I remember as a student of travelling with a very good friend of mine and staying in various B&Bs as we visited around Britain. At that time, life seemed hard to me an English literature postgraduate: if I did not have essays to write, then I had exams to study for, or a thesis to research and complete. Everything, of course, had to be perfectly done and handed in on time to my relevant tutors.
Staying in B&Bs and comparing my student life with those of the guest accommodation providers made me thing that their lives were easier than mine. They did not have papers to write, exams to pass, or deadlines to meet. After all, what could be more easy than making breakfast, washing up and cleaning guest rooms? Once finished, they would have the rest of the day to themselves!
How wrong I was! Now, myself a guest accommodation provider, I have found out the hard way that there is more to making breakfast, washing up, and cleaning rooms. In fact, odd though it may seem, there can be complications when making breakfast, which I will tell you about in another blog. As for washing up and cleaning rooms – well, the former is quite straightforward, but not the latter; again something I will tell you about in another blog. But first, there is the dreaded book-keeping.
I am terrible with sums. I managed to scrape a ‘B’ in math for my High School Leaving Certificate in Canada. However, it really took a lot of hard work for me to achieve the ‘B’. I had an excellent math teacher who helped me greatly by giving me extra homework to do. Until now, I still get nightmares about passing math exams – it must be the strain of all the sums I had to do when I ran a voluntary organisation, and which I currently have to do in my normal working day.
So, what about the dreaded book-keeping? Well, first of all, I have the VAT quarter to deal with every three months. I have to reconcile the takings with the outgoings, and these are then sent to my accountant who ensures that I pay the correct amount of VAT on the B&B services we provide. I am probably at my most anxious during the periods when I am sitting down to do the spreadsheets and inputs. I am always careful to report everything, but I simply do not enjoy working with numbers and the whole process makes me jumpy and I have to concentrate so hard on what I am doing that I will often forego meals just so that I can get things done properly and on time.
Secondly, there are the usual things that any housekeeper has to do: maintenance. The guesthouse does not run on its own steam. We have to keep it well maintained, especially as it is an old Victorian house. Roofs must be kept in tip-top condition; checks must be made on old pipes and gutters; the house must be painted inside and out; soft furnishings and furniture replaced as and when necessary, etc. Worse is to come if we get an unexpected leak or some other unforeseen damage.
Then, there is marketing. Knowing where to market the guest house and how to tell people about what we have to offer can be a little hit and miss. I have used websites and papers or magazines for advertisements, some of which have been good, whilst others have simply taken us for a ride. Scams abound and woe betide the unsuspecting guest house owner who gets taken in – it can cost a lot of pennies!
Lastly, there is the whole gamut of making the correct choices when choosing contractors to work with. For us, this ranges from choosing which window cleaner to contract (we use a local cleaner), our food providers (we use a local butcher and dairy which deliver daily as required), our laundrette (we use a Lakeland laundrette), our builder, joiner, plumber, electrician (all local), etc. We have been cheated before by the not so scrupulous types, but one has to persevere until one finds people or firms which suit.
So, here is a little bit of what it is like behind the scenes of running a guest house. The thinking and the work involved is like a smaller version of running a company, but a larger version of running a household. I have finally learnt that the B&B owner does not get to swan around after cooking and serving breakfast, cleaning the rooms and saying goodbye to his or her guests. There is a lot more to it – and very rewarding is it too!
‘Blenheim Lodge . . . panoramic Lake views, peace and tranquillity, nestled against acres of beautiful fields and woodlands, in the heart of the English Lake District National Park.’
Visit our website: www.blenheim-lodge.com
Telephone: 00 44 (0)15394 43440