by Peter Scherman
Innkeepers are the best when it comes to delivering a great experience for their guests. Smiles come easily, breakfast is delicious, and the world just looks, well, rosy. Or does it? On the best of days even the best inns, as we well know, aren’t perfect. But if perfection is what you strive for, and if that perfection includes a healthy bottom line, it’s a good idea to tune up your inn just as you would your automobile.
So what’s an Inn Tune-up™? Just as a mechanic goes over your car from end to end, checking fluids and connections, looking for wear, and ensuring that the electronics are functioning at their peak, an Inn Tune-up™ looks at your inn from top to bottom looking for the things that will make your inn run as smoothly as it can, helping you garner rave guest reviews, making you money, and increasing your satisfaction with your Innkeeping lifestyle.
We are all guilty of not seeing the forest for the trees sometimes. It’s human nature. When you live in an environment day after day, it becomes like a second skin. But your guests see it for the first time when they walk across your threshold. And they will often see what you no longer do. Take some time to look for details that, if improved, will improve your guest’s experience and, in turn, increase your revenues and improve your reputation.
Rooms become tired and need to be touched up regularly, annually at the least. How is your style and décor? Is it looking a bit frumpy and old fashioned, or are you updating to stay current with trends? Even Victorian ladies like to look their modern best! Look at all your rooms to see if you have adequate lighting wherever a person might sit or lie to read. Is there adequate space for guests to lay down their “stuff” without moving yours? And is there a place for them to plug in all their “stuff” without moving furniture or unplugging lamps and clocks? Power strips are a simple answer to a big annoyance. Do you still have clock radios or clock/radio/CD players in your rooms? Try changing them out for clock/radio/iPod docking units that look and sound great and meet the contemporary traveler’s expectations. In short, are your rooms thoughtful?
How are your bathrooms? Are they behind the times and worn out? How’s that caulking around the tub? If it isn’t in perfect condition and perfectly white and clean, you should change it. Make sure that grout is free of mildew. It sounds elementary, but we at The B&B Team® see too many tubs that are simply neglected and are less than inviting. Your guests, as you know, form really strong impressions and opinions, and they tell others about it. In fact, cleanliness (or lack thereof) everywhere is the number one complaint of travelers. Look around your B&B with fresh eyes, run your finger along the tops of picture frames, get down on your knees and look under beds, under the cushions, in the drawers, inside lampshades, and be sure that everywhere is spotless and that you have systems in place to ensure they stay that way.
Beyond your rooms, how’s your website? Is it working for you, or are you losing potential guests because of the “three second rule?” Do you know what this rule is? Is your site homemade or more than three or four years old? If so, you probably need a new one. How are the photos? Do you know what your visitor counts and bounce rate are? You should. And if you don’t know how to find that out, ask someone who does.
Your business’s financial health is also essential to its running well. Do you know exactly where you stand week to week, month to month, relative to last year and the year before? How do your occupancy and ADR stand up against industry norms? How are your advance bookings running? Do you track your business using simple accounting tools like QuickBooks Pro, or are you putting all those receipts in a box and just hoping there’s enough money in the bank to pay the bills? You simply must do this the right way!
Innkeepers who really pay attention to their inn, from the physical plant to policies and procedures, from marketing and social media to the latest style trends are those who are doing well. If your B&B business is running a little sluggish, maybe you should give yourself a tune-up. Block out a day or two without guests, take a note pad, and go through your rooms looking for the things that could make them better. Then fix them! Not everything costs a lot: some attention to details, a fresh coat of paint, swapping out a piece or two of furniture can sometimes make a big difference for your guests even as it inspires you to be more enthusiastic.
Tax time is a good time to take stock of the health of your business. Look at your expenses and find out where you could save money and where you might want to increase your budget. Spend some time looking at what others are doing; those “others” should be inns that you admire, maybe even feel a little jealous of. When was the last time you stayed at another inn that wasn’t owned by a friend of yours and that’s really different from your own? How was the style? How were the details? How was the service? Did you learn something new or get a new idea to take home? Get out of your comfort zone and explore. Be a stealer of great ideas!
At The B&B Team® we encourage you to get inspired! Don’t let your inn’s engine run rough; it won’t perform as well, last as long, deliver as much satisfaction, or preserve its value. And if you feel you could benefit from a professional Inn Tune-up™ rather than an oil change in the driveway, we’d love to help you out! We have many clients who have grown their business simply by reaching out for professional assistance. Can we help you?