The beautiful thing about Airbnb is that it provides an avenue for inspired entrepreneurs to leave jobs that aren’t fulfilling and start their own businesses in the vacation rental ecosystem, and today’s guest is a perfect example. Beautification Specialist Lily Troupe is the founder of Under Control Short Stay Management, Melbourne’s premiere turnover service and management company.
Lily’s previous career as a social worker was incredibly demanding: She was working 12-hour days, but enjoying little financial reward. Feeling drained, she took a sales job with a network marketing firm and started cleaning and styling homes for extra money. One of Lily’s clients happened to be an Airbnb host, and when she went away on holiday, Lily was asked to help with check-in.
Lily’s reputation for attention to detail and exceptional communication soon spread, and her contact information was passed on to other hosts. In June of 2016, she officially expanded her offerings to include Airbnb servicing and management, and Lily established Under Control Short Stay Management. Today she shares how her service goes beyond just cleaning, what you can do to make a space more welcoming, and important information to share with your Airbnb guests. Listen in to learn how Lily has made cleaning an art form!
Lily’s introduction to Airbnb
The skills Lily leveraged to turn this service into a business
How Under Control Short Stay Management is more than just a cleaning service
The importance of an initial scan of the property
How Lily makes a space more welcoming
How Lily approaches guest interaction
The information Lily shares with guests
How Lily handles a double booking
This episode is sponsored by Hostfully.com where you can create a custom digital guidebook for your guests!
Complete Transcript for Get Paid for Your Pad Episode 188
Jasper: Welcome to Get Paid for Your Pad, a definitive show on Airbnb hosting, featuring the best advice on how to maximize profits from your Airbnb listing as well as real life experiences from Airbnb hosts all over the world. Welcome.
AD: This episode is brought to you by Hostfully, a company that helps you make beautiful guidebooks for your listing. Especially for Get Paid for Your Pad listeners, you get a free guidebook consultation after you make your guidebook.
Jasper: Get Paid for Your Pad Episode 189! Welcome everybody, today I’m talking to Lily Troupe, she is an Airbnb host in Melbourne, Australia and she used to be a social worker but she’s transitioned into being an entrepreneur. She started a business where she helps other people with their Airbnb and she calls herself a beautification specialist. So, sounds pretty intriguing. Welcome to the show
Lily Troupe: Thanks very much Jasper, I’m glad to be here.
Jasper: So, I can relate a little bit to your story. She told me she was working 12 hours a day as a social worker and you were feeling quite empty at your work. That motivated you to quit your job and seek something different. Could you tell us a little something more about your story?
Lily: yeah, so, I didn’t feel very rewarded in the position I was in. I was working in healthcare. I was helping older people get home after their hospital stay. The challenge was not much reward financially and it was draining emotionally, spiritually, physically. So, I quit my job and I took a risk and I was in a network marketing company at the time, that required a skill of sales that I really wasn’t confident that I had and wasn’t really making the sales that I wanted. I just one-day thought, maybe I can get some extra income cleaning a home. I put myself out there and one thing led to another and somehow, I was cleaning for a lady who said, “my place is also an Airbnb home and I need someone to help me with check-ins and servicing.” My name got passed around and I started building a business.
Jasper: Were you already renting out an Airbnb?
Lily: No, I wasn’t. I came involved in co-hosting a little later. Probably a year or two later.
Jasper: Then, you decided to see if you could make some money cleaning homes, and that’s how you found out?
Lily: Yes, that’s correct. The lady I initially contacted, she was going away on holiday and she said “look, would you be interested in making sure that everything is ready for the guest?” Changing the linen, making sure there’s nothing left in the fridge, the garbage was taken out, so, I agreed to that. IT was working well. We were in constant contact with each other feeding on how things were going. I’d send her photos and she was impressed and she passed my details on to other people I knew who had Airbnb’s.
Jasper: At what point did you realize that you could grow a business from this?
Lily: I think it was the connection I had with my clients, because it was really all about communication, understanding the needs they had and were worried about. I thought, I’m not a social worker anymore, but I can help my host to get the five-star ratings they’re wanting so they could, I mean five-star ratings always bring more guests. I thought, I can really help in this way. I have something to offer and give that’s coming from the respect I have for that person’s home to pass on to the guest, who is also my client in another sense. I’m combining a whole lot into one package.
Jasper: You’re saying that your guests are indirectly your clients
Lily: Yes, that’s right. When you look at the Airbnb cycle, people are providing a service not just for the host, but also for the guest as well. It’s a third party involved? It may be an investor who has employed the host, and then also the guest is part of that circle/
Jasper: I think an interesting topic is that when people start with Airbnb hosting, they’re always looking for a cleaner. The question is, how do you get a good cleaner? It’s not the cleaning that’s important, it’s the turnover. IT’s getting the place ready to receive people who have traveled across the world. I think it’s important as a host when you look for someone to manage, it’s important that person understands, it’s not just about cleaning, it’s about getting the place ready. I’m assuming you have thoughts on that? You call yourself a beautification specialist, that’s a really nice word. What’s the difference between a regular cleaning and hiring some person from a cleaning company and having someone who understands Airbnb and the needs for the guests. What’s the difference between the two?
Lily: The way I view my service, Jasper, is I see it as an all-around relationship with the parties that are involved. I can’t speak for every cleaner, but from my perspective, I see it as something as an art-form. That’s why I decided that my business is an all-around beautification service. You are wanting to walk into that space and make it your own. If you’re walking into your house, you see a part of your house that isn’t clean or is missing, you want to be able to make it beautiful for your own environment. When you have a beautiful space, you have peace within yourself. The difference I have, and my business. It’s not just income producing. It’s giving something of yourself. I see a deep connection spiritually, physically and emotionally when I walk into a space. There’s trash on the floor and the sink is absolutely filled with dirty dishes, it’s my responsibility to make sure that when the next guest walks into that space, it’s like it never happened. Like, it’s brand new, it’s a place where you can kick off your shoes, lie on the bed, and just take in the environment and feel that it’s been special and the contribution that this beautification specialist has given you and it’s serene. That’s the way I see the difference between my business and probably just a cleaner who is coming in to be paid whatever it is per hour.
Jasper: Can you give specific examples of things you pay attention to when you do these turnovers?
Lily: So, the first thing I discuss with my clients is the importance of a scan of the property when I enter. You’re scanning for breakage and damage and something that’s untoward. You’re not expecting the guest is very dirty or has left a big mess, but what I’m scanning for is the property’s, how can I put this? It’s a way of making sure the property is the way you left it before the guest arrived. So, it’s an investment for the owners who have the property to make sure everything is right. If I was to walk in and found some damaged appliances or wall, I would immediately take photos and contact the owner or the host, depending who is looking after the property, and a let them know. I have a responsibility to make sure that because I’m the first person in the property that I Relay that information straight away.
Jasper: You know, when I think about – when I first heard the term beautification specialist, I immediately was thinking about when you go to Asia, they fold towels in a creative way. In Thailand, I walked into my hotel room and there were two towels on the bed shaped as swans, that’s what I had in mind for what you’re talking about. You’re talking about how it’s an art. Do you have any specific ideas on how to make the space more welcoming for the guest?
Lily: Yes, sure. I do a little bit of towel origami if you want to call it that – but I usually shape my towels in a roll or folded. But some hosts like something more elaborate, so I can do a lotus flower out of the towels. I’m not sure if it’s an Australian thing, but most hosts like to keep it simple. It may just be the toilet paper I fold in a special way to be a little bit creative when you first sit down on the throne, as we like to call it. There’s a lot of creativity there. Not everyone is into that.
Jasper: That’s right, those are like little details that I think guest will notice when they walk into a space. The toilet paper indicating it hasn’t been used before.
Lily: That’s right, yeah. This may not be related to toilet roll, but when people walk into the bathroom, I always make sure the mirror is spotless. If people look at a dirty mirror, it puts you off straight away. It creates the sense that everything else is not quite right.
Jasper: Yeah, exactly. I think the difference between a mediocre clean apartment and a spotless clean apartment. IT’s the little things. A little bit of dirt on the mirror or a hair in the bed, it’s a small detail, but it changes the cleanliness perception.
Lily: Focus on detail is very important. As my business grows, when I’m taking on board people who can work alongside me and have the same philosophy, that’s the detail I’ll be passing on to those people. To make sure the little things like that are properly done.
Jasper: You don’t have any employees yet?
Lily: I’m the sole trader, yes, I am.
Jasper: You know how they say running a business is fun until you have to hire people?
Lily: That’s right, that’s right!
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Jasper: let’s talk about the interaction with the guests, because if I understand correctly you also do the check-ins. You meet the guest?
Lily: I like doing check-ins. That’s my favorite. You get to meet the guest. You sort of gather in a short amount of time what type of personality they are and how things are going to get along and the feedback you might get and it’s a lot of fun because in a short amount of time you can learn so much about a person, and sometimes what they share with you is really exciting. Their lifestyle, what they like, what they’re doing in the city for the time they’re there. It’s exciting when you first get to meet a new guest.
Jasper: I think one of the most important things when you’re meeting a guest, you’re developing that skill where you can sense the amount of interaction the guests are looking for. It can differ quite a bit. Some people they love to hang out with you for like an hour or longer, have a coffee together, spend some time getting to know each other, whereas other guests, they walk in, they want to take a shower and take a nap and get going. How do you figure out what type of guest you’re dealing with? Like how much interaction they’re looking for
Lily: Usually I find that the guest who is very talkative is sometimes open to spending more time with you, I don’t usually get any guests saying, “let’s go for coffee,” but the guests who are reserved and quiet, they’re the ones you think “all right, it’s time leave now.”
Jasper: do you get any information about your guests before they arrive?
Lily: In what sense?
Jasper: I always ask my guests what they’re planning to do in the city, what they purpose of their visit is, how I should be welcoming them and what kind of things I should talk about. If these are people who are in town for a conference for example, they probably just want to get going and take a shower and do some work, where if people are coming to visit a bunch of tourist attractions, they’ll be interested in me sharing tourist attractions that are nearby my house.
Lily: As some of my guests want to know the location, I have property I look after on the west side of Melbourne which is pretty much on the water. It’s a fairly new area, so the infrastructure isn’t there, I may get a lot of inquiries about the local shops, how close it is, what sort of entertainment and restaurants are in the area. The newer suburbs here are limited in some way, but I find that the guests that stay in the city, the first thing they ask is where’s the closest coffee shop. Where’s the closest café, where do I catch the train from, those kind of transport issues that they’re trying to work out. Some of the apartments in the city don’t always have a car park. So, if someone is driving and they have a place where they can park their car, I provide a list of places that have the cheapest parking for the longest amount of time. It’s little things like that that make it important to communicate with guests. When I’m corresponding with them, when I’m co-hosting, I’m always making sure I answer them quickly. If you’re waiting half-hour for an answer, that’s putting you off.
Jasper: Do the guests ask you the best place to spot a kangaroo in the wild?
Lily: maybe that will be your question when you come visit Melbourne. I’ve never had that question.
Jasper: That was the first thing that was as on my mind when I first came to Australia, I was like “all right, where’s the kangaroos? I want to see them”
Lily: I’ve never been asked that question. I’ve had some international guests but they usually know kangaroos don’t live in the city. I’ve never been asked that one.
Jasper: How about the Drop bear? Are there any drop bears in Melbourne?
Lily: I’m not familiar with that?
Jasper: There’s this funny myth in Australia that people said they used to scare tourists, that there’s this bear called the Drop bear that looks like a koala bear, but it’s actually quite ferocious. It hangs out in a tree pretending to be a koala bear, and when you stand underneath a tree and look up, then the bear will drop out of the tree, land on the tourist and bite him in the neck.
Lily: No, I haven’t heard that one, Jasper.
Jasper: It’s funny, if you go to google and type in Drop Bear and go to images, you see a lot of koalas with giant teeth and lots of blood, it’s pretty funny. Apparently, some decent number of tourists believe this, I just imagine these people standing underneath the tree trying to spot the koala trying to be prepared
Lily: Next time I have an international guest I’ll tell them all about it
Jasper: I wrote an article about it when I was staying in Australia. I used to do a travel blog called the Traveling Dutchman and I wrote an article about the drop bear, because I thought it as hilarious.
Lily: That’s so funny
Jasper: There’s also the Hoop Snake, did you hear about that one?
Lily: I haven’t heard about it, it must be something that goes around international guests, I haven’t heard that here
Jasper: Maybe it’s not in Melbourne, just other areas of Australia.
Lily: Could be
Jasper: Is there anything else you wanted to share with the listeners? We’re coming to the end of the podcast
Lily: They’re welcome to have a look at my website and see what I offer, and if they’re in the local area they can click on my phone number and contact me for any information or any support, is it okay if I share my website?
Lily: It’s www.undercontrolshortstay.com.au , so all of that is one word.
Jasper: How many properties are you managing by the way?
Lily: At the moment I added five more, I have about close to 20 now.
Jasper: That’s a lot
Lily: Moving forward
Jasper: You do this all by yourself?
Lily: yes, I do. The beauty of this kind of opportunity is that not everyone is booking in at the same time, so, somehow it just works out that way that I’m never overbooked or double booked at the same time. Very rarely that happens
Jasper: What do you do when you have two properties where people are checking in at the same time
Lily: I make sure there is a standby, I do have some contacts in the industry. The host is really good and usually has a back-up.
Jasper: Awesome, all right. Well, Lily, thank you for joining me today and sharing your time and your experience as a beautification specialist for Airbnb hosts. Keep a look out for those drop bears and hoop snakes, they’re quite ferocious. They’re quite dangerous. You’ve got to keep an eye out for them.
Lily: It’s been an absolute pleasure Jasper, thank you so much.
Jasper: And for all the listeners, thank you for listening and Friday of course we’ll get back with the news episode for this week. So, hope to see you then.