Last summer, I headed to Bakersfield because I had a food processing business meeting to attend to. I arrived at Kern County one day early for the business meeting so that I could a rest a little bit and read through the details of the nearing discussion. For the meantime, I looked for a decent bed and breakfast for the night stay. I eventually found something nearby the meeting’s designated venue and it was a pretty decent to me. There were only a few people staying, but the standards of the place were good enough.
The bed sheets and pillows smelled fresh and clean, all of the light switches and bulbs worked, the drawers and tables were dust-free, and the bathroom included a hot shower. I was in such comfortable slumber the whole night that I had a smile on my face when I woke up. All the amenities of my stay were worth the pay. After breakfast, I got all my things packed and ready. But then, the business meeting was going to happen in the afternoon, and the bed and breakfast service is until 11 AM. I went to the front desk and saw the innkeeper there drinking his morning coffee. He saw me and immediately asked me if I needed anything. I replied that I don’t need anything more, and that I just wanted to thank him for the nice stay. He smiled at me and said that I don’t have to thank him. He also joked that I paid him to do those things, so it was reasonable he did his part.
Then I told him, partly joking, that he made me think of establishing my own bed and breakfast. I was shocked when he said that a lot of customers say that and he was willing to give me tips if I was serious about it. I thought to myself, why not? I had a lot of time and it wouldn’t be a waste to get some tips. He told me a lot of tips for starting one, but these five things really stuck to me both as a businessman and a human being:
#1 Ask yourself why you want to start a bed and breakfast.
People started their own business for many reasons, and usually the main reason is to earn a lot of money. But the innkeeper admitted that the inn keeping industry was not really a high-paying one, and that he didn’t start for the bucks. After an early retirement from an office day job, he decided to practice cooking again after a long hiatus. Later on, he decided to convert his house into an inn since there were several extra rooms unused. He thought he might as well earn some money with the extra space and the cooking, so that’s like hitting two birds with one stone.
#2 Think about how to measure your success.
Again, the innkeeper told me that the success of the B&B isn’t always about the profit. For him, the success of his own are based on two things: the number of people who have stayed within the whole five years it was established, and how many people compliment the food. I immediately complimented the food. It wasn’t a fake compliment though, because the food tasted like it was from a five-star restaurant. The innkeeper laughed and thanked me for the nice words.
#3 Find family members and friends that will emotionally support you.
During my whole stay, I only saw the innkeeper—no one else but just two other employees who changed the bed sheets and cleaned the rooms. The innkeeper said that he had a family but they were staying in a nearby house from the inn. Even though they don’t visit the establishment often, they supported his decision of starting the business through and through. His friends also congratulated him when they saw that his B&B does pay well. As he said, nothing beats your motivation when a lot of important people encourage you to do what you want.
#4 Be prepared for expenses and maintenance.
This was true for all the businessmen out there, but is a very serious thing to think about. The innkeeper told me that a lot of owners forget that the business is not always about profit. There could be unforeseen damages and equipment would wear out in time. He also told me one time when he had to call on the Bakersfield pest control services because some of the rooms got infiltrated by bugs. The innkeeper said it was a good thing they were always available and their service was worthwhile.
#5 Assess yourself if you are ready for self-employment.
Starting your own business means you are your own boss, and that would be a very tough position especially for the newbie. The innkeeper told me how he struggled at first on deciding which kind of services he was willing to offer, maintaining his different kinds of insurance, maintaining assets, setting up some book keeping, and eventually finding a financial advisor. It took him about a year to get things straight. The first year was full of nights full of headaches and information overload from over reading accounting manuals, but learning all the basics was more than worth it in the long run.
I never expected such brilliant ideas from a seemingly ordinary innkeeper. I felt how his words were a part of how he lived his whole life, and how he really wanted to strive in the inn keeping industry. It was a life full of struggle and trials, but it seemed that he successfully fought through everything. It was already time for me to leave when we finished talking, so I got my bags out and thanked him again for his ideas and time. I walked out of the inn thinking about when I should start my own.