Saturday, April 17, 2021

Knock, Knock, Who's There?

 When you live in a unique home that is sometimes open to the public,  people always want to be invited in for a peak.  You will get knocks on your door at all times of the day and night from people who want to come in and take a look around.   These Lookie-Loos always have a good reason for asking...

"I used to work here, can I come in to see the changes you've made?"

"I have a friend of a friend who stayed here once and I have always wanted to see it for myself."

"I was shopping in town and the storekeeper told me that I absolutely must stop and see your place!"

"I was driving by and just couldn't restrain myself from knocking on your door."

"I have always wanted to own a place just like this!  Can you show me around and let me pick your brain?"

"I might be staying in the area sometime and wanted to check out your accommodations." 

I admit, before becoming a B&B owner, I have unexpectedly invited myself into more than one place.  I had no idea how disruptive my unannounced drive-by drop-ins might have been as I was always greeted with smiles and hospitality.  Now that the shoe is on the other foot, however, I realize how some of my tour guides might have been gritting their teeth behind their welcoming smile or Covid mask.

Our current B&B was once a well-renowned health spa.  The owner had a reputation for prohibiting anyone who was not a paying guest from crossing the threshold of her door.  Service people were directed to use the back entrance and, unless you had business that required you to enter the guest spaces, you never knew what was behind the curtain.  The first Christmas Season that we were here we had not yet opened our guest rooms but we decided to host an open house over the weekend.  In two days we had over 1,000 people walk through!  Needless to say, that will never happen again.  It was hard on me and the house!

We have had a few truly awkward moments.  One evening we were sitting at the dining room table eating dinner with a guest when a woman walked through the unlocked front door, sat down at the table with us and chatted through the rest of the meal.  We were all so stunned, no one had the wits to ask her to leave.  Another time it was late, I was home alone and in my pajamas when I heard someone walking through the house.  I nervously went to check and found a gentleman in a trench coat and fedora looking for a room to stay the night.  Needless to say, I have gotten better at locking the front door in our safe little village.

In the beginning, when Curious George or Georgette stopped by, I would hand them a dust cloth from the pile near the door and, with a smile, tell them that the admission price was surface wiping.  No one has ever taken me up on that.   I have thought of putting a little sign by the door reading "House Tours by Appointment Only" or "Be Our Guest or Pay The Price For A Tour" or, at the very least, place a small "Donations Welcomed" box by the door.  However, none of these sound hospitable and, personally, I think that the person who boldly knocks on your door is not the type of person who would read the fine print before entering.  So instead, I stop what I am doing, try to act like their surprise visit is the best thing that could have happened to me today (and sometimes it is) and share the house if I can.    Other times I have to apologize and tell people that because of house guests, Covid, a conflicting commitment or the obvious fact that I haven't had time to dress yet, I cannot show them through today but please come back another time.

When you choose to own a B&B, sooner or later you will come to the realization that you have traded your privacy and personal space for a place open to and for the public.  When you really need to be alone, maybe you should book a room at a nice little B&B!

Friday, April 2, 2021

Recognizing Good Service

Let's face it, B&B Owners work hard!  In a small guest house, we do it all!  We cook and clean, grocery shop, perform maintenance and repairs, do the marketing, balance the books, make reservations, cancel bookings, answer phone calls from people requesting everything from discounted stays to impossible requests and keep on smiling no matter what comes our way.  All for the cost of a one night stay in a very competitively priced market.  

When lunching with a group of friends recently, the conversation turned towards tipping.  One friend was adamant that you should never tip the owner of a business whether it's your hairdresser, dog groomer, wait staff, B&B owner or whomever.  Never ever should owners get tipped.  This same person will will tip the support staff (table busser, hair washer, etc.) but not the owner.  She justifies this thinking by believing that the owner is taking a cut of everyone else's earnings so they do not need tips.  I countered that the small business owner is responsible for the overhead costs, paying the staff, managing all things related and is most likely not getting rich doing it.  My friend responded that maybe the owner was in the wrong business then.

Later, when I googled "Do you tip the owner of a business", the internet told me:  Technically, it is not considered proper etiquette to tip the owner of a business. Instead, the tip should go to the employees. If you frequent a business often, it's a nice gesture to tip generously in order to show your appreciation for services rendered, and to ensure great service in the future.

Today I googled "Do you tip the owner of a B&B" and found this response:  For valet and room services, leave anywhere from $2-5 (or more, if you're feeling generous). In some cases, tips are not expected by the innkeeper. Sometimes at a smaller bed and breakfast, the owner does not expect you to leave a tip...

So it would seem that my friend is right!

I have heard that some places leave gratuity envelopes in the room and some places include a gratuity in the bill.  We do not do either of these things but instead trust our guests to do what they are comfortable with.  We have, on occasion, found a tip in a room after the guest has checked out.  Discovering a tip is always an unexpected surprise that we are thankful for.

On a side note, a positive rating is something that money cannot buy and, if we had to choose between a five dollar tip or a five star rating, I think we would have to go with the five stars! 

As for us, we will continue tipping for good service whether the service provider is the business owner or not.  Exceptional work deserves exceptional recognition.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Be An Ant, Not A Grasshopper.

I admit I have been avoiding writing anything about our global pandemic.  The subject is still a can of worms that I hesitate to open.  Who knows what will crawl out?   There are so many opinions on COVID that I hesitate discussing it with family, friends and house guests.  But it is what it is and it's big.   Whatever might impact your business, positive or negative, it's important to be prepared for anything that comes your way.  We can learn a lot from Aesop's fable about The Ant and The Grasshopper and the importance of hard work and planning for the future.  Here at The Grand Kerr House, The Grasshopper married The Ant and, thankfully, it works for us. 

Just before purchasing The Grand Kerr House, we were about to make an offer on a place located in Northern Michigan on Lake Huron.  It had so much to offer including a main house, a half-dozen cottages and a sandy beach as far as the eye could see.  It was paradise!   I always wondered if it was the one that got away so, last summer, we went there on a family vacation to relax and see how the new owners were doing.  Thanks to Mother Nature, the beach is now totally gone.  The lake is encroaching on the cabins.  The owners are having difficulty covering fixed expenses let alone investing in property maintenance and improvements. How could anyone foresee and plan for that?  I am so relieved that we did not buy that property, I am not sure we could have adapted our business plan and survived the unavoidable.

If you really, really want to be a B&B owner more than anything else in the whole wide world, it will be difficult to not jump in with both feet before testing the water.  You need to hold back a little, keeping one foot on dry land while carefully checking for rip tides, sharks and a possible tsunami.  Do not make your decision an All Or Nothing venture or you could easily end up with nothing.  Make sure your B&B is a reflection of both your heart and your brain. Literally make a list of what could possibly go right and wrong and write down how you are prepared to handle those situations.  Will you set profits aside for a rainy day or invest them now while the sun is shining.  Will you have funding when your HVAC goes out or will you have to turn guests out in the cold.  You won't have everything covered but thinking about it now may prevent analysis paralysis in the future.

When initially investing in your business, you may need to do some clever financing including SBA and bank loans, dipping into retirement funds and asking friends and family for help.  That can be dangerous and should be scary.  When we were money hunting, I had to get into my casino mindset:  Never gamble more than you can afford to lose and never borrow to pay for your gamble.  That way of thinking has kept us from making costly mistakes and has saved us during more than one unexpected financial challenge. 

Do you have a business plan that can be adjusted for changing times.  During this past year, we cut back to one guest suite for the comfort of our guests and our own feeling of safety.  This decision kept us busy and covered fixed expenses while we took advantage of the lower occupancy to work on home improvements and spend more time enjoying the main house.  Another B&B in our area says this past year has been one of their busiest!  They adjusted their offerings to give guests what they needed to feel safe while traveling - separate breakfast seating, social distancing and super cleaning - and it paid off for them.  

 I've said it before and I will say it again:  If you fail to plan then you plan to fail - but plans are made to be changed.  Plan for the worst, hope for the best, and be flexible along the way.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Live, Laugh and Do The Laundry!

When you have a Bed & Breakfast, it can seem that you spend as much time (maybe more) with your laundry than you spend with your guests.  The idea of doing laundry should not be a surprise to anyone but the realization of how much there is to do can be a bit overwhelming.  Every guest check-out for us generates a minimum of four loads of laundry for tablecloths, sheets, blankets, bed spreads, towels, robes, slippers and anything they may have spilled on.

I remember when we were visiting B&B's for sale, we looked at a house that had beautiful dry clean only bedspreads.  I did not ask out loud but wondered how often they were cleaned and how did the hostess keep them so pristine.  My personal motto is:  if your heart will be broken by a stain, tear or disappearance, it does not belong in your guest room.  Yes, I have been known to get emotionally attached to linens!

Another B&B that we visited had one washing machine and two dryers, stating that the second dryer was needed to keep up with the washer.  We have not had that concern but we do have a back-up washer and dryer in case our primaries go out of service.  Yes, laundry can be taken to the laundromat but I like being able to multi-task (I am doing laundry as I write this post).  Speaking of laundromats, some B&B owners have their laundry picked up weekly and get it back clean, folded and ready to go.  That does sound like a luxury service that might be worth looking into...

Our Owner's Quarters are in the garden apartment (i.e. basement with windows) and that is where our laundry room is.  The washer and dryer share space with the HVAC systems but the room has a window and the laundry chute, strategically located in the same area, delivers the linens from the second floor so the room is good.  We have talked about putting a laundry on the second floor but I am not sure the cost outweighs the benefits at this time.  As long as there is enough room and light to stage dirty and fold clean, then that's all this girl needs.

Let's talk bed linens!  Every room needs at least two sets of bed linens including sheets, pillow cases, blankets and bedspreads.  This allows for quick turnaround between guests or in case guests have a spillage that requires changing out the bedding during their stay.  In the beginning we dressed our beds in colored sheets, coordinating blankets and duvets with patterned covers.  With the recent pandemic, we changed everything to white, white, white and we will probably continue with the whites when the pandemic is over.  I found that the colored sheets seemed to absorb and show the guest's body oils which were not always easy to wash out.  As much as I like the look of the duvet covers, the bedspreads are easier and faster to put on the beds.  And the whites are very reassuring to the guests (and me) who want feel confident that the room has been cleaned thoroughly.  So it's all good for now.

The towels, wash cloths, bath mats, robes and slippers that we provide are also white (this is a requirement in some areas).  This makes for easy cleaning and stocking of rooms.  The only exception we provide are the black "makeup" wash cloths.  We have found the whites are used by guests to remove makeup, clean or polish  shoes, dry hair with temporary hair coloring, soak up spilled drinks and for other countless applications that I don't even want to imagine.  At these times, bleach is my best friend and I am so glad for the whites.  We have tried to think of a polite, direct way to set out a bucket of cleaning supplies with a note for guests to help themselves but, so far, nothing has worked.

For stubborn stains and deep cleaning, I found this laundry recipe on the internet.  I am sorry I am unable to give credit where credit is due for this but I am truly thankful to the person that originally posted this:

How to wash sheets -

  1.  Machine settings
    1. Bulky/Sheets
    2. Deep Water
    3. Hot Temperature
    4. Presoak
  2. Load sheets and add in
    1. Laundry Detergent
    2. Dishwashing soap - three squirts
    3. Borax - 1/4 cup
    4. White Vinegar - 1/4 cup in Downey Ball
  3. Presoak 30 minutes
  4. Wash and dry as usual

Well, who would have imagined that I could spend so much time writing about laundry?  If I could sum it up in in just a few words, I guess I would have to say:  Load, Wash, Dry, Fold, Repeat.  OK, I am out of here, time to throw in the towel!

Saturday, March 6, 2021

How to Plan the Perfect Staycation on a Budget

As we all know, the pandemic has made travel difficult. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued warnings advising Americans against travel due to the heightened risk of infection in public environments like airplanes and buses. 

If you want to stay safe but are still craving an escape from everyday life, a staycation is the solution. This gives you a chance to break away from your usual routine and unwind. You can also take the opportunity to explore your local surroundings. Approaching the area as if you were a tourist lets you discover new sights. As an added bonus, a stay at The Grand Kerr House B&B lets you indulge in relaxing and invigorating spa and yoga services without needing to venture out! 

Below, discover how to plan the perfect getaway while staying close to home.

Find a unique place to stay.

Skip the major chain hotels and look for smaller accommodations with local flavor. This gives you a chance to support area business owners and to enjoy a unique hospitality experience you won't get at cookie-cutter brand-name hotels. For your safety, prioritize accommodations that only allow one suite for guests, thereby giving you exclusive access to all the amenities that are offered. This will give you added peace of mind, allowing you to truly enjoy your experience.

Do your research into cheap sights to see.

Plan a few activities for your staycation. TourRadar has great tips on how to be a tourist in your hometown. You can make a bucket list of local adventures, for example, take a mini road trip to a nearby town, or sample the local cuisine. Museums often offer reduced rate or freebie days during the middle of the week. This local museum finder can help you find attractive options near you. Also, check your local media for events.

Take plenty of pictures.

If you went on a vacation, you'd likely take lots of pictures to commemorate the occasion. Bring this attitude to your staycation. Follow these tips from Tom's Guide for taking great holiday pics. For example, tell a story with your snaps and use a selfie stick. When you get home from your getaway, you can print out your favorites using an affordable online photo printing service. You can then get cheap frames on Amazon and you will have a lovely memento.

Make time for budget-friendly shopping.

If you're feeling burned out and stressed, indulge in retail therapy during your staycation. You don't have to splurge and spend loads of money. You can do your shopping online and find great deals. Many major brands offer online coupons and promo codes to help cut costs. You can treat yourself to something new without having to worry about breaking your budget.

Schedule self-care activities to unwind.

Make time to relax during your staycation. After all, the point is to destress, right? Schedule activities that are shown to reduce anxiety, like yoga and meditation. Yoga helps to increase strength and flexibility and also calms the mind. Meditation can reduce stress, improve focus, and aid in a good night's sleep. You can easily do yoga and meditation either by booking a service in your accommodation or by using your phone or tablet to look up free YouTube videos. In addition to scheduling self-care activities, simply being in a clean, clutter-free environment can make you feel calmer!

Try something new, food-wise.

If there's a local restaurant you've always wanted to try, a staycation offers the perfect opportunity to give it a go. If you're looking to save money on food, book accommodation with a kitchen so you can stay in and cook. Try new recipes to spice things up. If your area is known for a certain local dish, you might try making it yourself. You can find easy recipes online via sites like AllRecipes.

You don't have to let the pandemic ruin your vacation plans. Schedule a staycation instead and you can still enjoy the feeling of a getaway in your own hometown. Book a relaxing, private stay at the historic Grand Kerr House B&B online or by calling (419) 610-8138.

Many thanks to Jesse Clark ( for this article

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Nothing in Life is Free - Beware of Hidden Fees!

Let me begin with a great big disclaimer.  I am not a financial wizard.  Too often I learn by my mistakes.  Everything contained here-in should be read with a bit of skepticism on your part and, if you see the error of my ways, please correct me.  Finally, what I am writing here captures only a single moment in time.  Everything is subject to change.

Now that I have that out of my system, I am going to express my opinion on fees that B&B Owners pay.  None of these are actually hidden but, if you don't do your research, you may not be aware of where your hard earned money is going.  Ignorance can be bliss but knowledge is power.  

As a child (many, many years ago) I remember my best friend, Robin, getting a new bike.  It was so beautiful and I wanted one just like it!  I told my father that Robin's dad didn't even have to pay for it - he simply gave them piece of plastic, signed a paper and the bike was hers.  My father explained to me that, even though Robin's dad did not have to pay today, he would have to pay sooner or later and there was danger paying tomorrow for your hamburger today.  I did not get a new bike that summer and, as I recall, Robin did not get to keep her bike for long. 

Today, very few people use cash and plastic has become the norm.  There are many advantages and pitfalls for both the user and the receiver of credit transactions.  Today I am writing as the recipient of plastic money though I could give you quite an earful about using these devil chips for purchases.

We primarily process our credit card transactions through Square and Quickbooks.  Each charges a flat fee per transaction plus a percentage of the charged amount.  Each allows for swiping the customer credit card through a card reader, manually entering the credit card information on their app or having the customer pay their invoice directly.  Below is a summation of the charges that can be incurred.

Charged Amount

$ per transaction

% fee per Transaction

Fee For   $100 Charge

Fee For.    $150 Charge

Fee For    $200 Charge


Swipe Card






Manual Entry












Stored History







Swipe Card






Manual Entry












Additionally, these companies may charge a monthly or annual fee to use their services.  Services can include invoicing, book keeping, customer records, etc.  We use both service companies for different reasons but try to maximize our income by reducing our fees when collecting payments.  Its very important to understand where your money is being spent so we encourage you to take a close look at the fees you are paying, after all, a penny saved is a penny earned!

Image result for piggy bank pictures

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Having Reservations About Your Reservation System

If you build it, they will come...but only if you make it easy to book your rooms.

How people make their reservations has changed drastically over the past years.  Prior to the internet, people would reference Bed & Breakfast guide books that described the B&B and gave them a phone number to call for additional information and to (hopefully) make their reservation.  Potential guests would speak directly with the B&B Owner/Manager who would open up their desk top calendar and literally pencil in the reservation information.  It was a personal experience that allowed people to get to know each other and let them decide if your B&B was a good fit or not.  Thanks to the internet, reserving a B&B stay is a totally different experience today.  Many people search on their phones, iPads or laptops for places by location, ratings, pricing, offerings, whatever.  When they spot something of interest, they click on the website and, according to Contentsquare's 2020 Digital Experience Benchmark report, spend an average of 62 seconds on a website page before deciding to look further or move on to the next site of interest.

In our personal experience, 50% of our reservations are made with a phone call and 50% are made on-line.  We need to be available to answer the phone 24/7 and we need to have a reservation system that allows people to book easily then and there.  We cannot afford to lose half of our business because we are not able to answer the phone or because our reservation system is not intuitive or user friendly.

As a B&B Owner, you have several options regarding Reservation Systems.  Some B&B Owners have reservation software linked to their website, others allow guests to reserve only through booking companies such as and and others still take reservations with a phone call, pencil and paper.  

When we were setting up our website, I went with the reservation software provider that our website developer suggested.  I will admit I was feeling a bit overwhelmed during start-up so I took the path of least resistance.  When deciding about your reservation software you can do internet searches, reach out to other B&B owners to see what system they are using or trust your website developer.  Searching for alternatives on the internet, I am seeing that there are no less than 80 reservation software providers! That's a lot of choices requiring a great deal of research.  When looking at my current software provider, I see that they are categorized as mid-priced with a customer rating of 4.76 out of 5 stars.  I have no complaints with them, they are very responsive when I need help and I am now past the learning curve. Sometimes I think "If it aint broke, don't fix it" and other times I think "Change can do me good" especially if it saves me money and/or time.  

We need to ask ourselves, what do we really need in a reservation system?  Reservation software providers can offer website development, marketing emails, promotional sidebars and room pictures on your calendar, travel agency integration, user friendly calendars, credit card processing, reports that include occupancy summaries, guest information and more. The sky is the limit!  But remember, you get what you pay for and you pay for what you get.  When considering the cost, ask yourself how many room nights will it take to pay for this service, what do I absolutely need and what can I do without. 

This is something that should probably be re-evaluated annually.  It never hurts to shop around.  If you are looking, I have found a very helpful website for myself:  This site allows you to compare different reservation software suppliers and can help you identify the right software for your business. If requested, one of their adviser's will work with you to compile a short list of systems that meet your needs and budget -- all in about five minutes.  (Please note that I am sure there are other software advisors that will help you and I am not recommending this company only, it just happens to be one I connected with).

pencil on opened notebook