It’s hard to believe that 2014 is nearing it’s conclusion. It has been an amazing year and what is most amazing is that it signals the fact that we have been in business for 10 years!!! Hard to believe that 10 years has gone by! So much of it is a blur. I was thinking back on the last 10 years and about what the top ten things are that we have learned from being innkeepers for this long. So without further ado, here are my list of top ten things innkeeping has taught me.
1) Never judge a book by its cover. First impressions are definitely important. They help you assess what kind of stay your guests are looking for, meaning do they want your attention or do they want privacy. But that’s about it. We have learned that guests that may seem shy or stand offish initially turn into wonderful, eloquent people who we have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know. They just needed a little time to get comfortable in their new surroundings and with their new innkeeper friends.
2) The vast majority of customers you deal with are wonderful and happy. As long as you don’t do anything to ruin their stay, they usually leave super grateful and content. BUT, there is some truth to the fact that you cannot please everyone, no matter what you do. That doesn’t mean you give up on trying with those people, it just means you can’t beat yourself up over it or take it personally. It’s not you, it’s them.
3) If something can go wrong, it will. How you deal with it is the defining moment. Stuff will break, disasters will happen. You have a choice to deal with it with a positive attitude or to deal with it with a negative attitude. The only person who suffers from the negative attitude is you.
4) Strangers can very quickly become great friends. It’s amazing how quickly we have gotten to know people whom we have maintained friendships with throughout the years outside of the inn. They have become friends on Facebook, people we have gone to visit, people who send us cards or gifts for birthdays or anniversaries and even people you have intimate conversations with that you would normally reserve for the closest of longtime friends or family members.
5) The most important marketing for your business is word of mouth. This repeatedly proves to be true as our referrals are our bread and butter. Happy guests will always send their friends and family your way to have the same experience they did.
6) Never underestimate the impact you have on others. We have discovered time and time again how much our food and hospitality has meant to people who have stayed with us. So often they send us lovely notes saying how grateful they were for X or Y and how that is a memory they will always cherish. They may seem like little things to us at the time, but they are not so little to those on the receiving end. That’s why we always try our best and strive to make each and every guest who comes through the door feel like they are the most special person in the world.
7) A 150+ year old house can be VERY persnickety sometimes. All homes can be a challenge, but when your house dates back to pre-Civil War era, it can be even MORE persnickety. Historic homes are wonderful and full of such great details and history, but boy do they sometimes push you to the limits of your patience and wallet.
8) No business stays stagnant. Every business will change with time. New technologies will come along, new ways of doing things. The key to success and to staying in business is being willing to adapt. When we started this business the whole social media world was still in its infancy. Now it is a HUGE part of our business and marketing and something that is critical to our success. Also, the notion of online reviews didn’t exist when we first started. Now they are one of the most important methods of driving future traffic. Many innkeepers ask us why they haven’t been able to compete and when we ask them if they are on Facebook or doing reviews they tell us they don’t want to. All I can say about that is that you have to play the game of business to stay in business.
9) Networking with others within your industry is invaluable. We have developed amazing friendships with other innkeepers with whom we are able to share, bounce ideas off of and also travel with. Having others who understand what you go through day to day to commiserate with is absolutely necessary. It doesn’t matter how great your other non-innkeeper friends or framily are, they will never be able to relate to exactly what you are going through.
10) Nobody is perfect. We are all perfectly imperfect and we will all make mistakes. Owning up to them, admitting them and doing everything we can to rectify the problem is the key to making guests happy. I’m extremely OCD and a consummate perfectionist, which makes me a good, diligent innkeeper, so I HATE making mistakes. But it does and will happen. I may beat myself up for it a little, but that’s secondary to making sure I fess up to the mistake and figuring out how to fix it.