Tips for successful inn-keeping

To would-be inn operators, Susan Norris offers the following warnings: * Unless your inn is very large and you have lots of money for promotion, you cannot afford a location too far off the beaten path.

* Avoid partnerships. There is little enough dividend without splitting it between partners.

* Know your cash flow, and don't expect internal generation of capital for a long, long time. Have your capital (above acquisition costs) in the bank to cover at least the first four years.

* Start with an efficient bookkeeping system and don't wait around for one to "evolve." Once you have it, keep it simple, simple, simple.

* Don't expect to be an absentee owner. If you have under 20 units, you'd better count on doing most of the work yourself. Employees are a luxury you may enjoy later.

* Be flexible but never let your fantasies of inn operating get in the way of good spending sense. Lots of things can wait.

* Avoid operating a restaurant if you can. Unless you have had proven experience in this field, don't even consider it.

She also lists the following benefits:

Being self-employed does give you some freedom.

The hotel business has no accounts receivable. No money, no room.

You are dealing in a fairly elastic, inflation-proof commodity. Room rates go up with inflation. As long as people need to get away for weekends or vacations, you've got customers. And there is nothing quite like watching the transformation that takes place in a guest who has had a relaxed, enjoyable visit. Those smiles and thanks make it all worthwhile.

Exposure to the public can be as rewarding or taxing as you make it. An unlimited number and variety of new friendships is ever available to you.

Being an innkeeper allows you to participate in a growing network of innkeepers around the world who want to exchange ideas and a ccommodations with other small innkeepers everywhere.

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