Whether you’re talking about marriage, careers, or making it through all ten seasons of Seinfeld, staying focused on a long-term endeavor takes more than a dream and a can-do spirit. For innkeepers, especially, the 24/7 nature of the job leads many to call it quits and sell their inn after just a few years. However, with the right tools and perspective, innkeeping can be a sustainable long-term plan. From planning for renovations to your next vacation, we’re sharing the secrets to making innkeeping your long-term career.
Keep Your Property Current
One piece of advice that might be hard to swallow: you’re going to be renovating your inn…a lot. As the years go by, your guests’ needs will shift and change, so innkeepers need to be willing to stay with the times. Bev Davis and Rick Litchfield of the Captain Lord Mansion credit their willingness to adapt as a hallmark of their success: “We’ve always been willing to take a look at change. One of the secrets of how we’ve been able to exist as long as we have is that we’re never satisfied with the status quo.” Even so, be mindful of your budget and plan ahead. The couple advises,“You don’t do [all your renovations] overnight. You start with your best room and do great work.”
Always Be Learning
Of course, your rooms aren’t the only thing in need of a tune-up over the years. Even with all their experience, a successful long-term innkeeper needs to continue to learn as the industry changes. Think about it: no one wants to be the innkeeper who refused to learn about TripAdvisor. Attending innkeeping seminars and conferences can expose innkeepers to the new tricks of the trade and connect them with fellow innkeepers who may offer some ideas and inspiration. Plus, continuing your education isn’t just good for business; it’s good for the soul! In Bev’s opinion, reinventing their business plan and switching things up has kept them vitalized, engaged, and ahead of the competition. She explains, “Doing things like that really are healthy for you and contribute to the longevity of your inn.”
Maintain A Work/Life Balance
Repeat after us: you do not need to do it all. One of the keys to maintaining a long-term innkeeping career is letting employees take some of the weight off your shoulders. Bev and Rick explain that their ultimate goal was to “work [themselves] out of a job.” In other words, they sought to establish themselves enough that they could hire employees to handle the more mundane parts of the job, so they could focus on the parts they loved and pursue passions outside of the inn. Speaking of which, when you leave the inn, leave the inn. Turn off your phone and trust that your staff can handle everything while you’re away. Trust us, no one makes it to 40 years of innkeeping by spending 24 hours a day thinking about their inn. Burn out is real, folks.
Delight in your long-term relationships
Being a long-term innkeeper offers the rare opportunity to build relationships with guests across decades and generations. However, as with anything else, guests sometimes need an incentive to pay a return visit. At the Captain Lord Mansion, Rick and Bev began a brick program, in which any guest who has visited over 10 times receives a brick with their name on it in the garden. Bev explains, “It really is a gratitude from us to them.” Take the time to honor your long-term guests because these will be the individuals that sustain your business and your spirit over the years.
Whether you’re just starting out or have years of innkeeping under your belt, keep on the road to long-term innkeeping success with the latest episode of Inside Innkeeping.