From my mailbox:
"Now that I'm 50, I'm looking to ease off on the IT which is turning into far more work that I anticipated. Also have a farm, where I have seriously been thinking of relocating to, and planting fruit trees. Would continue to do some software work, but hopefully less than now. Maybe just limited to those installations still under support contracts. But I also worry that the farm will turn into more work than planned, and that I'll end up having to do more software work than expected... And, well, you get the idea. More work instead of less. I am wondering if perhaps you are doing something similar, with the hotel instead of a farm? If so, has it worked out as you planned, or do you find yourself in the situation I am worried about, with more work instead of less?
Your email made me chuckle when it arrived. I read that you are wondering about whether to start reducing the amount of IT / Consultancy work you do, and ease off into running a different business. You ask if it's more relaxed and easier going in this newer style of ours, or if life becomes busier. Well - I'll answer for us / our business, and let you draw any parallels there may be between guests and fruit trees.
Why did I chuckle? Because it was around 06:30 in the morning when I got your email, and I had just read my other emails telling me that Lisa has been up until 03:30 waiting for the last guests to check in, and that Chris had arrived for work at 05:30, let himself in, and had tripped over the baggage of the guests ... who had arrived at 04:30, knocked and been let in by other guests, and had slept in the lounge as there was a phone problem on the line that should have reached Lisa. My phone rang - Chris - a couple of minutes later; he was preparing for breakfast for 20 people and wanted to check what we should do to compensate our 04:30 arrivals for being unable to reach us and having to sleep in the lounge after their nightmare journey (12 hour delay!) to us. With all this going on, I was a 2 hour drive away, as I was giving a 2 day course in Python and staying in someone else's
The answer to "has life become easier" is a resounding NO. The move from a training centre - which we used to refer to as a "daytime hotel" because we still had to help with all the customers travel plans, daytime needs, etc, to a 24 x 7 facility with overnight accommodation / beds has added a huge workload and extra staff. But it has added a new dimension to the enjoyment too - meeting new people and a wider variety of people, and if you are gregarious, very laid back, and able to handle the unexpected well ("think on your feet"), it can be very rewarding - emotionally, but not usually financially - it's very hard work for relatively small reward. And the days are long. I am now - quarter past six on Saturday afternoon - answering emails / doing computer work at the hotel, waiting for the guests who expected to be here at about 4. A phone call a few minutes ago (people don't always phone!) told me they're later than they expected and will be here at around 7. We'll see!
We are a different setup to the one you described to me, so our experiences may not be totally relevant. Trainees on our courses - the reason that we set up in the first place - are usually the easiest of customers on the hotel 'side'. They arrive the evening before the course, usually within an hour or two of the time they estimate when they book, and they make few extra / unusual requests during their stay - probably because we're set up for exactly their sort of visitor so everything is well in place for them.
Other business visitors to the area - people sent to us by local companies, or who are visiting those companies, are also great guests. When they book directly with us, we have a clear e.t.a. and many of them are regulars too, so we know (and note) how they'll be arriving; where flights from the USA are delayed, we'll have an inkling they'll be late, and if they are flying in on the 'redeye' we'll know and have their rooms ready early.
Where booking come through agencies, we have less detail ahead of time and that can lead to some long waits. Murphy's law of hotel keeping states that if you give up waiting for a guest and lock the door at 10 O'clock he'll arrive at five past, but if you leave the door open until 10:30, he'll turn up at 10:40.
Trainees and other business visitors stay for a few days, often stay away from home, and are thoughtful of the hotel owner / operator from their arrival - an utter pleasure to have, and rooms turnovers are typically easy.
Leisure guests travel far less frequently. So they're not as good as planning their visit and sometimes need a lot more attention. Their plans change more often. They get mixed up between rooms with two smaller beds and one larger bed. They get lost on the way here. They are less predictable as to their breakfast time, and they'll tend not to appreciate that we don't have a line of taxis outside just waiting for guests (we are just five rooms!). And there tends to start by taking a much more "master / servant" approach with us until they feel comfortable. But
such guests can - and usually are - very rewarding to have around; once they get to know us and the place they can become far firmer friends. They have far more time to chat (sometimes they want to talk) and they're much more likely to be wanting local information / interested in what's happening around. This can be either a nightmare or a joy depending on 'the staff', and all three of our customer facing team who meet up face to face with the customers are ones for whom it's a joy.
Parties ... such as groups of people meeting up at the Hotel for local weddings ... are even more of an organisational issue. We have learned the hard way that The Bride might want to organise everything, including the accommodation, herself. BUT ... she doesn't normally do much organising, and Great Aunt Mildred who she hasn't seen for 20 years keeps changing her plans and the whole thing can become chaotic. In everyone's interest, we have come up with a somewhat regimented scheme (see here
) where we'll hold the rooms until a certain date
, where the guests book with us directly
which means that we know what time they'll be arriving, and the bride can concentrate on her closer issues, and that rooms are sold at full price
with quantity discount only being applied when the guests are actually here, as it avoids issues with some rooms cancelled at the last minute because there has been a family argument.
We also have to bear in mind that a party booking ALL our rooms for one night will mean that we're probably going to be very 'light' the nights before and after. A full hotel one night might seem good, but if they are all in for just one night, it means up to 8 sets of bedding and towels to be washed. Remember too that a lot of makeup is worn to weddings and other celebrations (which tends to get all over sheets and towels), and the party will be back from the event very late into the night, possibly having lost their keys.
My guests have arrived ... about a quarter to seven. Taxi booked for them for quarter past seven, and I'm clearing up before they leave. Lovely, friendly, couple - most of our guests are. They expect to be back in very late, and have been told breakfast is 8 til 10. Chris will be in to deal with all the breakfasts from 7:30, and I suspect that it will run on past 10. We're laid back, quite happy to do that.
Jim, I may have painted a picture there which doesn't thrill you / doesn't look like easing off. And that's intentional - it's not easy. But it is fun / rewarding / a way of life that has a lot of pleasures. We love introducing people to our town.
The morning after I got back from my training trip, (this morning, but it's been a long day!) I came over to the hotel and caught up with Chris who had been working that 05:30 shift when so much had happened. I was checking that he was OK with it. Yes - very much so; he deals with situations well and handles things well for the customers and for us too - practical solutions to the occasional 'issues' and very knowledgeable abouy how to handle situations because fewer and fewer are 'first time' things now. And as he say "it's reward to be able to help and sort things out - it certainly keeps the job interesting".
Carriages in five minutes. I'll shut down this computer and send the email from home when I get there. We love it - but it's not for everyone.
P.S. The training business is very busy too. I do have a few days that I'm not booked in October, places on public Perl, Java and PHP courses
this month, and hotel rooms vacancies
where I look forward to welcoming business, leisure and wedding guests. (written 2009-09-06, updated 2009-09-07)
Associated topics are indexed as below, or enter http://melksh.am/nnnn for individual articlesM300 - Well House Manor - Behind the scenes 
Well House Staff Party - (2012-12-22) 
Rooms ready for guests - each time, every time, thanks to good system design - (2012-08-20) 
Sunday - no longer a day of rest - (2012-05-28) 
How many toilet rolls - hotel inventory and useage - (2010-12-18) 
Initial handling of phone calls and walk in visitors - (2010-09-19) 
The Well House team - September 2010 - (2010-09-19) 
Testing the robustness of our hotel and training systems - holiday and sickness times - (2010-08-11) 
Robust - testing the system - (2010-08-09) 
A day in the life of a hotelier - (2009-06-18) 
We have lost a regular business guest - (2009-04-10) 
Rules for a King - (2009-01-13) 
Required Request - (2009-01-03) 
Why are cooks bad tempered? - (2008-12-22) 
Blame Culture - (2008-12-17) 
Ruby, Perl, Linux, MySQL - some training notes - (2008-11-23) 
Table Topics - (2008-11-22) 
Three Seasonal Pictures - (2008-10-25) 
Providing exceptional service - and carrying on doing so. - (2008-05-09) 
Await guests in the early hours - (2008-03-12) 
Terms and Conditions - Hotel, England - plain English - (2008-01-26) 
Keeping staff up to date on hotel room status - (2008-01-22) 
Software to record day to day events and keep an action list - (2007-12-31) 
On cancellations, rebooking, and pricing schemes - (2007-11-22) 
Hotel in Melksham at Christmas - (2007-09-29) 
One business, four different angles! - (2007-09-28) 
Customer feedback - lifeblood of a business - (2007-08-25) 
What do people look for on a hotel web site? - (2007-08-20) 
In the army, or in civvie street? - (2007-07-31) 
Meet, greet and welcome - (2007-05-16) 
Sizing sheets and other domestic issues - (2007-05-07) 
It can take more that one plus one to get two. - (2007-04-22) 
A week is a long time in the life of a conference centre - (2007-03-10) 
Behind the scenes - (2007-02-17) 
One Thousand Posts and still going strong - (2006-12-18) 
What happened at Geekmas - (2006-11-28) 
Swipe cards for hotel rooms - Security issues - (2006-11-23) 
Before and After - Well House Manor - (2006-11-18) 
Hotel door furniture - (2006-11-15) 
Too much for the National Trust - (2006-10-18) 
Smoking, or no - (2006-09-16) 
Monday Morning at Well House Consultants Melksham - (2006-07-24) 
King Edward VII - days of empire - (2006-06-20) 
A visit from the solicitor - (2006-06-03) 
Sympathetic development - (2006-04-09) 
Holes in on line information - (2005-02-05)
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