Since 2007, Jay Karen has been the president and CEO of the Professional Association of Innkeepers International (PAII), the world's largest bed and breakfast organization. In this recurring feature, Jay will speak on topics of interest to members of the industry.
In this installment, Jay offers his observations on the subculture of bed and breakfasts and what the public doesn’t know about the industry.
For further reading, visit Q&A with Jay Karen: Part 1 - What Can PAII Do For You?
What does the general public not understand about innkeeping?
They miss the fact that innkeepers – successful ones - have to be Internet marketing experts; that they to be shrewd business people to be successful.
They’re not aware that this is a 24 hour a day job. You may get to sleep on the job, but you will also get a call at 2 am to take care of something.
And it’s not a retirement gig. You have to take it seriously. Innkeeping is another career, another job. If you decide to own and operate a bed and breakfast, you are not going to retire and sit back and do something easier. People who get into innkeeping need to know that they are shifting careers; they are getting into something different. It’s not necessarily going to be any easier than what you’ve done.
It’ll be different. You may enjoy it more, but you are going to work as hard as you did at anything else. You may get more satisfaction and enjoyment out of it, but there’s nothing leisurely at all about being an innkeeper.
With that in mind, what continues to draw people into innkeeping?
I think people get seduced by being around an historic, beautiful property. Multiple senses get stimulated by being around a wonderful place. I mean, how many ‘do it yourself’ shows are on TV where people want to decorate it and restore it and do the grounds and enhance the beauty surrounding them. Then add to that the romantic idea of connecting with travelers from around the world and meeting interesting people.
And I think a lot of ‘foodies’ get into this business because they love cooking, they love recipes, they love providing something healthy and delicious and wonderful for their guests. A lot of innkeepers were once B&B guests and figured that they could try their hand at this. Those are the kind of things that attract people to the industry from a romantic, aesthetic standpoint.
Then there are those who look at this strictly as a business opportunity. They may like those other things as well, but for them it can be a very good business venture depending on the size and scope of the business. If you have a two or three-room B&B there’s not a lot of business opportunity there, but a larger B&B with several rooms may provide that.
What is the best advice you would offer to aspiring innkeepers?
I would say to go into it with your eyes wide open. Do as much due diligence and get as much education as possible. Whether it’s PAII or a state association, hook into an association, get involved -- there’s no question about that. Get your feet wet before getting into this. Attend a daylong or multi-day seminar, whether it’s one of ours or one that a consultant puts together.
And make sure you have the energy to do this. It takes a lot of energy. If you are going to do this yourself, you’d better have a lot of energy or enthusiasm for this or you’re going to be burned out pretty quick.