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Frictionless Innkeeper TIP #11: Lessons in Vision and Perseverance

Photo by Jonathan Bell on Unsplash

Whether you are a seasoned lodging professional trying to emerge from the ruins of the COVID pandemic or recently starting out as a new innkeeper, success can seem nearly unachievable.  And while the journey may be long and daunting, the good news is that you’re not the first to go down that road.

You can learn, if not be inspired from those who have faced some incredible challenges and emerged with successful lodging businesses.  Take the case of Wendy Kelly, who we recently interviewed for our Frictionless Innkeeper podcast series

Through uncharacteristic circumstances, Wendy and her husband became the owners of the Agate Beach Motel in 1990 with absolutely no experience in hospitality.  They soon found themselves faced with one of the biggest challenges of their lives.

At the time, the property was far from being operational, with broken windows in the units, and yellow tape across some of the rooms because of previous drug activity.  Through a vision of what she wanted the motel to be and pure perseverance, Wendy was able to turn Agate Beach Motel into an award-winning property.  She has since purchased and renovated the Wall Street Suites, a top-rated boutique property in Bend, Oregon.

There are several lessons that we took away from our discussion with Wendy and the story she told us.  Here are some that we hope will help and inspire you on your journey toward lodging success:

  • A vision is essential: Before you take any journey, you have to know where you want to go.  You don’t have to have all of the details but you have to have a vision of what you want your property to be in the future.  Without it, you won’t know how to get there or be able to persevere when you face the many challenges along the way.
  • Where do you start?: I remember seeing a business documentary where Wally Amos, the founder of Famous Amos cookies, was being interviewed about his entrepreneurial success.  The interviewer wanted to get his advice for people starting out with a new business idea, so he was asked “Where do you start?” and I thought his reply was brilliantly simple: “You start from where you are.  You start from right here, right now.” In other words, the current situation is what it is, so get with it and work with what you have.  It’s the only way to determine how to overcome the obstacles in the way of executing your vision.
  • Process makes perfect: You can’t do it all yourself and the only way you can have others do things the way you want them to be done is to create processes and make them an integral part of your business.  In talking with Wendy, it became apparent that she is very process-oriented and that mindset has contributed greatly to her ability to build a successful organization.
  • Make incremental changes: You want to create a property fitting of your own unique vision but you don’t need to reinvent the lodging industry.  As you “start from where you are”, make incremental changes and keep improving over time.  Start with industry norms and tweak them according to your vision of how you want to manage your property.
  • Pay attention to the details: You have to prioritize and work on what’s most important first, rather than getting weighed down by the details of insignificant things.  As the “7 Habits” author, Stephen R. Covey, once suggested, don’t get  mired “in the thick of thin things.”  On the other hand, you can’t forget the old adage that “the devil is in the details.” If you implement processes that fit your vision, paying attention to the details allows you to incrementally improve them and get you closer to your vision.
  • Hire people based upon “soft skills”: Many of the people working for Wendy’s properties were like her – they started without any experience in the hospitality industry.  While experience is sometimes necessary based upon the position, a service-oriented and wanting-to-learn mindset is essential.  When hiring at my organization, we call these “soft skills” and have found them to be one of the most important factors in hiring successful people.
  • Keep the faith and persevere: Nothing of any real value in life comes easily.  But if you stay faithful to your vision, you’ll be willing to persevere when the challenges sometimes seem insurmountable. 

Wherever you are in your journey to make your vision a reality, learning the stories of people like Wendy Kelly can help inspire you during the toughest of times.  Have a vision, start from where you are NOW, build detailed processes, hire caring people, and keep the faith.

Good luck!

Thanks to Wendy Kelly, the owner of the Wall Street Suites and the Agate Beach Motel – two independent/boutique properties in Oregon – for contributing to this Frictionless Innkeeper TIP during a Frictionless Innkeeper podcast.

Frictionless Innkeeper PODCAST #34: Darci Bartlett, President of the Non-Profit Interim Innkeepers Network, Discusses Temporary Staffing Options

For episode #34 of the Frictionless Innkeeper podcast series, we speak with Darci Bartlett, President of the Interim Innkeepers Network, a nonprofit organization that helps to place short- and long-term temporary innkeepers at properties where the owners need to take time off.

Being an innkeeper is a 24/7 job that can be all encompassing, where taking time off is a luxury that does not happen very often. Whether you need to attend an important event, supplement your existing staff during peak periods, or simply get away to recharge, the Interim Innkeepers Network connects innkeepers with experienced temporary staff across the United States and provides a seamless transition for a wide range of needs.

This episode will certainly give innkeepers a sense of relief to know that there’s a trusted staffing service that can help in many situations.

We are very thankful to Darci Bartlett for sharing her insights with us! You can learn more about the Interim Innkeepers Network here.

Frictionless Innkeeper PODCAST #33: Wendy Kelly, Owner of Wall Street Suites and the Agate Beach Motel, Discusses Her Unexpected Innkeeping Journey

For episode #33 of the Frictionless Innkeeper podcast series, we speak with Wendy Kelly, the owner of the Wall Street Suites and the Agate Beach Motel – two independent/boutique properties in Oregon – who discusses her unexpected innkeeping journey and secrets to success.

It’s often the unexpected things in life that can both challenge you, and provide a path to long-term prosperity. When Wendy Kelly and her husband acquired the Agate Beach Motel in 1990, they had zero experience in hospitality, and the property required massive renovations for it to even be guest ready.

Fast-forward 31 years later, and the Agate Beach Motel is now an award-winning destination by the sea. Wendy and her husband parlayed their lessons learned to also owning the Wall Street Suites, a boutique property in Bend, Oregon that is ranked #1 in the region by TripAdvisor. 

This episode of the Frictionless Innkeeper podcast series will inspire any new innkeeper to keep on keeping on!

We are very thankful to Wendy Kelly for sharing her insights with us! You can learn more about the Agate Beach Motel here, and the Wall Street Suites here.

Frictionless Innkeeper TIP #10: Creative Ways to Differentiate Your Property

Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

It is often the most challenging times that spark a creative movement. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to heavily impact the lodging industry, it presents the opportunity for innkeepers and boutique hotel owners to develop new ways to differentiate their properties.

In late 2020, we published a series of COVID re-opening stories that provided tips and insights from innkeepers on how they have pivoted their businesses during the pandemic in order to survive and oftentimes thrive.

In addition to these insights, Christa Freeland of the Founder House Austin provided some creative tips for property owners in a recent podcast interview we did with her.

“Now is the time to shine,” says Christa. “It’s amazing that we have this golden opportunity to be more creative and different, and redefine hospitality.”

Here are some ideas provided by Christa, as well as some other innkeepers we’ve interviewed, intended to help you get creative and try to differentiate your property:

  • Find the one thing that makes your property special, and fully leverage that to current and prospective guests.
  • Host live music events.
  • Hold socially distanced spin classes outside.
  • Project creative visuals on your property to draw attention to it.
  • Find your passion and focus your property’s offering around it. For example, Dan Tatarka loves to brew beer, so he and his wife Terri have made beer the central attraction to the guests they host at WildManDan’s Beercentric B&B.
  • Hire video jockeys to hold socially distanced electronic music/art events.
  • If historic sites are close by, host a knowledgeable tour guide for breakfast with your guests and have them talk about it.
  • Partner with local crafts people and have them hold exclusive classes for your guests.

Thanks to  Christa Freeland, an entrepreneur, former tech venture studio executive, and the manager of the Founder House Austin, for contributing to this Frictionless Innkeeper TIP. Be sure to also listen to our first podcast with Christa where she discusses how the Founder House Austin shifted from solely being a Bed and Breakfast to being part of a co-working and co-living space for entrepreneurs.

Frictionless Innkeeper PODCAST #32: Emily and Matthieu Monnier, Managers of Trapper’s Rendezvous, Discuss Increase in Bookings

For episode #32 of the Frictionless Innkeeper podcast series, we speak with Emily and Matthieu Monnier, the managers of Trapper’s Rendezvous, who discuss how they saw an increase in bookings during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, and how they have differentiated the property through digital marketing.

You can also listen to this podcast at Libsyn Directory.

Sometimes location and timing can play a major role in gaining new guest bookings. For Trapper’s Rendezvous, this was the case when managers Emily and Matthieu Monnier noticed a rise in local guests during the summer 2020 days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This unique property is comprised of six spacious cabins, and sits on five acres in the heart of the ‘Gateway to the Grand Canyon’ in the Route 66 town of Williams, Arizona. Aside from being located within driving distance from Las Vegas, Phoenix and southern California, it also offers guests lots of outdoor activities, historical Native American sites, and socially distanced cabins.

But increased bookings have not been solely due to luck, as Emily and Matthieu have focused heavily on enhancing the overall digital marketing for the property. This includes creating a more modern website, enhancing social media and email marketing, as well as securing a Vox feature and leveraging word-of-mouth.

We are very thankful to Emily and Matthieu Monnier for sharing their insights with us! You can learn more about Trapper’s Rendezvous by visiting their website.

2021 ALP Virtual Conference & Marketplace for Lodging Professionals: February 22-23!

Don’t Miss “While You’re Here … Putting on Your Concierge Hat and Knowing Your Partners”

This year, the Association of Lodging Professionals (ALP) is holding their annual Conference & Marketplace as a virtual event, with the Lodging Professionals portion happening on Monday and Tuesday, February 22-23.  ALP is the premier organization for independent innkeeping and they do a great job of providing information that is incredibly useful to innkeepers, especially at their annual conference.  So, if you are not already attending, make sure you register for the 2021 ALP Virtual Conference & Marketplace here!

Along with the many insightful presentations being given by hospitality leaders during the event, Steve Short, Founder and CEO of the Frictionless Guest App will present “While You’re Here … Putting on Your Concierge Hat and Knowing Your Partners”.  It takes place at 4pm on Tuesday, February 23, and focuses on how innkeepers can partner with local businesses to provide their guests with incredible experiences during their stay.

Today’s travelers want more than just a place to stay. They want to truly connect with a destination, and feel like a true local, with more integrated and authentic experiences.  This means that innkeepers should consider identifying and developing mutually beneficial offerings with local businesses to provide guests with high-quality local experiences.

Steve is fortunate to have interviewed several lodging professionals who have a very successful track record of providing guests with partner experiences and their insights will be shared during his presentation.  They include:

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to learn more about how you can leverage local partnerships for enhancing the guest experience and revenue generation. Go here to register for the 2021 ALP Virtual Conference & Marketplace!

Frictionless Innkeeper PODCAST #31: Christa Freeland, Manager of the Founder House Austin, Provides Insights Into the Millennial Traveler (Part Two)

For episode #31 of the Frictionless Innkeeper podcast series, we speak with Christa Freeland, an entrepreneur, former tech venture studio executive, and manager of the Founder House Austin. This is part two of our discussion with Christa, where she shares her insights into the millennial traveler.

You can also listen to this podcast at Libsyn Directory.

Much has been covered in the media about millennial travel trends, but it’s not often that you get to hear directly from an influential member of this generation. Christa Freeland is certainly on the cutting-edge of travel in her role managing the Founder House Austin’s co-working and co-living property for entrepreneurs.

As a millennial herself, Christa believes that this generation is very experiential, and they are seeking authenticity in all of their travel experiences. In addition, innkeepers should be open to seeking honest feedback from millennials, provide unique experiences, and be creative in their guest offerings. 

Following are highlights from our interview:

  • Christa’s perspective on overall millennial travel trends. (1:00)
  • How other boutique hospitality providers should seek honest feedback from millennials. (6:47)
  • Why innkeepers should focus on their unique selling propositions. (7:54)
  • How millennials want unique experiences, as well as be connected with area attractions and businesses, during their stays. (11:26)
  • How innkeepers should consider developing creative differentiators, and leverage technology, for their properties. (16:42)
  • Why challenging times like the pandemic can be a catalyst for creativity in hospitality. (21:30)

We are very thankful to Christa for sharing her insights with us!  You can learn more about the Founder House Austin here. And, please be sure to listen to part one of this podcast series, where Christa discusses how the Founder House Austin shifted into being a co-working and co-living space for entrepreneurs.

Post-COVID Re-Opening Part 3: Monique Greenwood, Owner of the Akwaaba Bed & Breakfast Inns, Discusses Creativity and Community

Many innkeepers have found ways to open their properties in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, requiring changes to many aspects of their business. We thought it would be helpful to interview some of them and share their insights on how they are managing their businesses in today’s climate. This is one in a series of feature articles on Post-COVID Re-Opening.

For this installment of the article series, we interviewed Monique Greenwood, owner of the Akwaaba Bed & Breakfast Inns, and learned how she managed a business turnaround for her five properties through community support and creative offerings.

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For Monique Greenwood, owner of the Akwaaba Bed & Breakfast Inns, and star of the television reality show “Checked Inn” on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), being able to pivot quickly and think creatively has often been the key to her success as an innkeeper, which is especially important in today’s COVID-19 environment.

As an owner of five different properties, Monique had to deal with a three-month shutdown of all of her inns when the pandemic first hit in March.  Her portfolio is mainly urban-based locations with one of her properties, the Mansion at Noble Lane, being located in Pennsylvania’s Poconos Lake Region.

There was a dramatic difference in the bookings between the urban properties and the Mansion at Noble Lane.

“When COVID first started, we came to a complete stop in mid-March,” said Monique. “The first property to re-open was the Mansion at Noble Lane on Memorial Day weekend. From that moment until now, we have had 95 percent occupancy. Though our city locations have been much slower to return.”

Most of the guests staying at the urban locations have been locals looking to do “staycations,” with weekend occupancy around 80 percent, and slower during the week. Monique’s Cape May, NJ, location also performed well during the summer months.

For the urban locations, the Akwaaba team developed a wide-range of add-on services for guests, which includes in-suite breakfasts, picnic lunches for two, champagne turn-down services, as well as partnerships with local caterers for chef’s dinners and massage therapists.

As with other innkeepers we have interviewed for this article series, Monique was very proactive with communicating their COVID-19 policies through email marketing and social media. She also developed this landing page with a video of Monique discussing how they are keeping their full property portfolio clean and safe.

In addition, Monique found that the Black Lives Matter movement helped to contribute to an ongoing stream of guests that were motivated to support black-owned businesses.

“We had the Black Lives Matter movement happening at the same time as the pandemic,” said Monique. “Because the African American community, and their allies, were on a mission to patronize black-owned businesses, we had a rush of guests. And, we really appreciated this – it has helped tremendously.”

Finally, Monique was able to embrace a new revenue stream through her Shop at Akwaaba e-commerce site, which offers Akwaaba-branded products and other imported products handmade from African-American artisans – all “curated with love.”

“We decided to launch Show Akwaaba, and tap into the Black Lives Matter movement by selling products from African Americans,” said Monique. “It has been a great way to generate revenue when we could not put heads on beds. And as we go into the holiday season, we expect more people to shop online.”Be sure to listen to our previous two-part Frictionless Innkeeper podcast series with Monique here, and here.

Frictionless Innkeeper PODCAST #30: Wild Man Dan Tatarka and Terri Tatarka, Owners/Innkeepers of WildManDan’s Beercentric Bed and Breakfast, Discuss Their Passion for Beer and Pleasing Guests

For episode #30 of the Frictionless Innkeeper podcast series, we speak with Wild Man Dan Tatarka and his wife, Terri Tatarka, the owners/innkeepers of WildManDan’s Beercentric Bed and Breakfast, a B&B with an onsite nanobrewery nestled in Nelson County, Virginia, about following their passion for beer and pleasing guests.

You can also listen to this podcast at Libsyn Directory.

In many ways, success in life comes down to following your passions, and working hard to turn that passion into a viable livelihood. For Wild Man Dan Tatarka and his wife, Terri Tatarka, the owners/innkeepres of WildManDan’s Beercentric Bed and Breakfast, success comes from their passion for beer and being around great people.

After having careers in both fiber optical engineering and hospitality, Master Brewer Wild Man Dan and Terri decided to launch a unique beercentric B&B in 2015 in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, where they could offer specialized beer and accommodations for guests.

As a result of this focus on their passions, WildManDan’s Beercentric Bed and Breakfast, has been named the “Best of Blue Ridge,” has a 50 percent re-booking rate, and has received enthusiastic press coverage from beer-oriented media outlets.

The inn has also made some changes due to COVID-19. For example, in 2021 guests will need to rent out the full property of five bedrooms, and is exploring expansion and ways to serve non-guests at their bar. Currently, they are able to sell to-go crowlers.

Following are highlights from our interview:

  • About Wild Man Dan and Terri’s backgrounds, and how they became innkeepers. (1:44)
  • About the property, and how they are going through renovations right now to potentially expand their beer business. (6:07)
  • What they offer to guests that revolves around their beer and beer classes. (13:49)
  • How guests will need to book the full five-bedroom property in 2021. (21:48)
  • How Wild Man Dan and Terri define the guest experience, and what strategies they have used to improve it. (26:05)
  • The most important questions they would ask a leading expert/consultant in the B&B industry. (29:10)
  • Age demographics for guests who stay at their property and how they are trending. (31:00)

We are very thankful to Wild Man Dan and Terri for sharing their insights with us!  You can learn more about WildManDan’s Beercentric Bed and Breakfast by visiting their website.