Alex & Annie: The Real Women of Vacation Rentals

Alex and Annie

With more than 35 years of combined experience in vacation rentals, Alex Husner and Annie Holcombe have teamed up to connect the dots between inspiration and opportunity, seeking to find the one story, idea, strategy or decision that led to their guests big A-HA moment. Join them, as they highlight the REAL stories behind the people and brands that have built vacation rentals into the 100 BILLION dollar industry it is today.

How Planting Seeds Turns into ROL (Return on Luck), with Hostaway CEO Marcus Räder
In this insightful and candid interview with Hostaway CEO, Marcus Räder takes us on an eye-opening journey of what companies really learn as they attempt to grow with investment capital. Marcus joins us today as another member of "The Blondies", and while the three of us together look we could also be members of the Brady Bunch, we dive into some seriously impactful topics that are applicable to any business looking to scale and grow.  Marcus shares how companies can only learn by doing the wrong things. Putting capital where it shouldn't be will only make you learn the lessons faster - you'll hire the wrong people, and put them in the wrong positions. Money can be a catalyst for growth, or for learning - often times, it forces you to make decisions you aren't equipped to make. You will make bad decisions on people that will affect your company culture and performance. It's how quickly you learn from these bad decisions that will determine whether you can turn things around.  He shares the importance of planting seeds on your journey, and talking to everyone you can. Make sure they know that you are on a mission. When you get your "lucky" break, it won't be luck - it will be a Return on Luck, or ROL. You will know this, but others won't. Let them think it's luck - it's a more newsworthy story that way ;)We also talk about some technical things like the recent Airbnb update, the difference between Hostaway and other PMS's, etc... but the real magic of this episode is the learnings shared by a self-described war time CEO. This episode is a MUST listen! CONTACT MARCUS RÄDERLinkedInHostawayCONTACT ALEX & ANNIEAlexandAnniePodcast.comLinkedIn | Instagram | Facebook
2d ago
51 mins
Finding Her Identity Under the Arches, with McDonald's Tracy Johnstone
Tracy Johnstone is one of those leaders who if you are lucky enough to encounter on your career journey, will aspire you to become so much more than you ever thought possible. As a female who rose to the top of the ranks of corporate McDonald's in the 1990’s, Tracy shares how she built her confidence and found her voice in a male dominated boardroom.  She recalls, “There’s lots of seats at the table… I just learned early on, which ones I wanted. Just being on the team wasn’t enough for me, at some point. I knew the seat I wanted, and I started working on my skill set to get that seat.” Mic-drop moment right there. This episode is jam packed with them! A master of margins, Tracy explains how she taught her employees to understand profitability through ketchup packets and how a handful of ketchup became an A-HA moment for her staff as she transparently shared the P+L of her restaurants with all employees.Tracy also shares a vivid account of how she led the recovery efforts of Hurricane Michael in the Florida Panhandle back in 2018, and then, led her company and employees through COVID.  While she had no idea at the time, these two situations were leading up to the biggest challenge of her life - a breast cancer diagnosis that came at the end of 2020, which led to her decision to sell the business. Tune in to be inspired and uplifted! One favorite takeaway we had to sneak in: “The more you do, the more people will let you do.”CONTACT TRACY JOHNSTONEtracyvjohnstone@outlook.comLinkedin CONTACT ALEX & ANNIEAlexandAnniePodcast.comLinkedIn | Instagram | FacebookPodcast Sponsored by Condo-World and Lexicon Travel
May 18 2022
43 mins
99 STR Problems, But Airbnb Ain’t One: The Direct Booking Playbook with Boostly CEO Mark SimpsonCreating a Sustainable Competitive Edge, with Ed St. Onge, President of Flip.toIt’s the 1st of the Month! Bonus Episode - May 2022The Early Days of Travel Disruption with The OG of Channel Management, Ed St.Onge
This is Part 1 of a special 2 part series with Ed St. Onge, President of Flip.to  (and the OG of Channel Management). Why are there 2 episodes? Because 1 just wasn't enough! Ed takes us on a journey that is nothing short of astounding, starting from his early days as the President of EZ Yield, the very first ever channel manager for hotels that he sold to Travel Click (then later acquired by Amadeus). The technology EZ Yield built in the early 2000's laid the bricks for future channel and rate management software that is utilized today for both hotels and vacation rentals, and in this unprecedented interview, Ed shares behind-the-scenes stories of the challenges and triumphs of pioneering a business where there was no roadmap to follow.  SPOILER ALERT!On next week's episode, Ed tells us about Flip.to, a guest experience platform that Alex & the Condo-World team have used since 2017. In just the past year, this program has enabled Alex to grow her email database by 150,000 qualified email leads. Yes, you read that right! As Vrbo and Airbnb have continued to dominate market share of vacation rental bookings, Condo-World has been able to maintain their 95% direct booking / 5% OTA ratio. Flip.to has been a major component of this success and Alex is excited to share her story on next week's episode!HINT: This is a video you want to at least start watching on YouTube! Ed brought a very special guest! Meet Ed (and Todd) here:  https://youtu.be/DCYPJmQUwhcCONTACT ED ST. ONGEhttps://flip.toestonge@flip.toLinkedInCONTACT ALEX & ANNIEAlexandAnniePodcast.comLinkedIn | Instagram | FacebookPodcast Sponsored by Condo-World and Lexicon Travel
Apr 27 2022
46 mins
VRMA Spring Forum Recap: All In On Advocacy, with President Miller Hawkins
Tune in for this special episode where we speak with VRMA President, Miller Hawkins, about the recent Spring Forum in Chicago. Advocacy was top of mind at this event, as vacation rental managers came together to find a way to protect the industry from the infringement of short term rental laws that are spreading like wildfire. While local governments are enacting these laws to prevent the problems that come from the "bad apples" that have accompanied the surge in popularity of short term rentals, they are also jeopardizing the livelihoods of the professional companies who operate above-board and are vital (and big tax contributing) members of their business communities. As the opening session drew to a close, Miller took the stage to ask for continued support of the VRMA Advocacy Fund that Steve Milo of VTrips formed a few years ago. The goal was to raise $250,000 at the event, and Miller asked anyone who was willing to donate $10,000+ to join him on stage. Several companies jumped right up, with enthusiasm and check book in-hand, and within 10 minutes, more than $300,000 had been raised! By the end of the day, total donations came to $432,600 for the VRMA Advocacy Fund. Way to go Miller, VRMA Staff & Board of Directors, and of course, the companies large and small that stepped up to protect our industry!  • $60,000: Inhabit IQ, VTrips • $50,000: Vacasa • $20,000: Avalara, C2G Advisors, Dormakaba, Elliott Realty, RedSky Travel Insurance, TravelNet Solutions, VacayHome Connect • $10,000: AvantStay, Behome247, DoneRight Management, Got2Go, Panhandle Getaways, PriceLabs, Scenic Stays, Silicon Travel, StoicLane, Weatherby Consulting • $22,600: Donations made directly from attendees Topics we also cover:Airbnb's new policiesExecutive SummitVRMA InternationalWatch on YouTube here: https://youtu.be/4BburRFTpug CONTACT MILLER HAWKINShttps://www.vrma.org/miller@booerealty.netLinkedIn CONTACT ALEX & ANNIEAlexandAnniePodcast.comLinkedIn | Facebook | InstagramPodcast Sponsored by Condo-World and Lexicon Travel
Apr 20 2022
41 mins
How Rent Responsibly is Aligning Forces to Protect the STR Industry, with David Krauss
Tune in for today's episode with David Krauss, CEO and Co-Founder of Rent Responsibly, the organization that has helped thousands of managers from coast to coast as they deal with the influx of short term rental laws that are infringing on the industry. In most cases, short term rental laws are enacted by municipalities to combat issues created by the new wave of individual hosts that can now easily rent properties on Airbnb and Vrbo. Disruptive guests and hosts that don't pay taxes are among the top concerns, but while these laws are successful at eliminating those issues, they are also shutting down the professionally managed rental companies that operate their businesses above-board. David's experience renting his own condo in Texas years ago led him to co-found NoiseAware, after one of his guests' had a party that got out of control and he was fined for a noise violation. This A-HA moment put David on a path to find a solution that would allow him manage guests and not be in violation of any HOA or local laws. Their technology provided an answer to this problem, but then David recognized a different need - to connect hosts with other hosts in communities that were staring down these STR restrictions. Rent Responsibly provides tools and alliance management services equip local leaders to build successful, self-sustaining organizations of short-term rental hosts, managers and all other stakeholders. They make it easy for leaders and members to connect, collaborate, solve common challenges, advocate for themselves, steward their communities, and rent responsibly.Watch on YouTube here: https://youtu.be/4BburRFTpug CONTACT DAVID KRAUSShttps://www.rentresponsibly.orgdavid@rentresponsibly.orgLinkedIn CONTACT ALEX & ANNIEAlexandAnniePodcast.comLinkedIn | Facebook | InstagramAlex Husner - LinkedinAnnie Holcombe - LinkedinPodcast Sponsored by Condo-World and Lexicon Travel
Apr 13 2022
44 mins
Leadership is a Mindset, with Ali Cammelletti
Ali Cammelletti joins us today to discuss all things related to leadership and resilience in the workplace. Ali has more than 30 years of experience in the hospitality industry, including several years with Navis where she worked with resort and lodging companies around the world to drive revenue and increase sales agent performance.   Ali now owns her own consulting company, Spark Your Mindset, and specializes in leadership coaching with business leaders in all industries. While vacation rentals are near and dear to her heart, Ali’s work and the principles of this episode are applicable for any business organization.Topics we cover:Hiring for skill or will: what’s more important?How employee training/coaching impacts company morale Why perfectionism is rooted in hospitality, and how it leads to procrastination Re-thinking the org chart: building a linear vs top down leadership model What it means to be resilient, and how to develop this quality Ali will be presenting a team building program at the upcoming VRMA Spring Forum in Chicago April 11-12th. Her proven approach for building group cohesion and engagement aligns with the TIGERS 6 principles of Trust, Interdependence, Genuineness, Empathy, Risk, and Success. Years of research and application of these principles proves that their presence or omission affects team member engagement and effectiveness.Watch on YouTube here: https://youtu.be/p3uV461CNO8CONTACT ALI CAMMELLETTIhttps://sparkyourmindset.com/ ali@sparkyourmindset.comCONTACT ALEX & ANNIEAlexandAnniePodcast.comLinkedIn | Facebook | InstagramAlex Husner - LinkedinAnnie Holcombe - LinkedinPodcast Sponsored by Condo-World and Lexicon Travel
Apr 6 2022
47 mins
It’s the 1st of the Month! Bonus Episode - April 2022Fishing for Growth: Entrepreneurship, Networking & NFTs with Greg Fisher
As one of Greg Fisher’s partners recently said, “There’s a difference between an Owner and a Founder; and Greg is a Founder.” Greg joins us today to share his entrepreneurial journey and how he grew TripShock into one of the largest online tour & activity marketplaces in the country. When Greg launched TripShock back in 2009, he faced significant headwinds as he battled to get the platform up and running. Most water sports and attractions were still managed by pen and paper during this time, so not only did he have to convince companies to have trust in TripShock, he had to also convince them on the premise of moving into the digital era.13 years since launch, TripShock is now in more than 25 US destinations and is continuing to expand - a journey that has been accomplished through organic growth and without accepting any outside capital. Greg also shares stories from behind the microphone of the Awkward Watersports Guys Podcast, which has quickly become the unified voice of the water sports industry. Greg and his partner Kevin O'Neil deliver an informational (and entertaining) show that appeals to business owners, marketers and entrepreneurs from all industries - just don't listen with your kids in the car, Kevin gets a little wild from time to time :) Finally, Greg delivers a raw explanation of NFTs and how businesses can use blockchain to progress into Web3 technology. He provides a VERY important piece of advice for businesses that you don't want to miss!Watch on YouTube here: https://youtu.be/8k6g9hRXBnQCONTACT GREG FISHERLinkedInCONTACT ALEX & ANNIEAlexandAnniePodcast.comLinkedIn | Facebook | InstagramAlex Husner - LinkedinAnnie Holcombe - LinkedinPodcast Sponsored by Condo-World and Lexicon TravelLexicon Travel- Navigation not Autmation Lexicon Travel helps navigate the complexities of distribution for vacation rentals
Mar 31 2022
51 mins
Applying a Growth Mindset to Career Opportunities with Jen Ford, former Chief Commercial Officer & CFO of TurnKey
Tune in to this inspiring episode as Jen Ford shares highlights of an impressive career and the pivotal decisions that helped her build confidence, discover her passions and ultimately, lay a solid runway for future growth opportunities. As Jen reveals, it's all in your mindset! Jen is a seasoned executive with a background in e-commerce, retail, travel, and technology. During her career, Jen has worked in both public and private companies, from start-up to Fortune 100. She has led successful teams in a broad range of functions, including strategy, finance, investor relations, business intelligence, revenue management, and human resources. Notable roles include her position as Chief Commercial Officer & CFO at TurnKey Vacation Rentals (2nd largest VR property manager in the US), head of Finance at Snap Kitchen (an omni-channel, prepared food concept with 45 retail locations in three states), head of Investor Relations and a member of the IPO team at HomeAway ($3B+ market cap), and multiple overseas assignments in Europe and Asia with Dell. Jen has been active in the boardroom since 2015 and has experience leading audit and compensation committee discussions on behalf of management. Jen is adept in scaling companies from early stages to maturity and has extensive experience guiding management teams on balancing growth and profitability, building critical operational infrastructure, and creating financial discipline. She has played a key role in helping start-ups gain traction through partnerships and has been a core member of the launch team for commercial agreements with Starbucks, Whole Foods, and Aramark (Snap Kitchen), and Marriott (TurnKey). Jen has an extensive fund-raising history, having brought in more than $125M of equity and debt while in the CFO seat, in addition to the $750M raised while leading Investor Relations. She has been involved in more than 15 acquisitions, including HomeAway’s acquisition by Expedia for $3.9B and TurnKey’s acquisition by Vacasa.CONTACT JEN FORDLinkedInCONTACT ALEX & ANNIEAlexandAnniePodcast.comLinkedIn | Facebook | InstagramAlex Husner - LinkedinAnnie Holcombe - LinkedinPodcast Sponsored by Condo-World and Lexicon Travel
Mar 23 2022
47 mins
Top 5 Things Vacation Rentals Can Learn from Hotels, with Pete DiMaio
Today we are joined by Pete DiMaio for a very special episode! Pete is Vice President of Travel Boom Marketing, the hotel industry's leading marketing agency and on this episode he joins us to share the Top 5 Things Vacation Rentals Can Learn from Hotels. We recently joined Pete on his show The Hotel Marketing Podcast to share what hotels can learn from vacation rentals. This was a fun switch-a-roo episode and it is packed with helpful information! Pete details the following tips: #1: The On-Property Experience Sells The Stay:Meeting the “innkeeper” and not just transacting a purchase Enjoying the amenities (are they available via the vacation rental company)?The moment a guest steps foot on your property is the moment you are selling the next stay. Are you able to add value to their stay?  Are you able to surprise and delight?#2: Maximize Your email and owned assets:Social channels such as Facebook, IG, TikTok and othersEmail communicationsEmail automationTriggered messages#3: Own your Guest through Remarketing & Reengagement:Email Paid re-targetingCommunicationsAsking for reviews, etc#4: Reduce Booking Engine Abandonment Through Transparent Pricing:Your potential guests will abandon a booking if they’re hit with massive fees on the checkout page.Example of property who increased their checkout fees and saw conversion rate drop by over 50%Build the value from the onset#5: Spend the Time, Money, & Effort In Your Marketing:Focus time and effort to optimize your website, marketing, and communications channels and avoid getting too mired in the day-to-day management and operations. Watch on YouTube here: https://youtu.be/NAWJzb0RRrQCONTACT PETE DIMAIOTravelBoomMarketing.comThe Hotel Marketing Podcast pete.dimaio@travelboommarketing.comLinkedInCONTACT ALEX & ANNIEAlexandAnniePodcast.comLinkedIn | Facebook | InstagramAlex Husner - LinkedinAnnie Holcombe - LinkedinPodcast Sponsored by Condo-World and Lexicon Travel
Mar 16 2022
48 mins
Re-Imagining The Leaning Tower of Tech, with Lino Maldonado, President of BeHome247
Lino Maldonado is recognized as one of the industry's most innovative players, known for his collaborative spirit and uncanny ability to see opportunity where most see road blocks. Lino's career includes 23 years with Wyndham Vacation Rentals as VP of Operations, where he managed a staff of 1200 employees and a budget in excess of $500M. Utilizing his wealth of knowledge and experience as an operator, Lino joined BeHome247 in 2019 to lead the charge and development of cutting-edge smart home technology, workflow automation and energy management solutions for the accommodations and real estate industry. Lino shares stories of the early days at ResortQuest and Abbott Resorts when property management companies were powered by AS400's and green screens, and the evolution that has since turned into The Leaning Tower of Tech for many property management companies using disparate systems. BeHome247 allows the front of the house to talk to the back of the house, with the ability for each client to customize the platform to fit their own unique use cases. This is very clearly a product built by operators, for operators. We also dive into the synergies Lino saw while at Wyndham between the vacation rental and timeshare divisions, and the programs he developed to optimize inventory efficiently. Alex and Lino recently attended GNEX Conference and participated in a panel specific to this topic, along with Ryan Dame of Casago, Scott Bunce of Cabins for You, and Gregg Anderson, moderated by Amy Hinote. Stay tuned for more episodes on this topic! Lino served as Chairman for VISIT FLORIDA during 2018-2019 and Chairman of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association in 2016. He was also selected by Governor Rick Scott as one of his six appointees to serve on the Gulf Consortium, which was tasked with helping to structure the States expenditure plan for the settlement funds from the 2010 BP Gulf Oil spill.Watch on YouTube here: https://youtu.be/W2fY343as8gCONTACT LINO MALDONADOhttps://www.behome247.comlino@behome247.comCell: 850-685-8325CONTACT ALEX & ANNIEAlexandAnniePodcast.comLinkedIn | Facebook | InstagramAlex Husner - LinkedinAnnie Holcombe - LinkedinPodcast Sponsored by Condo-World and Lexicon Travel
Mar 9 2022
46 mins
How Vacation Rentals are Influencing Destination Marketing with Jennifer Barbee
Mar 2 2022
42 mins
1st of the Month Bonus Episode: March 1, 2022Meet Whimstay, the Hotel Tonight of Vacation Rentals with CEO Ben JamshahiRaising the Bar for Women in Tech, with Guesty President/COO Vered Raviv Schwarz
In today’s episode we are joined with Vered Raviv Schwarz, President/COO of the property management platform Guesty.  We had the pleasure of meeting Vered at the Women’s Conference at the end of 2021, and got to listen to her speak about being a female entrepreneur in a male dominated tech world. An advocate for women in business and technology, Vered shares with us stories from her career that led her to understand that you can truly do anything you put your mind to, and that with the right amount of hard work and determination, anything is possible.  Vered has over 20 years of experience in private and public companies, including some of the most successful companies in the Israeli tech scene. Prior to starting her career in technology companies, Vered was an attorney at one of  Israel’s prominent law firms, focusing on M&As and IPOs. During her career, Vered helped technology companies scale, go public, acquire companies and get acquired. She was the first executive at Fiverr and helped grow the company from 40 people to a global organization. Vered holds LL.B and LL.M from Tel Aviv University and serves on the advisory board of several startups, while participating in mentorship programs focusing on female entrepreneurs. Vered has been featured in prominent media outlets including Forbes, USA Today, Entrepreneur and The Next Web. She has also shared her insights at numerous events including The Next Web, Skift, Phocuswright and more.Watch on YouTube here: https://youtu.be/uZvAlIMQ5YoLearn more about Guesty here: https://hosts.guesty.com/?r=alexandannieCONTACT VERED RAVIV SCHWARZvered@guesty.comCONTACT ALEX & ANNIEAlexandAnniePodcast.comLinkedIn | Facebook | InstagramAlex Husner - LinkedinAnnie Holcombe - LinkedinPodcast Sponsored by Condo-World and Lexicon Travel
Feb 16 2022
40 mins
Sustainable Growth Strategies with Jim DeVos of Best Beach Getaways
Jim DeVos is the type of business leader and entrepreneur that any employee who takes pride in their job would love to work for. Jim's  career started in the airline industry with Piedmont Airlines, where he honed the skill of team building, opening up 3 hubs and 70 new markets. He then went on to work as an advertising exec for 17 years, and got to witness the the tail end of the Mad Men era of agency life and the days when 3 martini lunches were the norm.  Jim's experience in sales and marketing ultimately led him to open Best Beach Getaways in 2008 with a partner, and within one year they managed to grow to 100 units under management. While this growth was impressive, their limited understanding of the operations side of the business quickly caught up with them. Jim recalls some of the struggles during this time, which fortunately led to great victories on the other side - including a portfolio that now includes 460 prime oceanfront condos in the Florida Panhandle.  Topics we also cover:Keeping employees happy, and how long term retention has enabled their successWhy profitability and managing your margins is so important  (hint, you can pay people more, which helps with #1 :) Acquisition strategies, and importance of how they are structured Software challenges, and why they decided to build their own systemsHis brush with fame!Watch episode on YouTube here: https://youtu.be/EsUodnofoHgCONTACT JIM DEVOShttps://www.bestbeachgetaways.com/jim@bestbeachgetaways.com CONTACT ALEX & ANNIEAlexandAnniePodcast.comLinkedIn | Facebook | InstagramAlex Husner - LinkedinAnnie Holcombe - LinkedinPodcast Sponsored by Condo-World and Lexicon Travel
Feb 9 2022
50 mins
Finding National Success through Local Operations, with iTrip CEO Steve Caron
In this episode we are joined by iTrip CEO Steve Caron, an industry veteran whose tour of duty began in the Air Force as a special operations night instructor. When Steve departed the service, he went on to use his computer science degree as lead technologist for Abbott Resorts, the largest vacation rental company on the Gulf Coast at the time. Abbott was eventually sold to Resort Quest,  the first company to attempt becoming a national vacation rental brand. Founded by hotel execs, Resort Quest looked to standardize the companies they acquired but in the process lost sight of one of the most important parts of a successful vacation rental business - the local operators. Steve went on to found Sterling Resorts in the Florida Panhandle with Jim Olin in the early 2000's, growing inventory from 0 to 1700 units during the big real estate and construction boom of  condo resorts. Sterling became one of the largest and most respected regional brands in the industry, until being sold several times and eventually to Vacasa in 2019, at which time the brand dissolved and folded up under their national namesake. Topics we also cover:Why Choice Hotel's efforts to get into vacation rentals didn't take off as expectedWill hotel brands continue to partner with local vacation rental companies, or will they start acquiring their own inventory?How iTrip differentiates itself from other national brands 1) as a platform and 2) as a company that values local operations and relationshipsWhy healthy coopetition is vital to the future  of our industry How has the InhabitIQ rollup in 2019 effected iTrip and the other companies it acquiredIs pecking order really a thing? Are chickens the original Mean Girls?! (Annie says YES!)  Steve shares stories of his recent adventures in becoming a farmer in Tennessee.  If one thing is for sure, he really loves his Chicks!🐥🐣🐤Watch episode on YouTube here: https://youtu.be/cg5iJU8NzOkCONTACT STEVE CARONsteve.caron@itrip.coiTrip.netCONTACT ALEX & ANNIEAlexandAnniePodcast.comLinkedIn | Facebook | InstagramAlex Husner - LinkedinAnnie Holcombe - LinkedinPodcast Sponsored by Condo-World and Lexicon Travel
Feb 2 2022
57 mins