Western Seminar Programming

2015 Western Seminar
April 13-14, 2015
Portland Marriott Downtown Riverfront
Portland, Oregon
Deadline Extended:
Register by March 19 for best rates


Western Seminar Sessions and Programming

NEW for 2015: Based on attendee feedback, the 2015 Western Seminar has been expanded to two full days of education and networking with the best minds in the vacation rental industry. Additionally, this year's expanded programming offers a variety of session lengths, including 30-minute sessions chock full of quick tips and tangible solutions, and more in-depth 60-minute sessions covering complex issues and strategies.


Western Seminar General Sessions

Monday Opening General Session: Ask An Expert
Monday, April 13 | 9:00-10:30 a.m.

Back by popular demand! The Ask an Expert session gives attendees the opportunity to ask questions and interact with peer experts in small-group discussions. This is your chance to delve deeper into the topics that affect you most. Bring your questions for our expert discussion leaders and gain specific, hands-on advice from peers who have faced the same challenges. 

Table topics include (but are not limited to):
  • Bed Bug Prevention
  • Contract Vendors vs. In-House Employees
  • Convincing Owners to Upgrade
  • Dealing with Difficult Customers
  • Homeowner Acquisition
  • Laundry and Linen Service Best Practices
  • Lead Management Effectiveness
  • Liability Insurance 101
  • Maintenance Best Practices
  • Managing a Housekeeping Department
  • Managing Remote/Seasonal Employees
  • Managing Third Party Channels
  • Operational Technology Trends
  • Overcoming Objections (Reservation Sales)
  • Peer Web Critique/Website Best Practices
  • Pricing Optimization

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Tuesday Morning General Session: Creating Extraordinary Excellence, DAILY! 
Tuesday, April 14  | 8:15-9:45 a.m.
Doug Kennedy
Kennedy Training Network | President

This presentation first explores the new power of what used to be referred to as “word of mouth” advertising. Whereas lodging providers used to have to worry that “an unhappy guest might tell as many as 9-10 others,” today’s guests can become our biggest advocates or our worst nightmares. With the proliferation of online guest reviews and the explosion of social media postings, the level of hospitality and guest service efficiency actually provided to real guests is “transparent” for the world (and potential future guests) to see.

This session first presents an overview of the “what’s in it for me?” from the perspective of the frontline colleagues; that bringing out the best in others brings out the best in ourselves. It then covers the fundamentals of creating hospitality excellence that managers and supervisors need to mentor, reinforce and measure in order to make it an “ordinary” experience for guests to receive “extraordinary” guest service.

About Doug Kennedy
KTN President Doug Kennedy is the lodging industry’s leading expert in hospitality sales and guest services training, having conducted training for top tier companies across all market segments for over two decades. His hotel clients have ranged from five star hotels such as large as The Venetian Las Vegas at 7,000+ rooms to luxury inns such as the Castle Hill Inn Newport, Rhode Island, with 35 rooms. Over the years he has conducted corporate sponsored training for most of the major hotel brands including Starwood, Wyndham, Marriott, Hilton, Intercontinental, Best Western, Choice, and Leading Hotels of the World. His current vacation rental industry clients include a diversity of companies of all sizes. He is a dynamic and engaging presenter who has presented at VRMA conferences since 1996, and he packed the room for his breakout session on reservations sales techniques at the 2014 Annual Conference. His monthly sales training articles inspire readers worldwide.

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Tuesday Afternoon Closing General Session: Vacation Rental Industry Trends
Tuesday, April 14 | 4:30-5:00 p.m.
Ben Edwards, VRMA President

The vacation rental industry is rapidly changing. Learn about emerging trends affecting the industry and how your company can take advantage of them.

Since joining VRMA in 2000, Ben Edwards has been involved in numerous industry initiatives. Ben served on the VRMA Board of Directors from 2005-2011, including serving as treasurer from 2009-2011. In addition to serving as President since 2013, Ben is currently a member of VRMA’s Finance Committee and has previously served on the HomeAway Advisory Board Committee, the Board of the Florida Vacation Rental Managers Association and as an advisory board member for Vacation Rental Expo, the industry’s first consumer-based tradeshow.

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Concurrent Sessions

The Western Seminar offers a record number of concurrent educational sessions to choose from. 

Administration/Human Resources

The 1-2-3’s and ABC’s of Employee Forms, Files and Best Practices
Lucky you! You are hiring a new employee. This session discusses a variety of employment documents and best practices.  For example: What should you look for when reviewing resumes? Do you use applications or resumes, or both?  What’s the best practice for extending offers? Join this interactive session to learn about these topics as well as reference checking, documenting performance and what to keep in personnel files.  
PRESENTER(S): Sue Jones, KLS Group 

Recruiting for Cultural Fit
When hiring, how do you find candidates who not only have the skill set you need, but also will fit well within your organization’s culture? This session will delve deeper into tools all hiring managers can use to ensure new hires are a great fit in all aspects of a company, including screening questions and efficient parsing techniques of candidates. We’ll also examine the interview questions and techniques you need to know to screen for behavioral/soft skills and evaluate hard skills. Combined, these techniques will help you increase employee retention, decrease turnover and create a great working environment. 
PRESENTER(S): Jennifer Jones, Vacasa  

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Owner Relations

Managing Homeowner Partners
Setting proper expectations from the first conversation with prospective new homeowner partners is critical to the success of the on-boarding process and the ongoing relationship. Helping your partners feel important and heard is an important part of retention. And knowing when to cut a partner or property loose can be tricky but must be done. This session will provide a forum to learn and share ideas, strategies, best practices, and failures when it comes to homeowner relations. Learn how to set expectations during the sales process and manage the ongoing relationship to maximize both your company’s and the homeowner’s return on investment. 
PRESENTER(S): Kenny Cassady, Oranj Palm Vacation Homes

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Professionalism/Customer Service

Providing Excellent Customer Service
Do you know the 10 deadly sins of customer service? This highly interactive session is designed specifically for employees who have customer contact. You’ll learn how to identify who your customers are and how to better serve their needs, how to effectively use verbal and non-verbal skills in customer service and how to build trust with your customer. Session activities will allow for practical application to individual customer situations.
PRESENTER(S): Ali Cammelletti, Cammelletti Consulting, LLC

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Property Services

The Dangers of Renting Vacation Homes: What Every Manager Must Do To Protect Renters, Owners, and Themselves
So much goes into getting a vacation renter to stay in one of your homes—advertising, booking, cleaning, providing directions, and more.  However, most professional managers overlook the most important thing: Safety. Your renters trust you to ensure you are delivering a safe rental property. Are you meeting their expectations? This session will cover more than just smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. You’ll receive safety checklists that both owners and managers can complete to ensure that your rental properties are safe. 
PRESENTER(S): To be announced

Housekeeping Basics
At the beginning of each football season Vince Lombardi would hold up a football and say to men who had played football for many years, “This is a football.” The team would then discuss and practice the basics of football. Housekeeping is not different. The basics need to be discussed and sometimes relearned each year. Attending this session will enable you to lead a discussion with your staff about the housekeeping basics and help your housekeepers recalibrate their skills.
PRESENTER(S): Durk Johnson, Vacasa/Vacation Rental Housekeeping Professionals (VRHP)

Housekeeping Industry Q&A
The best and brightest industry leaders take a black light to your nitty gritty housekeeping questions. No dirty linen will be left unaired. Our expert panel will also tackle the top five most pressing issues from the VRMA housekeeping questionnaire. Never look at a "clean" room the same way again.
PRESENTER(S): Durk Johnson, Vacasa/Vacation Rental Housekeeping Professionals (VRHP)

Surviving an OSHA Inspection: Does Your Laundry Facility Stack Up? 
Does your laundry facility meet Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards? An OSHA expert will review what your laundry facility should be watching out for. Once we spin out the OSHA details, hear from a panel of vacation rental managers about best practices on running a successful and profitable laundry facility.
PRESENTER(S): Durk Johnson, Vacasa/Vacation Rental Housekeeping Professionals (VRHP); Betsy LaBarge, Mt Hood Vacation Rentals

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Sales and Marketing

Seven Habits for Effective Lead Management
This presentation will focus on the fundamentals of implementing an effective lead management program to improve sales conversions. Learn the essentials of a successful lead management program, including tools to assist with defining and implementing a program for your organization. We will discuss not only emerging technology trends, but also how having a process improves conversion rates and even customer service.
PRESENTER(S): Carmela Gillenwater, HomeAway Software

Three Ways to Become a Reservations Sales Agent Superstar 
Did you know: HomeAway research has revealed that 71% of vacation rental shoppers will book ONLY AFTER speaking with the property management staff.  Your reservations team has never been more important in helping build a strong and healthy business. With nearly 3/4 of potential guests inquiring by phone, it's imperative your sales skills are in top form. Whether you're a new reservations sales agent, have been answering calls for years, or are trying to be the best you can be, you won't want to miss this interactive and fun session. You'll get to test your own sales skills via interactive exercises, learn proven vacation rental reservation call techniques that increase bookings, and listen in to recorded examples of actual reservations calls, both good and bad.
PRESENTER(S): Brise Carpenter, NAVIS

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NEW for 2015: Mix and Mingle Sessions

Mix and Mingle: Small Companies
There are some issues that only others who have been in your shoes can help you address. New for 2015: The Mix and Mingle Sessions give you the opportunity to network with other managers who share the same challenges you face—and can offer you solutions. Join other vacation rental managers from small companies in this informal networking session.

Mix and Mingle: Medium Companies
There are some issues that only others who have been in your shoes can help you address. New for 2015: The Mix and Mingle Sessions give you the opportunity to network with other managers who share the same challenges you face—and can offer you solutions. Join other vacation rental managers from medium-sized companies in this informal networking session.

Mix and Mingle: Large Companies
There are some issues that only others who have been in your shoes can help you address. New for 2015: The Mix and Mingle Sessions give you the opportunity to network with other managers who share the same challenges you face—and can offer you solutions. Join other vacation rental managers from large companies in this informal networking session.

Mix and Mingle: Reservations
There are some issues that only others who have been in your shoes can help you address. New for 2015: The Mix and Mingle Sessions give you the opportunity to network with other managers who share the same challenges you face—and can offer you solutions. Join other vacation rental reservations professionals in this informal networking session.

Mix and Mingle: Maintenance
There are some issues that only others who have been in your shoes can help you address. New for 2015: The Mix and Mingle Sessions give you the opportunity to network with other managers who share the same challenges you face—and can offer you solutions. Join other vacation rental maintenance professionals in this informal networking session.

Mix and Mingle: Housekeeping
There are some issues that only others who have been in your shoes can help you address. New for 2015: The Mix and Mingle Sessions give you the opportunity to network with other managers who share the same challenges you face—and can offer you solutions. Join other vacation rental housekeeping professionals in this informal networking session.

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Executive Level Track

A Growing Number of Government Restrictions: How to Engage and Create Positive Regulations
This session will include a discussion of data, best practices and examples of managers and stakeholders who have successfully steered burdensome restrictions into fair and effective regulations. Managers from diverse backgrounds have engaged with local and state governments to affect positive solutions, and you can too.
PRESENTER(S): Matt Curtis, HomeAway

Are You Leaving Money on the Table?
Additional revenue streams are becoming more and more critical to every rental management operation. This session will uncover the most common revenue streams property managers are implementing to offset the expanding list of overhead expenses. You’ll learn how to efficiently implement these revenue streams as well as discover creative, outside-the-box revenue stream options. You will leave this session with 3-5 additional revenue stream ideas to take back to your management team for consideration.
PRESENTER(S): Sharon Clark, LiveRez

The Leadership Ladder and Lateral Thinking: Leadership Development And Creative Problem Solving for Your Operations Team
How do we empower our staff to make decisions themselves, rather than merely taking orders?  This session will provide a framework of leadership development and creative problem solving that will revolutionize the way your team functions. We'll look at a "leadership ladder" and follow a step-by-step guide to move an employee from "tell me what to do" to "here's what I've just achieved." The second half of the presentation will focus on techniques to help ourselves and our newly empowered employees solve day-to-day problems more creatively. We'll talk about creative thinking—also known as "lateral" thinking—and how we can actually train our brains to get out of the logical, left-brain ways.  And really, our businesses need that to stay relevant! You’ll leave this session creatively inspired and ready to empower your team to problem-solve in new, innovative ways.
PRESENTER(S): Kimberly White, Vacasa

Navigating Growth Points: A Case Study in Implementing Organizational Change
This presentation will explore Sea to Sky Rentals, one of the original vacation rental businesses in Seattle, as a case study in organizational change for a vacation rental business. Over the course of 11 years the business grew organically, collecting employees, company culture and business practices along the way. Although the company was successful, its growth was hampered by business practices that had more to do with legacy than the future of the industry. In 2013, the team shifted from an “All Hands on Deck!” small business mentality to a streamlined business model that enables growth and innovation. Learn how the owner decided to refocus the business and how the company set up the framework for a multi-year change process. You’ll discover how to transform a business midway through its lifecycle and address persistent cultural artifacts that no longer serve the business. This interactive presentation will provide multiple opportunities for discussion and evaluation of participants’ own businesses.
PRESENTER(S): Heidi Stuber, Sea to Sky Rentals

Recruiting New Homes and New Homeowners: Best Practices and Pitfalls
We all know adding more properties is the best way to grow. This panel discussion focuses on the best and worst ways to find, attract and onboard new homes. From online marketing to offline outreach, and from innovative business models to tried and true sales pitches, we will discuss what works and what doesn’t. You’ll learn the best-in-class ways to add more of the properties you want, and less of those you don’t.
PRESENTER(S): Andrew McConnell, Vacation Futures; Jodi Taylor-Refosco, Taylor-Made Deep Creek Vacations; Eric Breon, Vacasa; Brandon Ezra, Grand Welcome; Sean Conway, Pillow Homes

Retooling for Survival
To survive a profit squeeze from third party distribution, online shopping and maturing markets, the presenters blueprint five initiatives to help independent companies adapt and prosper: analytics that make or break profitability; ways to keep big enterprise competitors from pushing you aside; participation in third party distribution channels without breaking the bank; strategic alliances with local partners that add product value; and staying nimble and providing relevant content to motivate guests to find you.
PRESENTER(S): Scott Leggat, Seaside Realty; George Volsky, Advanced Information Systems

Revenue Fundamentals
This session reviews revenue fundamentals developed and shared by rental managers over two decades data. A “must-attend” session for new managers and a valuable update for others, it reviews the relationship between commissions and fees. The presenters will discuss the revenue logic behind nightly and one-time fees, the strategy tradeoffs for add-on fees vs. fees buried in the rent, and show how fees increase “effective” commission rates and insulate managers from discounting.
PRESENTER(S): George Volsky, Advanced Information Systems; Scott Leggat, Seaside Realty

Understanding the Income Statement
Are you getting the most out of your income statement? This session is your guide to effectively managing the finances of your vacation rental company. You’ll receive tangible takeaways and the tools you need to set up and manage your profit and loss statement like a pro. You’ll learn how to establish a relevant chart of accounts, how to format an income statement, how to understand key indicators, and how to have a better understanding of profitability.
PRESENTER(S): Ben Edwards, Newman-Dailey Resort Properties/Weatherby Consulting, LLC

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