Many travelers dream of quitting their jobs and running their own inn or bed and breakfast. The perks certainly appeal—there’s a romantic allure to being your own boss, creating an idyllic getaway setting, and meeting travelers from around the world on a regular basis.
Romantic notions aside, though, running a bed and breakfast is synonymous with opening your own small business, requiring savvy financial planning, the ability to juggle multiple roles (including hostess, chef, janitor, and customer service), and a willingness to put in long hours. For anyone contemplating making such a major life change, it always helps to try before you commit. Luckily, plenty of resources are available for aspiring innkeepers and B&B owners alike.
Shadow an Innkeeper
There’s no better way to get a sense of the job than shadowing an expert – in this case, the B&B owners, property managers, and innkeepers themselves. These “learning vacation” options will vary by inn, with some offering pre-packaged getaways or seminar programs – check the websites of the inns that interest you to see if any apprenticeship packages are available, as well as the listings on BedandBreakfast.com for current offerings.
While you’re researching, understand that times of year, and lengths of stay, will vary based on innkeepers’ schedules and room availability. Be willing to go where the apprenticeship programs are, rather than having a set destination in mind. Also, be prepared for varying forms of payment: I’ve seen apprenticeship options where you pay for your room and training as though you were a regular guest, as well as barter systems where your work covers your room, board, and training. No two cases/inns may be alike.
Take a Class
A quick Google search of “B&B classes” resulted in more than two million hits, with programs run both by higher education institutions and local businesses alike. I found current offerings held throughout the United States and Europe, as well as South Africa. Whether you’re looking for a full course program or a one-time seminar, you’ll be able to find a resource to fit. Classes range from small business prep to cooking courses, full-immersion internship programs, and seminar-length overviews of the nuts and bolts of the hospitality industry. You’ll also find a host of learn-at-home educational resources for no charge: Taking advantage of these checklists, Q&As, and more is a great way to determine if this travel-centered life change is for you, before you commit to any fee-based bed-and-breakfast-specific courses or apprenticeship programs.
Chat with an Expert
For a nominal fee, you can reach out to current B&B owners, property managers, and innkeepers to get expert advice from those currently working in the industry. At press time, networking consultations on PivotPlanet started at $90 per hour, with phone, video, and in-person conference options available. You can also find a wealth of information at the website for the Professional Association of Innkeepers International, including upcoming events, live-chat forums, and webinars: Aspiring Innkeeper memberships start at $89. You can also follow innkeepers’ personal blogs and Twitter accounts to get free regular professional advice on owning your own bed and breakfast.
Image courtesy Roger Kirby
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