Almost five years ago, Hannah Lau Zarley had the opportunity to transition from the multifamily side of technology to the vacation rental industry. Her eventual decision to make the leap from an established housing vertical to one that was up and coming may seem like an odd move to some.
Zarley took on her new role at Kigo by using not just the business and technology experience that got her there but also her ears. By listening to those around her—whether leaders, peers, or employees—she blended into the culture of passion and empowerment that Kigo has successfully adopted in its five years since being acquired by RealPage. Now vice president of operations for Kigo, Zarley strives to keep that culture alive as Kigo and others in the short-term rental and vacation rental industries forge ahead.
Creating an Outstanding Company Culture
“Listening to our employees is one of the first things we did at Kigo when we inherited the organization,” she said. “It’s putting people in a position where they feel passionate and they have an opportunity to make a difference, getting them on board with the mission you’re creating as a company. Listening to an employee can have an immediate impact on the organization.”
Promoting Success, Regardless of Gender
In “Company Culture: Technology, Autonomy, and Accountability Not Sold Separately,” Zarley shared how everyone from the top down is responsible for executing the vision of a memorable guest experience. One way is to invest in a staff that personally conveys this message with technology to support it.
Zarley has been a key player at Kigo in its development of an all-in-one property management platform that creates exceptional experiences for vacation rental managers and guests.
The company, she said, couldn’t have excelled in the last four years to become a leader in the vacation rental industry without creating an environment that promotes success among its employees.
“We’ve focused on building a culture that empowers our team fully and effectively,” Zarley said. “Utilizing the strengths and weaknesses, and bringing that empowerment to the table, is what we’ve found brings us the most success.”
It’s No Longer about “Me” but about “Us”
With growth comes responsibility, and even difficulty, to maintain missions and mind-sets. Most vacation rental property managers started their businesses alone or with business partners, and many fail at transferring passion and vision to their staffs when business booms. This can create a poor experience for the guest.
How an operator treats guests is not necessarily how employees will treat them unless the mind-set has been established inside the organization. It’s also important to demonstrate hospitality to your employees because they own your company’s brand and need to feel genuinely welcome as well.
Give the team the confidence and courage needed to execute and lead. Culture begins with the leader, but then it’s about the group of individuals who are focused on delivering a great experience for guests.
Putting the “Why” behind Your Business
But establishing that welcome mind-set takes more than just a few warm greetings throughout the day. The culture should be built around storytelling and asking the right questions. Mentorship and training that emphasize teamwork further embeds belief in the mission.
Building a culture around storytelling bonds an organization when employees feel they are a part of the pages. That creates an emotional link between them and your business. It opens the eyes and ears of employees to see what the emotional impact looks like to the guest.
Asking the right questions to determine what motivates employees and discovering their true desires determine whether they are capable of carrying out the mind-set. Desire trumps passion every time. Hiring people who believe in the message means they are more likely to convey that message to guests and carry out the mission.
Taking Charge of Your Company Culture
Property owners and managers can’t always control outlying factors such as competitors and the economy, but they can manage conditions within an organization. Leaders make the choice to implement a culture that welcomes and values both guests and staff.
Care is at the core of every service initiative. Staff should nurture people and take great pride in extending hospitality to guests. If employees are happy, it’s only natural that they share a warm smile or pleasant greeting that is more than skin-deep.