We have been innkeepers for going on almost ten years now, which is as mind boggling to me as to any of our repeat guests who have been coming to see us for that long. One of the things that has emerged over these last ten years are the life lessons learned through innkeeping. There are many, and I do believe that they are not exclusive to innkeepers. They are things that I think can be applied to anyone’s life and to any profession. Here are just a few that are worth mentioning and thinking about.
1) Patience is a virtue. While this seems like a silly catchphrase, it is definitely true. Guests, weather, every day occurrences, all of these will test your patience and test it often. Learning how to work through this and to maintain your cool is key to not only providing good customer service, but to maintaining a certain level of sanity. If you lose your cool, you not only will impact the comfort of your guests, but in the long run it’ll wear on you and make you unhappy.
2) Make your health and wellness a priority. Innkeepers don’t get paid sick days. Heck, there is no such thing as calling in sick. Most of the time you just have to suck it up and deal with it. That’s not to say that we haven’t had our fair share of medical issues, including two surgeries over the last 3 years during which Jeff had to play solo innkeeper, but the vast majority of the time I am pleased to say, knock on wood, that we have both been able to stay remarkably healthy. This work is physical, there are no bones about it. We are on our feet for long hours, run around a lot, do a lot of bending and lifting and sometimes don’t get a lot of sleep during peak season. The only way to sustain that kind of schedule is to make sure you eat well, exercise and in our case take some supplements to maintain our basic health and well being. It’s worked thus far and I suspect it’ll continue working as long as we are diligent about it.
3) Take time off. No matter how much you love your job, love people and love your life, you have to decompress. For us that means we have to physically remove ourselves from the inn or we will find something to do. I think this is particularly applicable to parents with small children. Giving yourselves the permission to go away and focus on just you is absolutely necessary if not for physical well being, more so for emotional and spiritual well being. Even just a couple of days does wonders to boost your morale and make you that much more efficient at what you do.
4) We are all human and by that very nature we all make mistakes. Try as I may to do everything right all the time, because I am an absolute perfectionist, I am quite fallible and am often reminded of this. It is humbling when you burn something or spill something or realize you forgot to do something in a room before check in. Most of the time, if you are honest about making a mistake and you apologize, people will not only forgive you but appreciate your being human. This has proven itself time after time to be the truth.
5) Be prepared for everything and even then, be prepared for the unexpected. No matter how much we budget, plan and prepare for things, something always comes up. It can often be deflating and feel like a real setback. Sometimes I blame it on my beautiful historic money pit of a home, but in reality, all homeowners deal with the unexpected. Heck, all humans deal with the unexpected. Life is what happens while we all make plans and this is something I know to be truer than anything else. You have no control over what may happen. The only thing you have control over is how you are going to deal with it. Do you fall apart and go hide from it or do you face it head on and then move on? I’ve found that fretting and freaking out doesn’t do anything except to make me anxious and not feel well. When I gather my wits about me, evaluate the problem and then come up with solutions I tend to be a lot more effective and a lot happier.
Innkeeping is at its very core an exercise in humanity. It often offers the opportunity for us to evaluate who we are and to try to become better innkeepers and better people. We as innkeepers are reflected in the eyes and in the hearts of all of our guests. It is up to us to look into their eyes and hearts and to take all of it in, the good, the bad and the ugly.