Running a B&B | Has it met my expectations?Aug 15, 2020
I was running the regular Zoom Q&A group chat for the online course this week, when one of the participants asked me if running a B&B had met my expectations.
It's a really interesting question and one that threw me a bit. It's been 16 years since I set up my own B&B, and I can't really remember what my expectations were back then. To really answer it, I need to explain a bit more about how I came to run a bed and breakfast.
I actually need to take you back to 2001. Both my husband, Rob, and I were working for British Airways in the Marketing and IT departments, respectively. I'd recently been promoted to manager and had just taken over the role of managing about 50 people.
Both us were enjoying our jobs, working for the airline and enjoying the perks of staff travel. That summer, we'd had the most glorious 2 weeks in Maine , staying in a cottage by the sea with our daughter, Jess.
At the beginning of September we'd bought a lovely little cottage in Shropshire. Our intention was to rent it out as holiday cottage to cover the mortgage, and to stay there when we were able to.
Then the tragedy of 9/11 happened. It was so awful for everyone directly affected and it obviously had a much wider impact on the whole world. The airline industry was in a particularly bad state. To cut a long story short, it impacted us as family financially and it changed my job significantly for the worse. It had also got me into the "Life's too short to do something that stresses me out this much" mindset.
We were very grateful for our little cottage in Shropshire, getting up here as often as we could. As we drove along the lane approaching it, after a stressful week at work, we could feel ourselves unwinding.
As my job got more stressful - I was managing about 130 staff - and we visited Shropshire more often, we started to realise that we should make a change. Jess was due to go to secondary school and our best friends were moving north, so we decided that we would make the full time move to Shropshire.
At this point, we now have 2 mortgages, so we both needed to be working. I really wanted to live in our little cottage, but it really wasn't big enough, so we looked for somewhere else close by.
We had put an offer in on a house in Clun. But, on the day we due to exchange contracts, one month before we were due to move to Shropshire, the sellers pulled out. A frantic weekend of house hunting followed and we found Hopton House.
It wasn't my ideal home - I wanted a cottage with roses round the door and it was a granary converted in the 80s - lots of shiny pine. I don't even remember noticing the amazing view! But it was the size we needed, with enough land for Rob to justify buying a sit on mower.
We moved to Shropshire on the 1st September, 2003 and moved into Hopton House in March 2004. We really hadn't thought it would take that amount of time - another long story - but we got here eventually.
I needed a job and there weren't many ( none ) IT Resource Manager roles in Shropshire. We'd seen a few B&Bs when we were house hunting and I thought "I know what I'll set up a B&B"
We started work on the house to convert it to a B&B soon after we moved in and welcomed our first guest - the VisitBritain Quality Assessor on a mystery visit - at the end of July 2004. Amazingly we got a 4 star silver award straight off.
Then we went on to make improvements, adding extra rooms till we had 4 rooms and achieved a 5 star gold award. I didn't last with 4 rooms very long - it was just too much work cleaning 4 rooms and doing 8 breakfasts single handedly. Rob has continued to work at British Airways, staying away during the week, and has never been involved with the B&B.
Back to that first visit from the hotel inspector and me being amazed at the high rating we achieved. Unlike a lot of people who come on the course, I hadn't always wanted to run a B&B. It was a way of making money and paying the mortgage.
On paper, I make a really poor bad landlady. I'm an introvert, who is more than happy with my own company. I enjoy spending time with very close family and friends, but even then I need my own space. I've always joked ( half joked ) to Rob that when he retired he'd have to spend a night a week away.
However, we've survived lock down when he's been working at home, so maybe that won't be necessary. Luckily the house is big enough that we can lose each other. My whatsapp is full of "Where are you?" messages from Rob.
I also really don't cleaning - really don't like it. Or ironing. I'm not great at early mornings - winter time will see me lounging in bed in the mornings. And I'm not good with late nights either - watch out the B&B guest who rings after 9pm asking for availability....
Somehow, though, I've made a success of the B&B with a repeat business of about 70%. Most guests visit several times a year. I have got a knack for making people feel welcome and I can cook!
Going back to those expectations. For me, running a B&B was always about making enough money to pay the bills, which allowed me to work from home, enjoy this amazing countryside and spend time with my dogs. It's allowed me to do all of those things. It's met those expectations.
What I didn't expect was the impact I would make on other people's lives, creating a place special enough that people would want to keep returning. So, in this case, it's exceeded my expectations.
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