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Innkeeping Mistakes #2: Sloth, Wrath, Gluttony, Stupidity

June 24, 2004

by Kit Cassingham

A new way of looking at the way you run your B&B business is by using the "seven deadly sins" as a focal point. Reminder: take care of writing business plans for your bed and breakfast businesses, so you can focus you thoughts on better customer service and solid business practices. Of the seven deadly sins, sloth may be the most obvious, though not necessarily the worst "sin" to express. Wrath clearly can get in the way with guests, hurting your business. Gluttony should be your aim when it comes to good health, not for eating inn profits. And the new "eighth sin", stupidity, is a sin almost everyone is afflicted with at one time or another; keep your eyes open for that and shut it off as quickly as possible so that you keep your business growing and profiting.


The Seven Deadly Sins Of Innkeeping


Part 2


Last month I started this thread of thought about the "Seven Sins of Innkeeping". It was spawned from a speech my husband gave several years ago. In review, the classic "Seven Sins" are avarice, lust, envy, pride, sloth, wrath, and gluttony. Last month I covered the first four "sins" in this list, so this month I'll continue with the last three "sins" and introduce a "new" sin.

  • SLOTH

  • It can contribute to a dirty or untidy innkeeper greeting their guests after check-in time. Sometimes I think sloth is the result of not being in the right situation -- too little help, not the right size or location, problems in your personal life, or even health issues. When you find yourself being slothful, step back and take a look to figure out what's going on so that you can try to fix it before it damages your business.


    Sloth Video

      Sloth can also impact aspiring innkeepers. Those who don't research the industry or who don't learn how they fit into their B&B dream often make mistakes in their purchase. One couple bought a house their agent told them where they would be allowed to open their B&B, based on the fact it had been an assisted living home before. None of them verified zoning with the city before the purchase and the hassles associated of "undoing" the purchase were painful and time consuming.

      Even those who don't perform adequate due diligence when buying a B&B inn are demonstrating sloth, and often end up having problems with their purchase. That attitude, the attitude of sloth, can hurt you before you even get started. Watch it just as diligently once you have your B&B too so it doesn't "bite" you, as discussed above.

    • WRATH

    • Ire. Anger. You wouldn't think that people involved in the B&B industry would have that emotion. I feel it's mostly experienced and expressed by people who got into the industry with insufficient research, preparation, and/or funds. Being in the wrong business, choosing the wrong location or property, or having an inadequate money supply can cause or add to stress. Stress causes crankiness. And crankiness can be exhibited in a variety of ways, wrath being a common one (though the other sins can also result from that stress). Sometimes wrath is just a reaction to another person, a reaction that has no more explanation than a base-level response, a chemical reaction. When you find that happening it's best for you and everyone around you to step aside and let your partner or assistant handle the person. We all have that potential; knowing how to respond when it arises is smart business.


      Wrath Video

      I witnessed innkeeper berate an employee within earshot of an inn guest. The look on a nearby guest's face told me volumes about that sin. Another innkeeper, being surprised by guests bringing their child to the inn (a child-free inn), unleashed her wrath on them. Other guests observing this demonstration were uncomfortable by the outburst, negatively affecting their visits. We're in the hospitality industry to make people feel comfortable, not uncomfortable. Wrath is out of place in a B&B.

      What do you do when you find yourself feeling wrath? Take a break. Maybe a short break will be sufficient to drain the wrath from you, but maybe it's time to take a long break. Something is wrong and out of balance in your life when you feel wrath and unleash your wrath on others. Before you ruin your business, and maybe life, you better fix the problem causing wrath to build in you.

      Do your homework. Pay attention to what you learn about yourself in regards to this industry. Don't overextend yourself when you buy. Following this advice, and that of other B&B professionals, will go a long way in helping you stay out of the wrath's grasp.

    • GLUTTONY

    • Eating too much, especially of the food you serve your guests for breakfast and snacks, can be a problem among innkeepers. I have seen so many innkeepers who have gained weight, getting that "Aunt Bea" look. You don't need the weight gain, the associated health risks, or the expense of eating like a glutton.

      I've heard B&B innkeepers discuss their guests' eating habits, saying that people don't like to diet while on vacation. I see loads of cheese, whole cream for coffee, as well as piles of sugar and starches being served for breakfast -- and I hear guests "complaining" about the fattening food and unbalanced meal. One innkeeping family I stayed with, bless their "sugar-picking" hearts, offered banana splits at 10pm every night, for guests and themselves -- and didn't warn you about that before dinner. Fun, but fattening. Offering special foods (banana splits, cream laden coffee or fruit, cheesy eggs) is a gracious gesture to make to your guests, but give them the option of choosing something more healthy.


      Gluttony Video

      What happened to fruit, whole and juice, for breakfast? Many innkeepers do include these items on their menu but many don't. The inn goers I seem to join for breakfast talk about wanting light, healthy fare for breakfast. They want to cut back on fat and protein and increase their fruit and grain intake. What a "un-glutton" attitude! (On the other hand, plenty of people are on Atkins-like diets. Can you accommodate guests who are avoiding carbs?)

      I think innkeepers should be more careful about what they serve to their guests, but they should also be careful about what they eat. Eat sensibly (food selection and quantity). As an innkeeper you have so much potential drain on your energy, you need to fuel yourself wisely. A balanced diet will help de-stress your day, which will help your mood, spirit, and physical well being. Getting fresh air and exercise will help you maintain your health an innkeeper energy. Being a glutton for health is the only type of gluttony you should allow yourself.

      The suggested "new" sin, from my husband's speech to the Mensa meeting, was:

    • STUPIDITY

    • I have seen more examples of this sin than any other, maybe all others combined. I really get a laugh out of the questions I'm asked or situations I see that to me say "stupidity". For example, early in my real estate career I received a call from a potential buyer who wanted a 10 room inn in Vail. She was willing to pay up to $200,000. Oh, and she didn't want to be in an area with much snow. Yeah, right! That potential buyer was from southern California and evidently wanted to bring her loved climate with her.

      I often hear aspiring innkeepers talk about buying inns that are about two hours away from the city and have year-round business. I can't be sure about other parts of the country, but in Colorado that just doesn't work. Do you want year-round business or built-in breaks for maintenance and vacations?


      Stupidity Video

      Another item on many wish lists is to buy a small where you can run it yourself and net $100,000 per year. Netting $100,000 after all expenses are paid is rare in small inns.

      Be realistic with your expectations to avoid looking stupid. Do your homework so you completely understand the reality of your B&B dream. Education: take seminars -- more than one, from more than one place so you get multiple points of view. It's a minor investment that could help you avoid huge mistakes. This is a great career and lifestyle, if you do your homework and get a good fit.

      I've seen some innkeepers display their fair share of stupidity too. Have you ever stayed at a B&B inn where there was a no smoking policy -- yet there were ashtrays and matches scattered around the inn? Or an inn that doesn't allow children yet there are cribs or small futons for guests? That kind of mixed message confuses guests and creates situations where your rules are broken.

      The act of stupidity that scares me is innkeepers at city inns who don't lock their front doors. I know one innkeeper who displayed that kind of stupidity; a homeless person walked in one day, lifted a set of keys from the also-unlocked office and proceeded to let himself in whenever he wanted. The homeless man slept in a large walk-in closet in a guestroom, avoiding observation until one night when an unsuspecting guest decided to hang her clothes and saw his feet where he lay sleeping. How fortunate that she wasn't hurt. How fortunate she didn't sue the innkeepers.

      Keeping two sets of books is also a business style that reflects great stupidity, and any inn buyer who believes the "better" set of books is also displaying stupidity; if the seller lies to Uncle Sam, who can hurt them, why wouldn't they lie to the buyer too -- a person who can't hurt them? Uncle Sam may not get too upset with creative bookkeeping when it comes to expenses, but he has zero sense of humor when it comes to lying about income. Build your business, pay your taxes, and sell your inn for a profit -- that's thwarting that "eighth sin" of stupidity. And you'll ultimately make much more money than the relative pennies you save from tax savings.

      I've tried to have some fun tying the "Seven Sins" -- or is that the "Eight Sins" -- of innkeeping? I hope you had fun with the analogy while you learned more about the industry. Hospitality isn't an easy balance, but balance is needed for success. Pay attention to your strengths and weaknesses, and try to find balance so you'll be a happy innkeeper, an innkeeper who is almost void of the "eight sins". That balance will also help you be a successful innkeeper.




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