Stationed together at Fort Campbell, Alexander Buchanan and Steven Brown visited Nashville often. Once they moved from Army life to civilian life, they decided, separately, to move here. From there, their story and business took off.
We had a few questions for the majority partners of Grand Welcome Nashville, which owns the Nashville, Smoky Mountains, and Austin markets of the Grand Welcome franchise — a short-term vacation rental concept. Here’s what they had to say.
How did you get into short-term rentals as a career? We were stationed at Fort Campbell and lived in Clarksville, Tennessee. The two of us enjoyed frequently visiting Nashville and experiencing all the city offered. Eventually, we decided to move to Nashville.
At the same time, we recognized our desire to transition from military service to private life and determined that short-term rental management aligned with our lifestyles, goals and training. As fate would have it, we bid on adjoining homes — unbeknownst to each other. So, rather than live in separate homes, we agreed to purchase the two properties, living together in one and renting the other. It allowed us to offset our cost of living in Nashville.
We launched our company in January 2019 with one property. I, (Steven) was responsible for day-to-day operations as Alexander completed his Army service. My ability to balance my transition from the Army and manage the business helped the company grow to five properties at the start of 2020. In 2021, we joined Grand Welcome as a franchisee and purchased the Nashville territory, growing to 35 properties. Today, we manage 120 properties in three territories: Austin/Hill Country, Nashville and The Smoky Mountains.
Why this franchise? We researched multiple franchises, but we chose Grand Welcome because it aligned with our goals and values. Grand Welcome provides us with groundbreaking systems and software applications for maximum efficiency and profitability. It also allows us to scale much faster than we would have on our own. The Grand Welcome franchise model allows us to focus heavily on customers to create the best possible experience for property owners and guests.
Why these three territories? We started in Nashville because of our affinity for the city. When we began researching expansion, it made sense to consider Austin, as there are many similarities with Nashville. The Smoky Mountains was purely a business decision, as it [was] the No. 1 short-term rental destination in the world in 2021. We both love how each location has unique qualities, and we take great pride in the ability to bring people together by offering an exclusive guest experience in three prosperous regions.
Do you have any expansion plans into other territories? We are building our systems and processes to grow efficiently and maintain our commitment to a quality rental experience for all. We also want to ensure we have the best people in place to make it a success. Once the proper infrastructure is in place, the model can be used in any market.
What factors are you looking for in where to expand? We both share the Grand Welcome belief that there should be a connection to the community, property owners and clientele. Every location has a different culture, and it’s important to understand and embrace the respective lifestyles and give back to the community. We employ something we learned in the Army: listen to the people on the ground.
Not all areas are suited for short-term rentals. Our goal is to do the research and partner with local entrepreneurs to ensure the properties we manage are in neighborhoods where the community and we can benefit.
What are the biggest challenges in operating a short-term rental? One of the biggest challenges is to expand while maintaining high customer satisfaction. When we manage territories and expand, we want to ensure that quality is not compromised. That is why we believe in investing in the processes and talent prior to expansion.
To what do you attribute your growth? We pride ourselves on being a hospitality company, not a tech company. Another comes from a value from our Army service that is employed in our business: find the right people and make sure they work in the right position. A third aspect is to grow the business organically by being involved in the local communities as much as possible.
How many properties did you start with? How many do you have now? We began managing one property in 2019 and had five in 2020. We now have 120 properties signed. Nashville is our largest territory, as we are approaching 70 properties in less than two years.
What skills/experience from your military career translate into your business? The two of us are very operational-focused, but also can solve day-to-day problems more effectively due to our military experience. The military taught us to be “comfortable being uncomfortable,” which means we plan for every possible outcome. It also breeds an environment where people own their mistakes so they can be corrected, and the organization improves as a result. We are very accustomed to building systems and processes and providing individuals with the right tools and resources we need to be successful, as well.
What would you want the business community to know about hiring veterans? What some veterans may lack in a typical institution knowledge and experience, they more than make up for in grit. Great veterans have the determination to throw themselves into a new venture and not stop until they are experts. Hiring veterans is an investment well worth your time, as veterans do not stop until they master a skill set and can complete a job with 100% satisfaction.
What was the hardest part of transitioning from a military career to a civilian one? The most difficult transition is communication with employees. In the military, it is a more direct method of communication. The way you converse in civilian life is more nuanced and indirect.
What one military skill do you think everyone should have to learn? Be comfortable being uncomfortable. There are a lot of uncomfortable conversations that must occur on a daily basis. Once you recognize this reality, you can handle situations more effectively.
How would you grade Nashville on veteran-friendliness? Excellent. Tennessee is actively working to be the most veteran-friendly state in the country.
About Grand Welcome Nashville
Annual revenue: $7 million under management; expected to double within the next year
Value of real estate managed: Approximately $70 million