In Short: Exhausting and Exhilarating.
Three decades ago I was blessed to be an innkeeper of an 11-room inn for about two years, an 8-room inn as interim innkeeper for three or four months, and a 12-room inn with a 50-seat restaurant and full bar as interim innkeeper for about three months. Being an innkeeper utilized all of my strengths, passions, and skills. But it tested me at every turn — and I generally came out of the test smiling.
Innkeeping is not a job or career for everyone. Many of the people holding that position shouldn’t be. To be done well, innkeeping requires a person who wants to serve others, to bring comfort and warmth to others’ lives. To do that you have to be a master of many skills, and a student of many others. I’ll go so far as to say I’m a natural at it.
Owning an inn is definitely not a get-rich-quick scheme. It’s not a real estate investment to heavily leverage. Being an innkeeper is a calling and demands a lot of you. To balance your giving to your guests, you have to carve out time and space to give to yourself. As the owner of the first inn I managed loved to say, the job should be called “Inngiving,” not “Innkeeping.”
The basics include making reservations, greeting guests, tending to guests, getting the inn cleaned and the supplies stocked, and checking guests out. A bit more challenging was the job of manager itself — I’d never been a manager before so I treated my staff the way I wanted to be treated in my jobs, and that worked (though I had several learning curves there too). Our combined weaknesses and strengths came together during the course of the week to keep the inn running in a tip-top fashion. I knew as a team we were doing well when a guest spoke to any one of us as if we were the owner. Score!
Then there were the little things that put the spit-shine on the inn, things that guests don’t consciously notice but it adds to the ambiance and experience. For example, knowing how to see that a flower will be wilted tomorrow so cull it today. Change the water in the flower vase before it turns bad. Wipe doors, door jams, and light switches — the parts of a building that get touched frequently — before the fingerprints turn black with dirt. Keep a jigsaw puzzle going in the common area. How to set the table so that if there’s only one person eating breakfast at any given time they don’t feel alone. Offer tea and cookies to anyone in the inn — guest or not — at any time of night or day, though the sherry was a more popular treat at night.
I was in heaven as an innkeeper. My passions and strengths were well suited for the job. I loved making the house look inviting, the guests feel welcome, juggling the myriad tasks that are happening constantly. When you can answer the phone, make breakfast, and check a guest out all at the same time without batting an eye, you’ll know you are in the right line of work.—
Kit Cassingham is a transformation coach. Her background is eclectic, as you’ll see from her diverse story contributions, which makes her a better coach. She’s a Colorado native and lives in the state’s rural southwest with her husband and three cats, surrounded by mountains.
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