LAKELAND – Staying well connected is all a part of Emilio Montero’s top business goals.
It’s one of the reasons why he joined a prominent regional trade group, the Central Florida Vacation Rental Managers Association, where he has an opportunity at their monthly meetings to network with other small business owners working in this field.
But staying connected with other business owners who network is just one part of Montero’s strategy for success. Another is to ensure that those companies are well connected – along with their guests.
“My focus is on the small to medium businesses,” said Montero, who runs Residual Networks LLC, a comprehensive VOIP and broadband solutions provider.
“I represent all the carriers who provide service to small to medium businesses,” he said. “Everybody needs Internet access and phone calls.”
At the same time, Montero’s membership in the CFVRMA – even though he’s not the manager of a vacation home – demonstrates how this fast-growing field has enabled different kinds of small businesses and service providers to grow as well.
Vacation homes have become a critical part of the Central Florida tourism and hospitality economy, particularly in Northeast Polk County and Northwest Osceola County. These are homes that are fully furnished, and rented on a short term basis to tourists and business travelers. The homes, which offer multiple bedrooms, a kitchen, game room and private pool, appeal to families that want more room than what a hotel offers.
Montero noted that he got into the association after he provided the Internet access to USA Vacation Homes, a property management firm in Davenport on U.S. 27, which is run by An Flamand — who also happens to be president this year of the CFVRMA. Flamand encouraged Montero to join the association and let it be known that he could provide the phone and Internet service for any vacation home that a property manager was overseeing.
“She invited me to their annual meeting, and it was interesting to me,” he said. “She told me I should probably join the association, and I thought it was a good idea. I live by my referrals.”
Flamand said the industry is definitely providing a lot of opportunities for service providers across the region.
“I think a lot of people don’t realize it, but our association is still considered small, even though our members have over 6,000 homes in the Orlando area,” Flamand said. “That is a serious amount, and they all are serviced by pool companies, lawn companies, pest control companies, painters, insurance companies — the list is endless. We have so many subcontactors that we use that make money through our industry. That’s a lot of jobs and opportunities that are being created.”
Montero’s business is at 3041 Cleveland heights Boulevard in Lakeland. He started in technology after considering a career in law.
“In 1984, I went to Atlanta to become a lawyer,” Montero said. But along the way, the field of high tech started to interest him more than law books did.
“I decided I wanted to forge my way into technology,” he said, and in 1988 he formed Micronet Solutions, a company focused on the distribution of computer parts.
Fluent in Spanish, Montero began selling computer components across the globe.
“I traveled all over the world selling product with a focus on South America, Europe and Scandinavia,” he said.
He branched out and created another business, Residual Networks, which specializes in providing voice and data services.
“We provide the phone service,” he said. “They don’t have to buy a new phone for the home. We sell a monthly service with calls to the United States, South America, and Europe. We want our customers to consider us partners in their voice and data needs. If they have a problem, we want to build the solution for it.”
That includes people staying in vacation homes, who want Internet access available at the property they’re vacationing at.
The vacation home industry has opened up opportunities for business owners who do more than manage rental properties. The industry has been serviced by a wide variety of companies, including landscapers, housekeeping providers, furniture suppliers, pool cleaners, and even caterers who cook meals for the guests.
In Montero’s case, the industry has also been a great opportunity for him, because often times a single property manager can be overseeing 20 or more vacation homes. He’s tried to be innovative to get their business.
“For a property manager, in my opinion, they want a lower cost,” he said. “We try to come up with ways we can give the guests a higher level of satisfaction. We’ve created a functionality — when the housekeeper is done, they can pick up the phone, and dial a number, and as soon as they hear the music on hold, they hang up – and we let the property manager know the room has been cleaned. If you can think of it, we can try to do it. My whole proposition is I want to add value to the home.”
The tourism industry now rivals health care for being the strongest job creator in Central Florida, and Montero notes that this field can create opportunities for a lot of different businesses – including those that provide Internet and broadband service.
“The nature of tourism is if it’s not someone from the U.S. coming here, it will be someone from Europe, he said. “I think the vacation home industry is going to grow, absolutely. With the housing market crisis, there’s a lot of opportunity for foreign investors to buy up these homes and turn them into little cash registers.
“And,” he added, “If people have a good experience with me, they’ll spread the word – and it works.”
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