CPAs Durkee & Combs discuss their business

Lena Combs and Tom Durkee, WithumScott+Brown PA

Lena Combs and Tom Durkee, WithumScott+Brown PA

Your accounting firm: they have their finger on your business’ pulse. They can sink you; they can save you. But, what difference can it make whether or not they know anything about the timeshare resort industry? The answer may surprise you. Does your accountant know your business? If your business or resort is involved in the timeshare industry, that just might be an important question.

It’s certainly one we put to Tom Durkee and Lena Combs of WithumSmith+Brown, PC. (The two CPAs announced the joining of their firm, Averett Warmus Durkee CPAs, [AWD] with Withum the first of this year.)

“A developer or resort operator/manager will find there’s an enormous advantage to hiring a firm with experience in the industry,” says Lena. “First, the resort’s operators will not need to explain the special aspects of handling accounting for a homeowners association consisting of thousands of members. Second, an experienced accountant will know what questions to ask to help associations present a sophisticated financial statement and address the intricacies of tax law that apply to these entities.. We can bring a lot of additional value, given our experience and depth of knowledge.”

AWD became involved in the timeshare industry in 1990 working with four HOAs at Island One Resorts. From there, they quickly picked up other clients in the Orlando area and beyond. As Combs, Durkee and their team worked with their timeshare clients, they came to understand the importance of relationships and loyalty that is so unique to our industry.

“It’s personal with us,” Tom comments. “We get to know the client. We like them; we’re part of their team. It’s not all about making money. We want our clients to understand that we’re involved, from those of us at the senior level, and throughout our team.” Their team includes more than 100 employees who work out of their Orlando and Altamonte Springs offices.

Wouldn’t a close relationship with a vendor be a desirable thing for a resort? Lena thinks so. “We work hard to serve,” she says. “We feel it’s important to deliver on every promise. Certainly, expertise in the space adds value, but added to that, a heartfelt interest makes a huge difference. Our clients tell us we help keep them healthy. We do this by letting them know when there’s a problem. ”

The two mention that they are available to advise resort operators about matters that concern them, even when they fall out of the realm of accounting. “We’ve had occasions where we wound up advising a resort going through a refurb, a special assessment, an insurance loss and claim or dealing with other issues,” adds Tom. “If we can help them find a vendor, or suggest a provider, for example; we are glad to help. Lena and I are always happy to chat on the phone or over lunch if we can help a client think through a challenge.”

Unflinching loyalty carried their company through the recession during which time, they managed to retain their full complement of staff. “We didn’t lay off a single person,” says Tom. “We focused heavily on business development by hiring SharonINK PR & Marketing, for one thing, and appointing an in-house marketing person. We continued focusing on keeping clients healthy and safe. If they’re happy and safe; we’re happy and safe.”

Whenever a resort company seeks to hire the services of a professional – whether they specialize in law, accounting or other specialty – it’s wise to take a look at the overall health and stability of the company. What sets Tom and Lena’s organization apart from others is an inclusive management style that puts them on the Orlando Sentinel’s list of “Best Companies to Work For” each year. “We seek to encourage employees to be self-motivated,” says Lena. “Our firm has been able to inculcate a spirit of collaboration, fairness and teamwork throughout our group. For example, lifestyle enhancement activities are encouraged; our support of flexible scheduling and so much more.”

“There are a lot of employee activities like softball, kickball, and running groups – all organized by the employees, themselves. They are a happy group and we aim to keep it that way,” smiles Tom.

Tom and Lena say they and their team are committed to staying involved in industry by studying the impact of the economic situation on the health of the industry, through their sponsorship as a RCI Affiliate Access Partner, by speaking at events such as meetings of the Timeshare Board Members Association, and by their activities and involvement in ARDA. They have produced an invaluable HOA Benchmarking Study of Florida timeshare resorts since 2008.

“We know the necessity of staying up-to-date on any new accounting standards,” adds Tom. “It’s also of vital interest to us to keep tabs on current trends in the timeshare industry. Helpful in this regard is our service as members of the ARDA HOA Outreach Committee. We are very supportive of industry, striving to keep clients on the high road; keeping them safe.”

Going forward in 2016, Tom and Lena are excited about joining the Withum team. As time passes, Combs and Durkee expect to discover and exploit the synchronicity between members of the old AWD firm with their new, larger organization and the opportunities that provides.

Sharon Scott is publisher/managing editor of Resort Trades and CEO of PR/marketing firm SharonINK. Scott is an American Resort Development Association (ARDA) registered resort professional (RRP represents The Trades as the ARDA Resort Operations Council’s Sole Media Partner and is an ARDA Chairman’s League member.

 

The Colebrook Chronicle’s 8th edition entertains and informs.

Colebrook Principal Bill Ryczek

Colebrook Principal Bill Ryczek

The Colebrook Chronicle’s 8th edition entertains and informs.

Bill Ryczek and his team always manage to inject a note of humor while covering important and interesting information about the timeshare industry and their own particular interest as a lending institution. They’ve themed their eighth edition of the ultimate insider’s newsletter, The Colebrook Chronicle, “Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, and Something Blue.”

“In our lineup of articles,” reads the Editor’s Note, “we have something old, if he will pardon the label, in industry veteran Herb Hirsch; something new, dynamic young Patton Hospitality CEO Will Horton; something borrowed as discussed in Bill Ryczek’s article on hypothecation loans; and finally, we have beautiful Blue Water Resort in Nassau.”

“There are a couple of other articles that don’t fit the theme, and we utilized the old trick of getting your attention by using a photo of a beautiful actress who is only peripherally connected to the subject matter.” The photo is of Herb Hirsch, together with Bo Derek, circa 1985. To find out more, check out the January 2016 edition of the newsletter on ColebrookFinancial.com.

ARDA’s Social Media “Listening” Program

ARDA’s Social Media “Listening” Program

The American Resort Development Association (ARDA) has spent the last several months listening online to social media to learn what timeshare owners, guests and prospects are saying about the product. One of the reports resulting from the project is called the HARK Report. According to ARDA, “[The HARK Report] does not include any hard data or suggestions for what to do with the information, but rather is meant to spark ideas and prompt discussion among our members.” Nevertheless, The report does offer a number of ideas for resorts to consider when hoping to promote sales, rentals or owner  occupancy.

Here are the observations and ideas produced in the April 2015 HARK report:

Observation #1: People LOVE being able to cook on vacation.

Idea:

  • Offer content on how to get the most out of your timeshare kitchen.

Observation #2: People don’t like how time consuming and far in advance they have to plan.

Ideas:

  • Offer suggestions for making this process easier.
  • Explore why planning in advance can be fun and improve the vacation experience.

Observation #3: Family traditions keep people going year after year, and involve more than the location.

Ideas:

  • Consider a marketing campaign about how timeshare helps create family traditions.

Observation #4: People want to know how to use their timeshare after the prime “family vacation” years.

Ideas:

  • Offer suggestions for how to use a timeshare alongside a changing family.
  • Suggestions: Moms’ weekend away, kids’ trip, traveling abroad with older kids, visiting college students overseas during their study abroad semesters, sports club retreats, etc.

Observation #5: They appreciate having space to spread out rather than cram into a hotel room.

Idea:

  • Offer content to build on this primary value proposition about timeshare. [Says the HARK Report organizer, “People WANT us to listen online.”]

The May 2015 report conclusions:

Observation #1: Timeshare makes vacationing a financial possibility for larger families.

Ideas:

  • With the ability to add space without adding to the annual cost, families can grow without the cost growing too.
  • A prepaid vacation that grows with your family.

Observation #2: When offering advice to others on how to vacation on a budget, people suggest gifting or renting timeshares.

Ideas:

  • Why not give someone a prepaid vacation?
  • Great for those early on who can’t afford one yet. From parents to their kids, the gift of a vacation.

Observation #3: Location is everything to timeshare owners.

Ideas:

  • When consumers love a location, timeshare makes it easy for them to go back.
  • How can they go exactly where they want to go?

Observation #4: There is still appeal in going to the same place every year.

Ideas:

  • Discuss the perks of knowing your vacation as well as you know your home.
  • Answer the question: How can they experience the same place differently every visit?

Observation #5: When people explain the benefits of timeshare, they consider it the best of all worlds.

Ideas:

  • Create a visual comparison of what’s similar and what’s different from other lodging options.

The June 2015 report offers observations about what is being discussed on social media sites, without adding additional ideas:

  • The topic of sales is popping up more and more.
  • Current owners sing the praises of timeshare, while suggesting people look at resale options before buying directly from a developer.
  • Sales techniques seem to be producing some off-putting results, in and out of the sales office—including online.
  • Location continues to be of significant importance, with many suggesting a “try before you buy” rental option for at least a year before making a purchase.
  • Timeshare employees remain an important, integral part of the overall vacation experience for guests & owners, as unique and interesting people who also provide a useful perspective on the location around them.
  • Bloggers are reminding readers: there is no perfect time to take a vacation and the best vacation is the one you actually take.
  • They are also asking how you view your vacations: As an annual week of family bonding or a financial burden?

Among ARDA’s several projects aimed to educate the consumer about timeshare is VacationBetter.org, which they launched several years ago. This is a good resource to give to prospects who want a third-party authority to learn about vacation ownership. While you’re at it, why not go to Facebook and “Like” ARDA’s consumer Facebook page? ARDA is the only trade association we have in this business and their staff is dedicated, hard-working and committed to making our business more acceptable to consumers. Not a member? Sign up here and tell them “Sharon Scott sent me.” I’ll buy you a drink at the next convention!

Pointers for managers or employees going through a merger or acquisition

When considering a merger or acquisition, owners need to consider several potential pitfalls.

When considering a merger or acquisition, owners need to consider several key points.

My clients at Averett Warmus Durkee CPAs Lena Combs and Tom Durkee recently sent me their newsletter with pointers on how to deal with mergers or acquisitions. Whether you’re in senior or mid-level management, it might be of interest to take a look at what the business owner or ownership group is considering while examining a deal.

And for owners, they advise, “Determining the right time to sell your business can make a huge difference in the price.” They provide a video that discusses questions you should ask yourself before jumping in. The article offers guidance on conducting a qualitative cultural evaluation to help detect critical incompatibilities with a potential merger partner.

I watched a close friend go through a merger in which there was plenty of redundancy and several cultural barriers which were difficult to overcome. In hindsight, when faced with this or any kind of change in your professional career, perhaps it’s best to get all the information you can in advance. It may be the difference between being naively blind-sided or in finding a way to make your career or your business’ point of view survive.

Carrie Vandever appointed social media director

Carrie Vandever, Resort Trades Social Media Director

Carrie Vandever, Resort Trades Social Media Director

February 2, 2015 – Resort Trades, the news journal mailed to a nationwide subscriber base of almost 7,000 resort professionals, and its online news source – ResortTrades.com – are pleased to announce the appointment of Carrie Vandever as Social Media Director.

Vandever has been instrumental in building an online presence for ResortTrades.com that receives almost 5,000 unique visitors per day and indexes over 11,000 pages, or 86+ gigs, of data. She was one of the earliest social media experts in the timeshare industry when she operated the company’s previous site, AskMANDO.com.

“ResortTrades.com and our social media sites are updated throughout each day with relevant, timely news,” says Resort Trades Managing Editor Sharon Scott. “Carrie’s work is essential to our commitment to keep our readers informed. In turn, this ‘socialization’ provides our advertisers with the ultimate avenue to educate resort managers and developers about their products and services.”

“ResortTrades.com has amassed a unique archive of information that is unparalleled in the industry,” adds Publisher Tim Wilson. “We have stored every press release and print edition that has been posted or printed since 1997. Given this tremendous volume of materials, ResortTrades.com’s archives are undisputedly the most complete repository of the industry’s history in existence and include biographies of industry pioneers, the famous “Women in the Industry” series, supplier/vendor information and much more.

About Resort Trades
The Trades was established in 1987 and distributes approximately 7,000 print copies monthly to every U.S. vacation ownership resort, to a voluntary subscriber base of resort professionals of all walks and at all the industry’s important conventions and conferences. Along with the publications online social media activities and ResortTrades.com, the entire enterprise adds value to the industry as a whole with an enormous volume of informative content to assist resort operators in running their properties more efficiently, raising revenues more effectively and making better-informed buying decisions. www.ResortTrades.com.
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Promoted to Publisher

Sharon Wilson_email sizePerhaps it’s a little sentimental, but here is my very first “Publisher’s Corner” printed in the March 2015 edition of Resort Trades:

This publication has been mailed throughout every timeshare resort in the U.S. and many in Canada every month since 1987. (I know, I know…most of us were practically in diapers then, right?) Being the timeshare resort industry’s very own, dedicated resource for current news and information is a passion for us that has been under development for almost 30 years.

We’ve reported on everything from battling bed bugs to emergency preparedness. Our interests are expansive; we are avid followers of current events and trends in sales and marketing, front and back office, human resources, financing, HOA management and beyond. Suffice it to say, we know our audience and it is you, the timeshare professional…not the vacation ownership, shared ownership or whatever-term-de-jour… but the timeshare professional. We’ve reported on the comings and goings of so many special people. (Yes, we remember you, Jim Lambert, JP Ottino, Nick Kosmas, John Sweeney, our very own Jack Richardson, Bill Armbruster, the recently deceased Alex Marxer and Jay Finley and so many others.)

You might say we’ve formed an emotional attachment to you over the years. I’ll bet you feel the same for us. I hope so.

After serving as Resort Trades’ managing editor, I am proud to announce my recent promotion to Publisher/Managing Editor. The very top item on my list of objectives is to build a tightly knit relationship with every one of our readers. I salute you and want you to know that this ‘goes deep’ with me..with all of us at The Trades. It’s about so much more than money: Publishing Resort Trades is the greatest honor, the finest gift I’ve ever received. It’s also the tallest order and brings with it a responsibility I take very seriously. I pledge to the best of my ability to provide you with a news resource – both in print and online at resorttrades.com – that continues to raise its standards for excellence, integrity and loyalty.

Gratefully,
Sharon Scott, RRP
Resort Trades & resorttrades.com Publisher/Managing Editor
Supporter/Advocate of The Timeshare Industry Profession

SharonINK to Manage Resort Trades

SharonINK to handle Resort Trades’ editorial, promotional and advertising activities.

Resort Trades, timeshare’s most widely-read B2B news journal, recently announced it has retained SharonINK PR & Marketing to oversee all of its editorial, promotional and advertising activities.

“One of our primary duties will be to clarify Resort Trades’ quality of editorial content and depth of readership,” says SharonINK CEO Sharon Scott. “While other publications in the industry serve a useful purpose and reach a select audience, Resort Trades is the only one sent every single month to every single resort in the US, as well as to a subscriber-base of senior-level executives at development, management and timeshare-related travel companies.”

“Sharon began writing for us in 1996 and has served as Resort Trades’ contributing editor since 2006,” says Publisher Tim Wilson. “We are looking to her firm to continue our information-rich tradition, as well as to promote a better understanding and appreciation for the value we bring to the timeshare industry.”

“Resort Trades is an avid ARDA supporter,” Scott adds. “This year we are looking forward to forging alliances with organizations and entities that support the growth and health of the industry. I welcome a discussion along these lines and can be reached at 1-310-923-1269 or Sharon@SharonINK.com.”

About Resort Trades

The Trades was established in 1987 and distributes approximately 5,500 copies monthly to every US timeshare resort, a voluntary subscriber base of resort professionals of all walks and at various conventions and industry conferences. The Trades adds value to the industry as a whole with an enormous volume of informative content to assist resort operators run their properties more efficiently, raise revenues more effectively and make better-informed buying decisions.SharonScott_Trades card_2014