Longtime vacation ownership veteran Dora Edmonson, whose feature article, “Put Your Owners on Vacation,” appears in this issue of Management & Operations magazine, once told me that after a few months of working at her first-ever job, she was put in charge of creating the company’s entire training program! Talk about a rough assignment. Somehow she managed to work it all out and create a program. In fact, the company still uses many of the materials she created as the basis for their current – and, hopefully, more substantial – program.

Maybe you have a horror story that you’ve experienced or heard about, as well. Despite the many articles written and learning tools available today, we still hear of resorts which either have not understood the value or have not had the time or resources to invest in adequate training.

My one-time employer Woody Cary, president of Tricom Management, Inc., can give us a much better example. Tricom manages twelve timeshare resorts, representing more than 40,000 owners and has been in business since 1979, so the company’s had plenty of opportunity to systematize a thorough and effective program, which includes two- and three-day training sessions in Las Vegas. Woody takes a top-down approach to training; it’s definitely his baby. He personally leads Tricom’s managers’, engineers’ and housekeeping staff’s training sessions every other month with one- and two-day full training and half-day refresher courses. Department managers travel to Tricom’s home office in Anaheim, California or tune in remotely via telephone and receive written minutes of the interactive sessions, upon completion. Not only are new procedures discussed and company policies reviewed during these meetings, but the group has an opportunity to get a refreshed sense of Woody’s passion for owner service. In addition, many years ago Woody, with the assistance of Director of Resort Management Jay Morin and a team of many, many others created Tricom University – an on-line training program through which any member of the company’s team can obtain all sorts of information, from the history of the organization to how to complete an order form for supplies.

One of the Tricom-managed properties, the San Diego Country Estates, recognized a savings of $17,227 after a course in construction. Another of Tricom’s ‘grads,’ Controller Lisa Martin, wrote:

“Due to my training from Woody, I have learned to negotiate on different projects to produce substantial savings for both Tricom Management and the resorts we manage. Here are two examples:

1) Negotiated savings for new copiers for copy/print/scan/fax capabilities that provided the resorts with greater efficiency and productivity and saved each resort over $3,000 each on their purchase.

2) Negotiated a $50,000 savings from the initial purchase of a software program that provides the resorts and Platinum Interchange [Tricom’s exchange program] a more efficient way for delivering our confirmations via email, fax, and print with a more professional look as well as a return on investment of over $10,000 a year in printing and postage costs to our resorts combined.”

Well done, Lisa! While Tricom has devoted significant time, money and focus to create their training internally, many resort managers and resort management companies may find it difficult to spare adequate resources and may need to seek outside assistance. There are other consultants besides Tricom, such as Dora Edmonson and her husband, Jay, at 6 Dimensions Consulting who can share their experience and knowledge.

Also helpful for managers looking for educational tools, the American Resort Development Association (ARDA)’s International Foundation (AIF) offers training for resort professionals at several levels. AIF’s series of programs are available through the association’s Website, www.arda.org, and include a variety of programs addressing everything from the resort staff level, such as housekeeping and maintenance, to the highest levels of professional development in the Associate Resort Professional (ARP) and Registered Resort Professional (RRP) programs.

The AIF’s Certified Timeshare Supervisor (CTS) designation is of particular note. Created in conjunction with the American Hotel & Lodging Association, the (CTS) program offers essential information in a series of nine workbooks, each addressing a different topic. Supervisors learn how to most effectively perform their managerial responsibilities with this case study approach. The materials are created to be used for either self-study or group training and the program concludes with a 125-question test to earn the CTS designation.

The next logical step in professional development, after attaining the CTS (although the CTS designation is not a prerequisite), would be the ARP and RRP programs. These professional designations can be earned according to an individuals educational preparation, experience in the industry and participation in industry educational events. Prior to applying for ARP or RRP status, applicants must pass the AIF Qualification Test.

The association is currently working on curricula for a course on consumer-centric sales. Also on the drawing board, according to AIF Executive VP Darla Zanini, RRP, is a supplier designation program to be introduced in November. The program was designed at the request of members of the ARDA Suppliers Committee, which consists of ARDA members who provide everything from mattresses to software to resorts and who have demonstrated a special interest in developing relationships with timeshare industry resort clients. Applicants will undergo a one-day education session during which they will be provided with basic information about the industry and current trends, and follow the lifecycle of a timeshare resort.

The foundation is also working on a long-term project to create and present educational Webinars. Presented on a quarterly or more frequent basis should circumstances warrant it, the Webinars would be a useful tool to provide industry information and education to those who are unable to attend a national or regional meeting, or when subject material is of a topical nature, appealing only to a segment of ARDA’s members. They could also be used as an affordable and efficient way to discuss timely issues, such as lobbying initiatives.

For more information, visit www.arda.org or contact Darla (dzanini@arda.org) or AIF Education Manager Anna Chongpanatchai (achongpinitchai@arda.org) at (202) 371-6700.