The Heart Of Hospitality

I still remember as if it was yesterday — the morning I woke up exclaiming I was going to be a B&B innkeeper! My new husband laughed, almost falling out of bed. He reminded me I had never even been in a B&B at that point. I quickly pointed out to him I could spell B&B and that was a great start.

I had been soul searching for a new career for several months, reading What Color Is Your Parachute, talking to the career counselors at my alma mater, and interacting with entrepreneurs. I think it was the right chemistry of time and people with my soul searching endeavors that gelled to open me to that (excuse the pun) awakening.

My Innkeeping Journey Begins
The epiphany was in July, 1985. And I’ve been in the lodging industry, at least peripherally, since then. It’s interesting to see how much has changed, and how so little has changed, during all this time.

It took a few years to actually land my first B&B innkeeping job, but I’d been trying to buy or start a B&B in the interim. As a new innkeeper, I don’t think I slept the first six weeks because I dreamed innkeeping all night, or so it seemed. I greeted guests, baked cookies, answered the phone, cleaned rooms, and tended the garden all night long. And I repeated that for real during the day. It was a relief to actually start sleeping during the night, though the excitement of my daytime activities stayed with me.

Do you remember what drove you into the lodging industry, and how you felt when you took over your first hotel? Undoubtedly you had a swirl of emotions, as I did. The thrill of interacting with your guests, the challenge of evenly applied hospitality, the joy of figuring out new ways to improve your property and customer service — there were so many areas to engage your imagination and energy.

My first innkeeping job was a dream position because it was essentially an 8-5, Monday through Friday schedule. By my own choice I often worked more than that, but it was still a very cushy schedule, especially compared to what most hoteliers and innkeepers experienced. Despite having such an easy schedule I found that I was out of decision-making ability by the time I got home each night; I couldn’t even decide what I wanted for dinner most of the time. My house was getting dirty and cluttered from lack of attention. I did stick with my extracurricular activities of singing in the community chorale and taking sewing lessons, as well as skiing or hiking with my husband and friends on the weekends, a smart move for my longevity in the business.

Balancing Life And Your Inn
How is the balance in your life? Are you taking time for yourself each day and week? What does your work schedule look like — a candle burned at both ends? How strong is your passion for your industry these days? Do you have high energy for work, play, and life? How do you react to the changes that you see happening in business and with guests? Is all of the change and demand on your time taking its toll? Do you proactively pursue mastering the changes that abound? Have you figured out how to think outside the box to keep your inn fresh and exciting, which would keep you the same?

I have a story to share, and I’ll try to keep it short. It was the lack of balance that pushed me from the hospitality industry several years ago. I had worked too hard without enough breaks, made some bad decisions which contributed to a cascade of other bad decisions. I lost touch with the people I was working with, and lost my focus on my consulting work. I left the hospitality industry thinking I was bored and needed a new career. With that in mind I wandered, waiting for inspiration and looking for the next exciting career idea. I started several businesses, loving the topic but never getting traction with the business, through the years. One morning I awoke knowing it was time to take my hospitality passion, combine it with skills I developed during my wanderings, and re-enter the hospitality industry. That morning was quite reminiscent of the morning in 1985 when I awoke with excitement and a knowing.

This story is to stress the importance of not giving up on your dream to be a great hotelier because you feel burned out, or because the business has gotten hard. Chances are you need an attitude adjustment, a fine-tuning, or a mindset shift. We slowly fall out of the good practices that keep us playing our best game, and in that slow change we don’t notice (at least for awhile) that we are losing our passion and edge. When we see it, that lack of passion or competitive edge, we too often reach the wrong conclusion. That conclusion could be like mine was — that you are burned out and not in the wrong business.

My Challenge To You
Here are some suggestions for you.
– embrace the technology that’s both a blessing and monster in your world
– step up to the marketing challenges that stare you in the face every day
– fall in love again with the dance of the people in your hotel — the guests, staff, vendors, and suppliers.

Get a grip on the ever growing challenges innkeepers face. Being an innkeeper is a fulfilling and exciting career. Remember? I recaptured my passion, and I can help you recapture yours.