The Hidden Agenda of Interning at Pablow

Introduction

“The CEO of the company was telling me about the things he enjoyed doing when he was my age.” Ask yourself, how many interns are able to say they had the opportunity of working alongside their CEO every day? It would be great to say a large number of interns have that opportunity, but realistically speaking that is not the case. When I was in the interview process for an internship at Pablow Inc. I did some research to get an overview and was not too impressed. I was not impressed because I realized they were a small startup founded in 2015 that had just 3 employees and when googling “Pablow”, Miley Cyrus kept appearing as the first link. My mindset changed completely once I started the internship.

 

Refurbishing Corporate Culture

This internship was full time summer internship; however, I did not have to be in the office by 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. (even though I was, because I’m a morning person). The culture here at Pablow allows you to manage yourself as long as job duties were done in the required time period. Imagine being told you get to manage yourself, I tried my best to respect that privilege and never show up as if I just rolled out of bed. We were allowed play music and there was always a bit of fun involved throughout the week. It was nice being able to have a laid-back environment, but more than anything it was a learning experience for me. When you treat people right and provide a unique working environment, you’ll find that they enjoy going to work. Throughout the period of my internship there was not one day where I didn’t want to go to work, I was ready to see what was in store for the day. Along with these fun perks it also led me to understanding how I can be a leader by respecting the self-management privilege I was given.

 

Be a Leader

I was fortunate to have worked on projects for Pablow where I was able to lead them in the way that I thought was best. One of the things I remember was when Steve, CEO of Pablow said, “Whoever suggests something, make sure you’re the one to lead.” It’s difficult to learn when you are being micro managed or being help step by step. Look at it as a child, if you try to keep them from getting hurt every moment, they will never learn. When Dylan, VP of sales and marketing, assigned my projects for the summer I felt overwhelmed. I was two days into my internship and already had been assigned projects that would last me the whole summer. There were five projects assigned, and I had complete control from beginning to end. I set timelines, determined the approach and led team meetings to complete the projects. This taught me how I should not fear to take initiative and set a standard for others to follow.

There are many traits and characteristics that describe a leader. Leaders are able to find a balance in certain situations, listen to others, and ask questions. “He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes, he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever.” I tried not to ask odd questions for the most part, but because I have little to zero knowledge about the travel industry there were a lot of questions that I had to ask my team members. Of course, to them it was probably old news, but they were very helpful and motivated me to learn more. You can never stop learning, no matter what the subject is. This led me to learning tools that I can use in the future.

 

Figuring out the tools

There are many software tools that businesses utilize that students don’t have the opportunity to learn since everything you need to know for your career apparently is in a textbook. In this internship, I was able learn and eventually use software tools that I had no experience with for business purposes. This was a fun learning experience seeing how a business can use tools such as Survey Monkey, MailChimp, Canva, and Asana. The best part of all this is that this business is a start-up, you can make it what you want it to be. These projects are an ongoing process, which I believe is great because you can see the improvement. For example, I was developing a customer satisfaction survey, which I predicted I would have done in two days or so. I was wrong, there’s more to it than just listing a couple questions on a survey. I had to look at it from two different viewpoints; the goal was to develop a survey efficient for the customer and valuable for Pablow. It took some time and toying around to understand these different software tools, but there was always help from team members if needed. When I first arrived at Pablow, Dylan made it clear that at Pablow things would be transparent. This provided me with a sense of comfort knowing that there would be honesty, which is great to have when it comes to working with others.

 

Conclusion

Growing up there were movies or television series where interns were seen taking lunch orders, filing documents, or cleaning. Fortunately, it seems like that stigma has been buried (at least with Pablow) and interns are learning and being compensated. I can honestly state that not once did I have to go get coffee for Steve, and I spent my time learning and contributing to Pablow. I am very fortunate to have had the great opportunity of working alongside talented individuals such as Steve, Dylan, Jay and Michael. The freedom I was given allowed me to take initiative and determine how valuable I can be as an individual. I was fortunate to have obtained such a great, motivating and fun learning experience. The beginning was a bit overwhelming, but with time, patience, and confidence it all ended just fine with many successful completed projects. I’m happy and fortunate to say I interned at a startup company rather than a corporate firm. This is an experience I would not trade for anything else and I hope to keep supporting the startup community in any way possible.

How to Increase Vacation Rental Bookings: The “Expect to Book” Mentality

This is the second part of a three part series focusing on strategies and tactics that can help vacation rental managers and hosts increase their conversion rate among guests who are non-committal, comparing properties or “just browsing”. Each part of the series will introduce a new strategy or tactic and show you how it could play out for a vacation rental property manager in a simplified scenario. If you have missed part one (“Following Up Questions with Questions”), it is recommended, though not required, that you give it a read.

 

IN THEORY

Inbound inquiries in the vacation rental industry come at varying levels of decisiveness. It’s easy for property managers to book the reservation for guests who have already made up their mind, but it’s often difficult to convince those that have yet to decide to book. While a property manager needs to approach each of the preceding situations differently, their mindset should be the same regardless. They should “expect to book”!

When property managers expect the potential guest will book their vacation with them it’s apparent in their guest communications. Suddenly the wording is more helpful, positive and confident instead of pushy or uncertain, which makes a huge difference for guests.

Obviously there will be some potential guests who decide to travel elsewhere or stay with another local accommodation, but the best property managers don’t let this get to them or affect their mentality that the next potential guest will book with them.

 

IN PRACTICE

Poor Wording: “Hello, I remember a couple of weeks ago we spoke about your family trip to Utah in July and I was wondering if you and your partner had made a decision about what kind of accommodation you would be staying in. By the off chance you haven’t made a decision yet, we would appreciate it if you would take a look at our property.”

Improved Wording: “Hello, it’s good to speak with you again! Our team is busy gearing up for a busy summer season and we are so excited to be opening up our property to so many families. I know that you said you were looking for a week in mid-July and I wanted to get your final selection of a date before we’re completely booked. Do you have an exact date that will work best for your family?”

To put this mentality into practice for your vacation rental or property management company start by writing down five positively framed sentences that you can use in your guest communications. This blog post was inspired by and based off of Bill Guertin’s article “The Secret, Subtle Language of Winning Sales Calls”.

Also be sure to check out part one and three (which was previewed in this blog post) of this series to determine potential strategies and tactics that you can use to build around the “expect to book” mentality.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dylan DeClerck is the VP of sales and marketing at Pablow, a travel insurance technology provider and broker that works with vacation rental property managers to offer vacation rental travel insurance to their guests hassle-free and in a matter of minutes. The company is based in Iowa and provides travel insurance to more than 25,000 vacation rental properties in the United States. Dylan is also the executive director of a non-profit that teaches athletics to at-risk youth.

How to Increase Vacation Rental Bookings: Following Questions with Questions

This is the first part of a three part series focusing on strategies and tactics that can help vacation rental managers and hosts increase their conversion rate among guests who are non-committal, comparing properties or “just browsing”. Each part of the series will introduce a new strategy or tactic and show you how it could play out for a vacation rental property manager in a simplified scenario.

 

IN THEORY

Whether a potential guest reaches out via email, website message or phone call it’s extremely important that the reservationist is fully prepared to quickly answer their questions about the vacation rental property. Every hour an inquiry goes unanswered the chances the guest will book the property decrease! Because of this property managers should monitor their messages, know potential questions guests might ask, and save responses in a FAQ document to improve future response times.

In addition, while answering the guest’s questions it’s important that the reservationist follows up with their own open-ended questions to determine if the guest is really worth their time. Potential guests are qualified when they have the right budget in mind, are truly interested in the vacation rental or area, and are in need of an accommodation similar to what is offered. Additionally it’s good to ask a few questions about the potential guest and their upcoming trip as a way to build rapport.

If the potential guest is truly on the fence there will be a point where they stop responding to emails or they say something on the phone that indicates they are not ready to commit. At this conjuncture it’s the company’s job to listen to their concern or objection, clarify their point to ensure understanding, empathize with their concern, give a genuine response and then ask if the response was appropriate.

 

IN PRACTICE

Guest: “Hello, I had a chance to check out your property online and would like to determine if I could rent out just a portion of the space for a three-day weekend?”

Manager: “Hello Guest, thanks for reaching out! Right now we only allow guests to rent out the whole property as the room units are all connected to the main living space. Is there a reason that you might only need a portion of the space for your trip?”

Guest: “I’m traveling to the area for work with another colleague, so we only really need two rooms.”

Manager: “I see the dates you’re traveling. Do you plan to attend the local film association conference in just a few weeks? My partner and I love to watch independent films and thought of attending ourselves!”

Guest: “Yes it is! Glad to hear that you’re also interested in independent films. I’ll be releasing my first feature film at the festival. Unfortunately I think I’ll keep looking for another place in the area given your accommodation just seems too big for us.”

Manager: “So you’re saying your primary concerns are the size and comparative cost of the accommodation?”

Guest: “Yes.”

Manager: “I understand that because we can host larger groups the cost of our property seems a bit more than other smaller accommodations, however because of our location right across from the festival you’ll save money on transportation and we can lower the cleaning fee if you will only be staying in two of the three private rooms. Does that sound fair?”

Be sure to check out part two and three of this series to determine potential strategies and tactics that can help you close a sale similar to the one above and book more guests.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dylan DeClerck is the VP of sales and marketing at Pablow, a travel insurance technology provider and broker that works with vacation rental property managers to offer vacation rental travel insurance to their guests hassle-free and in a matter of minutes. The company is based in Iowa and provides travel insurance to more than 25,000 vacation rental properties in the United States. Dylan is also the executive director of a non-profit that teaches athletics to at-risk youth.

The Best Time to Visit all 50 States

 

Pablow Infographic

 

*In the event that a state had more than one best time of year to visit, I chose to map the month that best fit with surrounding state patterns. To read more you can find the article we referenced for this data here. *

Have you ever wondered where else your potential guests are looking for vacation properties besides your area? We set out to determine the best time for tourists to book a vacation rental accommodation in every state.

To determine the best time of year for tourism in each state we considered multiple factors including temperature, number of tourists and popular seasonal destinations as we collaborated with property managers across the nation. With all of this information we produced a color-coded map, indicating the best month out of the year to visit each state.

Notice the lack of popularity among winter months! Besides Nevada, Colorado and Louisiana the winter months are not well represented on our map. In Nevada, the holiday season is popular, but the best time to visit is actually as the holiday crowds begin dwindling. Colorado is popular during winter months because of its booming ski/snowboard industry. Louisiana’s peak month is when the streets are packed during Mardi Gras celebrations every February.

September is the best time of year for tourism in 13 states, making it the most popular month for travelers. This trend is largely borne from the mild weather and popularity of sports during that time of year. Not only is the temperature not as hot as the summer months, but also the weather hasn’t yet made the full transition to fall making it the perfect time to enjoy a football or baseball game.

The best time to visit most Midwestern states (North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio) is either immediately before or after July. With extremely hot and humid summers in comparison to the rest of the year, it makes sense that tourism falls as the heat rises.

Take Minnesota for example, while the temperature rarely surpasses 95°, the state’s dew point during the hottest days of summer causes sticky, thick air that prevents people from enjoying the outdoors. At its highest, Minnesota’s summer dew point reaches 80% making 90° feel like 110°. As a native Minnesotan, I would have to pick August as our best month for tourism. With summer temperatures tapering, it’s perfect weather to enjoy a day out on the boat or a long summer night sitting by the bonfire.

Do you agree with what we determined was the best month to visit your state? Tell us what you think!

 

How to Make Your Company More Enjoyable

“We have three innate psychological needs—competence, autonomy, and relatedness. When those needs are satisfied, we’re motivated, productive, and happy.”
― Daniel H. PinkDrive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

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Daniel Pink pictured alongside his best selling book Drive.

As Pink explains in his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, there are a few innate psychological needs that must be filled to generate satisfactory and enjoyable work.  However, once those psychological needs are filled, what separates the most enjoyable companies from those that only provide above average levels of satisfaction and happiness?  This blog post will explore and try to answer the question: “How do I make my company more enjoyable for everyone?”

“A Day Without Laughter is a Day Wasted”

At Pablow, doing things in a way that is enjoyable is one of our key tenants that motivate our actions.  Even if we are on a roller coaster ride as a start up in the insurance industry, we recognize that the journey should still remain fun.

Why do we value being happy, laughing a lot, and enjoying our work?  Enjoyable work, happiness and laughter all provide significant physical, mental and social benefits.

Laughter alone helps you feel good by releasing endorphins that fight stress and provide an almost immediate benefit.  It also helps relax you muscles for up to 45 minutes at a time, with exception of your mouth muscles, which can actually hurt if you laugh too hard.  Been there and have almost cried from laughing too hard!  Laughter improves your resistance to disease by increasing infection-fighting antibodies and immune cells and by decreasing stress hormones.  It can protect your heart by improving blood flow and blood vessel functioning.  Laughter helps dissolve disagreements between people if it’s shared and both parties agree to put their problems behind them.  It surprisingly has also been shown to help adults with short-term memory.

Put simply … you can’t afford to not have people laugh at work.  If you value your employees and their happiness, then you need to make the commitment to integrate humor and enjoyable situations into your company culture.

One great story about how humor and laughter were embraced in the company culture comes from Delta Air Lines.  A couple of years ago a frequent flyer complained to the CEO that a flight attendant was joking around in her safety briefing, which the flyer considered a very serious procedure.  Instead of apologizing, the CEO told the frequent flyer that he was sorry to see him leave the airline, because humor was a key part of their company culture and thus he stood behind his flight attendant’s right to laugh and help others laugh.  Today Delta Air Lines has further embraced this humor by incorporating it into their pre-flight safety videos that both deliver an important message and have some fun in how they present it – I’d definitely recommend taking a look.

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Delta safety videos went as far to include 80’s icon and TV star, Alf!

But What Can I Do?

So a happy, laughing, satisfied, productive and motivated workplace is great, but what can most small to medium sized companies in the vacation rental or tech industries do to embrace these values?

The first and easiest step is to begin to laugh at yourself, and model the kind of behavior that you want everyone else to embrace.  You can also find friends, hire employees, and build professional relationships within your community with people that you enjoy being around.

Teams can be more enjoyable if you push everyone to be spontaneous and encouraging of humor.  This can be as complex as surprising the team with tickets to a comedy show next Friday evening or as simple as telling jokes as you leave the office and sharing funny videos with the rest of your team.  As funny as jokes can be, make sure to keep them positive and not a roast of anyone in particular, as that could have just the opposite effect desired.

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Don’t conform to typical networking rules – ask daring and novel questions that encourage interesting conversation and funny stories.

At networking events or job interviews ask people what they enjoy doing instead of about their job and encourage them to tell you a funny story, but you should also be prepared with a funny story of your own to share with them.

Laughter is Contagious

Regardless of how you make your organization more enjoyable for your staff, laughter and happiness is contagious.  Try just one of the tactics mentioned above and let us know how it works for your organization.  We’re interested to learn how it goes!

The Six Best Productivity Tools for International Entrepreneurs

INTRODUCTION

Pablow has always been an international company and for more than 20 years I’ve been a well-traveled global citizen. That’s really long for a guy like myself who looks 30 years old, am I right?  With our company’s key personnel scattered across the globe, I’ve found a couple of resources and tools that help keep our business running as smoothly as possible.

THE TOOLS

  1. Google Calendar: It shouldn’t be a surprise that the ultimate productivity company, Google, made the list, but I’ve found that many people have yet to discover the true possibilities of their Calendar application.  Personally, I use the calendar app to keep my meetings and events in order, remind me of tasks that need to be completed throughout the day, and to determine the best times in my schedule for a break … which usually doesn’t ever happen!
  2. Calendly: I know, I know, I just suggested a calendar application for the first productivity tool on the list, but I use Calendly for something entirely different.  I’ve been using Calendly as a simple and easy way to schedule meetings with clients, prospects, contractors, and external business partners.  The application is simple to use with a sleek external and internal-facing design.  When using the tool all I have to do is select a pre-determined type of meeting and dates that I’m available and the tool will email the other party to set up the meeting for me.  On their end, customers and prospects only see the time slots that I am available for the specified dates.  Once a meeting time is selected then we both will receive a confirmation email from the app.
  3. Google Analytics: As a retargeting company pursuing customers via online ad buying, we use Google Analytics in combination with Google AdWords in an attempt to maximize our ROI.  While a lot of what we do using Google Analytics is confidential to the company, I can say that my favorite capability of the application is being able to discover and experiment with what words are driving traffic to our websites and white label websites.
  4. Crowdfire: In order to manage our social media I used Crowdfire for a while, and Pablow’s marketing intern has continued to use the application for monitoring our Twitter account.  The application comes in handy when it comes to following/unfollowing accounts with the idea that we want to provide and receive value to our community on social media.  It also is helpful for sending automatic direct messages to followers almost immediately after they follow, which our company receives a lot of through Twitter, but we are unsure how professionals feel about these messages.  Runner up in the social media category is Hootsuite for scheduled posting to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!
  5. Upwork: As we spoke about in our previous blog “The People Power of Pablow” our needs as a growing company are too large to cover with internal talent, but seemingly too small to warrant hiring another employee.  To solve our problem we use many online independent contractors, each with their own area of specialty that provides Pablow with the best quality of skills.  Upwork does a great job at helping you hire talent even if you have never done so before, and when it comes to selecting a contractor the website even recommends contractors that are within your price range and have the experience to complete your project successfully.
  6. GitHub: This application allows our programming team to work on our technology improvements and fixes simultaneously.  Teams could use the online program in a variety of ways, but generally our team uses it to post fixes or new projects, creates steps to achieve our end-goal, assigns responsibility for each step to a team member, and marks the step as done so the rest of the team can see their progress.  A huge benefit of this program is the transparency and ability to hold others on your team accountable for achieving their goals and adding to the technology.

DISCUSSION – Please Share Your Opinion in the Comments Section Below

What do you think of the accounts that send automated “Thank you for following me” messages to all of their followers?  Is it professional or unprofessional to do so?  If we were to have an effective message to followers, what should it say?

What productivity tools do you use to enhance your chances of success as an entrepreneur?

How to Force Millennial Employees to Adapt to Your Company

With 53.5 million Millennials now at work in the United States, companies are used to figuring a way to force this generation into their old and outdated business expectations. However, it’s the companies that go out of their way to radically adapt their businesses to the expectations of Millennial employees that will succeed in the next decade. This is especially important to keep in mind now that we know that by 2020 more than half of the entire United States work force will be Millennials.

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Step 1: Get Rid of Your Assumptions

The first step of adapting your company to meet the expectations and desires of Millennial employees is to get rid of your immediate assumptions about the generation.

Instead of considering the workplace’s youngest generation lazy, selfish, uninvolved, and inexperienced, employers need to reframe their assumptions and view of the generation to see their strengths. Millennials are passionate, charitable, interested in learning, and ready for more responsibilities and experience.

Additionally, companies that push away technology from their employees should consider how Millennials embrace technology for professional purposes helping them be more productive.

 

Step 2: Consider Millennials’ Natural Motivations

Employers often consider what motivates their employees once they’ve already been hired, but companies that are ahead of their competitors will design the company culture and job positions with Millennials’ motivations in mind.

Although it’s different for everyone, Millennials as a generational cohort tend to value growth opportunities, challenging projects, the ability to help others, natural career progression, and a work/life balance.

In fact, it would not be odd to hear a young employee say, “I want to be recognized for doing a good job”, “Engage me in a passion of mine” or “I enjoy the flexibility and freedom of the position.”

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Step 3: Meet or Beat Expectations

Once you’ve prepared yourself and your company for the way Millennials work best, it’s on the management team to meet or even beat the expectations of their employees.

Imagine the disappointment one might have if they were told during the interview process that the company was looking for people who wanted to use their creativity to solve challenging problems, but each new idea they presented was passed over in favor of the tried and true. This has happened to me before and after a short period of time, both my employer and myself agreed that we were not a great fit for each other.

 

Step 4: Continue to Develop with Feedback

Millennial employees view feedback and input as a two-way street. They will gladly accept feedback and input if it is presented in a positive way, because they want to gain new skills and constantly improve.  At the same time, they expect their bosses and employer to take the feedback and ideas they provide and consider or even implement them for the betterment of the company.

The way companies adapt to Millennial workers continues to change, but if companies continue to accept feedback and adjust their expectations they are sure to be successful.

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