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Op/Ed

3 business tips subtly offered in bingeworthy series, Stay Here

(EDITORIAL) Stay Here is not only our new favorite Netflix show to binge, it will subtly educate you about business along the way.

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Thanks to the dawn of Netflix, we’re all accustomed to binge-watching our favorite shows, then feeling dead inside when there are no more episodes left, and going in search of a new series to obsess over. My newest favorite is Netflix’s Stay Here, starring America’s Sweetheart (sorry, Paige), Genevieve Gorder, and former-DJ, current broker, Peter Lorimer.

They’ve tapped into the wildly underserved (by HGTV, TLC, and others) short term rental market and help owners transition to mini-hoteliers. We watched the entire series in one night, thinking it would be another lame home makeover show, finding ourselves surprised by the quality, and eager for a second season.

Meghan O’Keefe at Decider similarly asserted that she was skeptical going into the series, but said, “I was soon transfixed by the show.”

What stood out to O’Keefe is that their motives are ultra clear (to promote these properties) while traditionally, makeover shows promoting designers’ brands are more opaque with their intent.

What stood out to us is how universal Gorder and Lorimer’s business advice was, with four consistent themes woven into each episode:

1. Focus on what sets you apart.

Every professional is scared of losing any opportunity, so it is common to keep your marketing broad. For example, if you ask a Realtor what their ideal referral looks like, almost everyone says, “I help people buy and sell homes.”

Uh, which people? Which types of homes? Do you focus on buyers or do you focus on sellers? If you say you’re a Realtor, we already know that you help people buy and sell homes, but we’re not going to refer to you over the 8,000 other agents int he city.

The fear of missing out on opportunities overwhelms entire industries, but saying “I help first time home buyers in downtown Dallas” or “I love working with people that are downsizing” is far more memorable, and plants a seed of need in peoples’ head. In two years after meeting you at a networking event, if they hear of a first time buyer in Dallas, they’re going to recommend you in a heartbeat whereas they would have already forgotten you by now.

The same can be said in Stay Here. The duo grooms every homeowner to understand what makes them stand out, and focuses squarely on that with every ounce of their effort. And every business professional should do the same.

stay here firehouse

2. Refine your model.

Many of the owners in the show frequently treat their short term rental as a hobby. But Lorimer (whose focus is the business) coaches every homeowner into understanding that if you’re taking someone’s money for something, you must deliver.

But what are you delivering?

Many people enter an industry and don’t set up any sort of business model, it’s more like throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping something sticks. And this tip is one of the most subtle offered by the show.

Without spoiling too much, one episode of Stay Here had an owner that ran out of budget for furniture, so in the town that is a destination for antiquing, they went to a few shops the owner knew, and curated fine furniture and art in the rental that is for sale in the actual unit. I was blown away at the creativity and how they not only helped design an interior, they gave the homeowner a business model (short term rental owner acting as a boutique hotel owner with antique and art curation).

Brilliant. What are you doing in your industry that is different than your competitor? How are you partnering with ancillary services in creative ways that no one else is? Consider your model and how it can be refined (and trust me, after watching that episode, you’ll be inspired to do just that).

3. Create a social media moment.

Every episode has a “social media moment” in the form of a bold interior design choice that offers a space that is so photogenic people will insist on taking selfies there.

And for the first time ever, a show understands hashtag activation, giving each property a unique (albeit verbose) hashtag that is woven into each property visibly, on the website, and throughout social media efforts.

The point is that they empowered the renters to do the social media FOR the homeowner.

How does that convey to your business? Obviously, if you have a storefront, is there a spot that is selfie-worthy that includes a visible hashtag? Whether it’s a mural on the side of your building or a unique display, if you have a standard store with no “social media moment” offerings, you’re not giving people an excuse to photograph your shop and share it.

Maybe you’re a Realtor – is there something in every listing that is worth photographing, and a hashtag that goes along with the property? Hair stylists – is there a post-design space that is luxurious and all about taking selfies, even if it’s a simple backdrop in a well-lit corner of your salon?

The bottom line there is to give people a reason to do your social media marketing for you.

No matter what you do for a living, be sure to go stream Stay Here – it’s great brain candy with so many actionable pieces of advice that can be translated to so many other types of businesses!

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Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius and has been named in the Inman 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders several times, co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

Op/Ed

A hugely dangerous challenge of the Internet of Things

(EDITORIAL) The Internet of Things is here, with all manner of soft AI voices and shiny Bluetooth bits. But how long can we count on it staying?

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LG Alexa internet of things

So, robot apocalypse. The Internet of Things machines have their cold metal fingers all up in our data, our houses, our sand dunes and/or porn.

And for what? What do they offer in exchange for this unprecedented invasion of our day to day lives?

Seamless, user-friendly automation to help with a thousand daily tasks, demonstrably improving our quality of life.

That’s… that’s actually a pretty good offer! Nice work, robots.

It comes with catches, and we’ve covered those, but Day One bumps and blunders are part of owning tech. They generally get engineered out.

What I want to talk about is Day 100, or 1000. Because the important word in “Internet of Things” isn’t “Internet.” We have the Internet. We can confidently expect the Internet to continue being a big deal.

But “things” is an important word. Things are distinct from tech. With tech, buying the thing and futzing with the thing are part of the fun, especially for practicing nerds like your narrator. Tech is new, and the excitement of a new game or a new phone can take the edge off, say, a server crash or a quick trip to tech support and back.

What about things? No early adopter aura in history will get a customer to ignore a fridge full of rotten food. Fridges need to work, period. So does your thermostat and your car. All those things are charter candidates for the full IoT overhaul, and they’re all capital T Things, not tech. They aren’t shiny toys people can live without for a week or four. They’re expected parts of daily life, things that need to work on Day 1, 100, and 1000.

Are companies preparing for that? Are the startups rising out of the blue-light-white-plastic Stuff Renaissance prepared to rebrand as global service providers, doing the hard, unglamorous, absolutely necessary work of digital maintenance?

Bigger question: are they prepared to guarantee security while they do so? Because anything with digitized bits needs patches and updates to function, and if it can download patches and updates, it can download things that are not patches and updates. No one wants to chase a botnet out of their microwave. Are the companies invested in always-on Things standing up and saying they’ll take responsibility for indefinitely securing and maintaining the infrastructure they intend to profit from?

Short answer, no. They’re not. Operations departments tend to be vanishingly small, painfully understaffed, spectacularly underpaid. Let’s be real,: we don’t prioritize stuff like that. We’re talking the digital equivalent of the guy who chases the raccoons out of your HVAC, and that sounds entirely too much like work.

Maintenance is not sexy.

But it’s absolutely necessary. It’s generally just the beginning of a thing. It gets the wheel rolling, and that’s not to be undersold.

But the IoT wheel is most definitely rolling. The issue is keeping it in motion, making it a wifi-level universal usage standard, not a 3DTV fad.

That won’t get done in a meeting. That gets done through long term adoption, and long term adoption will be about attracting, training, and retaining people willing to do the hard work of maintenance and customer support.

The Internet of Things wants to be a major step forward in the infrastructure of daily life. I am incredibly in favor of that. But daily life works because it’s the full time job of a whole lot of people to make sure it does so. So to Internet of Things companies, I say – pay them, treat them well, make your organization the best place in the industry for them, or be left behind by the people who do.

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Op/Ed

The texting sin to never commit with your clients, period

(EDITORIAL) Clear communication with clients is important (and that’s an understatement). This study found one error that separated the sincere text from the insincere.

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texting smartphone tech device rfid

I have enough issues making myself understood when I speak with someone face-to-face. Now I need to pay attention to how I text so as not to be misconstrued.

According to the latest findings from Celia Klin, associate professor of psychology and associate dean at Binghamton University’s Harpur College, the mere use of a period (.) can make a person seem less sincere compared to say, using an exclamation point (!), which, by the way, ranks higher on the sincerity meter.

The study, led by Celia Klin of Binghamton University, and published in Computers in Human Behavior, suggests ending your text messages with a period makes them seem less sincere to the receiver.

Participants in the study read short exchanges with responses that either did or did not contain messages that ended with a period.

When the messages were in text message form, as opposed to handwritten notes, the messages that ended with a period were generally rated as being less sincere than messages that didn’t end in a period.

Klin points out that “Texting is lacking many of the social cues used in actual face-to-face conversations. When speaking, people easily convey social and emotional information with eye gaze, facial expressions, tone of voice, pauses, and so on.”

Instead, adds Professor Klin, people who text rely on what they have available to them: “…emoticons, deliberate misspellings that mimic speech sounds and punctuation.”

I’m not sure what the alternative to texting is. Lifehacker.com recently published its findings of what it feels are the five best alternative texting apps. But at the end of the day (or end of the sentence in this case) you are still texting and thus still setting yourself up for the dreaded improper use of a period (.)

That said, Lifehacker’s survey revealed that WhatsApp leads the pack. WhatsApp is a cross-platform messaging system that supports Android, iOS, Windows Phone, and Blackberry devices. WhatsApp is popular because the service is backed by hundreds of millions of active users, and allows you to send text, photo, and voice/video messages to individuals and groups for free using mobile data or Wi-Fi. And there’s not a Period (.) in sight. You can see the rest of the top five contenders by clicking here.

In terms of expressing myself, the use of emoticons works perfectly for me. Trouble is, within a professional context the cartoon-like emoticon looks out of place. That’s OK. It’s the next best thing to speaking in person (which I’d rather do anyway) and it sure beats worrying about period (.) misuse.

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Op/Ed

Why you should lose the sweat pants if you work from home

(EDITORIAL) While it’s tempting to cozy up and work in your most comfortable sweatpants or yoga pants, there are a number of reasons that dressing up to go to work can help increase work from home productivity.

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There are many often discussed benefits to working from home. If you’re not spending time on a daily commute, that means you have more time to work on personal projects and share with your family and friends. Plus it saves you gas and/or fare money.

While it’s tempting to cozy up and work in your most comfortable sweatpants or yoga pants, there are a number of reasons that dressing up to go to work can help increase work from home productivity — even if you’re just commuting to your couch!

You should wear pants (yes, everyday).

When you look your best, you feel your best, and arguably work your best.

It’s pretty hard to resist the temptation of vegging out a bit if you’ve rolled out of bed and headed to your desk while still wearing pajamas. If you have no plan to get dressed for the day, the temptation to hit the snooze button until the moment you need to be present and accounted for will really work against you.

Your computer will say work, but your favorite oversized t-shirt says go back to bed.

When you’re working from home, planning to get up early and prepare for your day allows you to create a transitional space that will help distinguish your home life from your work life. Dressing for success, even if you don’t see anyone during your office hours, will drive your sense of purpose and help you carve out a more productive space. It will also signify to any family members or roommates that you’ve entered the workspace and shouldn’t be bothered.

If you work from a restaurant, coffee shop, or workspaces, it can make you more approachable.

If you’re not dressed for the part, those around you may assume that you’re spending your time recreationally. Even if you are constantly answering your phone, drafting emails, or working on a project. It’s deceptively easy to look like you’re simply browsing the internet or socializing in casual attire.

There are plenty of opportunities to network and meet new people, even when you work from home. You never know who you may end up connecting with, and dressing appropriately to your profession can send the message that you’re an expert and take what you do seriously.

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