On the up · 11 January 2017

Pillow Partners: A hands-on holiday lettings company

Scott Weir of Pillow Partners
Scott Weir of Pillow Partners

As a short-term accommodation and holiday lettings provider with managed properties around Scotland, Pillow Partners has ambitious ideas for expansion. We caught up with founder Scott Weir to find out how the company has grown over the last year.

Although it does advertise on Airbnb, the Pillow Partners holiday lettings service it offers is much more hands-on. The properties on its books are managed, so although it doesn’t own them it sends in cleaners and handles the marketing.

“We’ve got a booking portal that only showcases our properties,” said Weir. “And we don’t have to pay fees on that like we do when we advertise on Airbnb so we prefer to sell on there.”

As it stands now, the company has been operating for just under a year and covers Scotland. There are other companies that offer a managed local service, and there are companies that offer a nationwide service, but according to Weir no company offers a nationwide managed service. This is where Pillow Partners aims to set itself apart as it has ambitious plans.

“Our overall target by December 2019 is to have a thousand properties under management. It’s a very simple expansion strategy, our regional property managers will work from home,” he explained. “They’ll all be experts in hospitality or tourism and know all about their specific region. We’re looking to have 20 property managers scattered across the UK with 30 properties each.”

The model Pillow Partners uses means that the business has two kinds of clients – those looking to let their property, and those looking to rent one for a holiday. To market the business to this diverse range of clients, Weir makes an effort with networking and speaking at events to position himself as a short-term rental expert.

“I genuinely believe there has never been a better time to do it,” said Weir. “We’ve got access to clients all over the world. The industry before Airbnb was predominantly magazines, mailing lists and catalogues – we’d never have been able to do this at any other time in history.”

“We’re also at the right time where a lot of the owners of holiday homes tend to be older and more traditional, so they don’t have the grasp of technology they need and they’re looking to companies to help them with listings.”

The business has a strategy in place where it seeks out online listings that could do with improvement and approaches the owners offering help.

“The good thing about holiday home owners is they will always try and promote their property every way they can, whether its Gumtree, Facebook or Twitter. They try to get their properties out there.”

Weir has previous experience with running a business – his other offering for residential properties has been running for ten years. Throughout this time, he has come to acknowledge recruitment as one of the main challenges a business can face.

“As a business owner and entrepreneur that dedicates their life to the business, you want everyone to do things the way you would do it. So it’s definitely important to recruit the right team,” he explained.

“Mediocre staff make a mediocre business, and mediocre businesses in this day and age can’t really compete. We need them to be superstars.”

Given his previous experience in entrepreneurship, Weir was not sure whether he would be accepted by the Entrepreneurial Spark accelerator programme, but he applied anyway and has gone on to find great success with it – he even won an award for Entrepreneur of the Year.

“I went to every single seminar, took every opportunity – Royal Bank of Scotland let me go and do pitches in front of 200 people at their head branch. I’ve got so much out of it,” he said.

Yet for all this dedication to learning and snatching every last crumb of advice, Weir claimed the best piece advice he’d been given from the programme came on the first day: “Find out what you do best, who you work best with. Focus on one thing and do it very well.”

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Letitia Booty is a special projects journalist for Business Advice. She has a BA in English Literature from the University of East Anglia, and since graduating she has written for a variety of trade titles. Most recently, she was a reporter at SME magazine.

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