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CottageKeeper

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I'm an aspiring innkeeper. I just finished reading 'Running a Bed & Breakfast for Dummies' and it was very informative! I'm almost finished reading 'How to Open a Financially Successful Bed & Breakfast or Small Hotel' while a lot of the content is dated, there is still some good information.
Wondering what other books you could not live without as you operate your Bed & Breakfast or began the process of operating a BnB?
CottageKeeper
 

Madeleine

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Seriously? The best info is right here because it's live and not the least bit dated.
 

Innkeep

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I have to admit that when I was at your stage I learned more from this group than from any seminar or book. I do think its helpful to know that it takes twice as much money and four times as much time to get things started. There's lots of advice that's already been shared. Sometimes the search feature on this website can be helpful... If the Google gods are not smiling on you just ask and we'll answer.
 

gillumhouse

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If it can happen - it has to someone here. If you ask a question, you will get answers BLUNT TRAUMA answers because we want you to succeed if you go into this and if you are not right for it, and this is something only you can answer, we do not want you to do it and fail. IF you are really not suited to deal with crappy guests at 1 AM and be up and cheerful at 6 AM to make breakfast for the other wonderful people and still smile at the crappy ones too, financially for you it is best to know BEFORE you do it and it is best for us because there is not another gruchy innkeeper out there giving B & Bs a bad name. Get the ZONING, BUILDING CODES, HEALTH CODES in WRITING before you start. And do not take anyone's word for it - in writing. Also if buying a turnkey, check to see if everything will still be in place if you buy it. Sometimes a grandfather clause covers what is there but will not carry over to a new owner.
In other words, we will rip the rose-colored glasses off your face with a healthy dose of reality and if you can handle that - WELCOME!!!!
 

EmptyNest

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I see you are in VA. are you planning to add other cottages? Very nice looking . But one is hardly a bed and breakfast.Or are you wanting to purchase one? I recommend you contact BBAV the state association and attend one of their aspiring workshops or their upcoming state meeting. I forget the dates, but it is soon. Good luck.
 

Anon Inn

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Everyone's situation is different. In our case, we knew we would not be depending on the B&B for the bulk of our income. Really it was meant to pay the bills for the house: taxes, insurance,heating, electric, water etc...
We have two rooms. Our season is 90% between Memorial Day and Labor Day. We added a separate-from-the-B&B vacation rental apartment a year and a half ago, for people with children and/or small pets. It was a good addition.
In the five years we've been in business, the B&B has not paid all those bills, but it pays the most expensive ones.
I very much enjoy doing this. Not burned out, but as previously noted, the bulk of our business leaves a LOT of personal time.
We began the planning process rather like you have. I read everything I could find on the subject, this was back in the 90s, so most of the reading was from books and periodicals. If you are like us, I suggest you read books on building, foundations and roofs, insulation, plumbing (god bless pex) and the like. If you are do-it-yourselfers, you'll avoid some mistakes. If you hire the labor, you'll be able to talk knowledgeably with contractors. The only book I actually purchased was: Renovation: A Complete Guide. If you're really in the right frame of mind, you'll find it a good read in addition to the valuable advice it contains.
When house-hunting, the ultimate goal of B&B was foremost in our minds. Location is King, but in our case it meant a location that WE would like to live in.
Our place is in a rural location. There is ample parking. (something that is VERY important, and difficult to add if it is not already present)
There is no zoning here. For B&B requirements it was a matter of meeting the requirements of our State (by the time we got to this stage all was easily available on the web).
For our local regs, we consulted our County Health Department, and as we were taking it down to the studs, we put in place the suggestions of the Health inspector. Initially we got annual permits for B&B breakfast and dinner service. We also have restaurant and catering licenses. We may be over-licensed but it will be easier to keep these licenses going than to start from scratch as regs change. Health inspectors here change on a regular basis. We've had a new person for nearly every annual inspection.
We did the bulk of the rehab work ourselves, with our own and some hired labor and many re-used and re-purposed building materials. I don't believe we have any more put in to the place than we could sell it for in this market (as a single family) if we had to. We financed as we went along and the mortgage is now paid.
We started our B&B blog two years before we opened. It was a free Blogger site. So we already had a web presence at opening, and got our first booking inquiries from there. I reserved a domain name at about the same time. We added a Yahoo Sitebuilder site a year after we opened. We are still using it, although it is LONG overdue for an overhaul. The needed improvements are more than my limited do it yourself skills are capable of, so I've got a local professional lined up and as soon as I take new photos, (dh is the pro here, we have lighting equipment etc...) we will go with a Wordpress site that also looks good on smartphones. We have online booking. We use Sq are for cc processing.
I discovered this group when it was on another service, and followed when it migrated to its present location (THANK YOU SWIRT) The hands down most important piece of advice given was the imperative of in-room baths. Since we were taking down to the studs, it was advice fairly easily put in place. I don't think anyone would think of doing otherwise now, just shows how relatively long ago our planning and building stage was!
Search any term you are seeking advice on, accounting, cc, room amenities, breakfast service times, policies wording, use of signs, door lock systems, really just about any topic you can think of. If you have questions just ask. Most will happily respond in a thread or via email.
Best wishes. If you love your community, B&B is a great way to share what you love.
 

seashanty

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some people do love books in hand ... i read a lot in the library ... put the books back on the shelves and then came here.
but i tell you what BOOK i loved ... my own notes ... things that people told me ... things i experienced. i wrote them down
things that happened that i wanted not to repeat
or what worked for me and how
biggest thing for me was advise to schedule in time for ME. working 24/7 as many innkeepers do, i just needed actual scheduled time when i did NOT answer the phone or check the email or attend to a guest or anything. i had to go in to the calendar and pick a date and X IT OUT ... my day off. and stick to it.
that was advice i got here on the forum and it was a life and sanity saver.
 

Anon Inn

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some people do love books in hand ... i read a lot in the library ... put the books back on the shelves and then came here.
but i tell you what BOOK i loved ... my own notes ... things that people told me ... things i experienced. i wrote them down
things that happened that i wanted not to repeat
or what worked for me and how
biggest thing for me was advise to schedule in time for ME. working 24/7 as many innkeepers do, i just needed actual scheduled time when i did NOT answer the phone or check the email or attend to a guest or anything. i had to go in to the calendar and pick a date and X IT OUT ... my day off. and stick to it.
that was advice i got here on the forum and it was a life and sanity saver..
Have you considered writing an ebook on B&B?
 

EmptyNest

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some people do love books in hand ... i read a lot in the library ... put the books back on the shelves and then came here.
but i tell you what BOOK i loved ... my own notes ... things that people told me ... things i experienced. i wrote them down
things that happened that i wanted not to repeat
or what worked for me and how
biggest thing for me was advise to schedule in time for ME. working 24/7 as many innkeepers do, i just needed actual scheduled time when i did NOT answer the phone or check the email or attend to a guest or anything. i had to go in to the calendar and pick a date and X IT OUT ... my day off. and stick to it.
that was advice i got here on the forum and it was a life and sanity saver..
Have you considered writing an ebook on B&B?
.
WHO? JB is the real writer. If we all sent her our most outrageous stories, one day she could put together a novel

 

Madeleine

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some people do love books in hand ... i read a lot in the library ... put the books back on the shelves and then came here.
but i tell you what BOOK i loved ... my own notes ... things that people told me ... things i experienced. i wrote them down
things that happened that i wanted not to repeat
or what worked for me and how
biggest thing for me was advise to schedule in time for ME. working 24/7 as many innkeepers do, i just needed actual scheduled time when i did NOT answer the phone or check the email or attend to a guest or anything. i had to go in to the calendar and pick a date and X IT OUT ... my day off. and stick to it.
that was advice i got here on the forum and it was a life and sanity saver..
Have you considered writing an ebook on B&B?
.
Anon Inn said:
Have you considered writing an ebook on B&B?
No one would believe us! Someone else was going to write one about why B&B's have the policies they do...no one would believe the stories behind the policies!
We don't allow pets any longer. Would you believe the reason is because a guest let her dog run around with a mascara wand and it took us 3 hours to get the mascara off the furniture, floors, bedding, etc? Or the guest who stayed for 2 days and never once took the dog outside to do its business?
It gets fairly easy to pick out what situation caused the B&B owner to write the policy that sounds odd to a normal person!
 

Joey Camb

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in the planning stage one of the best was - Bed and Breakfast by Monica and Richard Taylor - has much more on the planning side ie how to tell if a location has enough tourism to support you etc than any other I have found - which lets face it is vital!
plus don't forget all the marketing stuff you will need to get a grip on - the Dummies series has just brought out a small business marketing kit (book) which I have started and seems much more aimed at the small business. the Idiots guide have just brought out a facebook marketing book and twitter marketing book which are on my to read pile - facebook, twitter and blog are all things you can get started now even without a property.
Do you intend to buy a turnkey (ie already running) or start from scratch?
 

Suzie Q

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If it can happen - it has to someone here. If you ask a question, you will get answers BLUNT TRAUMA answers because we want you to succeed if you go into this and if you are not right for it, and this is something only you can answer, we do not want you to do it and fail. IF you are really not suited to deal with crappy guests at 1 AM and be up and cheerful at 6 AM to make breakfast for the other wonderful people and still smile at the crappy ones too, financially for you it is best to know BEFORE you do it and it is best for us because there is not another gruchy innkeeper out there giving B & Bs a bad name. Get the ZONING, BUILDING CODES, HEALTH CODES in WRITING before you start. And do not take anyone's word for it - in writing. Also if buying a turnkey, check to see if everything will still be in place if you buy it. Sometimes a grandfather clause covers what is there but will not carry over to a new owner.
In other words, we will rip the rose-colored glasses off your face with a healthy dose of reality and if you can handle that - WELCOME!!!!.
Amen, Gillumhouse!
1) We were given a verbal OK, then the person who OKed us was a back stabber and fought tooth and nail against us. Our ordinance said we could have a "small home occupation." Another ordinance said bnbs were to be in another zoning area! We only read the ordinance for our zoning area.
2) Get a GREAT lawyer! You may need one!
 

birdwatcher

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This is the best place to be if I were to give my advise is this:
Have enough capital to get you through your first five years-and not the money you would make in bookings. This is the most important thing for a B & B to survive. Take it from someone that had the capital and did not have enough to keep it going when the economic times called for it. Don't rely on the income of the B&B to support your life-unless of course you are already wealthy and the property is in perfect shape. If its an older house be prepared like someone else said to work on this because old houses always have one of something to be repaired, painted or done.
We are not owners of our B & B anymore although we are Innkeepers that are employed-this B&B just sustains itself because honestly it makes no profit only because of the expense of the house etc even though its in a very high income area it still doesn't not produce enough income to make a profit. Being Innkeepers is a lifestyle more than anything else and the 24/7 sometimes gets really old, like seashanty said-take time for yourself because if you don't you become grouchy and like Gillum said-we don't need any grouchy innkeepers out there to make guests think we are all that way.
Welcome :)
 

CottageKeeper

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I see you are in VA. are you planning to add other cottages? Very nice looking . But one is hardly a bed and breakfast.Or are you wanting to purchase one? I recommend you contact BBAV the state association and attend one of their aspiring workshops or their upcoming state meeting. I forget the dates, but it is soon. Good luck..
Hello EmptyNest,
Chestnut Cottage is a rental. I plan to build the B&B on another piece of property that I own. I attended a combined 3 state B&B conference several years ago, they advertised it to be for existing and aspiring innkeepers, but I came away very disappointed. I felt like I had been at a tradeshow, there were mostly vendors and all the seminars were for existing innkeepers or for aspiring innkeepers who were looking to buy an existing inn. I'm in a very unique situation sort of like the B&B in Pearisburg, VA, they built new and built in a unique location and not in a huge tourist area.
Are you in Virginia too? I have been looking at all the hundreds of B&B's and I'm blown away at how well they stay booked. Would love to know your B&B story!
 

CottageKeeper

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If it can happen - it has to someone here. If you ask a question, you will get answers BLUNT TRAUMA answers because we want you to succeed if you go into this and if you are not right for it, and this is something only you can answer, we do not want you to do it and fail. IF you are really not suited to deal with crappy guests at 1 AM and be up and cheerful at 6 AM to make breakfast for the other wonderful people and still smile at the crappy ones too, financially for you it is best to know BEFORE you do it and it is best for us because there is not another gruchy innkeeper out there giving B & Bs a bad name. Get the ZONING, BUILDING CODES, HEALTH CODES in WRITING before you start. And do not take anyone's word for it - in writing. Also if buying a turnkey, check to see if everything will still be in place if you buy it. Sometimes a grandfather clause covers what is there but will not carry over to a new owner.
In other words, we will rip the rose-colored glasses off your face with a healthy dose of reality and if you can handle that - WELCOME!!!!.
Thanks gillumhouse! Great advice on getting everything in writing. I'll be applying for a conditional use permit $300 for a hearing and no guarantee they'll allow me to operate a B&B on my land. That is my first hurdle. If I get a yes, than I'll take the next step. Absolutely love that everyone is giving me truthful real life advice. So far, I'm not afraid, I still want to do this.

Curious, would you be willing to share with me your single most successful marketing tool you've implemented in your B&B operation to increase bookings?
 

CottageKeeper

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I have to admit that when I was at your stage I learned more from this group than from any seminar or book. I do think its helpful to know that it takes twice as much money and four times as much time to get things started. There's lots of advice that's already been shared. Sometimes the search feature on this website can be helpful... If the Google gods are not smiling on you just ask and we'll answer..
Thanks Innkeep! I'll be asking away, for sure. I tried searching different questions I had but I didn't have much favor finding answers.
 

CottageKeeper

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If it can happen - it has to someone here. If you ask a question, you will get answers BLUNT TRAUMA answers because we want you to succeed if you go into this and if you are not right for it, and this is something only you can answer, we do not want you to do it and fail. IF you are really not suited to deal with crappy guests at 1 AM and be up and cheerful at 6 AM to make breakfast for the other wonderful people and still smile at the crappy ones too, financially for you it is best to know BEFORE you do it and it is best for us because there is not another gruchy innkeeper out there giving B & Bs a bad name. Get the ZONING, BUILDING CODES, HEALTH CODES in WRITING before you start. And do not take anyone's word for it - in writing. Also if buying a turnkey, check to see if everything will still be in place if you buy it. Sometimes a grandfather clause covers what is there but will not carry over to a new owner.
In other words, we will rip the rose-colored glasses off your face with a healthy dose of reality and if you can handle that - WELCOME!!!!.
Amen, Gillumhouse!
1) We were given a verbal OK, then the person who OKed us was a back stabber and fought tooth and nail against us. Our ordinance said we could have a "small home occupation." Another ordinance said bnbs were to be in another zoning area! We only read the ordinance for our zoning area.
2) Get a GREAT lawyer! You may need one!
.
Thanks Midwest Madam. Check on the great lawyer, lots of great attorneys in my town! :)
 

CottageKeeper

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Everyone's situation is different. In our case, we knew we would not be depending on the B&B for the bulk of our income. Really it was meant to pay the bills for the house: taxes, insurance,heating, electric, water etc...
We have two rooms. Our season is 90% between Memorial Day and Labor Day. We added a separate-from-the-B&B vacation rental apartment a year and a half ago, for people with children and/or small pets. It was a good addition.
In the five years we've been in business, the B&B has not paid all those bills, but it pays the most expensive ones.
I very much enjoy doing this. Not burned out, but as previously noted, the bulk of our business leaves a LOT of personal time.
We began the planning process rather like you have. I read everything I could find on the subject, this was back in the 90s, so most of the reading was from books and periodicals. If you are like us, I suggest you read books on building, foundations and roofs, insulation, plumbing (god bless pex) and the like. If you are do-it-yourselfers, you'll avoid some mistakes. If you hire the labor, you'll be able to talk knowledgeably with contractors. The only book I actually purchased was: Renovation: A Complete Guide. If you're really in the right frame of mind, you'll find it a good read in addition to the valuable advice it contains.
When house-hunting, the ultimate goal of B&B was foremost in our minds. Location is King, but in our case it meant a location that WE would like to live in.
Our place is in a rural location. There is ample parking. (something that is VERY important, and difficult to add if it is not already present)
There is no zoning here. For B&B requirements it was a matter of meeting the requirements of our State (by the time we got to this stage all was easily available on the web).
For our local regs, we consulted our County Health Department, and as we were taking it down to the studs, we put in place the suggestions of the Health inspector. Initially we got annual permits for B&B breakfast and dinner service. We also have restaurant and catering licenses. We may be over-licensed but it will be easier to keep these licenses going than to start from scratch as regs change. Health inspectors here change on a regular basis. We've had a new person for nearly every annual inspection.
We did the bulk of the rehab work ourselves, with our own and some hired labor and many re-used and re-purposed building materials. I don't believe we have any more put in to the place than we could sell it for in this market (as a single family) if we had to. We financed as we went along and the mortgage is now paid.
We started our B&B blog two years before we opened. It was a free Blogger site. So we already had a web presence at opening, and got our first booking inquiries from there. I reserved a domain name at about the same time. We added a Yahoo Sitebuilder site a year after we opened. We are still using it, although it is LONG overdue for an overhaul. The needed improvements are more than my limited do it yourself skills are capable of, so I've got a local professional lined up and as soon as I take new photos, (dh is the pro here, we have lighting equipment etc...) we will go with a Wordpress site that also looks good on smartphones. We have online booking. We use Sq are for cc processing.
I discovered this group when it was on another service, and followed when it migrated to its present location (THANK YOU SWIRT) The hands down most important piece of advice given was the imperative of in-room baths. Since we were taking down to the studs, it was advice fairly easily put in place. I don't think anyone would think of doing otherwise now, just shows how relatively long ago our planning and building stage was!
Search any term you are seeking advice on, accounting, cc, room amenities, breakfast service times, policies wording, use of signs, door lock systems, really just about any topic you can think of. If you have questions just ask. Most will happily respond in a thread or via email.
Best wishes. If you love your community, B&B is a great way to share what you love..
Wow, thanks for the great post Anon Inn!
My setting is rural... but 2 miles away is 100% of my target market, they have 2 million visitors a year!
I purchased my domain name but I don't intend to blog until zoning grants me my conditional use permit.
We will be building new and giving new use to older materials that have been recycled. My hubluv and I are both handy with construction and design. Not much the two of us can't do when we put our heads and hands together.
We are definitely going to be a green B&B, don't gasp but I'm even thinking about putting in composting toilets! Yikes, I can hear everyone hitting the floor. There are some incredibly well designed composting toilets on the market today. The ones I've picked out, flush and pretty much look like a regular commode. They will also save me thousands of dollars on a septic system. The plan is to use a grey water disposal system for the shower, bathroom sink, and laundry water, and tying the kitchen sink and dishwasher into the existing septic. It was going to cost me $20,000 to put in a septic and it was going to reduce my beautiful wooded lot to 90% lawn, to me the trees are priceless especially when I think of guest enjoying their canopies.
With that said I'd love to hear your plumber stories, what strange objects have folks tried to flush? I used to be a marketing director for a mall and I could not believe what the plumber would pull out of those toilets!!! Hopefully paying guest are a little more respectful.
Thanks for all the great advice excited to study your tutoring!
 

CottageKeeper

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This is the best place to be if I were to give my advise is this:
Have enough capital to get you through your first five years-and not the money you would make in bookings. This is the most important thing for a B & B to survive. Take it from someone that had the capital and did not have enough to keep it going when the economic times called for it. Don't rely on the income of the B&B to support your life-unless of course you are already wealthy and the property is in perfect shape. If its an older house be prepared like someone else said to work on this because old houses always have one of something to be repaired, painted or done.
We are not owners of our B & B anymore although we are Innkeepers that are employed-this B&B just sustains itself because honestly it makes no profit only because of the expense of the house etc even though its in a very high income area it still doesn't not produce enough income to make a profit. Being Innkeepers is a lifestyle more than anything else and the 24/7 sometimes gets really old, like seashanty said-take time for yourself because if you don't you become grouchy and like Gillum said-we don't need any grouchy innkeepers out there to make guests think we are all that way.
Welcome :).
Thanks birdwatcher.
Couple questions when you said five years of capital do you mean enough money to run the bed and breakfast for five years? Or five years of what I would pay myself? I'm far from being financially wealthy. My business plan is to operate and pay off the business loan in five years and save 10% if there was any profit.
Seems like after reading all the great responses here that the possibility of paying myself a small salary might be out of the question. I'm like you with the B&B lifestyle, I would truly run a B&B without pay. I so enjoy meeting all kinds of people and those that seems harsh or grouchy are especially a joyful challenge to me to try and serve and get them to smile and relax.
I agree taking scheduled time off is a must.
Thanks for sharing with me and thanks for the Welcome!
I'd love to know your arrangement for being innkeepers. I plan on taking two separate weeks of vacation my second year of operation and I want to hire professional innkeepers to run things. I have no idea how this works. We have one B&B in town and they don't offer pay they only offer room and board. Seems a little much to ask but they manage to find young couples to meet their needs all the time.
 
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