#RadicalHonesty: The Four Agreements

I am a big fan of the Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. I think they are a great roadmap to living your life honestly and peacefully. Who doesn’t want that?

I also see a lot parallels between this recipe for good living and the recipe for a successful vacation rental business. 


#1. Be Impeccable With Your Word

Remember the days when business deals were made on a handshake?

Or when someone’s word was their bond?

Without getting into a philosophical discussion (believe me, you don’t want me to go there…), that model doesn’t work anymore because we discovered “spin”. 

“Spin” lets us weave tales that have just enough truth to remain palatable, but are basically no longer reality. 

Spin lets us abuse trust with plausible deniability. 

“That property is marketed as cozy. We’re sorry if you think it’s too small.”
“Half a mile IS walking distance.”
“Last season’s furnishings are still considered new.”

Abuse your guests' trust and you’ve broken a promise. 

I believe there are two levels of promises. Those that are spoken and those that are inferred. 

They are equally important. 

A spoken promise is obvious. 

“I’ll call you right back within 30 minutes..”
“I’ll ask the owner if you can bring your dog.”
“I’ll get maintenance there by 5pm.”

Inferred promises are a bit more subtle. 

If a guest books a property, no matter how humble or grand, it’s inferred that they’ll check in to a clean home with all amenities functional. 

You don’t speak it out loud, but it’s still a promise. 

It’s still your word. 

I read hundreds of Facebook reviews of vacation rental companies all over the USA. The 1-star reviews all say the same thing. 

“I called five times and no one has returned my call.”
“We had to spend 5 hours cleaning after we checked in.”
“It’s been 3 days and we still can’t use one of the bathrooms.”

This one should be so simple. Why is there a disconnect?

If you say you’re doing to do it, do it. No excuses. 

Return the phone call. 

Make sure your guests check in to a clean house. 

If something goes wrong, fix it when you say you will. 

In my humble opinion, this next one may be the most important thing of all:

Keep your guests in the loop. 

If you can’t get in touch with someone, if the cleaning crew can’t get back out until tomorrow, if maintenance is waiting on a part…

Tell your guests. 

No one likes to deliver bad news. No one likes to get yelled at. Believe me, I get that. 

No matter how you do it, there’s going to be blowback. But when you keep them in the loop and prove to them that you’re doing what you can, that goes a long way. You may even be able to salvage the relationship. 

#2. Don’t Take Anything Personally

Yeah, easier said than done. 

It’s hard to not take it personally when a guest is yelling and cursing at you. 

It’s hard to not take it personally when an owner is telling you you don’t know how to do your job. 

It’s hard not to take it personally when your rental  manager tells you you’re “overconfident” (my rental manager said that to me - I never understood why being overconfident was a bad thing…).

Here’s the thing. You have no idea what’s going on behind the closed doors of that person’s life. 

Maybe that guest is fielding 5 or 7 phone calls a day from family members with questions and admonishments about the property they booked. If it’s not perfect, he/she will get blamed. 

Maybe your owner is scared about renting their property. Maybe all the fees weren’t explained properly. Maybe if they don’t rent their property x number of weeks per season, they’ll have to sell it. 

Maybe your manager is intimidated by you. Maybe he/she is afraid that you’ll end up replacing them. Or maybe his/her supervisor is questioning him/her about you. 

Maybe someone was just diagnosed with a major health crisis. 

Maybe someone woke up with a migraine. 

Maybe someone’s new puppy peed and pooped all over the floor. 

The “maybes” can go on literally forever. 

And almost none of them have anything to do with you personally. 

#3. Don’t Make Assumptions

As a Damn Yankee (a northerner who moved south), the biggest assumption I had to get over is that southerners aren’t as smart as northerners. 

I’ve heard more than one southerner say, “Just because I talk slow doesn’t mean I think slow.” Boy, is that true. 

But this can apply to anything. 

Don’t make assumptions about anyone’s socioeconomic status based on the property they rent. Maybe they just prefer what you consider a less desirable area. 

Don’t make assumptions on the size of the property a guest needs based on the size of the party. Maybe a couple decides to rent a large property because their home is small and they want to feel expansive. 

Don’t make assumptions based on age. Maybe a retired couple is heading to your area for an Iron Man triathlon instead of playing golf. 

Here’s my story:

I was in the local Olive Garden once. A family of 5 (parents and 3 small kids) was seated near me. They were not well dressed or well groomed. I thought to myself, “Oh, no. Here we go. Unruly kids, clueless parents.” 

Those kids were perfectly behaved. I never heard them speak above normal tones. The parents were attentive and engaged with them. 

They were exemplary. 

I felt like a huge jerk. 

That pretty much sums up this Agreement

#4. Always Do Your Best

I love this one. It reminds me of something your elementary school teacher would have told you. 

It never stops being true. 

To me, this means don’t half-ass your work or your work relationships. 

How you conduct yourself at work is a reflection of who you are as a person. 

I learned this the hard way. 

I was never taught to do my best. I was certainly never taught to have pride in my work. 

What I was taught was to do the least amount I could get away with and let others do the heavy lifting. 

I was taught that the rules don’t apply to me. 

Needless to say, I didn’t keep jobs. And I was not popular with my managers or coworkers. 

It took me a long time and a lot of heartache to figure out what I was doing wrong. 

Once I did, I made some radical changes. 

I learned that it actually felt good to do my job well and to give more than what was expected of me. I learned that I thrived on being the best I could and it sure felt great to be praised by supervisors instead of chastised. 

I can’t think of one single circumstance in which this Agreement would not be true. 

I also think that your guests, your owners and your staff will all recognize and appreciate your best effort. Not only is it a reflection of how you view your job, it’s also a reflection of your respect for all of them.