Four seasoned VR pros share how they have survived and thrived in the industry.
In this series of VRM Careerists, VRM Intel is diving into the lives of the careerists among us, those managers who have made it over the river and through the woods of vacation rental life, and yet have still chosen to persevere in a business that is as rigorous as it is unglamorous, as challenging as it is heartwarming.
The last story we have to share with you in this series of VRM Careerists is that of Cort Roussel.
Stepping Away with Full-Cort Advantage
Perhaps the most relatable part of Cort Roussel’s story is how he stepped back from the vacation rental industry, as opposed to how he stepped into it.
“The quality of life was gone,” he said quietly, as he reflected. “The dream was gone. At the end of the winter, my guests were skiing more than I was.”
Overwhelm in the vacation rental management world is a common condition. But these days, Roussel, who is still owner of Franconia Notch Vacations (he sold his interest in the short-term rental part of his business to Vacasa), has dialed back his workload to include only long-term rentals of 90 nights or more.
“It’s still an ongoing business cycle, but less stressed,” he said. “When things go wrong, you have more time to get it right. And I’m not having to manage both short-term and long-term rentals at the same time.”
Roussel had always planned a life in hospitality. A self-described “well-educated resort rat,” he earned a bachelor’s degree in business, focusing on hotel and restaurant management. But his first position working in the timeshare arena left him frustrated. He was not always able to please his customers, whether they were owners or guests, because they didn’t always understand what they had purchased.
“Most folks don’t get a lot of vacation time; maybe they go away four times per year,” he noted. “They dedicate a lot of time figuring out how they want to spend that time. The time someone gives you for vacation is inordinately valuable.”
Roussel had been moonlighting for Loon Reservation Service, where he met then-company owners Jim and Barbara Collier, whom he credits as his greatest mentors in the industry.
Within a year after being hired in 2000, he obtained his real estate license in New Hampshire and attended his first VRMA (Vacation Rental Management Association) conference as a result of their support. Roussell would later serve as a member of the board of directors at both VRMA and the Franconia Notch Chamber of Commerce.
“I never had an employer invest that much,” he said. “And I had health care! They took care of their staff and treated us like family.”
Roussel marvels at how the Colliers, then in their late 60s, were early adopters of everything the internet had to offer. He said they were already accepting reservations online in 2000 and had a T1 data line running through their office.
“They snatched up all the dot-coms in the surrounding areas,” he said of the Colliers’ foresight in purchasing domain names. “No one even knew what a dot-com was.”
By 2002, the Colliers had moved him into the management of Franconia Notch Vacations, and by 2005, they offered to sell that business to him, and he accepted. But the building itself was leased, not owned. Although the option to buy it was on the table from the landlord, Roussel could not afford to buy both the business and the building.
“But are you interested?” Collier asked Roussel at the time.
“He bought the building,” Roussel recalled, emotion rising in his voice. “I now own the building. They’re like parents.”
He purchased the building from the Colliers over time and developed the business into a success that drew the interest of Vacasa. Along the way, he realized he was overworked by doing everything himself, and it was time to make a shift.
He is happy to have more time on the slopes these days.
“I’m semi-retired now,” he said.
After more than 25 years dedicated to others, this careerist finally made time for his own vacations.
Read More about Other VRM Careerists Below