What’s the bed and breakfast business like? Here, a B and B hotel owner – aka an innkeeper – shares her job description and offers career tips for aspiring bed and breakfast business owners…
Nancy Hinchliff owns and operates Aleksander House, a bed and breakfast in Louisville, Kentucky. She says that most guests are surprised that running a bed and breakfast is so much work. “Most have a very romantic idea of what a bed and breakfast is. They forget it’s a small business.”
Here Hinchliff explains exactly what is involved that makes it so much work and offers career advice for aspiring B and B business owners…
The Bed and Breakfast Business – What Does a B and B Owner Do?
Hinchliff is the sole owner of a Victorian bed and breakfast in Louisville, KY. Although she has an assistant, she is the primary innkeeper and responsible for the operation of the entire bed and breakfast business. She says “on the job training” for running a small business is invaluable.
“I didn’t have ‘on the job training’ and I made a lot of mistakes along the way,” she says. “I think what kept me going all this time was a strong desire to succeed and an extremely strong work ethic. I love to work…and work I did. The business is very demanding of one’s time, ingenuity, and ability to deal with the public…not to mention one’s ability to do “whatever it takes”…including cleaning toilets and scrubbing floors.”
How Much Money Does a Bed and Breakfast Owner Make?
The average income for a 5-guest room bed and breakfast with a fairly high occupancy rate is $50,000-60,000 a year. A supplementary income is recommended, as the overhead is quite high.
“I do not, nor have I ever taken a salary,” says Hinchliff, “but I have a great place to live, plenty of social activity and I get to cook and garden, which are two of my passions.”
The Best Parts of a B and B Owner’s Job
“I like that I’m my own boss,” says Hinchliff. “I can schedule my days as I please and hand over to my assistant those tasks that take more time than I’m willing to give them. Another thing I like about this business is that I get to meet hundreds of interesting people from all over the world. Those encounters are actually the basis for a memoir I am writing. I have learned a lot about myself in this business and that is really important to me. My guests have brought out in me a penchant for good conversation and friendly socializing.”
The Downside of the Bed and Breakfast Business
The biggest drawback to running your own business is that there are continual time constraints on your personal life. And, you have strangers in your home on a regular basis.
“This was hard for me to get used to at first,” says Hinchliff. “But I quickly learned to hide away sometimes and take frequent breaks from the constant interaction with people, especially the few with whom I wouldn’t spend time with if I had a choice.”
The Biggest Surprise About Owning and Running a B and B
“People are always surprised when I tell them I slept on a roll-away in the back hallway, outside the kitchen for the first year I was in business. I had invested every cent I had in the business and needed to recoup it by renting all of my rooms on a regular basis. Also, although I only rent out four of my five guest rooms now, I continue to move around and stay in the room that’s not rented.”
Career Tips for Aspiring Innkeepers
Hinchliff suggests having a long honest talk with yourself. “Do you have what it takes to run a small business? You will constantly be making sacrifices for the sake of the business. You may have to forego that Caribbean vacation in order to buy a new tub for the third floor bath…or new linens and towels…or a much needed freezer chest. How would you feel about a family of eight staying in your home for four or five days? Or having to take over for your housekeeper, unexpectedly, because she called in sick? Do you like to make breakfast? Do you like to garden? If you had to, could you learn to create a website, keep a blog for the Inn, do your own marketing, shop for supplies, groceries, linens…deal with maintenance men, yardmen, repairmen, painters, plumbers….the list goes on.”
To start a bed and breakfast, Hinchliff also recommends having a small business plan, at least $50,000 in start-up money, a mentor, a means of learning the innkeeper business, and a strong desire to succeed.
“On the plus side, there are lots of B and B conferences and information online and printed materials that can help you get started. A conference is a good idea. Innkeepers are friendly sorts and they will be happy to give you an honest look of what’s in store for you. And don’t forget, you have to purchase a beautiful home…one in a great area that will attract visitors. Happy hunting!”
Nancy Hinchliff owns and operates a bed and breakfast in Louisville, Kentucky where she also blogs and writes on line at Examiner.com, Eye on Life Magazine, Pink magazine and Hub pages. You can find her blogging at Business and Creative Women’s Forum, Inn Notes, Inn business A Memorable Time of My Life, and Louisville Bed and Breakfast Association.
Diane Lebow is a writer and social media expert. She blogs at http://www.dianeamy.com and assists other writers, restaurateurs, and most other kinds of business owners maintain their online social media presence via her company, About Social Media.
Do you have any questions or thoughts on running a bed and breakfast business, or working as an innkeeper? Comments welcome below!