Inns Magazine Issue 4 Vol. 19 Weddings 2015 - Page 16

What happens when two of the most romanticized concepts of modern American life are melded together in a business? For an enlightened response, ask any married couple, or any kind of couple, who is running a bed and breakfast together. Both married life and innkeeping present their own unique challenges and, when joined together (and let no man put asunder,) have the potential to sink the most robust of vessels. So how to insure smooth sailing in both your relationship and your business when the winds of change and stress begin to blow?

I will share some tips I learned while running my own inn in Washington, DC, sprinkled with added insight from my training as a Life Coach. As an inn owner, I hired perhaps a dozen innkeepers whose dream was to own their own inn. Last I knew, not one of them went on to fulfill their fantasy. While 12 guest rooms at more than 80% occupancy might be busier than the norm in the B and B industry, my sense is that not one of my inn owner wannabes realized how much work was involved, even during the off season. This brings me to my first tip:

Know Before You Go

Be sure both you and your partner are committed to the business of bed and breakfast ownership. Then learn as much as you can about the business before considering buying or building an inn. Nothing beats working at an inn or making friends with and shadowing a couple who currently own an inn. Hands on experience is the key to deciding if inn ownership is for you. Devise an action plan to be deployed in the event one partner decides that he or she doesn't like the lifestyle. You don't want to sacrifice your marriage for the business.

Divide and Conquer

Create a division of labor with clearly defined roles to conquer the urge to kill each other if the going gets tough, you get a bad review or occupancy drops like a stone. You might make a list of specific tasks or areas that each person is responsible for and resist the urge to interfere in your partner's process unless invited. One partner might oversee food prep, housekeeping and maintenance, for example, while the other handles marketing, IT and finances. Paying homage to the number one reason for divorce, it is a good idea to establish, in advance, what level of financial commitment requires your partner's blessing. Creating a written job description for each partner will help clarify each partner's role. On the other hand, it's important to know what your partner does each day so you can be prepared to pick up the slack when he or she needs some downtime, which brings me to my next tip...

Married to innkeeping

By Mary Lotto Ross