Luxury home owners live, literally, with a certain standard of amenities. When they travel, they want to take that luxury with them. This high-end demographic, along with business travelers, are the latest categories to be shaken up as Airbnb and other vacation rental companies continue to evolve and innovate.
Yet for companies like InvitedHome, which was named to the Inc. 500 list of fastest growing U.S. companies in 2015 (No. 28 overall, No. 1 in the travel category), this hasn't been an overnight success.
It was co-founder Michael Joseph's earliest experience with a "fixer-upper" home at Lake Tahoe, some ten years ago, that set him on the path that would become InvitedHome's model: delivering five-star hotel-like excellence for vacation homes in desirable resort destinations, for both high-end travelers and the home-owners themselves.
Along the way, Joseph and his team have cultivated a set of operational principles that guide their business and their corporate environment, from dealing with failure to working with millennials, to taking sharp right turns in their strategy.
What it boils down to, Joseph says, is addressing the pain points that obstruct the client's joy. For some homeowners it might be revenue, while for others it's top-notch care or transparent communication. For the travelers themselves, it could be consistent standards and responsive guest services that custom-tailor local experiences.
Here are five principles that Joseph and his team implement in order to deliver joy to their clients.
1. Don't Quit. Even When You Want To
"You are going to want to quit at least once a day, especially in the early days," Joseph says. That's why it's crucial to choose strong, complementary co-founders who you have a personal relationship with and don't want to let down. "Building a startup is a roller coaster where the highs are incredible and the lows are really tough."
2. Recruit for Core Values
Joseph puts a hiring process in place early, and doesn't compromise or waiver from it. "A maybe is a no," he said. "Instead of a cover letter, we require applicants to submit a 'culture letter' defining their personal and professional values, and how those values connect to InvitedHome's core values." Once a team member is on board, they're on board for good. "Empower your team to make great decisions, lead by example, and be a servant to your team," Joseph advises. "If you're willing to bend over backwards to help your team succeed, they'll pay it back in spades."
3. Invest in the Long Term
"Don't let fast growth or perceived success of other companies in your industry distract you from focusing on creating the best product," Joseph says. "Eventually the best product wins, even if it takes time." What else, Joseph advises not to expect overnight success, despite the hit-it-big mentality that often pervades entrepreneurial lingo and perception.
4. Start with the Why
That goes for employees and clients alike. Inspiring millennial employees, for example, involves painting a picture of where the business is going and giving them something they can buy into. "A lot of people who work at InvitedHome have great memories together with family that you can't create at hotels," Joseph says. "It's about creating great memories in vacation homes, or helping guests create their memories in our homes."
5. Take Those Sharp Right Turns
Don't be afraid to dramatically change your business and throw away things you've put lots of effort into if they're not working, Joseph says. "It's not wasted time if you learned something you can apply later. And it's a much better decision than marching off of a cliff just to try to prove your original idea was right."