Making the switch from brand to independent
 
Making the switch from brand to independent
24 JUNE 2015 8:49 AM
Two independent hoteliers gave up the corporate hotel rat race to own and operate a small, F&B-focused inn near Chicago.
After 25 years of building successful careers in hospitality, working for large corporate hotels, resorts, and food-and-beverage operations around the globe, my husband Slobo and I decided retirement was not our end goal. Owning and managing our own business was our preferred next step. So after a nationwide search and exploring many different communities and properties, we found our new home and business in Galena, Illinois, at the Goldmoor Inn.
 
We closed on the 18-room, 21-acre property overlooking the Mississippi River Valley in mid-February. After relocating from southern Florida, and unloading our truckload of belongings on the coldest day of the year, we began living our dream. This has been an exciting process and we’re learning something new every day. If you love this business, give it a try and consider these factors as you seek the right fit:
 
1. Size matters. We determined that the size of the inn had to be right. We sought properties that had a minimum of 15 rooms because with anything smaller, you cannot make any money unless you do the work yourself. 
 
2. Know your skills and ability. We love the business, but it’s important to realize that the smaller the place, the smaller your resources. In terms of labor and support, you’ll be a "jack of all trades." At any given point in time, you must be prepared to be controller, human resources director, sales-and-marketing team, operations team, front-desk agent and/or supervisor, F&B director, executive chef, the purchasing agent, and even the chief engineer and landscaper. This is not a lifestyle for those who wish to lead a life of leisure. 
 
There are a number of things that have prepared me for this. I have worked in most all of the disciplines and know how to operate in them. Good solid training and hands-on experience is a must. Over the last 20 years, all corporations have done away with the luxuries of having abundant staff and plenty of support, or a manager for everything. Thus, I adjusted while we all had to do more with less. What you do not know, you learn if you are to thrive. 
 
3. Be clear about property requirements. We wanted an inn that had been well maintained and one that had a sophisticated ambience. Exceptional food and beverage is my husband’s passion, and we also looked for a business with opportunity for diverse dining affairs, from weddings to corporate retreats to in-house restaurant experiences for our guests. While we saw many inns that offered the European style we sought, we were not ready to take on a fixer-upper. We wanted to invest in an inn that needed only cosmetic changes and personnel enhancements so we could jump right in to operations when we took over.
 
4. Location, location, location! The location has to be a place where the customer base is large enough to support your environment—in our case a rather high-end, refined destination. Galena is close enough to Chicago, Minneapolis, Milwaukee and Des Moines to be considered a weekend getaway, and its historical appeal and close proximity to the Mighty Mississippi draws visitors from around the nation, even the world. This population gives us a well-rounded market of high-end travelers to host.
 
In principal, managing a small inn is no different than managing any other large corporate hotel. The objectives are the same: to delight customers and execute a fabulous experience; to generate revenue in order to be profitable; to be a responsible steward of the property; and to connect with the business community, and be an active member of that community.
 
You do operate with a team of individuals who all have to be committed to the business, like in a larger operation; however, owning and operating allows you more flexibility. You work so closely that it is more like family, and we’re very happy to be building our new lives in this lovely destination where watching sunsets and bald eagles on the horizon is a regular close to our business day.
 
After 25 years operating corporate hotels and food and beverage entities, Birgit Radin and her husband Slobo pursued their dream of inn ownership. Birgit earned a certified hotel business and management degree from the Hotel Business and Management School in Villingen, Germany, and has worked in key management roles on three continents, led several transition teams throughout her career, and managed hundreds of millions of dollars in renovation and repositioning projects along that path. Today, she and Slobo operate an 18-suite property which includes two log cabins and three English cottages plus indoor/outdoor event venues all situated on 21-acres overlooking the Mississippi River Valley in Galena, Illinois. 

Reach her at birgit@goldmoor.com. To learn more about the Goldmoor Inn, visit www.goldmoor.com.
 
The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Hotel News Now or its parent company, STR and its affiliated companies. Columnists published on this site are given the freedom to express views that might be controversial, but our goal is to provoke thought and constructive discussion within our reader community. Please feel free to comment or contact an editor with any questions or concerns.
 

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