April 2, 2015

The Value of Professional Events

If you've been reading my columns or if you've read my book, Running a Bed & Breakfast For Dummies, than you know the value I place on conferences for networking, education, maintaining professionalism, and having fun. I feel so strongly about it I sometimes feel like a broken record; so rather than hear it from me, I wanted to share what a Non-B&B Owner learned at a recent conference:

The conference that the author attended was BBAV (Bed & Breakfast Association of Virginia), however, I think her tips apply to all professional events. With her permission, I’m sharing some of them here:

  1. Arrive early and stay late. This allows you to build new relationships, make new friends, laugh, learn, have fun, ask questions and get answers.
  2. Listen, more than talk. You certainly should ask questions of fellow innkeepers; however, when you listen you also learn from their success and struggles which may help you in your business or more importantly help you avoid problems in your business.
  3. Embrace the millennials. This generation has buying power. Connecting to them is a key to the future of a sustainable or growing business, and one of the biggest factors they look for when purchasing is social proof – what others are saying about your inn. This means a testimonial page on your website and reviews.
  4. You can’t fake happiness. Finding balance between work, family, and the rest of your life is hard when you live and work your business, yet guests pick up on stressed out innkeepers. A balanced, happy innkeeper makes for happy guests.
Here is a link to the full article: 5 Lessons I Learned As a Non-B&B Owner at the BBAV Conference.

Sure all of these things are easier said than done. However, I have never met an innkeeper who attended a conference that didn't get something out of it and return to their inn more energized and excited to implement fresh ideas. If you have a state association, check in to find out when their next conference is. Next year there are also numerous national conferences that are in the planning stages, so be on the lookout and be open to making an investment in yourself and your business.

For more on networking, read chapter 8 of Running a Bed & Breakfast for Dummies.

February 27, 2015

Overcommitted Anonymous

Recently I was kidding with an innkeeper friend about my “no problem”.  I find that I always feel I have more to do then time in the day to do it, and I wonder how much I bring this on myself by not setting boundaries.  She told me all of the things she herself had recently gotten involved with and laughed saying IF she had the time she would start Overcommitted Anonymous.  While this might seem funny, I think having too much on our plates is a common problem for many business owners, and I would imagine that for people who are an integral part of their communities (the way innkeepers are) it’s prevalent. 

So what can a business owner do to try and take control of their time management?  For me I found not having my email always turned on to be a time saver.  Until I did this, I never realized how intruding email is.  By only looking at email at set times during the day, I avoid the constant interruption of stopping what I am doing to read an email that doesn't need to be answered immediately or that doesn’t require a response.  Instead, I have uninterrupted time to devote to the project at hand.  The exception for innkeepers would be for emails from guests needing something immediately.  The urgency of most guest emails is eliminated with online reservations.  Even so, are you doing all you can do to avoid distractions?  For instance, do you use the same email for guests and your personal correspondences?  Keeping them separate will allow you to only be interrupted by potentially important business emails.

What about delegating?  Does it seem no one can do the task at hand as well as you?  I find this, but I have also realized how much more I can get done when I employ others to help.  Whether it’s to clean, write a blog post, or do the books, all business owners need to think about getting help when they need it.  If this frees you up to do something more important for yourself or your business, it’s a great investment; however, as small business owners carefully managing expenses it’s something we can wait too long to do.
If Overcommitted Anonymous is started will you be a member, or do you have control of your time and your business?  As always, it remains a privilege and a pleasure to promote your inn (and I didn’t check my email once while I was writing this column)!

For more information on time management, read Chapter 16  in Running a Bed & Breakfast For Dummies.