Oct. 5, 2022

Building a Start-up in a Grown-up Organization, with Marriott Homes & Villas VP Jennifer Hsieh


It was beyond a pleasure to sit down with Jennifer Hsieh, VP of Marriott Homes & Villas, to learn about both the challenges and opportunities Marriott has uncovered by bringing one of the world's largest hospitality brands into the world of vacation rentals. While Marriott International represents 30 hotel brands and 8,000 properties as part of their portfolio, Homes & Villas has presented perhaps the most unique - yet sought after - option for their loyal Bonvoy members.

Alex, Annie & Jenny dive into the details of the complexities of growing a start-up in a grown-up enterprise, along with HVMI's position on working exclusively with professional property managers.

Jenny shares career insights on her first major role with Target, and then how she worked in various departments in Marriott before moving into her current role to launch HVMI. She is an inspirational leader and one certainly worth following.

Find out more about Homes & Villas by Marriott here:
https://homes-and-villas.marriott.com/

This episode is brought to you by our Premiere Brand Sponsor, Wheelhouse: The Ultimate Revenue Driving Machine. They're 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

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

CONTACT JENNIFER HSIEH
LinkedIn

CONTACT ALEX & ANNIE
AlexandAnniePodcast.com
LinkedIn | Facebook | Instagram

Alex Husner - Linkedin
Annie Holcombe - Linkedin

Transcript

Alex Husner:

Welcome to Alex and Annie, the Real Women of Vaction Rentals. I'm Alex

Annie Holcombe:

and Im Annie.

Alex Husner:

And we're joined today with Jenny Hsieh who is the Vice President of Homes & Villas by Marriott. Jenny, it is such a pleasure and honor to have you on the show today.

Jenny Hsieh:

I'm excited to be here. Ladies.

Annie Holcombe:

Thank you so much for indulging us. We've been a big fan of yours. And we got to see you last year at the Women's Conference. And you just you did a phenomenal job. And so we kind of put you in our Rolodex of people that we wanted to have on its been a long time coming because you're a very, very busy woman.

Jenny Hsieh:

There's a lot happening when you have a startup. And so I'm excited to finally be here and spend some time with you guys.

Alex Husner:

Absolutely, absolutely. So that's probably a good way to start it. Let's let's look a little bit back at your history, if you can just tell our listeners about what your career has been. I know you've been in Marriott for a long time before Homes & Villas but and now it is more like a startup and a grown up organization. But tell us a little bit about your past and how you've gotten to where you are now.

Jenny Hsieh:

Yeah, really good question. Well, Marriott is the longest company tenure I've had at any company. So I've been at Marriott for 13 years. But maybe I'll go back a little bit farther. And so very early on in my career, I was trying to figure out like, what is it that I wanted to do and wanted to be. And I worked in a small consulting firm for a little while and realized, like I loved business, I'd love to know how things work, I loved people. And that prompted me to go to business school after business school, I knew I wanted to learn as much as I could about everything. But my passion was really around customers. I really love thinking about like, Why does a person choose what they choose what drives people to make certain decisions, what makes them happy, what brings them joy, at all in the context of business. So I joined management consulting, and I worked at Deloitte in strategy and operations for a few years. And then I made the move into Target Corporation. So for your US listeners, also known as Tarjay. And I did work in strategy and innovation. And that was really like when we were when I was at Target, we were looking at really great questions. Because if you love thinking about customers, you love thinking about, Okay, well, what makes this particular customer buy this type of bleach versus that type of bleach? Or what's a great strategy to get that mom with two young kids to come into our store and to stay in our stores? And the answer was fashion. And so we would think about problems like should target enter Food and Grocery? How do we create a beauty section that resonates for our diverse customers. And so I was really there thinking about ways to create new programs, ways to grow the business. And I loved that part of it. And so my husband works at the federal government. And by while we were in Minneapolis, he had an opportunity to come back to the DC area. And I started looking in the DC area to say, you know, what are the customer focused companies there, where I could take what I loved, which was thinking about people, and helping them kind of whether it's like their day to day lives, improve it through what they buy at a retail store, or something deeper, and Marriott came to the top of my list. It was one of the few hotel companies here at the time, it's grown this area has grown quite a bit for hospitality now with Hilton and Choice up here. But at the time, Marriott was really the biggest and best player. And so I remember going into Marriott and interviewing for a couple opportunities. And there was one in retail, doing work it at that time. This is 13 years ago, retail stores within our hotels. And then there was another opportunity that was really interesting. And they were telling me at that time, it's a new division that we're starting. And we brought together the most creative people in the company. And it's going to be called Creative operations. And I just said sounds like an oxymoron. Exactly, Alex, that's what I thought too. And I thought this was really interesting. But they were really interested in my experience and innovation and creating new programs at Target. And so I said, You know what, let me go there, because that feels like I have the ability to grow and do many things within hotels, not just staying within a retail lane. And so I joined the team and that team evolved over the course of you know, 13 years to become really focused on corporate innovation. In my last kind of prior to leading Homes & Villas I led the enterprise Innovation function for the company. And we were really tasked with innovation big, medium, and small. And I remember, you know, my very early days there, we were doing everything from brainstorming names for our newest and latest brands. And so if anyone's up on point number, you'll know the Autograph Collection. Yeah. And so I think it was like my first month there, I sat in a room and they're like, we've got this new brand. Let's think of a name for it. And so we would start brainstorming it to visioning. What's the future of the meeting experience for the company? What should the future wellness be? We just entered all inclusive. So my team led a lot of the experience design around what does that experience look like when you're at a Ritz Carlton versus when you're at a Delta hotel? And, you know, one of the innovations that emerged out of my time there was Homes & Villas. And so you know, being in the world of innovation, my job was to oftentimes look at the future. What is it that customers are doing? What are they buying what's changing? And we saw the sharing economy really take off, right? I love telling this story. People used to sit, I would tell them, like the world has changed a lot. If you asked us 20 years ago, like one of the biggest tenants that your mom tells you never get into a stranger's car. Its what we do all the time, right?! I mean, things have completely changed. And so in innovation, we saw like the shift towards the sharing economy, this desire for like deeper, slower, longer travel, and experiences. And we knew the growth was happening very early on. So this was like 2017, where we're beginning to do some deeper looks there. And that's when we began to see hey, you know, there's a growth and there's a particular reason why at that time, over a quarter of our customers, were leaving a Marriott property and instead going to rent a home. And so we began to develop new ideas and concepts. We had a travel incubater, one of the startups and it was a property management company. And so we had an incubator, we did it with 1776 and Accenture. They were one of our finalists, we launched a pilot with them. And so when I was leading enterprise innovation, our job was to say, like, what's the newest, greatest latest thing? What are consumers shifting towards that we need to be mindful of, and how we test and create new things there. And so we did everything from Alexa in hotel rooms to chatbots. But this one held a pretty special place in my heart, which is like how do we better respond to this growth in popularity around vacation rentals? And, and the sharing economy broadly? And we kind of defined? Well, there's some things that we're not comfortable with, we're not comfortable with sharing a home with somebody who you don't know, right? And so, in the very early stages, when we were doing the concept we were trying to think through like what is it that's in our core values at Marriott? Then what's the promise that we make to our customers, just with a brand, it's a promise around trust, it's a promise around quality, safety, security, all of those things? And then how do you enter a space like this in a way that still holds that promise true to our guests. And so we came up with a concept with this startup, really pilot called Attribute Portfolio Homes. We launched it in 2018. I think we'd like built it really fast. And we launched it in 2018. With them, we test we started in London, we expanded into a few other cities like Paris, Rome, and Portugal, and Lisbon and Portugal. And that worked really well. Like it resonated for our customers. People love the experience. We loved working with that property management company. And so then we made a pitch to make this like a, it's no longer a pilot, let's go from idea to a pilot to business. And that's when we pitched Homes & Villas and got the approval, I think, December of 2018 and six really intense, crazy months, built it based off that pilot we had. And then we launched Homes & Villas in 2019. And so my journey Marriott has been phenomenal. It's been really about thinking about customers, new products and experiences, new ideas, tests, and then I got the privilege to take this test and build a business out of it.

Annie Holcombe:

The target thing I have to go back to that because I'm oh yeah

Alex Husner:

yeah Really,

Jenny Hsieh:

I love that company.

Annie Holcombe:

Thank you for what you did to make me want to shop there incessantly and go go in for one item and come out with a car. Just don't mean, right? Like that I've met you now, because so I like what a great like, what a great arc for your life. I mean, just so much so much out there. So when you when you did this startup, and you pitched it, I mean, again, as Alex said, you know, you're you're a startup within this giant well established organization. How did that evolve? And I mean, that had to be pretty daunting to want go in and honestly, like, we need to start this whole little business that might be perceived as a conflict, because it probably was

Jenny Hsieh:

oh, my gosh, Annie really, really good question. So first, you can't go in there and be like, I think I want to start, you gotta go in there. Like, we have to be in this business, right? Like, I'm gonna share with you data on why this is going to be relevant for us and right for our guests. And so I think, you know, it's interesting, because I do see a difference between entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs. And one of the things that I love about the vacation rental industry is it's so full of people like minded with me, which is entrepreneurs, like people who like to start businesses who evolved, who chang who pivot. I also earned probably with like, 10, hard years of like, learning how to create new things, and a very operationally driven company. Yeah. And I'd learned lessons very early on, I think. And I had to learn those lessons to get an understanding of true operations in our hotel and understanding of stakeholder preferences. I remember this really, like fun and light and what I thought would could be a really easy project early on in my career, where we were trying to make our hotels more family friendly, and encourage more the kids days, etc. And, and we said, hey, look, something really simple that we think the hotels can do is just, you guys should do like a milk, just like you do cocktail hour. Sometimes there should be a milk and cookie hour, right? Yeah, families right before bedtime, get the kids in? Yeah, we did that, right. And then I learned, like early lessons, because then someone turned around, and they're like, Sure, we could do that. But here's what you would need to do. Every cookie wouldn't have to be individually packaged and labeled. Oh, my God, we need to have a staff person there standing, distributing the cookies to make sure that's an adult, and there weren't any food allergies, you would also have to install a refrigerator to hold the milk, which has to be individually packaged and etc, etc. Right? And then I said, You know what, forget it.

Alex Husner:

Creative and operations don't normally go together.

Jenny Hsieh:

I had to learn very early on like heres, kind of the complexity of this organization. And here's the complexity of rolling things out. And a lot of your listeners will feel and hear that as well. Because you'll people will come to you with ideas like why don't you do this for your customers? And it's complicated to roll out at Yeah,

Alex Husner:

right there. It sounds like something you'd want to do, but the execution of it can be That's

Jenny Hsieh:

right. And so I learned some very early lessons. And those were all helpful to me and actually pitching this, what I really think is a game changing idea. And, and you can't pitch it full in its fullest view all at once. Right? We very early on kind of laid the groundwork for people this to learn kind of the language of innovation, which is like let's test let's learn, but small start small. So if we fail, we fail fast. And then we can learn and change and iterate. And so I started small. I started with an idea. I started with a pilot. And I started high. Right? And so like, Annie, you you said it, which is like this idea felt really controversial to an industry that had been in there before. And so, you know, Stephanie Linnartz who's our current president and Arnie Sorenson, who was our fantastic CEO. They knew that they had to be a part of this. They had to really support the growth the test the and they they knew that if you didn't have for an idea, this kind of controversial, different. It wasn't it was just different, right? Yeah. It was easy when we were saying hey, let's build a new brand. That's a hotel and, you know, replicate what we've done, but this was really different. And so you start small. And then you recognize that if you have an idea that has some controversy around it, you make sure that the leadership is ready to stand behind it. And, and that takes time. Like you have to build the case, you have to be able to give them data that says, you know, 27% of our guests are leaving our portfolio to go rent homes. And then I always used to start my presentation with how many of you have rented a home? Oh, that number has changed materially? Oh, my gosh, we see, you would see a good number of hands go up in the company. And in that's pretty telling, because like, when you work with Marriott, you have the most amazing associate rates and our hotels, right? Yeah. And so like, it's not a financial choice, right? Yes. Financially, you probably would do better renting like three rooms, right? So it was a product choice. Like it was a choice. When I asked people well, I did you rent a home? And the answer is always, well, we had a big group, we wanted to spend time together for a family reunion. We call it trip purpose. Yeah. And so you have to make a really good case. And, and then you do a little prayer. You know, it's like, you've got to do everything you can do to be ready for it. But then you also have to have a little bit of luck on your side.

Alex Husner:

Yeah, absolutely. And I think the heart of all of this comes down to the brand. And obviously Marriott has done an incredible job. And I think you touched on earlier, when you were trying to think of what brands you would want to work for and Marriott came to mind, I can understand that feeling. So the Marriott really is just in my mind is just such a respected company. And I've read so much about Bill Marriott and Arne Sorenson, and just just the leadership team and how they built the business. It's just it's very intriguing to me. And I think how they've expanded into these multiple different hotel brands has been really interesting that there are so many times now that I travel that I booked something and then I don't even realize it's Marriott until I get there. Because it's Moxie or you know, there's so many different different versions now that it's really interesting. But the way that you've tied it together, I think it makes a lot of sense. And it makes sense why you brought Homes & Villas onto into that whole family of brands because people that love Marriott, they want to book with Marriott. And if you don't give them those options, you have the potential of losing that customer, right. So it's really listening to your customers what they're asking for. And knowing that, you know, bookings are situational. My husband and I, when we travel, we'd mostly stay in hotels, because it's just the two of us. But if we're going somewhere with a group of friends, then we'll book you know, a cabin or beach home. So having those options and making it easy, especially through your rewards program. It just brings all of it full circle. But I'm sure that the early days were a little bit chaotic. And I think, to say the least,

Annie Holcombe:

to say the least. Yeah, it was.

Jenny Hsieh:

I mean, a lot of technology, glitches, but we got there. Yeah. And

Alex Husner:

the technology, we'll get to that in a second too. So that's a whole nother whirlwind. But I for from the outside, it seems like the biggest difference between the two, there's a lot of similarities to Marriott is essentially a franchise model company you don't own these hotels are very, very few of them. Right? There's only a handful. Yeah, so it's a similar concept. But the main difference is that you're not, you're if you're looking at a property management company, they're kind of like one of your franchises. But the difference is that you don't have full control over it. Right. So you are part of their distribution, which is different than a franchise where you really have oversight on to pretty much every part of the business. But that would be kind of my next segment is how, what was that process like learning how you're going to bring property managers into the ecosystem? And just what were the biggest surprises when you started having those conversations and pulling the properties in? And I know there's been a lot of revelations, but like, what, how did that how did that process go?

Jenny Hsieh:

Well, you know, one of the things which I love Alex, is you really understood the nuance of our business model, which is different than any other competitor out there, right? We only work with professional property management companies, right? That is our differentiator. It's our position. It is how we see success. And we did build that model off of what we do with our franchisees, right and so in some ways, this idea that we have, which is at its heart, like we build the brand, we build the channels we have the customer base, and then we build the standards, the These are the things we expect our partners to do. And then we go out and find the best partners in the world to be able to, to do that. And they work with us and we grow together. Now, one of the things you said, which I was like, Oh, that would be so nice, which is like our hotel franchisees, we have full control over the case. Are you doing okay? Theory, not the case in theory, right? Yeah, I but what what is true, though, is like they fly a hard flag that is like, it's the aloft or it's the resonance in or it's the Westin, whatever that may be. Whereas in this model, so we have a similar model, which is, our job is to, and we're in the marketplace very intentionally as a hospitality company, which is very different than our competitors, who are tech companies. And as a tech company that promises like, we're going to create a marketplace that brings demand and supply together, and we're going to do our best and kind of facilitating with that, with the technology that's on our position, our position is, we're going to curate the best homes, and the best partners from a professional property management perspective to support you for your day for our guests, right? Yeah, we're gonna curate that. And so we go through kind of the process of trying to find kind of best partners. And it is, while we take inspiration from our franchise model, I'd say like the model that we have in Hanson villas is a much lighter version of it. Right? Yeah. franchise agreements are hundreds of pages long. Yeah, standards are fairly exhausted. Right. And so And what's so funny is I laugh. And I say, even though we know it's a light version relative to the industry, Oh, yeah. So like, heavy. You can just kind of sitting in the middle of in some ways. And so we we have a model where we believe strongly that professional property managers really are fantastic. And the work they do, and I spent a lot of time during the early phases of our pilot before the pilot doing the research, spending time with property managers of walking the houses following on operations, looking at the back of the house, how do you manage keys? How do you manage linen deployment? Yeah. And I think one of the things that we recognize early on is, it is not the same as running a hotel. No, it is completely different. And so it is one thing to have, you know, I often talk about it. And I still think the same thing applies for us, right? In a good hotel. Housekeeping is the backbone of hotels, yeah, if you don't have really great housekeeping, you have nothing, everything kind of falls apart around it,

Alex Husner:

you can have great marketing, but if you don't have people that are doing the operations and the housekeeping, if nothing, yeah,

Jenny Hsieh:

cleanliness is like King, right. And so we have that same principle, and I would watch our partners. And so this is why my background on studying people and customers and loving to see how things work, we spent a lot of time with our partners, watching the day to day learning and seeing their expertise. And we appreciated the fact that it is not at all like what hotels do. Like in hotels, sometimes you have a housekeeping staff who's phenomenal. And they've been at your hotel for a dozen years, and they've cleaned that same room for a dozen years, and you've got you know, linen getting deployed all within a stack in that building. It's a very different proposition when you've got, you know, dozens of homes across Myrtle Beach. And those homes are like 10 Plus bedrooms, and you need to deploy a team and then you need to get linens, and you need to get equipment from place to place. And so I think one of the things that was very, like true to kind of how we think about innovation and creating new things is we got very tight with our professional property management partners. We watched we toured, we observe we spent time and we we saw that was quite different. And then we adjusted our expectations. Right. And we said, you know, there are some things are which Marriott brings a lot of expertise, and that is round brands and building standards and ensuring safety and understanding our customer. Then there are other things that we think our property manager partners are much better at. They bring the history and the expertise. And that's the model that we're going to do. And we frankly need to celebrate the ones who do it really well. Elevate the ones we think are really close, but not quite there yet. And then, you know, recognize that there are going to be some partners that we won't ever work with. And that's okay, because you know, there's a match for every type of product. And so when we started working with those partners and sharing kind of insights, I think, you know, the biggest aha and the early aha was was how different some elements that businesses you and how we needed to make adjustments to really accommodate those. Like when you get to a hotel and you want to check in early, or checkout

Alex Husner:

late, yeah. Oh, yeah, that's hard, right? Yeah, don't

Jenny Hsieh:

do that when it comes to us. And we can't force that, right. You can't say, Hey, I've got a titanium member, and they want to check in early doesn't work,

Alex Husner:

I wish we could offer those things easily or more easily now, because we get FOMO, reading all the articles about how we can better use upsells and things of that, yeah, it's really not as executable within vacation rentals as it hotels. But especially, I mean, a lot of the destinations that you're in, those are Saturday turned a location. So it's like, on Saturdays in the summer, we're turning 500 condos. So you know that the operations that goes behind that is really, it's quite incredible. But I really think you hit it on the market. It's the experience that has built property managers over the years, by by trying and failing and getting you know, sometimes our sometimes our processes, they might seem from the outside that they're not, you know, the perfect standards, but really, they get the job done. And it's every every company does things differently, that's the really hard part too. And just because one company does it differently doesn't mean that it could still be delivering the same level of service, but it's just how it how it's been built behind, it could be different versus hotels, there's so much more that is standard on the back end of how it operates.

Jenny Hsieh:

Well, and that's part of like, if you think about our what we call our select Service hotels, like The Residence Inns, The Courtyards, those are prototypes. So they're the same product, replicate it in many parts of the world. Whereas, you know, we are like snowflakes, every house is different. And it is like sometimes you can't like it's really great when you have a housekeeping team that knows a home. Right? Yeah, and is consistent with that home, because they will know that cobwebs tend to collect and leaves tend to collect in this corner of the balcony that looks terrible when the guests gets there. So I'm going to make sure that's taken care of right. And so yeah, so different. But you know, on the balance, we also hear it from our property management companies like they still want to learn, they know we have 95 years of hospitality experiments. And there are things that you know, we have done over the past few years like we have a deep relationship with EcoLabs. So we did right when COVID happened a big educational workshop on like, what does it mean to clean in the age of COVID? Right? What are the right type of chemicals, and what's the right method. We've had classes or sections that we've done with specific property managers, when they get some cleanliness challenges on scores, we can support them with like a housekeeping kind of refresh. And we get experts in that tell you like for your housekeeping team, here's the path that is the most efficient for how they go about and clean a house. And so those partners can take those tips and apply them or choose to say, You know what, that's a really good tip, but it doesn't necessarily fit. Our job is to kind of share the information and hopefully elevate the way our partners operate.

Annie Holcombe:

You know, one, one thing, I think that would be really interesting, and I had worked at a Marriott Resort years ago, in my hotel days in the 90s. And one of the things I loved about working for Marriott was the training that we got, like the the customer service training, and the sales, training and all the different aspects of it. And it would be really great if that was something that you could offer, because I know that you talk to property managers, and everybody has a hard time retaining staff. But I think it's also about training that staff and training them efficiently and understanding the various ways to train them. And I think that they just get so mired in the details of running the business that that's something that they maybe don't they want to do, but they don't focus on or have the time to do so your partners could probably access. You know, some of that spirit is just like the best at those skill sets.

Jenny Hsieh:

And we have like this is the beauty of being like there are pros and cons to being part of a big enterprise cons, sometimes things move a little slower. But pros are We have world class experts. And so we have world class experts at building interactive training. And you know, we have world class experts at service. I mean, for goodness sakes, we have the Ritz Carlton, right, they have a full like Institute on how you deliver service. And so one of the things that we are often thinking about, and we're not quite there yet, right, we've been these are all the opportunities that we have is how do we bring more service driven courses and make those available because we know there's some truths in hospitality service that we have that I don't think aren't quite as in place within the vacation rental industry, right. And so it's this notion like we know from being in hotels that when something goes wrong, service recovery is critical. And that when you recover that error, that customer will give you a higher score than if they had not had that problem. So we know the value of service recovery. But I don't know that in the vacation rental industry that we're quite there yet, right? Because when something goes wrong, it's like, Oh, my goodness, I gotta get out. And you know, do X, Y, and Zed. And it's just I think some of its like logistics, its operations, its staffing model. But there are things that are truth that I think have truths across industry and service recovery and how you care for your customers, I think is a big one, as

Alex Husner:

Yeah, yeah, I in our industry, or in our business, at least, I can say the exact same thing that honestly, some of the best reviews that I read are something that went wrong and how we handled it. And that's a really good way to look at it, especially in today's day and age where a lot of guests don't check in at your office anymore. So unless something goes wrong, it's almost like you're it's like a blessing in disguise when something goes wrong, because it gives you that opportunity to fix it. But it's Yeah, I think overall, just there seems to me just to be a really big opportunity for Marriott to help our whole industry from the communication and conversation standpoint of how do we how do we learn from you? How do we work together? I mean, I think it's when you came in, I remember when you presented in New Orleans in 2019. I think that was like the official launch, right?

Jenny Hsieh:

It was the official launch.

Alex Husner:

You did a great job. I remember watching that presentation, man like gosh they have nailed it with this. Like, there's just so much that makes sense about it. But I think our industry has been pretty welcoming to what you've put together and knowing that there's a lot of value. There's a lot of value for companies to say to their homeowners that they're partners with Marriott. I mean, that's like, oh, boy, because they can't do that on their own right.

Jenny Hsieh:

Oh, there's so many. I can't tell you how many times I get a Bonvoy customer who is so excited. They're like my housemate and on your platform, or I have a brother who has a house in Myrtle Beach, and they're on and so they want to figure out if they can get a picture with a logo. Yeah, sure. But, I mean, it is fantastic. And that's because like, people are proud. It's the brand that we built. Yeah. It's any standards. Yeah, it is.

Annie Holcombe:

Yeah, I have friend who travels. She works for a government contractor. So she travels constantly. And so she's accruing her bonvoy phones all over the place. And when they come company, Alexa is one that I look forward to my manager. Once we started working with Marriott, she was like, Okay, so can you help me find a place or I am allowed to use my points to use my points? How

Alex Husner:

does this work? Right? Yeah, exactly a

Annie Holcombe:

game changer for her because there are some trips where she, before her daughter went to college, she took her daughter on some trips together, so they can just, you know, experience these towns like Arizona like Sedona and those type of things that she was like, it'd be so great if I could bring my whole family on these trips in the summer. And so they've done some of that now, where they've, she's been able to take the whole family to be able to rent because it otherwise I would have a boys and a girl multiple logistically, it's just hard to do all that. So it was a game changer for her. And just the surprise and delight every time that she was able to use those points. And it's just such a

Jenny Hsieh:

that's so good. I love that. It reminds me of the great, story when I actually felt like I made it. And I feel like our cable had gone down or something. And this was just a couple of years ago, we were like a few months past the pandemic. And so maybe him to villas was maybe a year old and year and a half old. And I had a female cable kind of repair person come in. And she and I were just chatting. And she's like, Oh, you work at Marriott. And I was like, oh, yeah, I work at Marriott. She's like, you would not believe I had the most awesome experience. Like, my son and I were going to do a trip away to Vegas at one of your hotels, but then the pandemic hit and we weren't really comfortable. And they had this amazing new product called homes and villas. And so we took my look at that home. And so she didn't know what I didn't Marriott. Like, that's like, how did you kid and I prayed and she's like, it was great. And then when I never told her what I did, yeah, like, that was when I felt like I made it as a business. Like when my cable woman came and was like, there was this awesome product that Marriotts offering and now I you know, it's like, oh my gosh, it's validated,

Annie Holcombe:

validated what you wanted to do. That's right. Yeah.

Jenny Hsieh:

That's great.

Alex Husner:

You know,one of the themes that we talk about a lot is just I mean, the overall brand of the professionally managed vacation rental industry and how we have just been kind of grouped into Airbnb, just whether you're professional manager or not, and the implications that that's had, you know, trying to be proactive and positive on how we reframe that, that opinion and just the story of what we tell, how can Marriott help help with that? You know, like, how can we figure out a way that Marriott is a big brand to, right? And I mean, obviously, Airbnb is huge. But you guys, if anybody can, can help us in a way that is mutually beneficial, I feel like it would be a Marriott. But do you have any thoughts on how we how we brand the industry? Since you guys are so good at it and make it into its own? its own thing?

Jenny Hsieh:

Yeah, I think it can some little bit about back to kind of the core identity. My identity at Homes & Villas is this is a hospitality business. At the end of the day, it's not Yeah, it's this right. And I think the vacation rental industry, and it's heart is really about hospitality, it's about can consider for your guests, and taking care of people when they're on probably a vacation they've been saving up for for many years. And it's probably a really important vacation. And so I do think that there is a lot of value in making sure that you, you continue to think about hospitality at the forefront. And there's a lot of hype these days, sometimes, like with tech and growth and scale. And all of those things that become important and has made the vacation rental industry kind of short term rentals is the fastest growing sector within the accommodations, right. And it's easy for kind of the media and the analysts to think about it as you know, all these tech startups, and you're gonna suddenly come up with an app where you know, nobody,

Alex Husner:

exactly. million. I haven't seen it happen yet, but it's there.

Jenny Hsieh:

So I think that that gets sometimes distracting from or what the industry really needs to be about. And that is about taking care of guests in a way that is consistent, reliable, human, right. And so I think, like, if anything, that's what I would encourage the industry or the collective of us to say, like, this is what we're about, we're about hospitality. Yeah, we're not about the tech that just exists. Like, at the end of the day, these are humans, these are people's homes, they're going to great, great experiences for you. So that's what I would encourage.

Alex Husner:

Yeah, and I just, I feel like there's such an opportunity there, because you touched on earlier. And it looks like it's easier, or it's easy to come in and put an app in place that can eliminate the people there. And I think there's a lot of the investors and the new people that are getting into this new thing called short term rentals, which we know it's not new. And they are just assuming, okay, we can go in and we can streamline processes by using technology that these mom and pops have not been doing. And so inherently that's going to make a better guest experience. But I doubt that that really has not come to fruition in the same way that we're all able to deliver hospitality. And I think that's where, with the Mario's background as a hospitality company, that's these are the conversations we need to be having to make that click

Jenny Hsieh:

those folks who were saying that probably haven't been stuck outside at home. Right, exactly. And the Wi Fi is down, right? And yeah, and so and you know, you're in a really tough place if you can't get in touch with anybody to say, because like things like that happen all the time. But if you don't have like a lifeline to say, hey, look, to the property management company, I need some help. Or sometimes if they can't reach the property management company, they reach us. And so for as at homes and villas, like our customers know that we're there as a safety net. And so things aren't always flawless. We try and design it, and we have great partners who try and get there but stuff happens. And that's why we're here to help in terms of just, you know, catching folks when something unexpected

Alex Husner:

happens. Yeah.

Annie Holcombe:

So so in that in not being perfect, but you're as close to perfect as we could possibly imagine somebody coming in this is doing not being in a very, very long time. What do you think are like some of the opportunities and maybe struggles and challenges that you've had in building Homes & Villas not only just, you know, again, a complementary style business within a business woman presenting this business in a fatality is a fairly male dominated and is

Jenny Hsieh:

it is a male dominated industry. So I mean, I think you know, what's interesting when you come into this space, is it from a business perspective? And you all I'm sure I've been in companies that feel this way like people want to know if you're going to succeed and what your long term plan is that the game?

Alex Husner:

Yeah, exactly. So yeah, sometimes their long term plan is making it till tomorrow.

Jenny Hsieh:

And so I happen to talk about like, I'm a toddler. I'm a three and a half year old. And I've changed a lot in the last three and a half years. And I've done it hopefully for the better, because I've learned from great partners out there. And so I think one of the challenges is like, we grew, we came in and we grew fast, because we knew when we started, we had 2000 homes. That's not enough, right? We had millions of customers, all right. They're like, Yeah, okay, I want to go to you know, Port Aransas, which we didnt have a hotel in Port Aransas, a lot of Texans who are part of our members and and if we only had like 20 house in Port Aransas, and you wanted to go during like a peak season, when kids were out of school and you want to have pool, you weren't. So like, we quickly learned, okay 2000 is not enough data to be able to respond to our customers needs and be in places where they want to go and then enough depth. And I think that that was a real fast lesson we learned right? And then we quickly said, All right, like our technology is not at the level that we need it to be we can't we need to broaden our opportunities and begin to scale. And so I think we took that as the second opportunity and said, Okay, how do we not only grows, the pie, which is the homes we have in the right places, but also make our technology better to make that growth a little bit easier. We continue to grow, we're a global business, we just launched some pretty stunning homes in Kuala Lumpur for and the Netherlands. And, you know, I want to be able to like whether you're a US citizen that wants to go over to Asia Pacific or to Europe or for European who wants to come to the US, I want to be able to be in all the places that you're at, that you want to go to. And so that's a big opportunity for us. And I think the other big opportunity is with growth and fast growth is we always have to continue to monitor the quality component, right? Our business got built on three Big Insights and painpoints that customers sold us. Customers came to us and they said, hey, look, I want a home. But every time I searched 1000s of things come back and I can't figure out what's good and what's not good, right? Yeah. And so that's why we curate. And then the second thing they said is like, and when I do book, these homes, I'm booking on behalf of a bunch of friends from college, or my extended family. And if I mess up and we arrive at that home, and it doesn't look like what the picture said there, me

Alex Husner:

absolutely the person. It's a big role. Yeah. Yeah. And then the

Jenny Hsieh:

third thing was like they were telling us, Look, I'm afraid that when something goes wrong, and I'm at the home, there's no one that's going to help me because the person I rented it from is now at a ski trip an unavailable. Yeah. And so we built that business on those three insights, we need to make sure as we continue to grow the business in terms of scale, that we're still staying true to those customer insights, like those promises that we make, saw pain points for our guests, continue to kind of be true in our business. Otherwise, it's, you know, you lose your purpose. Right. And so that is the big thing. I think the other thing, like being a woman in this industry is definitely different, you know, and being in the hospitality industry is one thing, going into a new industry like short term rentals, that's pretty kind of it's a small world, like, everybody knows everybody else. It really. And so, you know, it's interesting, you have to be confident in what you stand for and your values. And recognize that, you know, there may be folks out there sometimes, and I conflate the two, but I don't necessarily think that they're totally different that may say, I don't know if she knows totally what she's talking about, or does she really understand the industry? And so I could challenge to like, do those questions get posed to male leaders who are in industry? Right, right. Yeah. And so, I think, you know, really understanding who you are, what your values are, what your business is about, what you hold firm, I think is important. I think really being collaborative, understanding that just because we're Marriott, it doesn't mean we're the smartest folks in the room. It means like you would get great partners out there. Let's listen to them. And let's understand and so I think it's a balance of both those you have to go in confident and understand your value. Use and be sure of kind of what you stand for and what your business needs and what's kind of your North Star. Yeah. And then also being really humble and understanding, like, you know, this is an area that we're learning and growing, and we're continuing to refine as we go. So I try to navigate using both of those. Yeah. And a woman's well together definitely is different. I Yeah.

Alex Husner:

Well, I think you Marriott has done a really great job of being that vulnerable and being honest and humble about things that I don't think when you came in, it seemed like you were saying, You knew everything about this, and you had been planning this and plotting for years that this was going to take over the whole industry. But I think you've made changes to the program, you know, throughout the years. And that's been based on the feedback that you've gotten from property managers, which that shows, you know, the the intent and the willingness to work with all of us, because at the end of the day, you've made it clear Marriott's not gonna go out and buy a bunch of homes. So if you want the product, you have to be able to work with the people that are cultivating that product and build those relationships that are mutually beneficial. So I think your approach to it is, is excellent, but you're incredibly inspiring leader. And one other question I wanted to ask was before target and what what got you out it? How did you even get there? I mean, like, what did you have role models or mentors, along your journey that have have pushed you and motivated you?

Jenny Hsieh:

You know, it's been interesting, I like, I've had the most eclectic set of role models. Right? Like, my very first one is this tiny, British MD PhD man who like focused on quality. And he's the one that like, taught me the fundamentals of like, great process, great systems, great structure. And then as I got through kind of my career, I've had many women leaders who I look to who, you know, I watch everyone's style. And every job I pick up, like, here are the two or three things that I'd love that this person does that I really want to bring into kind of my ethos. I've often chosen jobs for people, the leader, I choose to go based on where I think there's somebody that I can learn from my, my path to this role, and this life, you know, has been very wiggly. When I was in college, I studied biology and art history, neither of which

Alex Husner:

are relevant now, to what I do.

Jenny Hsieh:

personal passions, but there's something about just really like, when you look at people, people get so caught up sometimes and what I call the corporate ladder, or the career ladder, like how do I get from manager to senior manager to director and then keep going up? I didn't get so wrapped up about it. I really thought about now. Absolutely. Am I ambitious? Yes. Am I ambitious about what I can do and what my business can do and what our company can do for our guests? Yes. But I wasn't very focused on being an expert in one thing, and getting up that ladder really fast. I kind of took the time to say like, what I love doing, what brings me joy? And then how do I bring together a team of people who have the same values, who care about customers who care about our guests who care about partners? And how do I build like an ecosystem, because life's too short to not love your job and not love the people that you work with? And so I totally agree, you know, the goal is to get to a position where you can, like, create that for yourself or be a part of that. And so, in my career choice, I've often thought about, like, do I love what I'm doing every day? Do I find purpose in it to win love the people I'm working for? And can I learn from that particular leader? And so that's just what guides me and then I took a really wiggly path. But it's worked out. Well.

Alex Husner:

That's yeah. Perfect, wonderful advice. I mean, yeah, and purpose. That's what it really comes down to

Annie Holcombe:

Alex and I talk a lot about the signs, like you just recognize the signs along the way that kind of lead you down the path. But that doesn't necessarily mean it's going to be a straight path to get you where you are. And it's the benefit of hindsight that you realize all of those pieces. were put in your patht. exactly the reason that you needed them now.

Alex Husner:

Yeah, you can connect the dots until you're looking at that. Yeah.

Annie Holcombe:

What would you tell what would you tell your? I think I saw that you went to University of Virginia, did youo grow up in Virginia.

Jenny Hsieh:

I did. I'm a double who I went. Oh, wow.

Annie Holcombe:

Wow, I grew up in Virginia and I have a lot of friends that went to UVA and like, and I will say that all the girls that came out of UVA, very driven, very passionate, very amazing, all amazing women, so whatever they are great school.

Jenny Hsieh:

Its in the water, waht they put in there. But yeah, it's really good. I mean, and Annie what you said, I mean, that's one thing I would tell people like, as you look at other like Junior female leaders that are coming up, sometimes when you're in the woods, you can't see the forest from the trees, you can't connect the dots. And that's when a really good mentor is there to help you to say, All right, take a step back and look about like, what makes you happy? What has the highest growth potential? And then those are the types of things that I think are really important, not just for other female leaders, but all the people who are just like people. Yeah, yeah, step back and kind of help people connect the dots for them. Because, you know, I'm fortunate to have had the wisdom of lots of wiggly paths and things where I've like done things that I've read retrospectively. Oh, I probably wasn't like time well spent. And then other things. Were just like, Wow, that really worked out.

Alex Husner:

Yeah. That catapulted you to where you are.

Annie Holcombe:

Yeah, it all made you who you are, and the great learder that you are. So you've helped us connect a lot of dots to you and to Marriott, and, and your experience, and we can't thank you enough for your time. And we know you're very busy. And you've got a lot going on. And I believe we will see you soon in Vegas at the VRMA. Yeah, absolutely excited about that. So for anyone who wants to get in touch with you, what's the best way to

Jenny Hsieh:

reach you reach me on LinkedIn, or you can feel free to always email me it's jennifer.hsieh@marriott.com.

Alex Husner:

Perfect, right? We will include that in the show notes. And if anybody wants to contact Annie and I, you can go to Alex and Annie podcast.com. And, Jenny, thank you so much. This has been such a pleasure. And we look forward to seeing you next month just in a couple of weeks, actually at VRMA.

Annie Holcombe:

So I've really enjoyed it.

Jenny Hsieh:

Thank you both.

Alex Husner:

Thank you. Thanks, everybody, for tuning in. And we'll talk to you next time.

Jennifer Hsieh Profile Photo

Jennifer Hsieh

Vice President Homes & Villas by Marriott International

Jennifer is Vice President of Homes & Villas by Marriott International, leading the development and growth of Marriott’s first entry into the home rental business. The launch of Homes & Villas brings thousands of premium and luxury homes in global destinations for Marriott Bonvoy members, expanding choice in accommodation for all their travel needs. Prior to this role, Jennifer served as VP, CX Innovation, guiding enterprise innovation for the largest hotel company in the world. In her role, she brought together innovation, business strategy, and a deep understanding of consumers to innovate for Marriott’s portfolio of 30 brands. Since joining Marriott, Jennifer has delivered market industry-leading concepts in meetings, reimagined the food & beverage experience in our hotels, designed and launched new business adjacencies, introduced emerging technologies into guest rooms (voice and Internet of Things) and led Marriott’s pilot into the home-sharing industry. She is a frequent speaker on Innovation, Emerging Technologies, Customer-Centricity, and Future Trends in the Short Term Rental Industry. She was named one of the Top 25 most influential people in the meetings industry in 2014, received a Leadership Award in Innovation by Great Places to Work in 2019 and was recognized as one of ten leaders in The Short-Term Rental Industry 2020: Ones to Watch.

Prior to Marriott, Jennifer led strategic growth initiatives as part of Target Corporation’s Strategy & Innovation division and at Deloitte Consulting, advising on Customer and Market Strategies that drive top-line growth.

Jennifer received her MBA from Darden Business School and BA from the University of Virginia. She resides in Bethesda, MD with her husband and three sons