Lee Rotbart

Archive for the ‘The beginning’ Category

A footnote

In The beginning on August 27, 2010 at 5:35 pm

It’s not over. If you thought that was the end, think again.

We are planning. Please bear with us.

More news to follow.

Not sure still what to call this blog.

Suggestions welcome.

… maybe this is the ‘middle’?

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The end (of phase 1)

In The beginning on August 25, 2010 at 12:34 pm

It’s ironic that when I set up this blog I tagged the first lot of posts ‘The beginning’ and now it seems we’re at the end and I don’t remember the middle.

Around 8 weeks ago Danny and I received a phone call that changed our lives, and yesterday we received another phone call that changed the direction. The beautifully patient and enthusiastic proprietors of Porthminster View finally accepted another offer on the building. After putting off their estate agent for over a week in anticipation of a successful mortgage application our last rejection was the final straw and they just had to pin their carriage to another train – one that doesn’t need a mortgage to get it moving. If ours is a steam engine – traditional and nostalgic, theirs is an express – fast, efficient and less likely to break down.

I don’t blame them. This has been a highly emotional journey for both us and them, and I truly believe they were as disappointed as us when they called yesterday. The saddest thing about the whole affair is that the new owners are not going to run Porthminster View as a guesthouse and so another B&B bites the dust, and another view of the St Ives beach and harbour is privatised.

In an environment where holiday companies are going bust left, right and centre, and oil prices are going to restrict the number of people who can afford flights more and more each year, it’s a sad state of affairs that one of the UK’s busiest tourist destinations is likely to run out of medium priced guesthouses due to private purchases and a banking industry who make it impossible for small businesses to get a break.

On a personal, less holistic, note I am sad for us. Sad that something which for the first 4 weeks seemed so right, could go so wrong. The accidental visit, the ease with which I sold my flat, and the accepted offer so far below the asking price all combined to give us a very strong feeling that this could not go wrong.

However if we’re going to be positive about this and, let’s face it, what choice do we have? This hasn’t gone completely up the spout. OK, so Porthminster View wasn’t the place for us, that doesn’t mean that another place won’t be. It doesn’t mean that the guesthouse we should be running isn’t out there somewhere waiting for us to come along and take it over. After all we now have the following information, none of which we had 3 months ago.

  1. We know we want to run a guesthouse
  2. We know we want to be in Cornwall, preferably St Ives, definitely by the coast
  3. We have a template for a guesthouse business plan
  4. We have projections for a guesthouse turnover
  5. We know the lending criteria we need to meet
  6. We know our budget

So the only question remains is what to call this blog. I’m regretting calling it after the name of the guesthouse we were hoping to acquire (maybe I jinxed it?!), but I have never once regretted starting it up and I certainly don’t want this to be the end.

Will think on it… Watch this space.

Guesthouse adultery

In The beginning on August 23, 2010 at 1:56 pm

Don’t tell anyone but yesterday we went to see another property in Cornwall. I actually feel a bit guilty for looking further afield, and if this blog had a voice it would definitely be a whisper.

We were recovering from being turned down by yet more lenders, were in the South West (Bristol to be exact), and attempting to be a bit ‘onwards and upwards’ about the whole affair, consequently in a fit of spontaneity we decided to hot foot it down to Truro to see a property that had been on and off our radars for the last month or so.

Don’t think that it didn’t occur to us, as we got on the 4 hour train journey to Truro, that it would have been much more helpful to fall in love with a B&B in the Cotswolds; with or without a car (and we are without) Cornwall is not an easy to place to drop in on.

While we’ve explored all the really interesting options that people are flagging up for us we’re not getting very far. Ultimately this guesthouse venture is just for us, so private investors, the EU, the government are just not really interested in helping the two of us relocate and keep a guesthouse open. We’re not going to make £millions, and we’re not going to employ half the Cornish community in our bid for world domination, consequently our options are limited.

The message we got was loud and clear ‘Porthminster View needs to make more money than you’re projecting, or you need to find a cheaper property’. Not happy about inflating figures until it looks like we’re about to open the St Ives Hilton, we opted for the latter and found ourselves in Truro yesterday afternoon.

Seeing a lovely B&B and meeting the very friendly and hospitable owners did little to dissuade us that Porthminster View is the place for us. We dabbled in the excitement of an affair which, in the current circumstances, seemed exciting, full of possibilities and very tempting; however in the cold light of day we came to realise that our first love was the best, the longest lasting, and more fit for purpose than anything we’ve seen so far.

It was simultaneously both a disappointing and uplifting afternoon. Disappointing because we’d built up Truro in our minds to be a real possibility (damn those wide-angled camera lenses), and uplifting because it quashed any doubts we had about Porthminster View, and made us even more determined to do everything we possibly can to get the money. Plan C is forming, and at the moment – as with all plans at the beginning – it seems promising.

Having sat through the first round of auditions for X-Factor on Saturday night I’m well aware that telling the four judges (in our case it’s the banking equivalent of Simon, Cheryl, Louis and Dannii)  about Porthminster View being ‘our dream’, and saying things like ‘we’ve never wanted anything more’ is just not going to cut it if we’re hitting a load of bum notes. For that reason alone we are sneakily looking around Cornwall for the next ‘perfect opportunity’… but we haven’t given up on Porthminster View, not yet. It still is (and always will be) our first love. A bit of playing ‘hard to get’ never put off Casanova  and it sure as hell isn’t putting off us.

Afternoon teas

In The beginning on August 16, 2010 at 12:56 pm

Over the weekend I baked, and when I say baked I mean I made more sugary, floury, eggy things than can be found in the bakery section of a small supermarket.

I made banana and walnut loaves, cookies, muffins and brownies. I made enough to feed the 16 girls that came round for tea 5 times over; and as I was cleaning my flat, setting out the muffins, and plumping up the sofa cushions I realised that I was genuinely excited about opening up my little flat to the masses, and playing the hostess. As I was pouring my 20th cup of tea and trying not to eat too many chocolate brownies it occurred to me how much I am going to love doing exactly that in St Ives.

After so much activity in the first 4 weeks of discovering Porthminster View, the last 4 weeks has been painful to say the least and, as regular readers of this blog will know, frustratingly uneventful. Consequently I was relieved to find that baking and hosting gave me more ‘job’ satisfaction than working as a strategy consultant for a web design agency ever had; it reinforced my belief that I am doing the absolute right thing for me, right now.

Throwing this little tea party, inviting people into my home, and then doing everything I could to make sure they enjoyed themselves when they got there was one of the best things I’ve done in a long time. Now I know working full time in a guesthouse won’t be all baking cakes, cooking breakfast, and chatting to friendly guests; and I also know not all the guests will be as friendly as I would hope them to be. However, it’s a darn sight more similar than writing a strategy document for a big international airline to help them make even more money than they’re making already; and it’s a thousand times more relevant than sitting in an office, overlooking a Soho back alley, listening to awful music and staring at a computer screen.

I’ve had thank you emails and lovely comments from everyone who came yesterday afternoon, and I have been equally gushing in return. Even Monday doesn’t seem so bad because I’m still basking in the glow of Sunday, and I get to go home to a flat which is filled with the smell of baking and sunflowers.

I don’t have a single, solitary doubt about Danny and I making wonderful hosts; and this weekend has made me even more determined (if that’s possible) to not let a little thing, like lenders not giving us a mortgage, get in our way.

St Ives here we come!

If I had a time machine…

In The beginning on August 9, 2010 at 3:08 pm

Having spent all weekend writing about our USPs, marketing strategies, and sorting out cash flow forecasts I am a bit out of steam for updates. Not that there’s that much to report. I should mention that much to my chagrin our commercial mortgage broker did not jump up and down with joy when I sent him the business plan, nor did he claim that it was the best piece of writing ever seen, hence I’m currently feeling rather under-appreciated.

It did occur to me however, that this process would be so much easier if I had a time machine and could fix the following elements that I have absolutely no control over at this stage in the game.

My current mortgage

I would have been very grateful if a little mortgage fairy had visited me in 2008 and mentioned that interest rates, which were standing at 5%, were going to go down and there was no need for me to get a fixed rate mortgage for 5 years at an interest rate of 5.69% – which seemed like a phenomenal deal at the time.

Saving: £5,800 in early repayment charges + £thousands in reduced monthly mortgage payments had I had the courage to invest in a tracker.

Porthminster View accounts

Without divulging too much information, if I had a time machine I would pop back to 2006 and tell the current proprietors of Porthminster View how to set up their accounts to ensure that they would have no trouble selling it as a profitable business should the situation ever arise.

Saving: Hmmmm, this is a difficult one. Probably would have saved us lots of time and made the process of borrowing money a lot easier, however, it may have meant that we wouldn’t have been able to buy the property at such an affordable price; so maybe not such a bad thing after all.

Plan A

With the knowledge I have now, I would never have invested so much of our time and energy in Plan A which was a bit of a non-starter. Plan B all the way.

Saving: £1,500 in survey and broker fees + a healthier mental state which wasn’t driving me to think homicidal thoughts about all surveyors in the South West of England.

My car (RIP)

With advance knowledge I would not have turned right out of a side road, on 28th December 2009, straight into the path of an oncoming car, irrespective of whether he was indicating to turn left or not. Without making that slightly disastrous decision I wouldn’t have written off my car in a matter of seconds, therefore resulting in having to buy a new one with our ever depleting funds.

Saving: £2,000 + insurance, etc. to buy a new car, plus I would not be rendered uninsurable through losing my no-claims discount which was tenuous to say the least.

The Big Chill

I might have hidden Danny’s Big Chill ticket so he would have had to stay at home with me all weekend and help me write the 20 page business plan.

Saving: Not sure if this would have saved me anything; it may have made me feel better briefly, yet I suspect my relationship would have been in a worse state than it is now had Danny and I been stuck in my flat all weekend drafting marketing plans together (plus this way I get my own way).

Like I said, I am feeling unappreciated and therefore indulging in a little self-pity.

All in all, there are a few things I would like to wind the clock back on under the supposition that it would make life easier at this stage in the proceedings. However if, like Doc says in Back to the Future (and I’m paraphrasing here), “each action has a direct and opposite reaction” then any of these things actually changing may have resulted in us losing this opportunity; so I guess it’s a good thing I can’t go round fiddling with time… God only knows what kind of chaos I could cause.