Bill's Bountiful Blog

May I keep you posted on my thoughts, ideas, observations, and silliness?. Am I serious? Is it relevant?. Does anyone care? Probably not much.

But in today's age of everyone has something to say, why not me? And who can blame me for jumping into to the pool? For speaking up For laying it out?

"Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one." - Thomas Wiley, Journalist


Doing What We Can To Help People

By William May
Published: 11/19/09 Topics: Comments: 0

For a number of years our company has donated vacation rental home use to a wonderful group called OutdoorsForAll.org (Formerly SkiForAll.org). Their mission is to enrich the quality of life for children and adults with disabilities through outdoor recreation.

OFA takes handicapped folks to destinations and into sports they could never imagine otherwise. Blind kids go skiing, the wheelchair bound go biking. The offer horseback riding, hiking, swimming, canoeing, rafting, water skiing and more.

The first time they stayed with us they brought a dozen kids to a ski area. It made us feel good to help, but we were disappointed when the housekeepers found that the beds had not been slept. A bit alarmed we placed a quick phone call to the organization apologizing because we didn't want them to think they could not use the beds.

We were greeted with boisterous laughter. "Oh you don't understand do you?" said the director. "These kids are mostly bed bound so staying in a big bed in a luxurious home is not an adventure." She explained. "But sleeping in a sleeping bag on the floor by a fireplace is a thrilling experience for them. They could hardly sleep." We smiled and felt better.

If you want to make yourself feel great today, click here to make a donation to the Ski For All Organization.

Besides wonderful groups like Outdoors For All, we sometimes have guests that require special assistance.

Recently one such guest complained that we could not provide her with a wheel chair condo during her stay - even though she failed to request one when booking. She complained her condo wasn't actually on the beach, even though it was as close or closer than every other accommodation in town.

Never the less, she went home and THREE MONTHS later demanded a full refund, complained to every agency and media (who bought her trumped up story without corroboration) and then demanded a full refund for the week long vacation she received.

Businesses are often maligned for being callous or uncaring. That is unfortunate because businesses are nothing more than people; people who care about every guest and work diligently to satisfy them.

Our staff and affiliates were crest-fallen when that guest complained. But should they be?

Their actions went beyond the call of duty. Instead of sulking about one person who seemed to be asking for far more than she ordered, they need to focus on the hundreds of thousands who appreciate their lodging, noticed how clean the linens are, appreciate the comfortable furniture, relax at the pools, use the fully furnished kitchens and offer those little compliments everyone needs in life.

We need to judge our own compassion by those who appreciate it, but keep working for those pesky people as well. You know we will.

P.S. A good thing came out of this incident. We sponsored and our not-for-profit trade association - the Vacation Rental Association (www.Vrai.org) formed a donation program where owners can announce their giving to charitable causes. See VacationRentalAngels.com

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P.S. Coming Soon. The VacationRentalAngels.com program sponsored by the Vacation Rental Association. Where owners can announce their donations to charitable causes.

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Author: William May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0128 – 11/19/09

Everything Robert Fulgham Learned in Kindergarten

By William May
Published: 11/01/09 Topics: Comments: 0

I stumbled onto an Internet posting the other day that told me it has been twenty years since Robert Fulgham wrote "Everything I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten."

That is stunning really because it does, as they say, seem like yesterday. Of course I've read some of his other books and now that I've visited his website (RobertFulgham.com). I see there are others I will have to savor. So should you.

After 22 years as a Unitarian Minister in the Pacific Northwest, Fulgham published that first book and has never looked back. His view of the world is pretty simple or so it seems. As the world accelerates and technology dominates, Fulgham would remind us of the basic, appropriate and mature.

Although his attitude might strike some as youngish or maybe even immature, the stories and ideas he illustrates so well are the basic foundation on which we as humans should strive.

So what would all of this have to do with the somewhat non-universal industry of vacation rentals? Well plenty as it seems. Or maybe I should say it has to do with every business, every career and certainly every calling.


The kindergarten book reminds us all to foster those concepts which are universal in every culture. Things like:

- Don't lie. Always tell the truth.
- Don't hit.
- Treat your parents well.
- Pick up after yourself.
- Say Please and Thank You.

To me it seems like Fulgham’s message might be summed up in the phrase "treat everyone well" or at least try.

I am not sure I have always accomplished that goal but I know I am always aware of it and have always tried. I also know that isn't easy when conflict exists in the world, as it inevitably does. Nor is it easy when others might try to bring you down to their level. An acquaintance who becomes distraught, a customer who is unreasonable or even governmental bureaucrats who steal more and more freedom from Americans.

It would be easy to despise such people but in the end, we have to remember to treat them well also. Even if that respect will not be reciprocated.

VACATION RENTALS & LODGING

So is there anything practical in this blog? Yes I assure you there is. Here are a set of rules for how we conduct our business in hopes that guests, owners and vendors will treat us likewise.

- Be Clear. In advertising, contracts, phone calls, emails.

- Be Fair. It can be difficult to understand unreasonable requests, but we gotta keep trying.

- Be Quick. Get back to people. Take care of problems as fast as possible.

- Be Happy. No job is easy and half the job is simply deciding to go about it with joy.

You can buy Robert Fulgham's Book at Amazon.com.

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Author: William May, MayPartners Advertising
Blog #: 0125 – 11/01/09

Seeing your Name in Print

By William May
Published: 10/01/09 Topics: Comments: 0

Sometimes it is nice to see your name in the media and sometimes it is not.

As the volunteer Director of the Vacation Rental Association (VRA) I receive calls from media all over the country. Speaking with most reporters reminds me of sitting ` Journalism class while pursuing my college degree in Communications from Washington State University all those years ago.

The Communications Department is now named after Edward R. Murrow the CBS television journalist made famous for his broadcasts from London during the Blitzkriegs of World War II. Murrow is idolized by virtually every professional well meaning journalism student for his strength in exposing the McCarthy era Communist witch hunts of the 1950's.

Murrow didn't go after destroying every small business person or government bureaucrat he could intimidate. In fact, I'm pretty sure he would be embarrassed by the state of some current news organizations who have nothing better to do than harass small businesses and well meaning companies.

Instead, Murrow focused on those very few evil and bad will people who seem intent to do harm to others. His ethics were sound unlike those of many reports in conventional media today.

FREEDOM OF THE PRESS

Benjamin Franklin was quoted as saying, 'Freedom of the press is reserved for those who own one." That powerful statement warns citizens about the power of the press. And it encourages them to resist over zealous journalism by fighting fire with fire.

Franklin's thought was the rule from the American Revolution until very recently. Today every person on the planet with a computer with an internet connection has the opportunity print their thoughts and stories on line.

While much of that information is flawed, biased and selfish, there is hope this new age of unlimited visibility may level the playing field between laymen and reporters.

For too long reporters with little proper training, no adherence to ethical principals, insufficient time to examine both sides of a story and, frankly, a dangerous casual disregard for the position of others have begun to pop up in main stream newspaper and broadcast organizations and not just in odd-ball print publications.

It is really too bad. Bad for everyone. For those who slander others. And for those who believe such lies without questioning the integrity of the writer.

But the internet is good because now those conventional media reporters themselves can become targets of probes from anyone with a computer, video camera and website. They find out what he feels to be parenthetically stripped searched and exposed to the world for any failing real or imagined.

TODAY'S WRITERS

It is good news to know that there still exists today a legion of journalists who hold true to the principals of Ed Murrow, Walter Cronkite and other greats. But sadly, the quest for ratings, notoriety and ever declining newspaper readership and broadcast audience has forced conventional media managers to hire folks simply not equipped to cautiously handle the immense public-opinion power they are given.

In 1861, Wilbur F. Story, Editor of the Chicago Times said, "It is a newspaper's duty to print the news, and raise hell." This quote, or something pretty darn close, has also been frequently attributed to Mark Twain.

In that regard we could consider unethical reporters a success. Unfortunately they have focused on the raising hell part because it’s a lot easier than digging for information, being factual and attempting to report accurately.

They seek out stories to bolster their resume and inflate their own egos. Unfortunately that is done by spewing innuendo, falsifying the facts and not even pretending to pursue a neutral reporting stance.

The difference between Mark Twain and so many current writers is that Twain knew the difference between when he was reporting the news and when he was writing fiction. (Pretty good darn fiction too, most folks say.) That is not true of the vast majority of folks, with little training or great thinking, who can blog away at all hours of the day and for page after page about every conceivable subject from the lurid to the boring.

Citizen journalists however can be forgiven because they haven't studied the craft nor been entrusted with the public airwaves or widely read print media. They are kind of like people with gun's who have only seen them on TV. What may seem glamorous in a scripted made-for-TV war movie is, as any soldier will tell you, a pretty great place to have a gun turn you into blood and guts and death. So these writers know little of the damage they can cause.

Educated journalists on the other hand know better.

A look at online bio's for reporters shows that most have some form of degree in journalism, broadcast or some similar line of study. Unless colleges have changed radically in recent years I know there are well-meaning, well-trained and ethical professors who care deeply about teaching students to research facts, evaluate testimony, and attempt to provide a seemingly unbiased version of the news.

These colleges turn out a great many skilled and well meaning reporters. Like any industry where participants willingly agree to pursue big money, big fame and fan worship (think of sports here) journalists can fall victim to the lure of the game.

You only have to travel from town to town watching sportscasts to admit that all home-town sports reporters are sporting the home-town at the expense of pretty much every other town. Perhaps with sports that should not be concern - after all no one gets killed in sports and even drug-taking athletes can get back in the good graces of fans if they repent.

PROCLAIMING THEIR BIAS:

Consumer advocate journalists are the next category of reporters to fall under the spell of self-aggrandizement. They openly admit they are here to "fight for consumers". No where in their diatribes do they promise to care if the consumer is correct or accurate. Never do they check out the reputation of the consumer.

Instead, they start with the bias the "consumer is always right." That is tantamount to saying that in a divorce, the "Husband is always right." Society has learned there are seldom absolutes like that and anyone with sufficient education or self-thought knows better.

A good reporter’s job is not to become the story. But to report it fairly. Those who take delight in chasing people down the street, jumping on employees, demanding meetings with people they have never met or and making life hell for other people so he can print a dishonest and disreputable story have sunk to the lowest level.

If a reporter has to big, ugly, ineloquent, rude and obnoxious to get a story, then he is making the story instead of finding one. There will always be consumers who fall for everything, but to fool them into believing a story because of such tactics should be objectionable to all involved.

Naturally creating a story is a lot easier than investing the time necessary to locate a story, determine if it is legitimate and gathering sufficient fact to determine if the story is true and worth of the reader or viewers time. But being lazy should not be a substitute for destroying the honor that Murrow and prior practitioners brought to the craft of news.

Oh and about our own self-aggrandizement here are a couple of stories you might like. Unlike those reporters who need a story before 5pm everyday, we didn't solicit the inclusions or intimidate anyone to get included.

Go to (WashingtonPost.com)WashingtonPost.com and search for "Andrea Sachs" Reporter and "Vacation Rental".

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Author: William May, MayPartners Advertising
Blog #: 0126 – 10/01/09

Remembering the "Thank You" Game

By William May
Published: 09/01/09 Topics: Comments: 0

Surprises are great. And thank you's are best.

In an industry like property management that requires attention to detail, constant supervision and reconciliation of occasionally conflicting goals between guests and owners it is too easy to forget the little personal things that make life worth living.

Long ago I attended a parent-child basketball camp and had the great luck to meet a man who I now call hero. Having built the largest basketball camp for kids in the United States, Coach's success seems based more on his knowledge and approach to life than on his immense basketball training skills.

At one camp he suggested to everyone they could learn how to be thankful by using his now famous thank-you game. The rules are simple.

You can be in a meeting, watching television or whenever you find yourself in the car with your family, especially on those long boring drives. The games starts by one person mentioning something they are thankful for. Then next person does likewise and so one until everyone has spoken.

The first responses are what you might expect like, "I am thankful for what wonderful children I have." or "I am thankful for having a loving Dad."

These kinds of honesty is not easy for everyone. Some people seldom tell anyone how they feel about things. And complimenting another person directly to their face is a lost art unfortunately.

After each person has spoken you should sneak a peak around the room. Smirking smiles will be breaking out all over the place.

But the game is not over. Because this game goes on until you reach your destination, or everyone is out of ideas. In a car, thank you's may come tumbling out one after another but be separated by pauses and that too is acceptable. Be thankful that there is no hurry. Give everyone sufficient time to dig deeply into their thoughts.

My family once spent over two hours in a car as compliments went round and round. Eventually resulting in "Thankful that the car still has gas" and that "I am sure happy it didn't snow or we would be stuck somewhere."

Does this sound a little mundane? That's OK because the best thank you's come near the end when each person realizes they have so much to be thankful about. My young son once said, "I am thank you for this game because it makes me remember how much I have."

Today I am thankful that the recession wasn't worse that it was. I could say thanks for all the owners and guests who have hung with us as the industry continues rapid change. My thanks for the housekeepers, maintenance people and reservation crew knows no bounds. So many people have been understanding and compassionate and kind. I am very thankful that guest inquiries continue to rise and that our team is in tact and making constant headway.

Of course, not everyone has been pleasant. But maybe that's because no one taught them the thank you game.

So that means this year I have to be thankful because maybe I'll get the opportunity to introduce the game to more people and hope they'll enjoy the great benefits I have received from a kids basketball coach.

Give it a try before the end of the week.

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Author: William May, MayPartners Advertising
Blog #: 0119 – 09/01/09

Ocean Shores and Westport are Beaches Like No Other

By William May
Published: 08/01/09 Topics: Comments: 0

A truth in advertising disclaimer is required first.

Although I haven't lived in the area in almost 40 years, I must admit that I did grew up in several towns on the Washington Coast. Up until 4th grade the town of Raymond was where my parents lived along with my two brothers and I. After that we moved to Aberdeen the "Big" town some 25 miles up the Coast and it was here that I became aware of a place called Ocean Shores.

Both Raymond and Aberdeen are located on major waterways in from the Pacific Ocean. Raymond on the pristine Willapa Bay and Aberdeen on the equally large Grays Harbor.

From Raymond the drive is an idyllic 25 miles to the villages of Tokeland, Grayland and the Westport Harbor. BeachyDay.com

Located on the ocean south of Grays Harbor and area designate the South Beach for easy categorization. Later in high school my buddies and I would drive the byways of the South Beaches looking for Seattle girls who we were told, were anxious to meet local boys.

Less developed than the North Beaches of the Ocean Shores area, these little towns boast a real sea side ambiance and miles of undisturbed beaches. In recent years Westport has become a surfing Mecca. Having grown up in the area and later come to love the warm climes of Hawaii I haven't seen any good reason to venture out in to 50 degree water but surfing has been a boom for the area

Ocean shores is another 25 miles due west of Aberdeen on a pleasant and easy road to drive. BytheseaBythesea.com

In grade school, living just east of Aberdeen my friends and I loved to go up to the highway on Friday afternoon to watch all the crazy tourists from Seattle flock to the beaches. It is through this single road that all travelers must venture to reach the Westport and Ocean Shores destinations.

This was before a four lane highway was built and traffic was stop and go, bumper to bumper all afternoon. The only bad part was even our parents couldn't drive the five miles into Aberdeen in less than about an hour. We were relegated to make the trip late other times, except Sunday of course when the problem repeated itself in reverse.

Ocean Shores, Oyhut, Moclips, Copalis and Pacific Beach compromise the North Beaches with each town differing from the next and all scattered with lodging, camping, restaurants and little shops.

So what was it that all those Seattleites loved about the North and South Beaches so much they would sit in traffic for hours to reach their destination? The answer to that has changed over the years.

Once known for its huge Salmon Charter industry, Westport has seen that business taper off due to over-fishing and governmental limitations. But adventurous visitors can still catch Salmon and Halibut. Or they can opt for whale watching trips now a mainstay of the economy.

On a recent afternoon, sitting on the deck of one of the prestigious new homes at Cohasset Beach in Westport (CohassetBeachCottages.com) I was started to see a majestic gray whale breach repeatedly only 50 yards off shore. I am used to seeing humpback whales in Hawaii but this bugger was bigger and much closer.

Later that day over at the Westport At the Sea Resort I was engaged in a lengthy conversation. As it started we noticed a huge rush of small birds flying just off the Coast headed south. It is hard to explain how many birds there were. Perhaps a thousand at a time rushed past our view of the ocean. Perhaps a thousand every 2-3 seconds.

As our conversation continued, the bird flow never stopped. When we left a half hour later it was still continuing. Deep in the heart of Grays Harbor, just north of Westport, is Bowerman Basin a stopping place for many species of birds on their migration from as far north as the Arctic to the warmer south.

Having grown up in the area I knew something of Bowerman Basin, and anyone who watched the nature channel knows that bird colonies can be enormous. But not until that meeting did I understand there could really be millions of birds passing through my child-hood neighborhood. Did we see a million that day? It is entirely possible.

The South Beaches have the usual beach visitor attractions like restaurants, go-carts and fudge shops. But the best reason to visit there is to enjoy the ocean. In summer it moderates the heat and in winter, throngs of visitors come to watch the storms and get closer to nature. And, I might add, away from the hordes of city dwellers.

The North Beaches are somewhat the same as the South with many visitor attractions but Ocean Shores, in particular is more developed. In the 1960's some ambitious developers bought the entire peninsula that runs south between the Pacific and Grays Harbor. To the existent beauty they added canals running north and South, lakes and a harbor. In the center of town they erected resort like hotels and a golf course. Check out (OceanShores.com)

Although not a golfer myself, I can tell you that my golfer friends love the place. Not too pretentious and apparently a lot of fun to play. A convention center was added in recent years and the city has plans for updating the golf course.

In the center of Ocean Shores is a kind of retail center where you can buy souvenirs and some fancy shops like Fling Cats Flyingcats.com) where you can enjoy a pleasant stroll among sophisticated goods. Plus you will find a wide variety of eats, activities and adventures.

But remember people come to Ocean Shores for the Beaches. Unlike most places in the world, visitors are allowed to drive their cars down the beach which is more firm than that fluffy white sand places you see in travel brochures. And the beach runs for miles north and south. Plenty of room for bon fires, kit-flying and lazing away the time.

On a recent trip to both Westport and Ocean Shores, allowing myself a little bit of time to look around and reflect on my youth I gained a better appreciation for the place. The air is different I think. Crisp and clean and altogether enjoyable. With more time I think I could sit on the deck and devour a lot of books without an ounce of guilt.

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Author: William May – Manager, Sunspot Vacation Rentals
Blog #: 0115 – 08/01/09

Owners Who Kill The Messenger. And Managers who help them.

By William May
Published: 07/01/09 Topics: Comments: 0

The stinging effect on vacation rentals and vacation rental managers through out the US due to today's economy is having a effects that none of us can do anything about.

The loss of demand is bad enough but now some managers are receiving those proverbial calls from owners who want to kill the messenger instead of rewarding those operators who are busting their butts to make things happen. For top managers it is a time to capitalize on the opportunities but I do hope you are one of the ethical groups out there who refuses to do so with the old Peter-Paul scheme.

This newsletter is a wake-up call to managers to watch out for the scoundrels who will misuse current owners just to steal new ones. And to owners about how to do themselves a favor.

Lack of Demand

If fewer travelers in total are going on vacation then surely vacation rental revenue will also suffer. Traveler preference for vacation rentals may still be increasing as it has for a decade at least. It might even be increasing as guests look to cheaper ways to travel and realize what a bargain they get renting a home instead of a hotel room. More space, fewer restaurant bills and the opportunity to split the costs among more friends.

But recent drops in pre-booking demand and current month occupancy in virtually every geographic market must be out pacing any perceived growth in vacation rental preference. The numbers don't lie. From vacation rentals and rent-direct owners every member calling VRA has reported a drop.

Some see as little as 10 to 20%. Tourism in Hawaii is reporting an over all deficit of 30-40% and there are rumors in some Florida destinations of being hammered by 70% drop offs. Yikes that hurts.

Taking Action

So what should the industry and individual practitioners be doing right now, immediately to retain business or stay in business? The laundry list must include cutting costs of course but that is a double edge sword. All businesses should only spend what is needed to provide a good product. Being opulent is seldom a good tactic.

One seemingly smart move is really just the opposite. In every recession there are businesses that cut advertising because doing so is easy, immediate and visible. If past recessions are an indication (and why wouldn't they be?) dropping out of public view is the beginning of the end.

That is more true now because consumers use the internet to daily to determine if you are still in business. Some go directly to your busy website but most revert to finding you gain through search engine and website directories. If you aren't there, they don't find you in the first place and probably not on return.

In another newsletter we'll ask experts from everywhere there strategies on the cost cutting side of things. For now, however, let's focus on retaining or increasing revenue.

Get Your Game On

I must admit I quit playing basketball at the tender age of 50. I miss it, I do. From it I learned many things. First, if you aren't talented it still feels good to play. Second, the game is all about being ready to play and pouring it on.

If you play basketball in various gyms you also learn an important rule - known when not to enter the game. Unless you are Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant or some other superstar there may always be someone in the place who will enjoy kicking your posterior.

Today the economy is the opponent and we must all decide whether we stay in the game or throw in the towel. If you are a gamer, then the next decision is to decide how hard you are going to play.

Here are some things my rental management company has done to up our game. We're increased our reservation hours and are open seven days a week. Plus someone always has the mobile in their pocket for reservations. (We already have a 24-7 emergency operator for other matters). We have built faster, more efficient software. Think one-second quotes and fully signed, sealed and done reservations in 60 seconds or less.

We have asked our creative staff to reshoot photos of units that needed them. Non-reservation staff are in the call-queue to attempt to grab every phone call with a live person, no matter how busy the phones (Yes the phones still get busy but they get cold sometimes too.)

Our part-time media buyer is now full time. The ad budget has been doubled and with staff that triples our costs. We have crated a software driven automated ad placement system and helped started the industries first multiple listing service (MLS) for vacation rentals, mostly so we could use it.

We call every phone or email inquiry lead three times before setting them aside for fresher calls. The on-site staff are spending more time double checking properties, attending to issues and following up on details.

These are all good things we were doing anyway. We just decided to go into hyper mode.

John Wooden was the Coach of UCLA for a great many years. He won ten NCAA championships with his closest competitor no where near. I had the great opportunity have a long breakfast with him years ago, after hearing him speak for four straight hours to a group of kids.

In all his years of coaching, Coach Wooden ran a full-court press 75% of the time. For those of you not basketball fans, that means his players contested every pass from one end of the court to the other. This is terribly tiring and no player really wants to do it. But players, you see, like to win. And wining is what Coach Wooden taught.

There are great players and smart players and skilled players. But the player who wants to win the most usually does so. The one who will put in hours at practice, live and breathe the sport and always be one step ahead of the competitor.

This economy is every rental manager's chance to win a championship. If they have the stomach for it. And if they go at it hard enough.

Killing The Messenger

Our owners know this. We try to find time to keep them posted of the situation and try not to sugar coat the economy. Taking the time to report takes time away from serving them so it is a delicate balance.

It is satisfying to find so many who understand the plight and appreciate our extra energy and effort. But we can't expect that with everyone. Owners are like bosses. There are good ones, lazy ones and the kind - those who don't care about the details they only want results. Unfortunately the economy is going to make some want the impossible. And that is tough to deliver.

Accomplices

I guess the only thing that surprises me in this economic meltdown is when I see other managers taking devious steps to steal owners away from other managers. Almost always competition is good. We have had numerous owners come to us from other managers asking if we can do more.

It would be tempting to inflate the truth and make pie-in-the-sky projections. Having been in three professional service industries over the years I have been offered this easy out before. But easy outs seldom are.

Dear Owners

So if you are a property owner and wondering if your manager is up to the task of meeting this catastrophe head on, how should you go about evaluating the work your manager does?

First, realize there are no magic elixirs. No manager has an unlimited number of guest inquiries that they can just casually throw your way. Whether they have 10, 100 or 1,000 homes they must market relentlessly to fill them and more so in this economy.

Another manger tells the store of losing a long time landlord for whom they had increased business about 10% every year including in 2008. The owner switched to a new manager who is open just 6 hours a day for reservations, has an ugly website and no on-line booking engine - but it does have an online calendar which is very revealing.

It has only been 3 months and the new manager has secured absolutely no bookings. Nada.

Beware of managers who rob Peter to pay Paul. One recent caller told the story of losing one of her condo owners to another manager and two weeks later signing back another condo in same complex who was leaving that other manager.

The reason? It seems some current bookings had mysteriously canceled at the same time that the first owner was getting bookings. Same complex. Same dates.

It is obvious and it is not ethical. The other manager moved guests from an old owner to a new one to get the new property. Luckily, in this case, the owner figured it out and jumped shipped. But I worry many owners are falling for the ploy.

Is The Grass Greener?

We have heard the click "The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence." We all know it is never true. But asking questions is particularly important now-a-days.

The surest way to determine if your current manager is well underway to protecting your rental interest is to become knowledgeable. Ask detailed questions and be a smart savvy boss. Evaluate the effort but not the results because right now no one can guarantee you anything. In fact, walk quickly away form any manager who tries to BS you with promises.

Instead, you should want to know these facts:

- Has your manager increased or decreased operating hours?

- Have they hired or laid off sales people?

- Are they working longer hours or letting dejection take its toll?

- Has advertising and marketing been increased decisively?

- Are they undertaking new websites, photos, panoramas and more?

- Do they invest heavily in the internet or are their websites second-class and antiquated?

Making subjective decisions takes time. It is emotionally satisfying to fire the messenger. But don't lose the investment you have already made in your current manager.

If they are innovating, cooperating and hustling you have a keeper. Musical chairs won't get you anywhere.

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Author: William May, MayPartners Advertising
Blog #: 0117 – 07/01/09

Why You Can't Shoot Vacation Rentals with a Camera

By William May
Published: 01/15/09 Topics: Comments: 0

Well of course you can.

Today everyone has a camera or two or three. They've moved up from the decades old "Brownies" to Polaroids to click and shoot and now into the world of digital and now to sophisticated digital cameras with large formats (pixels) and self correcting shooting.

So how come when you look at vacation rental photos they are still kind of lousy. Yes they have gotten better over the years due to technology. Some rental managers and even real estate agents have even taken a class or two. Some actually have some talent but still the photos are over exposed, under exposed, out of focus, have washed out colors or are just plain boring.

The reason is no camera can shoot what you eye can behold.

The human eye is a miraculous device. Made up to three layers of issue its complexity is almost too much to understand. The tough Sclerotic coat creates the "white" of the eye except in the front where it forms the transparent cornea. The Choroid middle layer is deeply pigmented with melanin reducing reflection of stray light. It reduces the amount of light and improves its image forming ability. The retina is the inner layer and contains light receptors, the rods and cones that process the signals before passing them back to the brain.

And it does all of this in low light, bright light and everything in between. It thinks and changes and adapts. Something no camera can do. OH sure scientists can cause the image to appear on a medium such as film or transistors (hence digital cameras) which can then be transferred and printed onto another medium (some kind of paper). But that is all it can do.

No camera can interpret what it gets to determine if the color is correct, if all areas are in focus and if the camera is level to the ground (as an example).So giving a novice a camera and expecting them to make art will not produce another Mona Lisa.

Instead, when it comes to our little area of the world - vacation rental and lodging photos - an additional machine must be added before great photography can be created. And that machine is the human brain.

Surely that is required to locate, light and photograph architectural type photos. But then the same machine needs to use other tools to review, edit and fix photos. The goal is to produce vacation rental photos that reveal nothing more and nothing less than what your eye can see in a split second.

Ancil Adams was famous for shooting nature photos especially mountains and forests. But did you know that he spent far more hours in the dark room than in the field?

Shoot vacation rentals is the same. Using tripods, lighting, Photoshop, macros and rigid shooting rules today's top photographers spend more time correcting photos than they do shooting. That is especially true when completing photos for commercial purposes.

In future blogs we'll reveal why photos by the Signatours Image Team far surpass what you find in the usual travel, lodging, website and real estate web pages. You can get a preview at (signatours.com)signatours.com/. Or look at the photos of fantastic vacation homes on our sister company’s website (sunspotresorts.com)sunspotresorts.com/. Tune in next time for the secrets of great photography.

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Author: William May, MayPartners Advertising
Blog #: 0097 – 01/15/09

Sometimes the Best Ideas are Obvious

By William
Published: 01/10/09 Topics: Comments: 0

It was our very first vacation rental. A sumptuous 3,000 square foot vacation home located at Washington State's top destination - Wapato Point a private resort on 50 miles long Lake Chelan Washington. Because it sits on Native American land we dubbed it the Totem House and filled it with native American art. (totemhouse.info)totemhouse.info.

Now this is a beautiful place. The cleanest water, 300 days of sunshine a year and a resort with pools and hot tubs, tennis and basketball courts, acres of green grass and thousands of feet of white sand beach. There are indoor pools too and an ice skating rink in winter. Close to huge outdoor activities. But best of all is the sense of getting away and being in a place created for recreation.

But we did not know what we were getting into. The year was 1999 and buying the house was a long term goal. The seller had accepted renters for certain weeks of that first summer that was fine for us. And at the end of the year we were delighted to find how much income we had received for no inconvenience at all.

In fact, The Totem House went so well we were able to buy a large condo on Poipu Beach Kauai. The Poipu Place (poipuplace.com)poipuplace.com was an extension of the dream for fun, adventure and relaxation all wrapped into one place. Then we bought a place in a ski resort and other vacation rental homes too, all made possible by the nice income.

With interests in other businesses, operating the rentals was no sweat. But then a neighbor approached one day to say, "Hey, how come your house is full all the time and mine is not." And that is how it started.

In time we started management vacation homes for other folks in a number of locations. Our marketing, sales and guest services were more in depth than others and the business began to grow.

Two years ago we decided it was time to offer what we had built and we have been designing and building an expandable business ever since. Our concept is simple - offer all the back office tools that make rentals successful and that most local managers don't or won't invest in. Things like staff photographer, dynamic database driven front-office and back-office systems. World class websites and multiple channels of marketing.

So far So good. In the next few years we'll be opening in more markets start with the Northwest US and Hawaii and British Columbia Canada. If your own deserves the best management possible all you have to do is call William May at 888-628-8989 x902. Or if you would like to join our growing cadre of offices call today.

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Author: William, MayPartners Advertising
Blog #: 0096 – 01/10/09

Hello Blog. Goodbye Newsletters.

By William May
Published: 01/10/09 Topics: Comments: 0

After years of writing newsletters I've succumbed to writing a blog. Not sure what the difference is - we've been posting newsletters online years ago- as well as emailing them and, in fact, snail mailing them years ago.

What better way to keep in touch with all those people I should keep in touch with. So that is my promise to tell you things you'll want to know about Sunspot Inns, Resorts and Vacation Rentals in specific and about Vacation Rentals and even Lodging in particular.

I'll announce our cool new rentals as they come in. And our new offices and network members as our company continues to grow. Like Poipu Beach and Princeville Kauai in Hawaii. Plus Lake Chelan, Crescent Bar, Sunbanks Resorts, Gig Harbor, Whidbey Island and the Bavarian Village of Leavenworth in Washington State.

I would be remiss if I didn't mentioned we are recruiting agents, professionals and property managers in multiple markets right now. If you want to own your own business, live in a desirable recreation market and grow in our dynamic industry, please give us a call. We are recruiting and training new network members particularly in the Northwest States and Hawaii too.,

And I suppose I should tip you off to the specials, discounts and promotions we offer. In fact right now we're having our annual pre-season sale. You can get two weeks for the price of two in many homes. A big discount in Hawaii. And right now always best pick of dates before the spring rush.

In fact, I guess I better be going. If I don't book my own place before you do I wont have first pick will I? Oh, and by the way, happy new years from all your friends at Sunspot Inns, Resorts and Vacations rentals. You can preview homes and book online at (sunspotresorts.com)sunspotresorts.com. Or give us a call at any time to book 888-628-8989.

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Author: William May, MayPartners Advertising
Blog #: 0093 – 01/10/09

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