Four seasoned VR pros share how they have survived and thrived in the industry.
In this series of VRM Careerists, VRM Intel is continuing to dive 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.
Next on our list is the story of Ryan Christopher.
Ryan Christopher Is Happy to Be Lazy, Finally
Ryan Christopher was in college in 1995 doing a summer internship as a manager-in-training with Abbott Resorts in Florida when he learned firsthand that working in hospitality was not for everyone.
“Eighty percent of the interns decided they didn’t want to do it and changed their degree by the end of the summer,” he said. “They never had worked, never had practical experience. You know, cleaning toilets, throw-up, all that stuff that happens. But you have to do it hands-on to be successful.”
By the time he was 25, he was a general manager in the Fort Walton Beach area with the same resort company he interned for, hired right out of college by one of his mentors, Joann Saucier. He credits Saucier with demonstrating to him how to treat and appreciate employees, particularly the ones servicing the homes.
“She was good about helping me understand what the real business was,” Christopher said. “It’s hard to get people to want to do some of that stuff. But she had empathy for employees. I learned how to manage people by watching her. I imitated what I saw her doing.”
Even while managing hundreds of properties, in the early years Christopher stayed close to the guest experience. One guest called after checking in, saying there had been a homicide in his unit. But after further inspection—and a period of panic—it turned out the “blood” was only tomato sauce.
“Another guest covered an entire unit with Saran Wrap,” he said. “It was just crazy. He was a germaphobe.”
Christopher had the unique experience of working exclusively for large, publicly-traded vacation rental companies over the years, which offered advantages and disadvantages. While it was a luxury to have the funding to implement new technologies and have entire departments for marketing and human resources, there were restrictions and frustrations in effecting change.
“The best analogy is you operate like an aircraft carrier when you try to change direction, rather than a speedboat,” he said.
In 2020, he took his 22 years of vacation rental industry experience and pivoted to a new venture as the owner of Lazy Days Beach Services. Christopher is now a service provider for the vacation rental industry. He said that over his years of working in Florida, he saw a sizable gap in the vacation rental guest experience.
“If we were able to do everything perfectly (at the vacation rental), but guests went to the beach and had a horrible experience, they felt like that was an extension of what we were,” he said. “I saw an opportunity to use what I learned in vacation rentals and leverage it.”
Lazy Days Beach Services provides beach concierge services to large companies like Marriott and condo associations, but also to nearly 1,000 individual vacation rental homeowners who see the value in ensuring that their guests have the ultimate beach vacation experience from start to finish, so they’ll return year after year.
And now, with Lazy Days, he also has time to serve as manager of his own three vacation rentals. He finally has the power to effect the change he wants, whenever he wants.
“I can’t tell you how exciting it is to immediately affect that guest experience as an owner,” he said. “I love it.”
Read More about Other VRM Careerists Below