Got the B&B dream? 11 essential tips for aspiring innkeepers — plus a time-sensitive invitation

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 Janet Meteer, of Bridgewalk B&B in Central Lake. She offered a succinct overview of the innkeeping life: “Plan to work hard. Innkeeping is so much fun, all the great people, conversations at breakfast

Breakfast served at Bear Lake B&B is the stuff of B&B dreams.
Long after serving delicious breakfasts like this, the owners of Bear Lake B&B retain memories of interesting guests, thanks to a system they devised.

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 innkeepers would say the same. Each B&B name is a link. Click to read more about these great places to stay, where you can observe how first-rate innkeepers make hospitality look effortless.

Want to immerse yourself in building a solid foundation for your B&B dream? Register for a one-day workshop for aspiring innkeepers, Nov. 13 in Grand Rapids. It’s organized by the Michigan Bed and Breakfast Association (MBBA). Click here for details.

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.” Jeff & Linda Gamble, long-time owners of Big Bay Point Lighthouse B&B, in Big Bay, in the Upper Peninsula.

Jan Leksich, innkeeper, Victoria Resort
Jan Leksich, Victoria Resort B&B: “Expect adventure.”

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.

Set up systems: “Research and compare credit card processing and reservation systems, so you get exactly what you need. If you do not need a terminal for credit cards, as I do not, then don’t be talked into one.” Marcia Neigebauer, Delano Mansion Inn B&B, Allegan.

Make it memorable: “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.” Cindi McPherson, Bear Lake B&B, Bear Lake.

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

Sandy & Matt Werner realized their B&B dream
Sandy Werner and Matt Werner, Hexagon House. Be businesslike in setting and following policies, Sandy advises.

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.” Sandy Werner, owner/innkeeper, Hexagon House B&B, Pentwater.

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.” Sally Van Vleck, Neahtawanta Inn, on Old Mission Peninsula near Traverse City.

B&B dream = lifestyle + business + adventure

On money, lifestyle, and attitude: Three bits of wisdom from longtime innkeeper Mike Venturini, Munro House B&B and Spa, in Jonesville: “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.”

On the life: “Expect a new adventure everyday, and experience meeting lots of new people and making new friends.” Jan Leksich, Victoria Resort B&B, South Haven.

Future innkeepers, even if you cannot attend the upcoming one-day workshop, consider joining MBBA as an aspiring member so you can keep up with the latest news and opportunities. How to join? Just click.