Sept. 28, 2022

Spotlight on Exceptional Property Managers: Robin Craigen, CEO of Moving Mountains


Robin Craigen and his wife Heather had a unique beginning in their hospitality journey that started on the high seas with their luxury yacht charter business. During this time, they developed a formula for creating exceptional guest experiences that would later lead them to trade their swim trunks and flippers for snow suits and ski poles. They moved to Steamboat Springs and opened a ski chalet business with just 2 properties, applying the same principles they learned from the yacht business to help vacationers from around the world experience the beauty of the Colorado mountains.

Fast forward several years and Moving Mountains has lived up to their name – rated as one of the Top 100 Places to Work by Outside Magazine, their team now manages nearly 200 luxury rentals in Steamboat Springs, Vail, Beaver Creek and Breckenridge. Robin shares stories of building the business and their incredible team, acquisitions, technology decisions and how keeping a close watch on their financial hygiene has enabled their long term growth strategy.

This episode is part of our Spotlight on Exceptional Property Managers, brought to you by 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 ROBIN CRAIGEN
robin@movingmountains.com
Moving Mountains
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 vacation rentals. I'm Alex. And I'm Annie. And we are joined today with Robin Craigen, who is the co founder and CEO of moving mountains. Robin, welcome to the show.

Robin Craigen:

Thank you. Thank you, Alex.

Alex Husner:

So this episode is part of our series Wheelhouse's spotlight on exceptional property managers. And I don't know if we could think of anybody better than Robin to have his the first episode for this because truly exceptional. And we got the pleasure of meeting you at the executive summit, but had heard a lot about you. Up until that point, I just followed you on LinkedIn. And our good friend Simon Lehman, of course, always just speaks so highly of you, and just seeing your properties from his visits out to Colorado, that's just makes me want to go visit you all. Yes. For our listeners that are not familiar with you and moving mountains, can you just give us a little bit of your history?

Robin Craigen:

Sure. So we founded the company, my wife, and I, Heather, we founded the company back in 1997. And up to that point, we had a career, it was quite quite a lot of fun, running a luxury 72 foot yacht in the British Virgin Islands. And we always talk about that as that is the place where I feel like we've truly discovered hospitality, what we could bring to the guest experience. And one of the things that we really hooked into was, we were having a lot of fun, we're in the most beautiful part of the world that you could possibly do a sailing trip. And we realized just how much we could bring to the guests experience, and how rewarding it was for us to hear that guest who had the potential to travel anywhere in the world for them to say, you know, that was one of the best vacations we've ever had. And I feel like that is a kind of a thread that has run consistently through everything we have done since then. But, you know, we we met in the islands, and we were running the boat together, we fell in love and got married. And we decided that you know, they, their future plans involved a family. And when you live and work on a boat, you realize that that's not really the environment. So we hit on the idea of why not translate this concept, you know, this hospitality concept that we were doing on the yacht? Why not try and translate that into land based experience. And we hooked into the idea of doing that in Colorado. And we clued in to doing that into Steve in Steamboat Springs, because we had some guests early on in our time on the yacht that were from Steamboat. And the entire time they were with us, they just kept on talking about this incredible place in the mountains of Colorado. And you have to come and this would be a perfect concept. And so, one day kind of acting almost on a whim, we jumped on a plane and flew open discovered steamboat and that was the beginning of what's nearly a 25 year journey now. Wow, that's

Alex Husner:

incredible.

Annie Holcombe:

You traded and you traded in flippers, and swim trunks for snowsuits and skiis

Alex Husner:

yeah, it is a pretty big isnt like you went to Destin or Panama.

Annie Holcombe:

That's a big change.

Robin Craigen:

This definitely is the furthest I've ever lived from the ocean. And the saying we use quite often is it's like we swallowed the anchor because that is landlocked as you could be but and people were confused in the beginning. You know, sailors were very kind of proud of our sailing routes, and people even jokingly said, You're gonna go work on a steamboat and it's like, Nope, we are gonna go.

Alex Husner:

Oh, that's funny. I bet that would lead to some confusion

Robin Craigen:

or Yeah, yeah, it definitely took some explaining. But it was very much the same concept, you know that you came down the gangplank and got on the yacht. And we really felt like we would take care of everything. We would say to the guests, I'm never going to ask you to put down your book to help us sail the boat. But if you want to, you can be proud of that experience. We just translated all those things into a ski chalet situation where the first property we started with the concept was a fully catered full service ski showing, like staying in a luxury yacht. But this time, it's not moving. But we will essentially do everything for you. Heather is a fantastic chef. And so we would provide the meals breakfast, lunch and dinner and pick you up from the airport, we'd run you to the ski trails. And the more that we dug into it, the more we realized that, you know, we're all about basically solving the challenges of complex vacations. So a ski vacation, it's tough to get there. You got to endure the weather. It can be confusing going to a new destination and we we just translated things that had worked for us on on the boat into how do we make this easier. So we found partners that would deliver skis to the house and instead of lining up in a ski rental store, you have the skis delivered and fitted in. We would always try and have everything kind of ready and set up. So when you start your vacation You're not spending that first day shopping and cooking and organizing kids and retired from traveling, you know, we're just really make it so you're on vacation from the moment you get here. And, you know, that has evolved from one house. And one new concept that was initially a little hard to persuade people to understand, to creating people that have come back with us, some of them over the last 20 years many times and an even like quietly cursed us for saying you ruined it for me, because this is the only way.

Alex Husner:

Wow, that's, that's exciting. So Heather doesn't still cook meals.

Robin Craigen:

No, she doesn't know. Business was very much a mom and pop, it was just the two of us at the beginning. And we literally did everything and we had the one house. And it was only offered as a fully catered chalet that time the business grew in the third year, we took on our second home, we were joined by our crew, crew mate, our first mate from the yacht, and he came in, helped us build up the team. But we realized that there was a better business opportunity and renting people's homes out and offering different levels of service. So we still offer that top tier package. But we started realizing that people really wanted a lot of people wanted just to rent a luxury home and have some things done for them. So I think our mindset was, let us do whatever you think your you need us to do, whether that's just stocking groceries into the house, or just helping you plan every aspect of the space so so that you're not just booking a unit with us, we don't even use that word. He's a home. Yeah. And we're helping you plan the perfect vacation, we've always had that kind of mindset of booking the home is step one, and then the other 50% of the work we do is helping you make sure that you have this great experience from beginning to end. So that's how the business has kind of evolved into now we we manage approximately 200 homes, 4 ski markets, and we have quite a significant staff and we've become quite a significant player in each of the markets that we're in. That's

Alex Husner:

incredible i The similarity I can kind of draw it to in our business is how we do golf packages. And I know with our golfers that come down there it's that's also a complicated trip to plan as these ski vacations are complicated trips to plan for different reasons. I mean, on your end, they're having to coordinate their gear and the tickets and the transportation from the airport for bigger groups. And then the the chef side of it, which is even just more unique. But with with our golfers, you know, typically those are groups of 20 to 30. Guys normally that are coming down, and either they're renting their clubs or shipping their clubs. And it's we do kind of a similar thing that we help them with that whole process or we, you know, the clubs come to our office and we store them for them, bring them to the condo. But at the end of the day, what it's really about is they want to know that they have you there to help with in case anything goes wrong. And I think that's that's the biggest part of the service that we all offer as true hospitality professionals that have done this for a long time. And you guys certainly have done that quite well. My question for you would be for I mean, online bookings for these, or is it mostly online? Are you getting a lot of guests that call because I feel like with ours, on the golf side of things, we do get a lot of phone bookings, because there are so many questions that go along with it.

Robin Craigen:

You know, it does surprise me how the business has changed, which I think is part of that is that the consumers willingness to trust online reservations has changed. And I mean, today, it feels like it's just the norm that people can book 2030 $40,000 Vacations online, they can buy, but that was kind of unheard of even 10 years ago. We've always had a tremendous direct a number a tremendous number of percentage of direct reservations. Yeah. And, you know, we often say that our we get a lot of reservations online, but those are typically after they've had several conversations with Yeah, yeah. Because people don't just click and buy at that kind of number. They sharp and they, as you hear at many conferences, you know, there's many points of attribution that can roll into what eventually turns into a reservation. And whether they found you on Google and maybe checked you out in verbo. And maybe went over and cross check to on Airbnb, and that found your website, and then called you and and then maybe went home and that night, they booked online. And you would say, well, there's an online reservation, but the reality is, yeah, there's a lot more steps there. Yeah, there's many more steps to the process. And I think that's, that's something that we definitely see so we get our fair share of what I recall online, I think online is is The great facilitator, yeah, it's a great way of sharing information and helping people filter down and realize these are the homes that fit the criteria that I'm looking for. But I, I think, you know, it's still something, I think we're still being discovered by, by people, as someone who can actually elevate that experience by not just, you know, we all say that today, everybody has to be their own travel agent, you're kind of expected to buy your own flights and make your own arrangements. So it used to be that a travel expert, who's used to doing that every day of the week, would put that together for you and your friendly travel agent, we package that together with lodging, and everything else. Well, that's all gone away. Now, you're expected to be the master of the flights and all the logistics, and we try to at least take the lodging and the in resort component of that, and make that as seamless as possible. And really, and part of that is also opening up the potential of all the different things that you could do to have the best experience, because I think our guests are coming into it saying, I want to have a great time. I mean, very simply, I want to create memories with my family. And how do I do that. And, you know, traditionally, the way the market is now I think it's kind of on the traveler to discover that. And we see it as our role is, here are the things that you can do, these are the best people to work with, we can shortcut you to success on every aspect of your estate, so that you get a great ski instructor, you get ski rentals from a provider that's going to be on time and professional and show up and, and take care of you and take care of any changes. And you know, there's there's always moving parts to this, you know, that we're maybe arranging our private shuttle service from Denver into the resort that you know is fun and reliable and and exactly what you're looking for. You know, those are all things that are a bit of a gamble for a traveler coming to a new destination. So I really feel like that's where not only are people excited to find someone who can help with all of that. But then that's the reason why they come back year after years, absolutely want to have that same easy vacation experience. Yeah,

Annie Holcombe:

having gone to mountain destination several times. And I'm not a skier, but I certainly love the snow. Trying to put together all of the pieces of it is pretty daunting. Again, just getting up from Denver to the ski resorts is in itself is is a chore. But you mentioned that you're in multiple markets. So you're in Steamboat and where else?

Robin Craigen:

So for 20 years, we were absolutely a Steamboat only company that was the center of the universe for us. But we listened to guests almost from the first year, saying, you know, we'd love this experience. If you were in other markets, we would follow you there in a heartbeat. And in fact, they would say we'd go to Vail or we'd go to Aspen, and we'd be saying who is Moving Mountains in this market. So it took us a long time to feel like we were ready to make that step. But in 2019, having spent a lot of time talking to different operators in the Vail market, we eventually just said, You know what we're putting down a flag in this market, we got a connection to our first home in that market. And we became instead of became, instead of walking in saying, we'd like to enter this market, we began those conversations again, with your now your competitor in this market. And I think it helped us get one of those conversations across the line, we purchase a local company there called Vail Valley Getaway, in November of 2019. And that gave us our first significant footprint in another market. And, you know, the interesting thing about that is kind of learning to be an operator in multiple markets, adapting your systems and your operations and building a team that can deliver the same experience. You know, those are all experiences that are learning experiences we went through. And it kind of showed us what the challenges were. So I think it's it definitely stretched us. But it was exciting to see that we could do that we could have a team, I think we had five people in the market at that time. Managing about 30 homes. So a little bit, maybe staffed up because but we were anticipating, you know, that we would like to grow to as a larger and more sustainable portfolio there. And we were excited to get the reaction back from guests that this was a great experience that it matched their expectations. And we have kind of worked on just bringing everything to level up with what we were doing in Steamboat so that you know, we all made it through the COVID year. I don't really want to talk about that too much. But we survived, you know, at the end of the day and at the summer of 21. So last summer we got a phone call from a company that we had known for many years. Here's Paragon Lodging in Breckenridge, saying that they were looking for a way to exit from the business. And they would love to entertain an offer from us as someone who could take care of the baby. And that became probably the the biggest move that we've made in this industry so far, acquiring a portfolio of over 70 properties, very compatible with what we were doing in Steamboat and in the Vail market. And we we literally doubled the size of the company overnight. So,

Annie Holcombe:

wow, that's actually gonna be my question was how to do? How did you replicate what you did, what I love is that you didn't jump quickly, because I think sometimes managers get so excited about being able to go into a new market that they don't necessarily think about the operational, the challenges of not being right down the street, and having to get the staffing and sounds like you really put a lot of thought into making sure that you weren't gonna compromise the brand that you had built up to that point.

Robin Craigen:

I would agree, I think that we had a very good idea of what our brand was by that time. So, you know, we were a much more mature company after 20 years. And you know, believe me, we have learned through our mistakes over the years, people think success is a straight line from A to B. And, you know, I feel like the reason we're still here after all this time, I mean, it's it's kind of hard to say we've been doing this for 20, nearly 25 years, it feels like forever. But for us, it's been an ever evolving journey where we've learned something every year we've been doing it. And then we take those lessons, and we put that back into, this is a better way of doing this. And this is who we are. And you know, today, I think we've really learned to say, you know, we're only one thing in this marketplace, we're not trying to be everything to everybody. So our focus is on the upper end of the market, where we're we're charging a much higher rate than the rest of the marketplace. But we're also leaning into that providing a much higher level of service, meaning you simply can't do one thing, you can't extract a high rate, and not deliver an A plus plus expectations. And when we get five star reviews at that level of the market, then that's kind of exciting for us.

Alex Husner:

Yeah, absolutely. So thinking back on the last year or so if you purchase that company in summer of 2021. Yeah. Okay, so you guys haven't really had a regular year, then in quite a while. And you also are in the same boat that we are that we had an acquisition end of 2020. And then and also in 2021, that, you know, 2019, we didn't have that inventory on our program. So to compare, even if we look at their numbers during that year, it's really not apples to apples because they weren't being marketed by us. But talk a little bit about that. I think that's that's one thing that is a challenge for all of us, whether you're an acquisitions, situation or not, but just how do we move forward for 2023 Knowing that it's hard to compare with what we've had this last two years and 2019 still being such a very different business for you. Sure.

Robin Craigen:

I think the last three years has really, it's very Darwinian, you know, if it doesn't kill you makes you stronger. And I feel like that's lessons learned from the last three years have made us stronger, and really taught us to not take things for granted. Not that I think we were in, in 17 and 18, prior to, you know, beginning this kind of growth spurt that we're on right now. But we definitely feel like it's taught us that, you know, the the nuts and bolts of running a great business are making sure that you I love Simon Lehman's expression that he brought out at the executive Summit, which was about, you know, financial hygiene. That's something that we really need in this industry, a lot of a lot of businesses are living somewhat hand to mouth. And, you know, things that have gotten us through the last three to four years has been a rigorous and strict budgeting process. And really looking at our numbers, not only the finances, but forward looking as we can be in terms of sales numbers, revenue management, that's something that we have really kind of built our own revenue, revenue management strategy that is really attuned to our end of the business. We're leveraging some of the best tools in the industry. We use Wheelhouse as a way of managing rates because we've moved from the very kind of traditional block season rates into as we transition from, you know, we were forced to transition away from V12, which was our property management system. We went with Track which now offers us daily pricing, and when you move into daily pricing, essentially 365 pricing seasons for 200 properties you can start to. And then you have like length of stay pricing and all those complex rate rules that go into that you realize the amount of data you're now working with. And you need a sophisticated tool in order to be able to manage that. And then you need to have that discipline behind it to say, how do we use this information, so that we can make good decisions? I mean, it combines into, you know, tools like Key Data, that is taking our data and then reporting that back to us in a way that's easier for us to understand. Where are we today? And just as you pointed out, I mean, no, two years, and the last three years have been the same. So where are we today, relative to where we were last year? And what were all the factors that came into play?

Alex Husner:

It definitely it takes a human factor, right. And and we just, we were all at the data and revenue management conference recently. And that's a lot of what the you know, the subject matter was, is that you're never going to replace the person that AI and that and technology helps us a lot. But it can only go so far. Because you have to be able to understand and connect the dots between things that only you know, as a revenue manager, and owner, the company or going on now art, do you handle the rates? Or do you have a revenue manager or

Robin Craigen:

so again, one of the benefits of growing your team is being able to scale into having people with specific responsibilities like that, for sure. And so one of the benefits that came out of our acquisition and Paragon lodging was having a full time revenue manager, someone who was, among many other things that she was doing was revenue management, she was also wearing a marketing hat. And, and dealing with some aspects of owner relations. And we were able to bring her into a position where we said, this is if this is something that you have a passion for, which fortunately, was, we really need to have someone looking at revenue on a daily, weekly, monthly basis. And, you know, we have our have developed our own approach over the years. And we were kind of able to take that to the next level. So I'm, I feel totally spoiled, having somebody just specifically looking at

Alex Husner:

Yeah, it's gonna make you sleep a little better

Robin Craigen:

Right, because there's just too many things to at night. Right? watch, you know, and we all are seeing how the market changes, you know, from from COVID, going from busy to zero to then, full speed ahead, and then hitting record pace, you know, and trying to keep up with these changes, and realizing that results that you're getting today turn into trends quickly. And so we saw that surge of demand that came over the last 12 months. And then you know, interestingly enough, we've seen a very rapid what I would call normalization, but it feels like putting the brakes on compared to the pace we were going at over the winter of 2021 22. This spring, definitely, things slowed down. And we realized that we needed to have strategies in place to be competitive where we needed to be competitive. So

Alex Husner:

yeah, I'm sure you probably split with international markets quite a bit from your guests history and your your visitor base. And that's one thing that we've been talking about now for the last really year and a half is you know what happens once international travel comes back and it obviously it already is back. But have you seen a pullback this year from that already?

Robin Craigen:

I mean, this summer, what we experienced is the dilution of everybody domestically then deciding to go and get the Europe trip in. So I think worldwide destinations opening up, has kind of pulled the demand into many more different areas. But we're hoping that one of our makeups for this winter will be the return of the Australian skier who loves to base their summer vacation is actually in the middle of our ski season. The Aussies love to come just after New Year because our rates are lower. And the ski conditions are great and, and everybody has their kids back in school. So these Australian families would come for 10 days to two weeks and have their summer vacation skiing and Colorado. Oh, nice. Yeah, you know, Australia was one of the country's most locked down in COVID. So they started to come back last winter. And we're expecting to see quite a bit more of that. But and I think other international markets will come into play too. It just really depends for us on economically, I think how Europe is doing I think they're in a more depressed situation than we are.

Alex Husner:

Yeah, demand is really important for you obviously and you know, being able to assess that tell us a little bit more about how you use Wheelhouse's tool to help with that because I know you're heavily booked direct brand and company and we are to and that's always been one thing is that we are hesitant sometimes to just We watching what's going on and VRBO and Airbnb because it is a small portion of our business. And we do control a little bit of our own destiny in a way. But how do you use that tool to help?

Robin Craigen:

Well, I, I really enjoyed what I was hearing at the DARM conference because it's, it's more in tune with how we look at revenue management than what we had been hearing in the past. And the early iterations of revenue management where our tools great, it can react to the market, you can just set it, turn it off, do the pricing for you. And quite frankly, that's good. scared the bejesus out of me. I mean, just the idea of letting machine make a decision. Yeah. Which, you know, right management is complicated, because it's one thing that you're reacting to what's going on in the marketplace. But we also need to consider the goals and objectives of every individual owner. And we have owners that are very specific about minimum revenue per night, they do not want to receive just a few $100's per night for renting their home. Right. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Yeah, it's significant, meaningful revenue for them. And they are owners really worried about wear and tear. And so they, they don't want to see high occupancy. So we, we have to balance that our business interest is to rent their home. But in their interest, we also need to preserve their assets. So we have a very different model to I think, maybe the mega managers, the bigger companies who are, who aren't pushing that more occupancy, high occupancy model, ours is high yields, low touch, high yield. And so it requires us to have a different, more disciplined approach to revenue management in terms of saying that sometimes the rate needs to stay where it is, because it's important for us to preserve the integrity of our pricing. And that's where I think that human component comes in is like, is this a good decision to rent this home? For that lower rate? We all understand that there's opportunity cost and unused nights. So, you know, we were fond of saying, you know, maybe 60% of something is better than 60% of nothing. And there are times where if you have an owner who who is in need of that revenue, that you might consider being that aggressive in terms of discounting. But the early discounting that we see, that typically is a is not a support strategy for luxury. We play more on the idea of book now before while it's still available, right? We have a limited resource I love that term that Matt Landau always uses is limited edition. And they do addition concept, it just runs through everything that we do. And you know that that is more inclined to get people to make a reservation for based on FOMO Fear Of Missing Out than then to say, you know, I really need to get a better rate, you know, the client who is saying, I have a budget of $10,000. And I was wondering if we could book that house that you have listed for 15 at that price? Our answer would be? No, it's possible that owner is generally flexible at certain times of the year, but not at this time of the year, not three months out. If it's still available, and you're flexible on your dates, if it's still available. Two to three weeks out, there's a possibility. And that is kind of a decision that the guest is weighing then is do I wait? Or do I book it now?

Alex Husner:

Yeah, yeah,

Annie Holcombe:

separate question related to you selected Wheelhouse there's, there's a lot of tools out there and they all kind of have different bells and whistles. But what was it I guess what going through that process? What was it that made you choose Wheelhouse over the other, the others out there?

Robin Craigen:

Well, with a higher average daily rate than any kind of model that's based around a percentage of your revenue is definitely harder for us to justify that expense. So we we early on, kind of steered away from the models that are tied to a percentage of your revenue. So we'd like that about Wheelhouse that it was more of a manageable expense. It's a per unit cost. But also, you know, we weren't just sold on the pricing structure, I think the tool they've developed is extremely easy to use. It's very intuitive. As, as we heard at DARM John DeRoulet really gave this great presentation where he was explaining that it's about presenting you with the information that allows you to make good decisions, right drilling that down into decision about data, so that you as the supercomputer that is essentially you know, human beings are still smarter than machines at this point that you can make that interpretation of whatever I need to do to move the needle for this property for that week. You know, we're still we're still learning to use some of these tools. But I think distilling down a ton of information that's out there in the marketplace is helping us to make better decisions. Using concepts. You know, that is something that our revenue manager is using more and more so that when we do have comparable inventory, that we can make a good pricing decision strategically, it's good tactical maneuvering, more tied to closer to arrival, or having late availability or seeing whether you're the last in or whether everybody's still in the marketplace at a certain price. And then being sure that you're competitive. You know, that used to involve going to Airbnb or VRBO. And, and scraping that data manually into an analysis that would tell you what you needed to do on your pricing. Now we can bring that into camp sets and make quick decisions about promotions and things like that we might run, or it might

Alex Husner:

Yeah. Yeah, as Lance stitcher said, when we tell us to hold on. talked to him, the the market will always tell you, if your rates are too high or too low, just you need to listen to it. Because if you book up really quick, then your rates are too low. And if you're gone too high, then you're just you're not gonna move that inventory. But yeah, it's a it's definitely it's a mate. It's more of a manual job. And I think, you know, I echo your same comments, it's good to see now that the conversation about how you use revenue management and these tools is back to where it needs to be. And that's, that's a good thing, because I know DARM, a few years ago, the first one that that Amy had, there were several managers I know that went and they were just like, No way I'm not, I'm not letting a machine control my rates. But I think it's we've come a heck of a long way, just in the last couple of years.

Robin Craigen:

There's too many factors in here in this, that, that I don't think were truly understood as people maybe you know, maybe in the mass market, this is easier to to justify. But, you know, with our individual homes, what we notice is, owners, you only use patterns change from one year to the next, right. So one of the challenges of pacing data is that it doesn't necessarily track pacing year over year, if the owner decides one year to come at New Year, and that represents a third of their potential income for the year. That's how skewed this ski market can be. One year, they come for New Year, and then the next year, they give it to us and we can make a reservation. So the year that we make that reservation, we're pacing ahead, and we look like rockstars. And that's just because we got the week that's easy to sell for the highest yield. You come back the next year. And he says, Well, I'm coming for Christmas, and I want to use these specific dates. And it messes up your New Year. And then and then you're and then you have the earner asking you, you know, why are we pacing behind and you have to dig into? Well, it's all to do with that $20- $30,000 vacation that you took in your home? During prime season. Right? Yeah, yeah. So you know, it's, it's complicated, I think you have to look at a multitude of different factors. When you go to the property level, you need to be sure that you're really looking and understanding the full story of that property from one year to the next. But it is very useful to be able to pull out by by region or by general area, and study some of those trends and see if something is pacing ahead or behind in a more high level sense. So I think we're learning more and more we're seeing, you know, we have three, we have four locations, Beaver Creek, Vail, Steamboat, and Breckenridge are within 100 miles of each other. And we one person might think that those are consistent, the inventory is somewhat consistent, you know, it's all of a high standard. And yet the market correct characteristics, the booking patterns are different. Very different.

Alex Husner:

Yeah. Yeah, I think that's that's where a lot of companies have had challenges when they try and go to more markets. I know, there's been some, Annie some in your, your neck of the woods that, you know, bought companies out where Robin is, and that's night and day, as far as the markets go, at least for your they were, you know, at least in semi close vicinity there and had, you know, similar types of travel is, you know, stays and trends. But that's, that's tough and even just keeping in your own local area. I mean, to go into another market is definitely a challenge. But I would imagine, you know, to be able to do that, obviously, you have to have really great software to support that too. How has Track been good for you. I assume they have been, you know, enable to enable you to do those different things.

Robin Craigen:

Yeah, Track has been good so far. You know, all things being equal. It's never a pleasant experience to transition to. Right. Right. Yeah. Yeah. And, you know, so we've gone through that twice because we transitioned our Breckenridge team In the middle of the winter, which kind of we had to do, but, but it was painful. So having gone through that, I think we're on the other side of it and feeling like this has been a really positive transition for us. But software and integrations and things like that are very complex. And, you know, we said with V12, that we were unpacking the box for a good three years. And I sort of feel like it's going to be the same story with Track that they're still developing many features that I think will help us tremendously in the future, we're still getting our head around how we can maximize the potential of the of the software, but it is very configurable. It is very adaptable to our way of doing business. And, you know, they've been a solid team to work with I think, you know, the commit commitment is there at the at the high end of the leadership, that they want to deliver a good experience, we just, we just don't make that assumption that everything is there that needs to be I think it's continuing to improve improve every year.

Alex Husner:

So on that, too, are on a different topic, I guess. You use Amber Hurdle I know for some of your employee training and your ending, can you who we love Amber? Of course, yeah. Can you tell us a little bit about your experience working with her?

Robin Craigen:

Yeah, Amber's been amazing, actually. So just not not just Amber. But we formed a relationship with Steve Trover.

Alex Husner:

Oh, yeah. He's great, too. Yeah, the two of them together as

Annie Holcombe:

a powerhouse team. I know.

Robin Craigen:

I know, I know, we were super excited that we have the opportunity to work with the two of them together. And the tool that they helped us roll out to our team was Predictive Index. So PI as we call it in house, helps you understand a little bit more about who you are, what the strengths are, what your decision making is, based around how you like to interact with other people how you'd like to be interacted with, whether you're a conformist, or whether you're somebody that only likes to work within the lines, you know, someone who likes to color outside the lines, you know, that maybe that's not the person that you want to have an accounting. But maybe someone who is more collaborative, may be, you know, better suited to more of a team, environment within a team. And, you know, running a company like this requires everybody and every, you know, essentially the right people in the right seats on the bus, so that you can play to their strengths. And I really feel like PI helped us better understand each other, better appreciate the strengths of the people within the team. And now, through Steve's company, it's helping us to recruit people that are the perfect fit for the positions that we have open. And then through Amber, she really also she's a fantastic presenters. So helped us get our head around this very complex concept of all these different personalities or behavioral profiles, but also helping us understand about formalizing developing our employer brand, within the company, that culture, company culture is a huge deal for us, I think we have a pretty strong focus on company culture. And it was really just helping us to appreciate that and then take it to the next level, developing some processes that we felt like we could have improved our employee onboarding process, for example, which he led us through a great exercise there, where, you know, the great thing about that was getting the team this is kind of where we are, at our next level is getting our team to develop what we want to have as a team for for a better process within the company. So I think things like that are very empowering to our team. You know, their company is maturing, and and Heather and I are trying to look at some some new ideas. And and we can't do that if we're still running the day to day of some of the property management operations that we do.

Annie Holcombe:

Yeah, You've gauged some of the best leaders that there are in the business in terms of helping you fit all these pieces of the puzzle together. And Robin, you are you are someone that I think other management companies can can hold in high regards and learn from and we hope to have you back again very soon and talk about some other things. But before we wrap up, I did want to ask you something that we've been talking a lot about with other people is what is your thought on what the biggest subject are biggest thing topic that maybe isn't being discussed in the industry That should be talked about more right now?

Robin Craigen:

Well, I mean, I'm up to my neck and in the advocacy and regulations battle and I mean, I'm not saying that the industry isn't talking about this. I mean, I think we are. But there certainly has been a lot of conversation about the fact that advocacy should not be the Wednesday at nine o'clock session at the VRMA, when everybody is on their last half. Right, right. Yeah. Which it was at the last VRMA. And, you know, there were, it was a very sparse audience, for something that if you asked me three years ago, do you have an issue with regulation, I would have said, No, we're in a good place. Everything's great. We're all managing our businesses really well. Now, we in Colorado, from one community to the next. And because we're in multiple markets, we can see this directly. We are fighting, we're fighting to defend our industry against unfair accusations of causing a housing shortage, causing a crisis within the community. You know, that STRS short term rentals are not valued. Suddenly, were being looked at very negatively. And having you know, we're very proud of our business. And yet now we're having to defend it for things that we don't believe there has been any kind of justification for us. So it is requiring almost it's almost a separate business activity. For me right now is just trying to defend this position. And we're having to engage with attorneys, we've spent a lot of time working with Rent Responsibly. And this networking, I mean, that's something fantastic about this industry is that people are very open to the idea of working together and sharing ideas, but it's incredibly time consuming. Work for us to do that on top of just trying to run our businesses to

Annie Holcombe:

it's a topic that I think has, it's going to it's going to continue to be first and foremost in people's minds. And we definitely have to band together to make sure that we're being heard as a as an industry. And we've talked to people about, you know, the we are not Airbnb movement. You know, we don't want to be lumped in with that. But we need some of those Airbnb type folks to be in the conversation and understand how to be professional. So hopefully VRMA will step up. And we can have a larger conversation at the conference in November.

Alex Husner:

Yeah. And I mean, this, this, the scary thing is when, like you said, just a few years ago, you weren't even worried about this. And now it's a huge part of your daily life. So that's, that's the message that we're trying to drive home. You know, in other destinations, mine included Myrtle Beach area, we feel like we're very protected. We are a tourism market 100%. But that what it is right now, that's not guaranteed. I mean, there's so many things that can change, and you get different leadership and city council members. And it's a lot can be taken away very quickly. And I think right now, the main goal needs to just be education, education, education, and really defining who we are as a professional industry and what we're not. And that's that's the brand we had Vanessa Humes on with us just the other day, and she had a great idea that, I mean, VRMA needs to really put some efforts on this. And let's get like a really good agency advertising agency to work with us on developing this brand, developing the messaging, let's, you know, put all resources to making this a really good effort. So we are very hopeful that that will be what we start to see soon from vrma. And hopefully, we'll get a good update. We're in Vegas in a couple of months here. Yeah.

Robin Craigen:

I mean, it's it is encouraging, I'll tell you that there are some great resources out there. And we were successful in applying to the VRMA Advocacy Fund for some financial support. And, you know, it's great, it's great to see that the fundraising actually does land somewhere. And there are tangible benefits. I mean, that people aren't Rent Responsibly, that is an incredible resource for local communities. They have helped us set up our local Alliance, and to create their marketing information and communications platform, and really kind of guide us towards creating. I mean, it's a new organization that we're essentially running, running it as a team within your local market. So having to team up with your competitors. You know, that is that's kind of a new thing. I mean, it's somewhat refreshing in a way that you can be shoulder to shoulder with your competitor.

Alex Husner:

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, absolutely.

Robin Craigen:

And I, so I think there's a lot more resources available now than there ever were. And that is, that's a good thing. But I think also they need to be the challenges are bigger than they ever were. And, you know, we need to have that mindset of not just running my business, but I need to think about how I educate other players in the marketplace that these are the standards that we should all be working to. So that's something that I think the VRMA has huge potential to elevate the professionalism of the industry as a whole. And that concept of teaching the ones and twos the moms and pops, who who maybe were like we were 25 years ago, just starting out With the first property, educating them that there are standards that are going to benefit that they should play to that will benefit the entire industry. And then, you know, educating the value within our community, the value that we bring, and the hard work that we put on, that we put into it behind the scenes to know I don't think our city council appreciates that we monitor we have monitoring devices that track noise levels, that can tell us 24/7 if a party is happening in a house that we need to go shut down. They they don't realize the amount of effort we're putting into this. And we need to tell our story better, in the same way that we need to explain the value proposition of an STR in a community in terms of visitor spending and tax revenues. You know, that it's just it's not told, we're not valued at the moment we are, we are stigmatized and its sad.

Alex Husner:

Yeah, absolutely. We agree. 100%. So, we will stay tuned and hopefully get some more information here and see, all of us working together. I do agree that collaboration is just key for, you know, open communication and figuring out how we can work because as we always say, we are all in this together. But it really is the truth as far as advocacy struggles. So, Robin, thank you so much for being with us today. It's such a pleasure to just enjoy getting to know you so much at conferences, but just to hear more about the business today. I learned quite a bit that I didn't already know. But if anybody wants to contact you, what's the easiest way to get in touch?

Robin Craigen:

Well through my email Robin at moving mountains.com Pretty simple. R-O-B-Y-N the Y is very important. And our website is MovingMountains.com

Alex Husner:

pretty sure your website is beautiful, by the way. mesmerized by the video on the homepage.

Annie Holcombe:

Alex nanny will be doing a show from there at some point we probably

Alex Husner:

Yeah,

Robin Craigen:

we can be the catalyst to you taking this podcast on the road then.

Alex Husner:

I love it. Thank you, if anybody wants to contact Annie and I you can go to Alex and Annie podcast.com And until next time, thank you for tuning in and we will talk to you soon. Thank you.

Robin Craigen Profile Photo

Robin Craigen

Co-Founder | CEO | President Moving Mountains

An industry leader and entrepreneur who leads an exceptional mission-driven team creating memorable vacations in exceptional mountain homes.

Moving Mountains manages and offers vacation rentals in a handpicked selection of luxurious mountain homes and residences in Steamboat Springs, Beaver Creek, Vail, and Breckenridge, Colorado.

In addition to assisting with your lodging reservation, Moving Mountains also specializes in full-service catered and hospitality packages designed to help you to maximize your vacation experiences and have more time to relax.