Jan. 25, 2023

Leading through Authenticity and Vulnerability, with Alex Zemianek CEO of JZ Vacation Rentals

THE KEY TO A GREAT TEAM IS AUTHENTICITY

In today’s episode, Alex and Annie welcome Alex Zemianek, the Founder and CEO of JZ Vacation Rentals. He shares how trial after trial left him broke and almost broken. However, when he allowed himself to be vulnerable with his team, they rallied behind him during their darkest days. Alex says that it was through an authentic relationship with the people who make up his team that this was even possible.

Find out more about Alex and JZ Vacation Rentals in this latest episode of Alex & Annie: The Real Women of Vacation Rentals.

“REAL” TALK

ALEX ZEMIANEK: AUTHENTICITY CREATES A TEAM THAT STAYS
"The biggest thing is making sure that you have some kind of authentic relationship. And when people feel that you're genuine, then they're probably going to perform a little bit differently."

ALEX ZEMIANEK: GIFT KNOWLEDGE THROUGH EDUCATION
"I genuinely feel that education is the best gift you can give and receive as well because people can steal your money, they can tap into your bank account, but they can't take your knowledge."

This episode is brought to you by Wheelhouse: The Ultimate Revenue Driving Machine.

Wheelhouse is a proud member of Alex & Annie's List, presented by Rev & Research

Connect with Alex Zemianek and learn more about him:
LINKEDIN | JZ VACATION RENTALS | EMAIL

Connect with Alex and Annie and get more real vacation rental goodness:
Alex Husner | Annie Holcombe
AlexAndAnniePodcast.com

If you enjoyed this episode of ALEX & ANNIE: The Real Women Of Vacation Rentals, make sure to visit our socials, leave us a like, a comment, or share our content with the crowd! Don’t forget to subscribe!
LinkedIn | Youtube | Facebook | Instagram | TikTok


THE KEY TO A GREAT TEAM IS AUTHENTICITY

In today’s episode, Alex and Annie welcome  Alex Zemianek, the Founder and CEO of JZ Vacation Rentals. He shares how trial after trial left him broke and almost broken. However, when he allowed himself to be vulnerable with his team, they rallied behind him during their darkest days. Alex says that it was through an authentic relationship with the people who make up his team that this was even possible.

Find out more about Alex and JZ Vacation Rentals in this latest episode of Alex & Annie: The Real Women of Vacation Rentals.

“REAL” TALK

ALEX ZEMIANEK: AUTHENTICITY CREATES A TEAM THAT STAYS

"The biggest thing is making sure that you have some kind of authentic relationship. And when people feel that you're genuine, then they're probably going to perform a little bit differently." 

ALEX ZEMIANEK: GIFT KNOWLEDGE THROUGH EDUCATION

"I genuinely feel that education is the best gift you can give and receive as well because people can steal your money, they can tap into your bank account, but they can't take your knowledge."

 

This episode is brought to you by Wheelhouse: The Ultimate Revenue Driving Machine. 

Wheelhouse is a proud member of Alex & Annie's List, presented by Rev & Research

 

Connect with Alex Zemianek and learn more about him:

LINKEDIN | JZ VACATION RENTALS | EMAIL

Connect with Alex and Annie and get more real vacation rental goodness:

If you enjoyed this episode of ALEX & ANNIE: The Real Women Of Vacation Rentals, make sure to visit our socials, leave us a like, a comment, or share our content with the crowd! Don’t forget to subscribe!

LinkedIn | Youtube | Facebook | Instagram | TikTok

Transcript

[00:00:22] Join them as they highlight the real stories behind the people and brands that have built vacation rentals into the $100 billion industry it is today. And now it's time to get real and have some fun with your hosts, Alex and Annie. 

[00:00:39] Alex Husner: Welcome to Alex and Annie, the Real Women of Vacation Rentals. I'm Alex.

[00:00:43] Annie Holcombe: And I'm Annie. 

[00:00:45] Alex Husner: And we are joined today with Alex Zemianek, who is the CEO and Founder of JZ Vacation Rentals. Alex, welcome to the show. 

[00:00:53] Alex Zemianek: Thank you so much. I'm so happy to be here. I'm truly honored, honestly. With the guests that you've had on this show. I'm very humbled and honored to be here, so thanks for inviting me.

[00:01:03] Alex Husner: Oh, thank you.

[00:01:04] Annie Holcombe: We wanted to have you for a long time. Like we met you a year and a half ago at Vera in San Antonio and it was quite an interesting, quite an interesting meeting because we didn't quite realize you were introducing yourself. And I was like, no, this is Alex. And you're like, no, I'm Alex.

[00:01:21] Alex Zemianek: Yeah.

Annie Holcombe: And so a lot of confusion ensued in that conversation that. 

[00:01:25] Alex Zemianek: That stuff that we will never let go beause it was like we were just sitting there like, Alex, you're like, yeah, no, Alex. 

[00:01:32] Alex Husner: Yeah, Alex. Yes. Nice, nice to meet you. You're like, Alex, I know. It's nice to meet you. 

[00:01:37] Alex Zemianek: Yeah, yeah, yeah. 

[00:01:39] Alex Husner: And the best part was after though, after we realized, okay, we both have the same name, we went over to the side and we started talking about what all three of us do.

[00:01:47] And as you were explaining what JZ Vacation Rentals is, you're like, well, we're a property management company, but we're kind of like a hybrid OTA. And I almost, I was like, okay, this is now getting even weirder. Cause at this time I was with Condo-World and I said, that's interesting cuz we are too.

I said, so you book [00:02:04] reservations for other people's properties. And you said, yep. And I said, oh my gosh. Wow. We've got a lot to talk about. So.

Alex Zemianek: Absolutely.

Alex Husner: We talked for probably a good hour at that party and just compared notes and have stayed in touch ever since. And it's been a lot of fun to learn about you personally and your story and just the growth that you've had as a company and also just as a leader. [00:02:25] But before we get started, beyond that brief introduction we've given you, can you tell our audience a little bit more about you? 

[00:02:32] Alex Zemianek: Yeah. Thank you so much. So, again, I'm Alex Zemianek and I'm the CEO of the JZ brand, which is basically made up of two companies and a nonprofit.  I've been in the industry since 2014-ish for the short-term rental side.

I've been in real estate investing since 2008. I actually started in the crash which was, you know, kind of a lucky timing to start. It played out in my favor. I got into the real estate development market first. But yeah, I've been in the industry, like I said, since 2014 and love every bit of it.

[00:03:11] And right now we are roughly sitting around 62 properties that we manage a hundred percent of. Then on our site, as you kind of briefly alluded to that, we have 400 properties, nine states, and Cabo San Lucas on our site that we market for. 

[00:03:32] Annie Holcombe: Wow. So you've grown a lot since we first met you. I feel like you didn't have quite that many, right?

[00:03:37] Alex Zemianek: Yeah. We, you know, we have kind of a steady and consistent growth and it's, my goal has always been on the branding and like Alex said, is more focused on the quality over quantity, which comes with its sacrifices. And there's many times that I've questioned that along the years, if that was the right way to go.

[00:03:58] But yeah, we do have a steady growth and we only accept, I'd say maybe 70 or maybe 30 of the owners and inventory that comes our way. We're really just trying to prioritize that quality. We're trying to maintain it from day one to, so the downside to that is revenue and growth. The upside is that trust in that quality that we're trying to provide and in that overall consistency.

[00:04:26] Alex Zemianek: So yeah, we've, there's been some hills and valleys in between there and that growth. But yeah, it's a lot of our growth has happened shockingly since Covid, since the year of Covid.

Alex Husner: Yeah. 

[00:04:40] Annie Holcombe: But everything you just said, it just aligns so much with the things that Alex and I have really tried to talk about on our show is, again, being a good steward for the industry, being professional, having standards, not just taking units for the sake of taking units.

[00:04:54] There are property managers out there that will do that, and it just kind of, I always think of it as more of like a land grab. They're just trying to get inventory in a building or in a market and not necessarily thinking about what that quality ultimately means to the brand that they either are intentionally or unintentionally building along the way.

[00:05:10] So I think that you're focused on all the right areas, but can you tell us a little bit like how you got started? Because I think that was what was really interesting, and you said it, you alluded it two in the beginning, is that, you know, part of your business is a charity. You do some work around the industry, not just renting units and working with owners, but you do a lot of things that are really good for the industry. We'd love to hear about it. 

[00:05:31] Alex Zemianek: Yeah. Thank you for saying that. Yeah, for, just to kind of rewind a little bit. So 2004, I actually, my father passed away at a sudden heart attack, and that's really where the JZ comes from. It's initials, it's three generations of initials that was named after my late father, and that was in 2004.

[00:05:51] And then a couple years after that, I got introduced to Rich Dad, Poor Dad. And a lot of people have read that book. I mean, it's a phenomenal book and just kind of gets you in that mindset for financial, that money is actually meant to work for you. We're not supposed to be grinding away for money and slaving away in a nine-to-five.

[00:06:09] And you know that I wasn't much of a reader then. And I think I read that book in a few days and it just captivated my focus on just wanting to stay in REI and that became immediately my goal was to get into the real estate investment side. And I, at the time I was still working for AT&T and I was climbing the corporate ladder.

[00:06:32] Alex Zemianek: And before I left, I was regional manager for them. And that's about when I was getting into a little bit more of the rental model. We started out, as I mentioned, in 2008. We bought our first two family and I moved into the lower level, rented out the upstairs unit, and then just kind of slowly fixed it up in time.

[00:06:52] I did not, I was not very handy in the beginning. I didn't know how to do much stuff, so I was learning on the fly, lots of mistakes. And I had a one man crew. And we just kept that moving where I bought a four family, moved out of the two family, moved into a four family, and I was living in one of the lower level units when I got news of my first kid, which is my son.

[00:07:15] So that was about nine years ago cause he's eight, so nine years ago I got news of my son and instead of trying to bring him home to this area that was great, it was trendy, but not really great for a newborn son. And so we had an extra set of furniture and I left my furniture at the unit that we were currently staying in.

[00:07:39] Alex Zemianek: Went to another home where we brought 'em home too and tried it out. I was actually first attempting to rent out the unit, just furnished, just try to go after what we now call like the midterm model or furnished, you know, long term. And there was in a college area. And so it made sense, but, it was crickets and it was around this times and it's cold here, so it wasn't, you know, there wasn't, it wasn't the best demand at that time.

[00:08:07] But I'm talking to a friend of mine who's also been in real estate and he's from, he's from the east coast and he is from Miami and he was telling me about Airbnb. And this was nine years ago, eight, nine years ago. And I looked at him like he's crazy cuz it's cold. It's not Miami, it's not a destination, typically not a destination city in St. [00:08:29] Louis is where we're based out of.

But we tried it out and sure enough, it doubled the rent of the other units that were in the building that were being traditionally rented. And so then we just, we kept that process going and ended up leaving the furniture at the second home and went to a third and so on and so forth.

[00:08:48] Alex Zemianek: And because we were a construction company and development company, we were able to kind of create the standard because we were remodeling the homes and we're still learning what the quality standard is today. Like, it never changes, right? Like there's, there's always gonna be something new that guest are desiring in a home.

[00:09:08] But when it came to like the actual construction design and making sure that the home was brand new, that part we had down, we just had to learn the rest along the way. So we went up to our first five properties we owned and managed, and it made it a lot easier because then we're fumbling through it.

[00:09:29] We're learning software and PMS systems, learning what all of that stuff is. And that all happened around 2017 is when we actually officially launched JZ Vacation Rentals. So JZ Properties is my parent company that was really mainly construction. And in 2017 we launched JZ Vacation rentals and my best contract at the time, [00:09:53] I offered a profit share opportunity to partner with me so we could continue doing both models.

Alex Zemianek: I knew that there was no way that I was gonna be able to continue construction and development and try to kick off this new marketing and property management venture on the side. I knew it was gonna take a lot more of my time, so I offered a partnership and that worked out well for a year later on, it did ended up having some rough years and we caught some stealing from a former partner. Lost about six figures and kinda took a very big blow to us around 2018. 

[00:10:32] Ad: We'll be back in a minute after a word from our premier brand sponsor Wheelhouse, the ultimate revenue-driving machines.

[00:10:40] Ad: Yeah, I use Wheelhouse and I love, love, love Wheelhouse. I feel like it's like, it's like a Mac version of pricing, right? It's you can just kind of dive in and start pushing a bunch of stuff. You're not gonna break anything, but you can kind of just learn it.

Ad: And then they have so many great tutorials, and luckily for me, their customer service has been amazing also, which is really important to me. [00:11:02] So if I have a question, I can actually get somebody to respond.

[00:11:04] Ad: That's John Hildebrand, owner of Hildy Homes. John opened his business in 2019 and manages a small portfolio of luxury homes in Scottsdale, Arizona, where he prides himself on being able to create a truly five-star guest experience. We asked John what it was like trying to figure out a pricing strategy as a newcomer to the industry.

[00:11:23] Ad: Well, when I first started, I didn't even know any of that stuff exist. I just was doing it all manually and I'm like, this is so much work to try to figure out pricing all the time. So I did try Price Labs for a little bit, but for me it was too PC. It was very complicated. Somebody showed me Wheelhouse and I just kind of dove in and I was like, oh, this is a lot easier. So then I've been using Wheelhouse ever since.

Ad: There are lots [00:11:45] of tools on the market that can help you with pricing and revenue management. So we wanted to know what impact has Wheelhouse had on John's bottom line? Find out later in the show. It's all part of Wheelhouses Spotlight on Exceptional Property Managers.

[00:12:01] Alex Zemianek: 2018 after losing a lot of liquidity from what had happened, we launched Turnkey Vacation Rental. So we, our Turnkey sales model where we just basically started offering them up for sale and we were growing our portfolio but doing it very slowly and we were, we used to call it our brand standard, which is just kind of sounds bad.

[00:12:28] So, kind of sounds arrogant and really what we later learned a better terminology is just calling it the guest standards. And yeah, so we started out as an owner-manager and owner-operator. And then enlisted our services in 18 and started growing from there in 2019.

We got some great traction. [00:12:50] And then 2020, January, February, and March was actually the first quarter that we became profitable and we were.

Annie Holcombe: Oh man.

Alex Zemianek: We were pausing, Yeah, I know, right?

Alex Husner: Great timing. Great timing. Yeah.

Alex Zemianek: Great timing. Perfect timing. I'm so excited until March.

Annie Holcombe: Yeah.

Alex Husner: One month of profitability.

Annie Holcombe: We were so good.

Alex Husner: All our hard work all the years.

[00:13:14] Annie Holcombe: Oh man.

Alex Zemianek: Yeah. Then, you know, we from 2020 on, I mean, that's where really kind of starts to take a shift. I mean, I've had a lot of hills and valleys, but this, this is definitely where it hit everybody. It hit the whole world really, really hard. And for, for us at this time we're no longer really doing the construction and then investment and the development side.

[00:13:38] And that was a very lucrative part of my funding and income that I was living off of while this other business wasn't profitable. And since I'm self-funded, you know, it was becoming really, really challenging not being profitable for that long. And then when we hit 2020, we got that news and there was just wall, we had some remote territories, as you guys know, and we had some remote territories.

[00:14:02] But in St. Louis, our local territories, there was literally nothing. All the reservations were gone. And then in some of our remote areas such as Colorado Springs, at Lake of the Ozarks, those did really, really well because everybody's trying to escape.

Alex Husner: Yeah.

Alex Zemianek: Covid and those destination areas did great, but we, [00:14:22] yeah, we went through some challenges. We had to very quickly figure out a plan cuz there is zero revenue rolling in the door. We have more revenue going out because then there's all the cancellations and then we started having guests that are disputing and a lot of the things that everyone's probably through.

[00:14:41] And I started trying to refinance and just do anything I can to inject capital into the business to keep us alive and keep my employees. Really, all I cared about was the employment and just trying to figure out, I knew that we would be okay if we could get to the other side, but we were running outta money very, very fast.

[00:15:00] And it pretty much cleaned me out from a liquidity standpoint. After about 60 days of injecting personal capital to keep our payroll going, then we were calling all the insurance companies, calling all the relocation companies and starting to try to figure out what is now kind of called the midterm model.

[00:15:20] Alex Zemianek: Finding ways to get our fully furnished homes completely rented, and then some we had to unfurnished. And it was a fun time. And then to fast forward a little bit, a couple months later, we had completely ran out. I was seven days at my office. I think I was sleeping most of the days there.

[00:15:39] And I slept for about two to three hours each day and just head on the desk. And I didn't know what to do. I was walking to a church. Nobody was even attending church at that time. So I'm walking to a church every day. I'm on my knees praying. And I am basically reaching that point where I just thought we were done.

[00:15:59] Like, I didn't know what to do. I was kind of ready to, not really ready to throw in the towel, but I knew I had to have a serious conversation with my team. And so I remember, this would've been around May, I believe is when we had a Zoom call. I was in our entire office building by myself.

[00:16:19] Alex Zemianek: The rest of my team was working remotely. And I got on a call with him basically in the morning after sleeping for a couple hours. They just, I threw it in and let go and just had to tell 'em the truth that guys, I don't know how I'm gonna make your payroll and I just wanna let you know.

[00:16:34] So I broke it to him. And to my surprise, the miracle next was that my team unanimously, just like they didn't even skip a beat. They were just like, so? You know, like, what does that mean? Are you quitting? And I'm like, no, I'm not quitting. Like, you know.

[00:16:56] Alex Husner: I figured you were quitting, right?

Annie Holcombe: Right.

Alex Husner: Yeah, yeah.

[00:17:00] Alex Zemianek: I didn't know what to do. You know, and I was so broken guys.

[00:17:02] Like, I was so, yeah. Defeated. I was defeated. Yeah. And I gave it, you know, I just, I just gave it out there. And when my team had said that, we basically just rallied on the call and when I say we, it was mostly them. They were rallying and inspired me and lifted my spirits. I got off the call, they're basically like, look, have you seen unemployment? Like we'll just volunteer our time. Can we not volunteer to be?

Annie Holcombe: Right, exactly. 

[00:17:29] Alex Husner: Right. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. We'll take unemployment, but we're gonna still come in if that's okay.

Annie Holcombe: Right. Yeah. 

[00:17:35] Alex Zemianek: Kinda confused, you know, so I got off the call, I'm just praying and confused and later that day, I had been trying every avenue up until that point where I just kind of not quit but let go of trying to over control the scenario and I got approved for our first payroll protection program, the PPP, then another, and then SBA, right?

[00:17:58] And then you fast forward a little bit and so we sat down with the team the second we actually got that funded. And we made every decision as a team from that point forward of when do we relaunch payroll, what do we do with these? And they, my team, I still have that very team today.

[00:18:17] And there, it is just a very, very well connected culture where it amazed me that they were willing to do that and they didn't change any kind of workout. But if anything, it got better. They were just, we're all hustling to pick up the pieces that the hurricane, pandemic knocked down. So.  

[00:18:39] Alex Husner: Wow.

Annie Holcombe: What a great story.

Alex Husner: Keep going, keep going.

Alex Zemianek: No, go ahead, go ahead, If you've got a question, fire it off.

Alex Husner: No, I just, I had to, I mean, I remember I've heard this story before and I think you told to us the first night that we met you, and I got chills when you started telling it just now. Cause I remember that same feeling. I'm like, oh my gosh, this guy is so passionate about not only his business, but the people that are part of the business and have helped him get to, you know, where he is.

[00:18:58] But I mean, you've there, there's been some serious, serious times there where you are almost gonna risk losing both the business and the people. And I'm just curious, I mean obviously those people are with you now through everything that's happened. But as a leader, how did you get them to that point that when, you know, COVID hit and they were gonna have to work for free unemployment, what did, how did you lead them going up to that point that they already had that loyalty to you?

[00:19:25] I mean, is there anything you can pinpoint as to what you've done to build that culture? I know that's a kind of a loaded question, but you've done such a great job at it.

[00:19:33] Alex Zemianek: No, thank you. I appreciate that. I could pull from my AT&T experience for that quote, for that answer, because I didn't know anything about leadership when I started with them.

[00:19:45] I started at 18. I was supposed to go to college and I went out to Mizzou and got a DWI right when I got there, I didn't even drive my car, but I started it and that was enough. And that, I was not the same responsibility level that I am today. But that sent me into, I actually called my dad, and this is part of the tribute to him and why I honor him so much today.

[00:20:12] I called my dad in that, well, I called my mom in that moment, let's be honest, and my mom was like, oh my God, you know, you got in trouble. Let's figure out how to help. And she's like, talk to your dad. My dad's like, dude, that sucks. What are you going to do do? I'm like, what do you mean?

[00:20:30] Alex Husner: Yeah, yeah, it sucks. Can you help please?

[00:20:33] Alex Zemianek: Yeah. It was tough. Tough love. Very early on that he gave me that I didn't understand. And I remember resenting him for many years cause I was broke. I mean, I went days without eating in 2000, I think that was 04, 03 2002 and 3. And, you know, I had to get a job at, well, I had many jobs, but I got a job with AT&T in that corporate career.

[00:20:58] And I learned very early on that leadership is really a choice. And I started out as a boss, I didn't know what it meant to be a leader. And leadership is really just all of the same things that can attribute to any relationship, which is trust, communication, it's honesty, integrity, and most importantly is authenticity.

[00:21:19] Alex Husner: Absolutely.

Alex Zemianek: I think that if you are yourself and you surround yourself with the people that are also authentic, then you're gonna have a good bond. And I think what happens in a lot of corporate worlds when companies get so large, is they lose touch of that. So you fast forward into my AT&T career.

[00:21:37] I was offered a position in 2008 to travel to Ohio to basically go improve or fix a culture was how it was presented.

Alex Husner: Oh, wow.

Alex Zemianek: I don't know. You can't like wave a wand to do that, but I originally turned that down and I remember when I presented that to the owner, they asked why, [00:22:03] and I had a lot of different reasons. They sweetened the pot and I couldn't say no when they kept throwing things at me, but I knew I wanted to start real estate and all these other things.

But I looked at, I had studied it before I went in for this meeting and I asked the company if they knew what their turnover was in this region that they wanted to send me to.

[00:22:24] They had no idea, but they were losing eight people a month, which is two a week.

Alex Husner: Wow.

Alex Zemianek: And I'm like, so if I go out there and I'm a great recruiter, then I'm gonna have to find at least two people a week just to keep up with the turnover.

[00:22:38] Alex Husner: Just to keep, keep us going. Yeah. That's rough numbers right there.

[00:22:42] Alex Zemianek: That's right. 

[00:22:42] Annie Holcombe: Oh my gosh. 

[00:22:43] Alex Zemianek: I said this to him. I said, if, if you'll accept this, I'll do it. I said, you're not allowed to say the word sales. Nobody is, no growth, no revenue. No sales, no performance for 90 days. And they laughed. And they're like, wait, you're serious? I'm like, no, I'm dead serious because if I go out there with a hammer, how am I gonna, I'm not gonna fix the problem that's out there we have.

[00:23:09] Annie Holcombe: Right. No one's gonna wanna be part of that.

[00:23:11] Alex Zemianek: Yeah. It's already underperforming. You can't beat 'em down anymore. And you know, in a tech world, right, and that's, it's like that in this industry as well, in the ATT or self-cellular world or any kind of technology, it could take six months to be comfortable.

[00:23:24] The average tenured employee was I believe two months. And the average manager was six months in St. Louis. The average employee was a couple years and the average manager was like five years. So yeah, it's a lot of the blind leading the blind. And so that taught me how important, because I went out there and I took that opportunity.

[00:23:45] And the first 90 days, that's exactly what I did, was trying to figure out how do we humanize our leadership here and how do we connect and how do we get in touch and connect with all of these individuals that are here, and how do we get people to be happy? Really? I pulled everybody in and told 'em who I am and what I'm trying to do, and some people left, but most stayed and we went from eight to six to four, to two to zero, nobody leaving.

[00:24:10] And, that was very, it was a really cool experience for me, and I'm very grateful for the leaders that I had then that taught me what real leadership means. And essentially it's like working for your people instead of just demanding work output from them. You are all a team, you're all in the trenches.

[00:24:29] And so know it's a long answer, a very long answer to your question, but that was the kind of the moment where it helped. And I knew that, you know, when I, as the years went on after that, I realized very quickly that I wanted to start my own brand and my own culture and for us to really as a team, do it together.

[00:24:50] Alex Husner: Yeah, I love that. And I think that whole time you probably weren't thinking in your mind, how do I be a good leader in this situation? Or how do I, you know, take leadership information I've learned. You are literally having to put yourself in the moment and just figure things out. Right? I mean, it's very, like you said, authentic.

[00:25:05] Like you had to lead with your heart and just, you know, trust that you were doing the right thing and being truthful and honest and communicating to your team. I mean, that's everything. That is what good communication and a good team is built on. So that makes sense. That was a great answer to how you've got the team to where they were at Covid.

[00:25:25] To kind of summarize, so I can understand why they wanted to stay with you and you, you know, from the outside, from what we can see, you know, we see your pictures and videos of your staff and it's very clear that they have that admiration, but also that, appreciation of being part of that.

[00:25:42] And, you know, at the end of the day, it's all of us. We want to be part of something that's bigger than ourselves. We wanna be part of a community. We wanna be part of something that's you know, that makes us feel whole and that you've certainly achieved that with your team. So you've done a great job.

[00:25:57] Alex Zemianek: Oh, thank you. I appreciate that. No, I couldn't agree more. I think that when people really feel like they're a part of something bigger and you are making a difference, then they want to sign up for that. Or you attract the right people that way. And if you are that leader that is demanding results and demanding, I wanted to, I had to shift my approach many years ago to self-coaching and self, you know, awareness and recognition.

[00:26:25] And so whenever you're coaching an employee, it's so much better to just be that mentor and friend and ask questions and get people to find success or help them navigate success in their virtue and not ours as leaders. And so when you do that, it's authentic. And we have lots of conversations of how do we help somebody in personal ways too.

[00:26:48] It's not a check that stuff at the door, which is what happens in a lot of corporate world. They just don't wanna deal with that the drama, you know, but you have to, you gotta deal with it all. And that's really, we all accept each other for every bit of who we are, and it's really more about our values and virtues and if we share the same, then you can, you can maintain that culture. People will still come and go, but you can definitely maintain it. 

[00:27:15] Annie Holcombe: Well, I think Covid was one of those things that it kind of weeded out the, you know, weeded out the people who just weren't strong of will are also people that maybe just didn't know where they belonged. And, but clearly your team knew where they belonged and that they were meant for that mission to be with you.

[00:27:32] And I'm sure when you told that story, I just kind of pictured myself like if I was sitting in that room, like, for you, that must've just been like an enormous weight lifted off your shoulder because you were trying to figure out it, you were trying to find the words to tell them what in your mind was playing out to be this very dark moment.

[00:27:49] Alex Husner: Yeah. You expected they were going to leave.

Annie Holcombe: And here they are after, right.

[00:27:52] Alex Zemianek: Well, yeah, and sometimes as leaders, like we feel like we always have to have things figured out for our people and our team. Yeah. You know, we always try to like put all of the barrier and weight on our own shoulders. Sometimes we just gotta bring it to the team and we, and really, I think at the time I was probably trying to keep them from being scared, and then it reached a point where it was so impossible to get through.

[00:28:16] Well, at least it seemed that the only way I know was just to be honest and just come to 'em with that vulnerability, which is really, it's not easy to do that. Tell your team that you feel that you failed him. That was one of the hardest conversations I've had to have with 'em.

Annie Holcombe: Sure.

Alex Zemianek: But man, the way that it bonded us though, and connected us afterwards and just how I see 'em today, I mean, is such just like family really. And they are, we're all very much at work, family, and, but yeah, you're absolutely right. I think that the biggest thing is making sure that you have some kind of authentic relationship and when people feel that you're genuine, then yeah, they're probably gonna perform a little bit differently as well.

[00:29:01] Alex Husner: Well, and two things you saying, oh, sorry Annie, your, your word of the year for 2021 was, was authenticity. As anybody who's listened to the show, as we were gonna say many times. So I love that part of it. But then the other part that you talks about vulnerability, you know, I've shared with you about Casa Go and our culture, and that's one of the things.

[00:29:22] Steve, our CEO, talks about a lot is that vulnerability is actually the number one criteria of trust. And it, I remember first time I had seen him speak before going to work for them, he gave a presentation that talked about that, and I thought, gosh, that's, that's so interesting because in most corporate environments or even non-corporate environments, most of what you see at the top is a lot of egos and, you know, pretending things are a certain way and scarcity mindset and fear-based and, you know, information is only given to certain people.

[00:29:57] And it's like, there's so many, so many mind games that are played at work that I've seen and it's just, you know, to have the right culture, to have the trust, the vulnerability, the communication, all that is just, it's, it's very different,  so. 

[00:30:10] Alex Zemianek: Yeah. You're spot on. It's, and Steve is a very smart guy from all the interactions that I've had with him and it's very clear when you look at the company that he totally gets it and preaches the culture model and, you know, the authenticity factor and the vulnerability, like, it shows people that you're human too, that you make mistakes. Whenever you do that, and that's the same with kids too, like, you have to be able to show that I'm not perfect and I mess up too.

And now it's getting a conflict resolution. Let's talk about how to overcome those mistakes. But yeah, the vulnerability in the political world or in the corporate world's, it's very political is really what it is.

[00:30:54] Alex Husner: Yeah. 

[00:30:55] Annie Holcombe: Yeah. 

[00:30:55] Alex Zemianek: And, not all of them. And, it's not there everywhere. Not every region's gonna be that way, but, you know, typically you're just gonna experience that a lot more, at least in my experience, there's a lot more of that political nature. And then people start to do their own kind of same thing when they're looking as an employee, they're being recruited. And so if everybody's looking out for themselves, it's not gonna be a sustainable culture.

[00:31:23] Annie Holcombe: Yeah. And I think that that's one of the things that over the last few years has been identified as like a key metric for organizations that are successful or deemed successful is kind of that culture and the authenticity of the leadership.

[00:31:36] And so what's interesting to me is what you did was you were authentic. And by doing, being authentic, which is my last year's word, you were able to do what my this year's word is, which is inspire.

Alex Husner: Yeah. That's right.

Annie Holcombe: And so you were able to inspire.

Alex Husner: connecting the dots.

[00:31:52] Annie Holcombe: I, all those. And that's what I immediately thought beause I didn't think about, like for myself, I looked at all the ways that like, being authentic. What it's enabled me to do and the opportunities that Alex and I have been afforded because we decided to just put ourselves out there, be authentic, be vulnerable, but in the same, in the same realm, Like people would come to us and go like, you're so inspirational.

As two women doing this, or two women in this industry. Like, so it, I love what you're doing and I think that one of the things that when we first met that really spoke to me is I have a very, I'm a very, I'm an empath, so I'm like very much gravitate towards people that kind of wear their heart on their sleeves.

[00:32:32] And you do that and you, you have a charity that you do some work with and I vaguely remember the conversation about it, but would you tell us a little more about that because I just like that to me, charities and donating your time and yourself and kind of just doing something for the greater good is always just something I find it's inspirational to me. And I know other people will find it, so.

[00:32:53] Alex Zemianek: Yes. Well, it feels good and it feels, it's, so JZ, let me just rewind. So JZ Gives Back. It is our nonprofit and really, it's evolved a little bit over the years and most recently in Covid, we had to kind of pause it, but the nonprofit has been basically an education platform.

And I wanted to be able to, my, one of my biggest passions is teaching, is giving back those mistakes. Really all the, there's been a lot of hills and valleys and I believe that you have those messes to be a message and, you know, you do have to be vulnerability because, or you do have to have that vulnerability and be vulnerable for other people so they can understand it.

[00:33:36] They're gonna go through the same things, but it's okay to do that. And, you know, whenever you are, and JZ Gives Back. We started out with doing, whether that was just speaking engagements or hosting, monthly events at our corporate office here, we're doing a lot of REI stuff and just anything where we could give back education.

[00:34:00] A lot of the time it was real estate investing starting out and just having a platform where people could get information for free and not have to get sold. Like there's no endgame, there's no real catch game,

Alex Husner: There's no pitch.

Alex Zemianek: You genuinely wanna see people win. And so we've done a lot of, you know, just done a lot of REIs, done a lot of hosting. Legislation-wise, and I believe this was in 2018 and 19, the city of St. Louis was really, they weren't necessarily cracking down or trying to eliminate or ban short-term rentals, but they were making a lot of moves, whether that's occupancy or the taxation. And there's a lot of different regulations that were being discussed by Alderman. So I got involved very early on and that's actually how I met Dave.

[00:34:50] Cuz we got started out with Noiseware at one of our properties cause we were trying to help get involved with the neighborhood communities and show 'em how much we care and how we monitor with tech. And, at that time, Dave had that vision for responsibly. So we've got a part of that with him.

[00:35:09] And JZ Gives Back has really just been a platform where people can go to a site and go to our YouTube channel, most recently in the last year, couple years been a lot in survival mode, so I had to learn cause I would spend way more time on the stuff that I don't make money on, but I knew that I had to do s get back to doing, getting the business into a comfortable and safe place to where it's putting the oxygen mask on first.  And, ultimately, that is a passion is education.

Annie Holcombe: That's awesome. So where do.

Alex Zemianek: One other thing to add is that I genuinely feel that education is the best gift you can give and receive as well, because people can steal your money, they can tap into your bank account, but they can't take your knowledge.

[00:35:57] And I heard that very, very early on when I was listening to an investment speaker. I think it was a Rich Dad Poor Dad conference that was in town. And, he started out, he was a trainer and he started out putting yachts and all this stuff on the screen, which, you know, I didn't really appreciate that, but, but he said something that was very valuable that I'll never forget.

[00:36:21] And I, at the time I didn't have kids, but he was talking about his daughter. And he said, you know, my number one goal in my life, and it was to make sure that I teach my daughter how to pick a man for his soul, not his wallet. Meaning I'm gonna teach her how to make her own money so she has the knowledge.

Alex Husner: Right.

[00:36:40] Alex Zemianek: To do whatever she wants to do. And that's one thing that stood out to me. I want both my kids, I could care less if they have any part of JZ other than the initials my son has, but for working for JZ, doesn't matter, as long as they're able to go chase whatever that ambition is, I wanna give him the education along the way so they could be learn from dad's mistakes, whether they listen or not. If they didn't, when I was younger, whether they listen or not is another thing. But yeah, education has always been something that's stuck with me from that moment forward. And I also, I don't know if I've ever shared this with you guys. My team still doesn't believe me when I say this, but I used to not be able to speak in front of five people without a panic attack.

[00:37:26] Alex Husner: I remember you telling.  

Annie Holcombe: I think you did tell us that.

Alex Husner: You did tell us that, yeah.

[00:37:30] Alex Zemianek: And that goes back to the authenticity. Like I, in the corporate world, I walked around with fake confidence and you don't really know. I just thought I had a problem. I couldn't, I had some anxiety. I had all, more panic attacks than I could count. And now, I love public speaking. I really, really enjoy it. But it took, yeah, it took years and things in education and me studying and learning more about it before I could eventually accept it and grow from it.

[00:37:57] So those are other things that we enjoy talking about and we're very open about it. Whereas in a lot of organizations, a lot of that stuff can be kind of pushed aside and on the hush. 

[00:38:07] Alex Husner: Well, the number one fear of anybody is public speaking. I mean, more so than plane crashes or spiders or anything.

Annie Holcombe: Or snakes.

Alex Husner: It could possibly be. Yeah, or snakes, yeah, is public speaking. And you know, we, Annie and I talk about this all time. Yeah, snakes, I don't think about snakes. I guess maybe I'm afraid of 'em, but yeah, I, a year ago, two years ago, my gosh, I mean, to think that I never would've thought that we would be on a podcast right now, let's be honest.

[00:38:36] But even beyond that, just the stages that we've be been on, and I know you feel the same too, that it's like you have to push yourself out of that comfort zone. And that's something that we've really leaned into. And when you do that, that's when you develop that muscle of confidence that, okay, I've done it once, now I can do it again.

[00:38:54] And it's almost like it's seemingly overnight in a weird way that you look back and you're like, gosh, I was so nervous about something that now I don't feel that way. And I mean, you know, there are some cases where before a speaker go on stage, like you can feel that kind of, your blood kind of rising and like, you know, your breathing gets tight.

Annie Holcombe: Your breakfast coming up.

[00:39:15] Alex Husner: Yeah. But not nearly to the extent that it used to and quick story. I had shared this on Facebook and I think this really connected with a lot of people when it happened, and it definitely hit me, but I was on my way out to Casa del University and was on the plane, and this lady came on that she was the last one to board, and she kind of looked like a hot mess, like.

Annie Holcombe: And it wasn't me, by the way.

[00:39:38] Alex Husner: It wasn't Annie. Yeah, Annie. Leave the bong, gotta get on the plane. Just kidding. But so this lady comes walking down and there's one seat next to me and I'm like, oh God, I wonder if she's sitting next to me. Of course she was. She's in the window. Let her in. And she's chatty Kathy.

[00:39:57] And she says, she's like, I'm sorry. She's like, I feel so bad. I'm like, I don't know why. Don't be sorry. Like, we didn't, we weren't, the plane wasn't waiting for you. But she said I had to, I just drank a double Jack and Diet. I am extremely petrified of flying. So immediately I'm like, oh gosh, this is gonna be a fun flight.

[00:40:15] Alex Zemianek: Oh, boy.

Alex Husner:  And she says, you know, I, she was probably in her fifties and, you know, well to-do looking lady, but she said, I just, I never fly. I just, I'm so afraid of it. And, I didn't hold her hand, but I talked to her the whole time as we were, you know, taking off and in the air and she wasn't freaking out at all.

[00:40:32] I mean, she was actually more calm than I think she probably even would've thought she would be. And as we started moving along, she said, you know, this actually isn't that bad. And she was asking me, she said, I can't believe that you're not, so you're not afraid of flying. And she said, why aren't you afraid of flying?

[00:40:46] I don't know. Cause I just, I've always done it. And she said, well, what are you afraid of? I said, it used to be public speaking, but then once you do it, you're not afraid of it anymore, right? And kind of the light bulbs went off in both of our heads that it's like, okay, she felt better, same thing as I felt better doing public speaking.

[00:41:04] Once you push yourself, then it's really not that bad, but it's just getting over that hump that you have to put yourself out there and you have to do it.

[00:41:11] Alex Zemianek: Yeah. It's practice and it's action. Yeah. And it's the same as going to the gym. Like we want to stay in shape without going to the gym, but we have to go to the gym to break out the muscles.

[00:41:22] Alex Husner: Right. Yeah.

Alex Zemianek: With that uncomfort and that uncomfort then grow back. Right. And we get into better shape from that routine. There was one thing that a friend of mine said to me a long time ago, that's also really stuck with me because I didn't know the difference. And I, you know, not very credible to give advice on this, but this was one thing that was said is that confidence and self-esteem are they, they're different.

[00:41:48] Like confidence is the result of action. So like am not going, if we have a golf tournament coming up, I'm not gonna be confident that I'm gonna be do well on the golf course cause I'm just not good. I've played maybe eight times in my life. And, I will have fun because I have good self-esteem now in my life, but I didn't used to.

[00:42:11] But I will have fun. Yeah, I will go anyways, but I'm not confident that I will do well playing golf. Now, self-esteem was broken down to me like a trust bank account. And so, you know, no one else can make a deposit or withdrawal into your trust account except you. So trust is also how we see ourselves.

[00:42:33] You know, how we trust ourselves is really self-esteem, how we see ourselves. And so, if you, every time you make a commitment, that could be just a commitment to get on a call, that could be a commitment to go to the gym, or a commitment to somebody else. And you fulfill that commitment. You make a deposit, it's an esteemable act.

[00:42:52] And then every time you don't, you make a withdrawal. And so as long as you make more deposits then than withdrawals, yeah, then you're going to continue to improve your self-esteem. When that was said to me, I mean there was a lot of, that was many, many years ago, and that's helped me a lot because when I did 75 hard in 2020, I'm sorry, 2021, I did this program called 75 Hard, where you have to commit to five monotonous things. Have you guys heard of it? Are you familiar? 

[00:43:24] Annie Holcombe: I have, No, I have not.

Alex Husner: Yeah, yeah. 

[00:43:25] Alex Zemianek: Well, for anybody that hasn't, it's a program that actually supplement superstores that are here locally in St. Louis owned by the founder of First Form that started this program and created it and put many years of time into it.

[00:43:41] And it's so simple, but it has a whole book of psychology around it where if you do, you know, routines and just getting into the rhythm of doing things makes you not really necessarily think so much about it. So 7,500 to do for 75 days in a row, you have to drink a gallon of water every single day, which is a lot.

And then you have to read 10 pages of a self-help book every single day. You have to work out twice. One has to be outside for 45 minutes, doesn't matter how cold it is. And you have to take a progress pic, a selfie every day. And so if you miss one thing, if you miss, you read nine pages, you lost.  

[00:44:24] Alex Husner: You gotta start from the beginning.

[00:44:25] Annie Holcombe: You have to start over? Oh my gosh.

Alex Husner: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. 

[00:44:28] Alex Zemianek: And you know, it progresses and it can go on. But I mean that, you know, the most inspired my team ever was, was when I was doing 75 Hard. I was doing it for myself. But it just goes back to what we were talking about earlier, that it's so important to sometimes lead by example because if you wanna inspire others.

Annie Holcombe: Absolutely.

Alex Zemianek: To do certain things, sometimes it's better. 

[00:44:48] Alex Husner: You have to do it too. Yeah, yeah.  

Alex Zemianek: Take charge.

Alex Husner: People mirror what they see.

[00:44:56] Annie Holcombe: Alex and Annie, the real women of therapy for vacation rentals today.  

[00:45:00] Alex Husner: Such great stuff.  

[00:45:03] Annie Holcombe: No, no, it's, great though. And I think that's the thing is like you've taken your real-world learnings and you've developed these kind of principles of your culture and how you wanna lead and inspire and do all the, you know, the great things that you're doing. So you've built up this great team and you've built up their admiration of you and you're inspiring them clearly every day.

[00:45:28] Where do you see yourself taking your business forward? Like, are you looking to maybe franchise it like a Casa Go, or are you looking to be in, you know, I know you said you're in your multiple markets, but a lot of that is through your like distribution channel. So what is the, you know, the couple next couple of years look like for JZ?

[00:45:45] Alex Zemianek: Yeah, great question. So, ecommerce has really been where my head has been in building an OTA and continuing to build, so what I believe 2018, 19-ish, we were looking at properties in Marco Island. And it was at that point where I, unless you're really good at filters, narrowing down the super host, the preferred partner, and know how to kind of filter out the properties, it can sometimes be difficult.

[00:46:14] That was the first moment that I realized that it's hard to find a brand in this industry. I mean, they're out there and I've learned a lot more by traveling and going to conferences, but when you're a consumer and you're going to stay at a Marriott and you wanna stay at a Marriott in Kansas City, or St. Louis or New York or a different country, you kind of know what to expect.

And so, I saw that personally when I was just shopping as a consumer and trying to find a place and couldn't narrow down a hundred that even looked well in that timeframe that we were looking at many, many years ago. And so that was the first time that I, it really, really sold me since I experienced it as a consumer, that we want to create this consistent environment where it doesn't matter what city you go to, what country you go to, similar to what hotels or any kind of brand has done for many years.

[00:47:07] And then I was studying luxury retreats dot com before they were purchased and later acquired by Airbnb, which is now Airbnb Luxe and just really a filter on that site. And they really, really, that company really inspired me on the consistency. They had a 300-point checklist. We do something very similar to where even if we're bringing somebody in, we wanna make sure that it checks every single box.

[00:47:34] Alex Zemianek: And it could be as simple as having a toaster or tea kettle or all of our vendors in home automation, a little bit more complex stuff. And so, that has really helped us grow our direct channel bookings. Now, and we're still a smaller company, but we're 35% of our revenue distribution is now through JZ vacation rentals.com.

[00:47:58] Whereas Airbnb has diminished down to 10 to 15% at best. VRBO and a lot of the other channels can kind of make up the difference, with VRBO being the heavy hitter. So to answer your question, like growing that OTA presence is definitely one of my big focuses on trying to continue to grow that consistency as an OTA, and then also getting into more of that ecommerce platform where we start to resell everything out of the home.

[00:48:28] I think you guys had, we know and experience on. Great company that we recently partnered with and that.

Alex Husner: Yeah, we love them.

Alex Zemianek: Yeah, they're amazing. They're amazing and, well, it's just.

Annie Holcombe: It's a great thing.

Alex Zemianek: Smart concept because we're putting, we've put so much time into which mattresses and which vendors and which things are gonna go to the home.

[00:48:49] And then we started having guests constantly reaching out and asking us for the SKU. We will get a Venus mattress that is on Amazon. It's not crazy expensive. And so when we send that to somebody, they're very surprised how affordable it is. And they're, I think, coming into it thinking it's an expensive mattress.

[00:49:08] So ecommerce is another play for us. We just want to continue to grow that brand presence to where, whether it is now, recently, in co-working, whether that's for work, mid-term rentals, long-term rentals, short-term rentals, we do every bit of that. And it's kind of a one-stop-shop for people's needs when they're looking for that quality and willing to pay a little bit more for 'em.

[00:49:34] Alex Husner: Yeah, I think you are extremely diversified and that's probably the best way to be in this, you know, uncertain economic climate and not knowing where things are gonna go over the next three to five years. But I think you're set up for great success the way that you have that model. But, and interesting too, because I don't know that, you know, you're, I feel like you're kind of in between the newer style manager, but you're not new, but, and you're not small, but you're, you're not a legacy that's been around for 20, 30 years.

[00:50:04] You operate kind of with both mindsets that you are very entrepreneurship, like the newer side is, but you also have very grounding principles like the companies that have been around for a long time and have gotten to that point.

Annie Holcombe: Yeah.

Alex Husner: But I think you're being a little bit more creative than both ends to tie in different segments of the business. So as long as you can do that and be able to be in multiple places at one time, I think you're gonna have great, great success with it. And I think the e-commerce side. 

[00:50:30] Alex Zemianek: It can go both ways because it hasn't always worked out. You know, we've had, I've had other entities that started and failed and I think it, you have to be very, very careful on not running in too many verticals. So I think it's okay if it's the same highway, you could have different lengths. 

[00:50:45] Alex Husner: Yeah. They've gotta be synergistic. Yeah.

Annie Holcombe: Yeah. Right. 

[00:50:49] Alex Zemianek: They kind of have to aid each other. And sometimes a lot of it doesn't happen from just generating a great idea. You kind of fall into it and some. The one thing I'll say about the pandemic that is a silver lining for us or became a silver lining, Annie was saying earlier, like when it was a test to a lot of foundations.

[00:51:09] It could be a test for relationships, businesses, anybody that didn't have a solid core foundation, and we were one of them because there were, we had a core foundation from a team aspect, I believe that's your true foundation, but from a product and resources and computers and website and our PMS at the time was different.

[00:51:30] So right after we got funded, that's one of the things that we sat down and did is went back to the drawing board and said, okay, what are we gonna do with this SBA fund? Some of it we had to just catch up, replace, you know, replace debts and then anything else we used to continue to advance our business.

[00:51:47] We, at that point, switched to streamline, changed our website and it's like, it's like Hurricane Covid came and knocked our house down and we had a chance to sit there and stare at the dirt and realize that there wasn't concrete. And we're like, okay, let's rebuild. Instead of just being discouraged, let's rebuild.

[00:52:07] We built it now to where we can have multiple verticals that I wouldn't have been able to have with the old PMs system that I originally started. 

[00:52:18] Annie Holcombe: Yeah.COVID was a great opportunity for people to kind of reassess and recalibrate in terms of like their values, the direction, the tech stack certainly. I mean, that's one of the things that we've talked about for sure, is that it blew up the need and the ability to access tech for this sector of the industry that just wasn't there before. A lot of great learnings, a lot of great new systems. You know, there's too many choices out there for, you know, in some of the verticals for sure.

[00:52:44] And I think that's where we're gonna see a lot of the consolidation for that. But I, you know, Alex, your story is wonderful and just getting to know you has been a really great blessing to both Alex and I. We just, we talk about you every opportunity that we get with other people, because you do really, you do really model what we see as the best of kind of these smaller breeds of managers that are coming up. I kind of, when Alex was trying to talking about how you operate, I feel like you are a young guy with a lot of passion, but you have an old soul, and your soul is what's keeping you grounded.

[00:53:17] Annie Holcombe: And putting you, you know, putting you in this trajectory of again, building a good culture and really focusing and understanding that the diversification, but putting hard work in it and having that team along with you is.  

[00:53:29] Alex Husner: I would go so far as to say a lot of that is your dad, right?

[00:53:32] I mean, your dad obviously absolutely impressed a lot on you. You still did growing up in the hard lessons and everything too.

[00:53:37] Alex Zemianek: Yeah. I think every single lesson, everything you go through is going to be either, you know, it's supposed, it's meant to be a lesson or a blessing in some kinda way.

[00:53:48] Yeah. And you can look at it like that and you can search for the silver linings and I think all the businesses now that did seek what that silver lining is have made it. And you know, in San Antonio was a very inspiring event for me. I don't know about you, I think you guys shared the same thing.

Alex Husner: Oh, it was great. Definitely. Yeah.

Annie Holcombe: Well, yeah. 

[00:54:08] Alex Zemianek: It was really, really cool to hear people's kind of comeback stories and, you know, it's sad to see the companies that weren't there, the trades, vendors that weren't there, but you've also seen a lot of those rebound now and I think it just kinda shows the persistence eventually pays off.

[00:54:25] And, Annie, I really appreciate your comment. I think that just making a lot of mistakes early on is really what got me there is just, I still make 'em today. And I think it's owning 'em and just realizing that every single time you make one, it's a lesson and you're much quicker to adapt and move forward.

[00:54:41] When you look at it as, okay, this happened, not poor me, but this happened. How do I, what's coming out of it? Like what is the good that's gonna get presented. 

[00:54:53] Annie Holcombe: Yeah. Well, and I feel like, you know, for myself, I had to do one of those like soul searching ventures for myself, where I kinda looked back and said like, feels like I don't understand why all my path has been the way it's been.

[00:55:05] But then if I look at back in the totality of it all, it all makes perfect sense. Yeah. And it's, again, Alex always talks about, you know, you can't connect the dots, you know, moving forward. You have to look back to connect those dots and kind of make sense of it all. And so I have an interesting time, you know, making sure that your kids are set up to understand, you know, they make mistakes and those kind of things.

[00:55:24] And I have a 22-year old and just trying to make him understand that sometimes, it's not about getting rich quick, it's not about getting to that success because success is, it could be it's subjective, it can be whatever you think it should be. And then I think it, over time it changes in your life as to what that success.

[00:55:41] Cuz what I thought was success at 25 is certainly not what I thought it was at 35 or 45 or now in my fifties. You know, it just, it just evolves. It just evolves with you and you have to be open to the signs. And that's one thing that Alex and I, we have, we joke about it, but it's really something that, because we joke about it, it's like front and center for every conversation, kind of every experience that we have.

[00:56:03] It's just about recognizing those moments, those teachable, those learnings, those things that are gonna be pivotal. Six months from now, they may not matter today, but they will be six months from now.

Alex Zemianek: Absolutely.

Alex Husner: And you have to be open. I mean, that's part of self-awareness is you have to be open to be aware, to notice those things. And I think when Alex, like you said about if something happens and you're upset about it and you know, pitting yourself and getting negative, you're never gonna be open to recognize the good signs that come either. I mean, like you're almost looking for why things aren't working out for you.

[00:56:35] But when you change your mindset, you know, you talked about the book, Rich Dad, Poor Dad, how much that changed your life. I know for me it was the book The Secret that I read, and kind of a similar thing that at that time, this was 2000, let's say 13. And I didn't read a whole lot of books at that time.

[00:56:51] I wasn't into podcasts. Those weren't really a thing at the time. But that was the first kind of beginning of my journey of self-awareness, self personal development. That really was game changing for me. And you have to have that mindset and continuously surround yourself with people, books, information that keep you in that mindset.

[00:57:11] Cuz it's really hard to fall or it's really easy to fall out of it. It's gotta be consistency. 

[00:57:16] Alex Zemianek: I couldn't agree more. I love to, so I will, I have a Calendly, link on my website, and I will meet with anybody and give them my time for free on the first meeting. And then if they wanna do consulting from there.

[00:57:30] I care so much more about the exercise that I'm gonna challenge 'em with or something that I might give them. Maybe that's a book or something that we discussed when we were chatting, like just some kind of homework to know. Are they willing to go read a book? Are they willing to be resourceful?

[00:57:48] To your point, Alex, like, are they open? You know, are they coachable? I was not always open-minded. I definitely had an ego when I was younger and early on in my corporate days, and I had to get all that checked and really, that's from falling on your face, realizing that you gotta stay humble or you'll get humbled basically.

[00:58:08] But yeah, I think that it's just, it's so important to keep that honesty and openness because then you're allowing things to come in because you have an open door, and if you're close-minded to it, everything's shut off. And going to conferences, listening to podcasts, whatever that may be, to some people, they'll look at that as work. I don't see how, especially going to conferences, that's not, that's not a whole lot of work.

[00:58:34] Alex Husner: Yeah. Yeah. It's work, but it's a lot of fun.

[00:58:39] Alex Zemianek: Let me take that back. But you gotta, you can't always want to have the idea is really what it is. And I am not that person that cares. I don't wanna come up with the idea cause that is more work. I would much rather go borrow it from someone else.

[00:58:55] Or when we were talking about.

Annie Holcombe: Go find the idea.

Alex Zemianek: Go find it. Yeah. That's like Mano experience would be a good example of that we were trying to recreate that on our own site with Amazon affiliate program. And then he came around and I'm like, oh, okay, well nevermind.

Annie Holcombe: We've got it figured out.

[00:59:10] Alex Husner: Why waste all of our time and resources when this already exists? Yeah. Yeah.

Annie Holcombe: Oh my gosh. That's a great point.

Alex Husner: Well, this has been an incredible journey, just not only as friends, but also today in this episode, just learning more about your journey and being able to share that with our audience really means a lot to us. And I think there will be a lot of people that listened that got something from this episode.

[00:59:30] Annie Holcombe: Absolutely.

Alex Husner: If that is any of you that are listening, we'd love to hear your comments on this, cuz I think this was great. But Alex, thank you. We are excited to continue the conversation and hopefully we'll get to pick up later on this year and see where your journey has taken you. Depending on when this comes out, and I think it will in time, you're gonna be at the IMN conference in Miami, the short term rental forum.

[00:59:53] Alex Zemianek: Yep.

Alex Husner: And speaking on a panel. What's that panel about? 

[00:59:57] Alex Zemianek: I believe this one is data, really talking about occupancy and looking at ADR and how that's shifted, how that's grown, our perspective on it. So I'm excited. There's another one that might be on branding that I'll be in, but for that one it's more on discussing some of the metrics cuz it is kinda the investor-geared conference.

[01:00:20] Alex Husner: Yeah, that's perfect conference for you to be at. I'll be there too, talking about OTAs and SEO algorithms. So excited to see anybody that will be there. But in the meantime, is there a good way for our listeners to contact you if they wanna reach out? 

[01:00:34] Alex Zemianek: Yeah, email is fine. It's just alex@jzvacationrentals.com. On my email, I also have a link to, and I genuinely will meet anytime if there's someone that's needed help, whether that's property management. I do it all the time cause I really enjoy it and it helps. I learn and take something away from that. So, on the website, but emails typically fine or LinkedIn. I check a lot too. So it could be a LinkedIn message or any of the social media platforms is fine too.  

[01:01:07] Annie Holcombe: Great. Well, thank you so much, Alex. Again, it's been a long time coming. I feel like you were one of the first people we wanted to get on the show and we just. 

[01:01:14] Alex Husner: Before we even had a podcast. 

[01:01:16] Annie Holcombe: Because we launched the podcast now.

[01:01:19] Alex Husner: Like what a great story.

Annie Holcombe: But yeah, so thank you. Yeah, thank you. And it's been a. 

[01:01:22] Alex Zemianek: It's really an honor, seriously. I followed, you know, I'm a huge fan of both of you guys and that authenticity word, you know, is really what, how we define your podcast. So thanks for having me on because

Annie Holcombe: Thank you.

Alex Zemianek: It's truly an honor to be here.

[01:01:37] Alex Husner: Oh, thank, thank you. We appreciate you. That means a lot. If anybody wants to get in touch with Annie and I, you can go to alexandanniepodcast.com and until next time, thank you for tuning in. And thank you, Alex, for joining us today. 

[01:01:50] Alex Zemianek: Thanks for having me.