There is a lot of disruption right now because of COVID. Often overlooked is the impact on military families who normally move their families every 2-3 years in their military career. Which means, in any given summer, hundreds of thousands of military families are on the move. And this spring and summer, most of them are on hold. That causes families to ask a lot of very important questions like:
What are the rules around long term storage?
What about my non-temporary story of household goods that I left behind?
What changes might be made to my PCS orders?
What will happen to the delayed PCS orders for family members?
Where can families stay with a statement of non availability for lodging?
What is the DTMO doing to help me arrange for my PCS during COVID?
Does my PCS per diem change during COVID?
Does Travel Pay change during COVID?
What are my PCS entitlements during COVID?
Is there a FAQ to address this Stop Movement policy during COVID?
In search of some of those answers, I talked with Anthony J. Gantt Jr. about innovative ways to move federal and military personnel into short-term rentals to allow for better quality of life for folks whose lives have been put on hold due to COVID. After COVID, it will help families even more make a smooth transition.
BLUF: Civilians can use consumer tools like AirBnB with easy-to-use interfaces that make it easy and even pleasurable to find a short-term rental anywhere in the world. There is no such interface for federal travelers. Instead, they are forced to use archaic systems.
Military and Federal employee families could/should be taking advantage of the short-term rental markets than they are today. AtEase can help with that.
You can watch the full interview or read the transcript below. Let me know what you thank of Anthony and AtEase.
Joseph Kopser (00:02):
I’m Joseph Kopser welcome to another afternoon of Catalyst TALKS. The whole point of this series is to interview people who are subject matter experts with thought leaders solving problems. Right now today the topic is innovation and the particular topic addresses the fact that we have currently tens of thousands of federal employees and military personnel who have been given orders to move. But all of that is right now frozen and literally thousands of military personnel. Many of them are living in hotel rooms in cramped conditions. Imagine how bad it is for you living in your home, stay at home, but imagine if you’re out of your home. My guest today is Anthony Gantt, CEO and cofounder of at ease rentals. He has a novel solution for this problem. So let’s get into it fast. We’ve got less than 10 minutes, Anthony. First of all, how are you and your family doing? And then let’s get into what you’ve got with at ease that might be able to help military and federal employees and their families. So how are you doing and what are you working on?
Anthony Gantt (01:06):
I’m doing real good, Joseph. Thank you for having me on catalyst today. Things are going well, we did our social distancing and every one’s on the up and up. So looking forward to talking with you today.
Joseph Kopser (01:18):
So tell us more about at ease about what you were trying to do before COVID and now why it’s so important that we get it right.
Anthony Gantt (01:26):
So prior to coma, what I was doing is working with different property managers who have listings on Airbnb, HomeAway, VRBO and the different channels that exist for vacation rentals and work with them though it’s one, identify if the home is in compliance with federal larger regulations and two, if it’s not helping get a compliance. So I think enlist their homes, one at ease, then make them available to military families that are either traveling for a permanent change of station, which about 420,000 do annually or for extended temporary duty travel. So like traveling for work.
Joseph Kopser (01:57):
So let’s just clarify a few things for our civilian friends that are in the discussion. And by the way of your live right now, while we’re alive, if you’re on Facebook or YouTube following us, feel free to jump in and ask any questions for Anthony. But specifically what’s unique about military travel or transition during a change of station is they have a set amount of money they’re allowed to spend and that money is provided by the military or the government that w what’s also unique about it is, is they don’t really get a choice about where they’re moving to and we have limited geography and in the case of what they’re actually allowed to spend money on, they have to be certified in terms of where they can be living based on federal regulation.
Anthony Gantt (02:40):
Absolutely, absolutely. That’s correct. And if they want to get reimbursed and not us a victim of a punitive action, they want to make sure that they’re standing, like you said, those homes that are certified are happy and vetted by actual government agencies. In this case, it’s going to be FEMA in the U S by our administration. So since coven 19 like you said, hundreds of thousands of families are in these hotels. Cramp. I’m looking for some places that are there on top of each other, not the ideal situation for anyone that’s moving even not during this whole isolation period.
Joseph Kopser (03:11):
So I’m going to pull up a couple of one side. So right now we’ll start with your website and just kind of walk us through how it’s designed and how people would find a property using at ease to be able to get them out of a cramped space or an unfortunate living condition during their trained change of station.
Anthony Gantt (03:32):
Yeah, so real easy, you go with to the search bar and you need to search the locations where we’re in right now, a total of about 15 cities, about we’re steadily and constantly uploading, updating that information. Or you can scroll down like you’re doing right here and just check out the different listings that we have. We have some very unique vendors that are helping us. Like you see this, why hotel vector stay Righteous Rentals who have added a preponderance of the listings to our site. And you can go and check out their listing if you see one that you like. What’s unique about this is the site has only showing one listing per page to try to keep it easy and convinced right now. But each location has over 20 different types of units at that property.
Joseph Kopser (04:17):
And the key is to make sure I understand. And if you’re traveling with your family or you’re going on extended temporary duty, you don’t necessarily have to just stay in a hotel, a short term rental. Actually, it can be the solution.
Anthony Gantt (04:29):
That’s correct. And with the way things are right now, we know that the there are different periods for the permanent change of station timeframe, both of us youth to serve. And then we still serve. And we know right now that because the stop happened in March to make, there’s a huge preponderance of people that should have been traveling as looking for something so they can do something right now if they’re in a location where we have listings. And then when the flood Gates open here in June, hopefully will the secretary of defense give us still a word?
Joseph Kopser (04:58):
Well, I just pulled up that website right here talking about secretary of defense, perhaps easing the temporary stay. And this is all household goods. These are just my, you know, miles and miles of cargo, of people’s homes and their beds and their couches. Talk about the number of people, the impact that it’s having
Anthony Gantt (05:19):
For the army alone in this article is impacting over 48,000 soldiers. So if you talk about the other services that exist, we’re looking at as impact upwards to 90,000 service members and families that have been impacted right now that are standing in hotels or motels or whatever space they were able to find themselves in. And for those soldiers, airmen, Marines, and and sellers who were on a temporary duty stays, they’re finding themselves even standing instead of barracks rooms for extended periods or whatever situation or whatever creativity came up with to, to accommodate themselves.
Joseph Kopser (05:56):
But again, getting the word out and getting the message out. If knows folks are in these unfortunate living conditions. What I’m hearing you say is it doesn’t need to be that way site and then you start connecting with people in the communities that you’re in. Is that correct?
Anthony Gantt (06:12):
Absolutely. That’s exactly what I’m saying is we can connect the hosts who have the units with the service member who wants to get it out of that situation, go somewhere more comfortable and livable with privacy working with us. We’ll find the location, we’ll find a host and we’ll connect those individuals. And best of all the government is still giving you that a per diem lodge that you rate. Yeah.
Joseph Kopser (06:32):
And what I like about this, the innovation that I hear is that what you’re really doing is taking existing rules and regulations, combining it with an easier you know, VRBO kind of a model to be able to find it. Like civilians can do for vacations or for their own temporary. And you’ve just matched these two together to take out the red tape. Is that an easy way to describe it?
Anthony Gantt (06:54):
That’s the perfect way of describing it. I’m a Marine. So KISS is what we love to say stupid. So I wanted to keep it as simple as possible so that I can, me personally, I could use it without having to guess over random and figure out what I need to do.
Joseph Kopser (07:06):
Okay, so that’s about what you’re working on. The other thing I like to focus on in these discussions is how you got to now. So that’s what you’re working on. And we hope that with all the people that I tagged in this, and then when I moved over to the LinkedIn, they’ll be able to figure out how to share this with their members. And more and more military and federal families can find this resource. So what the minute and a half that we have left, how did you get to now? How did you think you an entrepreneur? How did you figure out that there was a way to be innovative about applying the solution? Because you know this isn’t easy and no one made you do this. How’d you get to now?
Anthony Gantt (07:45):
I got to that about being the person who lost $1,200 when I used a vacation rental off the site and out of frustration saying, Hey, I can afford this at my greater rate, but I know there are service members who can. So how do I make the solution for them? And I just call it everyone in the book from the department defense management of office all the way to the GSA. And finally I got to bite us. Like, Hey, you keep calling us. We have a meeting in Washington, the people who you need to talk to. I’m going to be there. Can you make it? And I said, yes.
Joseph Kopser (08:18):
Awesome. Okay. I see you’re wearing the tee shirt. Great use of branding for Bunker Labs. I’m a big fan of bunker labs Todd Connor and a whole crew that built that. I’m very proud to say I was one of the very first companies ever in bunker labs in the summer of 2014 and RideScout, our company, was the first company to ever exit out of bunker labs. Talk about what that community and that network has done for you.
Anthony Gantt (08:43):
I can’t even begin. So when I first came to one of the meetings, it had a couple of panelists that were just talking about, it was funny. It was a travel industry panel. And I was like, Oh my God, this is, and after going through a couple of, of the bunker brews that they had monthly, I applied for a better than a residence program. I was fortunate to become one of the 10 companies that was picked up. And it’s just opened up resources, both tangible and intangible resources that I could’ve never found on my own. It’s made the introductions to people like you. You came to one of the events and spoke to us and he was like, Hey, talk to him. You still want the same thing you’re doing. He was ROTC, you ROTC, he started a business. You started the business. So those connections that you can’t get on your own bunker labs, it’s just, they just put them all in one place. And I just had the fortunate opportunity to take an advantage of every single one and continue to do so to today. I’m a city lead for Austin’s bunker lab, chapter two where I get to use some of the resources I’ve found to help other veterans and military spouses and military affiliated companies get the same opportunity. Does that hat
Joseph Kopser (09:47):
Perfect. Well, I’m going to end this twice, once and under 10 minutes for LinkedIn and then once in 11 minutes then we can post again. So for the LinkedIn watchers, thank you very much. And now for everybody else at after the 10 minute Mark you are, you’re, you’re, you know, a perfect example Anthony, of people that are associated with innovation. You’re also a Capital Factory company too. Is that correct?
Anthony Gantt (10:15):
That’s correct. A capital factory by way of DivInc. So the programs that exist in Austin are amazing. I was going to do the startup and resonant with capital factory, but I felt at the time when it was offered to me that I couldn’t commit to it cause I’m still active duty. So we, we are working. Once I get my retirement papers then I’ll, hopefully I won’t need it by then, but if I do that’d be opportunity for me to go into a follow in my retirement.
Joseph Kopser (10:42):
Fantastic. Well I want to thank you for being on sharing your story. Anthony. You’re an inspiration and as I like to say, people will be what they can see and I hope a lot of other opportunities arise for other people who see problems like you saw with the fact that you got charged at 1200 bucks when in fact the innovation you’ve figured out is that the regulations allow it in certain ways. If you just connect people with technology in the right way to solve their problems. Thanks for being on to Anthony, appreciate your time
Anthony Gantt (11:11):
And thank you for not only doing this but also for being one of my mentors that helped me from time to time. So I appreciate that. Thank you.
Joseph Kopser (11:18):
Always happy to help take care.
Joseph Kopser (11:23):
So again, these are short, sweet to the point. I enjoyed getting to talk to Anthony. Hopefully you as well. If you know military families or federal families that are in transition, by all means look down below in the section at the end, which is all of the resources in the description. Share those with others, share those with those military families. Because AtEase is something I know that Amy and I wish we had had over the years but just didn’t have her exist at the time. And then lastly, as part of these catalyst talks, if there companies, ideas or people that you would think would be a great story to tell, please contact me as you all have, I’ve gotten emails and LinkedIn messages and texts.
Facebook is probably the last good place to go to. I did discover a few messages over in Facebook for, for whatever reason my Facebook messenger doesn’t send them all my way. Linkedin is where business gets done. Anyway, so hit me up there. Thanks again for being a part of these and I look forward to seeing you. You can always reach www.josephkopser.com or on LinkedIn. Take care. Have a great afternoon.
Joseph Kopser of Grayline Group is host of Catalyst TALKS. A series of live, interactive interviews with thought leaders, subject matter experts and operators with first hand experience in the skills needed to lead the workplace in a changing world. His talks focus on the technology, agility, leadership, knowledge, and strategy needed to build teams in a changing world. Joseph is also co-founder of the non-profit USTomorrow focused on workforce readiness. Joseph’s focus is to help people adapt to the changing future of work.
Grayline Group knows that technology is changing faster than business models, and globalization has magnified the threat surface for companies, investors, and governments. Change creates opportunity and risk. It requires the skills of new leadership and strategy in the workplace.
Grayline Group brings together experts, data, and solutions to help business and government leaders manage transformation resulting from technological and socioeconomic catalysts.