Friendly, trusted and steadfast are three words I would use to describe Trevor Rawnsley, the CEO of Australian Resident Accommodation Managers Association (ARAMA), but when I ask Trevor to give me three words to describe himself he fires back with a chuckle “bloody good bloke”. Absolutely, he is!
I am interviewing Trevor “remotely” at what you would consider a ridiculously safe distance. Thanks to COVID-19, I am in level four lockdown in chilly Oamaru, New Zealand and Trevor is working from home on the sunny Gold Coast. We start off the interview by agreeing that this is just as much of an uncertain and scary time for both of us, personally and professionally as it is for the whole industry.
However, in usual Trevor-style he curtails any anxiety, “but, remember, this is also a great opportunity for us all to stop, take stock and move forward in a better position”.
This is exactly what Trevor does best, he listens, carefully considers, and communicates. He exudes calm reassurance, wise words and has an ability to point you in the right direction. For many years, whenever the management rights industry has been hit hard, Trevor has always been a steady anchor guiding us through. By us, I mean both MR operators and Resort News too.
During our conversation, I was stunned to learn that Trevor is also a nerd with a quirky sense of humour, who loves sci-fi and fantasy.
Yes, Trevor is not only our ARAMA rock, he is also a dedicated Game of Thrones fan and a Star Wars connoisseur. His favourite book is the weird and wonderful, Still Life with Woodpecker by Tom Robbins and like all bloody good blokes, he loves the legendary Elton John.
Professionally, he comes from humble beginnings. He left school at 15 to work in a retail store and went on to become one of the top retail experts in his field. A chance meeting led him to management rights where he became an operator and part of the group who formed, what became, ARAMA.
Trevor now heads up the peak industry body, representing 2500 members. After 10 years of hard work and dedication. I found it interesting that he said, “you may not always notice” what he does and that’s quite okay with him!
Why? because it is exactly the ‘behind the scenes’ nature of his job that is so important. He explains: “My biggest battles have been to do nothing and, by this, I mean to keep the very well written original MR legislation exactly the same!”
It makes sense that he admires the type of leaders “who stand at the bottom of the hill, reach out their hand and say follow me, it will all be okay”. That is exactly the sort of leader Trevor is.
He told me: “I work hard to make sure that the MR laws are NOT changed for the worst. The Government reviews all laws every seven years and the MR Industry always seems to be under attack from attempts to water down the legislation in the interest of consumers but to the detriment of MR operators.
“My role is to advocate for a business model that’s not always popular, and so it is my priority to protect MR laws, with a deliberate strategy to keep the laws same, for the benefit of this business.
“ARAMA members may not always recognise the extent of our work, because we cannot always reveal our strategies. However, I am very privileged to work with very clever lawyers to serve this industry and to protect a business model that has been consistently under attack from proposed legal changes.”
When he begins to discuss the biggest threat, the industry has ever seen - COVID-19 - Trevor admits he was rocked by the news. He says he will remember the exact moment he realised the extent of the pandemic on Friday, March 13, just as clearly as he remembers the news of the death of JFK, Princess Di and John Lennon…
“It is a pivotal date and it will change everything, but I am predicting May 19 will be another pivotal date, when we can hopefully re-start a brighter future.”
Trevor as always, sees the “sunny side” and tells me: “In the words of Harry S. Truman 'America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination, and unbeatable determination to do the job at hand.' I believe that our industry will survive, function and even thrive if we don’t let fear take over.”
He says: “I can’t fault the government’s response to COVID-19. However, I do think people will be ‘bursting out of the gates’ to go on holiday when lockdown is lifted. I would like to see domestic and New Zealand borders open as soon as it is safe to do so, and I am confident this will offer MR resorts many great opportunities and a bright future.”
What is Trevor’s ethos? “I heard something a long time ago that stuck with me. You know the saying, ‘Treat people the way you want to be treated’? It should be re-written to say, ‘Treat people how they want to be treated. The later version entirely changed the way I communicate with people, especially those who have oppositional views to me. I’ve learnt that everyone has a point of view and everyone wants to be liked, so I try to deliver my message how they will best receive it, rather than how I would want to receive it.”
Away from work, Trevor is a dedicated family man who values spending time with his wife, children and grandchildren. “Home and family are where my heart is.” Although he is happy to work from home, Trevor likes nothing better than to meet up with colleagues and friends over a coffee or lunch, enjoy a productive chat, a good yarn and best of all a hearty laugh.
In true Trevor spirit, he insisted I end the interview with a thank you to Resort News for giving a voice to the MR industry for over 20 years and, more recently, for developing Accom Properties, offering support to ARAMA members. But I would like to end on something else!
How about a few lines from Trevor’s favourite book?
There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who believe there are two kinds of people in this world and those who are smart enough to know better.
- Tom Robbins, Still Life with Woodpecker
You're better equipped for this world than I am," she said. "I'm always trying to change the world. You know how to live in it.
- Tom Robbins, Still Life with Woodpecker