Getting Started (02:29)
Sallie Clark explains to host Dr. Tom Duening how she got started in the bed and breakfast business. She and her husband spent several years researching the business before opening Holden House in Colorado Springs.
Looking for Something Completely Different (02:37)
The bed and breakfast industry tends to attract people from care giving professions. Someone who is used to providing hospitality or personal service makes a good innkeeper. But having a business in your home means a loss of personal space.
Do Your Research First (02:48)
Sallie recommends taking a course or one-day class before deciding to open an inn. Seek out the advice of other innkeepers, offering to pay them a consulting fee. Be open about your intentions and establish a rapport of friendly competition.
Issues to Consider (02:02)
As with any small business, profitability doesn't happen overnight. Have realistic financial expectations. Think about whether you can handle having people live in your home every day. Planning for the financial side depends on various factors.
Financial Considerations (03:04)
Cost will depend on the type of property, the size, and whether you're renovating or buying an existing B&B. If you're starting from scratch, double what you'd expect to spend in both money and time. Sallie discusses how she financed her B&B.
Having a Financial Cushion (01:52)
Think about providing separate quarters for yourself at some point. The majority of B&B owners have a secondary income source. Being an innkeeper was a good fit for Sallie since she enjoyed cooking, cleaning and entertaining.
Being a Good Actor (01:36)
One key to success is the ability to put on a smile, open the door and greet your guests, regardless of problems you may be having. Dealing with difficult guests is a required skill. Enforcing rules can be a challenge at times.
Families Running B&Bs (01:41)
Families with children can successfully run a B&B, particularly if they cater to families rather than to couples on romantic getaways. Think about your target market.
Opening Day (02:58)
The first guests at Holden House were a honeymooning couple. Sallie advises just doing your best with your first guest, and drawing on other innkeepers for advice. B&B associations are good mutual support groups.
Growing and Adapting the Business (02:46)
Planning for the future involves continually adapting to the needs of your guests. B&Bs are in competition with hotels and sometimes need to be more hotel-like. Private baths are an example of how B&Bs have adapted over the years.
Why People Choose Holden House (02:20)
Marketing and savvy use of social media is extremely important. But people come back year after year for the personalized service, elegant surroundings, high quality amenities, and fine cuisine.
The Economy and the Internet (01:47)
Due to the downturn in the economy, people are cutting back on travel. And with the Internet, people are more likely to make last minute reservations, which makes it hard for innkeepers to plan ahead for the needed staffing and food.
The Exceptional Value of a B&B (02:05)
People are more price conscious now so there is more discounting going on. Innkeepers should stress the value they offer compared to hotels which often charge extra for wine, cookies, parking, Internet, breakfast and other amenities.
Lessons Learned from the Journey (02:30)
Key points covered so far: determine your financing needs, make sure you have a customer service orientation, have a second source of income, do plenty of research, and seek out a mentor.
Make sure the property is a place where you want to live and your guests will want to go. For an urban location, check out the neighborhood on a weekend. Think about noise, safety, convenience. A rural location may be far from area attractions.
Turnkey versus Renovation (02:36)
A property that's already a B&B will cost more. Starting from scratch means dealing with zoning issues. Providing off-street parking may be required. Even if buying an existing business, make sure all the permits are transferable.
If You Had It To Do Over Again... (02:58)
Sallie enjoyed starting small, renovating and gradually improving and expanding. If going into an area not yet zoned for a B&B, it's especially important to meet neighbors and get their support.
Zoning is a Local Issue (02:37)
Check with the city or county clerk and the planning department about zoning regulations. It's wise to make your property purchase contingent on zoning approval. The length of the process varies. Serving liquor requires a license.
What is a B&B? (02:00)
There isn't a simple definition because zoning and other laws vary from place to place. Do your homework and don't take no for an answer. Go into planning meetings prepared to explain your particular business and how the regulations apply.
Deciding on a Theme (02:52)
If you buy an existing property, don't change the name. Doing so hurts your marketing ability. Starting from scratch means you can decide what kind of atmosphere to create. This is what makes B&Bs unique. Certain themes attract certain guest types.
Be Your Own Guest (01:46)
When setting up rooms, think about guests' comfort as well as your theme. People need to have space to unpack their things. By sleeping in the room yourself you'll discover any needed fixes.
Electronic Media and Marketing (01:59)
Use social media to stay on top of the competition. Put keywords into Google alerts. Understand how search engines work and keep your website fresh.
Financing Your Property (02:18)
A residential loan is the best financing option, if available. Commercial rates are higher and require a higher down payment. If it's your primary residence you can get a residential loan. Work with flexible lenders, local banks or the SBA.
Keeping Things in Working Order (03:08)
Banks sometimes provide a line of credit or home equity loans. Having a reserve for major repairs is wise. Have a plumber and electrician you can call on for quick service in emergencies.
Small Business Planning (03:04)
Sallie didn't write up a formal business plan when she got started, but she recommends doing so. Regarding financial planning, don't expect to make a lot of money. Holden House is named after the family that built the house.
Pricing and Profitability (03:25)
Look at what other accommodations in the surrounding area are charging. Make sure you cover all your costs. You can always discount, so don't set your prices too low initially. A 50% occupancy rate is usually the break-even point.
More on Marketing (02:40)
Remind guests to come back. Sallie sends a hand written follow up thank you with a discount coupon to all guests. She sends out a monthly e-newsletter to guests who subscribe. In addition to the website, she has a blog and a YouTube channel.
Updating Social Media (02:42)
Sallie updates the facebook page twice weekly, the blog monthly. Keep it fresh but don't overdo it. Various B&B associations and online directories also link to Holden House. The Internet is a boon to B&Bs. Consistent, clear branding is very important.
A Typical Innkeeper's Day (02:30)
Rise at 6 am to serve breakfast. Clean rooms and answer phones. Check the computer for reservations. Do errands and laundry. Check in guests. Start prepping tomorrow's breakfast. In high season you may go months without a day off.
Sallie hired help when they expanded to five rooms and had 50% occupancy. Having a training checklist and staff manual is important for when you're unavailable. Innkeepers will have to decide how much and what type of help they need.
Inn Sitters (00:54)
There are experienced innkeepers who are available to fill in when an owner needs to be away. The pay isn't always much, but it allows them to travel and experience different parts of the country.
Trade Associations (02:24)
There are 30,000 B&Bs nationwide. It's a billion dollar industry in the U.S. There are numerous industry associations that are a good source of information. State organizations offer networking opportunities.
Industry Publications (00:52)
There are a few print publications but there is a wealth of information on the Internet.
Sallie's Advice in a Nutshell (01:40)
The first piece of advice Sallie would give a prospective innkeeper is research. Stay at B&Bs; make sure this business is a good fit for you personally, before even thinking about finances. Be sure to set aside some private space for yourself.
Summary of the Entrepreneur's Advice (02:28)
Select an appropriate location. Decide on a theme. Secure financing. Having line of credit for remodels and repairs is helpful.
Summary of the Entrepreneur's Advice, Continued (02:45)
Determine pricing based on costs and competition. Focus on marketing, clear branding, and social media. Do your research. Join trade organizations. Don't plan to get rich from your B&B.
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