As VRMA celebrates its 30th Anniversary, we are pausing to take a look back at the founding of the organization. This is part of an ongoing series recognizing key leaders and moments in the organization's history.
Never trust anyone over thirty….
For those of us who were around in the sixties, that was a line that was born from a new, young generation - those who stood against the "establishment" and pushed towards new ideas and uncharted territory.
Well, our own VRMA is now thirty, and we've seen some amazing changes during those years.To get an idea where it all started, I had the privilege of speaking with one of the founders - John Kjellman - the man who actually suggested that vacation rental mangers form an association of their own. After a few initial meetings John was elected president of the three-member executive committee tasked with preparing the formation of the actual association. Bill Futrell was our first true VRMA president.
John is a software developer, a problem solver. Back the '80s when his customers were asking how others were handling problems that were more or less common to all, John recognized that there was no formal association, no sharing of ideas; he proposed a meeting of leaders in the industry, who all welcomed the opportunity. John explained that he was not trying to boost his own business, and he was careful not to exclude anyone or steer people in one direction. It was important to him that the underlying principles of the organization be fully inclusive. With the help of some key starting members he established a good model.
VRMA founder John Kjellman believes that selling the broader benefits of vacation rentals to local communities is imperative to the industry's health. In 1992, he created a series of Post-It notes that vacation rental managers could stick onto checks when paying bills to help show the positive economic impact of vacation rentals.
The challenge that John faced back then was running his own business while trying to do a good job building the association. Eventually it became clear that he could not do both, but by then the organization was strong enough to stand on its own. And challenges still exist in the organization. When asked what the highest priority is for VRMA today, John says that we must work to sell the broader benefits of vacation rentals to resort communities and homeowners in those communities. The regulatory pressure on vacation rentals has increased over the years. There's a tendency to think that selling to renters is more important than selling to owners and their neighbors. John states that VRMs need to be more price competitive with owners do their own rents and also do a better job of selling to renters why professionally managed homes are a better bet.
John has a published wealth of newsletters and original material, much of which still resonates today. In addition to this public work he has influenced the industry behind the scenes, lobbying on behalf of vacation rental managers in California. Although contrary to the VRMA position at the time, he feels confident that his efforts have benefited the industry in California and have indirectly helped the cause in other states. From the beginning these early VRMA meetings were focused on the needs of the vacation rental industry, not as a computer user group. In fact, other software providers that were invited to these early meetings actually benefited much more than John's company at the time.
It's fascinating to think that someone outside the profession, someone involved in technology, saw the need to bring VRMs together and made it happen. We'll be profiling a few other VRMA leaders as we celebrate this key anniversary. For now we'll trust that this thirty year old organization is poised to do even more for its members as we move forward.
For more information about VRMA's 30th Anniversary, visit http://www.vrma.com/history