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Starting up a bed and breakfast - real life example - The Corner Broadstairs

starting up a bed and breakfast Aug 09, 2021

If you've thinking about running a bed and breakfast, then this video is a much watch!

If you're someone that prefers to listen rather than watch, check out this episode on the brand new Bed and Breakfast Academy Podcast  ! 

You'll also find the Bed and Breakfast Academy podcast on Apple, Google and Spotify Podcasts.

Joining me on this ZOOM call is Claire Byrne who, along with her husband Phil, has just started up a boutique 3 bedroom bed and breakfast, The Corner Broadstairs.

Claire was one of the first 16 people who joined the initial launch of the online bed and breakfast course back in August 2020.

Something of a star student, she and Phil have created a fabulous bed and breakfast, which is already receiving amazing reviews.

I feel like I've got to know Claire quite well over the last 12 months through our ZOOM calls, so I asked her if she'd jump on a ZOOM call with me to share her experience of setting up her B&B and how the course helped her.

"For me it has been one of the most valuable parts of setting up the business... I can't imagine being in this position having not even gone through the course or been party to some of the group work that we've done.

... it's been fundamental really, and I'm super appreciative of it. I actually think I would highly recommend it because, for me, I wouldn't be where I am now, I don't think, or I wouldn't have got here quite so easily, or so quickly, with some of the planning if it hadn't been for the things that we picked up along the way. So thank you."

I've summarised my main thoughts from the call below:

Starting up a bed and breakfast

  • Claire and Phil have started the B&B slowly rather than jumping right in, taking the time to get feedback, review how things go and make adjustments.
  • They spent a lot of time on the first modules of the course, doing their research, refining their ideal bed and breakfast customers, defining exactly what the customer might want and thinking very carefully about the type of experience that they wanted to provide.
  • Being very clear on their reasons for wanting a bed and breakfast, they've created a B&B experience that meets their own lifestyle and goals of spending more time together and having more downtime.
  • Being able to read and understand individual customers and what they need is an important part of the B&B owner's role.
  • They've clearly defined their individual roles in the B&B based on their own preferences, skills and experiences. But also share roles and are quite flexible.
  • Practise your poached eggs and make sure you have enough frying pans! 

How the course helped

  • Starting and running a B&B is not as easy at it looks. Claire decided to take the course to ensure they were aware of the reality of running a B&B and to get they help they needed
  • The course really helped cement their plans and shape what their B&B would be, which they don't think they would have done without the course.
  • How important the first modules, defining your WHY for running a B&B and your ideal customer avatar,  are in helping to create a blueprint of the type of bed and breakfast you want to run, before diving into the practicalities. 
  • Remembering your WHY for running a B&B helps you make decisions for your business
  • It's OK to have the confidence to have a niche, to only appeal to a subset of customers. That you can never appeal to everyone.
  • There is so much information there for your at the tip of your fingers. You could use Google but all of that is time consuming. It brings a whole directory that presents all the information to you in neat modules

Claire's experience of the online course

  • Claire was in control of the speed she worked through the course and how she worked through the course, spending longer on modules if she needed. 
  • "The online course was super perfect"
  • Can refer back to specific lessons, even months later.
  • The online course allowed her to absorb the information at the rate she needed to, rather than being overwhelmed in a 2 day course.
  • Lots of opportunity to  get answer to specific questions or clarification, through ZOOM calls, in the course modules itself and the Facebook group. It never felt missed out on human contact.

The Bed and Breakfast Marketing Membership

  • Claire has learnt so much about marketing through the training
  • The community is a very welcoming, learning environment. It's a supportive group as there is never a silly questions
  • To encourage people to try things in a safe environment
  • Like the course, there is so much information there for your at the tip of your fingers.  

Find out more about Claire and Phil and their B&B

You can find them on Instagram --> The Corner Broadstairs on Instagram

Your find them on Facebook here -->The Corner Broadstairs on Facebook

Sign up for the online course today

Call Transcript 

Karen:
So, I am joined here this morning by Claire, Claire Byrne, who has just opened The Corner in Broadstairs. I keep wanting to call it the Cornerstones, Claire.

Claire:
It's actually The Corner Broadstairs.

Karen:
The Corner Broadstairs.

Claire:
That's actually the title. Yeah, Corner Broadstairs, Boutique Bed & Breakfast.

Karen:
Fantastic. And can you tell us... Well, just a bit more of introduction. So, Claire, I started the online B&B course. I launched it in August of 2020, and we had 16 people join us in that initial launch, and Claire was one of those 16. So, thank you for joining me today, Claire. It's really great that you're doing this for me. So, I am very grateful for that. I appreciate. you're very busy at the moment, so I appreciate you carving some time out. So could you tell me how's it going?

Claire:
Okay, so it's going very well, at the moment. It's early days. Obviously, we have just launched or starting to launch, I'd say. I'm doing it in two stages. July really has been the whole month for taking in a few guests very, very slowly testing. We've had some friends. We've had some acquaintances as well as guests. So, we've had a real mixture of people. And for the whole month of July, really, it has been a test and learn type month because we just wanted to one start to get a little bit of a feel of it for ourselves because obviously being a new venture, and also to get very, very valuable feedback from the people staying to obviously give us that launch into August, when hopefully the website will go live, our own booking platform will go live. And then we will move on through August, hopefully.

Claire:
Still going slowly, slowly because obviously, I'm firm believer that we want to obviously build something to last. I think it's the type of business that's going to be very word of mouth driven as well. I think the guest experience is going to be critical to us. So, we obviously wanting to go fairly slow to gradually start building that up. So, that's where we are. So we're very much at the starting point of it.

Karen:
You talk about the guest experience being critical? What sort of B&B have you created? What sort of experience are they, will you to get [crosstalk 00:02:26]?

Claire:
We've gone for a... We kind of crafted very much a boutique B&B. I think often boutique is very much an overused word sometimes. But we really did spend a lot of time really thinking about what we wanted that B&B to be like, and we really have pushed it towards a more luxurious end. So, the quality of everything that we do is going to be critical to that service. So we're really going for luxury. We're catering for adults only, and actually that was a chosen, something that we've specifically chosen to do. Not because we don't like children, we absolutely adore children. But we believe that we're in a time of our life, and what we wanted to create, we wanted to make more of a haven for people to come and actually to really get that relaxation, that luxury, that comfort, and actually to just really be able to step out of their normal lives and have that moment of a breakaway and peace, etc. So we've really been trying to drive that.

Claire:
I think the other part of our decision to do that was one, it was going to suit us to work that way. But also as well, when you look at the market that we're in, there was lots of bed and breakfasts around. It's a seaside town, so there is lots of opportunities, and there's lots of different kinds of offerings out there. But actually the one area that may be the wasn't so much of was the more luxurious. So hence, that's one of the reasons why we really wanted to have that point of difference.

Claire:
And so, I think because we worked on the house, we previously had bought the house to renovate it. Obviously, with a B&B in mind, although it's taken us very many years to do that. Overall, the project's been going now for five years. But because we've been going through the renovation of the house, it gave us an opportunity to really think about the house and how we wanted it to be. So, I think it's been very lovingly restored because we really have taken that time over it. And we really have tried to pay tribute to the Victorian nature of the house, but also bringing in that luxury, a little bit of heritage, a little bit of modernity to it so that we've really tried to create an eclectic mix of things. I think that what we've ended up with is something which is really, really super comfortable. And yeah, we're getting very good feedback at the moment anyway from everybody who's been visiting, so that's where we are.

Karen:
That sounds fabulous. So, how many rooms do you have?

Claire:
Three bedrooms, all double, double-double bedrooms with their own en suites. Two of them have got en suite rooms with walk-in showers, rain showers, and then one of them's got en suite bathroom, which has got rolltop bath and a walk-in shower. They're double size all with king sized beds. And then obviously, we've done the rooms as luxurious as we can and really thought about everything that a customer might want while they stay. So, we've really put in lots of additional things into the rooms like coffee machines, obviously, we put in expressos. We've made sure they've got everything in there, little mini-fridges with all of the fresh pieces in there, as well as things like irons and ironing boards, hair dryers, everything that you might want. I mean, lots of people travel with those things. But if you've forgotten them, at least they're there.

Karen:
Yeah. It sounds like you've thought about everything, thought about this very carefully.

Claire:
Yeah. Your course helped with that.

Karen:
[inaudible 00:05:48], pleasant to hear.

Claire:
It really helped with that because at the stage when I came on the course where we started to think about what that guest experience was, and actually starting to think about the things that we should be building in and at least giving some consideration. So the course helped us frame that. So, when I say us, it's obviously a project that's been ongoing for me and my husband. So his name's Phil as you know, but for everybody else. So, we've been working on it together, although I've been the front person for all the coursework as we've been working through it.

Karen:
Yeah, I don't think I've actually ever seen Phil. I think he must've walked past in the background on one of our Zoom calls.

Claire:
[crosstalk 00:06:26] walk past with a paintbrush in hand.

Karen:
Yeah.

Claire:
He's been the chief painter of the house.

Karen:
Yes, I was never sure whether it was Phil or a rather handsome decorator you had. You talked about July being a month of getting a feel for running it. What's your impression been of running it in July? Have you ever had any learning points?

Claire:
I think it's... First of all, we've thoroughly enjoyed it. So, that was the positive thing. It really has.

Karen:
Is it really?

Claire:
With the first one, obviously, there's always that little bit of trepidation. The first guests will come in, and actually the very first guest that we had was not that well known to us. So again, it was a good way to start. It was somebody that I had had some contact with from a work perspective, but obviously did know very little about them, never have met her husband, etc. So, it was a little bit of an unknown entity. So, we was a little bit nervous, as one would expect. But actually, at the end of it, it was a bit of a moment like that when we went, "Wow, that was really good fun." And we really thoroughly enjoyed it. So, that was a good thing.

Claire:
For what we've been learning, I think it's more the operational side of things that is probably what we've been trying to cement. How we work together, how we move around each other, how the kitchen works, so that we're not always crossing over each other. So that we have a routine that both of us can operate, but comfortably side by side as we work through the day and into the evening or whatever. Operationally, I think it's been really good. It's given us lots of opportunity after everyone's left, we've said, "Okay, how did that feel for you? How did it feel for you? What worked well? What did you find awkward?" And so, we've always done a little brainstorm together at the end of it when they've left, which has been super helpful. And then, obviously we've said, "Right, that works, let's not change that. But next time, let's try X, Y, or Z." And so, we've used it as a little bit of a learning curve for ourselves, really.

Claire:
Apart from that, I think the learnings that we also gaining is literally dealing with each individual customer because every customer is going to be quite different, and everybody's going to have a different like the body language, how chatty people are, how quiet they are. I mean, we had one lady who was really loving the lounge. And every time I walked in, I felt like I was... Because she was almost in a meditative state. She was sitting there, she was relaxing. She said to me she felt like it was very spa like, and she was just enjoying the quiet time. So, I became quite conscious that actually I didn't want to go by on in the door and say, "Oh, how are you doing?" So, I had to tailor a little bit. So, it's just getting used to each individual customer, really, which is a great side of it. That's obviously the nice thing about getting to meet so many different people.

Karen:
I think that is certainly one of the key skills of a B&B owner is that sort of empathy, really, isn't it? It's being able to understand what each customer wants and just give them the same experience, the same spiel, but pick up as you say. Does she want to sit in the lounge and relax or does she actually want to sit and chat and find out all about the area, and you, and things. And people do differ significantly in my experience, anyway.

Claire:
Yeah, certainly we found that so far just going through the month of July. We've had very, very chatty people that just really wanted to almost have a little bit more of a social chat. For some of them it's their first time of coming out and doing something after COVID. So, the fact is we're still being very, very cautious of that. But for some people, this is their first excursion, and a lot of them say, "Oh, how nice is it just to be able to sit quietly and actually have a conversation with people where they might not have been able to do that." So, yeah, it's had lots of positives.

Karen:
I'm going to say I'd almost forgotten about COVID there. It is one of the most difficult times to set up a B&B.

Claire:
Yeah, it's certainly added to the longevity of the project, I think. There's several things in there. But I'm a firm believer that when the time is right, the time is right, and what's meant to be will be type thing. So, actually, each one of those may be slightly lazy in the process of come with some real positives. It's given us more time. It's given us more time to concentrate on one area of the business, or to take some time for ourselves, which we might have needed. So, each time you just absorb what comes and when the time is right it all comes into action.

Karen:
I'm a great believer in that, too. So, that's fabulous. You talked about the roles that you and Phil had, and that dancing around the kitchen together for breakfast time and that sort of stuff. Have you got clearly defined roles, or is it quite fluid?

Claire:
I think there are certain elements, which are very clearly defined. So for instance, at breakfast, I do the cooking. Phil is not somebody who enjoys the cooking side of things. So while I'm in the kitchen, and I am cooking, so he tends to do a little bit more at the front house at breakfast. So, as much as I come in, I might say good morning. Once I'm then into the kitchen I'm busy preparing food, and he has a bit more of a conversational side of it with the guests. And that suits him down to ground because he actually loves chatting and spending time with people. So, that really suits him, and I'm in my happy place in the kitchen busy cooking.

Claire:
And so, that kind of is, and in the kitchen then you come in, and he's preparing things like the teas and coffees and taking that out to the guests. So, he's doing that side of things, and he helps by doing the toast when the time's right, and all of those sorts of things so that you can then bring it out and serve. We are doing a full service breakfast. It's a decision that we made that we wanted it to be quite luxurious. So we're doing white tablecloth, white linen, and it is a breakfast menu that actually is fully served to the table. So, that's been working quite well.

Claire:
And then apart from that, I think our roles we do just move around each other like the welcome, it's both of us. And it's nice to meet and greet the people together. And then I think apart from that, we keep it a little bit more fluid. Of course, in the back of the shop type thing we got to set jobs. We work together on things like change overs and changing the rooms, and then I might do a little bit more of the housekeeping type stuff while Phil's taking care of the outside, the garden, the compound, that type of thing. So, we've divided things a little bit to suit what each of us gets more enjoyment from, really.

Karen:
It sounds excellent. It sounds like you've got a great team working there.

Claire:
Early days, let's hope [inaudible 00:13:11].

Karen:
I think my feeling is the important thing is to be is be flexible and adaptable. Sometimes I have people come on the course and they have very rigid ideas of the roles they're going to be on and then they find out that one person is doing much more work than the other. It sounds like you're sort of... You seem to be quite fluid in the roles, and deciding what's working, and what's not. So, I can see great things for you going forward.

Claire:
There's lots of things that we try to do together. I mean, even when we clean down the rooms, we start off together. Phil's got his areas that he likes to do. He likes to come in and do some things and I'm concentrating on the bathroom because I'm happier there giving it that really deep clean type thing. So, we even in the room changer, we've found ways that we can both work side by side, and then when we completed it we're both taking turns to go in and do a room check and just check that we've we're happy with everything. So, yeah, it's working well.

Karen:
And it sounds like if there were a situation where you suddenly weren't there, Phil could take over and do it all, and vice versa.

Claire:
Yes, exactly. I mean the only thing I think would be the breakfast cooking. That's the only area I think that Phil probably wouldn't want to tackle as such, but outside of that I think everything else is we are very flexible with.

Karen:
You have to give him some emergency poached egg lessons.

Claire:
Yeah.

Karen:
The dreaded poached egg.

Claire:
Yeah. Well, you laugh about that one. I will tell you a little story of that because the poached eggs has been one of the things for months I've been practicing poached eggs, getting myself a little bit flustered because they weren't coming out. Sometimes they would, sometimes they wouldn't. Anyway, I finally got a process, which was really working for me, and I've really fine-tuned these poached eggs and I'm feeling really, yeah, I can do these poached eggs. It's not going to floor me.

Claire:
So, in come the first guest great. They were really good guests, poached eggs went out, looked superb. They both commented on them actually, how lovely they were, which was great. And then the next two guests, we have a group of four people that come together, every one of them asked for a fried egg. The next group after that they asked for a fried egg. I was like, "This is really throwing me. I'm so practiced for the poached eggs. Now, I've got to do four... Well, actually, it was like... Because I was having double eggs so it was almost eight eggs I was trying to fry and I realize I only have one frying pan.

Karen:
Oh, no.

Claire:
I hadn't prepared for that one. So, anyway, little things like that. It's all good fun.

Karen:
Yes. Yeah, yeah. Funny, I've got poached eggs down to a tee but fried eggs... I don't eat eggs myself. So, it's always been an issue with me. Do people want them crispy, or did they like them slowly cooked? Don't get me started on eggs.

Claire:
I do a very healthy version of a fried egg, so it might not suit everyone.

Karen:
So, moving on, but can you tell me why you wanted to set up a B&B and why Broadstairs?

Claire:
Okay. So, I suppose this is quite a long story, really. So I'm going to keep it as short as I can.

Karen:
Okay.

Claire:
I think why did... Why? I suppose, well, 30 plus years ago, I think I already in my mind knew that one day I wanted to live by the sea. So, I've had a long term ambition of wanting to eventually live by the sea. And I've also always had an ambition to actually run a little business of my own. Even in those very early days, I mean, I was in my early 20s to 30s at that time, and one of the things I'd often used to say to my friends, "One day I'd really like to have a little tea shop, bake cakes, or I'd really like to have a guest house." I'd just like to do something like that. They used to say, "Oh, well, maybe one-day," type thing. So, it's always been there. So those two are the ambitions of mine.

Claire:
Of course, life doesn't always go completely that way. And quite rightly, there's lots of things you have to do in the meantime. So for 30 years, I ended up working in a corporate company with a very developing career, let's say, which obviously was very time absorbing, and a lot of hard work. It was quite demanding job. And the job changed and evolved over 30 years. So for me, I'd done 30 years of corporate company whereas Phil my husband had been 40 years with his company. So he'd gone in straight from school.

Claire:
I think it was probably as I was approaching that age of 50 that I started to think to myself, I really need to think about what the next step is because I can't, and I actually said to Phil at the time, I can't imagine myself doing this for another 10 years, it's not going to happen. So, what is that next stage? I think, also along the way of a few things that happened. And I think with the nature of the job, we'd already started to realize that we need you to find a way to get more kinds of downtime time together. So we had started to move towards the coast as in and we bought a little flat to give us weekends away. We used to finish in London on a Friday, come straight to the coast.

Claire:
It started to evolve from there because we ended up, wasn't maybe where we intended to initially, but we ended up buying that flat in Broadstairs. And as we spent more time here, we actually begin to really fall in love with the seaside town. It's just such a lovely little place that we thought, "Well, listen, this is the place, we love it, you've always wanted to be by the sea. So why don't we start making that move?" So, side by side we worked for a couple of years, we were looking at properties. Finally landed on this property, bought it, and then started the renovation whilst we were still working.

Claire:
And of course, one thing, a couple of other things happened along the way. I was polly for a little bit, then we hit COVID. So lots of those things happened. But eventually, I took the leap of faith as did my husband and we both decided that once we got to that age of 55, we took out our opportunity to take early retirement. And so, we did that and we moved down here lock stock and barrel, and then put our energies into creating the B&B.

Claire:
So, for me a long time ambition, but secondly along the way it was always seemed to be the right thing to do at the right time. And that's really a lifestyle change, complete lifestyle change for both of us, and also the opportunity that we could actually spend more time together because for 30 years when you're both working you're sometimes a bit like ships that pass in the night. You might see somebody going in once, going out, don't get to spend as much time as you would like. So, it was a good opportunity for us to have a venture together and actually really get some quality time and enjoy ourselves as well together.

Karen:
Okay. [crosstalk 00:19:56].

Claire:
That's how we ended up here. But on the Broadstairs point we didn't have an intention of here because we've both spent a lot of childhood memories or we both had a lot of childhood memories of certain holidays that we had and Phil as a child always went to Hastings with his dad. That was his annual holidays. And for myself with my mom we used to go to [inaudible 00:20:15], which is in East Sussex.

Claire:
So, when we first started to think about getting a little flat at the time we automatically went in that direction because that's where we honed to. But we realized quite quickly that it wouldn't work for us at that moment in time because with the commute into London and out and then the drive for a weekend away. It was just that bit too far for us. It was with traffic and things it could have taken us up to two hours. So, suddenly we thought to ourselves, "No, this is not really going to work. So, let's think about something that's a little bit closer and something we can get to within an hour because that makes it more practical." So someone said to us, "Go down to Broadstairs. Have a look at Broadstairs. Have a look at Margate. Have a look at Ramsgate." And so that's how we ended up down here. As I say, we ended up down here at weekends and absolutely fell in love with it. So, that's where we've stayed.

Karen:
Oh, fabulous. A bit of the countryside I don't know at all, really. So I have to come down one day and have a look. One day from university we did go on a hot day we went and sat on the beach in Hastings. But yeah, only experience of the south coast.

Claire:
Broadstairs is lovely because it's still very, very... It's changed, I'm sure over the years, but it's still quite a quaint seaside town. They say it's quite quintessential. It's got lots of heritage through Dekins, and it's actually the beaches are beautiful, but actually it still holds on to that smaller seaside feel. Lots of independent shops, lots of independent cafes, restaurants, there's very little chains within the town. So it's really got that nice little feel. Yeah, and lots of boutiquey sort of arty type shops as well, which is lovely.

Karen:
Okay, so a good combination of visiting a nice town and having the beach there as well.

Claire:
Yeah, exactly. You get a nice mix of things, yeah.

Karen:
And nice countryside around there.

Claire:
Yeah, very nice. There is countryside as well actually, which is quite surprising. You only need to go step out of Broadstairs into the part of Kent and you'll feel like you're in the Kent countryside. Literally, within 10 minutes, you can be within amongst fields and things. There's quite a lot of... There's the Viking coastal trail, which goes along the coast, but it also takes you inland to a lot of the small, tiny unkempt villages as well. So, that's quite nice.

Karen:
Yeah, garden of England, Kent, isn't it?

Claire:
Yes, they do say that. Yes.

Karen:
That was lovely. So, it gives me a good idea of why you wanted to set up. So move on to the course a bit now, if you don't mind.

Claire:
Yeah.

Karen:
You were one of the first launch of the online course. So, thank you very much for that. What made you decide to take the course rather than just setting up yourself without any outside help?

Claire:
I suppose, fundamentally, I would think about it, I had an ambition, and we both had an ambition of what we wanted to do. But I think we're both older and wise enough to know that actually, not everything is always quite as easy as it looks because some people might think, "Oh, it's really easy to run a little bed and breakfast." It has that appeal to people because of that lifestyle choice. But I was very conscious that there's probably an awful lot more to it. And actually, it was important that we actually went into it with very clear glasses, and not the little rose tinted one.

Claire:
So, I thought by doing the course it was actually open us up and show us much more of what running a bed and breakfast was about. I thought that was really, really important. So it's almost like you've got this ambition, you've got this vision of it, but what is the reality of it? I think for us it was making sure that we were very aware of the reality side of it, and also the help that we needed to be able to get to the point of being able to open the doors.

Karen:
And so, I guess it's quite interesting. I'm taking a training program at the moment and one of the things, an analogy he used was it's like if you want to learn to swim and someone gives you... You've never been in the water before and someone gives you a book on swimming and you learn all about the theory. And then you go into a pool, can you swim? No. So, the idea is you have a coach and a training instructor who actually walks you through swimming. As you say, a lot of people, you can say it's a B&B, but it's not actually until you're running one yourself. I think you probably find that and in the last month, haven't you?

Claire:
Yes, totally. Yeah.

Karen:
It's very different from a customer perspective than it is to actually running it yourself.

Claire:
Yeah. Yeah, very different.

Karen:
So, how would you say the courses helped you?

Claire:
Oh, gosh, the whole course was just absolutely phenomenal really for us. I think it really, really helped us cement, obviously, what our plans were, and actually helped us really shape the nature of our B&B. So, for instance, at the beginning, when I was talking to you a little bit about what we've created, I don't know that we necessarily would have honed in on everything that we've done without having done the course. Because really, I think, the course really helped me for fundamentally put in, let's say, a blueprint in place. Actually, to get it on paper, and to really blueprint it down. So the first lot of modules that you did, which were the setting up modules, I think, one to seven, they were just absolutely phenomenal for me. So, the whole part of really thinking about what makes a good B&B, what makes a good B&B owner, be clear on what your goals are and why you're doing it. All of that section has just been the Bible for me throughout the rest of the course in a way, and also now.

Claire:
Ultimately, identifying those things, and really tuning in on those, working on what was right for us, what we were trying to create, how we wanted our life to be, what we was willing to do and what we was not willing to do type thing helped us shape what the B&B is. I think there's been stages all the way along where you sometimes get a little bit of oh, but we could be doing that or oh, but yeah, why don't we do that? Why are we only taking adults? Why don't we... Actually, when there's those questions that come in either from ourselves or from other people, actually to go back sometimes and really think, okay, so fundamentally, why are we doing this, and what are we creating? It helped pulls us back each time.

Claire:
So, for me, and I didn't expect that going into the course because my mind when I went onto the course, and my mind does think I need to know about the legalities, I need to know how I do certain things, I need to know what is expected. I hadn't given a consideration at that point that there was a step before that, which was really thinking about what is it that you are doing and why are you doing it? So, for me, that was almost suddenly this awareness was there that actually I think it had such an impact on me that it stayed with me all the way along, and I still even refer to it now.

Claire:
The avatars, building the customer avatars, really thinking about the types of customers that you're appealing to, and then going one step further and thinking about, okay, so if that's the customer, what are they looking for? How are you going to meet their needs? So once you fine-tuned where you're coming from, where the customer is coming from, then you start to end up with this ideal kind of scenario.

Claire:
And actually, that in essence has been fundamental as we've been setting up. So, that side of it, for me it was absolutely perfect. I don't think I would have got to that if I hadn't have been led to it because I think my mind would have automatically gone on to the practicalities of okay, so what am I legally got to do? What have I got to apply for? What have I got to buy? What am I got to all those types of things, which are the much more practicals without doing that fundamental part of the beginning. So for me, that was just, that was perfect. But going into the course, I wasn't aware that I was going to get that moment of awareness.VYeah, really good.

Karen:
That's really good to hear Because I think when I first set up the course, end of 2006, the classroom course it was very much around the legalities and the practicalities. And how many sausages to cook for breakfast. I think we always still cover all that, don't we? And the processes before guests arrive and the booking process, what to do when they're there, and what to do when they're left. And so, we walk through those.

Karen:
But it's evolved very much for me in the last 15 or so years is that my real aim for the courses is that people such as yourselves, are actually happy running the B&B, meet your aspirations, and I think that's where that that initial module is really about getting very clear on why you're doing it and what you're doing and the different ways you can run a B&B. So you talked about deciding not to take anyone under the age of 18 because that changes very much the type of B&B you run, doesn't it? As you said, you've made it as a very calming adult-only place where it will be a very different experience for you and your guests if you were focusing on the family friendly.

Claire:
Yeah, exactly. I think being very clear on that then does really help as you're going and also it's such an important checkpoint because there are times when you think, "Oh, maybe we should do this." and then you think, actually no, why we're doing that? Perhaps it was under that added pressure, what we're actually creating is right for the customers that we want to attract to our business. And actually, if they come to the business, we want them to be super happy. And we believe everything that's in place is going to make them very happy. The type of avatars that we picked, they might not be so happy if they checked in and quite rightly there was children running around or... I mean, they would have not maybe chosen that environment for that weekend break or that celebration. So, it's everyone will pick a place to suit the needs for that particular event that they're doing. So, I think it's important that we really maintain that, very much so.

Karen:
It's just having that why there to keep coming back to the why. If you ever get a bit of a wobble about something it happens with me on the online travel agencies. I would often have a bit of a wobble. Maybe I'll get a few more bookings if I use the OTAs. But not sure why, what's my purpose of running a B&B, and how does using the OTAs fit with that? And it doesn't. It keeps you firm, and it keeps you going straight.

Claire:
Yeah. And that's exactly what we've done because our plan is to really do our own marketing through the website, through our social platforms. But we want it to grow slowly. We're not interested in necessarily having lots of volume straight up through the door, in which case, if we were and if we needed to do that, then the online travel agents would probably be the avenue but because we're not, we want people to come, have a really nice time that word of mouth, they go off. In fact, we've just taken a booking this week from word of mouth from one of our earlier bookings. And she posted a picture while she was here on Instagram, and one of her best friends is now booked in.

Claire:
So, it's that type of thing that I think that we want to just gradually build it. So, for us we were doing everything direct. Also, is what keeps it all a little bit within our control. And actually, we can control it a little bit more. We can close off when we need to. We can give ourselves a bit of time, a bit of space. And both of us having gone through 30, 40 years of working in corporate companies where it's go, go, go all the time, actually, we don't want that anymore. We're looking to give a really, really nice customer experience, a really nice customer service. Really enjoy what we're doing, but also to give us that nice life balance, which maybe we were without for so long. So, really important to us.

Karen:
I think because one of the things you were talking about, one of the reasons for doing it was spending more time together as a couple and having a bit more free time and that flexibility. And I think sometimes people will start up a B&B and forget that almost and start working towards it. We've got to be full all the time, we've got to use the OTAs. And so, it sounds like you've got a really good plan in place for maintaining the life balance.

Claire:
Yeah. And it was, but again, I'll go back to the course because it was the course that started to cement that for us. I mean, without that I don't know that we would have quite got there. I think we would have done a little bit of something and then probably ticked away from it, and then realize that at a later date. Actually, that wasn't a great choice. We shouldn't have done that, or that wasn't the ideal thing to do. So, I do think for us, the course really did help us shape that as well or give us more confidence to believe that's the right thing for us. Yeah, I mean, so I suppose it's more of a confidence builder as well that actually you don't have to be opening your doors to everybody. It's actually okay to say no, actually the people that are going to like what we're offering is maybe a smaller segment of people, but actually those people are going to thoroughly enjoy it. And actually to have the confidence to stand with that conviction in a way and run with it. So, that's where the course has really helped.

Karen:
It is, I do find that people are generally quite nervous about doing that niche marketing and feeling like they have to appeal to everybody. And actually, by appealing to everybody, you end up appealing to far fewer people. I always use the example of children, of taking children. So, a lot of people say it feels like they have to accept everybody, babies and children of all ages. And actually by taking children you're automatically excluding a whole load of people who want what you're offering in terms of that the relaxation and the adult only and the calming. And quite often in my experience, it's people who have children at home and have left them with family for the weekend and just want a bit of private time and then don't want to be around someone else's children.

Claire:
Exactly. If you've booked a nice weekend. It might be a birthday celebration, anniversary, or just actually we had a rough time, we just want some chill out time together to actually then go actually put all your arrangements in place for your own children to check in somewhere and then have others is probably not going to tick the box for them. So yeah. That's quite right. That's really our conviction on it. And we should just see how it goes. But we believe that it is definitely the right thing for the customer, but it's also the right thing for us. So, I think the two things will marry up really well.

Karen:
Yeah. Excellent. Okay. So, this is probably a difficult question for you to answer. But you once said to me that you actually enjoyed the online nature of the course. And you couldn't actually imagine taking the classroom course, could you tell me a bit more about that?

Claire:
Okay, so because I never had, I suppose the opportunity of doing the classroom course, it's like an unknown entity to me. So, again, it works a little bit on what you might perceive that to be like as opposed to the reality of what you've experienced. So for me, the online course was just perfect because ultimately all of that information was there, all of that information had been collated. I was in control of the speed that I worked through it. I was in control of how I worked through it. I was very much in control of I wanted to spend longer on a module, I could. Actually, I could literally take myself through that course. And not only that, the time constraints were taken away. You could really just absorb into it and spend some time really thinking about it, and actually then moving on when you were ready.

Claire:
Whereas, I feel if I was in a classroom course, I wouldn't have had that pleasure. Because in the classroom course, you've got two days, and you're covering an awful lot of information. I quite probably appreciate at the end of that two-day course that people went away armed with lots of pamphlets, lots of workbooks, and lots of information that they could refer to. But for me, when you're learning, and when you're taking yourself through something like that, to actually do it in that real time and to actually take your time with it, and to think about it, to sit down and do the exercise. It kind of works.

Claire:
So for me, the online course was super perfect. I didn't feel at the end of a two-day course, "Oh, my God, my head's like, I've got so much to think about." And oh, where am I? What am I going to do next? Because I was doing it over a course of days and weeks, and into months. And actually, even now, I can still refer back to that course and still go back in and check things out, go and investigate something if a query comes up in my mind. For me, it was just the perfect scenario. It really was. For me, the online course I think... And as I say, it's a perceptive thing because I've never done the in-classroom course, but for me I can't imagine how I would have worked my way through it and come to so many of the conclusions that I did do if I was trying to get my brain into gear over that sort of let's say 48 hours.

Karen:
Yeah, a really good impression of how people look after the end of the classroom course on the Sundays. We didn't sleep last night. We're just so much still going on. I think you're right that the classroom course is very intensive. And for the best will in the world, you're just not going to absorb all of the information. So I throw a load of information at people but you're just not going to absorb it in those two days, which I think is... But the online course it allows you to absorb it over time and focus on the bits. I was interested in, with the other 15 people who signed up for the online course at the same time as you did there were a couple I think... So, I've got a dog growling next to me. It's not my tummy. It is actually the dog. Where was I?

Karen:
So, yeah, so we had some people on that launch who had actually just bought a B&B and were just about start where you were 12 months behind them, really. My experience of the classroom course is if you've got people at different stages, people who've got different questions and different focus. And so, for them, it would have been far better, I guess, to go to the later modules in the course. The actual day to day running and the processes in that. Whereas for you, you were able to start at the beginning without getting distracted by that, the how many sausages do serve breakfast question, I think.

Claire:
I think that's quite right. It takes it back. It gives you or the person taking the course online, puts them in more control. I mean, they are more in control of it. So, actually you can go to the modules, which possibly if you're just about to open would be relevant to you. But actually, there's nothing then stopping you to go back and re-going over some of the early ones, which you're fine tuning and things. But I just think that level of control is really good with online course.

Claire:
So, I think and the fact that you can always tap into it. I mean, it's there, you've got your login. The fact that you can go in, so you know we might have had a busy day, painting, decorating, or whatever, and I might have said to myself I've got two hours this evening, and I'm going to hone in on a module. So the fact that you could go in at any time, you can fix it in and work it around other things you're doing was just perfect.

Karen:
That's good to hear. One of the concerns people have I think about the online training is not having that one to one discussion, sort of actually being around other people who are starting up or actually been able to ask me questions. How did you find that?

Claire:
I can't say that it was ever a concern for me because we used to have the calls whether they'd be one to one or sometimes they were group calls depending on who could join at different times. So, I thought that the way that you manage that course, there was always that opportunity for that face time, and for pertinent questions. Plus, you was always very accommodating if there was something burning we could drop you an email, or drop you a question, or put a post it actually, more importantly, the way that the course worked there was the points where you could post a question at the end of a module or you could come in with a comment at the end of a module or feedback at the end of the module.

Claire:
So, there was lots of opportunities of actually putting it out there to get the answer that you might wanted or the clarity that you might have wanted. So, I didn't feel at all through it that I was missing human contact. I think we had plenty of contact throughout it. And actually, the times when we did have contact you could get all of those questions out. And because sometimes some of them were group calls, because other people would have joined as well, if they were available to, you heard it from another perspective as well as somebody else's questions, and sometimes it's quite helpful to you. So, yeah, no, honestly, having done it I wouldn't have had a concern at all with that.

Karen:
It's funny, actually, I feel like I know you much better than I know a lot of people who I've met in person in the classroom course, but we've had a few group calls, haven't we? And a few one-to-ones as well over Zoom and stuff. So, that's great. And there's the Facebook group as well, of course, which I think one of the advantages of the Facebook group is you've got the feedback from other B&B owners because obviously I run the course from my perspective, but then you've got all the other B&B owners who run their B&Bs in different ways, and every B&B is unique, isn't it?

Claire:
Yeah, it is. And in a way that gives you your real life snapshots because actually everyone's running a different style of B&B, and everyone's appealing to different clientele. But actually, every time someone's in there or posting, whether it be a question and answer or whatever, you're seeing it from somebody else's perspective, and it's all real life stuff. So ultimately, again, you're not just looking at a theory of something. You actually are getting into the detail and hearing what people say as they are operational, and the problems or the happiness ever comes up. It's those little moments that you're actually feeling like you're enjoying and see it as well, which is really important.

Karen:
Yeah. That's brilliant. It's good to hear that the online course has worked well for you. You're also in the B&B marketing membership, you joined that as well quite soon.

Claire:
Yes, I did. I joined that, obviously, after going through the course, and as we've been getting closer to, obviously, setting up. So, I've actually thoroughly enjoyed being part of that. I think in a way, there was, I wouldn't say a challenge. But for me, I think it was finding the right pace for me because there was so much that I learned. I can't tell you how much I learned and how many things that I've started to put in place. But because we wasn't at the point of launching, I couldn't actually put a lot of that operational. Whereas, other people were putting things operational, which is great, and it's good to see that happening. And you can have a little team for yourself, and you can try something. But I think for me, the benefits of it are going to come probably August, September, October, when we really start to get into driving our business in the way that we want to.

Claire:
So, hopefully, it's given me a huge grounding to be able to take action with some of the things that we learn and actually start to put some of those things in place. But it was also good that actually you had people at different stages because other people are operational already. Maybe have been running their businesses for several years. And actually they're at the stage where they're trying to develop it more, take it in a different direction. Social media is all very new for lots of people. So, to see other people learning to broach a subject, which maybe doesn't feel terribly natural to them. There's lots that you could learn from watching them do that process as well. So all round, everybody's a bit of a win-win situation.

Claire:
It's a very, I'll say safe, but that sounds funny. It is a very welcoming environment that actually everybody's at very different levels. Some people know social media, and they know marketing. Other people maybe have touched on it. Some people, this is completely new. But it's actually a really nice kind of supportive group that you never feel, oh my gosh, I can't say that or I can't pose that question. I think you're often saying the silliest questions, which might... You're worried about is never a silly question. You might be thinking, "Oh, do I sound silly if I ask this question?" But no, you won't because if you don't know it, you don't know it. And that's what I like about that little group is that it is a real... It's almost like a real little learning group, and everybody's learning at different paces, at different speeds. Actually, everyone's supportive as well, which is pretty fundamental.

Karen:
Yeah, that is good to hear. So yeah, it is that no question is simple. I think with quite a few people there's a lack of confidence when it comes to marketing and a lack of trying things out. I think that's what we try and aim for in the group is to encourage people to try things in a safe environment and give support, and as with the course, I guess, all the training modules are there for when you are ready to dive into it as well, [inaudible 00:46:10].

Claire:
I think it's a bit like... I think it's as you say with the course. But also with the marketing group what fundamentally is a real bonus is actually there is so much information there for you at the tip of your fingers type thing. I mean, actually it would take an awful long time as an individual to go about and find the ways, the whiteboards, the answers. We can all look on Google, we can all ask questions, we can go on Facebook and ask business type questions on the business one. But actually, all of that is super time consuming. So, actually, by being either party of the online course, or being part of something like the marketing group, it actually is almost bringing a whole directory that's already been all bundled together for you, and actually then presented to you in really neat modules or units.

Claire:
However, people like to think of them, but they're all neat, and the information is there for you. So, actually, it's just great because it's like I've got this huge encyclopedia now of things. I haven't got to go out and use lots of valuable time and trying to find those answers. So, for me both of the things are super supportive. Because when you're setting up a business I'm sure people that are in that there's so many things that you are trying to think about, and so many things you're trying to do that time becomes a little bit important.

Claire:
Actually, the thing that then tends to drop off is finding the time to investigate things because actually that takes too long. So, you sometimes then have to go for a quick option. Oh, actually, I just got to make a decision. So that's my decision. And then you've got actually so much more information there that I think it... Yeah, it's just really super helpful [crosstalk 00:47:54] from people like yourself who are knowledgeable and having experienced it. There are real life situations that you talk about as well in the course or you share with us. So all of those things. It's not just a theoretical because we know that you've done it, and you've run the business as with other people on this marketing group. They are live running businesses now. So, it's all very, very valuable insightful information.

Karen:
Yeah, it's learning. It's learning from people's mistakes, isn't it? As well as what they're doing well, and I am more than happy to share all of my mistakes if it helps someone not to make the mistakes, same mistake. It's funny what you're saying about Google. I always think with Google, and quite often I hear people say this is I hadn't even thought to ask that question because when you're going to Google, or you're going to a Facebook group, you have to know what question to ask. I think that's one of the things by doing a course is you can sometimes get, I hadn't even thought about that. It's a bit like you when you're talking about module one about thinking about the whys and the types of customer and that sort of thing. So, brilliant. Okay, I think we're coming to the end now. Really useful stuff, and thank you so much for doing that on this, a rather muggy Friday morning now. But is there anything else that you'd like to add?

Claire:
No, I don't think so. I think we've covered lots. I mean, I'll finish by saying that for me it has been one of the most valuable parts of setting up the business. So, for me, I can't imagine being in this position having not even gone through the course or been party to some of the group work that we've done. And so, it's been it's been fundamental really, and I'm super appreciative of it. I actually think I would highly recommend it because for me I wouldn't be where I am now, I don't think, or I wouldn't have got here quite so easily, or so quickly, with some of the planning if it hadn't been for the things that we picked up along the way. So no, thank you.

Karen:
That's brilliant. So, well, thank you very much, Claire. It's been a pleasure working with you.

Claire:
I'm going to keep you posted on how we go.

Karen:
Yeah, sure. No, I'm not going to let you escape and disappear no matter how busy you get. I should be hustling you all the time see how things are going. So, how do people find out about your B&B, Instagram, Facebook, do you [crosstalk 00:50:16]?

Claire:
We've got an Instagram account. We've got a Facebook account. Both of them are under The Corner Broadstairs, and we've got the website, which we're working on, or have been working on for some few months now. But hopefully that should be able to go live, we're thinking towards the very end of this month or the earlier week of August. What's been the holding up point on that is getting the final photography and final pictures that we want to put on there because we're so busy getting all the rooms set and done and waiting for final bits of furniture and furnishings to come. So, that has slowed us down slightly, but I think it should go live. So, we'll have our own website, which would just be The Corner Broadstairs. And yeah, and all the details will be there.

Karen:
Brilliant. And you'll be posting on Instagram and using that as a marketing tool?

Claire:
Yeah. So, I mean-

Karen:
[crosstalk 00:51:11].

Claire:
Well, we used Instagram and Facebook very much when we started the renovation. So, it really started as a renovation project. And so, I started to play around with it and keep people updated on the renovation and what we were doing. And of course, about a year ago, I started to move into more of the fact of sharing that we were going to open up as a B&B. So, that was a little bit of a shift. And we were doing quite a lot earlier this year, which was great through the marketing group, and joining quite a few different challenges and posting quite a lot. But if I'm honest, it was brilliant because we're getting so much interest, we're getting quite a lot of people sign up, we've got quite a lot of people waiting on our newsletters and things now as well.

Claire:
But ultimately, it was pulling us in a little bit of a direction because you start to feel a little bit like, "Gosh, there's so many people waiting to hear from us. We need to now actually tell them when we're opening. We need to tell them when they can book because we were getting so many messages about when can we book? When can we do that?" And actually, it was still a bit of an indefinite end really, because we still didn't quite know when we were going to get there. But actually, we decided that listen to take our foot off the pedal a little bit. Let's put our energies into making sure that the house is 100% finished. We've done our tests and then we can go a little bit more back into the marketing social side of it.

Claire:
So, the minute the website is up and running I will start posting on and advising everyone or letting everyone know that. And then I'm planning to do a little bit of an A to Z type post of The Corner Broadstairs to try to drop little bits of information out about obviously what the customer offering is, etc. So yeah, so I've got lots of things planned. And hopefully, I can kickstart some of those from August, and I see it as being into September or October because actually we're building something for longevity really. We start to build the working to driving customers in for next year as well.

Karen:
Excellent. Well, that sounds fantastic. I just want to say thank you very much again for your time this morning.

Claire:
No, you're welcome. Thank you.

Karen:
And I look forward to seeing... Well, just I know I can see already it's going to be very successful, and I think it's going to be a lifestyle you enjoy. So, fabulous. Thank you very much, Claire.

Claire:
Yeah, thank you, Karen. Catch up soon.

Karen:
Yeah.

 

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