Managing Your Business with Less

I received a thoughtful note from Alice Erlandson (Thank You, Alice!) owner, with husband Tom, of The Oliver Inn in South Bend, IN.  Like many inns (and nearly ALL businesses!), innkeepers across the country are seeking out cost-cutting approaches to running the inn without sacrificing the quality of service to guests.  Here is her letter in its entirety:

Managing Your Business with Less

So…this has been a challenging year for us.  Sales have been down.  ADR is down.  Cash flow is negative  We still have guests to take care of and a large Victorian Mansion to restore and an acre of gardens to care for…how are we going to make it?

We needed to take a serious look at every penny we spend and see how we can make changes without changing our level of service to our guests.  Here are some things we are doing to make it through in this soft economy,

Employees: We’ve had to cut back our help and increase own own workload.

  • This is a great way to keep in shape, but it does take more of your time and energy.
  • Use this time, if you are cleaning rooms yourself for the first time in awhile to really look at what your guest rooms might need in the way of deep cleaning or sprucing up!

Utilities and Fixed Costs: You can’t do much about some of these.

  • We searched around and found a phone company that saved us $100 a month!
  • We’ve switched our light bulbs out to Compact Fluorescent and have seen our utilities stay even or go down!
  • Turn lights off when the inn is not occupied.
  • Be sure to turn lights on at night to give the inn that “lived in” look.  Make certain that all lights that are “always” on are energy savers, ie. compact fluorescent or LED.
  • Turn down water heaters during slower periods.
  • If you do your own laundry, try to wash more linens in lower temperatures.
  • All new purchases of equipment should carry an energy star rating
  • We also manage our heating and cooling very closely, especially when guests are not in the Inn.

Gardening Service: We kept them on for part of the year, but then we told our service that we hoped to have them back in the spring.  More of our time, less of our money, and we already owned a riding mower and other gardening equipment.  Cheaper than a tanning salon!

Menus for Breakfast: You can prepare gourmet breakfasts while watching your pennies!

  • Read the weekly food ads to see what is on sale and plan your menus around those seasonal items or store specials to help control your costs.
  • Look for in-store deals so that you can stock up on super sales!
  • Check out the local farmers market for deals on produce.

Marketing: Analyze your marketing efforts and be certain that your marketing investment is working for you.  One thing you cannot cut is marketing, but be certain that you are getting the best “bang for your buck”.

Maintenance: Now is the time to do some inexpensive maintenance to your guest rooms.

  • Make small repairs and keep things in good order, instead of replacing them.  Repair that leaky faucet rather than replace it.
  • Paint is an inexpensive way to spruce things up.
  • Big hotels are doing some remodels, and upgrades.  We need to keep up our Inns’ appearance and make sure our guests are having a great experience!

I’m sure you have ideas about what you can do to make it through these challenging times.  Things will turn around and we all can make it if we are careful and don’t forget to keep Marketing!

Alice Erlandsen,  The Oliver Inn