Choosing a vacation rental software product can be difficult for rental owners and vacation rental companies, as there are plenty of software options to choose from. To determine which software is best for you and your business, it is helpful to first realize your business goals.

Once you follow these steps to help realize your vacation rental business goals and needs, choosing a vacation rental software will be much easier!

1. Goal Setting: Outline Business Goals for the Short-term and Long-term

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To select the best software, you should first establish your vacation rental goals. Start by asking yourself this: What are my goals as a vacation rental company or vacation rental owner and what is the timeline I'll set for achieving them? Once you've set your goals, figure out the steps you must take to achieve them. Knowing how to most effectively accomplish your goals within the timeframes you've set will inform your decisions about the kind of software that you should purchase.

Expert Tip: Pick two to three goals per time segment to drive toward and write out exactly what you need to do to meet them.

2. Selecting Software: Determine Your Software “Must Haves”

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Vacation rental software products provide a variety of helpful services. Popular software features vacation rental owners and managers look for include integrated accounting, website management, online distribution, reservation and booking services, among many others. Keep in mind that it is unlikely that you'll find a software package that checks off all of the boxes, so to speak.

Expert Tip: Instead of focusing on everything that your current software has that you don’t want to give up, focus instead on those business goals you wrote down.

What do you need to achieve those goals? This list should be as short and concise as possible. Remember, these are needs not wants.

Next, consider your “like to haves”, which are the software services you could live without if you had to, but would still bring great value to you.

Finally there are your “nice to haves”. These are the software features that would be great to have but your business isn’t any worse off without them.

Expert Tip: If you have a staff, make sure to involve them in this software-needs brainstorm.

Including your staff will not only give you a stronger picture of your business needs to help choose a vacation rental software, but will likely empower them also.

3. Preparing for Your New Software: Clean Data and Decide What You Want to Transfer to New Software

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Your current software can likely use a clean up, so give it one! Take time to remove duplicate entries, edit fields you used incorrectly, etc. so that you are prepared to shift to your new vacation rental software.

Expert Tip: As soon as you know you want to start shopping for new software, start on a data cleanup project.

Determine what information, such as calendars, descriptions, photography, you want to transfer to your new software. Don’t fall into the trap of “I need to have everything”. If you host your current software, then you can always refer back to it if you find that there is data you need. If you are using cloud-based software, export as much of your data as you can by running reports, exporting them to Excel or PDF, and saving them to a local drive so that you have that data accessible. Burning the data to a cd is always a good idea, in the event that something crashes.

4. Implementing Software: Involve Your Staff in the Software Change

One of the most important things that will determine the success or failure of a software installation is getting your staff on board with the project. I have seen software installations come apart at the seams because the staff refused to adapt to it. The good news is that this can be avoided with a little bit of planning and communication beforehand.

Inform Your Staff of the Software Switch

Let your staff know that you are thinking about switching to new software as soon as you have made the decision to start looking. If nothing else, it gives them time to get used to the idea. Explain to them why you believe it is the right move for your company (remember those business goals?) and invite their feedback, questions, and concerns. If you wait to tell them until you have already chosen new software, you may have missed blind spots that they could have helped you see that would have changed your mind.

Gather Staff Feedback on Software

Have your staff evaluate the software with you. Just do your salesperson a favor and designate a single point of contact who compiles everyone’s questions/concerns and sends it to them once or twice a week.

Once you have decided on a particular software package, explain to your staff why you chose that option and help them see how their feedback made it happen.

Installing new software can be a disruptive and time-consuming process. Involving your staff and communicating regularly will be far less disruptive and go much more quickly.

This article was written by James C. Sells, the Founder & Principal Consultant at VR Biz Consulting, a company that works with vacation rental businesses to maximize revenue and take their software from a cost center to a profit center.