Harbortown Joe Nahman

Like the island location of Hilton Head itself, Joe Nahman and the companies he leads, RMC Resort Management, Epic Vacations, Resort Source, and Hilton Head Accommodations are shining examples of adaptation, innovation, and the importance of long-term focus on creating memorable vacation experiences. Both Nahman and his companies are independent with multiple resources, natural flair, and a variety of experiences that blend the embodiment of a great vacation destination with well-run vacation ownership resorts. RMC Resort Management provides owner-centric management services to six resorts, and sales and marketing to nine resorts in this region of South Carolina referred to as the Low Country. Nahman is an uncommon executive in vacation ownership. He has worked in one-destination, serving many of the same resort owners for over 30 years. We wanted to know how his companies have managed to flourish for so long, even throughout challenging times.

Independence Allows Flexibility

“Our independence allows ultimate flexibility. We have created collaborative partnerships with our resort clients. We listen to our owners and continually adapt our style, focus and product offerings to meet their needs,” says Joe Nahman, who has thrived by working hand in hand with his association board members. “We’re committed to providing personal service and understanding the changing needs of our owners. This requires proactive, out of the box thinking and an agile mindset. Homeowners association board members are amazing. I continue to be in awe of the passion and dedication board members have for their vacation resorts. Over the course of my career, I have been fortunate to learn from some incredibly talented board members. The people who volunteer to run their resorts come from a wide variety of backgrounds, have all enjoyed great success, and are eager to share their knowledge and expertise.”

Hands on Management

Explain how you provide your clients with the highest possible level of management expertise.

“As a believer in providing customers with as wide a breadth and depth of business acumen as possible, it is important to me that our executive team have hands-on involvement with our resort boards. One of the things that makes us unique is that our top executives co-manage our resorts. Executive committee members are on-site inspecting the villas and grounds, preparing the financial statements, assuring budget compliance and attending every board meeting. The traditional property manager / resort manager / regional manager model works well for larger companies; however, our clients appreciate having direct access to the CEO, CFO and some of the best minds in the business. My executive team and I have attended close to 500 board meetings.”

One Source

Explain the “One Source” business model you and your team have created?

“We aim to simplify the lives of our board members by providing most critical resort services under one roof. We offer a menu of hospitality services from which our clients can choose. Running a vacation ownership resort requires one to rely on many trades. Not only in the difficult times we are currently experiencing, but in many of the challenging businesses climates over the last several decades, sourcing, nurturing, and retaining relationships with quality vendors is difficult. The continually evolving labor crises have made it increasingly more challenging to deliver on the promise of a hassle-free vacation. This difficulty is magnified when depending on third-party service providers. When an owner or guest is not happy with something, the problem needs to be resolved immediately. Every hour in a one-week vacation is precious.

We are committed to customizing solutions to address the needs of our owners: we have been finding ever-more efficient ways to resolve our clients challenges for decades. For example, twenty-five years ago, not satisfied with the price value relationship or timeliness of delivery of key services provided by third party vendors, we found ways to offer our clients these trades ourselves. Today’s environment requires management companies to pivot quickly to properly serve ever changing owner needs. Having a wide array of ancillary services in-house has allowed us to do so.
Being the service provider allows us to control quality and cost. We hired experienced professionals in the fields of housekeeping, laundry, janitorial, landscaping, and pool service, established ancillary services teams and expertise, and vertically integrated them within our own organization. This way we can provide each association the services they desire at a high level and very attractive cost. The fact that we are resort operators first, shines through in the way we deliver these support services.”

Examples of RMC Resort Management’s vertically integrated services

  • Accounting
  • Reservations
  • Resales
  • Vacation Rentals
  • Collections
  • Cost Containment
  • Housekeeping and Janitorial
  • Laundry
  • Landscaping
  • Maintenance
  • Pool Care

“Spin Ups”

What prompts the formation of new business units?

“Owner and board member requests. There have been inflection points over the last several decades during which our associations have come to us as trusted partners and asked us to start businesses to help them with specific challenges they were facing at the time. Chief amongst those businesses are:

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Sales & Marketing
  • RCI Points Brokerage Service

We now have mature independent companies that provide these services not only to our client resorts, but also to resorts we don’t manage.

Talent

Tell me about your staff, leadership, and team.

“I’m a firm believer in hiring the best available talent. The trait I admire most is GRIT, the resilience and determination to do whatever it takes to provide our customers with an amazing vacation experience. We have been fortunate to assemble management team consisting of some of the brightest people in the industry. Most of our success can be attributed to the hard work and dedication of our team. Our people genuinely care about our resort clients and understand the critical role we play in curating and enabling their vacation memories. I’m humbled, in a business this size, to have a number of associates with over 20 years’ service.”

Resales are Critical

Why have you put such emphasis on Resort Source resales?

“In today’s environment, every mature resort needs an active resale program. Monetization of unproductive inventory is top priority. You are not a successful manager if you are not also a successful reseller.” Nahman’s resale company, Resort Source, provides sales and marketing to nine resorts and takes individual listings from owners at all Hilton Head Island resorts. “Associations came to us asking for help with resales about twenty years ago. At that time the market was splintered, loosely regulated, and difficult for individual owners to navigate. Our resort clients wanted us involved because they trusted us. Understanding the importance a viable secondary market has to vacation ownership resorts, we decided to accept their challenge. Through our Certified Preowned program, we successfully established a fair and reliable marketplace that allows mature resorts to protect their price integrity. Resales are difficult. Given the demographics of vacation ownership at mature resorts, at any given time there are more sellers than buyers. Today’s buyer has different priorities and travel preferences than their parents. The vacation ownership products people are looking for today are distinctly different than those offered in the past.”

Epic Innovation

What do you see as the next challenge for mature resorts and how will you overcome it ?

“Mature resorts, by their nature, face many challenges. Being involved in resales for the last few decades we have witnessed buyers’ flight from traditional vacation ownership to more flexible points-based products. Today’s buyer demands many attributes mature resorts can’t offer. Not being able to compete with modern vacation ownership platforms makes mature resorts a lot less attractive to the next generation of owners.
At the request of our client resorts, we developed a new vacation product that helps homeowners’ associations monetize their unproductive inventory. Epic Vacations turns association-owned weeks into points and uses these points to fuel a new, limited term, low cost, pay-as-you-go membership offering today’s vacationers the exact flexibility and travel amenities they want.”

Always Open

How has the pandemic impacted you and your operations?

“We never closed. Our team worked incredibly hard to ensure the safety and comfort of our owners and associates. Disinfecting, sanitization and social distancing best practices were implemented in mid-March. It’s paramount to us that all associates and owners feel safe at our resorts. Because the unknown can be frightening, we spend hundreds of hours on the phone with our owners helping them understand what to expect should they choose to vacation with us this summer. Equally important is working through the concerns our associates had and continue to have about keeping themselves and their family’s virus free. Early on we made a commitment to keep our entire staff. Associates whose responsibilities were dependent on high occupancy were cross-trained and put to work in other departments until occupancy returned. We even offered work to associates spouses who were furloughed from other organizations.”

Children’s Children

What do you love most about what you do?

“I take great satisfaction in being part of creating vacation memories. Since I began my career here 30 years ago, I have come to know many owners. Not only have I experienced a lot of their milestones and had great joy in watching owners’ children grow up, recently I have been introduced to a number of these children’s children. It’s wonderful to see the next generation carry on their family’s vacation ownership tradition.”

Secret to Success

What advice would you give for how to thrive and succeed in our business?

“One must enjoy solving complex problems and be resilient. Hospitality is a demanding business. People look forward to travel and work hard to take their family on vacation. When they arrive at their destination, vacationers expect the facilities and service to be beyond reproach. My friends at RCI coined a phrase that I instill in my people from day one, “treat every vacation as if it was your own.”

I often remind my team of the following words from poet Maya Angelou and how they relate to providing the perfect vacation experience: “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”. It’s our job to make every owner we come in contact with feel special.

It has been my passion and pleasure to serve a wonderful diverse group of owners, HOA’s and distinctive resorts.”

John Locher, RRP is founder of Locher & Associates, a consulting services firm specializing in business development, marketing, the secondary market, and technology solutions. john@johnlocher.com.