If you don’t embrace home working and virtual teams, you risk your holiday lets business becoming unsustainable.
I want to help you grow your holiday lets agency by becoming more agile, more streamlined and more flexible in your approach to business.
Do you really need an office?
Do you really need a larger office?
Do you really need a full time person for that role?
Would it be better to hire someone who specialises in that role and shares their time across a small selection of clients?
Home working, virtual teams, flexible hours – NONE of these things are new
From this guide I hope that you will be able to look at cost effective ways of reducing your overheads and allowing your business to provide great customer service, process more bookings and increase your PROFIT margins.
I know companies who are 100% remote, other companies encourage ‘work from home’ days, other companies provide complete flexibility of where and when their staff work, the standard 9 to 5 has gone, is your agency ready for the change?In an industry that is used to seasonality, there is no better time to build your agency based on remote and virtual teams. Implement systems and technology that gives you the ability to run your business from anywhere at any time with complete peace of mind.
By implementing a remote team, you will get the following benefits:
- Lower overhead costs
- Reduced payroll costs
- Happier & more productive team (as long as you have the right processes)
- Higher profit margins
- Ability to scale in line with seasonality
Here I share with you the top SAAS products that will allow you to build a fully remote team.
CRM & Booking Management System – iPro
A SAAS Cloud based and mobile responsive application built specifically for holiday let agencies with teams of 1 to many.
Available on any device in any location with an internet connection, you can run your whole business via your phone.
Have a large team? No problem user profiles and permissions will ensure your data is secure and locked down, so that you stay compliant with GDPR and protect your biggest asset, your data.
iPro is your complete property management system (PMS), it drives the guest experience from the first point of contact to them leaving your property after a successful stay.
We track every touch point in between, ensuring you and your team have full accountability for every eventuality.
With our instant book technology you can provide a platform that will grow your ‘direct bookings’, ensuring a more sustainable future.
While our amazing channel manager will help you utilise the marketing power of Airbnb, Booking.com, HomeAway and many more online travel agencies (OTAs).
So that you can maximise your future bookings.
Phone System & Meeting – Ringcentral & Vonage
A virtual office is a non starter without a powerful VOIP based communication hub, at iPro we use Ringcentral as our communication platform, this provides us with a connected phone system allowing us to call extension numbers, arrange conference calls and full team meetings.
Whether we want video calls or full screen sharing capabilities ring central provides us with a completely cloud based communication hub. We can connect with all of our clients around the globe from the comfort of our home.
With ringcentral we have phone and tablet apps, meaning that meetings and catch up calls can be taken from wherever and we are not tied to our desks.
Technology and the way we do business really is changing, and if you don’t adapt you will be left behind.
Chat & collaboration – Slack, Skype & Glip
Staying in ‘touch’ when dealing with teams around the world is vital to successful teamwork and collaboration. A virtual team is still your ‘team’, this can be hard to get over at first, seeing them as less important than direct staff.
However if you treat your virtual team different to your employees you will certainly fail in your attempt to become more streamlined and in building a positive and productive culture.
Treat all your team with the same respect and trust, keeping them in regular contact to ensure they are fully aware of the company goals, vision, mission statement and progress.
If you opt for Ring Central, you will receive a great collaboration tool in Glip. It’s an alternative to Slack and based on our usage we much prefer the capabilities of glip.
They have integrated their phone and meeting software directly into the app. So you can now go from chat to call to video in a click of a button.
With this tool you can talk to team members in an instant and ensure everyone is kept in the loop by group chat conversations, where people can share their thoughts, images and files.
Chat tools are a fantastic way to communicate with multiple people at the same time, since we implemented glip our email use dropped by over 95%.
Slack and skype will offer similar capabilities
Accounts – Quickbooks Online & Xero
You cannot run a sustainable business without being on top of your profit & loss (p & l), with Quickbooks online I am always aware of our revenue, p&l and who hasn’t paid.
I can easily add and send invoices on the go, ensuring agreed work is paid in a timely manner.
By utilising online software you can provide access to your accountant / bookkeeper and they can keep everything up to date in real time. Payroll is a breeze, VAT is automated and your end of year accounts are updated immediately.
- Office Software – Google Suite & Microsoft365
Is it the end of desktop applications and expensive upfront licences?
Not necessarily however desktop based applications like Word do not allow easy collaboration on company documents, being able to share and edit documents with your team in ‘real time’ is a game changer and makes decision making a breeze.
At iPro we use Google suite an excellent alternative to Microsoft365, we utilise Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Slides, Google Forms.
All google applications will run the Microsoft equivalent and will save to Microsoft formats so you can share with other organisations not using Google suite.
Google suite is available on all devices, meaning you can work from your phone or tablet and have access to all the same documents you use when in front of your computer.
You can even save your document / data to your phone or tablet, so that you can continue to work ‘offline’ this is great for complete flexibility on your working location.
Storage – Google Drive, Onedrive & Dropbox
A ‘virtual’ office or a virtual team is impossible to manage productively without a cloud based network drive.
We need to move your thoughts from sending attachments via email to ‘real time’ collaboration and updates. Cloud based network drives allow you to edit and review documents together with each person seeing the changes as they are made.
Without a cloud based network drive you will always have restrictions and delays in communicating with your team, email is not dead but it is certainly no longer the no.1 communication tool.
Network drives are absolutely essential to any agile business, automatically sharing documents, images, photographs across a network that is controlled by user permissions.
Google Drive is absolutely awesome at this, you can decide who has read / write access to any document or folder. Giving you complete peace of mind that only those who need to update or view the document can access the file.
The great thing about Google drive is that you can access your data from any computer, which means if anything happens to your main computer you simply plugin in the new computer and all your documents are readily available.
Task Management – Asana, Trello & Monday
To achieve high productivity levels when managing a team remotely, is not as difficult as you might think. I find people have a desire to please, they have a desire to achieve and they have a desire to challenge themselves.
Helping your team understand good practises for task management, project management and organisation skills is vital to building a committed and results based culture.
Glip is provided by Ringcentral and allows us to schedule delegated tasks to each team member and ourselves. This helps everyone know what each other is working on and when it is due, so that they can schedule their own work in the future.
So making sure your team is working on what they should be and getting ‘things done’ then I recommend one of the following tools: Glip, Asana, Trello or Monday.
All are extremely easy to use and can work across all devices and provide individual user access.
It’s your call on which one works best for you and your team.
Email Marketing – Mailchimp, Campaign Monitor & Sendinblue
Emails may be dead for internal use, but they are still 100% the go to method of marketing to your cold, warm and hot opportunities.
A good email list is the infrastructure to your business, this will allow you to recover from any drop in business due external circumstances.
I am pretty sure you all have this setup already, but if you don’t, then you don’t have a business that is agile or sustainable.
It’s an essential part of any marketing campaign, every campaign you do, every blog you write should be distributed to your email lists.
Mailchimp is the simplest on the market and most cost effective. With mobile apps you can manage and review emails from anywhere. You can build powerful journeys to ensure you maximise your engagement.
User permissions ensure you can utilise virtual team members to manage your individual campaigns. Your Mailchimp expert doesn’t have to be in-house, does not need to be full time and it can be you! You decide based on where your business is at today.
- Marketing – Google Analytics, Google, Social Media (Organic & Ads)
Another staple of any marketing department, is your Google Analytics, Google Adwords and Social Media Accounts.
All of these are available on all devices and multiple user accounts can be added as either super users or editors. This gives you the ability to create virtual teams to manage these accounts for you.
A great tool for your social media is ‘Creator Studio’, this will allow you to schedule posts to both Facebook and Instagram with no negative impact on the alogrithiam.
In the current climate you have to ask yourself, is an external agency the right choice.
Can we bring this inhouse?
Can we utilise a virtual workforce in this area?
Screen recording & Video – Loom
Have you considered video calls to your clients? As people we love to communicate we love to see who we are talking too and feel the passion they have for this business.
Imagine, giving your potential guests a pre-recorded walk through of the properties you recommend for their next holiday and why you truly believe they will fit their needs and desires.
This is going above and beyond the ‘standard’ process but then to ensure you win the booking over your larger competitor you need to tap into the emotion of the consumer, you need to show them your story, your passion and why they can trust you.
Loom is a game changer for us here at iPro, we utilise it in so many different aspects.
For a holiday lets agency it will provide your reservation team with the easiest screen recording and video recording software on the market making it extremely easy for them to provide a service at another level.
Imagine sending personalised videos from the owner of the business or Theo were of the property, when a guest books that property. Or imagine having video walkthroughs of each home on how to maximise their enjoyment during their stay.
All available on the guests phone with no app installation required!
Not only is the technology great for improving your relationship with your customers you can utilise internally for employee onboarding, sharing of ideas, showcasing best practise and pre-recorded team announcements.
Design Studio – Canva, Adobe Online
Depending on the size of your agency, you will have many different solutions here. But the purpose of this guide is to give you cost effective solutions for flexibility.
Now I am no designer so for me Canva is the tool of choice, however for those that fancy themselves a little adobe online will give you access to the best design tools on the market.
At iPro we use Canva for Social Media Posts, Posters, PDFs and Sales Proposals.
An amazingly simple tool allowing those who are not designers to provide good quality graphics, which can be easily updated as and when required.
By utilising Canva you can create a team and give your virtual ‘designers’ access to manage your tasks as required.
Mobile Apps – Inshot & Cutstory
Social media is usually updated on the go, especially the story which is only available for 24 hours.
Two great mobile app tools are Inshot and Cutstory, these two tools make it extremely easy to upload on brand photo and videos directly from your phone.
Perfect for ‘on the go’ social media exposure
Password storage – LastPass
Security is of paramount importance at any time, even more so when your employee could be 1000’s of miles away with access to your systems 24/7.
LastPass allows you to control all of your team’s passwords from one control panel.Terminate a VA, simply disable access from one place to all of your systems immediately.
Never give out your own secure password, control which programs they can access via your LastPass control panel.
Appointment Booking – Calendly
Finally I have added the most popular and simplest tool for booking time in someone’s calendar. If you are looking for something internal without another subscription then Google Calendar will provide you with the ability to book calls internally when everyone is available.
However if you want to allow external VA’s, Clients or Suppliers to book time slots with you then you will need an external tool and Calendly make it so simple for you to set up time slots that you are happy to be booked out.
With so much flexibility you can easily set your rules and then simply share that calendar with anyone who needs to book time with you. Pre planned meetings without impacting your creativity / dedicated project / task time.