VRMA

    The Acquisition Survival Guide

    If you’re the owner of a vacation rental management company, you’ve probably considered selling your business. Vacasa has acquired 40 vacation rental management companies of all sizes from across the U.S. During our many conversations with VRMOs, we’ve learned how to ensure a positive acquisition experience. After all, a successful transaction isn’t just about the dollar amount — it’s also about feeling accomplished and content with the outcome. So whether an acquisition is right around the corner or still a hypothetical, here are our best tips for a good experience.
     
    Do your homework.
     
    Before you start the acquisition process, think about what you’ve done right with your company, and what you want to preserve going forward. Acquirers go into the process with a “thesis,” or primary intention for the acquisition, such as, “This company is charging less than the market rate for peak season,” or, “This company has ineffective marketing strategies.” You should have a thesis, too, whether that’s, “I’m looking for advancement opportunities for my staff,” or, “I want to increase my exposure through marketing.”
     
    Ask yourself what value you’re looking for from your acquisition partner. Learn whether they have experience in your particular marketplace, whether that’s condos, beach communities, or ski resorts.
     
    A good way to assess a potential partner is to book a stay at one of their homes. Experience their service from end to end, and you’ll gain invaluable insight into what they do well, and not so well.
     
    Ask the big questions early.
     
    As you evaluate your acquisition partner’s strengths and weaknesses, ask yourself what an acquisition means for you. What kind of life do you want to have after the sale? Will you be fully involved, or will you dictate your involvement based on your interests?
     
    Understand what you want, and communicate that desire to your acquisition partner. If you don’t have the relationship you want with your company post-sale, you’re not going to be happy — even if you got the money you wanted.
     
    There’s a reason why many owners think of their companies as their babies; selling your business can lead to a kind of empty-nest syndrome. Acquisitions can be complicated, messy affairs both operationally and emotionally, so be prepared for some strong emotions.
     
    Timing is everything.
     
    Before you launch the acquisition process, recognize that selling your company is a huge time commitment that runs parallel to your regular job. It’s like taking on a second job in which you are the primary stakeholder.
     
    This is why it’s not a good idea to kick off an acquisition right before your busy season. With your attention divided, the acquisition process will be harder and more drawn-out than it needs to be.
     
    Consider your stakeholders.
     
    If you are the primary stakeholder during an acquisition, then your employees, homeowners and guests are the secondary stakeholders. You need an acquisition plan that works for each of these groups.
     
    Ideally, an acquisition means a better bottom line for your homeowners and advancement opportunities for your employees. At Vacasa, we have housekeepers and maintenance technicians who’ve been promoted to local operations managers or general managers; this kind of advancement would be impossible at a small or mid-sized company.
     
    An acquisition can offer your guests more convenience, more amenities and a more consistent guest experience — all factors that drive bookings and revenue.
     
    Communicate with your acquisition partners.
     
    It’s vital to communicate your desires and expectations to your acquisition partner throughout the process. Be prepared to educate them about how your operation works and why you’ve made certain business decisions. Open lines of communication will allow your acquisition partner to design a solution that works for you and your stakeholders.
     
    If you’re a founder who’s no longer involved in the day-to-day operations of your business, make sure you bring in the people who oversee those details. It’s critical to provide that boots-on-the-ground insight to those responsible for integrating and managing your operations.

    Selling your company can be logistically challenging, time-consuming and emotionally fraught. It also brings your business to the next level, delivering important value for you, your employees, your homeowners and your guests. A good acquisition partner will work with you to craft the best solution for everyone, but the whole process will be smoother and more effective if you keep these tips in mind.

    by Zac Monahan, Integration Director at Vacasa
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