Why Hire a Housekeeper for a Bed and Breakfast in Michigan

Feather Duster

Feather Duster

When we bought the Munro House Bed and Breakfast in Jonesville, Michigan, we found that one of our biggest recurring expenses was the cost of our housekeeper, Sara.  We considered letting her go… for about one minute.  Then I had a vision of a big white ball and chain in the shape of a house–that’s not for me. There is enough work to do at a B&B without having to do all the daily cleaning tasks, too.  Just cleaning a couple of rooms can take over an hour.  If the phone rings, the cleaning waits.  If the doorbell rings, the cleaning waits.  If all 7 rooms need to be turned over, it’s going to take 3-4 hours, and if the phone keeps ringing, the house never gets clean on schedule.  My time can be spent promoting my business rather than doing all of the work.

Sara is a peach.  She has worked for us since 1999.  She does her chores well, and she needs little direction. She will work every day, if we need her.  Her record is 115 days straight.  It sounds like a lot, but we’re talking about a work day of just 2-4 hours.  In her 10 years with us, she has called in sick just once.  She has asked to be off for just a handful of specific dates–weddings, planned surgery, graduations.  She has never been late to work, and is usually early.  I know a good thing when I see it.

Sara cleans the rooms.  She makes beds, scrubs bathrooms, vacuums, dusts, and does the general cleaning.  I get to do the dishes and laundry.  Together, we are a pretty good team and can get the house in good shape pretty fast.  The biggest advantage to having a housekeeper is that when the phone rings, her routine is not interupted.  She is a machine focused on the job at hand.  She plans her work and just keeps going until it’s done.

Our housekeeping expense is still our largest expense, but it is also the one I do not want to eliminate.  We have one rule around here, “don’t make Sara mad.”  She is the perfect employee.  She cheerfully does the work I don’t want to do and she does it well. We pay her well, so we can count on not having to replace her and end up having to train a new person.

Many of my fellow innkeepers, who are doing all the housework themselves, are tired of all the work that goes along with owning a B&B.  They get up early to make breakfast, they do all of the cleaning, they meet guests, and run the business in their spare time.  For me, running the business is my full time occupation.  I take a 10 minute break every hour or so to do another load of laundry, but most of the rest of my time is doing things that will hopefully produce another client.

On most days, I take care of my breakfast peeps between 6-10 a.m. Then I have a 4-5 hour window to do other stuff–marketing, networking, working out, shopping, etc.  When my activities get done early, I do a lot of internet marketing.  Then, I start waiting for my peeps to arrive.  Sunday – Friday arrivals are usually between 6-8 p.m. Saturday arrivals between 3-5 p.m.  When my last peep arrives early, I get the rest of the night off.  When my peeps arrive late, I watch a lot of movies and play videos games or practice my ukulele.

Some of my fellow innkeepers do not pay their help enough. To keep them, they put tip envelopes in the bedrooms to try to get the guests to supplement the housekeeper’s wage. Personally, I think it’s tacky–like the tip jar at the coffee shop. When I travel, I usually drop a five on the pillow when I check out. I know I’m in the minority. Most people do not leave tips for the housekeeping staff, unless they are guilted into it by putting a tip envelope in the room.

I really like my job. But I would probably hate it if I had to do all of the housekeeping plus all of what I usually do every day. I think that is the main reason many innkeepers burn out after just a few years. Our longevity is ahead of many of our colleagues. We’ve been here 10 years now and do not feel any pressure to get out of the business any time soon. Most of the satisfaction of my job is that I have surrounded myself with good people who make my job a lot more enjoyable, and I have no intention of ever making Sara mad.

Published in: on February 11, 2009 at 2:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
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