It occurred to me, as leaves drily rustled under my steps and the sun broke through naked trees to throw shadows across my path, that I really don’t know or understand what aspiring innkeepers take away when they attend a seminar.
What made me think of that was conversations I’ve had lately with seminar graduates, when I felt their distress, anxiety or maybe discomfort in their new role as an Innkeeper. I feel that I want to make sure a new innkeeper instead feels good about their decision to be an innkeeper, that innkeeping is what gives them zest and vitality, that they have chosen well and have confidence in that!
In the old days we gave weekend seminars (now they are one day episodes), for which I devised a form to be filled out with your strengths and each partner’s identified “weaknesses”, your abilities, likes and dislikes. These could be things like embracing guest’s diversity, having a generosity of spirit, achieving cleanliness with a vengeance and being vigilant about endless details. We discussed quality in linens and décor, the need for the newest technology, updated outlets in the rooms and online reservation systems, websites that entice guests to your inn and partnering with local vendors.
In the seminar “So You Want to be an Innkeeper,” I stressed the personal concerns: your need for private time, taking care of yourself, spending time with your significant other, feeding your soul at odd times, a day off with each other and some alone time. Usually the first year has a big “learning curve”… you do it all! Learning from experience is what Innkeeping is all about. Buying a viable inn business, what is that? Buying an inn large enough to hire staff? Thoughtful training and supervising of your staff is vital: learning from them their local wisdom adds individual flavor and creates rapport as you teach them to be clones of your gracious and honest hospitality. The staff is your ultimate support and their efforts count in your guest’s satisfaction.
My main concern is that even so, some attended the seminar and were not honest with themselves about what they liked about hospitality. No, it is not entertaining friends at parties on weekends when you joined the fray! No, you do not drink with your guests at afternoon hors d’oeuvres or after dinner. Your guests are not your best friends, they pay your bills. It means giving up those free evenings you spend lounging around after work, those Saturdays you spend shopping with friends at the mall and going out to eat.
You choose linens not because they need “no–ironing”… but because the quality they present reflects your standards of excellence. In the same spirit, there is no compromise in the quality of the service you provide because you are paid for the excellence of all that you offer.
Yes, Innkeeping is a job, and it does not stand for compromise, but it is a lifestyle that is very rewarding if you personally create a milieu that is uniquely yours and one your guests appreciate. It provides a living that totally reflects your talents and values and allows you to be like no other profession: the master of your own fate!
Best wishes and I truly hope that you chose well.