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Organizational Structure For Your B&B Inn

March 9, 2008

by Kit Cassingham

Before I focused on bed and breakfast innkeeping as a career and lifestyle for me I didn't think of it as the kind of business that had an organizational structure. But with experience and management training I quickly came to see there indeed is structure in this business -- and the better the structure the better the inn's success. A good approach to your organization helps with stress management -- an important tool in your survival kit.

When I first started learning about innkeeping I was shown that the typical organizational structure was like a triangle. The boss is at the top, employees and vendors are in the middle and the clients are at the bottom; you know, it all flows down hill. But the innkeeping organizational structure was an inverted triangle, with the guests at the top and the innkeeper at the bottom. As I taught my early students about the innkeeping structure I realized that was one big reason innkeepers burned out so readily; they were trying to keep a top-heavy structure balanced and they had the weight of the world on their shoulders.

As that thought was developing in my mind, I learned about the "New Traditional" approach to organizational structures -- a rectangle where every element is equal to the others in a stable structure. This made more sense to me for the innkeeper's sanity and well being. That felt much healthier and more productive. Part of what I liked about that was it acted as a reminder that you aren't alone in ensuring a guest's positive experience while at your inn; the guest has as much responsibility for their experience as you do. There are guests who feel you can do no wrong while others (fortunately a rare guest) feels you can do no right -- no matter how wonderful the inn and details are. It's important to remember you can't please everyone all the time and that occasionally there will be a guest who is mismatched to your inn and guest experience.

Later a different concept came about during one of my seminars while I was discussing this topic -- the "Ideal Innkeeping Structure". An attendee felt that the problem with the rectangle as the innkeeping organizational structure was that the guest and the boss (or innkeeper) didn't touch or interact. Hence the circle -- or sphere -- was born as the new ideal innkeeping organizational structure.

The innkeeping structure acknowledges that everyone is an equal part of the inn experience -- your staff, your guests, and you the innkeeper. You set the stage for the experience and then everyone that enters the inn brings their own energy off of which everyone plays. This approach may help innkeepers avoid burnout. You can't be responsible for everyone's experience -- though you definitely should maintain some control. All players have responsibility for the success of the experience. This is a very important dynamic of giving. Maybe you can also think of yourself as the "inngiver".

Let's look at two definitions to help you further decide what your style will be.

  • To keep:
    to observe, regard
    to support, care for, maintain
    to manage
  • To give:
    to present as a gift
    to exchange or trade
    to commit
Both innkeeping styles are valuable in a hospitality environment. Which one fits your personality better and the guest experience you are going to offer. Which fits better into your innkeeping organizational structure?




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