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Starting from zero

Two weeks ago I stared blankly at the Google homepage, the white box challenging me to type in the one phrase that would lead me directly to the people I needed to speak to. I slowly typed in ‘sign makers’ and as Google was frantically predicting what I might write next I added as an afterthought ‘Cornwall’.

Here we go again – another new challenge, another relationship to be built. Coming from a position of zero knowledge there is nothing I can just ‘get done’. Every purchase, every quote needs to somehow be sanity checked against assumed knowledge, a bit of friendly advice and / or another quote. I know nothing.

Frustratingly I don’t know what pillows to buy, what duvets to use, how much cutlery costs (in bulk), what a sign should cost or even who makes them. At every turn I’m concerned that someone is taking advantage of me because I don’t have a clue what I’m talking about. I’m convinced I’m going to spend a fortune on something to be told by someone else, 2 days down the line, that if I’d have gone to XXX it would have been half the price, or telling someone I paid £x for something to be informed that I was robbed blind and I should have gone to XXX down the road.

Wholesalers, manufacturers, tradesmen/women… they all have to be found, talked to in detail about various requirements (when we’re not even sure of the detail ourselves) and then their costs have to be checked against industry averages which are – well, I don’t know! Less than a year ago it wouldn’t have even occurred to me to notice a sign, and now I have to find people who make them. I have a vague recollection of buying a duvet but I couldn’t tell you how much it cost, it’s tog, or what it’s stuffed with. Well, let’s be honest, I only had to buy one and I had a disposable income – what did I care if I spent £5 more than my friend next door?

Not once have I been able to say ‘Oh yes, we definitely need to get china / porcelain / duck down / hollowfibre / oak  / pine / mugs’ and then backed it up with real life knowledge. I’ve either professed to have an opinion on something I know absolutely nothing about (one of my favourite tricks – don’t tell Danny!) or I’ve had to ask around, send texts, send Tweets, speak to my Mum (who seems to know everything there is to know about household items) or Google for hours and hours.

Everything just takes so long! Today I mentioned that I was looking forward to our second venture, whether that’s a larger guest house, a cafe, a campsite or something else hospitality related, as at least then I will have some basis of knowledge, even if it’s as simple as knowing how to keep our books (something else I’ve had to learn from scratch): Relationships with suppliers will be in place, some semblance of understanding of what we are doing will exist, and all in all Google won’t have quite the impact on our choice of suppliers as it does at the moment.

While I’m not moaning (well, I am a bit) it does come as a bit of a shock. After all, isn’t a guest house just a bigger house, with a few more bedrooms? I would have thought, having stayed in plenty, that I would know exactly what to do and exactly what I wanted. How naiive was I? Bulk buying is a whole different ballgame. The other day I had to liaise with a broker to fix our gas and electric prices for the next 2 – 3 years and even the fact that these people exist was news to me, I have had to create spreadsheets comparing the different prices of crockery and, as mentioned previously, I have had to find someone to make us a sign for outside the guest house – and then have a 2 hour debate with Danny about the size of the sign and how we can ensure it doesn’t ruin the view of those eating breakfast.

Argh… so many things to consider and think about.

When people suggest to us that we are living their dream, and they too would love to run / open a guest house they probably have the same rose-coloured view about it as I once did. However, like your parents once told you that Santa Claus doesn’t exist, let me be the one to tell you that there is so much more to think about than you initially consider, and I have no doubt that I will forget at least 5 things by the time we open in April. Fingers crossed it won’t be anything too detrimental.

Strangely enough, anticipating what I might want is difficult enough, but anticpating what Mr and Mrs Jones would want, or their son Terry, or his boyfriend John, or John’s sister Annie, and her kids would want is nigh on impossible. It really makes me appreciate the great places I’ve stayed in where shelves have been in just the right place, kettles have been exactly the right size and hooks have been cleverly placed just where I want to hang my towel. It heightens my sensitivity to the fact that when something is right it’s rarely noticed, but when it’s not – well, beware the reviews on Trip Advisor.

I feel sorry for the first person who unwittingly places themselves in the firing line for my rant bysuggesting that opening a B&B is just like extending your house or having someone stay in the spare room – it’s not! Unless of course the next time you have a guest stay over you revamp your fire alarm system, give them a welcoming pack, offer them a choice of breakfasts to meet a variety of dietary requirements, and then ensure that the sheets / duvets won’t exacerbate allergies they don’t tell you they have.

you’ve got great post here, keep ’em coming.

Annmarie says:

This is such a great blog – so easy to read.

Was funny to read what you say here about suppliers etc after our conversation on Tuesday. There are so many unknowns but if I know you guys can do it!

And the website is amazing. Can’t wait to come visit.

Annmarie xx

Lynn says:

Hi I located your webpage by mistake when i was searching Bing for this concern, I have to say your page is truly useful I also love the style, its superb!

Nathan says:

I’ve just started reading your blog, as it appeared interesting. I’ve got to mid August and your comments about writing strategy papers, which has made me realise I should really finish the first draft of our Group property strategy, which my boss is waiting for, its a struggle as I have no background in property or strategy!! Looking forward to reading the rest of the blog and secretly chuffed we’ll be amoung your first customers.

Little Leaf Guest House says:

Hehe @Nathan – it’s confusing when we both have ‘unisex’ names :-). See you in April.

Nathan says:

Sorry just realise I spoke to Lee not Danny

Nathan says:

Hi Lee

I’ve just got off the phone with Danny, booking a couple of nights with you in April, really looking forward to it. Hope it all goes well and don’t worry we’re easy going so if you have forgotten something it won’t be the end of the world. Very impressed with your courage for doing this I’m sure it’ll be fine.



Ann Patey says:

One thing that most women need is decent lighting to put make up on and a surface to hold all the bits and bobs. So a window sill will do but failing that a well lit mirror is a must. Oh! And don’t forget a power socket near the mirror so we can use hair driers and straighteners etc. Stayed in loads of places that didn’t have either of the above and it always p**sses me off big time!

Hope I haven’t added to your list!

Erica says:

I stayed at the Marriott hotel in Bristol and they had a baby travel cot from mother care. Ikea does great cutlery and plates ect. Once you guys are open and running for a month or so it will become easy. And I have faith that I will see a chain and that you will have a family guest house next, hint hint.

Margo says:

I understand your troubles, but do keep the faith: chasing your dream is always more difficult than to keep on travelling on the road of security. You’ll be fine on opening day and I think that whatever happens, you should a)compliment yourselves on daring to live your dream b) realise that what you see as shortcoming(s) is often not noticed and c) your warm hospitality will undoubtedly make up for it!