Sharon Cunningham is co-owner of Cunningham Property Management, a 28-year-old timeshare management company with seven resorts in Florida—five in this area (Calini Beach Club and Siesta Sands Resorts on Siesta Key; and Gulf Tides of Longboat, Longboat Bay Club and Little Gull Cottages on Longboat Key), and one each in St. Augustine and Palm Beach. She was on the Visit Sarasota County board for more than a dozen years, and now serves on the Tourist Development Council, which advises the Sarasota County Commission on tourism policy and the bed tax.
Were you always in the hospitality industry?
I’m from Chillicothe, Ohio, and had been an assistant vice president at BancOhio for 20 years. I visited Siesta Key in 1980 and became friendly with the couple who owned the place where I was staying. They were planning to tear it down and build the Calini Beach Club and asked me to be the manager. I wanted to get away from the ice and snow, so I was in the right place at the right time.
How many timeshare units do you manage?
About 150 units. For each property you multiply that number by 51 weeks, so each resort has 800 to 1,200 actual owners of owner-weeks. We’re responsible for interiors, repair, the grounds, rentals and sales.
How many people overall do you employ?
My long-time business partner, Kevin Martone, and I have 48 people working for us right now, 25 here in Sarasota. My son came down after college and has been with us 15 years; he’s our third partner and oversees Calini and Siesta Sands. We have maintenance and housekeeping people at each resort and front desk people who act as concierges.
Describe your leadership style.
Keep an open mind, be aware of your staff, and try to keep their personal concerns at bay so they can concentrate on their work. A lot of our staff has been with us 15 or 20 years. I try to create a great atmosphere for them to work in, and that tells me they’re really satisfied with what they’re doing.
What’s the state of the timeshare industry now?
Timeshares started getting a better reputation once the Hilton, the Hyatt, the Marriott and Disney started building timeshare resorts in the 1990s. It was a big boost to the industry to get name brands, and it’s been going strong ever since.