24 FEBRUARY 2016
As we approach the one-year anniversary of owning our inn, my husband and I have learned many lessons about making the shift from corporate employment to ownership.
This month my husband Slobo and I celebrate our first anniversary as owners of the Goldmoor Inn. It’s been a wonderful year shifting from being a corporate employee to an owner.
For those who are considering the idea of purchasing and owning an inn of your very own, here are some points to consider before you take those keys. Slobo and I happen to love the business of hospitality, and providing it to our guests has served us well along the way.
24/7 has new meaning
While owning a bed and breakfast has a romantic appeal for many, I am surprised at the number of couples who make their second act ownership. Many have never been in the hospitality business and think it’s a great idea to ‘retire’ with a quaint bed and breakfast providing both home and income in their golden years. Unless your retirement means seeking a sometimes stressful, nonstop job, look elsewhere. Welcoming visitors like old friends and then cashing their checks is not realistic.
If you live on property like we do, you continually see projects that need to be addressed, and a two-week vacation together may be very difficult to plan. Life-work balance is something you must manage in your own way, and sometimes separately. We have family overseas, so this year we have taken separate trips rather than share the visits together.
There are bonuses and trials to becoming an entrepreneur. One bonus is that you don’t have to report to anyone else with a different agenda. However, you better be passionate about what you do. You are responsible for everything all the time.
Stake your territory
For many joint owners, this is the first time they’ve actually worked together as a team. My husband and I have traveled the world pursuing our careers in food and beverage and hospitality management. In fact, before our move to Galena, Illinois, I lived in Chicago and only visited home bi-weekly on weekends for numerous years. Living together full time is both fun and a challenge. We each have complete knowledge of how to operate a property, yet without division of duties we could really get in trouble.
In our business, I manage anything that has to do with personnel management and training, which oversees housekeeping and front-desk operations. I am very involved in marketing and PR, and as a result, I’m involved in local chambers and business associations to remain visible.
Slobo’s passions include the food and beverage arena and all things nature. This means not only is he in charge of the gourmet breakfasts we deliver each morning and oversees the culinary operations for the restaurant and catering (which involves actively selling), but he has also assumed the duties of landscape manager, directing our team to ensure our inn looks beautiful year-round. It’s a system that works for us and I advise you to determine what hats you’ll wear so disagreements do not spoil the relationship or business.
Plan for business fluctuations
Understand your seasonality and what that means in terms of business volume. In Galena, like much of Illinois, the winter months can be brutally cold, and business volume can diminish. Be a squirrel and put some reserves away ahead of time.
We do not wish to accept that ‘soft seasons’ are the norm, because there is plenty to do year-round. Plus, as we position our destination as a perfect romantic getaway, isn’t love always in season? There are travelers who do not need wild activities during their stay; a comfortable room in a quiet and lovely location with great cuisine and spa treatments will always be someone’s welcome escape in the winter.
To be realistic, we are taking every new lesson we learn to heart as we plan for our second year. January through March obviously has ups and downs so we’re preparing now for next year by courting corporate summits and small meetings mid-week. Proactively identifying opportunities to fill our inn during these first weeks of a new year we can alleviate the slim days.
Take advantage of slow periods
If you have planned and saved, you will be able to make necessary improvements and renovations in the slower times so that when the business increases, you have fresh accommodations and new perks for your guests.
We have cycles of maintenance we follow, and having a lower occupancy allows us to perform these. They include a general cleaning of all areas, updating colors, furnishings and décor throughout, and rejuvenating each suite or area of the property without losing the charm and character that initially drew our attention.
Be wary of self-doubt
If you are afraid of failure, you won’t be able to fully embrace the life of an entrepreneur. We believe we came into this new role as owners well prepared, but we didn’t know everything and have learned where we could make mistakes. We have learned that finding the perfect employee in a lovely vacation location is not easy. We have learned that with a great community such as ours, there is much to learn from those already in business.
If you go into business for yourself and enter the world of entrepreneurship with wide eyes and solid understanding of the opportunities ahead, it will be a rewarding experience.
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.
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