June 2020 Edition
A Word from our CEO
Welcome to the new CottageCorner Owner’s Newsletter. It fills strange to start back on our monthly newsletters without addressing the pandemic and its impact on our company, our industry, and of course on you as our owners. So, I thought we should make this a special edition. As a business owner, I am always fascinated to learn how other business owners were affected by the pandemic, how they overcame, and what they did differently. Their stories always seem to align with mine, but simple differences are abound based on their own history, scope of work, staff size, and more. And while I am also 110% absolutely exhausted with hearing about Covid-19 and living our new existence around it, I remind myself to never shut down or drown it out. Every day and every new story brings a different lesson, a new vantage point.
- How will our decision today impact the owner’s revenue tomorrow?
- Can we preserve the owner’s assets throughout this crisis or the next crisis to come?
- How can we maintain the staff and protocols to ensure the homes are clean, maintenance is not compromised, and guests and owners feel safe?
- Are we communicating enough to our owners?
We did what we thought was best, in consideration of our owners, our staff, and our guests. But did we keep our promise? It’s exactly those questions I pose above that I would love your feedback on. If we could have done better, tell us so and give us your personal account.
We are not out of the water yet, and we know that this is not just a hiccup in history, but rather it is our new type of existence. This pandemic has redefined this industry entirely and it will never go back to what it used to be. But we want our partnerships with you to be more solidified than ever and we want you to feel that you and your homes are in the best of hands. The outpouring of support from many of you was second to none. On some of the darkest days, we would receive a random call from an owner, just to spread positive vibes and true sincerity… and it was all we needed to get through the next hurdle. It was the reason to not only live, but to thrive. So, thank you for that and thank you for listening… Enjoy the story!
A Word from Operations
It was not an easy experience and the stress levels have been high but you learn a lot going through situations like we have been through over the last few months. I learned that our owners are amazing people and unwavering in their support of all of us even when times looked tough. I learned that our staff fought hard and stayed resilient regardless of the circumstances that they faced and I learned that I would fight in the foxhole with Heather, Eric, and Roger any day of the week. Nobody backed down, we only grew stronger as the times got tougher. I’m proud to be a part of this company.
A Word from Marketing
Happy June Owners!
I know it’s been a couple of month’s since the last newsletter, so in case anyone would like a refresher, here is the link: The CottageCorner – March 2020 Edition. First and foremost, I hope everyone is navigating these times and you find yourselves safe and healthy. If feels great to be getting back into the swing of things around here and seeing the island busy with locals and travelers. The Sales & Marketing Team has been extremely busy since the last time we spoke, and I couldn’t be more thrilled about it! Covid-19 presented some unique challenges to Marketing, as you can imagine. In addition to re-directing our social media efforts, we also had to figure out how to navigate a new influx of negative reviews (from Covid-19 complications) which required us to temporarily take them down from our Facebook page.
In addition to the two social media campaigns, we also had the opportunity to amp up our Google ads. This has proved hugely successful in getting bookings and was a great hands-on-learning experience for me. It also gave us the chance to re-access where we are putting our advertising money into and what we should be focusing on in the future. We also got the opportunity to find more efficient ways of doing our marketing and promotions. You may or may not have noticed that this newsletter looks a little different. That’s because we have entirely changed our e-mail campaign and promotions hosting service to a more cost effective, efficient version. These are just some of the things that have changed for the better. Stay tuned for next month where I will be going over the current and new Premier Partner properties for HomeAway. As always, do not hesitate to contact me directly if you need anything. Until next time, #CottageOn!
A Word from Revenue
I truly missed not having the time to write these newsletters because not only is it informational for you to be able to understand what protocols we are implementing, but it truly gives me a birds-eye view to write it all out and reflect on decisions that were made and their effectiveness.
A Word from Quality Control
We always strive to be the best at what we do but these trying times have propelled us to the next level of excellence!
A Word from Administration
For those of you who do not know me, my name is Fallon Markwell. I am the Executive Assistant of The Cottages on the Key. I am so happy to be writing to all of you for the first time. We have so much to talk about! Events often occur that alter the way we live, menial or extraordinary. New opportunities may come along, or setbacks plague us (no pun intended). Presently, our lives and businesses revolve heavily around the new standards that have been set by a pandemic. Coronavirus has ultimately shifted the way we shop, dine, travel, and work. As March quickly gave way to our new normal, it became time for us to follow suit. Departments aligned more than ever and our crew put all hands on deck in efforts to steer our ship in the right direction.
At the onset of these changes, my department consisted only of myself and my assistant, Abby. We are a small powerhouse responsible for accounting, refunds, reservation payments, vendors, and so much more. Our purpose did not completely change in efforts to adapt, but was instead amplified! Abby, who joined the CottageCrew in January, took a huge leap of faith with us and helped install our Cancellations Department, which quickly became a vital part of our company. The phones never stopped ringing and we were receiving over 200+ calls a day. Whether it was to report to guests the conditions of our area in relation to COVID-19, or to get information for refunds, or to reschedule dates, Abby was there to answer any and all questions.
While my administrative department was down to myself and any spare moments from my assistant, I was able to identify deficiencies in how we were operating under the conditions. Were refunds being administered fast enough? Was every call being answered or returned? Was I doing enough? Was our team burnt out? Most importantly, what were we learning from this experience? What we learned is these few things: Always be able to adapt, primarily by taking the time to cross-train your staff. Make sure you have people who can interpret and understand your accounts. With every experience, there is learned protocol.
Being able to do more with less became the name of our game. Our staff is small, and we are in many ways a grassroots-type company. The ability to divide and conquer pivoted us into a position where we could return calls quickly, track refunds, and help our guests still receive the vacation they have been waiting for! As new policy was put in place by our state and local government, we had to actively adapt within sometimes a matter of moments to apply these new policies. As we were allowed to host essential travelers, we were brought a new hope. A calmness set over us that reminded us, this too shall pass. Simply put, our success was, and always will be, built on our ability to adapt.
Our staff has been undeniably flexible during this time. The benefit of the implementation of cross-training employees is not only effective, but also can be morale boosting. The security cross-training brought to our company is long-lasting. It adds value to each of our staff members and provides our leadership roles strong pillars of support in unexpected, unforeseeable situations. Members from each department were able to shift to and curate an entire department dedicated to cancellation inquiries. It became a supply and demand system, in which resources were pushed and pulled to allow for maximum efficiency across the board. The cancellation department was not always a place of serenity. We were on the phone with guests across the nation who had not left their home in over a month, which can come with a tremendous amount of stress and turmoil for them. At all times, we wanted to remain empathetic to the global status and be a happy voice at the other end of the line that ensured their vacation would indeed come to fruition. The skills our staff have acquired in their cross-training allowed them to do this perfectly.
In specific regard to the administrative department, throughout this experience, we were able to identify unexplored strengths in some employees and this ultimately became a benefit to our accounting. During this period, our account status could be defined a rollercoaster ride, which was intense but also, a good thing. A rollercoaster is not just a downward plummet, it includes peaks and small jumps, too. This is exactly what was occurring within our accounts. As our guests in other states experienced cabin-fever, they were inspired to book with us! This was not the case for all of our guests, however. Some were afraid and apprehensive at the idea of travel for the extent of the foreseeable future. Refunds were dense sometimes. How were we accounting for this extreme scenario? The most intelligent thing we can do is bring more hands to our table. Our department has grown in the past weeks to include Kenneth Hyson. Formally a Vacation Specialist, Kenneth will join Abby as an Administrative Assistant. Kenneth will assist in consistent auditing of accounts and income analysis. Kenneth’s three-year history with the company and interest in accounting has made him an excellent candidate for this position. Any person touching our accounts must have the same interpretation of how to read them. It is imperative to creating a harmonious accounting structure in even the most sensitive times.
A large part of what I do in this company is protocol creation, maintenance, and management. Coronavirus has been instrumental in our newly adopted protocol. As we have gained full control over our ability to operate, we have learned the protocol necessary to operate under such tremendous circumstances. The health of our owners, guests, vendors, and staff is of the utmost importance. We currently mandate that all office staff gets tested frequently for COVID-19. All results are shared at will with myself and their supervisors. Also, our office is cleaned weekly with special attention to clean all surfaces. This protocol promotes a strong, stable, healthy work space and culture.
Our mission stands the same today as it did before. We are constantly striving to improve our methods and practices to be able to provide our owners and guests with peace of mind and heart. I look forward to continuously applying these learned protocols to better our company community. As we move forward, please feel free to contact me at any time with your questions or your thoughts. We are so happy to have you as part of our Cottages family.
A Word from Acquisitions
Lastly, I just want to tell our staff, our owners, our vendors and our guests how truly important you all are to us. We couldn’t do it without you, nor would we want to. Thank you for all that you do and let’s keep Cottaging On! Cheers!