Response to Chris Keightley email@example.com
Question 1 – Tell us a bit about your background…….
Neil’s background is in education; he was a senior school housemaster before moving into the world of prep schools. Brought up on a West Coast sheep farm, Rosemary made a career in music and the arts. She ran a successful interior design and soft furnishings business for many years and has also been involved in all the domestic aspects of running school boarding.
Wherever they worked, family holidays with their four sons were always spent at their home on Ardnamurchan, from where they moved to Skye in 2004.
Question 2 – What made you decide to run a B & B
We came into the hotel/b&b business in 2004 with the idea of helping teenage boys who had a troubled history in boarding schools; the intention was to refocus them and provide them with a way out of a downward spiral. An important part of the project was that they should be in a working environment where they might acquire useful skills in a variety of fields. The professionalism of the hotel backdrop was therefore an important factor.
Question 3 – What was the main factor for your choice of location
The location was important to us. We were both very familiar with this part of the West Coast of Scotland and all that it could offer. Quite apart from the power of the environment, the distance of the Isle of Skye from the South of England would ensure a level of commitment that would be crucial. Furthermore, the population of Skye (c. 12,000) included a significant number of highly professional individuals who could provide a useful basis of contacts to guide and inspire.
Question 4 – In short run us through your day
A combination of factors has meant that we no longer operate the educational aspects of the initial project. However, we have become increasingly involved in the local tourism sector. As volunteers we are both directors of Destination Skye and Lochalsh and Neil is Chair of the Skye and Lochalsh Hospitality Association.
The very personal nature of our business means that our day starts when the first of our guests get up and finishes when the last guest retires to bed. We are both very hands-on. We are involved in admin, catering, staff training, housekeeping, laundry – in short making sure that every aspect of our fully licenced, VAT registered, 4* “Guest Accommodation” runs smoothly with a minimum of seasonal staff.
As time passes – and we add to our grey hairs – we have tried to restrict our opening hours so that we can enjoy more of the pleasures of island living and maintaining contact with our increasingly scattered off-spring. With 10 acres of gardens and grounds to maintain and a kitchen to supply, we also have plenty to distract us when time allows….
Question 5 – Is running a B & B exactly what you thought it would be
Having been involved in the running of boarding schools for a good many years, we had a pretty good idea of the likely demands. (Trip Advisor did not then appear on the school curriculum …!)
Question 6 – If you could return to the beginning is there anything you would change
Finding staff and budgeting for them.
Finding suitable staff has become ever more difficult, particularly in this part of the world where businesses tend to run on a seasonal basis. When we started, we relied on a steady supply of English-speaking staff interested in the work that we were doing (mainly from SA. Australia and NZ); now, most hospitality staff tend to come from closer to home, have varying degrees of language skills – and perhaps more interest in their pay packet than in the service they provide!
Budgeting for staff and meeting their expectations has also become increasingly demanding for a small business.
Question 7 – What would be the main piece of advice you could give in running a successful B & B
Enjoy meeting a wide variety of guests from all over the world and be prepared to go the extra mile to exceed their expectations. Don’t underestimate the demands of the day!
Neil Colquhoun. Greshornish House. 12th January 2016