You run a bnb. For fun but not just for fun. It’s a living (maybe even a calling). And in good months it pays the bills.
A fair amount of investment took place prior to opening. And the business still requires ongoing care and feeding, time to plan, shop and clean, and additional money to buy supplies and make repairs. Even when the biz is running smoothly, costs always need to be considered. Your goals are income, profit, and growth.
So what do you do when someone you know — an acquaintance, friend, or family — calls and says he or she is heading your way and asks can they stay over? Maybe there’s a boyfriend in tow or maybe a husband and kid — or kids. Do you open the gates and say sweet, last drive on the left, come on down the lane and you can shack up in the lower suite for the night or two. Yeah, yeah…come on by. Or do you reach for the rate card and ready them for a bill? Two nights, sure, no problem…that’s $260, with tax another $20 bucks.
In other words, are you a friend to your friends, uncle to your nieces and nephews, or are you a businessman first and to all, regardless of relation?
To most people there is only one answer. But not for me.
The first time I had to choose, I freaked. And I drew on something that disturbed me. When I got the call from a former business colleague, someone I’d shared tons of laughter and beer with, I felt pulled in two directions. It wasn’t clear to me what I should do. Do I have her and her family stay free of charge? Offer her rooms at half price? Or try and determine costs and merely pass those along?
In essence I didn’t know how to treat a friend. I heard myself speak on the phone and I was a mess. I hedged. I was unclear in my conversation. Uncomfortable dead air filled the phone lines and, by design I admit, she chose not to visit. I hung up the phone and knew I had accomplished my goal, albeit an ugly one. I pushed back just enough, just enough for her to get the message. I told myself I didn’t know what to do so I did nothing and she disappeared. Back to filling my calendar with paying guests.
My response ate at me. I saw something in myself that made me uncomfortable. The next time she called, things went smoother. I had been running the bnb for a year or so, so I was generally less uptight. But the understanding of what I had done during that first call stayed with me — I’d pushed someone who I liked, and who liked me back, away. Was I just after money? Was business more important that friendship?
Open a bnb and you’ll have to decide for yourself where you draw the line — and you might have to confront some tendencies that need fixing, or at least need management. In high season it’s harder to block out days for pals or family, and the close and considerate will always understand, choosing the off- or shoulder-season dates to visit. On the other hand I’ve seen many a superlative wine (or half case!) appear after proffering a room during the height of summer when a friend shows up at the doorstep. But I’m starting to get it now. I operate my own business for many reasons and I derive many benefits, one is the freedom I have to set the tone and write the rules. Sure there are protocols we follow — in business, in life — but it’s only when you own your own business and operate out of your home that you’ll be forced to choose how you balance labor and love.
Lucky for me I was allowed a bunch of second chances — good friends and close pals Jim and Lisa and Aiden from Berkeley visited, nephew Noel and his family, Veronika and Luka, showed for a few days. Klaus and Miken arrived for a couple of days. And my business pal Tricia made it north with hub Charlie and young daughter Kaia. Wine was spilled, towels were dirtied, plates were broken. On each occasion we had a hell of a good time.
And just last night Laurie and Daniel from Berkeley arrived after a call from the road. Yay is the only word I know for it. I don’t know who is going to wash the dishes or make the beds this morning after but I do know the following (and to steal a line from a guest…) most of our days turn to grey, we so often forget the highs and lows, the pain and even the pleasure, but there are moments of brilliance that deliver joy and smiles. That happens most intensely when we share time with people we love and like. They bring out positive emotions and heaps of good energy. Now I give a wide birth to my friends. It may not be the biggest room you sleep in or highest pile of towels you reach for but I try to find a way to make a stay in my home possible.
Look what happens when I do.