Colorado rental company building back after crash
Tommy Hoffman thought he had a great idea in 2008. Three years later, that idea looks like it’s going to flower.
Hoffman, who’s been in the vacation rental business for more than 15 years, starting by renting his own unit in the old Vail Crossroads building to friends and associates, then moving up to an office with a fax machine. Over the years, Hoffman built his company into one that specializes in renting condos, townhomes and private homes, working primarily with property management companies and lodges.
By 2008, Vail Vacation Rentals was ready to launch a web-based service linking clients and property managers. The project started strong, until the world’s financial system crashed in the fall of that year. Soon after, Hoffman’s 23-person company was just him and James Bengala, who’s now the national director of sales and marketing.
From there, though, Vail Vacation Rentals has been on an upward, if rocky path. The company today has about 30 employees, a new name – Rocky Mountain Vacation Rentals – and offices in Vail, Summit County, Aspen, and Telluride.
The company has grown its revenue by more than 300 percent since 2007, and recently earned a spot on Inc. Magazine’s America’s Top 5000 fastest-growing private companies in the USA. The company just revamped its website, just launched a magazine, “Elevated Living.”
The company is also looking to open offices in other resorts in the near future.
While Rocky Mountain Vacation Rentals runs on the Web, Hoffman said he needs people in all the markets the company enters for a simple reason – local knowledge. The company has trademarked the slogan “Friendly. Knowledgeable. Local.” The way to back up that slogan is to hire people who know and love the resorts they’re living in. It’s hard for someone in Vail to recommend a funky spot for lunch in Telluride.
Hoffman boasts about the enthusiasm his people bring to their work, and their ability to cater to clients’ needs from the time they arrive until they leave.
But the company needed a lot of work after the world’s markets crashed. And Hoffman, who’s built and run companies with revenues of $100 million and more, said this is the toughest project he’s ever taken on.
“I’ve hit recessions before, but nothing like this,” Hoffman said. “It’s been so difficult to raise money.
“After the crash I put everything else I had into this,” he added. “When it was down to James and I, there were days I’d never leave.”
As the roller coaster ride turned into just an uphill climb, Hoffman and Begala began adding people, but carefully.
These days, Cali Adkisson, the head of business development and marketing, does much of the hiring, including a new crop of college interns every year. Those interns don’t get paid, but do receive housing. And, Adkisson said, they aren’t just fetching coffee.
“They’re on our media team, doing graphic design, marketing, accounting,” Adkisson said. “And we’re getting them from a lot of schools.”
Those interns are also learning how a growing business works, under a fairly new model.
“I’ve learned a lot of lessons the last three years – how to be a survivor,” Hoffman said.
“It’s still tough,” he added. “I’m not getting rich here – nobody’s getting rich quick. But I’ve told my son, ‘You’re getting an education I never had.'”
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