VRS522 - Smooth Operations: Standard Operating Procedures for Short-Term Rentals

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This content is part of 'The Ultimate Guide to Launching and Growing Your Successful Short-Term Rental Business'.

If you ever thought of SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) as boring you can think again! 

Picture them as the Ikea instructions for your business - a step by step guide to create consistency, efficiency and scalability.

I've learned from 20 years in property management how crucial SOPs are for streamlining operations. Today, I'll guide you through the importance of SOPs, which areas of your business need them, and crafting them step-by-step. 

Think about the benefits: consistent guest experiences, efficient training, scalability, and peace of mind knowing your business runs smoothly even in your absence. 

From crafting SOPs akin to detailed recipes, using visual aids like videos and infographics, to training your staff with them, we'll cover it all. Not having SOPs could mean missing out on seamless operations so dive in to become the smooth operator of your business!

Don't forget to your copy of Standard Operating Procedures: SOP Templates

Welcome to the Tipping Point. Listen into this bite sized learning series as part of the Vacation Rental Success podcast, or watch the video version on the Vacation Rental Formula Business School's YouTube channel. This episode is brought to you by the kind sponsorship of Price Labs, who will help increase your revenue and occupancy with their dynamic pricing and revenue management tools.

Price Labs have just launched their 2023 breakthrough release of the next generation of revenue management. This brand new cutting edge solution leverages hyperlocal data to optimize rates and increase your revenues like never before. Visit the link in the description of this episode for more information.

Get ready to fire up your business. Here's your host, Heather Bayer.

Welcome back to another episode of The Tipping Point. This week we're diving into an aspect of business that can seem perhaps a tad dull, but I promise it's like the trusty [00:01:00] recipe card for grandma's secret cookies. You're so glad she took the time to write it out so generations to come can benefit. So I ran a property management company for 20 years and one of my biggest regrets is that we didn't start off by documenting everything we did.

Like many entrepreneurs, I kept everything in my head and it wasn't until much later on we started to write it all down and wow, what a lot of time that saved going forward. So today we're talking about Standard Operating Procedures or SOPs or you could also call them Smooth Operations Processes. When I started thinking about this, Sade's Smooth Operator became that earworm in my head and it is now, so.

That's by the, because by the end of today's episode, you are be armed with knowledge on why you need SOPs, what parts of your business need them, and how to [00:02:00] create and use them. So let's get started. We're gonna talk about the why, the what and the how, and then I'm gonna break it down step-by-step. So let's begin with the why.

You know, from a practical perspective, SOPs are necessary. So you can take a day off, you can go on holiday, you can get sick and have flu and go to bed without worrying about whether your business is going to survive without you. Because if you're the only one who knows how to troubleshoot your website or your property management software when something goes wrong, you have made yourself indispensable.

So say goodbye to movie nights and shopping trips and undisturbed meals, let alone an unplugged... In all seriousness, there is a big risk in not having procedures written down, so other people can pick up and run with the task, feeling really confident that they're doing it right. So let's start with the benefits.

Well, consistency [00:03:00] and efficiency, for sure. You want a consistent guest experience every single time. So SOPs will ensure And then we've got scalability. Do you dream of expanding from one rental to many? If you do, SOPs will pave the way to making sure your standards can be replicated. in every property.

Ease of training. So if you ever had to explain a task multiple times, we used to do that. You know, we'd hire somebody, somebody new, we didn't have anything written down, so it would take hours and hours of people time to explain everything. And of course, not everybody had the same message. So sometimes things got a little bit garbled, got a bit confused.

SOPs are your voice. when you're not there and it's your consistent voice. So they act as training material for new staff so that they know [00:04:00] exactly what to do and how because it's written down for everybody. So do all your business functions need standard operating procedures? Well, not necessarily all, but the complex ones do.

So these might include, and this is just a short list, but maybe these are the ones that you want to start with. So, guest communications. What do you say? When do you say it? And how, in different circumstances? How does a reservationist or somebody at the end of the telephone respond to a complaint? What is the first thing they say?

What do they document? Where do they document it? That's all the things that... Step by step go into a standard operating procedure. So a documented workflow. For example, what communications are made after a guest makes a reservation or the flow of text messaging during a certain period. You know, how to respond to [00:05:00] inquiries.

Cleaning and maintenance protocols. How do you make sure that every property is always at its best and everything is consistent and runs the same across every property. An SOP will help that happen. What happens after a guest departs? You know, who does what? What checklist to use? How do you document damage?

Having SOPs makes all these processes run smoothly. And then there are emergency procedures. You know, those unexpected bumps in the night. And think about it, what would happen if two groups of guests turn up at the same time, at the same property, thinking that they're booked for that week? And we've had that happen.

Or, a cleaning crew arrives. To find the guests are still there thinking they booked another day. We had that one happen too. We develop processes out of those. So anybody could actually deal with those situations and follow a prescribed formula on [00:06:00] what to do next. Because that's a difficult one, and particularly if you've got one person who is having to manage this.

When nobody else is really available to help them, that SOP is super, super useful. Then there's inventory management. Keeping tabs on toiletries, on snacks, on linens, on paper products, etc. So the way that inventory and supply purchasing is carried out is a procedure that needs to be documented. So those are just a few of the areas that you could consider starting with.

So now you're going to craft your SOP. Let's go back to the food. Obviously, I'm hungry, but imagine you're writing down your favorite family recipe. You'd have to have detail, clarity, and maybe even some photos. Think about recipes that you follow on YouTube. Everything is clear, it's detailed, and it's very clearly [00:07:00] laid out.

So, here's the steps. First of all, you identify and document the process. Maybe you start with a bulleted list or a flowchart and then write down all the separate steps in the process. For example, a simple one is just taking a booking over the phone. And I'm sure for you, if you think, Oh, I'm going to take a booking over the phone.

This is what I do. It's in my head. But what would happen if somebody came along that was looking after your function because you're not available to do it? Would they be able to follow every single step? So you would then add the details, including any time frames or deadlines for each step. And this helps manage expectations and ensure tasks are completed properly.

Then you identify the tools or software needed and any possible outcomes. Then the next thing, having documented or written down all these things that [00:08:00] people need to know, you then review it with a fresh pair of eyes. Have someone who's not familiar with the task read it. And try to execute it. And then refine it based on their feedback.

And then you clearly define the roles and ensure that everyone knows their part in the process because that prevents confusion and streamlines the execution of any function. So, how do you create these things? Well, you'll use various formats depending on your needs and preferences. So, text documents are probably the most common format.

PDFs and Word documents. used on maybe cloud based platforms like Google Drive. They're versatile. They can be shared, they can be printed. You can use headings and bullet points and tables to make it visually appealing and easy to navigate. And then video, video through Loom or even YouTube. Super useful to [00:09:00] demonstrate things like going through.

Your property management software on one specific aspect of it. Anything really, any process that benefits from visual demonstration, you'd use a video SOP. Think about updating a listing, for example. That would be so easy just to do a quick loom video to show somebody how to do it. Then there's checklists and infographics because some SOPs like cleaning checklists or emergency response flowcharts are best presented in that way.

You know, they're very visual. They can be quick references. And an example would be perhaps a guest check in PDF. A document that outlines the steps for guest check in, includes key handovers, welcome messages, how lockbox codes are changed, any emergency contact information. And then maybe you'd use Loom for a cleaning video.

Recording a video. that demonstrates the cleaning [00:10:00] process for your rental property, highlighting key areas where things are kept and the cleaning products to use. And that's super useful for anybody that's coming in new to a cleaning role. And an emergency response flowchart is It's especially helpful outlining the steps to take during an emergency, you know, with evacuation routes, be contact numbers and safety protocols.

So everybody is doing the same thing. We use SOPs here at the Vacation Rental Formula Business School. For example, the beginning to end of a podcast episode has 25 steps and involves three people plus a guest. If I'm interviewing somebody and every person has their specific tasks. And since we introduced that.

Things have got so much easier. So SOPs are essential really for new staff and team training. They're like IKEA instruction booklets. And so just think of your SOPs in the same way for your new staff. So you'd perhaps [00:11:00] start with an overview of all SOPs. Everything you've got, and then there'll be role specific training, where it's narrowed down to processes relevant to their role.

And then some on the job practice, where you allow them to execute the SOP with some supervision. And then finally, a feedback loop, creating a space for questions and suggestions, because your SOPs should be living documents. And that they evolve with all the feedback. So in closing, just imagine a world where grandma didn't write down her secret cookie recipe.

That delicious legacy would end. And similarly, by not having SOPs you risk inconsistency, inefficiencies, and a lot of unnecessary stress. Remember, whether you're building an Ikea masterpiece, baking cookies, or running a flourishing short term rental business, having a clear set of instructions makes life so much easier.

To make life easier for you, we've [00:12:00] helped out by creating some templates for some SOPs and they're pretty generic, but it will give you an idea of how to kick off. So just go, if you're watching this on YouTube, you just go down below to the description and you can download. or if you're listening to this on the podcast, go to the show notes and you'll find the link there.

Thanks so much for listening. Get going on those SOPs and I'd love to hear from you if you already have some in place and there's some that I've missed that you think perhaps should have been included. Thank you. We hope you enjoyed this episode of The Tipping Point. Don't forget to check out this week's sponsor, Price Labs, to help you master dynamic pricing for your short term rental business.