Are you cut out to own a Guest House? - Hilton Smythe

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Are you cut out to own a Guest House?

Owning a guest house/bed and breakfast is a wonderful lifestyle – if you are prepared for the reality of it. It has an incredible impact on your personal life and requires skills that you might not have realised would be required.

Over the years, I have worked with many owners and the following abilities have contributed to their success:

  • A suitable personality
  • Business skills
  • Personal support

What is a suitable personality?

Every bed and breakfast/guest house is an individual as their owner – which is one of the reasons people like to stay in them.  Besides having great people skills, the most successful owners are flexible, are good at reading people and like to learn new things – like special diets, décor, changes in laws and regulations, etc.

However, one of the best kept secrets is that you will need to clarify and maintain personal boundaries.  As much as you like people and are opening your home to them, you have a right to privacy.  Having clear boundaries (whether it is your private space in the residence, questions you will not answer or topics that are inappropriate) means that people will be not be able to take advantage of you or your business.

Some people are more suited to certain jobs within the guesthouse – and often you will see a division of duties for dealing with guests based on personality.  Being aware of your people skills and ability to deal with guests is a first step in resolving any problems that might come up.

What Business Skills Do You Need?

A basic knowledge of how to run a business is required – whether you do it yourself, or pay someone to provide you with those services.

Some tasks, such as managing the finances (budgeting, book-keeping and managing cash flow) and marketing are rather obvious and will be crucial to your business success.

One of the most overlooked skills is networking.  Making local and regional connections is a great way to learn more about your local community and helps with local word-of-mouth about your business.  In addition, local businesses will be concerned about some of the same issues that impact on you – and can provide a forum for advocacy when you need one.

There are many courses available on financial management and marketing that you can take – whether online or in class, or on-the-job.  You will find that some of the tasks will lend themselves better to hiring out than others – such as networking. And just like dealing with guests, dividing up the business responsibilities works best when based on interest and knowledge.

Family Support

I don’t know of any other job that entwines your personal and business life more than when you own a bed and breakfast.  Personal support from others living in the house is vital – from how you choose to use the space to when the B&B/Guest House will be busy.

Your family must realize that what they previously considered “family time” will change as weekends and holidays will be your busiest times.  In addition, your daily schedule may not be as flexible as it once was – if you have a guest who is late checking in, how will you handle it?

When special occasions arise, consider blocking those dates out of your reservations calendar in advance, or hire someone to come in and run the B&B in your absence.  And don’t hesitate to ask for help when it’s required – such as dealing with that late guest.

Some of the key skills required to be successful are inherent – you were born that way – such as the way you deal with people.  Other skills, like those required to run a business can be learned or hired out. And communicating your expectations will go a long way to ensuring that everyone living in the guesthouse understands how things should work.

Susan Poole is The B&B Coach and owner of the award winning 40 Bay Street Bed & Breakfast, located in Parry Sound, Canada.  She helps people to figure out if owning a bed and breakfast will bring them the lifestyle and financial satisfaction they are seeking.

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