March 22, 2023

Lessons Learned from a Global Brand: How Sykes Cottages Scaled to 24,000 Rentals, with CEO Graham Donoghue

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In today’s episode, Alex and Annie sit down with Graham Donoghue, the CEO of Sykes Holidays Cottages Group. When Graham was brought on Sykes, the brand was lacking a narrative and a story. They were large and profitable but departments were siloed with no real rallying cry to drive the company forward.

Today, Sykes has 25 brands in its portfolio and 24,000 properties under management in the UK and New Zealand, making the brand a major player in the vacation rental industry. One interesting thing about Sykes is its approach to acquiring businesses. 

They intentionally retain the brand of the businesses they acquire to maintain continuity and protect the legacy of the local brand. This strategy helped Sykes grow while maintaining the values that made the local brands successful in the first place.

Graham shares the technologies they developed during the pandemic, from their switchboard that optimizes cost per acquisition and push notifications on their app, to pulling insights from the data to provide value to end users. 

Learn more about accelerating growth and leveraging technology in this episode of Alex & Annie: The Real Women of Vacation Rentals.


Graham: COVID presented a unique challenge and opportunity 

"During that 18-month period, we offered a hundred and 54 million sterling of refunds back to consumers. But when the government said that people could travel in the UK, and every week it was a different message, but as soon as they did say they could travel, then there were 10,000 people calling for their money back, but there were also 10,000 people calling or going onto the website trying to book a holiday. So it was like famine to feast in a heartbeat."

Graham: Technology frees up your best people to deliver excellent service

"The reason why we have 2000 people is we're a technology-driven company but we use people, we use our human capital to hopefully deliver exceptional service. What I'm always looking at is I don't want the really clever, smart people I have a doing tasks that could be done by technology, that don't have a lot of value to the end stakeholder. But actually being there, you know, 10 o'clock at night on the phone when there's a problem with your boiler and be able to service that and deal with it, that has value."

Connect with Graham:

This episode is brought to you byCasago,Guest Ranger, andGood Neighbor Tech to view our top picks for the best suppliers in vacation rental technology and services. 

Special thanks toRev & Research for being the presenting sponsor of Alex & Annie’s List.

Connect with Alexand Annieand get more real vacation rental goodness:

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[00:00:00]Welcome to Alex and Annie, the Real Women of vacation rentals. With more than 35 years combined industry experience, Alex Hener and Annie Holcomb have teamed up to connect the dots between inspiration and opportunity. Seeking to find the one's story, idea, strategy, or decision that led to their guest's big aha moment.

[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. We'll start the show in just a minute, but first a word from our premier brand sponsor, Casa and Co-sponsors Guest Ranger and good neighbor Tech CASA's founder Steve Schwab has been quoted as saying you can only be a local in one place.

[00:00:53]The simple yet profound statement is the basis of Casa Ghost's franchise model, which allows locally owned vacation rental management companies the ability to compete at a national. By leveraging the system's, software, and support the buying power of a much larger organization. As a CASA franchisee, you have the freedom to run your business with the support of a community of like-minded professionals while leveraging the economies of scale and buying power to increase profitability and reduce operating costs.

[00:01:20]Guest Ranger is the premier guest screening and chargeback protection solution. Leveraging ai, their tool effectively detects fraudulent activity, fake IDs, and underage guests, while also performing comprehensive dynamic background checks. With guest ranger businesses can rest assured that their customers are safe and secure.

[00:01:39]Good neighbor Tech allows you to manage your properties remotely and intelligently, protecting your owners and your guests. Their smart wifi locks allow you to provide temporary access to home and garage from anywhere, and keep track of when guests and service providers are in the. Good Neighbor Tech provides the ability for you to collect email addresses from all guests staying in a property, not just the one who booked the reservation.

[00:02:01]Every guest who connects to the internet will see your branded welcome page and be prompted to provide their email address in order to connect to the wifi. Visit casa guest and good neighbor for more information. Welcome to Alex and Annie, the Real Women of Vacation Rentals.

[00:02:18]I'm Alex. And I'm Annie. And we are joined today with Graham de Donahue, who is the group c e O of Sykes Holidays. Graham, welcome to the show. Welcome. Lovely to be here. So group, c e o. That's the different title. Um, I think that bears some explaining to us . Yes. What exactly is that? Yeah. Okay. So I mean, um, yeah.

[00:02:43]This sounds grander than it probably is, but, um, we are a group, as an organization, we're a group of businesses and so when most people hear me or I'm talking, I'm generally talking through the lens of psychs, holiday cottages. Um, it actually we're part of an umbrella group called the Forge, f o r g Holiday Group.

[00:03:03]Um, and that is a collection of different divisions and different brands that sit under, um, the responsibility by myself as a c o. Um, and so we have an agency business, which you'll be very familiar with, property manager, and we have 25 brands in that portfolio, and they manage about 24,000 properties.

[00:03:25]Mostly in the UK and in New Zealand. But then we have another business, um, called Forest Holidays, which is in a different division. Um, we call it the specialist operator division, and that's where we build ourselves and we manage and we owned, um, cabins in the forests in the uk. Um, still to take people on holiday, have a really nice time.

[00:03:45]And then we have another business, um, which is in the Division A caravans business where we have um, I guess static caravans. I think you'll probably know 'em in your market or static homes. We have six and a half thousand of them with a character. And then we have an international business as well. So my job as group CEO e o, is to be the c e of all those divisions and bring them all together under the umbrella of the Forge holiday.

[00:04:10]Wow. Wow. That's, that's a heck of a job right there. Yeah. Different heck of a long answer as well. . Yeah. No, I, I know that's, that's so interesting though. I, it sounds like what, what you have over there is extremely multi-dimensional, and we're excited to dive into your, your history and just, you know, how business is going over there and the different, uh, the different layers of the business that, that you have.

[00:04:33]But is that the 24,000 rentals, is that, that encompasses all the different groups that you just mentioned? Yeah, it's 31 and a half thousand, including all of them. Oh, wow. Okay. Yeah. So, I mean, you, you're must be, are you the largest over overseas? No, no. I mean, no, not really. Uh, I mean, we're one of the largest exclusive because all those properties and units we exclusively look after, ie.

[00:04:59]We don't allow the owners to rent them out, or they don't, they're not rented out by, you know, any of our parties. Um, but no, there's, there's, there's, um, there's other. Um, providers out there are operators that have more supply than that, but they tend to have for a party, um, properties, but they've syndicated them in from someone else.

[00:05:18]We're definitely obviously one of the largest. Mm-hmm. . That's interesting. The best. The best and fastest growing . I like that. Very cute. Good. I'm good. Can, can you tell us a little bit about how, cuz you haven't always been in the, the rental business, if I'm not mistaken, that you didn't start out your professional career in this industry.

[00:05:40]Right. No, no, no, no. They, uh, it was a perfect calling and it found me. But no, my, um, I've only had three jobs or big jobs in my career, the first one at a very young age. Um, I worked for a big tourism company, uh, called tui. Um, so Two TUI is one of the largest tourism companies in the world. Um, touristic Unit International, so German based out of a company.

[00:06:03]And I, I joined that business when the internet, um, wasn't really a thing. That's how long ago , like you, we had this idea that this thing called the internet might be quite, uh, transformative, but it was mostly about, Um, retail shops, you know, travel shops, people, you know, buying holidays and shops and contact centers.

[00:06:25]Um, and over the seven years I was there, I became a director of that company at quite a, at quite a young age. And my, my job was to be a pain in the backside and just help educate this older business about the internet and e-commerce. It was so long ago. My jol title was Director of New Media cuz it was cold.

[00:06:42]Oh, I know the new. So, so, um, yeah, so I did that for seven years and it was huge when I left. Um, I mean we went from nothing to about three and a half billion pounds of sort of a turnover and seven years. And I was lucky enough to look after loss of, loss of brands all over Europe. Um, so it was really interesting.

[00:07:03]I then went and had a, my second proper job. I worked for a financial services company that had a travel business. That was called Money Supermarket, and it was one of the largest IPOs in Europe. Um, um, when I joined them back in 2007, and they were an aggregator, so a price comparison website. They aggregated, you know, the banks, insurance companies, credit card loans, mortgages, travel, um, huge, um, sort of a business.

[00:07:33]And at the time when price comparison websites and aggregators, nobody had really heard of them. They were the first, um, in the world and there was sound at the largest for a long period of time. So I was there for seven years. I was the managing director of that business and we had a travel business.

[00:07:49]And then I, uh, weirdly retired for about a year. Didn't really know what I wanted to do. Got really good at gardening. Um, spent some time re equating myself from my two lovely children. And then I found, uh, Sykes, or Sykes found me, in fact, it was private equity cuz we're a private equity by company that sort of found me.

[00:08:10]And then they said, would like you to come and be the CEO e of this business? And, and I looked at it and I'm, I'm really honest, it was the small business compared to what I'd run. But I just fell, I fell in love with the category and I fell in love with the, the, um, the opportunity because what I could see is this massive fragmentation of, you know, um, vacation rental market, you know, not just in the UK but globally, and opportunity to use technology and service, um, and to scale the business, you know, really fast, really quickly through organic growth, but also through, you know, buying lots of other businesses and bolting together and making them better.

[00:08:47]So, you know, and that was seven years ago, so Wow. I might, the seven year age, you know, it might just be the cycle, go through every, every seven years I have to find something new. But it's, uh, it's been incredible and it's been good fun. No. Were you familiar with vacation rentals or short-term rentals prior to getting involved with Sykes or just, you know, just kind of knew of them, but none of your prior, prior roles had directly involved?

[00:09:09]Well, I mean, Toi, we had a couple of vacation rental type businesses. We had a villa business. Um, we also, um, owned a couple of the businesses in Germany that was sort of a, doing vacation rental homes as well. And I guess because two were large, I was lucky enough to meet, um, in the holidays of my career, um, some people who were running some very big interesting businesses.

[00:09:32]So, you know, early on I met the original founders of buchin Do com. We met the original founders, um, of um, I guess what was home and away. And so yeah, I had exposure to that sort of a category, but um, I didn't really realize how big it was or how fragmented it was. Um, and I guess all the different brands that existed globally that were doing it, Yeah, that's interesting.

[00:09:55]And we, we talk a lot on the show about how, you know, brands over on, on your side of the pond kind of operated similar, similarly to some of the legacy brands on our side of the pond that are in, you know, key destination markets that a lot of companies, um, the one I was with, uh, in particular and, and many others built their own software, you know, because there just wasn't options back, you know, 20 years ago.

[00:10:18]Um, and I think there's a lot of good comparisons between, you know, how those businesses operated and how they really built their brands as a big part of the business. And it just, it seems like, you know, it is just been, been able to be maintained better in Europe, that a lot of these big brands still exist, whereas many of them have gotten broken up over in the states over here.

[00:10:39]But we'll be back in just a minute afterward from our premier brand sponsor, KA.

[00:10:48]Well, we're a family run owned company. Uh, family run, only family works in it. And you know, we're kind of a boutique, as people have said. I'm not sure what boutique means, but that's what we are. When I started this business helping one lady out who did all of the work herself and just wanted me to look after her property and make sure that the housekeeper got it cleaned, I thought I was the only person doing this because it was vacation rental by owner and I wasn't an owner.

[00:11:20]That's Michael Godfrey, owner operator of Sun Valley, Idaho Casa franchise. Michael started the business in 2012 growing organically by building relationships and trust within his high-end resort community. I'm a ski instructor. My son's a ski instructor, my daughter's a ski instructor, and that makes you an ambassador right off the bat of Sun Valley.

[00:11:43]we get tourists in. We get people in that that look at our lives and just say, oh, if I could ever live a life like this. So we appreciate that and we know how blessed we are to live this life. And then to have something like this business, which gets it's number one goal, is to bring people here and show them how we live and let them experience it.

[00:12:08]Also, we asked Michael if he had ever imagined that he would be part of a vacation rental franchise. I had no idea there was even such a thing. I went down there and met with, uh, you know, Costco at their office and uh, you know, it was pretty impressive. And I started to realize how we. Uh, really piggyback on there and, and bring in their, uh, the resources that they have into our company and not even costing us any more money because we're already paying, uh, percentages out to our various purveyors of, uh, uh, uh, you know, different channel masters and, and, uh, revenue managers and, and, uh, property management software and stuff.

[00:12:50]And so it's really not a cost in, in many ways, I believe it's gonna simplify what we do by putting everything more in one basket and having it so spread out. So, Casa Ago a offers such a, a large suite of, of, um, services that I look at as employees as having depth. So by going with Costco, I become a much bigger company with no great, uh, with, with no additional, uh, expenses.

[00:13:20]Hmm. You know, no overhead. I mean, I don't consider that overhead, and yet I've got the, the, um, you know, backing of a large, you know, successful business by going with them. I just think we can, uh, you know, grow bigger without adding employees and uh, and having, you know, the depth and knowledge of these guys that really do it well.

[00:13:41]I've mentioned before I said, you never know you got in on the ground floor or something until you're on the 10th floor and you're looking back. So I think it's just, uh, I've met the people there. They're personable. They run their business like we do. It's all about relationship and you know, they know stuff.

[00:13:59]I know stuff. We work together and, but they're, uh, you know, they've got their resources to, um, to help out when I've got question. To hear more stories from franchisees like Michael and learn about Casa Go's vacation rental franchise model, visit casa How, what is, what have you, what have you seen as the evolution of brand, um, within short-term rentals?

[00:14:25]Well, I mean, there've been a lot of consolidation in this side of the pond, you wanna call it that. Um, some, some of that I have to be, uh, guilty for because I've been driving quite a lot of it. Um, and, and I guess what struck me was, and has struck me, is the business bottles are all different at the very core.

[00:14:41]I think, you know, globally we're, we're sort of, you know, matching demand with supply. We're taking people on holiday, we're hoping they have a really good time when they come back. That actually how we do business, how the brands market themselves, whether these brands are consumer brands or. Or something else.

[00:15:00]You know, I've seen massive certain differences about how people, you know, utilize various different, you know, OTAs or platforms, et cetera. So, you know, big consolidation across the Europe. Um, and a big learning from me in my sort of a seven years is that, you know, I naively thought that we could take a model that existed in the UK with the exact same model in Europe and the z same model in New Zealand when we bought a business in New Zealand.

[00:15:25]And, uh, you know, the exact same model in the US And uh, I guess I've been educated over the years. It's very different. Um, they might look the same, but once you start unwrapping the sort of the layers, um, they all operate completely differently, which is why I think there's not been more consolidation.

[00:15:41]Yeah. It's hard to scale when you've got operations that are so inherently different. I'm sure. Yeah. But one of the things, if I'm not mistaken, and again this is just going off of like things I've read about the organization, is that when you guys buy a brand or you buy somebody, it becomes a. Part of Sykes, but you still let the brand kind of stand on its own.

[00:16:00]So it's, uh, you know, something by Sykes holidays, it still has that original, um, look and feel to it. Is that, is that something that you, that you purposely did or is it, is it a one off, like just you do it with every organization that you buy? Or, or No, it was, it wasn't, it was very intentional because, yeah, because we had, we had two approaches.

[00:16:22]One was to, you know, acquire businesses and then fold them into the parent company, kill the brand, and uh, you know, um, get all the economies of scale and all the synergies. You know, really quite quickly that what we realized is most of these smaller businesses have been around for 20, 30, 40 years. Right.

[00:16:43]They had a, they had a soul. They had a soul in a community, and they were owned by people who were generally still around. They play quite important part in communities and. The most important thing to retain apart from the people we were hiring was the, was the properties themselves. Um, you know, so you wanted to make sure that there was continuity and we wanted to make sure that, um, any owners that were renting the property out with some of these local brands weren't going to be afraid of this big, large, almost corporate company coming along.

[00:17:16]Um, so it also allowed us to have conversations with loss of owners because we talked them through the process and they sort of understood that we weren't gonna kill their legacy. We're gonna look after it and protect it, but we're gonna make it better because we're gonna give them, you know, we're gonna give them better technology, better capability that we're gonna benefit from everything essentially.

[00:17:37]Um, but the people would still remain, the brands still remain, the local offices will still remain. Um, but there's more book and less hassle was sort of the, the theme. And I mean, that's what we've done. Uh, we've done it 20 odd times and uh, there's an overhead. To do with it. And, but we still think it's the right thing to do to retain great properties in great locations cuz there's a reason also why owners choose to list the properties with a professionally managed property manager in a local area and not stick it on a big platform or stick it on a big, uh, property manager.

[00:18:11]And we had to be sympathetic. . Mm-hmm. . Yeah. Makes sense. And you know, just to draw that comparison again, you know, when, when people talk about short-term rentals as a new thing, certainly you know that it's not a new thing and it's been in, in your, you know, side for many, many, many years. I mean, going back probably 50, 60 years versus, you know, in the states it's more, you know, 30, 40 years ago that some of the, the larger companies that have been around a long time started, but um, it under the same auspices that it's hard to really, to lose those brands once you've, if you're still in business and you've stayed connected with your guests and homeowners in all that time, it, it is hard to get rid of that.

[00:18:49]And it reminds me a little bit your model of what Steve Milo is doing in different markets where he's leaving the local brands in place. And I can imagine he could probably look to your, your model as an example when making that decision. Yeah, it's very sort Warren, but . Yeah, yeah, yeah. No, no, no one needs to speak for Steve Milo.

[00:19:07]It's, it, it's very similar. It's very similar to what Steve does. And I thinking, I mean, what I will say is, um, we don't put any marketing dollars behind any of the local brands other than each brand has a, has a small budget and they can, they can do good with it. You know, they can go to a local, a local fairs, they can, um, they can sponsor a local football team, you know, they can mm-hmm.

[00:19:32]they can just a local marketing. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. But, but the millions and millions of dollars that we spend on marketing all just get piled into the, into the sort of a, you know, the psychs brand. And when you look at, when you look at booking volume, cuz all the supply goes onto one platform, and we can pick and choose where it goes.

[00:19:50]But most of the booking volume, 85% of the volume comes through Sykes because it's a powerhouse and it gets, you know, yeah. 15, 55 million visits a year. Now, are they all on the same software, property management systems, or They are. Okay. So that's one thing you do convert them over. Is it a custom system or, yes, yes, yes.

[00:20:09]Um, we build, we build, build by ourselves along with a revenue management system, along with our ab multimillion test and pretty much everything. We have 200 engineers. Um Wow. So, wow, wow. Everything we have, we split bill ourselves other than Salesforce, and as you would expect, you know, platforms like that.

[00:20:27]Mm-hmm. . So what, what normally happens is we acquire a business. We normally wait about, normally it's, you know, up to three months where we learn. Cuz what we found is you. Everything that we do in sys is not always the best way of doing things. Quite often we'll go into the local brand and we'll discover that this brand is brilliant at, you know Yeah.

[00:20:50]One thing, one thing management. Yeah. You know, ever maybe. And so we learn from it and then eventually we sort of say, well, that's really good. Let's replicate that across the business. Um, and so that, you know, there's a sort of a relationship going on where we learn, we understand, and then we deploy our technology and then we take some of the lessons learned.

[00:21:09]Um, and, and you know, as I said, we've done it 20, 24, 25, a loose count, 24, 25 times. Um Wow. Yeah. And, and, and, and it's worked. It's worked pretty well. And, and, and as you said, I mean, so psychs is 30, but Sykes down, uh, 31 years old as a brand. Uh, okay. Forest ho Forest Holidays interestingly, is 50 this year. Oh, wow.

[00:21:32]And that, you know, that was one of the original sort of early vacation rental, sort of the uh, yeah. Season uk. So yeah. Least. There, some of the brands I bought, um, one of the brands that we own Helpful holidays that I think is about 45 year old as a brand. Um, yeah. Still in the same location it was 45 years ago.

[00:21:49]It's fascinating when you go visit them and you see the old catalogs and the old Oh yeah. That again, I mean that's, that's, that's so what our, our markets here too. I mean, the brochures and everything that we, we all used to do and some companies still do. 'em. I just had a conversation with somebody earlier about, you know, direct mail actually is still quite effective if you can, if you can do it cost effectively, um, it really does make an impact since people don't do it quite as much anymore of, but all, all, all we're trying to do is.

[00:22:17]The reason we do it is we want to find really good properties in good locations. Yeah. And we want to hopefully deliver a really good service and, and hold onto that supply, you know, for the average lifetime value, which is about six years in our portfolio, approximately. Um, and sometimes the only way to get the best supply is to go and buy businesses that already have it.

[00:22:40]Sure. And sometimes, and sometimes you'll pay a lot of money for them. Um, and we don't really care what we pay for a business within reason. What we care is how much value can that business help us create in our portfolio. Right. Right. So how did, how did you guys, um, managing a portfolio the size that you do, how did you guys get through Covid?

[00:22:59]I mean, you, Europe had a much tougher time, I think, than the US did, cuz it were a little fast and loose with rules over here. I think more so. Um, so you, I mean, you definitely, do you feel like you guys are like on, you know, on the upswing? I mean, doing how we were two years ago when we had of Covid, were you still seeing?

[00:23:19]No, I mean, look, two things. Um, alcohol and volume.

[00:23:31]Pete was, um, it was hell. I'll be honest with you. It was one of the, probably the most difficult, challenging times in my career. Um, eight. We went through a situation where we had, I think we had something like, A hundred thousand bookings that were instantly impacted because we were in lockdown, right? And, and what was happening was all those people were calling us and demanding their money back.

[00:23:57]Mm-hmm. because at the same time some people were losing their jobs, some people didn't know, you know, what was happening. It was all that and uncertainty. Now remember, we're an agent and we work on behalf of an owner. And you know, the legal construct really is a, is a contract between a, uh, a consumer and an owner.

[00:24:15]And we act as that middleman. And when we, when we create a booking, that's when we fulfill a service and we take a commission and, and so forth. So it got really quite messy, um, because we pay our owners in. Of people, of people going into the properties and help with cash flow. So you have all these people who we've collected the money and then, then we've given the money to the owners and then people are asking for the money back so that therefore calling us to ask for the money back.

[00:24:43]And we didn't have it because we've given it to the owners and Wow. Trying to get it back was not easy. Um, sure, yeah. The consumers didn't care. So yeah, it was three or four months of hell I would say. Um, and, and you know, we were, we were taking about 10,000 phone calls a day, you know, to give an idea of the volume.

[00:25:02]Oh my gosh. Wow. During that 18 month period, we offered, um, Hundred and 54 million sterling of refunds. Oh my gosh. Wow. Back, back, back to consumers. Um, amen. But when the government said that people could travel in the UK and they know every week it was a different message, but as soon as they did say they could travel, Then we were, you know, there was 10,000 people calling for the money buy, but there was also 10,000 people, you know, calling or going onto the website trying to book a holiday.

[00:25:33]So it was like, um, famine to Feast in a heartbeat. Yeah, yeah, yeah. We stay, it was like, it was like Black Friday in reverse for all of us. Yes. . Yeah. So doing all the refunds. But, but, but we learned a lot. I mean, I think we came out of the Pandemic Stronger as a business, you know, the, our people were more resilient.

[00:25:52]Um, we managed to get a lot of technology developed really quite quickly for some reason. All still, it's all still a mystery to me how we managed to get all done so quickly. Um, but as a team, we were sort of a strong, and actually all of our, you know, we never had made a single person redundant. Um, everybody was still there.

[00:26:10]Um, you know, our investors were gray, so Oh, that's good. It proved to us we're a good, resilient sort of a business and, um, , you know, I don't wanna call that a distant memory because it's still, it's still there. Mm-hmm. . But, um, you know, for two years we were just riding that rollercoaster. You know, through 20 20, 20 21, 20 22, a relatively normal year and 2023.

[00:26:34]If I look at now, it's sort of going back to similar, some of the booking pace and pattern to 2019. So yeah, we use sort of covid, um, which is, which is challenging because all, most of our models, we tend to use historical models to. Yeah. You know, and, and so we're having to like, play around with all different things to understand pace, curves, et cetera.

[00:26:54]But, um, yeah, it was, it was definitely a challenging type. Alex and I, and, and all the people that we've talked to on the show is that C O V D. The people that were able to survive it through Covid as a business. It, it made everybody stronger as an like, as the industry as a whole. Like the voice became stronger, the, the collaboration became more prevalent, the technology advancements.

[00:27:16]A again, how come we couldn't advance that much technology two years prior? You know, it would've been great to have some of this stuff. But yeah, I think that Covid was as horrible as it was for everybody globally for our industry, was probably the best thing that could have happened in terms of just like, just really turning us around and giving us, again, a voice and a collective, um, mission to, to make a be the industry better.

[00:27:38]And the mo one of the most important things that we focused on is, um, um, and this is not probably gonna sound the way I wanted to sound, but. . We have a lot of demand. We've always had a lot of demand. And you know, in, in the UK and in Europe, parts of Europe, it, you know, it is a different model from a know how the model operates from a demand generation in, in say the us 85% of our bookings are, are coming to US direct.

[00:28:04]Um, wow. And for every one person that, you know, sorry, a hundred people to visit the web, the website one person buys. So there was, there was a loss of excess demand. Yeah. What we, what we focused on during Covid was we have to protect our owners because mm-hmm. , that is critical for the future. We need to stand in front of our owners.

[00:28:24]Yeah. And e even low, legally, we don't have to, we're an agent and we could hide behind all. It was important because, you know, coming outta the other side of it, you know, Arron's will remember why they are, you know, they're choosing to rent a property with a Yeah. Professional property manager and not a platform.

[00:28:43]And we could see what some of the big platforms were doing. And we could see the impact that was having on owners. And we started to get more and more owners who were coming from, I won't name them, but you could imagine . Yeah, yeah. Decent service yesterday. And some of those platforms and you know, some of those owners were coming over saying, no, no, we know.

[00:29:03]Maybe the commissions a bit more, but actually we recognize the value that you guys are bringing as professionally managed and property manager. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Yeah. The, the owner should be at the center of everything that you do, and protecting their assets is, is the most important part of the job, really.

[00:29:20]And I think a lot of companies, you know, over in the United States did similar, that they protected the owners and they, they didn't refund a hundred percent of monies. And, um, we saw the same thing. The demand was just so excessive on the other side of it that it ended up being okay. Of course, Airbnb ran with the narrative and made it seem like, you know, they were the heroes to be refunding the guests.

[00:29:41]But I think ultimately it's still, it, it's panned out well in all of our favor that, you know, taking the homeowner's side was the right thing to do. But I'm curious, do you still pay the owners in advance now or did that, did that change at all? After Covid, we, we went and asked the owners during Covid, um, do you want to continue to be paid in advance or do you want to be paid in arrears?

[00:30:05]Um, and interestingly, 50% of our owners. Pick to be paid in arrears. Um, because actually it was easier for them cuz they didn't want the hassle of like, you know, refunding back to us and et cetera, et cetera. So, but 50% of them still needed that cash flow to pay their mortgage mm-hmm. , um, or to pay their bills or whatever.

[00:30:24]So yeah, it's a bit of 50 50 split at the moment, but we, we, we make it the owner's choice, you know, they can pick and choose and again, it's just something that we do that's different Yeah. From the norm. Um, yeah. And you know, you know, some owners quite like it. Yeah. I've heard of it in ski markets in the US there's a few pockets of companies that do it and, and I imagine.

[00:30:45]During something like as large as covid, that has to be like a very scary process to be in the middle of that fight cuz you understand both sides of it. But I wanted to ask you about your distribution cuz I feel like one of the things that I've heard often about Sykes, and you just said it like 85% of your business is direct.

[00:31:00]So you don't do, you don't have to do a lot of distribution. Um, but what do you do to supplement? You know, are you, cuz I, and you look at, you look at numbers out of Europe and there was actually one that was on, um, with a, with a channel provider the other day. Um, and key data they had did a, done a webinar and they highlighted the fact that in Europe it's very heavy channels.

[00:31:19]Where in the US it's very heavy direct. And so from, you know, I work for a channel, so we are constantly having the conversation, diversifying your distribution. But you look at the, you look at some of the Europe numbers again, and I don't know how much it includes of. your data points. Um, but it, it would appear that the larger channel players having much larger stake of or gram share of the, of the bookings than what, um, you, you guys are getting.

[00:31:46]And you know, you guys are getting, are very direct, so you're not giving them a lot of it, but it seems like it's very lopsided from what the US is. So you have obviously a good strategy and I'd, I'd love to hear more about that, your direct booking. Mm-hmm. . Yeah. I mean, so we, so we spend a lot of money marketing that helps

[00:32:02]Yeah. . Yeah. Having a budget helps . Yeah. Yeah. Having a budget helps. Um, so we spend about, um, Sterling here. Um, hello. It's probably worth as much as a dollar, but, um, say 35 million a year, roughly. Um, we sort of a spend in marketing. Um, most of our marketing is, uh, digital, so measurable, direct response. Yeah.

[00:32:26]There's maybe, there's maybe a couple of million that we spend and above the line. So we'll do TV campaigns, radio brand marketing, but most of it is, you know, if I spend, I spend $1, I need $1 50 back. And, you know, yeah. We can we pick and choose the channels in our marketing department. Um, you know, we have, I think there's about 120.

[00:32:47]Wow. Now, so it shows you the idea and then Yeah. They're obviously, they're obviously split into disciplines around mm-hmm. , customer relationship management, you know, crm. Sure, yeah. And, and their primary objective is, um, Reba. So we measure Yeah, yeah. Keeping those measures. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. So we measure rebook and we look at our total active base, and we try to get about 50% of our people who book with us before to book again.

[00:33:13]Mm-hmm. . Yeah. We, we obviously then have a large assertion, authorization team. You know, they're constantly writing up peer outbound campaigns or digital s e o, um, yeah, we have a large paid media campaign, you know, working with your, your Google and you know, your, your Bing or whatever it may be. We have a growing, um, social media.

[00:33:35]Team who will spend time, it's, it's more difficult to get the direct response on the social media. It is, yeah. But if you've got, it's for the brand, it's so important. Yeah. If you've got millions of people there, you sort of gotta be there and Yeah. Mm-hmm. . And so I take a view on things like TikTok, you know, I don't really care, I just need you to be there.

[00:33:53]Um, or . . Yeah, exactly. However, however, you do have to be careful because what we found during Covid is the social media channels were the most aggressive, um, in terms of, you know, the interactions, um, from a negative point of view. Um mm-hmm. , we, we obviously have a partnerships team, so we have about 700 partners.

[00:34:13]We work with, um, you know, various different guys. Some of them were fully powering their sort of a website. Some of them are fur parties, like a Um, and then, uh, we, we, we then have, um, we then have a brand team, you know, doing all the brand sort of marketing as well. Um, so yeah, so those are all the cyber disciplines.

[00:34:33]And obviously what, what what we do at budgets annually, we sit down and say, you know, how many sessions do we need? How do these sessions convert? How does the look across the different devices? How much of the traffic is gonna come through mobile versus app, et cetera. We set our targets, we build the annual set of the budget, and then we, um, then we just monitor people against it and we'll, we'll pivot and we'll adapt.

[00:34:54]But, you know, that's pretty much how it works. And it's, um, let's be pretty successful. Now, we do know, um, that we could probably increase, we could probably increase the volume if we use some of the for party channels. Um, but we like to control the distribution. We like to control the customer. We know there's value in us having ownership of that customer, so we're not so seduced by more profit.

[00:35:21]Than we are by having the control. There is some balance, right? Yeah. Yeah. So are you, the, the marketing that you're doing is bringing guests back to Sykes holidays, not directly to the individual brands since they manage their own local budgets. Is that how it works? No, it's, it's all, all the, so most of that fairly odd million, millions on sys.

[00:35:41]Okay. So it's all bringing people into sys. And so, you know, the, the, the brands, most of the traffic on the brands are, is either organic traffic. Yeah. So seo, because they have history, they have legacy. The content's all unique in the brands. So although we have duplicate properties, all the content is written unique for obvious reasons.

[00:36:01]Mm-hmm. and, and then, um, there's a small amount as, as, as we said that, of sort marketing. So Sykes is the powerhouse that just drives all the volume. Um, and, and, and, and that's where all the marketing goes behind. Yeah, that's great. I mean, if you're still 50% at rebooking, that's great that they're still remembering to go back to Sykes, to, to rebook and not just going directly to the local brand, which I guess if they do that, that's not a bad thing for you.

[00:36:25]But I mean, with your main emphasis from an advertising standpoint on driving it to Sykes, it makes a lot of sense. And um, very similarly reminds me of, um, what we're doing at Classico, of course, too , so different models, but, um, going after the same thing, , you've gotta be, you've gotta be careful as well.

[00:36:43]And it, it's like really complicated math because Yeah. Yeah. Um, lemme give you an example and hopefully, hopefully makes sense if you buy, if you buy a business that, um, You know, what is really good at selling, uh, in high season, you know, the, the, the, literally the, the properties are so good, they don't need to do marketing, and they're really good at selling in July and August.

[00:37:05]So the cost per acquisition of that consumer is really low. What you don't want to do is to put that property onto a platform like sys, where the cost per acquisition could be much higher because it's like a blendy cost per requisition. So we have this thing called the switchboard, and if you imagine, you know, like a big someone who's operating multiple train tracks at the same time and deciding which property goes on, where goes on, which marketing channel to optimize the blendy cost requisition, um, make it most effective to drive it down as long as you possibly can.

[00:37:37]So, and, and, and that's what the teams do. We also, we also incentivize. Customers to come back direct, you know, through campaigns. So in January, 75% of everybody who picked a holiday with has downloaded our app, um, before they went on holiday. Um, and then we use that to send push notifications. Um, you might gala or cheeky voucher on the day that you due to you know, come home task you to rebook, et cetera.

[00:38:04]Cuz I would rather, I'd rather give a consumer, you know, 30 bucks to rebook than give it to Google. So we do a lot of um, a lot of campaigns to try and encourage people to sort of a comeback. And then we do loyalty campaigns as well. So we have a discount and a loyalty program that, you know, the more you book of us that the more beneficial you get as well.

[00:38:21]I was gonna ask you cuz you have so much inventory, like did you have some sort of loyalty program, but how many members do you have that participate in that to Honestly, I don't know. I really don't know it. Yes, it's, it's, um, It's in the hundreds of thousands. Okay. Yeah. Um, but I, I would be making a number up if I don't number , is, is that a system that you built or is that off the shelf product?

[00:38:46]Um, actually that, that one is, um, Salesforce. Oh, oh, really? Interesting. Okay. Yeah. And nobody, nobody's quite gotten loyalty, right? I don't think in vacation rentals yet. And I think a lot of it comes down to the complexities on the tech side of things, because especially if you're a multi-market player, that one, that's when loyalty makes the most sense to implement.

[00:39:07]But, uh, it also is difficult when you've got different margins depending on properties and locations and things like that. Um, it's, it's really, it's like building a matrix around it. I'm sure somebody can do it, but to, to my knowledge, no one's really done it quite, quite well. But what, what other technology, Mar Mar, it would probably do a very good job of it.

[00:39:26]Yeah, I think we, I think we do. I think we do. Okay. our, yeah, there's hard, I know for, for sure hotel. Yes. But, and, and I, you know, I mean they've brought in vacation rental as part of that, but Yeah. As a vacation rental, you know, I haven't sure seen any yet. Not, I think I, I, and, and this may be slight the controversial, but um, because we control the supply and we have all these gray homes in gray locations and the only place you really can buy them is with us.

[00:39:56]That breeds loyalty in a weird, because like Yeah, a hundred percent does. Yeah. You know, I, I always, I mean, I know it's very easy to say, but, you know, controlling your distribution, you just say controlling supply can't control your distribution. Um, you know, making it available to everybody, um, you know, on every single platform.

[00:40:16]It's just not something that we ever wanted to do. So therefore, if you want the best houses in core model, they district or whatever, you gotta come to us. Cause we got. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. You, you, you make your own rules when you're in , that position to be, you know, 85% book direct, that's that, uh, let's, let's you do things that other companies can't do.

[00:40:34]And it really, it puts you in a good, good position to, you know, really be able to structure things, um, how, how it makes sense for your business and not have to go with what the OTAs want, want to stress or the different things that they can do to change how you have to operate. But it's not something that everybody can do.

[00:40:50]And certainly being a volume in size makes, makes a big difference. But I, I was also curious what other things within your tech stack, what, what do you outsource versus what is built to know that? You said the pm m s was, was built in-house, but what other things are on your, um, not a lot, so I'll try and explain or tech how it works.

[00:41:07]So, so if you think of, um, backend technology platform mm-hmm. , and then you can think of, um, front end product, and that's how we split. So we have. We have, it's actually about a hundred in each department. So there's about a hundred people in the product and the products team, um, what they're doing is constantly trying to improve conversion on the website and constantly trying to build new expediencies on the website or constantly trying to increase the net promoter score through the website, um, et cetera, et cetera.

[00:41:44]And what they're running is, um, thousands of multimillion or ad tests, you know, and they're trying to fail about 80% of the time and have success 20% of the time. Um, and we built all of that platform ourselves to sort of run that. So it's very, very complicated. And, you know, most of the, a lot of that people, the leadership came from Buen do com to who Masters at this.

[00:42:05]And we just started that. We hired a lot of them and then suddenly we just productionized it. And so, We loop, when you've got so much volume, you, you're looking for all those marginal gains constantly. Um, and the way that we split our team up is we split them into, into different squads. Um, you know, that are responsible for different parts of the website.

[00:42:24]You know, someone's responsible for search, someone's responsible for a checkout, someone's responsible for landing pages, and we build out of that way. Um, and then we have an app team as well. Um, you know, and so forth. And then your backend platform and, you know, um, and a pro a PS system. Backend is really, you know, platform and data.

[00:42:45]So within data, we have data engineers, data scientists, data analysts, um, and they work in this principle of, you know, taking a data, turning it into insight, and then creating action that creates value. So lots of, lots of really smart people doing lots of clever things. Um, and then we have the platform teams that are really looking at the core, um, property management system, um, in terms of enhancing it and building out new functionality and maintaining it and supporting it and deploying it into different countries or into different brands, et cetera, et cetera.

[00:43:16]Um, and there's a few other nuances sort of in there, but that's the, the structure of how we sort of are set up. Um, and the teams, basically it's all agile development. They're working on sprints generally every two to three weeks. Um, and they're probably doing about five releases a day in terms of the magnitude stuff that's coming off the production line.

[00:43:38]Um, yeah. And all of that well links back to. How does it support our customers? How does it support our owners and how does it support our employees as the free, right. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. The, yeah. Free stakeholders. Stakeholders, three customers. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. I can see why you have 200 people within that department.

[00:43:56]Yeah. Because I mean, that's a hundred percent necessary at, at that volume. And it makes sense to have separate, a separate team working on the property management system versus the website. And a lot of times in the, um, tech that, that we've built in the, in the US you have one team internally that's working on that, and it's like everybody's just going in a million different directions with like, there's fires everywhere.

[00:44:16]So , it sounds like it's been organized a little bit. Yeah, but it, it's, it's, it's, it's, it's far from para freight, don't get me wrong, but, you know, um, there's still 1800 people in our organization doing other stuff. It gives, it gives you, it gives you an idea. You know, there's, there's, you know, there's a lot of people that are, um, Customer facing that are, that are sort of in properties, cleaning properties, maintenance of properties, et cetera, et cetera.

[00:44:41]So a lot of operational staff as well. Mm-hmm. . Yeah. Yeah. So how do you guys, um, how do you, I mean, how to ask this question operationally, when you go into, uh, you know, into a market, you mentioned that, you know, can you go into these, these organizations and sometimes you, you find that they have a better efficiency or a better way of doing it.

[00:45:01]And I would imagine that some of these older organizations, they're not. Forward thinking savvy people, and they've been doing it again. Everything's written in a book they had, their accounting isn't a ledger, you know, handwritten ledger, that, that type of thing. How do you educate those businesses and kind of transition them over to the technology while incorporating the efficiencies that maybe they have so that it is a smooth, um, transition not only for the owner who's on their plan, but then for the guest who's always been booking with them.

[00:45:30]That has to be, um, when you're doing it at scale in multiple different markets. I mean there, I'm sure you have some sort. Format that you roll out that I'd love to hear about that we, we have integration teams. Okay. So we have peoples whose ho, I think of them as horizontals that sit across the whole organization.

[00:45:47]They go in and then they spend time, they listen, they learn, they understand. They try to work out whether we have one of these things and the organization already, they can benefit this business or whether we can build something that will benefit this business we require, but also then benefit the rest of the organization.

[00:46:03]Um, so I'll give you a good example. Slightly different, you know, so when we, when we acquired a business in New Zealand, um, New Zealand is, uh, like a hundred percent mattered service a, you know, as in, you know, the 2000 plus or 2000 wardrobe properties there, we, we sort of do full mattered service looking after everything for those particular owners.

[00:46:22]Um, so you can imagine there's a lot of, um, operational, you know, linen cleaning, maintenance, a lot of that stuff going on. We don't have so much of that in the uk. Um, but they had built a pretty good, um, system internally to sort of handle it, but it couldn't scale. it couldn't, we, we could utilize it across the uk.

[00:46:43]So there was a local engineering team there. So we used some of our people in the uk. We augmented on some of the people locally and then we built a new platform based on their knowledge, based on their understanding. Oh wow. And, and then now we back flushed it back into the UK to say, not only can this support the New Zealand business now, and it's nice and new shiny, but actually how can we start to use it in our businesses in the uk?

[00:47:08]Um, but it was engineered effectively by the local team, just talk augmented by some of the team back in the uk. And we've done that a few times. Um, in terms of sort of a copying, uh, um, we, we do often find that we go in and we find some really good ideas. There's really good ways of working and we will help productionize it.

[00:47:24]So, you know, I can give you an example, one business that, that, that we acquired a really high end business, high touch service. Did everything for the owners, high net whaf individuals. Uh, you know, they were spending all of the time, you know, um, writing invoices out for light bulbs and, you know, s and all that sort of a stuff.

[00:47:41]It just, we just went in and looked at it and said, this is amazing what you do, and we can see the value here. Let us help, let us help you productionize this, you know, let us help you, um Right. Build this into a system so we can make a whole thing really smooth and you can spend your time on service.

[00:47:57]Mm-hmm. not writing invoices are, or, you know, doing all these various different things as well. Um, yeah. But we want you to retain the expertise and the thinking, but use technology. We've always come in from the approach of the reason why we have 2000 people is, um, we are not a, we're a technology driven company, but we use people that, we use our human capital to hopefully deliver exceptional service.

[00:48:21]What I'm always looking at is I don't want the really clever, smart people I have doing tasks that could be done by technology that don't have a lot of value. You know, to, to the end stakeholder. Yeah. But actually being there, uh, you know, 10 o'clock at night on the phone when there's a, you know, a problem with your boiler and be able to service that and deal with it, that has value, but, uh, yeah, exactly.

[00:48:45]Yeah. But be able to answer the phone to add an, add additional pay onto your booking that doesn't have value. So that's, that's changed the technology to do that. So, and that, and that sort of approach constantly. And, and I'm sure there's a lot of these businesses that the, the light bulb comes on, they're like, oh my gosh, I had no idea that it could be so much better.

[00:49:01]But they just didn't Yeah. Know. They didn't know what they didn't know in terms of what the technology could provide for them. So that's great that you can do that. Yeah. Yeah. And all, and all the, and all the financial reporting and all the, everything comes out of the box on our platform, so, okay. You know, so you, we acquire businesses and we go in and they have a, a brochure, um, And they're doing, you know, basic pricing and then suddenly they've got the most sophisticated, incredible dynamic pricing tool or everyday pricing module that just comes outta the box, right?

[00:49:30]Um, and, you know, that just gets fed into our system. And so that, that's really good because obviously it helps us understand, uh, how we can create more value and it benefits the owners as well. So all of that stuff is a real. Yeah, the economies of scale, you know, clearly work in a lot of situations like that.

[00:49:47]That's definitely one of the benefits that Picasso has had in the situations where they, they do come in and, and it is a, a good situation for that market. But, um, we, we see it often at Casa go too that, you know, these companies that they, they knew that they needed more help on the back office side and then the revenue management piece.

[00:50:03]A lot of them had not been doing revenue management prior. And it's, you know, sometimes it's small things, but it's small things can make a massive impact. If's done the right way. And I'm sure you see that all the time in these different acquisitions. So a big good benefit. one, one of the, one of the big things, and you, you've probably heard me spoken a bit this before, is their promoter score.

[00:50:22]Mm-hmm. , uh, yeah. Because, you know, we have a lot of the, they're all really great businesses, but what they weren't doing is, Really monitoring the performance. Mm-hmm. on sick individual properties. Mm-hmm. , um, and looking at, you know, the quality, the feedback on the maintenance, the feedback on the cleanliness, um, the accuracy of descriptions, et cetera, et cetera.

[00:50:43]So we put this really rigorous process into all of these businesses and then we're able to really lift up the quality and the net promoter score. Um, and when there's some bad behavior, you're able to casual really quite quickly and do something about it. And then that just created this flywheel effect of, you know, like, you know, well the owners are generally happier, guests are happier, there's less noise and the business and there's, you know, just better quality, you know, and that, that's been a real difference.

[00:51:10]And every single brand that we have has these targets, has these measures, has this feedback as people that are looking at all the detractors. And we've productionized a lot of it as well to, um, to try and enhance the overall experience. Mm-hmm. , what is your, uh, what is your overall, I mean, and I don't know, it might be different by, Area, but your attrition rate for owners leaving the program versus coming along or vice versa.

[00:51:34]15%. Yeah. Yeah. Two. Two furs of two furs of that. It's um, quite difficult to influence because the biggest single reason people leaving us is selling the property. Sorry. Um, and although that has an opportunity in itself, but that's maybe another podcast. Umhmm , . Um, so yeah, so about 15% sort of believers. Um, within that there's probably about two or 3% also forced churn where we are like, you know, you've never promoted scores.

[00:52:06]Not good enough. Yeah. Yeah. Not a good relationship. Yeah. Feedback. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. And it does happen. Um, and then the remaining part is either we've not done a good job or we haven't managed expectations, um mm-hmm. , uh, It just is, the return is just not good enough. You know, it's, um, my heating bill's gone up by 25% and you put my prices up by five.

[00:52:30]Mm-hmm. work and my, my mortgage, my interest rates have gone up, you know, so 40 year high in interest rates in the uk and inflation is, you know, yeah. 10, 21%. So some of it, some of it is that as well. Yeah, absolutely. Well, so what would be next, Graham? I mean, what's, what's your big motivation for 2023? For, for the company and also personally?

[00:52:52]Um, well, as I explained it beginning, you know, with this sort of a group now, and uh, yes. You know, when it comes to opening management and an agency in the uk, genuinely we're running outta supply a little bit. Which is a weird thing to say about Yeah, , we've grown so fast and, uh, you know, it's difficult, it's difficult to influence some of the supply that's still there because in second homes that aren't rented out, it's quite difficult to influence them.

[00:53:21]Or it's, um, second homes that are rented out on Airbnb or and again, it's not quite easy to influence them, although that is a growing part of our portfolio. Um, so, so I think, you know, on the agency side, we're going to just keep doing what we're doing. You know, organically we have to onboard about 6,000 properties a year almost to standstill.

[00:53:41]Um, it's not quite that, but that's the target. You know, this year I think it's 7,000. We'll continue Lucas and m and a opportunities, but also as I explained, we have these other businesses, we have these other divisions, so we'll, We've just opened a new location in, um, in South Wales where we've built 60 new cabins in the forest, working with the public land in the UK through the Forestry Commission.

[00:54:04]We're just about to then, um, start building another one in Scotland. Um, and so there's a lot of them that will come in and they bring in new supply, and because we own them, the margin is quite different. Yeah. Then we, and we run and we own and we operate them, so, so more of them. Um, and also in the caravan market, we've just done some really interesting things on technology and deployed some new technology in our platform to try and accelerate our growth in that market as well.

[00:54:31]New Zealand is coming out of Covid. I mean, they're, you know, they're, yeah. A slower burn. Um, but actually they're doing really well. So it's now reigniting our, I guess our spark in New Zealand and Australia to understand what we should be doing there in terms of m and a and then maybe. Beach heading from Auckland into Melbourne, that sort of east coast.

[00:54:53]Um, you know, we have Luke Long and harder Europe and the us. Um, but it, it, it's not something that, you know, uh, we'll be rushing into cuz there is lots of other headroom and other things that we, that we can do in the uk. Um, it fascinates us and we think the US in particular is a, is an amazing opportunity, but, um, but it's, but it's, uh, you have to be eyes wide open.

[00:55:16]Um, cause the, the market's different. Um, the players are different. Um, yeah, yeah. You know, buying a smallish business for maybe, you know, 20, 30 million doesn't really scratch the surface of what we really need to do, given the size we are and how transformative. Um, so if it has to be something, it has to be probably more strategic.

[00:55:40]In sort of a larger, and I guess we'll see, you know, there's a lot of movement happening in your market in the US so Yeah. See there's some, there's some, there's some big players that might have some inventory on the market. I was gonna say, you could buy, buy a casa, I mean one big buy . So bunch of little ones.

[00:55:57]Yeah. The thing, the thing is right, we have to know how we can add value. Yeah. And it, it's just non quite straightforward because it would be very arrogant and naive of us to say that we can come and suddenly we have 85% of our biens direct. Cuz that's the model in the uk. Yeah. It's not the same. It's not the way consumers search for vacation rentals.

[00:56:17]And I mean, um, you guys know pets than me. It's so different. Yeah, yeah, yeah. The market is so different. So we have to be careful and I know, um, having businesses that have so much mattered service. and I have so many employees delivering that, that, that, that scares me a little bit as well. Um mm-hmm. . So, you know, maybe more niche specialists, high end is probably more appropriate.

[00:56:41]But listen, we've got plenty of things to do in here in the uk and me personally, Heather, I'm just trying to survive. . Cheers. That's, that's a lot on your plate, . Yeah, no, I'm just trying, I'm just trying to survive. You know, we, um, you know, we we're building a house at the moment in Scotland, uh, where I'm from in told my accent.

[00:57:00]Oh, nice. Um, and, uh, that, that, that's slowly killing us, uh, cuz it's, uh, clean three, 300 miles from where I live and, uh, right. Let's just say the tradesmen are not, the builders are not really doing what I, what I'm asking 'em to do. They never do north. That's a same in the us Yeah. Problem here. . What about the bees?

[00:57:20]Where are the be gonna live? Yeah. Yeah. So with you? No, my bees, my bees are fine. My bees are outside. It's getting dark now here. Um, so the bees will, the bees will be sleeping? Uh, no, but , yeah, no. Um, I'll, I'll continue to expand my, to be honest with you, I don't need to do much to expand the bee colony cuz they do it themselves.

[00:57:37]They do it, they do it themselves. Yeah. Scale . Yeah. The, the, um, when the bees are unhappy with their queen, they make another one and then just. It just grows from there. Yeah. Interesting. They're decisive. Yeah. . And I'm very lucky. I live in the countryside, so I have quite a large garden, so we spend a lot of time in the garden and sort of a reconnecting with nature.

[00:58:00]And we have, we have fish, we have chickens, we have a little, you know, lots of a little animals sort of outside, so spending more time there. But, um, but yeah, just, just super busy. We're, we're spending a lot of time in the organization balancing, um, I mean, we're very profitable, um, which is, again, unusual for vacation member companies.

[00:58:19]But , we're, we're, we're, we're a large scale, profitable sort of a company, but I think in the last two years we've recognized that we need to do more than just make money. Um, so we've been balancing our profit with our people, with our, um, purpose and how we think about our. . So we're doing a lot of activity in the organization about, um, really measuring what we should be doing and giving back to the environment, really thinking about what we do in social and communities.

[00:58:48]We're at the end of becoming a, you know, the verification process. We're becoming a B Corp, both the Sykes business and the Forest Holidays business as well. Um, and we're spending a lot of time just, um, figuring out basically how we can just be a better corporate citizen. Um, yeah, things that, and that's fascinating as well.

[00:59:06]There's a real educational process for me, but also how, how much our employees are really embracing. , um, the fact that we're doing it and, uh, you know, people want to work for businesses that are balancing that profit and purpose, um, at giving back and encouraging people to, you know, to volunteer the time free of charge or that we pay for.

[00:59:26]And then, you know, um, really reconnecting back with communities and started to measure all the things through our data that we don't measure before around. You know, how we use our energy, how we use our water, how we influence our owners, how we think about the suppliers, et cetera. So that's, that. That's been really interesting.

[00:59:41]Yeah. I did notice that you guys did, um, for Valentine's Day, you had a bring your dog to Workday and did, I didn't see pictures of the kissing booths with the dogs, but that speaks to Alex and I. We are, we are dog lovers, so we would Yeah, absolutely. Sign up to be part of that. But it, it speaks to the, where you guys are with the company is that you understand that they're, you know, people are more than just their job and their role.

[01:00:02]They're, they're so much more, and their, their dogs are their humans and, and they're part of the family. And by incorporating all of that, you're allowing them to live their life in their job and not make their job their life. Exactly. There's a lot that's respectable on that too, that if you were a company that maybe this isn't something in the past that you focused on quite as much to get to that point where you're at now, that you know, that is, you're, you're cognizant of it, and also in a position financially that things are going well, that you can focus on it.

[01:00:29]That's a good place to be. Yeah, the thing and the good thing, you know, from our point of view, I mean, we're, we're private equity backed and you know, we have these over horse Yeah. Private equity, but these guys as well, they recognize that they have responsibility as well. So that, that's really very cool.

[01:00:42]But yeah, um, our office during, um, doggy day is the most fun place. There's no work at all. That's awesome. Um, mother there is, uh, it is pretty awesome and, um, you know, they do say, they do say that your, um, your pet can look like your own. And when we're doing the kissing booths, it's amazing how many of these pets look like, oh, it's so funny.

[01:01:02]Oh, really hilarious. I I can definitely, yeah. Relate to that for sure. I, several friends and my own included, I think fit into that category. Oh my gosh. Oh, that's great. Now Graham, are you gonna be coming to any of the events in the US this year? Any of the B RMA events or any any comments? Yeah. Yeah. I'm planning to come to, uh, international, um, and, uh, there's probably a few other things I might actually be coming across to Focus Ryan.

[01:01:29]A few different things as well, but my diary's a bit crazy and it's a bit nuts, but I, I try to make sure I come across at least two, three times a year. Oh, nice. We look forward to don't wait to connect with you in person then. This has been enlightening and, and just exciting to hear more about it. I always have kind of known what Sykes was, but not to this level.

[01:01:47]And I think probably a lot of our audience will, would feel the same, but very impressive and we appreciate you being Thank you today. Yeah, thank you. Frank. Kind of you, if anybody wants to contact to you both, what's the best way to get in touch? It's probably best just to, um, call me LinkedIn, probably the easiest way of doing it.

[01:02:03]Um, and simple way I'll, I can reach out and we're, we're a pretty open organization. I'm pretty open as a C e O as well, so generally anything that we can help and share and learn from others, we're very happy to do it. Yeah, that's great. That's wonderful. If anybody wants to come contact Annie and I, you can go to Alex and annie

[01:02:20]If you're enjoying the show, we'd love to get a, a review. If you can review us on any podcast app that you listen to, it'll help us, uh, the show grow. And until next time, thank you everybody.