Business

How to run your own bed and breakfast business

bed and breakfast in Scotland Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption B&Bs offer bed, breakfast and tax advantages

Sizzling breakfasts, grateful guests, and lots of tax advantages - anyone who has stayed at a bed and breakfast has surely wondered idly what it would be like to run their own.

But just how easy is it, and what rules are there - other than no muddy boots in the bedrooms?

Cathy and Ian Miles live in the idyllic Kent countryside. Ian, a qualified accountant, was already running his business from home when Cathy lost her job in 2012. The company she worked for went bust, and she was keen to be her own boss too.

Six months later she decided to open the Field Green Oast bed and breakfast in her own house. She had no previous experience; her earlier job involved selling exhibition space at big conferences, but she had stayed at a number of B&Bs over the years.

"Having stayed in a B&B I really liked, I spoke to the owner there. She said she organised the rooms with things that she wanted," says Cathy.

She also did a lot of research, using magazines and the internet. For some of the more technical aspects she consulted with the Pink Book, which is a guide to legislation for accommodation providers in England.

She also looked to see whether there were any other B&Bs in her area and whether there would be enough demand for another.

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption "You have to be a people person," says David Weston

Insurance

David Weston is the chief executive of The Bed and Breakfast Association, the trade association for B&B owners. He believes that running a B&B in your home is a unique business and requires a certain type of person.

"You have to be a people person; somebody who is friendly and enjoys meeting new people. If the whole idea of opening your home to strangers is totally horrific to you, then don't go into this line of business," he says.

He points out that you have to keep detailed records of your expenditure.

Everything from the cost of bacon to the laundry bill is allowable against tax - which can boost your income substantially.

He also warns about the extra technical details you have to be aware of. Some B&Bs have closed in recent years because they could not comply with 2006 fire regulations, or would have found it disproportionately expensive to do so.

Other areas that are worth checking are what extra insurance you might need.

Image caption Cathy Miles manages to run her B&B while bringing up five children

'Flexible'

Mr Weston estimates that some 1,000 new B&Bs were set up last year alone and that the industry generates over £1.4bn in revenues.

For Cathy the online reviews are key to the success she has had so far. But she can't ask her guests to give good reviews; she has to earn them.

This is a view shared by Ian Cass, of the Forum of Private Business. He has spent 14 years developing small businesses.

"There are new forms of social media that are coming up all the time that you can use. There are new ways of using the web. You've got to keep looking at new ways of pushing your business forward."

Cathy and Ian have five children - one has left home, two are at university most of the time, and two still live with them. As well as a large family they also have two dogs and two horses.

Cathy feels that despite the sometimes demanding nature of her business it does give her the freedom to be able to organise the school runs and have good quality family time.

"I wanted to do something where I was going to be in charge of my hours and when I worked."

Cathy and Ian are able to organise the B&B around family life and they feel the business gives them the flexibility to be able do this successfully, while still getting rave reviews for their establishment.

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