Our second season at Highbrook was very different from our first.
First of all, it was really, really, busy. From the middle of May to the end of October, with only a couple of days exception, all of our rooms were occupied every single night. This is awesome, of course – this is a business for us, not a hobby job. To be full all the time means you must be doing something right, right? Well, I hope so.
But that doesn’t mean that this year was without challenges. Gosh, no.
One of the things that concerned me about running a B&B is the fact that I am letting complete strangers into my HOME. Truly, I am an introvert at heart, and my home is sacred ground to me. I had to give this some serious, serious thought before I agreed to start this business. But I have to say that 95% of the people we have had with us are lovely, wonderful people, very easy to have in our home. We have already had several second time visitors, and referrals. Many of these people feel like old friends already.
But that 5% that haven’t been so nice? Well, that’s been a tough one. As a recovering people-pleaser, this can really get under my skin.
But I’m working on it.
So what have I learned this year?
Probably the biggest lesson is that I will NEVER please everybody. Ever. As hard as I may try.
You may be saying “Uh, really Jo? You honestly didn’t know that by now?” Well, what can I say. Sometimes it takes me awhile to learn important life lessons. There are several examples I could give to illustrate this, but really what’s the point? Because I probably wouldn’t have been able to please those people anyway. See, I’m learning.
The second biggest lesson has to do with taking care of myself. For a good month, in the height of the busy season, I was walloped with the Evil Cold of Death. Pretty much bedridden for a good five days, and was still coughing a month later. Now, what I don’t understand is that in my city days – working in gyms for goodness sake and under a lot of life stress – I hadn’t had a bad bug in years. I move down here, slow down my pace, take better care of myself and have two really bad ones in six months?
When I look back on it though, I wasn’t really taking good care of myself. You see, I am one of those rare people it seems who doesn’t like to cook. I don’t find it relaxing, or creative, and if I have some spare time I would rather spend it with a book. So during the busy days, healthy home-cooked meals kind of went out the window. Next year, I need to find some strategies to make this still happen during busy times.
One aspect of self-care that went well though was sticking to my running plan – even if it meant dragging my poor running buddy out of bed in the wee hours of the morning (Thanks Karen!). However, visits to the gym did not happen, so my strength has suffered. And lovely, stress-relieving yoga? Didn’t happen either. It seems that once I was in the throes of a busy day, all of my good intentions disappeared.
That is the nature of the B&B business though. Each day is different, and there are unexpected changes on a daily basis that can affect your plans. You just have to flow with them, or you will drive yourself crazy. If you are a person who really likes to stick to a strict personal schedule, don’t open a B&B.
There are of course some other practical things I have learned. Things about the breakfast routine, the check-in routine, and other daily responsibilities that can be refined a bit. Don’t forget that in addition to the daily demands you have for the guests staying with you, there is still the business side to attend to – new bookings, paperwork, marketing, social media, website stuff, answering inquiries. Oh, and tons of grocery shopping. Aside from the usual weekly big shop, I found I was running out for something almost every day. It makes for a very full day – and this goes on for seven days a week, for almost six months.
Which is also why my blogging suffered this summer too. But I’ve talked enough about that already.
Now we are in a mini-break – only open on weekends in November – and honestly it has been nice to sleep in a bit, get back to the gym, and indulge my love of reading a bit more. Been enjoying a couple of Netflix binges too….I’m finally up to Season 6 of Mad Men, and have been watching old episodes of Poirot. I’ve been journalling, taking a lot of pictures, and enjoying some incredible wines. Wonderfully restorative. I’m also looking forward to a bit of time in the sun this winter. Yes, a real vacation. I am so excited I can’t express it in words.
Someone recently asked me what the best part of owning a B&B is. Hands down, the absolute best part has to be helping people get to know the town and region I love. Everyone who has stayed with us has fallen in love with Niagara-on-the-Lake and the surrounding region. It really is a pleasure to play a small part in making that experience possible.
Though the high season may be very busy, challenging, fun, and sometimes exhausting, I’m looking forward to experiencing another one.