You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to run a successful vacation rental company, but, apparently, it doesn’t hurt! Bruce Ikelheiner shares his unique journey from rocket scientist to starting Banjoe Vacations, a small, family-owned, Asheville, North Carolina-based vacation rental company.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
I am actually a former rocket scientist, with a Masters and Ph.D. in Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering. I have worked on some incredibly high-tech projects and have had a focus on environmental acoustics (yes, that really is a thing). I've done work with DARPA, NASA, the Department of Defense, and the National Park Service over my career. As happens with many folks, I got started in the VR industry because we bought a vacation house on Lake Lure in North Carolina in 2017. To help manage things I started using OwnerRez almost right away and was amazed at how much easier running things with OwnerRez was.
What do you love most about the VR business?
When I worked in environmental acoustics, we worked on projects for things like large airports and airbases. We would use our tools to identify where the noise was going and how loud it was. The bottom line, however, was that we were there to identify winners and losers. The winners weren't getting hammered by excess noise, and the losers were. There was often no engineering way to stop the noise, so all we did was keep score: winners and losers. When I started in the VR business, I realized that, if you run things well, everyone gets to win. The guests come and have a great vacation, and the homeowners make good money. Everyone gets to be a winner!
What do you dislike the most about it?
My least favorite aspect is the 24/7 on-call concierge aspect. One of the things guests expect is that they can call at any time with any problem, either real or imaginary. I feel that, as a professional property manager, being prompt with inquiries, comments, or questions is of the utmost importance. However, that means that you need to be there all of the time.
How do you use OwnerRez to manage your business?
OR is pretty central to how we run our business. We do 90% of our communication with guests through OR, and we use the automated messaging to keep our cleaning staff up-to-date on bookings, changes, and cancellations. Automation is crucial because, if I need to remember to do something because it isn't automated, I probably will forget, and OR is helpful with that.
What is the most useful feature that OwnerRez offers?
The only part of OwnerRez I don't currently use is their website builder, but I do use their WordPress API for my own website. The channel management is an absolute must, as is the automated guest communication (wow, but that saves a ton of time!). However, I really like the way OR generates the owner statements. That makes my life much easier. I live in a trust accounting state (North Carolina), and I use the owner statements, combined with the Quickbooks integration, to rectify my statements every month.
Thanks for sharing your story with the OwnerRez community, Bruce. Also, we’d like to commend you for donating 10% of Banjoe Vacation’s profits back to the community via Homeward Bound’s mission to create permanent supportive housing for the chronically homeless in Asheville. Well done, sir!