Lessons at Three Years

This month I celebrate three years as an Airbnb host. It’s something of a milestone: many hosts don’t last three months. I’ve been steadily booked since I started hosting, and I have dozens of great reviews. Three years ago, I embarked on an entrepreneurial journey — and I have succeeded at it.

Whether the benchmark we reach is one year at a job or five years in a marriage; whether we graduate from high school or retire from work; it’s human nature to want to celebrate what we’ve accomplished and to assess what we’ve learned. Mark the occasion! Tradition even tells you the appropriate gift for each year’s wedding anniversary. I’ve been hitched to Airbnb for three years, and the traditional three-year gift is….

Leather.

Does this mean I should celebrate by outfitting my Airbnb studio with new leather club chairs?

My guests would love them, but even if I raise my rates, it would take another three years to offset a pair of leather club chairs.

But they would look beautiful! Think what they’d add to my guests’ experience!

My immediate thoughts on “Leather” show exactly the priorities I have as an Airbnb host. First, what would my guests love? Second — in a split second:  WHAT WILL IT DO TO MY PROFIT MARGIN?? And then I’m right back to the leather club chairs.

I can’t stop thinking about them. I would love a pair of chairs in a comfortable faux leather, perhaps a deep red shade to match the curtains in my studio. Something sturdy yet inviting, where guests could take naps between sight-seeing adventures. I’d have to get a special cleaning solution for them — or do chairs like that have Scotchgard? The legs should be a dark wood…but I don’t want anything that looks too stiff or traditional. I have some throw pillows that would match my fantasy chairs, but I’ll need more…

I realize that, somewhere along this three-year road, I’ve figured out exactly the best lesson for me.

Pay attention to detail.

What a cliche! Can’t I come up with something more profound? Don’t I have any brilliant, original lesson to pass on to new hosts?

So many important points come to mind, and they’re common knowledge among veteran hosts.

***Write clear, comprehensive house rules, and stick to them.

***Make sure guests communicate clearly regarding their arrival. Have a self check-in system in place, so you’re not left waiting around for guests who don’t respect the agreed upon time frame.

***Have backups of sheets, towels, and bath rugs.

***BUY IN BULK!

***Talk to your neighbors! Make sure that they know you only accept quiet, considerate guests. Let the neighbors know that they can talk to you with any concerns.

***Update your listing and photos from time to time.

And of course,

***PAY ATTENTION TO DETAIL.

That’s it. That phrase that every job seeker includes on a resume, that truth behind each item on your hosting to-do list: that says it all. Every good host knows the importance of attention to detail. I’ve obsessed over the little things since I first decided to list my space. I frantically dusted the tops of doors, usually twice. I straightened the bedspread and topped off the already-full shampoo bottles. Then, at some point, I realized that I had calmed down; I didn’t need to worry. It’s not because I stopped paying attention to the little things. It’s precisely because I DID continue this attention that I became calmer and more confident. I began to enjoy hosting more, and I noticed that the guests seemed friendlier.

Of course,  the guests didn’t magically become friendlier over the last three years. If anything, I’ve had more not-so-friendly guests as time passed. What changed was my attitude. I was PART of their trip. No, I didn’t go sightseeing with them, and I only occasionally joined them for a cup of coffee. Yet, something about that attention to detail brought me into their world a little more. My small efforts became part of the fabric of their trip.

I’ve noticed that there’s one moment, as I prepare to greet new guests, when I feel completely relaxed. That moment occurs when I’m seeing to details. I always do a final check after the I’ve cleaned the studio and stocked the supplies. As I polish up the already polished stainless steel sink, I feel content, and I’m proud of the gleaming little sink. Sometimes I’m almost glad to notice that the bathroom curtain is looking a little dusty. I take it down, hand wash and iron it, and hang it up again. I get a such a sense of satisfaction you’d think I had tatted the lace myself. All this calm satisfaction came to me unawares. And I feel involved in the process.

What’s most interesting, though, is that it doesn’t even matter whether the guests notice the neatly folded towels and shiny flatware. I guess that’s because I know that some guests, at some point, will notice. And, more important, I feel that my attention to detail creates a positive overall impression. The whole studio is greater than the sum of its tiny shiny parts.

I’m really surprised that I don’t care if guests notice! I thought I was the type to worry about what others think. I thought I had those normal human responses. You know, when you feel that no one notices how hard you work or how great you are? I’ve suffered that at times, in other areas of life. But when it’s my home and my guests, I just don’t care if no one notices my efforts. That’s because my obsession with detail is already doing a lot for me, and at least a little for my guests.

Also, there’s that increased pride in one’s own home. I’ve become more connected to my home, even though my Airbnb studio is a separate unit. I think this satisfaction holds true whether you rent or own. When I had an apartment, I loved preparing the place for visitors. Now, I own a modest triplex on the edge of a great neighborhood, and I even have a big back yard. That yard isn’t left out of my little detail-oriented attention. Overall, my yard is overgrown and unkempt. But there’s such joy to be had in arranging little river rocks just right, or finding the perfect spot for a potted plant.

It’s gratifying, as a host, to hear guests exclaim how lovely my studio is and how inviting the yard looks. I take this feedback as a reflection of the little things I’ve done well. But, I know I’m providing a great experience whether I hear compliments or not. I’m on the trip too.

Maybe this positive feeling will change. I’m three years in, and I can pat myself on the back and keep shining the flatware in my Airbnb. But, how will I feel about all this detail work at, say, the five-year mark?  Will I still have pride in the little things and feel part of my guests’ journey?

I hope so. I’ve met lots of wonderful guests, and I’ve really gotten to know someone — myself.

 

 

 

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