Raising the Bar on Resort Management Services: 93.3FM Interview with Alderwood CEO Tom Johnson

Saturday, November 7, 2009 - 04:00

Interviewer: Joining us now is Tom Johnson. He’s CEO of the Alderwood Group. Now for years Alderwood has been one of the premier firms in hotel and resort management. And now they are applying those same techniques to managing fractional use properties, like timeshares. Tom is here to talk about those services. Tom, thanks for joining us on the show today.

Tom Johnson: Thank you.

Interviewer: Now how is managing a timeshare property different from a more typical vacation option, like a hotel?

Tom Johnson: Well, I think the first key is the difference in the owner structure. You deal with a volunteer association board and, as well, each individual interval owner believes they are an owner in a property. So, you can have anywhere from a thousand owners to five thousand owners which always creates a lot of questions. The key is dealing with them one-on-one, and giving them the necessary time. Then there is the issue of administration with CC&Rs and rules and regulations, yield management, owner benefit programs, delinquencies and collections on collecting assessments (past due,) assisting sales for resale programs, and then probably the accounting issue with fund balance accounting, and creating easy to read financial statements/profit and law statements, so they know exactly where they are. Basically, putting them in layman terms.

Interviewer: So what do you do? How do you help people?

Tom Johnson: Our first enhancement we make any time we come into a property is we always look at the service levels, creating and raising the bar in resort management service levels and fine-tuning services. Most timeshares just think it cost too much money and don’t realize for very little money they can increase their service just through proper training. Then we got into everything else that everyone else has, accounting and inventory management. The key is taking time tested program software and integrate them into the timeshare business which creates savings just on their own. Then we also offer technical services hands down on where we are on that for monitoring central reservations, yield management, guest room technology. One of the things we’re proud of is that we are one of the first companies to use an ASP service, which means basically you don’t have all the networks and all the technology required on site, but it’s all handled off-site and maintained by a professional company.

Interviewer: Now it sounds very professional and business-like, but you guys take what can only be described as a humanistic approach to timeshare property management and customer service. I’d like to talk about that part a little bit.

Tom Johnson: Oh, I could actually talk about that all day. That’s probably one of our keys, and I feel probably one of the reasons we are successful. We have a saying that goes throughout: Whoever you are part of team is that we all succeed together, we all fail together….basically means that they are no heroes. Not one position is more important than another position in our timeshare management company. It takes us all to move forward and succeed. And the other item you’ll hear us talk about on a corporate level is if we take care of our staff, our staff will take care of our guests and our guests obviously will take care of our owners and for everybody, it’s a win-win. The bottom line is if we don’t have a dedicated caring staff, it doesn’t matter how good we are at technology or anything else, we won’t succeed.

Interviewer: Boy that’s the truth. Hey, Tom, we are just about out of time, any final thoughts?

Tom Johnson: I think the one point I would want to say is that we are not for every developer. We are very much a hands-on timeshare management company, it’s not about fees. We work with an association, a developer. We want to form a partnership. It’s not just for another management contract. We consider it a partnership. One of our keys to success has been how we incorporate consistent technology, but I think the other key is we also look at each property on an individual basis. That each property has an individual identity and not all policies and procedures can be force-fed to all properties.

Interviewer: Tom, thank you so much.

Tom Johnson: Thank you.

Interviewer: Thomas Johnson is founder and CEO of the Alderwood Group, and we reached him in their offices in Big Bear Lake, California.

Cathleen Calkins