It may sound like an oxymoron: more technology leads to a personalized experience. But HOLT CEO and co-founder Benjamin Earley insists it does. HOLT is a short term rental operator and hospitality brand currently hosting guests in the US, Mexico and Romania, with plans for more cities and countries in 2022. The business has been in operation by Mr. Earley and his wife, Ioana Holt, since 2013, and the two formulated the brand – an acronym for Helping Others Live and Travel, as well as Ioana’s last name – in 2018.
Mr. Earley’s prior professional and entrepreneurial experience has driven his desire to make technology work for his people, rather than technology replacing people. “When I was at JPMorgan, most of my work was done from a computer. Any meetings almost always involved more people on the phones and the computers than in the actual conference room. And then running my DTC shoe company Paul Evans, other than some early language barriers with our Italian factory, there was no problem running the entire business from a laptop. I wanted to build that work-from-anywhere style for HOLT. Because you’re never ‘off’ in a hotel or short term rental property, you need to build an organization that’s always on.”
HOLT currently claims 14 service and operation employees dotted around the world, sitting in 6 different time zones. As the team members from one timezone wind down their day, the next time zone, anywhere from 6-13 hours ahead, is waking up and coming online. Mr. Earley insists on warm handoffs from shift to shift, to recreate the feeling of face-to-face contact that is missing in a Work From Home (WFH) organization. The HOLT team leverages Slack’s easy and light video chat features as well as their recent addition of Huddle, a audio-based group chat.
HOLT takes very seriously the responsibility of accommodating hundreds of people at every moment of the day. “Things pop up all the time in property management. Combine it with the fact that all our guests are essentially trying to maneuver a home that’s brand new to them, and there will always be questions and issues, no matter how much material you give them in advance. And the time some of the worst things can happen – lockouts, loss of power, leaks – is often at inconvenient times. There’s no point having dozens of employees working one or two time zones, you really need to spread your team out,” explains Mr. Earley.
Every new team member to HOLT, works first in customer service, no matter their future role. This idea came to him from how Bloomberg runs their new hire training. Most new employees begin in sales and customer service. “Answering real life questions and putting out client fires is the quickest way to learn the business. I saw this at J.P. Morgan with our Bloomberg terminal subscription and thought it made a lot of sense. You need to understand how your product or business interacts with clients before knowing how to build or improve on it.”
It’s not just the customer service, or as Mr. Earley calls it the People Team, which operates around the clock. The concept has spread to other parts of HOLT, with the idea that problems can be worked on and solved and growth furthered as the sun moves. So rather than waking up to the same problem you left when you shut down your desktop, it will be much improved. Solved, even. “Having a global, multi-cultural team really keeps group-think to a minimum and invites participation and new perspectives. We go the extra mile for our team, because if they are happy, I know our guests will be happy. It’s that simple, in my mind.”
In hospitality, HOLT is trying to prove that taking care of everyone, employees and customers alike, at all hours of the day is a battle worth fighting.
Reach Benjamin and Ioana and the entire HOLT team at email@example.com.
#findyourHOLT today at www.helloholt.com.