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Coping through Winter

Winter snow

Down on the English Riviera, snow is a once in a generation occurrence. This year saw a heavy snow fall, and although it was gone completely within 48 hours, the locals who hadn't seen the like for forty years or more were pretty shocked to get it.

In the B&B trade, it doesn't matter where in the UK you are or what the weather is like, you are more than likely going to experience a downturn in business during the winter months. Some will fair better than others and it does depend on your target market and location. If you are in the middle of London, or you cater to business people in a busy town, or you've mastered a "turkey and tinsel" brigade and accept groups for Christmas celebrations any time from October to March then you'll probably be ok.

For many of us, this is not the case and having set ourselves up in a busy tourist area, few tourists want to be travelling and staying with you in bad weather. Some of you will close completely as it's not worth being on hand and having fresh food in and the heating on just in case of that one booking every few days. Even if visitors do come, they may find many of the tourist attractions, such as National Trust properties closed up for winter. And near us, many restaurants are owner run and so they take a break too.

Winters are of course useful to us B&Bers. You'll be wanting a rest and a break yourselves after a long hard summer season, and the chance of a lie in instead of getting up before 6am everyday is bliss...for a while. A holiday somewhere hot is always good.

You'll soon have itchy feet - but don't worry, your to do list of things you didn't have time for during season will be as long as your arm. Even without any major building or renovation projects, you'll probably need to touch up or re-paint common areas. It's amazing how knocked about painted walls can get and even a scuff or hand print won't be acceptable if you're working at a certain level of quality.

Then there's the cleaning. A daily clean just won't have been enough to keep on top of things throughout Summer and you'll now be in deep clean mode. Each bedroom will need systematically taking apart. Duvets and mattress protectors will need washing, beds and wardrobes moving and cleaning under and behind. Carpets and curtains can be washed. Any every inch of the room and its contents will need cleaning so it's Spring fresh.

If you're part of any social groups or associations they'll have kicked in with their social events, coffee mornings and AGMs, and it's awards season too so you'll be dragged away from your painting and cleaning at regular intervals. We find we have to start declining events as there's just so many we never get anything done...and then there's the cost. I knew we'd get round to this thorny subject eventually.

Winter brings another massive issue - money. Sure, in the middle of July or August you didn't give money a second thought and bought whatever you liked whenever you liked but suddenly someone has turned the tap off.

You may start getting some bookings in January for later in the year and if you have the sense to take deposits then it will give you a trickle of income to help you out but the

Winter months can be tough.

If you're in a "proper" job now - imagine your last wage being in October, which has gone down since September and again since August. Then for November and December you have nothing at all. January to March you have only the Government's Income Support. How would you cope?

Afterall, the mortgage and loan still need paying, your electricity and gas are higher in the colder and darker months, then there's the holiday you took in November, and the Christmas parties and then presents for family. Don't forge the renovation project - the new bathroom in Room 2, the new carpet in Room 4, and the new cooker. Then there's the insurance renewal, some adverts too, your laundry are still charging you "minimums" even though you're closed and your mobile contract has ended. And just as you think you've coped - your VAT and tax bills arrive!

It soon mounts up!

Winter can be a difficult period for many B&Bers and no matter how well off you feel at the end of the season, it's not long before you're counting down the days until Easter.

I can help you through Winter. My B&B Training Course covers how much you realistically need to make in Summer to take you through Winter without going bankrupt. It goes through all the expenses to expect but also ways to save money in the Summer and how to work with best practice to ensure you're not throwing money away or spending it unnecessarily.

It is also important to think about your pricing and have a good business plan in place with realistic financial projections before even moving in. You would be surprised how mahy B&Bers pick their prices out of thin air or just copy their competition without assessing their worth or even checking if they are making any money. If you are going to remain open throughout some or all of Winter then you also need to be aware of your minimum opening costs and if you are breaking even if you only have one guest in here and there.

Finances and pricing are important aspects of running a B&B but are often overlooked or ingnored. Don't be someone just scraping by. Let me help. Invest in one of my training courses. Take a look at my website and get booked onto my next course.

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