Nina Taylor, our Hospitality Director for the Layers Brand recently sat down (virtually), with Alexander Novicov, for the ‘Redefine Hospitality’ Podcast, to discuss how Layers has been able to create a thriving and growing community. You can check out the podcast and transcript below. We also included all of the other ways to listen, so you can find it on your platform of choice!
Don’t want to listen? You can read the transcript below!
Alexander Novicov: Hello, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Episode 84. This Thursday, a lot of well, most of the businesses are closing down as Lockdown 2.0 started today. Um, some hotels. Well, the couple of hotels that I saw, they, uh, they stayed open for business travellers. I don’t know why and how they can do that. I think it’s against the government’s, um, law. Um, but yeah. So everything is closed except, um, no substantial jobs. Um, it’s really a sad day.
Alexander Novicov: But hey, what can we do? We can focus on what we can control. We can focus on the, uh, on the things that we, we do and we’ve been this, uh, from March. So this is the second time. So, uh, we are all aware what we can do for the next four weeks. Um, even you know, some people say it will be longer, eight weeks or three months.
Uh, who knows. Um, what do we know for now is that for the next four weeks everything is shut and hopefully we’ll get back, um, on the fourth of December. So, um, as I mentioned previously, when when you know, when um, the first time it all happened, a lot of times they were like, oh, what do I do and how can I obviously work and what should I do in terms of marketing?
Alexander Novicov: Um, I think, you know, we can still do work at home. You can still create content, revise your strategy and all that stuff. Um, so today we have, um, we have a great guest. Um, she has eighteen years of experience in managing travel accommodation for long term stays. And her energy is amazing. She’s the hospitality director at Layer’s Now. It’s Nina Taylor. And Nina, welcome to the show.
Nina Taylor: Thank you, Alexander. Glad to be here.
Alexander Novicov: Um, can you please introduce yourself briefly, uh, so people know what you do and where you come from?
Nina Taylor: Yes, so my name is Nina Taylor, I am, as you said, the hospitality director for Layers. It is a service department brand here based right now in the US, in the Dallas Fort Worth area in Texas. And I assist them with basically setting up their furnished apartment program, as you said. My background is almost 20 years in this temporary housing market, and it’s been an incredible ride and a great partnership working with hoteliers, extended stays and also private owners. And the structure of where it’s gone in the past 20 years to now has definitely evolved through the technology and the construct of what the clients need. So it’s really about how we take care of and serve our clients. So, yeah, it’s a really amazing brand that I’m happy to share with you guys.
Alexander Novicov: Yeah. And you opened this year, right?
Nina Taylor: Yes, we actually launched right after the pandemic, we started doing the prep work at the end of twenty nineteen and then by the beginning of spring we were in the midst of launching and then, of course, the pandemic hit. So that has been trying, but yet extremely satisfying because I can’t wait to tell you all the details about it. But yeah, we literally launched less than two months ago.
Alexander Novicov: Wow. So how is it going? Because the results in terms of what you know, obviously the pandemic and what you’ve been through is a very hard year for the sector. What are your like results?
Nina Taylor: Yeah. So when we started the program, it actually was reconnecting with a lot of relocation programs, a lot of people that, of course, I know that’s already in the furnished and temporary housing industry. So was really connecting with them, started going to events and seeing how we could partner since it was a new brand. We wanted to, of course, get the partnerships going when the pandemic hit.
Nina Taylor: Of course, a lot of the partners needed to figure out what they were going to do with their inventory and start downsizing immediately because a lot of them started seeing people leave and having to go back home to their families and things of that nature. So it was really inspiring to see our team come together because we spanned from all the way to Israel to Colorado here in the US, and we literally three times a week when we actually meet as an executive team, we started collaborating on how effectively we can be of service to the people that do still need to relocate and still need a temporary apartment. So once we figured out that industry sector, which of course obviously became the medical field, we start to do a deep dive of which hospitals we could connect with, which recruiters that were helping, which platforms that we needed to get on to let them know, hey, not only can we help you, but it’s a new brand. And we specifically kind of dictate this model that we put into play to completely cater to their needs. So the challenge was quickly reinventing exactly something we had already discussed at the beginning of the year and transforming it very quickly directly to a client that we knew needed it right now.
Nina Taylor: And so, thankfully, I’m excited to say that as of the beginning of this month, we are one hundred percent occupied and all of our service units here in the Dallas, Texas area. So we met the challenge. We just had a great team, great marketing, advertising and campaigning and staying in competition with the others that we can and still use our connections to provide and serve our clients. So thankfully, I have good news to tell you
Alexander Novicov: Yeah that’s amazing. The one hundred percent of hoteliers in Europe and the US, to some degree, the occupancy rate on average is down 30 percent for you to have one hundred percent like, wow, you know, you’ve I’ve never had this, um, I’ve never heard anyone in the past previous that had one hundred percent. And you mentioned you mentioned that you did a partnership and it’s a common theme in the previous episodes, there was um we spoke about partnerships, um, with other guests and you mentioned partnerships.
Alexander Novicov: I think it’s a whole new, um, not area, but I think a lot of a lot of businesses are focused, focusing on partnerships.
Alexander Novicov: What do you reckon would do you think, uh, is going to happen in the next six months? Is that going to continue or are we going to stop?
Nina Taylor: No, I totally think that we have to continue in order to actually scale your business, you are going to have to have certain partnerships. There are going to come times where you were going to during the seasons where there are internships and different groups and things that you will need to provide a big chunk of inventory to that particular client or company.
Nina Taylor: You might not be based on your platform of how you actually have your unit set up. You’re not going to want to take on a huge chunk of people, all at one community or within one brand. So partnering with these other brands that are similar to what you’re offering is actually going to help you kind of divide and conquer. So it is extremely vital to stay in partnerships and alliances with these other new and old players that are in the industry. I think that having the partnerships long term also will allow you to know exactly what else you can do with your brand. So not only scale it but how you can transform it into being able to collaborate with even more, not just local but international providers. So it’s extremely important to always keep your doors open for the right partnerships based on the type of brand that you’re trying to create.
Alexander Novicov: What kind of partnerships do recommend I recommend what kind of runs.
Nina Taylor: Yeah, so I love anybody who is trying to be creative and innovative in a way that it speaks to the clients that you’re trying to serve. So like I said at the beginning, we wanted to kind of really do the partnerships and collaborate with the providers that we’re kind of in the local markets trying to gear on their platforms and sell to their audience. Once the pandemic happens, we switched over and realized it would be great for us to direct our attention to the medical field.
Nina Taylor: So when it comes to kind of how I see it, it’s not just about the technology, but it’s about the service. Like what exactly is that experience going to look like for the client? And so that’s what I really like to dive in as a hospitality director because if you’re not serving them from start to finish the technology, the programming, the ads and all of that, it really doesn’t matter because you really have to give people an acceptance of appreciation so they can enjoy where they’re staying.
Nina Taylor: I’m extremely humbled right now to be helping people in the health and hospitality and medical field right now to do what they do in such a really sad time. So to know that I can provide a home for them and that everything is taken care of from their specific needs, and when they walk through the door, it’s contactless, it’s sterilized, it’s cleaned and everything. They feel like they can come home and not have to worry about anything else. So I think that those are the standards and people we enjoy wanting to partner with.
I mean, Layer’s is backed by HLC Equity. So it’s an investment company. They are constantly wanting to partner and put together this brand that we’ve successfully conquered in the past few months and extend those services out. So those are the things I think we really need to hone in and listen to. The client’s needs come first. After that, everything else can scale from there.
Alexander Novicov: You know, who is your audience? Who are your guests, the customers?
Nina Taylor: Yes. Right now–
Alexander Novicov: Medical
Nina Taylor: — It’s medical people, but it’s mostly like the registered nurses, medical attendee’s. It’s relocating. I just recently relocated a Toronto registered nurse. So we have people coming into this Texas market who are still having some increases in our COVID numbers. So they’re still travelling because in serviced apartments are this temporary housing industry. We have a bell curve of how we sell. So at the end of November, around that holiday season is where we actually our “down” season starts and then we don’t really pick back up until probably the middle of spring.
So to know that we’re already in tune with a market that continuously travels and needs assistance throughout the year and be able to still partner with them. So those are the people I do enjoy. We have also been working with real estate developers locally, and I’ve been able to help people in between homes because during this time, not right now, is it easy to sell and buy at the same time and everything transition smoothly. So they need to get a place for a few months so we can help them as well, too.
So it’s been a couple of projects as well. People still working outside of the field. I one guy is also a developer. He needed housing personally for his family and so other markets. But between real estate and the health industry, we’ve been able to really support them a lot here in Texas.
Alexander Novicov: Interesting. And what would you recommend to people? What should they do? Who should they target right now? Um, in the next three months? OK, this month in the UK, it’s a lockdown, but regardless of the down, I think it’s good to market and get attention and increase your brand equity by creating content, creating stories and. But what do you recommend hoteliers should do in the next three months?
Nina Taylor: Yeah, I would say because it’s kind of our downtime. And I know that I think around this time, hoteliers mostly, this is kind of where they kind of start to increase because people do travel and need them mostly for the holidays. But essential workers is who you need to target. I say out front, those people are not going to be sitting down any time soon, unfortunately, but they will need services. Also government. Those people are still going to be working non-stop around the clock. So reaching out to them and seeing who those programs are and their needs.
But also, I would say third, still the realtors in your local markets seeing who had seen which individuals have reached out to them about assistance and see how you can possibly help them in between their junctures of what they’re trying to get done on a personal level. So I would say those three.
Alexander Novicov: Some of them I noticed on your website, you have the wording that users might live in communities. You focus a lot on community and smart living. Can you define what smart living means?
Nina Taylor: Yes, it is. Yeah. So the smart living is really the concept of how we want people to feel like they are actual residents and not just guests, because often times because you’re in a short term housing, you do feel like you can’t get involved. And we want from day one for you to feel like, no, you can relax, unpack online. And I’m going to let you know about what’s going on in the community, what services we offer actually on site, the fact that in our brand you can actually be assisted on your phone with an app and put in a request if you need it, go to the leasing office and actually speak with someone if you need it to. Having me as your hospitality director and having my cell phone number and being able to say, “Hey, I have a question about something or can you help me with this or that?” Being more part of your community. I think this is the one time during this season, is so important to not feel like a number, but feel like you belong where you’re living. And that’s really important. And we try to connect with our local community and see how we can support them.
Nina Taylor: We have a program that we’re doing. It’s called Layer’s Unlimited, and it’s basically where our community, can get discounts at these local small businesses that really do need help with customers and clients coming in, so we want to be able to demonstrate their services out to them and provide whatever they might need. We’re doing food drives. We’re doing any type of social distancing events and parties and festivities and things of that nature. So it’s really all about trying to be a part of your community and feel like you belong. Eventually, we’ll start doing, even more, bigger programs.
Because as we just finished phase one, we’re going into phase two. There’s going to be a lot more things that will come up. And again, we’re listening to what the clients want and what they need. And as long as we can get that accomplished first, all these extra things are great, but we really want to make sure that they’re being taken care of. So there are some good reviews about this layer’s brand and what it actually provides to a community, because you don’t just want to start a brand just because you think that, oh, it’s a great revenue option.
But it’s not only just revenue, but it’s a service that’s being done for clients in the community.
Alexander Novicov: It’s a service that you provide to to to guess and to different service versus a hotel.
Nina Taylor: Absolutely.
Alexander Novicov: There’s a trend that is going on with apartment hotels. And, um, why is the trend on the rise? Why the demand is on the rise, I assume?
Nina Taylor: Yes, I think and we spoke about this not too long ago. I really do think that serviced apartments are going to be the norm when it comes to people wanting to travel, having space, having the structure of being involved more into the community and still having access, like I said, to be able to reach out to someone on your phone, having the technology where everything is contactless but still feeling like it’s still personalized to your guest needs.
Nina Taylor: So it is, I think, an infrastructure that we’re still educating people, even though after a couple of decades in the industry, I still feel like I’m constantly educating people on what I do. But it’s still fun for me because I still love what I do. But I do think now in this era, because of the pandemic is not going away any time soon, it is going to be an infrastructure that people will call upon more, even outside of a structure of like an Airbnb or a VRBO, but like calling other local brands and asking them about some of the options that they might have. And then that’s why I say it’s super vital to have these partnerships with these other companies, because your restrictions based off of what you want to what you do and what you can do on your property, it might be a little bit different for another provider, but they could help and then you could still save that relationship that you have with that client. So I think it’s going to be that the next best thing that people are going to b, partner,e looking forward to when they travel.
Nina Taylor: So I’m excited about that. And I think that that’s going to even help us, partner, even more with hoteliers, an extended stay guests as well, and those companies who rely on their reward points and things of that nature, being able to, again, scale your business to get to that level so that you can conform to other services and needs that the clients want.
Alexander Novicov: Yeah, I think you tell it well, you showed that idea, I think hoteliers can take it and implement it locally like work with a retail business. Well, now restaurants, for example, there are so many restaurants around, that are still open. And maybe do the brochure, maybe a booklet with, I don’t know Indian restaurant, discounts. I think of creative ways, not just, you know, a five percent discount, but maybe create something fun. Yeah. So there is an idea that I think you can do.
Alexander Novicov: How can hoteliers create a community feel? Because there’s not much of a community. when you travel to a hotel and apartment hotel, I think it’s less because you don’t have reception. I mean.
Nina Taylor: Yeah, well, you know, there is a particular brand here in the United States. In New York, it’s called Lyric. I think that they have worked that out pretty well. Lyric, which is down in the financial district in New York. They actually have about a hundred, I think, and thirty-two units there. They’re essentially apartments, but the building is actually coded, one section of the building is coded as a hotel.
Nina Taylor: So essentially you can have the same service in the same concept of a hotel. But the apartment and the community feel is actually being kind of serviced to you while you’re there when you actually stay as a guest. So they can stay for a weekend or a week or so, whereas when you’re staying in a serviced apartment, the majority of the time you’re staying for a minimum of 30 days. The great thing about this particular program that we did with Layer’s is that our requirements were 90 to six months in and some are even staying longer. Some are staying 11, 12 months.
Alexander Novicov: So 11 to 12 months?
Nina Taylor: Yes.
Alexander Novicov: So the requirement is that.
Nina Taylor: Yes. So some of them actually needed to stay even longer. And that’s kind of off-putting at first because people like, wait a minute, that seems so long for short term housing. But believe it or not, even during this particular time, people still needed and requested. So it all just depends on how you can do that, that infrastructure of who you want to partner with. And of course, as I said, Layers is backed through HLC Equity and their investments. So it’s really trying to figure out how we can have that conversation to help brand that because we’re totally open to partnering. So I’m really trying to source that out. That’s the fun part, I think, of us and how we have really tried to bring not only the revenue piece to it so you can see the return on the investment, but, how it can be supportive so that it can grow and it can scale even after this particular time frame that we’re going through.
Nina Taylor: So some of the hoteliers are, I think, getting ready to transform in the way that Lyric has, but I think layer’s because of how our brand has kind of moved so quickly during this market, it will be a testament for other new brands coming onto the market to see if they can transform and for any hoteliers who are seeing a decline and are looking to expand and do something different so that they can increase the volume. I think Layer’s is a great partnership possibility.
Alexander Novicov: Yeah, definitely, I can tell. I mean, the states are like there so long, so we had the episode one, if I’m not mistaken, with Peter Whewell. He is the CEO of Yes. It’s a concierge boutique apartment. And he shared with us that they have minimal stays in some cities like Barcelona if I’m not mistaken, three days and then Amsterdam is 30 days and 60 days. And you’re saying like it’s 11 months?
Nina Taylor: Yeah, because. Well, so what we like is around six months, to be honest with you. If they have to leave a little bit earlier, of course, we do still require some paperwork and everything and we can figure out the contracts for those days. However, being there six months or longer is also what a lot of these contracts are requiring, because once you get to where you have to relocate to, they want you to stay on the project as long as it’s needed. So some of them will start at six months. But also remember, just like you stated, that the different locations and what they require, the prime example coming here, because I’m based here in Texas, there are a lot of providers here who do under 30 days and legally you can do that. But in certain places like New York, the minimum requirement for a serviced apartment is 30 days. So you can’t stay less than I mean, you could stay less than 30 days, but you have to pay for 30 days or longer.
Nina Taylor: So you always have to remember what the local and city requirements are based on where you are actually staying. So it’s really important to get with someone who actually understands the area you’re going to and has the information of what is required locally so that you don’t have any legal issues as well, too. So that’s super important.
Alexander Novicov: Yeah, I see I see how the difference in terms of business is a whole different business model versus like serviced apartments, that are, you know, for 30 days or three days or whatever. It’s like obviously, it’s more profitable, I assume 12 months.
Nina Taylor: Oh, yes, but also think about this. There are still some people who will stay in a hotel, and if they have a corporate contract, then they could have a set rate. So that can be competitive with us as well. However, there are times where they stay as an individual and that price can go up and down depending on the validity of that daily rate. So we could essentially, as a serviced apartment with our flat rates, we could be competitive and could come almost 30 percent less.
Nina Taylor: So it’s really, again, about where you need to stay, the commute’s and the convenience of it and where you’re actually building that brand. So all those infrastructures really are based upon exactly how you’re pricing it out and how to make it more appealing to a client. Because I always tell a person if there’s a bottom-line number that I know that this brand is worth because everything does have its value. If the value level of that does not work — having a hotelier partner or someone else to partner with is always vital because you won’t lose that client, but they’re going to know that you can be an extension to the services of helping them for this particular alternative option.
Nina Taylor: So I think you have to have that portfolio, our Rolodex of people that you can always call upon and be like, hey, I can’t help out this particular guest, but they’re my client. I’d love to see if you can help them and offer a referral program and then vice versa. They call me, hey, this guest is actually staying for four months. They really probably don’t need an extended stay, but maybe your brand could be an option. And they call upon Layers and we house their guests for them for this one particular client. So it goes both ways of how we can always partner.
Alexander Novicov: Yeah, I see there are so many opportunities, I mean, you know, learning about your brand, about how you think and how you operate, there are opportunities and Layers. Sounds like a great brand. And looking at even Airbnb, they survived the pandemic and they’re going for an IPO, this December, it’s like, wow, you know, they laid thousands of people. They, um, they did the refunds to the guests. I think they used, one billion dollars from a private equity firm. But they refocused their core travel business and they focus more on experiences. And you know, from what I saw, they went from three billion to four billion in a valuation. I mean, the CEO, Chesky, the CEO of Airbnb, and you look at the pandemic and you’re looking at Layer’s, you look at this data, it’s like, yes, a lot of things happen, but there are opportunities out there that we need to look out and not just sit still and say, “hmmm, I’m a hotel room serviced apartment hotel and I won’t do anything”, like, you know, Big Brother, like Airbnb, they lost, the hotelier’s lost, but they are looking at speaking with you. I think we should all look at different, um, options like partnerships or, um. And going back to Airbnb, I was surprised that they just landed last week, they got Johnny Ivy, a former Apple designer, and I’m sure, you know, he didn’t come on a cheap salary.
Nina Taylor: I’m sure not
Alexander Novicov: Like, wow, you’re hiring top talent in the well, one of the best designers in the world.Uh, I think it’s not, John. It’s said it’s actually. But you know what?
Nina Taylor: I think that that totally makes sense because they see the value in that. So you’re going to get a return on your investment. It’s I mean, you have to play the long game. It’s like the stock market, everything is not going to happen overnight at the beginning of the pandemic. Yes. A lot of people ran scared and they ran fast and they just tried to see how they could cover themselves for the first two or three months where they thought that this would be over. But those that decided to keep their team or really could keep their team substantially and refocus of how to restructure their brand and build something, they’ve not only thrived, but they’ve excelled tremendously.
Nina Taylor: I don’t I mean, of course, at the beginning of this, Layer’s could have just been like, you know what, “we’re going to hold off. We’ll wait to the pandemic’s over.” Let’s not start this. We haven’t done too much. We’ve just kind of prepped. So, you know, no harm, no foul.”
Nina Taylor: But no, we were like, “No, we’re moving forward. This is going to work.” You know, some of our team is in New York. We did the numbers and well, they did the numbers because I don’t do numbers. But once they put it together, we found a local brand here to help us design the units with us. And it all kind of came together, I think once we realized, no, we didn’t want to fumble, we didn’t want to delay. We wanted to move forward and we knew that we could actually provide something. We just had to figure out how to remarket, rebrand it and get it out to the proper clients that needed it. Once we got all of those aligned, it was destined for it to take off from there. So I think it was more faith and structure. But I also because a few of us do know the business and we know how successful serviced apartments have been throughout the years with some of these big international brands like Oak Woods and The Furnished Quarters and Synergies of the world. We know that you can thrive in and really tough markets. I mean, 2008 wasn’t also the prettiest year, but there were companies that still were able to thrive, keep going and scale. And once you have the proper team and infrastructure to do that, it’s really no point in getting afraid. It’s all about, OK, “How do we hone in on exactly what services are needed for these particular clients and let’s go after them and target them hard.” And we just we put our head down and did the work.
Alexander Novicov: Amazing. The keyword is you put your head down and did the work. Um, Nina, so, um, the last question. What do you like what do you love doing on a Sunday?
Nina Taylor: What do I love doing on a Sunday? I love waking up and going to church. I’m a Christian woman, so because not all the churches are open. I do online service, making a home-cooked breakfast, walking my dog in the park and relaxing and watching maybe some Netflix. So that’s a nice, beautiful Sunday for me.
Alexander Novicov: And what’s your favourite city?
Nina Taylor: My favourite city, I’ve been to so many, I spent 13 years in New York, I just recently moved to Texas three years ago. So I will say New York is is still my home away from home. It’s still my love. I miss it. So and I know it’s going to come back even better after all of this. So, yeah, I’ll say that’s my favourite.
Alexander Novicov: Right, and if people want to get in touch with you and connect with you, where can they find you?
Nina Taylor: Yes, please visit Nina@Layerslive.com and definitely reach out to me via email, which is always the quickest and easiest for me. I would definitely love, like I said, to have me and my team partner and work with you, whether it’s here in Texas or any other major city. We are always open to reaching out to anybody and partnering and actually showing them how we can develop a serviced apartment brand into their platform that they offer as well. We’ve seen it work. We have the numbers to prove it. So, yeah, please reach out to me. We definitely love to connect.
Alexander Novicov: Um, you can find all the links and the email show notes on RedefineHospitalitypodcast.com. And so, Nina, thank you so much for being on the show. I appreciate it.
Nina Taylor: Thank you so much. I had fun with you, Alexander. Thank you.
Alexander Novicov: So thank you so much. So, uh, thank you very much for listening. As I mentioned, you can find all the notes and redefinehospitalitypodcast.com And, um. Yeah, but let’s, uh, let’s work on let’s get on with this stuff and, um. Yeah. Thank you so much. Bye
About Alexander Novicov, the Redefine Hospitality Podcast, & IDQ Agency
Redefine Hospitality Podcast is a weekly podcast about learning new perspectives and rethinking how we do business. In this podcast, we interview people who are challenging the status quo and making change happen. Our goal is to push ourselves and rethink how we do business, rethink how we operate, rethink how we market, rethink how we communicate and rethink how we move forward. In this podcast, you will listen to interesting stories, case studies, fresh ideas that will help your hotel go beyond. This podcast is hosted by Alexander Novicov, he believes that we can all have a better tomorrow if we focus on the present moment and become better today by learning, reading, listening and pushing the status quo.
Alexander creates brand stories, engages in running, speaks at events, lives with his beautiful dog Chanel and is the CEO of a storytelling agency called IQD. Your host Alexander Novicov is striving to become better every day, by learning and sharing his insights with you. He is a passionate public speaker, a marketer and the CEO at IQD Agency. Occasionally he runs with his dog, Chanel. He is a passionate public speaker, a marketer and the CEO at IQD Agency.