Inn Consultants and Brokers Since 1993

The B&B Team

Rick Wolf and Peter Scherman (that’s Rick on the left and Peter on the right) are both experienced speakers who have presented on a range of innkeeping related topics at the state, regional, and national level. They gather and analyze research for the Innkeeping industry and welcome the opportunity to share it with others. Contact Us

Posts Tagged ‘starting a bed and breakfast’

K is for the 5 Keys to a Strong Business at your Bed and Breakfast

February 28th, 2012 by Scott Bushnell

Marilyn and I had the good fortune this past weekend to work with 9 excited aspiring innkeepers at our A Better Way to Learn InnkeepingTM  seminar held at the Wayside Inn B&B in Ellicott City, Maryland.  What a great group!  We laughed and networked with Bill and Charlotte Schmickle of the Flag House in Annapolis but the real focus was on the KEYS to a strong business at your inn.

  1. Location, Location, Location
  2. Understanding WHO will be coming to your inn
  3. Wrapping your inn AROUND those guests
  4. Think Sunday-Thursday
  5. Being the Best

Each of these Keys can be put on a continuum numbered, say, from 1-10 with 10 being the strongest.  Let’s look at each one:

  1. Location, Location, Location:  This has been the buzzword for any real estate purchase but for a Bed & Breakfast EACH word has a separate meaning:  The first definition is the Macro-location…is the inn located near major metropolitan areas from which to pull guests?  The more population close at hand (gas is getting more expensive!), the higher on the continuum the rating.  For the Wayside Inn, being located nicely in the Baltimore-DC corridor, this inn ranks high on this Location…perhaps a 9.  The second definition of Location includes the area attractions in that region which will draw guests to the area.  And the broader the diversity of attractions (historical, antiquing, entertainment, soft adventures, etc.), the higher the likelihood of drawing folks out of the nearby metropolitan populations.  The third definition of Location is the Inn itself…its attractive location in the town, its curb appeal and its accessibility.
  2. The second KEY is identifying the guests who will be coming to those area attractions…and what their needs would be.  If the attraction is an amusement park or college, children will be coming.  If there are businesses in the area, corporate travelers have particular needs as well.
  3. Wrapping your Inn around those guests’ needs is the next KEY.  Room features, amenities and services must satisfy the needs of those identified guests.  Business travelers need desks, Wi-Fi, multiple outlets, a forgiving cancellation policy, early breakfasts, and NO advanced deposits.
  4. The fourth KEY can often be a difficult one…Thinking Sunday through Thursday.  Any inn can fill up on the weekend, but that is only 28% of the week…an occupancy not high enough to pay all the bills.  Marketing to corporate guests, elder-travelers, quilting and scrap booking groups, or offering discounts to weekenders to encourage them to stay an extra day or two becomes a high priority targeted activity.
  5. Being the Best.  This KEY is what will keep your parking lot full while the inn across the street wonders how you do it.  Investigate what the competition is doing (and NOT doing!) and Beat Them!  Have the best breakfast in town, offer a welcoming warmth that guests enjoy, and make their experience complete.

This dynamic group of aspiring innkeepers heard this important message and are currently defining the profiles of the inns that are RIGHT for them.  Congratulations to all of them as they continue their journey into the world of inn ownership!      Scott


T is for Trust…Especially Between an Inn Seller and Buyer

January 11th, 2012 by Scott Bushnell

Just yesterday I received a call from an innkeeper with whom I have had a relationship who was considering selling his inn, a 7 room bed and breakfast inn in a nearby state.  Just what we do!  Thanks for the call!   We opened up a dialog about the inn, its size, its location, discussed the process, and then I suggested he send me a copy of his 2010 and 2011 financials.  You would have thought I was asking for his FBC (first born child).  “I just will not get into the hassles of trying to explain my financials and business with ANYBODY.  Just sell my inn!”  He was adamant and fixed in his stubbornness.

My antennae went up like a dog’s ears at suppertime.  After failing to convince him that this is an important step to understanding the revenue and net operating income of the inn (to help establish its value), we closed our conversation that perhaps the best way to sell his property is as a residence through the local MLS system since a buyer would never be able to get a commercial loan on that property without the bank seeing the financials.  He was satisfied with that…I guess.

But the point is trust.  I lost trust with him.  Was he cheating the IRS and did not want to let anybody discover it?  Were his numbers so poor that I would be trying to sell his inn only on its potential?  Does he even have records?  All kinds of distrustful thoughts went through my head.  I hope all them are wrong.  If a seller, perhaps even unwittingly, withholds information from a buyer, trust is jeopardized, and with the limited number of buyers and the huge inventory of inns for sale, buyers will look elsewhere.  Building Buyer/Seller trust is critical.  So how is it done?

Like a good Boy Scout…Be Prepared!

  • Having complete and accurate records (including taxes…they will be scrutinized during a buyer’s due diligence period)
  • Track occupancy by month from year to year.  A buyer wants to see the seasonal nature of the inn (especially to understand what happens in the slow season).
  • Have a complete Inclusion/Exclusion list of the furniture and fixtures will transfer with the property and what will go with the sellers.
  • For a smaller inn, have a property condition disclosure (available from any real estate agent) prepared.  This is required in many states anyway.
  • For larger inns, consider a Seller’s Inspection completed BEFORE a buyer’s inspector finds any defects (and they WILL find the problems!),  This inspection demonstrates full disclosure of the condition of the inn, provides a report accuracy defense in the event the buyer’s inspector overinflates the seriousness of a deficiency, and leads to a corrective plan to defuse emotions and begin negotiations.
  • Keep your gift certificate log current
  • Open and honest conversations about marketing, buyer’s opportunities, and full disclosure.

When Marilyn and I were looking for our inn long ago (the Dead Sea was only sick back then), the owner of one of our candidate inns pulled me aside and said “Don’t worry about the numbers, Scott.  I put two kids through college on this inn!”.  We left never to return.  If he was willing to cheat the IRS, he was willing to cheat us.

Innkeepers…think about the “surprises” that made YOU angry when you bought your inn.  We’ve all been there.  Think like the buyer of your inn.  What roadblocks can be removed now to build Trust and not jeopardize the chances of a timely and financially rewarding transfer.

Anybody have any trust surprises when you bought your inn?  We would love to hear about them and what could have been done differently.   Scott

Starting a Bed and Breakfast – In Your Future?

May 19th, 2011 by Janet Wolf


The B&B Team’s next stop for learning is in Newcastle Maine and the Newcastle Inn Bed & Breakfast. The mid coast of Maine in June is magical. It is that time of year when spring has definitely sprung and summer is peeking through with promise. What better time or place to visit, stay and gain knowledge of the wonderful world of innkeeping.

Newcastle Inn View of the River Deckside

Newcastle and Damariscotta are known as the Twin Villages. They both flank the shores of the salty Damariscotta River with a bridge that brings them together. Our host Inn is nestled on the shore and offers guests restful river views from a screened porch and open deck. The hospitality and charm of the Newcastle Inn is the perfect atmosphere for learning.

 Food for thought is a good thing but so is food for body and soul. Our host innkeeper Julie’s hearty breakfasts will help us jump start each morning.  Julie has recommended two restaurants in the area for our Friday and Saturday evenings. All meals are included and we love finding local favorites to share with our seminar attendees.

King Eider’s Pub is the choice for Friday. They received the 2010 Down East Reader’s Choice for Best Lunch in Maine. I’m sure the accolades will transfer to dinner. I hear Crab Cakes and Fish and Chips calling me.

 Damariscotta River Grill is our choice spot for Saturday. The chef owned restaurant offers upscale, regional comfort food. They also feature local art called ‘Art of the Grill’ which is a great way to support the art community as well as add to the dining experience.

So come on Down East Maine and join us.  We are certain you will leave with an understanding of the steps you will need in starting a bed and breakfast.  For more information and food for thought about our seminars visit our website. Our goal is to ensure that your goals are met as you work through the seminar process and beyond.

Innkeeping Seminars – A First Step

February 28th, 2011 by Janet Wolf

Education is a key component in any endeavor we choose to pursue in our lives. As toddlers we rise to a new level and explore new heights.  We look, touch, feel and then store in our memory banks everything we learn.  We also learn a few things not to touch, the ouchies?  Hopefully as adults we have gathered enough knowledge to avoid the ouchies, especially monetarily. But do we?

We at The B&B Team believe so strongly that everyone looking to pursue the innkeeping profession should (or to be more emphatic, must!) take an aspiring innkeeping seminar. Can you imagine entering into a new career without being trained? NO. So why do so many aspirers make that plunge without the education?  We don’t know but what we do know is that we try very hard to convince our potential seminar attendees and clients the importance of this very important first step.

Of course we would like them to take our Seminar for Aspiring Innkeepers because we believe we offer our attendees a very comprehensive group of sessions that cover a multitude of steps to guide you towards your goal. But…we feel so strongly about education that if you take someone else’s seminar, well at least you took a seminar!

Another point we make with our attendees is that if they walk out the door after taking our ‘information packed, mind blowing and fun filled seminar’, (shameless plug), and say …”no way”!, then we have done them a great favor. Uneducated innkeepers often become unhappy innkeepers and as a result may drive a perfectly good business into the ground. This does NOT do anyone any good. But if they leave our seminar with a smile on their face and a big sigh of relief and say…”now I think I’m ready to take the next step”, then we have also done our job and everyone is feeling good.

So to the aspirers out there who dream of owning and operating a bed and breakfast we would love to guide you through your first steps. We promise we will help you to avoid the ouchies! We look forward to seeing you seated before us with our seminar book in hand, with an open mind and an eager heart. As a final thought I would like to leave you with this. A friend and colleague, Dick Matthews, wrote a wonderful book about innkeeping entitled ‘Notes from an Innkeeper’s Journal’. The first chapter is called ‘A Noble Occupation’,we agree.

Janet Wolf

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