Got a B&B dream? Tips for aspiring innkeepers

What can you expect if your B&B dream comes true and — on some exciting future day — you finally become an innkeeper? We asked some of the most experienced #MichBnB innkeepers to share some things they’ve learned about operating a bed and breakfast.

Let’s start with a retired Central Lake innkeepeer,  who offered a succinct overview of the innkeeping life: “Plan to work hard. Innkeeping is so much fun, all the great people, conversations at breakfast and friendships that are made with your guests and the guests with each other sometimes. The flip side is cleaning, cooking, making beds, ironing sheets. And, my worst job, paperwork. However, after almost 23 years, I would do it all again.”

You heard her: She “would do it all again.” All of the following current and former Michigan innkeepers would say the same, all of them people who could make B&B hospitality look effortless.

Want to immerse yourself in building a solid foundation for your B&B dream? Join MBBA as an aspiring innkeeper.

Prepare now for launching your B&B dream

Did you realize that B&B innkeeping entails almost every activity common to any business? Marketing, sales, accounting, procurement, and more. Here are 10 more tips from Michigan innkeepers.

Promote, sell, repeat: “Make sure you budget enough money for promotion. Many new innkeepers miss this. ‘If you build it, they will come’ only works in the movies,” said former long-time owners of a B&B in the Upper Peninsula.

Marketing methods evolve: “Be open-minded about the latest ways to market. Learn the meaning and practice of ‘search engine optimization.’ Social media will be your best friend. Soak in as many webinars as you can on the subject.” Marci Palajac, of House on the Hill B&B in Ellsworth, joined MBBA’s Social Media Committee, where innkeepers learn from and inspire each other.

Make it memorable: A former B&B owner for a Bear Lake B&B, said, “We have a notebook labeled ‘Interesting People.’ We enter names and bits of info we find interesting about each guest. It is fun to go back during a slower time and remember all the people we’ve met. Take time to enjoy your guests, and do small little things for them before they ask.”

Set boundaries: “Develop policies and stick with them. Obviously, there are times you will want to be flexible, caring and forgiving. But for the most part, set your policies for cancellation, check-in times, number of guests per room, etc., and enforce them. Otherwise, the guests are running your business and your life instead of you.” From the retired owner of a Pentwater B&B.

Get backup: “Have a good four to six people that you train ahead of time in the running of your B&B — people who are willing and able to fill in. You WILL need breaks, vacations, and times to visit family. You need a back-up team. Develop a manual that explains every detail as to how you want your B&B to operate.” An innkeeper on Old Mission Peninsula near Traverse City.

B&B dream = lifestyle + business + adventure

On money, lifestyle, and attitude: Three bits of wisdom from a longtime Jonesville innkeeper known for his humor and practicality: “1) I do not want my inn to be full every day for months on end. It interferes with my lifestyle. 2) A reliable housekeeper is my second-highest monthly bill after my mortgage and is the one bill I am always happy to pay. 3) A good mood is just as contagious as a bad mood.”

Future innkeepers, consider joining MBBA as an aspiring member so you can keep up with the latest news and opportunities. How to join? Just click.