How A Management Company Can Help Grow Your Business

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In the featured Boostly podcast, host Liam discusses short-term rentals with guest Leslie Anne Morris, who founded Josh's Cabins. The focus is on managing properties in the Smoky Mountains.Β 

Leslie explains why she chose self-management over property management companies to offer better guest experiences and fair pricing. Her background in commercial real estate lending and extensive travel equipped her for success. She found Smoky Mountains' high occupancy and traveler avatar ideal.

Leslie praises Beyond Pricing as a vital tool for revenue management due to its customization and effectiveness. The conversation showcases her guest-centric approach and strategies for managing properties successfully.

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[00:00:00] Liam: Okay. Welcome to the Boostly podcast. This is the podcast that gives hosts, the tools, the tactics, the training, and most importantly, the confidence on how you can go out there and get more direct bookends. Today, we're going to be talking about the Smokies in the USA. We're going to be talking about.

[00:00:16] What to do when considering investing, um, owning cabins and generally short-term rental. So certainly one, if you're one of our American listeners and, uh, just if you're based anywhere else in the world, there'll be tips and tricks, um, on what you can do as a short-term rental host. This is the behind-the-host podcast.

[00:00:36] And today we're going behind the host with Leslie Ann Morris. Uh, Leslie and Morris own a portfolio of companies. And today we're talking about Josh's cabin, which is the kind of management and short-term rental side of a business. Welcome along, Leslie. Thank you for being here. Thanks for having me excited to be here.

[00:00:52] Um, so first, uh, the question is, would you mind giving yourself an introduction to yourself, your companies and anything else you'd like to share?

A bit about Leslie

[00:01:01] Leslie: Well, I'm here based in Tennessee. I'm in Nashville today in my black-and-white condo. Um, but yeah, I am the owner and founder of Josh's Cabins. It's a company located in eastern Tennessee, all in the Smoky Mountains, Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg.

[00:01:17] Um, I also own invest in the Smoky Mountains, which is property acquisition. We can help you buy or sell a cabin and then we can manage it for you. Uh, that's the businesses, but it just all grew out of my portfolio. I was buying cabins when I was working in commercial banking. Um, I was living in Los Angeles and I just kind of was over the grind.

[00:01:37] And so I thought, what else is out there? What more can I do? And there's a lot more to the story. Um, you know, I had. clients in banking that had done something similar that kind of coached and mentored me. And I got to a point where I felt financially ready to start buying real estate. So I built this portfolio.

[00:01:56] I think it was when I got to five cabins all in the smoky mountains and it was just going gangbusters and it was demanding of my time. And so I said, What can I do here? I want to, you know, I don't want to hire a property management company. I love hosting. I want to stay involved in this.

[00:02:11] So what does that look like for me? And out of that thought, all of these companies were built.

Why does it yourself?

[00:02:17] Liam: You mentioned something there, which is quite interesting for people listening that will resonate with them, which is I didn't want to hire a property management company. What was the reason behind that?

[00:02:27] And why did you go? Do you know what? I'm going to do it myself instead, because, um, as you mentioned, if you've got, um, or we mentioned just before we went live, you've got 11 units and you're looking after 17 doors overall. What was it that attracted you to the management? side of things. And why, why do it yourself?

[00:02:45] Leslie: Well, I'm like, I'm writing a book on passive investing in short-term rentals. So I'm, I'm a big proponent of do not self manage because it's so much work and you might end up creating a company to just disclaimer. But, um, I felt like I heard so many bad things about the property management industry.

[00:03:04] So many bad things about local companies that They, you know, they don't understand real estate ownership. They don't understand the investor mindset. They're just trying to get bodies in beds and you lose that connection with the guest. That's first and foremost, the biggest thing, you know, other thing is that they had their pricing structure in a way that.

[00:03:23] Just took a lot out of your pocket. And honestly, it's because they're being compensated, I think fairly for the work they're doing, which is really hard work. But so what I wanted to do was I wanted to create a company that kind of addressed all of the negatives that I was seeing and was a company people would want to do business with.

[00:03:41] So we Have our pricing streamlined, easy to understand. We don't nickel and dime owners. And then on the guest side, the same thing. We don't charge a million-and-one booking fee, and we try to be fair and communicate quickly. Like any of the lack, I saw in other companies. I make sure ours doesn't have that.

[00:03:58] So that's kind of, you know, where I, where I was at with that.

[00:04:02] Liam: And what did you find was the difference between the ones that you own directly versus the ones that you manage? Um, particularly there's going to be people out there considering, you know, starting a management company or doing it themselves.

What were some of the challenges?

[00:04:14] What were some of the challenges, I guess, when it came down to the difference in perception between owning and managing,

[00:04:24] Leslie: there's a big difference. Um, so we, you know, our marketing is that we are going to manage your cabin as we own it and we do. Um, but, but it is hard when it's not yours. You can't just quickly make changes.

[00:04:36] You can't, you know, say, Oh, we hate this couch. You need to throw it away and get a new couch or whatever, because it's not our cabin. Um, so that's one of the big things. Um, there's a lot, it's a litigious business. I will say that it's a new company, you know, I own 11 and so there's only six that I don't own.

[00:04:54] We just started this honestly, um, and are scaling, scaling rapidly, but being picky about who we partner with. For one, I don't want to work with somebody that owns a cabin and doesn't want to make it an awesome experience for the guest. For example, if there's something in there, you know, like, I don't know, it could be anything I had a, I have a cabin and they fixed this, but I have a cabin I managed that had one of those windows that kind of lost its seal and it's real foggy and it's blocking the view out the window.

[00:05:23] And it's like an expensive window. So they weren't willing to fix that. That would just be like, as soon as the guest walks into the property. They're like, what the heck? Like, this is, seems like it would be such an easy thing for them to fix where I would jump in if it were my cabin, I'd fix it right away.

[00:05:38] You might not have that control over other people's properties. And in that case, we did fix it as fast as we could, but

[00:05:44] Liam: what was it about why, why the Smokies? I mean, there are many places. Why the Smokies? Why is it that, um, you wanted to look at, look at the Smokies is, is the place that you're forming your business around and then, um?

[00:05:58] Two. Is there anything else? Transferable skills. You mentioned real estate and you've always been around this. Um, what transferable skills would you say were most important to be successful in short-term rentals?

[00:06:11] Leslie: Well, it's in the book. You have to get hospitable hosts. Volume two, no, I like that.

[00:06:16] It's, it's in the book though. Um, I won't reveal it all so that you'll have a fun chance reading it. But, um, no, I was, so, I was in commercial real estate lending and that did lend itself to the beginning of this, but also, I was a world traveller. I traveled to 45 countries within 15 years and I stayed in a lot of cabins.

[00:06:36] I'm from very rural California, um, northern California, north of San Francisco, back, you know, where you think you're in Oregon, but you're not quite. That's where I'm from. There are a lot of cabins there. You know, I just grew up with this love and affinity for cabins. And honestly, I was turned on by the Smoky Mountains based on the high occupancy that we enjoy.

[00:06:58] Um, you know, I had my first year in it was like 88% occupancy and everybody was like no, no, no, that's too high. You're going to figure out why when you're replacing flooring. Um, so that turned me on to it just the avatar for the type of traveller that we get booking the cabins, I love I've tested it. A couple of other markets didn't enjoy those markets as much.

[00:07:19] And so I just kind of went all in in the Smoky Mountains. That's in a nutshell.

What’s been the most useful tools and tech?

[00:07:25] Liam: What would you say has been the most useful tools and tech that you've used within that management company, which has helped to generate the success? Beyond

[00:07:35] Leslie: pricing. High beyond. They are amazing. I did not learn that. I mean, I am the type of person and some of you be like, Oh, you're a crazy person or, Oh, I resonate with you.

[00:07:51] But I'm the type of person that will make a decision and then just like dive in headfirst. Um, so I decided to buy the cabin and I was like, I'm just going to throw it on Airbnb. And if it makes us mortgage, cool. That was like, even though I was doing commercial real estate underwriting cap rate, all the things.

[00:08:08] In this, in this setting, I was like, Oh, you know, I can afford the mortgage out of my, out of my paycheck. Like it's all good, whatever I have the school cabin now that quickly changed like within just a month or two months, I was like, Oh, I only had it at 180 nights every night of the week. And it's fully booked for months.

[00:08:24] What am, what am I doing wrong here? And I just started learning and researching and found them, um, amazing tools. So that is dynamic pricing. Um, It is one of the dynamic pricing companies. I've met some of the CEOs of the other companies. I like Beyond because their customization is greater than other companies, even though they do charge more.

[00:08:45] It's a more premium product. Um, I make more money with them. I've done kind of a trial side by side. So that one is huge. So that is plugging into all your calendars, into your direct booking site. Um, and it's giving you that nightly rate, and it's giving you customization where you can say, okay, if it's so many days before, and it hasn't been booked, drop the price by X per cent.

[00:09:05] So you get rid of those manual actions around revenue management. And for a long time. I was able to have in-house revenue management just myself doing it. And now you know, I have a team at Beyond. I've grown large enough to have, you know, their lighthouse structure or whatever. Having a

[00:09:21] Liam: blast. Gonna get it

[00:09:22] Leslie: on the Boostly podcast.

[00:09:23] Bruce Lee. Let Bruce Lee 'cause it's so hard on the tea loose leaf, making up those rhymes. Don't write it. Just do we Loosely.