The entrepreneur opening the door on some of Australia’s most exclusive homes

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Setting her sights on the top end of the accommodation market has proven to be a genius move.

Unlocking the doors of some of Australia’s most luxury homes is all in a day’s work for Alexandra Ormerod.

She is the co-founder and CEO of a home hotel service business that manages more than $700 million worth of property in Australia.

Luxico initially grew in the Melbourne market before expanding into regional areas. The business now boasts more than 300 luxury listings across the country, with plans to expand into other states on the cards.

Catering to the luxury traveller, the average nightly tariff for properties listed on the platform is $1,500; ranging from $450 per night right up to $15,000 per night.

Most guests stay at least three nights, although others make themselves at home for weeks. “We’ve got something there for everyone looking for a luxury holiday,” Alex says.

How it all began

Alex and her family live on Victoria’s stunning Mornington Peninsula and she runs the business with the help of 30 staff.

She has been self-employed since she was 24, having managed a total of 87 employees, started five businesses, and completed a Master’s degree in advertising – all in just over a decade. Alex has a background in marketing and advertising with a skew towards all things creative.

Alex launched the business in 2013 after leaving the corporate world to forge a new business after a particularly unsavory luxury holiday experience where she was directed to pick up the keys to her holiday stay from the local fish and chip shop.

“We arrived to check-in after 5 pm and the local real estate office had closed for the day, so this was the way they handled after-hours bookings.”

It was a disenchanting start to a luxury holiday experience she had been looking forward to, but all she saw was an opportunity to launch a business. “For me, this less than ideal interaction highlighted the complete disconnect between a luxury product and the end of service element,” Alex, says.

Once they started a family, they soon realised that hotels weren’t the ideal spot to stay.

At that time, property rentals resembled something of a yard sale with their mismatched furniture and possessions, she recalls.

“In addition to poor styling, you’d be fumbling to find a key under a rock or be stranded in a new city without any idea where the nearest supermarket was, and we just thought ‘how hard would it be to have someone greet you, or to have fresh groceries unpacked in time for your arrival?’”

So, Alex set out to build a business that quite simply, gave extraordinary service. She and her husband Tom were determined to create a seamless experience for premium accommodation owners and their guests, offering 24/7 concierge service and property management.

The challenges  

Before Covid, about half (49 per cent) of Luxico’s guests came from overseas. But for the past two years, when lockdowns allow, Australians have treated themselves by booking a luxury stay in favour of an overseas trip.

Keeping staff safe during Covid has been a key consideration. “I’ve personally had to front up and clean properties from time to time when staff shortages have required all hands on deck. Her guests are very discerning and have high expectations. “If something goes wrong with the property, we’ve got to remedy that.”

Now, as Australians enjoy stretching their legs after lockdowns, business has boomed for Luxico as families and couples make up for lost time by booking luxurious breaks away.

Property owners keen to list their homes are also approaching her in the hope she will list their property, keeping her busy onboarding a number of exclusive properties.

Once Alex receives an application to be listed on the platform, she undertakes a vetting process to ensure the property is equal to or above the quality of properties already listed on the website. But only one in seven properties is approved. If they aren’t beautifully furnished, filled with character, and in a jaw-dropping location, you won’t find them on Luxico.

Alex is shoulder to shoulder with a number of operators also targeting the high-end market, but they don’t offer the concierge service Luxico does, putting her in a league of her own.

“The business is growing really quickly, with plans to launch in a couple of new markets to be announced in the near future,” she says.

Above and beyond

Unlike other similar services, Luxico guests are provided with their very own personal concierge to prepare the home for their arrival, greet them in person and impart local knowledge on where to eat, drink, shop, and play.

Most of the work is done before the guest arrives, taking the time to understand the reason for the trip to ensure that the home is set up to suit the purpose of the trip.

“I’m really passionate about providing a beautiful service, enabling visitors to organise a beautiful meal and to get access to that authentic insider experience. The concierge will arrange a toy box of age-appropriate toys for the house to make it feel like home, for example,” she says.

While her experience does attract its fair share of celebrities, most bookings are from families, including multi-generational groups travelling together who want to stay together under one roof. Film makers also frequent the platform to book properties for cast and crew, she says.

Travel is a major part of the job, prompting her to sign up for the American Express Qantas Business Rewards Card. Given that Luxico is on track to turn over $20 million this financial year, that’s a lot of Qantas Points when you consider the cards earn rate of up to 1.25 Qantas Points per dollar on everyday business spend, enabling her to significantly reduce travel costs in her business.

It also means that Alexandra has instant visibility over her business expenses with the online tools and apps available through the card. Being able to identify separate business expenses and simplify expenses with automatic reports and statements with direct feeds through her accounting platform has been a crucial element of Alex’s financial success, whilst allowing her to earn and redeem points along the way.

“During lockdowns, we reduced our spending as much as we could and saved up our points. We knew travel would come back strong, as it has, and we wanted to be able to put as many points as we could toward travelling between properties to help balance our cash flow,” she says.

“We use our Amex to pay for as much as we can, including any repairing costs on properties, which we handle. Mostly we redeem these on flights, which has been really crucial for us,” she says.

“The properties we manage are geographically fragmented, so travel using Qantas Points is all part of the job. Our team members need tend to travel quite a lot between locations, so the concept of being rewarded for even short trips between properties has become crucial for us,” she says.

“We’re flying team members between locations so they’re more familiar with the products that we list over the last 18 months that they haven’t had the opportunity to view yet.”

During the summer months, she’s flat out but manages to slip away for breaks with her family during the cooler months of the year, enabling her to enjoy some of the benefits from her American Express Qantas Business Rewards Card such as redeeming flights for a much-needed break. The American Express Qantas Business Rewards Card also offers up to 99 employee cards at no extra cost, enabling Alex to reward her staff while also keeping an eye on business expenses. 

In 2018, Luxico become just one of just five accredited Airbnb partners in the luxury space globally. Forging this relationship has bought her business extra support in terms of website functionality, bringing in new web traffic and bookings.

Other entrepreneurs trying to wade through the more challenging economic trading period need to stay strong, and pivot if necessary, she says.

“If you just try and keep pushing ahead running your business in the same way when there’s something blocking you, you’re never going to succeed.

“You’ve got to you look at every adverse situation as an opportunity and try and turn it on its head, it’s the best way to deal with challenges.”

Alex shares her top tips for business success:

  • Pick a card that works for you – By putting all company spending through the American Express Qantas Business Rewards Card, Luxico has been able to earn enough points for a decent portion of Alex’s travel expenses to be free.
  • Hire a great team – Alex has a team of people all over the country including a manager in Sydney. She advises that it’s important to “take your time hiring people to ensure they are the right fit for your business.”
  • Don’t be afraid to exit – “There’s no expectation for you to do the same thing for your entire life” says Alex. “If you’re no longer enjoying what you’re doing, change.”
  • Do something you’re passionate about – The concept of providing better service in the tourism space was something Alex was really passionate about.
  • Save where you can – In the early days of the pandemic, it was tricky, says Alex. Luxico consciously pulled back business costs straight away and waited out the worst of it.
  • Embrace competition – While not a direct competitor, Alex reached out to Airbnb and formed a unique partnership that has in turn bought in more business for Luxico.
  • Use downtime in business to evolve – Alex advises that if your business is experiencing a downturn, use that time to look for opportunities to improve, pivot to change completely.

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