I have this great group of people that I can run ideas by. I have learned that if the idea is something that my team feels good about, we make it happen.
Doug Milbrath is a proud owner and partner of Bay Tree Solutions. He is the Chief Marketing Officer of the timeshare resale solutions provider located in Atlanta, Georgia. His knowledge of the industry and passion for his business are evident as he shares his vision of the future for Bay Tree Solutions and explains its provenance.
Doug began his career in the summer of ‘95 when he took a job at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. His position required him to encourage hotel guests to take a tour of the timeshare resort. He would offer a free gift to those who chose to take the tour. Feeling comfortable in the timeshare industry, he took a position with a timeshare marketing company where he learned timeshare resorts attract prospects. He honed his marketing skills with this company over the next five years. In 2000, the marketing company that he worked for was sold. He made the next logical decision, which was to obtain his real estate license and work as a timeshare salesperson.
9/11 2001: As tragedy struck our country, Doug was in Orlando, Florida. There were very few flights in or out of the area. Tourism dropped dramatically, many businesses came to a halt. The travel industry traditionally pays on commission only. Doug had a family to support and for the first time in many years, he had to find a position that provided a paycheck. It was at this time that he went into selling on the resale side of the market. This was a new side of the industry for Doug. He scrutinized every aspect of the business and determined that he could improve on the existing business practices of this company. Five years later, Bay Tree Solutions was launched in Florida by Doug and his partner, who is now his wife. The business opened to a field of approximately 2,000 timeshare resale companies competing in the same space. From that time until now, Bay Tree Solutions is one of two surviving companies left in the market today.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
At the time I came up with the idea to open Bay Tree Solutions, I was working with timeshare owners who kept telling me about the lack of good resale options in the timeshare market. So, I knew there was a problem that needed to be solved. I observed the practices of the company I worked for at that time, learning the timeshare resale end of the business and eventually determining that I could do a better job. I could improve on existing practices. Five years later, by the time we started the company in 2006, there were about 2,000 companies competing in the same space for timeshare resales. From that time until present, we are one of two surviving companies in the market today. We have seen a lot of good and bad ideas come and go over the years.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I start my day having breakfast with my three-year-old while my wife takes our five-year-old to school. I spend a lot of my time in operations once I get to the office. We are at capacity when it comes to space in our offices and are going to have to expand our space. I inspect every new advertisement that comes across for new clients to make sure it meets our high standards. My afternoons are spent answering emails and speaking with timeshare developers to try to build those relationships for the future.
I also enjoy blogging about our industry and keeping our clients informed. I make my best effort daily to improve perceptions of the timeshare industry. I advocate for the timeshare resale market. We are the largest source on the web for information about the secondary market. Having a timeshare is wonderful for families vacationing with children. The value proposition kicks in when you can eliminate the need for having to get a suite or two rooms.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I am really fortunate to have a group of really good people. I tend to retain employees for a long time. We recruit people with industry experience, so they have the knowledge of the timeshare industry. So, I have this great group of people that I can run ideas by. I have learned that if the idea is something that my team feels good about, we make it happen.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Timeshare buyers becoming younger. More and more millennials are buying timeshares now. I think that the whole perception of the timeshare industry will change over the next 10-20 years as this generational change take place. Industry-wide, there is a change of energy. It absolutely gives me hope for the future.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
When I was in high school, I worked in a law firm doing computer work. The attorney I worked for was my mentor. I observed her first thing every morning reading either several industry news articles or magazines. She made sure that she was on top of everything that was happening in her industry. She would make a call or send a letter to anyone she knew that was in the paper. I adopted that strategy. I have a newsfeed for anything related to the timeshare industry. It gives me a good perspective on everything that is going on in the industry.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell myself not to take the haters seriously.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
You can eat nothing but saturated fat and still be extremely healthy. I have lost 60 lbs. eating nothing but eggs and cheese and ribeye steak. I am perfectly healthy.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Read. I read business books and fiction. I read that the average CEO reads about 60 books a year. I think we would all benefit if we would adopt that notion.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
The best strategy that has helped Bay Tree Solutions grow is by hiring fewer people who have more skills. One of the practices of my former employer was to hire more people and pay them less. I’ve found if you hire fewer people who have more skills you can pay them more, they stay happy and everyone is more productive.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
In 2007, just before the recession, I bought a home at the absolute peak of the market. It was a huge financial loss. Our business struggled as sellers lost confidence and buyers were having trouble getting loans. It came down to keeping the company or keeping the house. I chose to take the loss on the house and it was the absolute right choice.
Also, it is very difficult as an entrepreneur to let go of the reins. I used a consultant who advised me to read an article called Evolution and Revolution as Organizations Grow. It changes your mindset from being a start-up founder to going into a managerial and maintenance mindset. My failure to delegate had often led to many sleepless nights. Eventually, I learned to delegate.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Working in a travel-related industry, I have closely watched the rise of Air B&B where you can rent out your house. I think there are a lot of opportunities. Buy a teepee or a houseboat. Locate an older cruiser or motor yacht and use them as rentals right in the marina.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
We recently took our kids to Disney for the first time. There is nothing like seeing the joy in your five-year-old’s face then when they spend the day there.
The other thing that we do at work is take our core staff out to dinner once a month. I think it is so important to break bread together.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
Trello is a collaborative platform that we use in the office that has saved so much time and eliminated so much extra work. It keeps us all on the same page. I would recommend it to anyone in business.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“Tragedy and Hope” by Carrol Quigley; It was written in 1962. It explains how the world is really run politically. It is absolutely worth the 1,200 pages.
What is your favorite quote?
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right” by Henry Ford.
“One after another you can all get some” – the Beastie Boys.
• Positive intention for vacations
• Positive perception
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.