properties, are they managed, uh, by a property management company or is it somebody that you've employed?

[00:06:19] Fouad: Yeah, I've employed. I mean, it's all self-managed. Uh, you know, I'm kind of an industry kind of contrarian when it comes to hiring out and, and, and, and even the tech stack. I mean, I, I don't have a single tech tool.

[00:06:33] I mean, we use 100% Airbnb and VRBO. We don't have property management software. We don't have dynamic pricing tools. We don't have any of that stuff. Um, I've invested in the who, not how. Um, and it's a great book and we built a team By implementing that model.

How do you find good staff?

[00:06:50] Liam: How did you find a good property manager or any of the staff?

[00:06:55] How do you find good staff? I guess yeah, I got

[00:06:57] Fouad: lucky. I mean, well, I shouldn't say lucky, you know, first off, you know, having been in corporate for 21 years I can identify good skills and traits, you know, pretty simply. I mean, we're trained well in the corporate to do that. Uh, but you know, this, this, this individual, uh, I found her, she was on my design team on the very first property that I launched in the Phoenix and Scottsdale market.

[00:07:18] And she didn't have enough hours to keep her interested and busy there. Um, and I was talking to my designer one day and she said, well, what do you think, about having her on your team? If you're going to scale this market. And she was bored and didn't need the job. They're financially stable.

[00:07:32] She and her husband and their one daughter are off at college. So, um, but I can tell you, she's the most important and key team member. I have, I was kind of reluctant at first, do I need her? Is that just overhead that I'm taking on? No, I'll tell you, she's become so pertinent to the process. She cares about those assets.

[00:07:50] She's in and out of those assets all the time. And they are assets. I mean, this is not just, you know, I, I always have to help people remember that we are not just a hospitality industry. We are, that's a service we're providing. But at its core, we invest in these assets, and we have to manage these assets.

[00:08:06] And if these assets crumble from underneath our control, if they fall apart from a quality perspective and start getting bad reviews, and we're constantly having to maintain them and pour money into management and not, not being proactive and caring about them. You know, what are we doing? In this business, the numbers just won't pencil out that way.

[00:08:25] Right. So she ensures, uh, that, that these assets are always proactively cared for and taken care of. And that's, that's, that's been just amazing.

[00:08:33] Liam: So let's dive more into, from a guest perspective and the marketing side of things, who would you say is your perfect guest avatar? And what amenities do you think appeal to them most?

[00:08:47] Yeah,

[00:08:47] Fouad: we're high-end. We always provide enough amenities and biotech for a home that commands us to be in the top 20% of pricing. And we did that specifically, you know what we're experiencing now we hear a lot of hosts in this day right now with the recession and or the pending recession or whatever, whatever term you want to use.

[00:09:08] Um, you know, we hear a lot of, you know, our bookings are down year over year and all that kind of stuff. We're not having that issue. Um, and the reason is we modelled ourselves after the Ritz Carlton and the Four Seasons. When I got into this and I knew we were hospitality, uh, business, I, I knew that the best of the best are those guys.

[00:09:28] The Ritz Carlton Four Seasons. These guys have R&D departments that are way deeper than anything that you or I could think of. They're way smarter than us. They know their markets. They know the colour palettes of every market that, that brings, that attracts people. They know the rates that people are willing to spend at a high level.

[00:09:48] quality. And so I knew that by catering to that market and that clientele, that even in a recession or a pending recession, that we would not hurt our, our clientele would still be travelling and keeping in mind, we're not a million widget sales company, right? We are, we have 365 nights out of the year. We have a three-night minimum stay.

[00:10:11] So I need 120 guests maximum every year. So I don't need a far reach. I need a deep reach.

[00:10:19] Liam: Thank you again. If you're listening in on the Boosley podcast or watching on the YouTube channel, we know there are lots of places you can put your attention and we thank you for spending it with Boosley. Uh, this has been behind the host series on the Boosley podcast, and we look forward to seeing you on the next one.

[00:10:34] Thank you very much, and bye for now. Having a blast. Gonna get it on the Bruce Lee

[00:10:37] Fouad: podcast, Bruce Lee. Let Bruce Lee 'cause it's so hard on the tea's loose leaf, making up those rhymes. Don't write it, just do it loosely.