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Writing a Business Plan for a Bed and Breakfast

Part of a worksheet series for aspiring bed and breakfast innkeepers

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A thorough business plan will help you prepare for the life of an innkeeper, hopefully making it an enjoyable and profitable life.

Since everyone in your family will have to live with the decisions, everyone should be involved in making them. The planning process will include a lot of research and study. Be realistic in evaluating what you can offer potential guests. Ask yourself what potential guests want and how you can bring your wants and their wants together.

Don't hesitate to contact your local or state B&B organization for some pointers. The Professional Association of Innkeepers International also offers resources for aspiring innkeepers.

Plan Outline

Consider each of the following points as they apply to your situation. You should first prove to yourself that running a B&B will be a worthwhile venture for you and your family. Some elements of the plan will also be useful if you need to borrow money for the business in the future.

Resources

  • Your bed and breakfast home and grounds -- its character, period and/or style, location, facilities, and activities both on the premises and within the community, seasonal or year-round.
  • Do you have enough time to operate a bed and breakfast?
  • Family members, B&B-related skills, dispositions, and interests.
  • Available capital for bed and breakfast startup and ongoing costs.
Goals

  • Why are you considering opening a B&B? Merely for financial needs?
  • What is your desired profit (net income) over a pre-determined number of years?
  • Do your B&B goals mesh with family goals, both long- and short-term?
  • Modify and re-prioritize your goals after making your first decisions.
Requirements

  • Learn what's needed in the way of licenses and permits in your location (local, county, and/or state): zoning, building and housing codes, health regulations, tax collection, etc.
  • Obtain an estimate on the cost for liability and other insurance.
  • What are the tax requirements -- local, state, federal, etc. -- that you'll need to meet? It may be useful to meet with a CPA or a tax preparation specialist.
  • What sort of business structure -- sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation or other -- will work best for you? A consultation with an attorney may be in order.
Market Analysis

  • Make notes regarding the socio-economic characteristics of your targeted guests. Consider what you prefer and/or you will most likely attract.
  • Estimate the number and location of potential guests. How far will they come to stay at your inn? Does your area draw a lot of tourists?
  • Consider distances and routes to specific targeted areas close to your bed and breakfast.
  • Look at the anticipated trends in socio-economic status for your region.
  • Educate yourself about trends in the preferences of B&B guests.
Competition/Comparisons

  • Study the quantity and quality of similar bed and breakfasts and attractions in your location.
  • How profitable are other local inns? What are the trends? You might not be able to get this information directly, but talk to the Chamber of Commerce to see whether B&Bs in the area are stable businesses or if they seem to come and go.
  • Where do your competitors advertise?
Management

  • Record-keeping for tax purposes, as well as to give yourself plenty of data to analyze as you work to improve your inn.
  • Start up and maintenance costs (facilities, equipment, supplies and services).
  • Pricing bed and breakfast facilities and services.
  • Inventory and depreciation record keeping.
  • Bed and breakfast standard operating procedures (with assignments).
Marketing

  • Image building: logo, stationary, signs, etc.
  • Sales strategy: uniqueness, quality, price, location, etc.
  • Promotion strategy: type of advertising, agencies and organizations.
Action Plan

  • Prioritized bed and breakfast goals (most desired results within six months to one year).
  • List tasks required to accomplish your goals. Set deadlines.
  • Evaluate needed resources: money, time, labor, etc.
  • Prepare an action calendar (with task start dates and completion deadlines).
Evaluate your progress periodically and update your plan. No plan is static. Call on professionals for assistance: an attorney, accountant, insurance agent, a bed and breakfast organization director, and others you may know.

Additional Resources

  • Check out books on the subject of starting a small business, perhaps available from your state government.
  • Talk to the local chamber of commerce, visitors bureau, etc.
  • Contact any small business associations in your location.
This series of worksheets and information was originally written by Eleanor Ames, a Certified Family Consumer Sciences professional and a faculty member at Ohio State University for 28 years. With her husband, she ran the Bluemont Bed and Breakfast in Luray, Virginia, until they retired from innkeeping. Many thanks to Eleanor for her gracious permission to reprint them here. Some content has been edited, and links to related features on this site have been added to Eleanor's original text.

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