Owners and operators of lodges and guest ranches bear the responsibility of making the key decisions that shape the future of their business as well as the culture of their team. With advancements in technology and the potential impacts at nearly every level of your organization, choosing the right property management system (PMS) has become one of the most important decision points a leader of a lodge or ranch will make. Getting it right will build organizational consistency, efficiency, and profitability, and likewise getting it wrong can have varying and compounding consequences that could work against all three of the latter objectives.
If your business is run on pen and paper, or you’re working with a system that is not aligned with your business, here are few steps that will help you choose the right PMS for your lodge or guest ranch.
Meet with Your TEAM
Certain personnel (GM, Dept. Managers, Office Teams) will always utilize a PMS more than others, and because a complete system will have outputs designed to benefit every department, it is crucial to involve all of the key stakeholders in your organization. Make this the first step, meet with your team, and outline your major business functions, such as, sales, marketing, correspondence, activity scheduling, food and beverage, housekeeping, retail, inventory, staff scheduling, billing, accounting, performance reporting, and budgeting. Give your team the opportunity to discuss the pros and cons of making a change, help them understand how the software will better support operational workflows, and what the team should expect from the new tools that will be available to them. Finally, make a short list of the key features your team believes will have the most positive impacts on your business.
Sharpen Your Business Plan & Define Your Needs
The right PMS will support your current business model and facilitate the evolution and growth of your lodge or ranch as it expands. Analyze your plan for the present and lay out a road map for where you want to be in 5, 10, and 15 years. Think through the constructs of your major revenue streams, such as lodging, dining, activities, events, or retail, and anticipate which features you’ll need at each major point on your growth curve. If you have specific capital improvement or expansion plans, be sure to factor those in as well. Bottom-line, look for a PMS with the capabilities to support your business now and also the features to match future needs (for ex: Online Booking, E-commerce, E-waiver, etc).
Understand Your Non-Negotiables
Like any good tool, software doesn’t do the work, but it will help you and your team do a better job and make more informed decisions. There are a lot of good products on the market, but if your goal is to find the “one” software that can do it all, be prepared for a challenge. This is partly due to the ever-changing nature of technology and the unique aspects endemic to the lodge and ranch industry, especially if you run all-inclusive packages. Go into the process with a keen understanding of your non-negotiables, for example, value, capabilities, customer service quality, and availability of support. One prudent approach is to find a software provider that will meet 80 to 90% of your technological needs. If they are thoroughly committed to your industry, and relate well to your team, then give them your attention and work through the necessary discussions with a goal determining how they can be the best partner for your business.
Acquiring new software or switching systems should feel like a major opportunity to improve your lodge or guest ranch. If you can’t confidently arrive to this conclusion, then keep doing your homework and don’t rush into a change. A sound decision process will include looking at the potential returns on your investment into a new PMS as well as the costs of staying with your current system. Remember any new technology will likely dictate some minor changes to your team workflow but be wary of a system that has the potential of disrupting the culture of your team. A PMS that is well integrated into your operation will support a healthy staff morale, help retain your key people, and attract the best new talent. It will also help you maintain a high-quality guest community, increase your rate of repeat clientele, and earn a reputation for your business as a leader in the lodge and guest ranch industry.
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