Upping our Game-Exciting New AOS Offerings

AOS is always on the lookout for ways to enhance our properties and our processes.

In light of this, we have some exciting new offerings for our clients.

Accounting is one of our strengths and we have switched accounting software to better serve our clients needs. We are moving to a platform that allows for more precise budgeting, ability to upload actual photos of invoices, and streamlined cloud based access. This allows any and all clients to not only know their invoices are paid, but actually login to see copies of the invoices and checks.

We have added FAA drone certification and CADD renderings to our in house services. Here are just a few examples of our marketing departments work. These renderings are invaluable when marketing a new build or presenting to governmental entities.

Amenities Area
Yurt Village

Even more exciting for us is our new “AOS Pathways” program. AOS Pathways (Career Development) is a structured, collaborative time for those employees who wish to develop their professional skills in order to enhance their careers. There will be dedicated time with AOS staff work on the foundational skills needed to develop into a higher role. Managers can recommend one staff member per period to take part in the course. If you are interested you should let your manager know. They will let you know when the courses are available. 

Coaching Opportunities- We believe in paving the path for others to succeed. AOS will work with all managers to implement a coaching structure that encourages self reflection and improvement throughout the year, ultimately resulting in a higher performance by engaged employees. Performance- based evaluations are held once a year.  

We are always enhancing and adding services to serve you better. Hope to see you soon at both the Glamping Conference in Colorado and ARVC in Tennessee. Happy Friday!

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What Not To Do Wednesday-The Old Bait and Switch

When setting expectations for your guests, it is important to be realistic about what they will experience once they get to your property. Setting unrealistic expectations may get them to your property, but it will not turn them into satisfied, long term guests. You may win the battle, but you will lose the war.

A few years ago, we booked a condo in Lake Tahoe for a family getaway. My husband booked it on VRBO and it looked great. It slept 8 people and was just off the lake. We arrived with high hopes, only to check in to a unit that was a fraction of what was promised. The deck was old and peeling, the porch furniture consisted of one ratty old chair, and the coffee pot was a small little four cup coffeemaker for a unit that slept 8. The lake are near the unit, shown as full of water and waters sports enthusiasts in the photos, had been dry for years.

Park owners can easily make the same mistakes. Just recently we were working with someone who suggested they were not going to use the photos of their site when setting up their online booking page. We were stunned and suggested they NOT take this approach. In fact, the only time we do this is when a park is under construction. We use true to life stock photos and we make the change as soon as the park is open and we can take real photos of the functioning sites.

First of all-this is a sure sign that something is amiss about your sites. It is like looking at a real estate listing of a home, but they never show the interior.

Secondly, if you do get the guest to book, you are surely going to hear about it once they arrive. Furthermore, in this day and age of social media-the whole world will hear about it as well. As soon as I returned from my Lake Tahoe trip, you better believe I let any future renters know that this condo was not all it was cracked up to be.

Lastly, it you know your park is sub-par, do something about it. A little paint, soap, water, and tightly held rules and regulations can go a long way in putting “Lipstick on a Pig.” In our condo’s case, a $100 set of porch furniture, some deck stain, and a $12 coffeemaker could have made up for many of the ills we had with this unit. Showing accurate pictures of the lake area would have allowed us to make a more informed choice.

When setting guest expectations, be clear, be accurate, and take care of the little things that can go a long way!

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Millennials-A Hot Topic

The Millennial market is a hot topic in the Outdoor Hospitality industry. So much so, that we have been invited to speak to this at two separate conferences this fall.

As a mother to five of them, and a boss to many of them, I can tell you I have a great deal of respect for millennials. They are tech savvy, hard working, and up to date on current events.

We have also met and interviewed a great number of them who are either full time RV’ing or doing some serious traveling around the country. Some are single, some are married no kids, some are married and home schooling their kids, and others are extended vacationers who can work remotely. All are in love with the outdoor lifestyle and the many advantages of traveling light.

Most of these modern day vagabonds are college educated, make triple digit salaries, and work during their trips. They are adventure seeking and are more about the overall experience.

In the days and weeks to come, we will be sharing some video clips of interviews we have done with young RV’ers who want nothing more than to get out and stay at one of your parks. They come with enthusiasm, money to spend, and a list of things that are important to them. Stay tuned as we introduce you to your new Snowbird, Winter Texas, or Full Timer. You may be surprised at what you learn.

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Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow..or Maybe Not

One of the hardest things I have had to learn in business is that not everyone is my client. In an ideal world, this would not be the case. But in the real world, sometimes the fit is just not right. The larger our portfolio, the more we realize who fits within our mission statement and who is not an AOS client.

The same goes with your guests. As hard as parks want to be all things to all people, there are times when it is in your best interest to pass on a guest.

Most of the time, this parting of the ways occurs over rate. If you have a five star park; you should be charging five star prices. You cannot, nor should you, price yourself to compete with the one and two star parks. If you allow guests to brow beat you-or guilt trip you- into cutting your rates-you decrease your value and invite a clientele that may not blend in with those who are more than willing to pay the higher price.

Another guest to pass on is the guest who will not abide by rules and regulations. We have always had a, “Three Strikes You’re Out,” at our AOS parks. Once we have warned you twice, the third time is the end. When a guest has ignored two warnings-chances of them changing are slim to none. No matter how long they have been coming, or how intimate the relationship, this type of guest is going to be a bad apple.

Finally, the guest you will never please-not matter how hard you try-is one that needs to be cut loose. I learned this very early on in my career. We had a guest book a waterfront cottage at $325 a night every single season. It was good money-but it was a nightmare. The whole week she was there the staff was on edge, the other guests heard the complaints, and we had passed on others who would have rented that same unit with less headache. After three seasons of this, we blacklisted this particular family and did not allow them to return. No matter how hard we tried, something was always wrong and we finally had to face the hard truth that we would never make this guest happy.

Passing on these guests will allow your park to operate a peak efficiency without the distractions these above guests can bring. It is hard to say no to a paying guest, but sometimes parting with them is that way to turn that corner to a more rewarding park operation.

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What Not To Do Wednesday-Fear Based Decision Making

Whether it be keeping employees who should have been gone long ago, catering to guests who are sub-standard and wreaking havoc on your park, or spending money that needs to be spent in order to increase revenue, we see fear based decisions not only keeping parks back, but often times running them and their revenue into the ground.

More than any other industry in which I have worked, the outdoor hospitality world runs off emotion. I think most of it comes from something that seems very endearing-the blurring of the lines between business relationships and familial ones.

Because the industry is so tight knit, guests tend to become like family, and many park owners are afraid to make business based decisions in fear of hurt feelings or broken relationships. This seems to be admirable, and it can be, but if it gets in the way of running a solid business or a successful park, park owners could end up struggling and unable to run what should be a profitable business.

The same holds true with employees. At AOS, we have been nothing short of amazed when owners have been reluctant to counsel or release employees who are doing real damage to the park. Sometimes, it is as bad as embezzlement, and yet, fear of damaging a relationship prevents them from wanting to move forward with removing the staff member.

Finally-not spending money that needs to be spent is one of the biggest fear based decisions we see owners make. The old saying, “You have to spend money to make money,” is true. Subpar marketing, old and ineffective websites, bad photos, and a lack of attention to rate are just a few of the places where owners struggle to see the value in spending money. When you spend money on good, solid marketing, and pay attention to managing your revenue, the money spent is going to return several times over. In this digital age when everyone can and will shop online, these are funds you cannot ignore when developing a budget.

Cutting corners in today’s market is going to cost you. There are too many savvy shoppers out there-and if you are not reaching them and making good decisions with your money, your guests, and your employees, it will come back to bite you.

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Staying Ahead Of The Competition

The RV industry is growing, and there are new players coming into the market everyday. With this growth, many of our clients are getting concerned about the big boys building or buying parks near them. They wonder how they can stay ahead of the curve and stay profitable and growing in this ever competitive environment.

I learned this lesson early on in my career. I was still working as a CFO with my former firm when they became interested in building a park. The location was close to a very well run, and highly popular vacation resort park. Everyone thought we were crazy. They did not think the market was deep enough or that our amenities and location would work so close to this behemoth of a competitor.

They were wrong.

By creating our own niche, working rates, intense revenue management, and marketing focused on OUR target market, not only did we do well, but in three years we were surpassing the revenue of the competitor park. It took work, daily focus, and savvy decision making, but it was a huge success. After four years of operation, it became an acquisition and sold at a 14 million dollar profit.

Since I was the one responsible for making it happen, I was intensely involved in each step along the way. Now armed with these tools- our AOS team helps our parks in the crunch of competition learn how to not only survive, but thrive in today’s market. Creative marketing, niche attractions, revenue management, and data driven decision making helps our parks not only build better mousetrap, but can help them become an attractive option for investors in hot markets.

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Temper Tantrums and Other Things Caused by AOS

One thing you can count on when you hire AOS to resurrect your substandard park-employee temper tantrums.

When AOS takes over a sick park, the first thing we do is diagnose what made it sick to begin with, or in medical terms, we perform triage.

Is it the management? The employees? The owners? The amenities-or lack thereof?

Is it poor cash procedures or lack of revenue management?

I can tell you-it is rarely-if ever-the market. Most often, it is a combination of poor leadership, lackluster employees, and owners who have long since given up. This is where we come in. We arrive on site, roll up our sleeves, and let everyone know there is a new sheriff in town. We get into the trenches and audit the books, assess the maintenance, and start training on how the park will run from this point forward.

Usually within a week of our arrival, all current employees have thrown temper tantrums, quit, threatened to quit, or yelled and screamed the life is not fair. The ones who wanted change will be relieved, but these folks usually left long ago and what you are left with is what got you there to begin with.

If the owners will hang in there, they will come out on the other end with a park they can be proud of, employees who are all in, and books that are audited and reconciled daily. They will find revenue that was missing, and guests that appreciate a well-run, professional environment.

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What do YOU need in a Reservation System?

People often ask me about reservation systems and what they should look for when purchasing one. Our list of “Must Haves,” include:

  • Online Booking Capabilities
  • Revenue Management Tools for Price Yielding
  • Ease of Use
  • OTA Connectivity (Air BB, Booking.com, BookOutdoors, etc.)
  • Ability to use a credit card processor of your choice
  • Cost of Online, OTA, and In house bookings

At AOS, we have tested, demoed, vetted and met with the leading PMS systems in the industry. When it comes down to it, we recommend and sell/support only three-Mosaic, RezExpert, and Newbook.

Each park and different needs, and the three above meet the need of every client in our portfolio. They all have specific features to meet the needs of our clients, and we support all three.

When making your purchase, consider calling us for a demo and allowing us to provide your software and support. We offer 24/7/365 support that is the best in the industry.

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WHAT NOT TO DO WEDNESDAY-BURN BABY BURN

One of the services we provide is “RV Park Rescue.” It is one of the most difficult, but also one of the most rewarding, services we offer.

However, many owners do not realize their park is burning to the ground. It may not be a literal fire, but it is just as damaging. Most often, the causes are many and varied.

The number one spark we find lies with some or all of the staff. Workers at these burning parks have little to no passion for the job, and this rubbed off on the guests a long time ago. They have allowed the guests to join in the downward spiral and any newcomers quickly fall into the same lethargic trap. There is little to no training on customer service, park rules are ignored, and accountability to anyone is non-existent.

Financial mis-management is also a hallmark of these parks. It may or may not be outright theft, but it is often an inability to capture the rate they should be capturing because they have allowed the product to suffer. The park is cluttered, the guests are not the highest caliber, and the amenities have been left without needed routine maintenance. This results in the park suffering financially and failing to bring in the funds necessary to turn it around.

Finally, ownership must take responsibility-and this is often the most difficult part. It takes admitting that a blind eye has been turned and they have been involved in their own downfall. As Dr. Phil often states, “You cannot change what you do not acknowledge.” Once an owner realizes the park is on fire, they can start putting out the blaze one at a time. This is where the AOS team comes in, and starts the hard work of righting the ship and putting it on the path to a bright future.

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What Not to Do Wednesday-Resist the Urge to Manage your own Social Media Sites

Ok, let’s be honest, we all engage with Social Media. Whether it be Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, or the brand new Tic Tok, Social Media is here to stay.

This familiarity with Social Media causes many park owners to think this is an area of their marketing they can tackle on their own. Sadly, we get called in when they realize it was not as easy as they thought.

The below graphic shows results from a month of AOS led marketing compared to a month when they property tried to do it on their own.

As you can see, there is simply NO comparison. With just a budget of $150 for ad spends, we took a park with a less than glowing social media presence and turned it around. We increased the engagement AND did not receive a single negative comment in the process. This type of success can only be done by a social media expert who knows to engage the right audience with the right content.

Social Media may be fun a fun way to chit chat with friends and family on a personal level, but when it comes to running your business, it should always be left to the experts.

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