Hosting Hotline: Recommended STR Training Tools & Software (Episode 338)

Download the full transcript PDF.

[00:00:00] Sarah: Hello, welcome back for another great episode. My name is Sarah Karakaian.

[00:00:13] Annette: I am Annette Grant. And together we’re–

[00:00:15] Both Annette & Sarah: Thanks for Visiting.

[00:00:15] Sarah: And this is the–

[00:00:16] Both Annette & Sarah: Hosting Hotline.

[00:00:18] Sarah: If you want your hosting questions answered here in the hotline, all you have to do is go to, record your question, and help thousands of other hosts who might have the same challenge that you do, or they’ll come across it eventually. Today we have an incredible question, maybe one of my favorites, from Holly.

[00:00:34] Questions: Hi, ladies. Holly from Australia. Just wondering what your girls use for your systems and processes to train VAs and other staff members. Just wondering where you store them, how you build them, on what platform, etc. We are trying to systemize every single process so that we can control all the things that we can.

[00:00:59] Sarah: The word systems, processes.

[00:01:02] Annette: Control.

[00:01:03] Sarah: Control. Holly.

[00:01:04] Annette: But I like that, Holly. Kindred spirit. Is a host and realized– she said, control what we can.

[00:01:10] Sarah: What we can.

[00:01:11] Annette: Let’s do this. I’m going to start off– number one, this isn’t so much a system or process. I mean it is, but I want to offer this. We’ve been really heavily talking about this inside our membership too, the power of video and using Loom, for instance, Loom and Zoom. I would say Loom to record videos of how you are doing things, why you are doing things.

[00:01:36] When someone can hear your voice, they can see you clicking around on your screen, it is such a great way to learn. So number one, I would use Loom as you’re doing training videos. Number two, Zoom meeting often when you are first hiring, that is another way they can see you, they can hear you, they can see your body language, and those two platforms are so helpful in keeping you connected. But yes, Loom, not only just documenting– Sarah’s going to give a lot of tips here on where and the platforms, but including those Loom videos are priceless.

[00:02:18] Sarah: Yes. And I want to give Holly– because this was hard for me not to learn, but to accept that your SOPs and your brand standards are living and breathing. Yes, you want to set them so that everyone is on the same page. And when and if you change anything, you do have to, it’s like when companies send you those emails, their terms of conditions have changed because they changed a sentence on their website, or what have you. It’s the same thing when we change our brand standards. You have to let your entire team know, but it’s okay to do that.

[00:02:48] Annette: We were just talking about this right before we pressed record. We were making some changes, but not everybody knows about it, so we need to make it.

[00:02:57] Sarah: And Holly, we’ll get to your question. I was thinking about the time that we decided to add these microfiber towels for animal paws at the front of our doors, and I didn’t even think about checking in with the cleaning team to make sure that they approved the material. Did they have any questions about the system and process of getting it clean?

[00:03:17] And they felt out of the loop when all of a sudden they went to go do a turnover and this new thing was there because we are very regimented in where things go, how things are folded, what happens when, and they felt they weren’t a part of the team.

[00:03:28] So I love that you’re asked this question, Holly, because also, especially as operators when you’re at the office, so you take more of a, not a backseat, but you’re no longer on property, and you make those changes and you don’t include your team, that can create friction because you didn’t involve them and there might be something that they are thinking about that you are not thinking about because you’re not there day-to-day. So I also want to let you know that, that it’s okay to change things, and when you do, to get your whole team involved.

[00:03:56] There are times when you just need to make a boss decision, and there are times when you can leave it up to your team to weigh in and see what the best next step is, but just to know if things are going to change. But that being said, to answer your question, Holly, we personally use Asana as our project management software, and we have gone so deep on teaching ourselves how to use Asana with YouTube videos.

[00:04:19] And actually, I’ll give a shout out to the guy that I’ve really fallen in love with learning from. His name is Paul Minors, and I’ll share his YouTube channel with you. But he is such a great way of teaching, and we’ve been able to build out our own Asana, essentially an ecosystem for our business that it’s been really great.

[00:04:39] And it’s easy for the rest of the team to adapt into, Holly, and there’s these little checks that you can make to mark things as done. And so what I would suggest to you, Holly, is you can create your SOPs within a project management software like Asana.

[00:04:53] Annette: And the mobile app for Asana is great too, so we always like to have something– most things have a mobile app these days, but having that mobile app Asana has been a really nice addition to everything so everyone can have access on the go.

[00:05:05] Sarah: And the whole point is really to remove your whole team from emailing each other and having everything be in a project management software. You can even forward emails to Asana, and then get it into your ecosystem of getting things done and building out your SOPs.

[00:05:22] Annette: So let’s give her some tangible with Asana specifically, Sarah. Let’s talk about putting a property in there and some of the tasks that are on there and how people are using Asana. Let’s give some tactical like, oh, there’s an issue at this house. Let’s go over a property being inside Asana and SOPs for the team.

[00:05:43] Sarah: Yeah. And not to confuse things, Holly, and our listeners, because we obviously champion a few different software. When it comes to maintenance, we keep that in Breezeway because our maintenance team is connected to Breezeway. And anything that’s happening on property.

[00:06:01] Annette: Cleaners, inspectors and maintenance are all attached to Breezeway.

[00:06:06] Sarah: Now, anything that is technically not on property, like our midterm rentals, when we pivot from short-term to midterm, we have to have different process for that, Holly. And so we built that out in Asana because it’s different from our short-term.

[00:06:24] And you can have a short-term rental process too in Asana. When this happens first, and then this happens, and then this happens, and you can assign different people to have ownership of it, and that’s another great thing that you learn about productivity, is that two people can’t own ownership of something. Someone has to be the owner of getting it done. There can be collaborators, but that was really good for our team to learn, someone has to own it.

[00:06:48] Annette: Well, yeah, we were all owning it, and then there wasn’t a due date. So having one owner and a due date is mission critical if you’re going to use Asana.

[00:06:58] Sarah: I think that’s really a productivity lesson in general. Other ways we use it, our supply audits and our supply levels and things that we need to put in the units or change up in the units, that goes into Asana so that if a dresser is looking a certain way, we want to update it, or if we want to change this bed. You know what I mean? That kind of stuff. We’ll keep track of it in Asana.

[00:07:24] Annette: And what’s great about Asana too, let’s say there is an SOP for onboarding a property or how–

[00:07:31] Sarah: That’s a great one.

[00:07:31] Annette: Reservation goes. You can attach Loom videos.

[00:07:33] Sarah: Yes.

[00:07:34] Annette: You can attach Loom videos and screenshots inside of Asana, and there are multiple projects inside Asana. So it can be like launching a new property and then there’s all the information under that. An SOP might be, what happens if a guest wants to check in early, check it out?

[00:07:53] Sarah: There’s an SOP for that.

[00:07:54] Annette: Checkout late. What if they are asking for a discount? And you can have everything in there of like, okay, first this is what we’re going to do. And those can be different projects inside of Asana.

[00:08:05] Sarah: That’s just the nomenclature for these different aspects of your business. They call them project, but Annette, you gave some great examples of how–

[00:08:12] Annette: If it was a handbook, they would be different chapters. So it’s just different projects.

[00:08:15] Sarah: So onboarding new properties, onboarding new owners. Holly, I don’t know if you’re co-host. There’s SOPs for that. Onboarding a new employee, I actually still get kudos, which makes me feel really good from one of our guest service agents. When she came on, I had a like at your own pace onboarding process. It took her from video to video to video explaining the different aspects of the property.

[00:08:42] Okay. Now when you do this, you’re going to create an account here. And then once that’s done now, you go in here and learn this software. And it’s all built out. So when I get a new team member, you just plug them in and then it can all be– I don’t like this word. It sounds like a dirty word, but automated. You know what I mean?

[00:08:59] Annette: No, for sure.

[00:09:00] Sarah: I’m keeping tabs on it, but the employee feels like, oh, wow. Holly has this whole program for me.

[00:09:07] Annette: They feel hell. It’s like, oh my gosh, I thought– and what’s great about the videos and about having those SOPs, if someone needs a refresher or if–

[00:09:18] Sarah: It’s always there.

[00:09:18] Annette: When you start something new, it’s like a fire hose, and you’re just picking up what you need. There are so many instances and scenarios that are going to happen. It’s so nice to have that there to go back to. And I’m telling you also, if you just start with two or three SOPs, just start chipping away at them. Take an hour a week. What’s the most mission critical? What’s everybody asking questions on? Do those, and then just keep chipping away at it.

[00:09:44] Sarah: Yeah, so we use Asana. There are several others. I’ll give you a few examples of other options you could have out there. There’s Notion. People love Notion. People also use HubSpot. It’s expensive.

[00:09:56] Annette: People use Trello for things. And we would be remiss not to also mention that we do use Slack and Voxer with our team too.

[00:10:06] Sarah: To communicate.

[00:10:07] Annette: To communicate. But we want to offer to everybody, please do not make email your main vein of communication. That is a recipe for disaster. Once we adapted to not really emailing at all, it is really given us focus for people to be inside the apps that they need to be in and stay focused.

[00:10:33] Sarah: I do want to touch on this a little bit. I brushed it off at the beginning of this episode where onboarding and whether the owners, midterm guests, guests in general, what to do if it’s early check in, late checkout requests, onboarding new properties. That’s Asana. Then I mentioned Breezeway is everything that’s maintenance, cleaning, and inspections.

[00:10:52] And Holly, I don’t know if you’ve heard of us speak about Breezeway, but it is one of my very favorite pieces of technology because, Holly, like you said, that control component, there are SOPs essentially for your various different turnovers, whether it’s a deep clean, whether it’s a seasonal change clean, whether it’s a standard clean, whether it’s an owner clean. It’s baked in, and you can add photos there, like Annette mentioned, Loom videos. There’s a photo, there’s no mistake of how the toilet paper should be presented once the place is registered.

[00:11:24] Annette: Is the bath mat folded? Where is it placed? Where does it go? Where’s the remote control go? Yes, that matters.

[00:11:29] Sarah: And then I always explain to the team whether they’re 1099-s or employees, when you check this off, this means that you’ve agreed with me that this looks like this. You know that this is our little contract every single time. Same with inspectors, same with maintenance team.

[00:11:44] So there’s two different uses there. And the great thing about Breezeway is whether you are only using Airbnb as the way to manage your bookings or using a PMS, it can integrate with your reservations. And your whole team, whether they’re 1099-s or not, it’s free for them to use.

[00:12:01] Asana can be too. As long as they don’t have the business email address in Asana, it’s free for them to use. And then with Breezeway, same thing. Depending on how many properties you have, the Breezeway pricing changes, but those are our two cannot live without SOP control, making us feel peace of mind for our business.

[00:12:22] Annette: Yes, the priceless peace of mind.

[00:12:25] Sarah: Anything else?

[00:12:27] Annette: So yeah, we talked about Loom. We talked about Zoom. We talked about Asana.

[00:12:31] Sarah: I’ll give you more tips.

[00:12:32] Annette: Voxer, Slack. But yeah, just start chipping away.

[00:12:35] Sarah: We learned two hot tips about productivity, everyone. One thing is when you do assign a task to someone, whether it’s in Asana or a Breezeway, have the first word be a verb?

[00:12:47] Annette: Oh, yeah, yeah. Okay. That was a game changer for us. So it would be like in Asana, for instance, every single task starts with something. So it would be like, remove, talk to, change. Everything starts with a verb. Give them the action that needs to be done for that to be completed. I love that hot tip. What was your second one?

[00:13:13] Sarah: Is that don’t allow things to be overdue, Holly. If something is getting to be past due, whether it’s in Breezeway or in Asana, change the due date to either the next day or next week. And then if you see yourself continue to kick this thing down the road, you need to put it in your later category for when Holly has time or when you get that new team member. That thing’s never going to happen.

[00:13:40] But having things that are past due is really just like taking up your mental mortgage. It is always there haunting you, but you’re not doing anything about it. So just be honest about those tasks that you’re not getting to. Don’t let them be overdue. Either set a new due date that’s realistic, or put them in a later folder.

[00:13:59] Annette: The last thing I want to say, with so much of this technology, what is amazing about it is, let’s say you create tasks or SOPs that need to be repeated over and over and over again. It’s so easy to duplicate those, and every step is there, every step that you’ve created. So that’s where let’s embrace technology. Let’s embrace AI. There is stuff with this repeated task that let’s use it to our advantage.

[00:14:26] Sarah: With that, I am Sarah Karakaian.

[00:14:28] Annette: I am Annette Grant. And together we are–

[00:14:29] Both Annette & Sarah: Thanks for Visiting.

[00:14:30] Sarah: Talk to you next time.