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Buying the Right Bed and Breakfast

August 21, 2002

by Kit Cassingham

Choosing the location for your B&B business not only affects your B&B's success, but also your happiness and satisfaction. Your market niche, a reflection of you, impacts your location choice; another great argument for focusing on your inn's market niche.
Matching Your Personality to Your Inn Location

In July I attended my high school reunion. It was an incredibly good time. My hostess and her husband are CPAs and commented one night that one of the biggest reasons they see their client businesses fail is people not matching their personalities to their business location or style. As I pondered that I realized I had both experienced that personally and observed it in some of my clients.

I ran an inn in the Northwest for several months early in my Sage Blossom Consulting career. As I made plans to move there I was aware of what a marvelous opportunity it was going to be. And it was, though for different reasons than I had anticipated -- or understood at the time.

What I hadn't anticipated in moving there was a clash of styles. My city style (though I think of myself as living in a large town, not in a city and thus being fairly laid back) didn't mesh with the island style. I learned about "island time". It might be better described as "resort time" because I have subsequently seen it in a variety of resort-type locations. When an appointment was set for 11:00 AM, that really meant 11:00-11:30. That was something I couldn't adjust to and those around me couldn't adjust to my frustration with meeting times. That lack of understanding of "island time" was part of a barrier between my co-workers and me.

A client from Manhattan had always wanted to live in Colorado. After getting laid off she decided that was the time to marry her B&B dream and living in Colorado. She was so New York in her personality and style that I urged her to work with that for her market niche rather than to try to gloss over it and to pretend she was a native. The suggestion was to have the different boroughs or bridges of New York be the themes for her rooms and to offer "New York" breakfasts. She wanted to do a Colorado theme though, from top to bottom. She didn't work with her strengths -- knowing and being New York. She never got the hang of the Colorado style -- a factor, I'm sure, in her inn's ultimate failure.

During summers of my college years, and the year following graduation, I lived in Boston and Philadelphia. I loved my experiences and time there. Cities are large and diverse enough that my western ways were almost irrelevant in my public life. I was involved with an east-coast preppy who couldn't appreciate and accept my western ways; they became critical in my private life.

You need to be compatible and in step with your microcosm. Another client and his partner developed a beautiful five-diamond inn. When developing their B&B, they recreated their favorite hotel rooms from the finest hotels around the world. Their furnishings were perfect and expensive. The inn was owned by two partners; one designed and funded the property, the other ran the B&B. The innkeeper's service was casual and homey. Fortunately I was his first guest so was able to help polish his breakfast presentation to match the inn's style (using beautiful containers for breakfast cereal instead of the boxes on the table, garnishing the plates, putting a cream pitcher on the table instead of the carton, etc.) He never changed his dressing style though -- greeting guests in frayed and soiled cut offs and t-shirts set the wrong tone. The style differences between the two owners caused enough stress they decided to sell the B&B to save their relationship.

In my seminars I focus on market niche. Location is an integral aspect of your market niche. One approach I suggest to my clients is to understand themselves and what connects them to their diverse collection of friends. If you don't go through that exercise you may end up trying to project something in your B&B that isn't you. Your guests will be able to sense, if not actually see, the conflict between what is and what is projected. That creates an uncomfortable feeling that keeps guests from coming back or referring business -- which accounts for a HUGE part of a successful inn's bookings. Make the effort to understand who you are and choose your location accordingly. If you want to be the Angler's Inn you want to be in the country, not the city. If you are the Ballet Inn you likely want to be in the city, not the country.

The exercise isn't easy and it takes time, but it's well worth the effort and time it takes so that you have a clear picture of where you should be. The effort will give your B&B business support for its success and growth.




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