I often get asked if you need to be a couple to run a B&B. The quick answer would be no, there doesn’t need to be two of you, and plenty of people run B&Bs on their own either because they’re single or perhaps their partner has a separate job and has nothing to do with the B&B.
There are lots of disadvantages to being on your own though and these probably outweigh any advantages I can think of.
Before you even buy a B&B, the process may be made easier by having a partner. You may have more money as a deposit between you (banks generally want a minimum 30% deposit!).
Having a partner gives you a contingency if you’re ill or something happens to you, thus giving the bank more faith that the business would still keep running. There are times when I’m not feeling well or perhaps my back is playing up that Julian can take up the slack. Likewise, if we’re really quiet and Julian needs a rare lie in to catch up on sleep, I could get up and do breakfast and check outs on my own.
There are tough times occasionally. It may feel like everything’s going wrong at once – a flood, an awkward guest, a stained carpet, things tend to come in threes. It’s at times like this it’s good to have someone else for support and to help each other through it. When we had the devastating flood at our last hotel (£40,000 of damage when hundreds of gallons of water leaked from attic to cellar in the middle of the building) I really thought that would be the end of the business. Julian and I supported each other through those tough times.
There are certain jobs you like doing and others you don’t. Between you, you can split them up and make sure you do mainly the things you like and are good at. I personally don’t really like hoovering so Julian does it all. And there’s no point giving me power tools to put up shelves, TV brackets, curtain poles etc. Luckily Julian has all the skills required. We make a good team because we both have our own strengths. If you’re on your own, you may have to spend money bringing in professionals if you’re not skilled in certain areas.
It’s difficult to say the next point without sounding sexist, but it could be just as true for a man who’s more elderly or less well built. There’s a lot of heavy lifting in the B&B game. You don’t realise how heavy ten super king duvet covers are until you try and carry them up two flights of stairs. An average laundry delivery even for our small B&B with six bedrooms can mean ten trips up the stairs with heavy loads twice a week. Then there’s the furniture – moving it to clean behind and under, or when you clean the carpets or decorate and need all the furniture out of a room. When one of you has to hold a 50” TV in the air for ages whilst the other attaches the TV bracket it can hurt. There have been times when Julian and I have struggled, and we often wonder during those situations how male/female couples cope when we are struggling as two men.
If there’s only you in your business, this will naturally limit the size of the B&B as you’ll only be able to physically clean a certain amount of rooms or cook a certain amount of breakfasts. Three rooms is about the max unless you’re either cutting corners, cutting standards (like cleanliness), reducing customer service (like making guests wait a long time for breakfast), or adapting the business to suit you. By this I mean you may offer a room only option to avoid breakfast issues, or you may make it a budget B&B or hostel type so there’s much less cleaning – if you don’t provide tea trays, toiletries, common areas, flowers, baths, throws, cushions etc, it all saves valuable cleaning time.
Emergencies – they do happen occasionally. So do family gatherings. Once in a while there’s a reason for Julian or I to travel back home to the midlands. It may be a once in 20 year reunion, parents’ golden wedding anniversary, or a relative in hospital. As soon as we know, we can limit any further bookings and for a short while (usually less than 24 hours) one of us can go away if needed and the other cope. If you’re on your own you would need to consider a contingency and how you would deal with such circumstances.
Of course, we haven’t discussed staff, and if you have a good team of staff and particularly if you have someone like an assistant manager who can work alongside you, supporting you and dealing with some of the issues that come up, then you’re in a much stronger position. The downside of staff, particularly someone like a manager is that you will need to pay them. Cleaners and waiting staff will often be on zero hours or casual contracts. Therefore when you’re quiet, you won’t be paying them. If you have a manager, they’re likely to be salaried and a permanent employee. As a result you may be spending high amounts on their wages during the winter months when you’re very quiet or even closed. Don’t forget that permanent staff will also attract extra costs like National Insurance, payroll, maternity benefits, sick pay, holiday pay and so on.
Part of our reasoning behind running a business together was to spend more time together. It also meant we could get a dog (little Patsy the miniature Schnauzer!) as we’d be at home all day with her. Having a B&B offers us the lifestyle we want.
Whether you’re thinking of buying a B&B or starting a B&B either on your own or with someone else, you need to attend my bed and breakfast training course to ensure you have all the facts before you start. Hit the ground running after attending the training course.