Almost five years ago, Hannah Lau Zarley had the opportunity to transition from the multifamily side of technology to the vacation rental industry. Her eventual decision to make the leap from an established housing vertical to one that was up-and-coming may have seemed like an odd move to some.
What she found was that she wasn't alone in a female-dominated industry, one that was gaining steam and needed fast answers to big questions. Zarley took on her new role at Kigo by using not just the business and technology experience that got her there, but also her ears.
By listening to those around her - whether leaders, peers or employees - she blended into the culture of passion and empowerment that Kigo has successfully adopted in its five years following being acquired by RealPage. Now Vice President of Operations for Kigo, Zarley strives to keep that culture alive as Kigo and others in the short-term rental and vacation rental industries forge ahead.
Creating an outstanding company culture
Fostering a strong corporate culture and empowering employees in the art of hospitality is a hot industry topic. Zarley will discuss how vacation rental property management leaders can invest in staff and technology to create a company culture that supports meaningful relationships and enhances the guest experience at the inaugural Vacation Rental Women’s Summit. The event will take place February 19-20 in New Orleans.
"Listening to our employees is one of the first things we did at Kigo when we inherited the organization," she said. "It's putting people in a position where they feel passionate and they have an opportunity to make a difference, getting them on board with the mission you're creating as a company. Listening to an employee can have an immediate impact on the organization."
A lot of listening, as well as discussion, will happen with more than 500 attendees in New Orleans at the first ever women’s summit at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel.
The event, presented by VRM Intel Magazine and the Vacation Rental Management Association (VRMA), will strengthen the network of women who lead and facilitate vacation rentals. Industry issues specific to women will be discussed and top achievers will be honored.
Empowering women to change the face of the vacation rental industry
VRM Intel CEO Amy Hinote, considered one of the top women professionals in the industry, says the conference is about bringing together the best and brightest who lead the industry.
"From beach to mountain destinations, women dominate all areas of the on-the-ground vacation rental industry and face a unique set of challenges," said Hinote. "Our objective is to bring the smartest and most influential women in the industry together to inspire and empower attendees and discuss high-level topics facing the vacation rental sector."
Keynote speakers will include Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love and Big Magic; Lady Fiona Carnarvon, the Eighth Countess of Carnarvon and guardian of Highclere Castle – the real life setting for Masterpiece’s Downton Abbey; and Tina Weyand, chief product officer at HomeAway.
Zarley says the inaugural conference comes at a time when women are changing the face of the industry by the diversity or roles they play. At many industry conferences, she has noticed that few women are asked to sit in on panels discussing industry trends and practices.
But most of the workforce is women, including some pretty influential players.
Last year, Zarley joined Hinote on Lodgify’s list of 19 women who are making an impact in the vacation rental industry.
"If you look at our industry, the majority of it is female," Zarley said. "There is a lot of female leadership, many females in general working in vacation rentals, from reservation specialists to someone like Amy Hinote."
Promoting success, regardless of gender
In “Company Culture: Technology, Autonomy, and Accountability Not Sold Separately,” Zarley will discuss how everyone from the top down is responsible for executing the vision of a memorable guest experience. One way is to invest in staff that personally conveys this message, with technology to support it.
Zarley has been a key player at Kigo in its development of an all-in-one property management platform that creates exceptional experiences for vacation rental managers and guests.
The company, she said, couldn’t have excelled in the last four years to become a leader in the vacation rental industry without creating an environment that promotes success, regardless of gender.
"We've focused on building a culture that empowers men and women fully and effectively," Zarley said. "Utilizing the strengths and weaknesses both men and women, and bringing that empowerment to the table, is what we've found to bring us the most success."