I caught up with Keith, owner of LGBTQ bed and breakfast Pride Lodge, to find out what it takes to run a business in Blackpool.
What led you to establish your own business as an accommodation provider?
I suppose it was the ability to be able to fully ‘do my own thing’ and do things in the way I wanted to, without the restrictions of a boss.
Is there any training or study that would be useful to undertake before establishing an accommodation business, or is it something that’s best learnt on the job?
Accommodation management is really a lot more difficult than many people think. If ‘would be’ hoteliers don’t want to gain a recognised qualification, I’d certainly recommend working alongside others in the industry for a while and gaining some hands-on experience. This would also be good as a ‘taster’ and to find out if the job is going to be what you expected. There is little point wasting a whole lot of time and money, only to find you might not be happy in the industry.
Was the reality of running your own accommodation business like what you had imagined it?
It’s a great deal more work than any 9-to-5! Plus, it’s a vocation rather than just a job – it’s a way of life when you’re living and working on the job. The dedication and self-motivation required really needs to be in place, or you might as well give up before you begin.
What are some of the challenges in running an accommodation business?
I’ve been in this business now for almost 50 years, so I’ve had my ups and downs and it’s a learning curve which is ever-changing – I still don’t know all the answers!
The hardest thing I find, is operating a smaller B&B rather than a larger hotel. In a small business, you just don’t have the manpower available, so you find yourself changing your hat all day long to cover the many and varied tasks.
Guests in a star-rated B&B expect the same, if not better service than they receive in a large hotel. Not having people to man the desk, for instance, when you’re attempting to service bedrooms or prepare food at the same time as deal with another task – it can be very frustrating at times, you feel like you need to be in a dozen places all at once.
Many people see a small business as being easier, but believe me, this is simply not the case when there’s no one to delegate tasks to and there are just the two of you.
What are some of the skills or attributes that you need in order to be a successful operator in the accommodation sector?
Being able to multi-task is the single most important skill, plus being organised and prepared in advance is just so important. You have to like people, of course, and be very tolerant and understanding. It’s very demanding but is extremely rewarding as a job.
I always say you need to imagine you’re in the shoes of your guests – and ask yourself if you, yourself, would be happy with the service you provide? If it’s not good enough for you or someone you love and care about, then it won’t be good enough for your guests. This is my main ethos and always will be.
You can’t always get everything right and please everyone, but you can try your very best. Never think – Oh, it will do – that’s just a sure-fire recipe for failure.
If someone was thinking of starting a business in the accommodation sector, what advice or guidance would you give them?
Don’t expect the business to flourish at once. Rome wasn’t built in a day. It takes time and dedication to build up a good venture. Stay motivated, and always be consistent in the service you provide, so your guests know exactly what to expect. If you over-provide, remember you will always be expected to do this, so don’t, It is just as bad as under providing.