Nov. 9, 2022

Growing through Acquisitions & Smart Business Principles, with Scott Bunce, Cabins for You COO


Scott Bunce, COO of Cabins for You joins us today for a look behind the curtain of their innovative enterprise that manages properties in the Smoky Mountains and Georgia mountains, with plans to expand into the Florida Panhandle on the horizon. Scott's extensive background in hotel revenue management has made him a top choice for panels at vacation rental conferences, and in today's episode he shares his thoughts on the impact of revenue management on our industry.

Inventory growth - and loss of units to real estate sales - is another main theme of this episode. Scott also shares how their company has leaned into acquisitions as their main growth strategy.

This episode is part of our Spotlight on Exceptional Property Managers, brought to you by Wheelhouse: The Ultimate Revenue Driving Machine.  Wheelhouse is offering listeners of our podcast 50% OFF your 1st 2 months - use promo code ALEXANNIE or mention this podcast when you talk to them!  http://www.usewheelhouse.com/?afmc=Alex%26Annie

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Transcript

Alex Husner:

Hey. Welcome to Alex and Annie The Real Women Vacation Rentals. I'm Alex.

Annie Holcombe:

And I'm Annie.

Alex Husner:

And we're joined today with Scott Bunce who is the COO of Cabins For You, Scott, welcome to the show.

Scott Bunce:

Oh, it's great to be here. With the two iconic ladies. So

Alex Husner:

we're very excited to have you and thank you for saying yes, when we asked. Yeah,

Annie Holcombe:

thank you very much.

Alex Husner:

Yeah. We're excited to learn more about you and your involvement in the industry and also about Cabins For You. I know you guys have some really cool innovative things going on. But for our audience that isn't familiar with you. Can you give a little bit of background on yourself?

Scott Bunce:

Sure. I've spent my entire career in the hospitality industry, kind of going in between hotels, resorts and vacation rentals a little bit about my past, was the Vice resident of revenue management for Radisson hotels in Europe. I was the vice president of sales and revenue management for Hilton international for Canada, Caribbean, South America. One of the my first introduction to the vacation rental side, I was the vice president of sales and revenue management for Intrawest Destination Resorts and at the time, they were the largest ski resort company in North America. And I went on to become vice president of the western part of the United States with ResortQuest. I guess I'm really dating myself here when I had my own company for close to 10 years consulting, both in vacation rentals, as well as hotels and resorts. And I joined cabins for you about five years ago. And I'm working for a family right now. The owners have kind of stepped back and let me run the show. And it's been a fantastic ride all the way around.

Alex Husner:

Those are some huge names like yeah, you're with I didn't realize that you you were with Interwest or ResortQuest. Actually. So that's really interesting.

Annie Holcombe:

Yeah, I am actually I did, I did sneak peek at your, at your LinkedIn profile. And I was scrolling through and it was like, See More, See More see more. Really long history. But I think what's interesting is, so I live in the panhandle, and obviously Interwest has been Intrawest and ResortQuest both been very much part of the panhandle. So those were the two first companies that I knew about that were big and broad within vacation rentals. And when I went to Expedia, the last few years I was there, I managed the larger portfolio accounts on the key account level. And I've dealt with Interwest and both ResortQuest. And then obviously they went to Wyndham. But you know, two very different companies, but very much similar space. So I'd love to hear like obviously that's how you got into this. What What were your when you first got it because you were out to your traditional hotel guy, like when you first got into vacation rentals. Did you think like, oh my God, these people are like they have no idea what they're doing, and I need to help them or to do.

Scott Bunce:

So one of my first thoughts was running a hotel is child's play compared to vacation rentals.

Alex Husner:

Yeah, yeah.

Scott Bunce:

Every owner, it's a different relationship. When you're dealing with a hotel, you might have one owner, you there might be a consortium of owners. But you're running a vacation rental management company, you've got every owner on the on the planet, thinking they know better. Yet some of the similarities is in distribution. God I remember 25-30 years ago dealing with OTAs. And you really wow. That's that's where the OTAs really came on board. Right. Is there rate parity. They're not and and are the OTAs going to take over or they're not? It's the same discussion? Yeah, with vacation rentals. So part of it's very different. And part of it is just the same. Yeah.

Annie Holcombe:

That about the owners, I always tell people when I went to Expedia, again, had had been hotels moved into vacation rentals. And when I got to Expedia, they said, Well, what do you think we don't know about vacation rentals? And I was like, Where do I start? Yeah, everything. The way I described it, especially in markets where it's condo heavy, or just in general and vacation rentals, is that every single property every unit has a general manager with a different goal. Yeah. And you know, they're they, they literally have a different marketing mindset. They have a different revenue mindset and trying to keep all of that in check without pulling all your hair out. And wanting to just jump off the roof is a exercise in futility most of the time but you learn a lot and I think that you know, to your point, we were dealing with OTAs back 20 years ago, but they were still trying to tell you how like hotels needed to work. Consumer was trying to find and finesse those conversations and try to find ways to make vacation rentals work on those sites and talk to those general managers and talk to those owners. And I don't think OTAs knew what they were getting into when they when they first started out. But it's it is you you said it right. It's a complex, crazy business.

Scott Bunce:

Yes, it is. But it's fun, right? Yeah. The challenge and yeah, yeah, we rise to the occasion. That's yeah,

Alex Husner:

yeah. So that's interesting, too, though, that your your main background when you're with Radisson was in revenue management, and mean even through the other jobs, too. So obviously, you're a finance guy. I mean, you're you're good with the numbers. So that's that makes sense for why Cabins For You would feel comfortable letting you run the ship ship for them. But I'm curious on the revenue management side, I know I've seen you speak at some of the panels that DARM and a couple other conferences, and it is very clear that you're familiar within that side of the business. But what do you see as the biggest opportunities within the space and where revenue management is going? I guess for vacation rentals? Well,

Scott Bunce:

it's really exciting. I hit that first DARM conference and my heart warmed up because I used to give, I used to give speeches on revenue management when I was based in Europe, throughout Europe, and even did it in hotel schools. And, and to see that first DARM Oh, my gosh, it was I was like, thank God.

Alex Husner:

Yeah. You did look really happy at that conference. You're smiling. I don't know why, but make sense.

Scott Bunce:

There's an evolution just like the hotels went through with electric electronic revenue management systems. Right. Yeah. You know, tell us when they first launched, people were the people that did or were early adopters, maybe had the mind frame that, that those revenue management systems will do everything. I'll just flip on a switch and walk away. Yeah. Doesn't work that way. Yeah. It's interesting, because I felt the same thing was happening in the vacation rental world. Yeah, we had 12357. And, you know, you could just see people, owners looking at it, like, oh, my gosh, I'm never gonna have to deal with rates, and it's just gonna all be done. And the reality is even to this day, whether it's hotels, whether it's a vacation rental management, you need a brilliant revenue manager. Yeah. Yeah. Looking at it on a on a day to day basis. Yeah, you know, I recall, when I first went, I was with Marriott a long time ago, I was in the Bay Area, when the Oakland A's and I'm really dating myself. In the World Series, no revenue management system was going to predict what happened, right that. And then when I was working in Europe, we worked at a large property, or with a large property at an airport that would fog in all the time, you know, flights were canceled left and right. And you know what? No revenue management system in the world is going to be able to handle that, right. Yeah, here we are in vacation rentals. And what we have in the panhandle, we've got hurricanes, no revenue management system, is going to be able to without manual intervention, deal with hurricanes. And up in the mountains in Tennessee, when there's a snow or ice storm. Use, it's a blend of algorithms, and really bright people that got their finger on the pulse at all

Alex Husner:

times. And also having to know your own hours. I think that's that's the critical part of it that even if you're just looking at the weather and stuff like that, that that's not within our industry, it's so important to know your inventory and know what your goals are, and where you can move things around, depending on what that owners ambitions are to. But yeah, it's it's it's interesting to see, I mean, it seemed like a few years ago, people were thinking that Okay, now we've got these tools, we can just turn it on, let it go. But then the, you know, the smart people in the industry that have been around for a long time said, I'm not turning my company over to AI and just letting you know, just get on with the win. Because gosh, I mean, you can some bad decisions there. You can lose inventory over that. I mean, homeowners won't won't stand for, you know, bad rates and bad decisions. So,

Scott Bunce:

and let's face it, Alex, we've got, we've got owners that have a floor rate that we wouldn't approve of, right, my property is worth that much. Right. Yeah. Go below that. So yeah, in order to gain our critical mass, we will do wonders that will give us a floor rate that we don't buy off them and then we have other owners that are like filler up and let's get going and yeah, and then there's a lifecycle, right you bring on a property it needs to build up some awareness history. Yeah, yeah. A little lower rate just to get guests in and and develop a reputation. And again, that means a little manual intervention that just doesn't magically happen. Right? Looking at management systems?

Annie Holcombe:

Yeah. Are you guys using any revenue management software's? Like external from what you guys have? You have you built something or you're using a software.

Scott Bunce:

So we started by hiring a hospitality MBA. And that particular candidate was really good. And that particular candidate was brilliant in looking at the system as a whole. And sure enough, boom, he got a little experience and sucked out by another company. And we had to start over. Oh, no, that was our next thing. We got another MBA type. All excited. And this employee was really good at micromanaging owners. But he caught in the weeds, and then couldn't look at at the big picture. Oh, yeah. So here's where we are. today. We're using Rev. Max, we're on Streamline And we actually hired the rev Max developer to work as our de facto revenue management. Individual and Desiree does it right

Annie Holcombe:

brilliant, brilliant, brilliant woman. Yes, yeah. And

Scott Bunce:

she, we meet with her weekly. And, of course, the first two, three weeks, it was a little rocky start, as anybody would write. And now we're in a groove, we're loving it. We've given our philosophy on how we work and she's integrated that into the system. And we are rocking and rolling and outperforming our competitive set couldn't be happier.

Alex Husner:

I was gonna say, I mean, you probably couldn't get anybody better than the person that developed the product to manage it for you. So that's great. What a great advantage you have there. Yep, that's interesting. So your inventory now you're obviously you're in the Smokies. I know that but where you're in other locations to correct

Scott Bunce:

we are we are in a growth mode. We started out in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge and grew into Sevierville. So in all three of those markets were actually based in Cartersville, Georgia. And so there is a big vacation market in North Georgia. And so we started organically growing in Blue Ridge and Ellijay, beginning of the year we bought a company in Big Canoe, Mountain Vista Rentals in north Georgia and we bought Blue Ridge Vacation also in North Georgia. So So now North Georgia is taken off and it is full fledged we are starting organically in Panama City Beach as well as Destin and 30-A so very small portfolio. But we are hunting companies down right now. Yeah, yeah. To give you some great news if I wasn't Oh, yay. So you know you're

Alex Husner:

gonna have to come back and yeah, share the great news once.

Annie Holcombe:

I'm just gonna run down the beach this weekend and see if I can figure it out. So are you are you gonna Are you looking to have so you have Cabins For You? Are you gonna have like Cottages for You like, what is what are you? For you? What is it going to be?

Scott Bunce:

You know, we're in the process of rebranding because we've we've recognized that you know, cabins for you can't be the name for right. Traditional vacation homes, beach homes, condos, but I could see if y is the acronym for cabins for you also work for condos for you. It can but we've been homes that we manage. So condos for you isn't going to work either. So, you know we're kind of going in the direction of CFY Rentals, CFY Vacation Rentals, but we already have now websites for GA CFY, Florida FCY Alabama is coming soon as well around but we're not ready to watch a full mothership

Alex Husner:

what about 'Vacation Rentals For You' is that taken? Probably

Scott Bunce:

we're walking through it

Alex Husner:

Yeah, it's that's fine. That just reminds me of a story here from from Condo-World when we do real estate sales like we we sell houses too. And that's one of the things that we're I would always say was that Condo-World may be our name, but it's not our only domain. We've got a wider vicinity there but that has been a little bit of a challenge especially as we go into other markets when we want to add beach homes and stuff and some people will ask Well does that just condos and you know some people just assume or they associate the word condos with overall vacation rentals so people when they're talking about beach homes, they could say condo but they actually need a beach home. So the the way that we would call all of our in inventory can sometimes be complex and especially now that you add in short term rentals STR as another alternative. We get so many questions on that and people asking, you know, is a vacation rental a short term rental is a short term vacation rental. I think the best way Annie, that we've figured out how to say it is that all vacation rentals are short term rentals. But not all short term rentals are vacation. It's like a rental here. Something but yeah.

Scott Bunce:

Not to mention snowbirds in Florida and oh, yeah, exactly.

Annie Holcombe:

Yeah. So that then becomes like mid term rentals. Yeah.

Alex Husner:

A lot of it too many.

Annie Holcombe:

There's just too many rental terminologies out thereout there.

Alex Husner:

Yeah. Yeah. Interesting. So I've got a question, Scott. We actually the first time that I really got to talk with you was back earlier this year, we went to Vegas, and we were both on a panel at the G next conference that Amy Hinote asked us to go out there. It was you me? Ryan Dame, Lino Maldonado. And who's the last gentleman, John, I can't remember his last name. But we had a great panel. And it was about the convergence of vacation rentals and timeshare vacation clubs. And is there a way to work together? And I think that's a really interesting discussion and one that we are just really trying to learn as much as we can about it. But you actually you work with some timeshares in your market. So can you tell us a little bit about how you've done that and the success that you've had?

Scott Bunce:

Funny enough? My first experience was in a hotel, and we were accepting the guests of timeshare. While they were coming to take a tour of the timeshare. This was down in Fort Myers, Florida. So long ago, I don't even want to tell you when. And so when the opportunity came around this time, it was easier for me to make the leap of faith that this is a great partnership. Yes, yes, in Tennessee, we do have a partner. And we are booking, you know, some nights, it could be 15-20 nights. And it's a little less on high demand periods. So it comes down back to a revenue management exercise. You can have flexible pricing, weekday weekend, you can have blocks that fill up. So you can be a preferred partner on a year on basis. You can do a free sale. So you can let as many in if you don't think that you're going to sell out, and just the rates for holidays. And it it's a great partnership for us. And we're we're really excited to be on the leading edge of that. And so yeah, it's it's, again, another revenue management exercise another ship, we consider it almost like another OTA, for us. Yeah, that makes sense. Another channel that if it's managed, right, you're it makes money and you'll introduce a whole bunch of people to your product that had probably hadn't thought about your product before.

Annie Holcombe:

the crossover between timeshare and vacation rentals to me, Alex and I've had this conversation multiple times because again, Panama City Beach, we have some of it here. But when I was at Expedia, I worked with the Wyndham Ownership group, and Diamond and Westgate. So I they just operated you know, just like a vacation rental or hotel. It never occurred to me that there would be this much pushback about the two industries being so far apart and not having any synergies to be able to work together. But talking with someone like yourself, we talked to Lino Maldonado obviously Lino with you know when he was at Wyndham did a lot of their ResortQuest/ Wyndham did a lot of things with their, their ownership group to and I just think that that's like, there's such a big pie out there for everybody to grab a piece of it. It's like we just need to communicate. And so you know, just I wonder how do we break down those barriers to get everybody understanding that we can all

Alex Husner:

I think Lino had a great story story about how they did it within Wyndham. And it made a lot of sense within Wyndham because obviously the business had a timeshare side and a vacation rental side. But they really optimized that relationship. And I think when they set that up in the panhandle, they were getting ready to roll that out nationwide. And that's when Wyndham got bought. So I mean things things change, they're pretty quickly. But as far as the way that we look at it is, you know, there's there's so much demand coming into the market. timeshare does a great job of marketing and getting people here and the majority of people I mean, the the percentages of people that actually buy I mean, it's a small base, I think it's 20% of the tours that they take through that actually purchase. So you know, to that effect. If if you're able to fill rooms with the people that are not buying, they could come back and potentially be your repeat guests. So I think it's more about I think there's a lot of there's bad stigma just in everybody's minds of what timeshare is and some of the bad things about it. But there are really there are good timeshare companies out there that deliver a good product and it makes sense for people the way that they're set up, but you have to kind of take off those blinders and Be a little bit more open because that's it's it's unbelievable amount of money that goes through the time. Yeah, industry. I mean, they smoke vacation rentals. So figuring out a way to work together I think just makes a lot of sense.

Scott Bunce:

Yeah, yeah. Does it you know,

Annie Holcombe:

it is interesting because there was a post on LinkedIn that I was a part of this morning, and I'm talking about Vegas, not Vegas is looking to put a lot of regulations on vacation rentals. And I said, this is where an opportunity for me where I think that vacation rentals like VRMA, and the American Hotel Lodging Association has to come together and have a conversation. Because if you look at the strip and the amount of voice, again, their vacation rentals, technically, but timeshare that's popped up on the strip, they understand that the consumer is looking for that type of product. So the hotel segment of business is not tone deaf, they just don't want it to not be part of their you know, I guess their their banking, their you know, their money pool, but the consumer wants it like just give them what they want and let the consumer decide. It's like what they say the you know, the, the free market will decide what they want. And yeah, I just I'm just really puzzled at again, hotels, saying that vacation rentals are not part of it. But they're trying to get in the space, and they want to push it out. And there's just so many things at play here. It's a it's an interesting, yeah, right now.

Alex Husner:

Yeah, yeah, for sure. So tell us a little bit about, you know, within your markets, what are the things that you're seeing? What are some of the biggest challenges that you face within Smokies and North Carolina? I imagine, it's probably same types of challenges that we all face. But what's going on up there?

Scott Bunce:

I'm sure it's this. I'll tell you my number one pain point this year, was the number of units that sold right. Yeah. Market has just been on fire for a couple of years. And yeah, and is fast as we're bringing new owners on old owners that are ready to cash out. Yeah, loved us, you know, glowing reviews when I say no to that amount of money. Yeah, you know, hats off to our business development team that and owner reps that have really stepped it up with, you know, with that keeping those relationships with rising to the fact that we're going to need inventory to replace outgoing inventory. By far. That's the number one. The number one pain point.

Alex Husner:

Yeah. What percentage of inventory? Would you say you've lost from your program to sales? I've heard as high as like, 15%. In some markets.

Scott Bunce:

Yeah, I think it could even be higher. Really? Wow, maybe under 20. But it's, again, hats off to a lot with Yeah, with new new properties. Now. Yeah. I was at a conference where one of the presenters said they lost 50% of their inventory. Wow.

Annie Holcombe:

They only had 20. But yeah. But sure,

Scott Bunce:

obviously, they weren't able to replace it. And so that that's, that's devastating. So we're not devastated by any stretch, because we're able to replace and grow. But but that's the pain point.

Annie Holcombe:

Do you have a real estate arm as part of your company?

Scott Bunce:

We do. We have a real estate out of Tennessee, we've got a real estate arm in Georgia, and maybe some point in the future real estate in Florida. Yeah, that's not something we've traditionally done. In fact, the company started with a real estate arm, and a way to focus completely on rentals. And really, it's when the real estate market started heating up, that the company got back into it and added real estate agents. So So yeah, yeah, it's coming. It's gone. But it's back again, especially with the hot real estate market.

Alex Husner:

Yeah, absolutely. And I think we're in such a unique time to that we've had highs and lows, and we don't really know what we're going into for 2023. But, you know, I think anything that we see is going to is showing us that it's going to the demand is going to slow down a bit, and especially if the economy keeps going the way that it is, but how is your team preparing for 2023? Is there anything that you're doing now or, or things that you're seeing?

Scott Bunce:

Well, we've experimented with a lot of growth opportunities. But it for us right now it we're back into acquisition mode. So when when you think about it, in 2022, the values of companies were so high because of the trailing 12 months. Yeah, yeah, buying something knowing that we were at and not everybody knew but knowing that we were at an artificially high point of valuation. It's now come and gone. We're actually putting the pedal to the metal because season is coming to an end in Tennessee. It's coming to an end in Georgia. is coming to an end in the panhandle of Florida. Owners recognize that the trailing 12 months might be closer to above 19. And near 20. Buts No. Nowhere near 21 No one. Yeah, yeah. So I don't want to say deals but opportunities are coming. I think owners had been owners of vacation rental companies had burned out riding that wave. I mean, we were like anybody else COVID hit. We lowered. Our, our staffing levels. Yeah, we tried to make it. And we were lucky enough that it took about eight weeks after it really kicked off. And then demand bounced right back in Tennessee. And we we couldn't staff up fast enough. And so I think there's a bit of a whiplash that owners of vacation rental companies have gone through and now they're, they're coming out the other end, and it's going down, and they're like, can we survive? No, they can definitely survive. But but it's not like they thought it might be as they were in last year, that's for sure. Yeah,

Annie Holcombe:

they're exhausted. That mean, that's the overarching thing that we hear when people are just flat out exhausted. But to your point, we've had a lot of conversations with groups about, you know, the valuations that were put out there on these companies, they were they were a little inflated, but also the focus on what how the performance for an organization was overall was it healthy, you know, Simon Lehmann talks a lot about and he did a does on our first of the month episodes this month, talking about, you know, your financial hygiene, like having your ducks in a row, and really understanding what does it mean to be profitable, and just having 300 units doesn't necessarily mean you're going to be profitable. And if you don't have everything in play, to be able to handle the ups and the downs. And, you know, I think you're right, and Alex and I've talked about this since the beginning of this year, we saw that there was going to be ample opportunity for those companies that weren't chomping at the bit to make land grabs, if they just sat back kind of held, you know, held their their their desire to grow. Yeah, a little bit one season like season slowed. There was going to be a lot of opportunity to grab that land at really good deals. Yeah. Yeah.

Scott Bunce:

I totally agree. It's, it's a great time to be in the industry. You may be tired, But it's a great time.

Alex Husner:

Yeah. Yeah. Well, you think back to like, I think it was May or April or May that there was that wave of announcements between Mike Harrington Sarah Bradford? You know, Jody? Tybee, all these companies that sold kind of like, in a domino effect? Yeah. All, I think all went to Steve. But just very surprising, you know, because those are brands that have been around for a really long time. Yeah. And very respected owners within the each of those companies. But it'll be interesting to see, I think, that got a lot of people probably thinking that are similar to them in their own markets, like, oh, boy, if they're doing it, maybe I should do it. But then it got quiet. We haven't heard of any recent acquisitions. I haven't at least so we'll see what happens as we move into the rest of the year. But I think there's there's still a lot of people out there yourself included, Scott, obviously, that are trying to find those deals and pick up inventory. Because that's that's the name of the game right now. But how do you have been managing in different markets? That's obviously a big topic and a challenge. And a lot of companies have tried it, but have not done it? Well. So talk about that a little bit. How has that experience been once you moved outside of like the region, I guess, from like the Smokies and then now North Carolina, or Georgia? I'm sorry.

Scott Bunce:

Well, so we've done it all along with with having our corporate office in Cartersville, Georgia, okay. Yeah, we're working remotely is as its second nature for us. So we have a center of excellence here in Cartersville, where we've got a call center, we've got marketing, we've got accounting, we've got HR, and the things that don't have to be in market, but can be remote and be successful. What you do in market has to be rock and rollin success. Yeah, for instance, your maintenance has got to be on point, your housekeeping has got to be absolutely stellar. Your inspections team has to be there. Your your owner reps, the people that when owners come to town, they want to see a live face a live body, they want to, they want to talk to them live on, you know, in their living room, they have to be on point. They don't really need the rest of that center of excellence, locally, right? People that I or the departments have just talked about, man they they've got to be they gotta be all over it. So that's, that's the key to success.

Alex Husner:

And I think just having the accountability for the people that oversee those departments in the local markets, that's probably the most important part of it, because then what I do in marketing and the team that I manage, actually, several of them are remote. If I wasn't physically in this office, it wouldn't matter to our guest experience or anything like that I don't interact with the guests. So I feel like I, you know, you have a big advantage of having been remote prior to COVID. But I feel like, you know, we're kind of already we're already remote a little bit as a marketing department here. So it makes sense, but just that accountability of your local team to make sure that they're doing what, what you would want if you were there. And that's got to be high priority, I would think.

Scott Bunce:

And I do spend a lot of time traveling, right? Yeah. markets as much as I can. Yeah. And having that face time with the employees is oh, so important.

Alex Husner:

I can see you do it, you'd be a great candidate for Undercover Boss. Shave your head and

Annie Holcombe:

go into a long black wig. Let me ask you a question on that. One of the things we talked, actually Steve Milo, we talked to him about it was my experience in the panhandle. And one some of the companies came in and bought some other companies. And there was a very large one that everybody knows that came in and bought a lot of the companies but the companies that they bought had very distinct brands, and very distinct styles in thier marketing and, and they were known for it. And when they became part of this larger behemoth company, all of that went away. And we lost in the market. We lost a leader, we lost the leading the teams that were leading, we lost that personality that went along with the organization. So Steve talked about initially kind of he was doing where they was branding things under the VTrips brand. But then he realized like, wait a minute, each of these have a different style with you know, their employees. And again, the markets know them, the locals know them do what do you see with as you guys grow? Is it going to be something where you're going to retain all the staff and try to retain, again, the local aspect of the operations, you know, the economies of scale that you can run out of your center for excellence, That's that makes perfect sense. But the local flavor of it, is that something that you foresee you you'll keep or

Scott Bunce:

so and again, I lived through the ResortQuest years and the owner was Gaylord Hospitality they were running big boxes of 3000 units or something ridiculous like that. And they tried to apply that to the the local companies and what a mess, right? Yeah. Luckily, I was on their dime when I learned that lesson.

Alex Husner:

A lot of lessons learned during those days. Yeah.

Scott Bunce:

And so I've been part of a process of acquiring three companies, Chalet Village, Mountain Vista Rentals, and a Blue Ridge Vacation. And in each each acquisition because I've been there done that with ResortQuest we did if the owners endorsed it, the employee, and we went hard and heavy after the employee wanted them to be part of the team wanted them to keep that local relationship with the owners that they they had. So for instance, Chalet Village was I don't know we bought it a couple of years ago, we still have the owner son working as an owner's rep. So important. And the owner of Mountain Vista Rentals in Big Canoe, he's still working as an owner rep and doing new business development. So owning that relationship with those people is is so important. And a Blue Ridge Vacation, same thing. She's a real estate agent. So we're partnering with her for real estate, she's still acting for a period of time as an owner rep and going after new acquisitions. So the same thing is gonna be the case in Florida Panhandle you keep the brand that you're by assuming you're smart enough to buy a brand with right yeah branded company you've got all of your inventory within that brand. And even though we're gonna have see if Florida CFY as a mother brand, the reality is our inventory is going to be in both places. So it's a double exposure tricks on SEO and things that go with that. Yeah, but that local brand you pour into it, you take whatever inventory you have, and merge it into the local brand. And you just make that brand stronger. You can't out it and you got to love on the staff and the people of the new organization. Yeah.

Annie Holcombe:

Living in the panhandle I love, love to hear that you're saying that I've seen so many I've seen so many go the other way and having been involved in some and have friends at work for some it's been heartbreaking to watch some of them kind of fall apart. So that's that's great to hear.

Scott Bunce:

So Im here to clean up the heartbreak Yeah.

Annie Holcombe:

I'll be here to wave you into town and welcome you with open arms

Alex Husner:

yeah, that's right. Yeah, yeah. I I just I think that the people that are doing it right really understand how important human capital is. And Simon Lehmann talks about that a lot on our episodes and events that he's at. And it just it is it's so it's so important the relationships that you have, and especially with the homeowners, you can't, you don't want to get rid of those people that as you're tied to them, so. So that's good to hear that you're doing it that way, and then just centralize the things that you can centralize the economies of scale. And and that's, that's the biggest benefit there. Right. And so now y'all do you do your own maids or linen business as well, right centralized laundry?

Scott Bunce:

We do in Tennessee, as you know, our owners have have taken the approach of let's have the best that there is in the entire market. So we bought, if you want to get into the details of operations, yeah, we bought a tunnel system. Yeah, yeah. I've seen that. Systems are crazy, and how efficient they are. Yeah. So not only are we doing our own laundry, we have become a commercial laundry business. Okay, other vacation rentals, other hotels. And it's, it's a business unto itself. So the better we do by expanding our the number of clients that we have, and poundage that we do less this is going to come back to us for cost of cleaning our own linen. Right? It's early. Yeah. Yeah. To get to a certain size.

Alex Husner:

Yeah, yeah, exactly. It doesn't work. If

Scott Bunce:

Laundry business in North Georgia Yeah. And it'll be you're a long time where we have commercial laundry business in the panhandle. But it worked out very well in Tennessee for us.

Alex Husner:

Yeah. Well, I mean, if you learn how to do it, and you do it, well, then it is absolutely a great part of the business model. And, you know, we're looking into doing our own centralized laundry for our business. And it's, you know, you save a lot of money doing it that way. And then if you can do it for other people, that definitely becomes a revenue source. So it's very smart.

Annie Holcombe:

Yeah. So go ahead.

Alex Husner:

Well, I was just I was gonna, I asked you about challenges. But I also I'm curious what you see as the opportunities within the space.

Scott Bunce:

Yeah. Well, all right, we've talked about I think there's going to be a big acquisition opportunity going forward. But one of the opportunities I see is, I'll just jump back to revenue management, I think, yeah, a lot of times we have marketed purely from the aspect of this looks cool to go on to Facebook and PPC, I think revenue management is going to start to lead the marketing effort. And it with the analytics that comes with revenue management, based on the demand, the changes in average rate and occupancy, and the trends of size of units, and the booking lead time, based on size of the unit, and location. That's how the whole marketing is going to start. So it isn't that marketing is just kind of overseeing revenue management, its revenue management, being so skilled, and so good at what they need. You're building marketing plans around what revenue management seeing. And I think that that's, that's one of the big opportunities that's being missed. But is coming around pretty fast.

Alex Husner:

Yeah. And we've talked about talking about that a lot lately. Yeah, I mean, that that is the big opportunity within the space is just just in general, for marketing and revenue management to work more closely together. And I think we're getting to that point as an industry and conferences like DARM, the data on revenue management event we just went to, that's, that's the breeding ground for those conversations to get started. But I know for, for us, I mean, you know, marketing is that's always a conversation, you know, is marketing is supposed to create the demand, right? Well, really the the destination, the DMO creates the demand for the area now, marketing's job is to capture that demand. And revenues job is to have the right prices to make sure that you're gonna get that business and they're gonna convert, but I think you're right, though, I think we're the convergence there. That just kind of closes the circle is really, you know, leaning into revenue management to know when what needs to be pushed, when it needs to be pushed. And really when it needs to be pushed. I mean, that's, that's the most critical part because a lot of us end up being we react too late that if you've got a low revenue report, and now it's June and you realize that you've got several units that are not doing well and you've got homeowners calling, it's too late to fix that situation. So Steve Milo made a great point on his episode that they are looking at this on a monthly basis, you know, from a variance report standpoint, and really making decisions at that point on how they're able to push inventory and, you know, if certain units are doing very well, you know, pull those back and let the ones that are not doing well give them some steam, and just how you integrate that I think within the website is most important to give them more exposure. So that's what we've found so far.

Scott Bunce:

Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, key data every day of the week. Yeah. Yeah. Watching the trends. I, while we've got weekly revenue management meetings, I I paced the floor. Yeah. Oh, sure. Trying to look at the data and and have my opinions on where the team should go. Before we get to the meeting.

Alex Husner:

Yeah.

Annie Holcombe:

I want to I did want to ask you a question. Because of your experience, where you came from hotels, and you've been in the industry, again, quite a number of years and seeing kind of the ebb and flow of distribution. What is your what is your thought? You know, there's, there's, there's two schools of thought there's get out on as many channels as you can get on because exposure, and then there's the gosh, don't be beholden, don't put your stuff out there. You all you want is direct, but I feel like there has to be a blend. I mean, my experience has always been that there's a blend, and you have to have mindful distribution, which goes back to having your marketing and your revenue management teams in sync and talking all the time. But what are your thoughts on distribution and kind of where it's going? There's a lot of new channels that came out about, you know, went through COVID, and are opening up little new funnels of opportunity for people. So what are you using somebody's organization? What are you guys doing distribution wise?

Scott Bunce:

Well, let me take a stepback.

Alex Husner:

All right.

Scott Bunce:

We can get into some minutiae here. But I'm going to have the pleasure of being on a panel at vrma.

Alex Husner:

Oh, teasing,

Scott Bunce:

and Steve Milo, and I'll talk distribution OTAs. And it's a masterclass. But yes, I'll give you the short answer here. And then you can come see me and Steve hes full have, he's full of rainbows and sunshine and unicorns. So yeah, we use OTAs. And distribution have already told you about the uniqueness of doing it with a timeshare industry. Like most companies, we want to get as many direct bookings as we can. So the basics are, will let OTAs book business, and then we're going to own those customers. Right, we are going to remarket to them, we're going to tell them that we are going to get a better rate going directly. And we hold to our guns in mature markets. So our most mature market is Tennessee. We do 85% Of Business direct without OTAs. And our mid size market is in North Georgia, where we have more of a blend of OTAs. And we're just starting out in Florida, we're very OTA driven. So it's not a one size fits all, by any stretch of the imagination. Yeah, it's how you do it from A to Z to what's your strategy. What's your price point? How do you remarket? And that that's the secret sauce and more to come? at VRMA.

Alex Husner:

Okay, awesome. Yeah. And

Annie Holcombe:

A tease there I love that!

Alex Husner:

I think I mean, knowing that, just because your strategy is one way in a market right now, knowing that that doesn't necessarily mean it's going to be that way in a year from now. Because in the markets that you are more heavily beholden to the OTAs. I'm sure the goal of course, is to get more history there, just like you said, even with new units to the to the program, build up that history. And then you can start making some more strategic decisions. But it's, I remember the very first conference I went to actually was in Destin, it was one of Amy's VRM Intel events in 2016. And I remember the I missed the opening, but when I went in to the first session, it was straight OTA bashing and this is I don't feel like we all bash OTAs quite as bad as we did for a while there. Like it was definitely a trend.

Annie Holcombe:

I felt it. Yeah.

Alex Husner:

We we've added Airbnb, but I mean, now we have like legitimate reasons to Yeah, at one point, it was like, it just seemed like that's what you did, because it was trickling down from the hotels that that's the problem. But I think the people that are doing it, right, they are leveraging the OTAs they are knowing how to strategically use them. And like you said, just bringing those guests back. So if it's somebody if somebody is coming to stay with you, and there's somebody that travels all over the place, and they don't always go back to the same destination, you know, you're not going to get them back. So just being understanding the fact that you still need the booking in most cases. So just having the right mindset on it is where, you know, smart operators need to be and I think you guys obviously do, yeah,

Scott Bunce:

so think about it this way when it comes to OTAs and partnerships. Let's take VRMA as an example. I have a loyalty to airline that has gone back for years and years and years. And I want the points and I booked that airline ticket. And then when it came to the hotel when it came to the hotel, the those of you who haven't signed up for VRMA if you don't know, the hotel sold out. And so what did I do? I went on an OTA to book my hotel. So that's a combination of a trip. That was non OTA and OTA in one, one trip, right? Yeah, exactly. So there's always room for strategic use of OTAs. And then you can choose not to do it as it relates to where you've got that loyalty and right for the airline that's got my loyalty.

Annie Holcombe:

Yeah, yeah, it just speaks to the consumers gonna do what they're gonna do. And you just have to be out there in front of them. Regardless, if it's direct, or it's OTA. Just make sure you're available to them

Alex Husner:

And I think there's a huge opportunity for somebody who is in multiple markets to come in and really put together a great loyalty program. We talked about that last week with on Terry Whytes episode, but I think there's there's a lot of opportunity there. And I haven't seen anybody really in our space that's doing that. Well. So maybe that could be you guys. Yeah, yeah. Awesome. Well, Scott, thank you so much for being here with us today. This has been a great conversation and just awesome to learn more about you and the business and very excited to see you on stage in Vegas. It sounds like that's gonna be a good panel. So what day is that? Do you know?

Scott Bunce:

Okay, I'm honest, I'm not quite sure what day it is. Okay. Find out. Yeah. Well, we'll get me all lined up. And we'll Yeah, yeah. And didn't, didn't I Alex , see, that somebody is interested in running for a board position.

Alex Husner:

Yeah, I put my hat in the ring.

Scott Bunce:

Oh my my vote is there. Oh, thank you.

Annie Holcombe:

Let's make sure we get this out right away.

Alex Husner:

I was gonna say I didn't even ask you to say that. I appreciate that, Scott. But yeah, I'm, I'm very excited about it. And hopefully it will come to fruition. I know, this is it's a tight race, there's only two spots. So what we'll see but it this past year has just been eye opening to me. And a lot of that is because of the podcast and the conversations that Annie and I have. And just learning where the pain points are and seeing the struggles from the advocacy standpoint, I think the industry is just in a position that we really need a strong branding and communication standpoint on what professionally managed vacation rentals are what is our value proposition? Because even just saying it as professionally managed vacation rentals. That's that's a difficult way to explain it to somebody that doesn't know what the difference is between Airbnb versus what we do. So I think it really peeling back the onion, I think we've got to go back to the drawing board on how we present ourselves. And I think that's really where my strong suit is from marketing and branding standpoint. So I think I would bring something good to the table with it. But we shall see. We shall see that thank you very much.

Scott Bunce:

Oh, you're more than welcome. Yeah. Awesome.

Alex Husner:

Well, Scott, if anybody wants to get in touch with you, what's the best way for them to contact you?

Scott Bunce:

i Well, anybody can reach out at sbunce@cabinsforyour.comcom and bunc is B-U-N-C- E?

Alex Husner:

Awesome. We will put that in the show notes. And if anyone wants to contact Andy and I can go to Alex and Annie podcast.com. Annie anything else you want to know? Oh,

Annie Holcombe:

no, Scott, this was great. And I cannot wait to hear who you bought in the panhandle.

Alex Husner:

Yes. Yeah. No, we want to break the news.

Annie Holcombe:

Alex and Annie News Network.

Alex Husner:

Yeah, exactly. We're becoming a news network. It seems like

Annie Holcombe:

we appreciate you.

Alex Husner:

Yeah.Thank you. And thank you everybody for tuning in. We will talk to you next time.

Scott Bunce:

Thanks Ladies! Bye.

Scott Bunce Profile Photo

Scott Bunce

COO- Cabins For You

Scott is currently serving as the Chief Operating Officer at Cabins For You, which is producing 55 million in revenue annually, and close to 600 vacation rental homes in TN, GA and FL.

Scott has served as VP Operations, Sales & Revenue Management with ResortQuest, VP Sales & Revenue Management Hilton International, VP Revenue Management Radisson Hotels Europe, and VP Sales and Revenue Management for Intrawest Destination Resorts. Scott also has his own company, EpicenterSpark Hospitality, where he worked with Intercontinental Hotels Group-IHG, Aston Hotels & Resorts and other European brands.

As an industry speaking professional Scott has guest lectured at several schools, including The Hotel School of Glion Switzerland. Scott has been a regular speaker throughout Europe at IQPC Revenue Management conferences. A frequent speaker, panelist and moderator at Mountain Travel Symposiums.