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COVID-19 has rocked life as we know it. It can be easy to find yourself frustrated, discouraged, or helpless—even as a business.
There are few industries that have been as affected by this pandemic as the travel industry, which is one of the reasons we chose Assaf Karmon, CEO & Co-founder of TurnoverBnB, to be our interviewee for our first episode of Working (it out) From Home.
In this episode, Divvy’s VP of Brand, Michael Moulton has a conversation with Assaf Karmon about how his business has adapted to the current circumstances. TurnoverBnB is a software solution for property managers and vacation rental cleaners. Their product helps streamline the complex workflow of scheduling, cleaning checklists, and payment processing. While they’re based in Honolulu, HI, TurnoverBnB has employees throughout the world.
Assaf is the first to admit that his business has taken a hit, but he explains that it’s not all negative. At TurnoverBnB, they’ve found creative solutions to band together as a team, keep their heads above water, and even develop new products along the way.
Assaf even jokes about his new normal: “This is my best friend now,” he says, referring to his stationary exercise bike situated behind him in his bedroom. “I’m in better shape than I’ve ever been. There’s nowhere to go so I just exercise.” His upbeat attitude and resolution to make it to the other side of this—and any other challenge life throws at him—are inspiring in this difficult time.
- Team building: Build relationships that help you have better online relationships.
- Boost morale: Keep your teams engaged and motivated by doing the things you didn’t have the time to do before.
- Use your tools: Use your resources—people, software, channels, capital—in creative ways to maximize effectiveness and efficiency.
- Leverage connections: Don’t hesitate to ask for help from business leaders in your circle.
- Reality check: Where is the fear coming from? Assess, then address.
- Sage Advice: It’s not the end of the world. Habits are hard to kill. Things will eventually settle and return to normal.
- Negotiation: You don’t get what you don’t ask for.
Working (it out) from Home: Episode 1 Transcript
Assaf Karmon, TurnoverBnB CEO
Disclaimer: Some of the transcript from the interview has been modified to read easier, however the content and intent remains unchanged.
What is TurnoverBnB?
Our company is called TurnoverBnB. What we do is help property managers and vacation rental cleaners streamline their work. You can find cleaners on our marketplace and you can manage your vacation rental using our software product.
Assaf, how are you doing?
I’m doing well, all things considered.
I think that’s a sufficient answer given the climate. How are your employees doing?
Our employees are doing well. Our philosophy going into this has been that we are not going to lay off anyone at this time knowing that it would be extremely difficult for anyone to land on their feet.
So we are going to—all of us—make a sacrifice to make sure that the team stays intact for as long as possible.
How has working remotely affected your employees around the world?
So we have, you know, as you said, a distributed company before. The only difference is that we used to have co-working locations. We’re no longer using the co-working space and we’re all working from home. It seems like people are as productive as they were before. I don’t think it’s going to be a major issue.
I think that once this is resolved, we’re going to go back to the co-working space because there’s some things you just can’t really do online. Like team building—building those relationships that then help you have a better online relationship. I think we’re lucky that we have already established those human interactions so that now our online interactions are building on that.
How has your business changed since the virus outbreak?
So we are refocusing our efforts on doing what we can to help our customers deal with the specific issues of the pandemic and less on features that we were already working on.
For example, we introduced a training course for the cleaners that use our products so that they know how to take safety precautions. We have prebuilt cleaning checklists that take into account all the expert recommendations [for COVID-19 sanitation] so that our property managers can use those.
We just take it one day at a time.
There’s also a lot of self focus: how do we keep the team engaged and motivated for less pay and having a lot of things going on at home that they need to work on?
So we try to do a little bit more experimental stuff. I feel like that sort of lifts morale to work on a new, exciting feature. We can focus some of our efforts on the stuff that we always wanted to do, but never had time to.
”We can focus some of our efforts on the stuff that we always wanted to do, but never had time to.
Has Divvy been able to help you in this process at all?
So we’re still relying on [Divvy] to get expenses paid throughout our workforce all over the world. But I think that there could be other uses for it right now.
So, as I said earlier, we’ve asked everyone to make a sacrifice. We’ve set aside some money so that we can help some employees that have, [unique] obligations to meet. We’re going to use [Divvy] to get those funds to them quicker.
Have you changed anything about the way that you’re budgeting or managing the funds for Divvy?
You know it would be easy through Divvy to track all the subscriptions that we’re paying for and be able to cancel them with a click of a button without having to go to each individual provider.
Hopefully things come back quicker. I don’t know how long this is going to take.
Our working assumption is like:
- Really bad three months.
- Followed by not as bad, three month.
- Then, six to nine months to “business is normal.”
How do you ensure trust and transparency with consumers as travel returns to “normal?”
We’re working on a sort of badge system where properties that use [TurnoverBnB] can demonstrate that everyone in their organization is aware of the recommended cleaning procedures. So you’d know—with a relative degree of assurance—that every effort has been made to disinfect the unit.
What other tools are you using right now to help you manage this crisis?
You know, it’s not really any tool that I wasn’t using before. As a remote company, we’ve always been doing video calls. I would say 50% of my day is on a video call, even before this situation.
It’s nothing new to us. You know, we’re using Slack, Google Hangouts—not so much Zoom. I know everyone is falling in love with Zoom, but I’m perfectly happy with Slack and Google Hangouts.
In terms of things that I do differently, [I am speaking a lot more with] other business leaders and our investors. I don’t think I’ve ever spoken to investors as much as I’ve spoken to them in the last month.
Just in terms of, “Hey, do you have any advice on this? I need advice on that.”
It’s been really helpful—also to get feedback from people in general knowing that everyone is going through pretty much the same situation.
I’ve told you before that I was really worried going back two months (February 2020), when the news came out of China that this was going to be really bad for the travel industry. We were really concerned then so we’ve already been through multiple stages of freak-out.
I think that once you have a little certainty of how bad things are, you stop freaking out. I think the fear is about the uncertainty. Is it going to happen? Is it not going to happen? But once it’s already happened, there’s a lot of stress that is off your shoulders because you no longer have that uncertainty.
No, I think the not knowing is kind of the worst part.
What are some of those insights that you’ve been able to garner either from other business leaders or your investors?
Yeah, so the advice is this: it’s not the end of the world. Habits die really hard. So you know all those columns you read about in the newspaper about how things will never be the same again and no one will ever go to a restaurant again—I mean, that’s false.
Inertia is probably the most powerful force in the world and things will snap back very quickly. You need to make sure your business stays afloat and your team—as much as possible—stays together and things will go back.
Also, there are a lot of things that you didn’t know about that are negotiable. You can negotiate with everyone. Nothing is set in stone. So try to negotiate down your expenses, get a loan if you can. Pray. That’s all I can offer.
You know, it’s more sober advice than I’ve heard from some. Assaf, thank you so much for your time today. And, thank you for being a Divvy customer and being such a great one.
Appreciate you being with us through the good times and the bad.