Part 4: Opening and running a guesthouse
When you open it seems like a good idea to invite friends and contacts to stay as NPG’s in the various apartments to try them out. When they want to come again and the NPG formula (non paying guests) is no longer in force, you risk losing friends. You are faced with making your first ‘policy’ for an eventual manual, and for me this was when I realized that I again had a real business, not just another ‘little hobby’ (my former company in the Netherlands which had had a staff of 18 and had been successful for 18 years had often been referred to as such by colleagues of my husband!). I rethought my Mission Statement, did many calculations (absolutely not my strength) and realized I needed more staff than just my housekeeper.
A series of coincidences brought me in to contact with the daughter of my former neighbour in Holland who had spent her school years in Madrid at the English school, done Hotel School in Holland, worked as a stewardess for Sabena airlines, and was interested in moving to Spain with her family. She (now my General Manager) and I have now been working together for ten years with pleasure and success.
Together we have built up Dar Cilla to be Number One of 24 guesthouses in the immediate area (see Trip Advisor (http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotel Review-g315918-d547083-Reviews-DarCilla:Tarifa Costa de la Luz Andalucia.html) We now have a team of six (including myself).
Dar Cilla comprises eight self catering apartments all of which are ‘charming and utterly comfortable’ (see also the reviews) with a maximum capacity of 20. It is not just a question of ‘handing over the key’ as was intimated by a lady I sat next to at a dinner party who seemed to wonder what could possibly keep me busy so much of the day! Quite apart from the endless maintenance in a harsh climate (wind, and by the sea), managing a guesthouse involves all the other aspects of any business: the marketing, the public relations, the financial administration, client relations, neighbour relations, personnel, staff contracts, legal affairs, fire extinguishers and remembering the annual check up, extra water tanks and the legal obligation to control water regularly, insurances, facilities for invalids, and last but by no means least, an infallible booking system – one double booking and you are in deep trouble. This list is by no means complete – I am only writing this article for fun, it is not meant to be a ‘road map’.
Setting up a guesthouse is not so difficult. Maintaining the standard of excellence with regard to not only the building and its facilities, but also in regard to the continual improvement of service to your guests is an ongoing challenge. It is one we enjoy. Most of the time.