Five Star Vacation Rentals, Inc.
Question and Answer Period with President, Penny Neff
These are the questions that homeowners asked us the most.
QUESTION: Can you explain the difference in an “on site” management or rental company and an “offsite” management or rental company?
ANSWER: I am so glad you asked that question, because it isn’t as big of a difference as people think. It is in the deployment of team members for tasks that make the true difference. An “on site” rental company, simply means that the company has on office on site. But, for the most part, the office is open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, and it is normally staffed with one or two persons making and taking reservations. Housekeepers and maintenance employees are called as they are needed. After 5:00 or closing time, the phones are put on night ring and take a message. At that point, there is no advantage of being an “on site “rental or management company, because the employees are now off site, like everyone else.
We may be on site for some of our properties, some not. Our success is in our readiness to deploy a team member to take care of the guest need or request. We will have real people answer the phones at least until 11pm. If you have to leave a message, it is because we are on another line. I personally, will rotate nights answering phones, so I can keep a firm hands on approach to our guests and potential guests who call to book rooms. For owners, I am available at any time. We will also have pre scheduled team members on call to take care of a need on property within 10 minutes.
Having served as an army contractor and working with elite army units, I know a lot about readiness and fast deployment. I know how to get myself, a team member, or a team to a guest or owner need with efficiency. The other part of that equation is that I will personally inspect and check our owner’s units in a proactive approach, so that we take care of potential issues before they happen. As the company grows, I will hand pick and train company Directors who will have the same keen eye for detail and inspect our rental units in a proactive fashion. Success is always in the details. And, for me, that means keeping a hands on style.
I know of several companies that say they do that, but they don’t. Why? Because it cost money to keep a team on the payroll to do that. Five Star Rockport Rentals is value driven. We are not a company that is driven to cut costs and value for our owner clients and the guests we book in their units. We have the experience to keep top line revenues strong, so that we can keep the right team to make things happen and to make a difference.
QUESTION: If I am presently with another management company, how do I move my house or condo to Five Star’s or someone else’s company?
ANSWER: That is the question I get asked the most. For this area, there are a few types of contracts. One has a 30 day notice to leave a rental pool or management company. Some companies, don’t actually have a contract, they just put you on the website and they take out their commission. I always recommend giving the 30 day notice or whatever notice your contract requires. If you have any future bookings in your condo, it is the responsibility of your management company to move those guests to another of their units that are in their rental pool. The day that you give written notice to your existing company, we place you on our Five Star Vacation Rental Website for reservations beginning on the 31st day. Example: You give your 30 notice to your present management company “Brand X” on March 1. We put your condo on our Five Star website immediately, with the first date to book as March 31. That insures no loss of potential revenue.
Once an owner gives their present management company a 30 day notice, we load your unit on our website within 24 hours, or much sooner in some cases. Next, the day we add a new unit to our rental properties, we send out email blasts, mass mailings to credit card user lists, and a variety of social media and target marketing engines to let all past users know how to book your unit for the future. Our experience has shown us that guests take notice to where their favorite condo, cottage or home has moved to, and they will find you and book with you again.
QUESTION: You are at an age when most people are slowing down and retiring, and you are now starting a new company with high energy. What influenced that decision?
ANSWER: That is a really good question. I have always been driven by the will to be the best and the will to serve. I am not driven by ego, which has made it easy for me to stay behind the scenes and below the radar with the soldier support and army contracting work I have done in the past. Somehow I was blessed with a very humble heart. I am at a place in my life now where I feel like a runner turning the last corner of the race. I can see the finish line and I have a renewed strength and focus. The true heart of starting this company, is to grow it for as long as I live on this earth, and when God calls me home, I will leave the company in a trust that will financially support Army Chaplains that support our soldiers and their families. I have quietly done that for over two decades now. Just because I won’t be here, it doesn’t mean God’s work won’t continue. In a way, I am living and planning for the next generation. I won’t be here to see it continue to grow, but, I know it will be left in good hands. I believe in building for the future and that is a good lesson for our entire team to learn.
QUESTION: Is it true that you are giving 10% of your profits back to the same organizations that support America’s warriors.
ANSWER: Yes, that is true. Actually, that was the easiest part in the formulation of the company. For now, we will give back 10% of our profits. But, as we grow in revenue, we will increase the giving to 15%, 20% and see where we go from there. The long term goal, is to use Rockport as our prototype business model, and in a few years, open another one in the city that surrounds one of the army units that I have quietly supported their chaplains. I have an army family that will retire in a few years, and they will be our start up management team in the city surrounding their army installation. I can’t tell you how much enjoyment I am getting building this company for others to enjoy. I have always been motivated by the thrill of the hunt, and that is what I feel with Five Star right now.
QUESTION: Is it true that you will not pay yourself for the first year of the company’s success?
ANSWER: Yes, that is true also. To find and keep the very best team members, we need to pay them for the high standards we set for our Five Star Team. It is more important to pay them, then pay me. I know success will come and when and if I need to pay myself, I will. It was important to me and the profile of the company to keep overhead low, to pay our team members the highest wages we can. And, to provide top of the line amenities to our guests. We won’t skimp on quality where quality matters, but we don’t need a fancy expensive building to deliver the goods! That takes a full and in-depth understanding of team readiness and deployment for specific tasks, in an efficient manner.
QUESTION: You have said that you want to hire veterans and veteran families?
ANSWER: That certainly is the heart beat of the company. I know we can’t do that all the time, but our corporate arms are open to veterans. Their families and active duty families. I haven’t talked a lot about what my plans are for Five Star yet, but to the few people in my inner circle, they applauded the plan. And, in less than 24 hours, I had a Blue Star Mom and an Army veteran say they wanted to join the team when I was ready to start hiring. I know the work force we want is in our area.
QUESTION: You have a reputation for being a hands on leader? Will you continue that trend in growing Five Star?
ANSWER : You bet! For years working in franchise hotels, I worked with Fortune 500 Companies and their CEO’s. I understand corporate leadership. And, even better, having been an Army Contractor in Iraq twice, I have had the honor of working with and around the country’s top Army commanders and history making Generals. I learned more by watching them lead than any hotel school or leadership class available. As strategically brilliant as they are, they stay connected to their teams. I have watched a Commanding General walk into chow hall full of hundreds of combat soldiers, and the soldier’s clap and honor him. When the people you lead trust you and your motives, they will literally follow you into battle. So, I’m not leading my team into battle, but yet, business is a battle field on its own. Market share changes, economies change, and just like in the fog of battle, you have to be ready to change strategies when customer needs or perceptions change. And, business is a competition. If you have no competition, that’s great. But it won’t stay that way for long. Competition is about winning. Business is about winning! In my opinion, having competition for a product or service keeps a great team and their leader on their toes. It keeps freshness in the eyes and the performance of team members and their leader. There is nothing worse than having team members making themselves drag in for work every day. Work can and should be fun and exciting!
As the leader of the entire company and team, it is my responsibility to be the lead person for growth of the company and the person that works directly with our homeowners and hotel owners that we manage. However, I have to and want to make time to see what the front line team members are experiencing and what their needs are.
I will always be involved in training, that is just who I am. I have a passion for the hotel and vacation rental business. It never feels like work to me. And, I believe that is the foundation of success. I believe strongly that you build a company to meet a need or offer a product. That is the first plan. That’s one reason I won’t pay myself for at least a year. My team needs to see that I care about them and their needs, more than mine. When you put your money where your mouth is, people see it. Besides, when you do what you love, it doesn’t feel like work at all.
QUESTION: You are the founder and President of Four Star Soldier Fellowship. What do the four stars stand for and how does that connect to Five Star Vacation Rentals?
ANSWER: I am so glad you asked that question. Four Star Soldier Fellowship is founded on the American values of FAITH, FAMILY, FRIENDS and FREEDOM and has been supporting elite army units and their chaplains for 19 years now. When I decided to start the vacation rental and hotel management company, it was a natural move to name it Five Star Vacation Rentals, Inc. with the five stars symbolizing FAITH, FAMILY, FRIENDS, FREEDOM and FUN!! We are blessed to live in America and have the privilege and ability to live the All American dream! And you have to have some fun along the way. We can make a difference in the vacation rental business by making sure our guests have a memorable and enjoyable stay, that’s the Five Star way!