Lee Rotbart

Posts Tagged ‘guesthouse’

To pastures new

In Preparations in London on January 12, 2011 at 9:49 am

I realise that I was instructed quite clearly to not say anything about our new website for a week – just to be sure it doesn’t fall over; but as most of you will now know asking me to keep quiet about something as exciting as this is like asking the Pope to consider not going to Midnight Mass.

So… I am taking the bull by the horns, willing to accept the consequences of my actions, and announcing that the Little Leaf Guest House website is now live. I will no longer be blogging from Porthminster View – the fateful name of the first B&B we fell in love with – but all blogs can now be viewed and read from the main site: Little Leaf Guest House BLOG.

Do have a browse around the site – tell us what you think, sign up to the blog updates… more importantly share it among your friends, tell people about what we’re doing and maybe come and stay.

Oh… and before you say anything, we know that you’d love to see photos of the rooms but they’re just not ready yet so you’ll have to wait!

Thank you for all your support so far. Welcome to the next leg.

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Mates rates

In Preparations in London on December 14, 2010 at 4:44 pm

What constitutes a mate?

A question that never really needed answering until now. Having never had a job which rains down perks upon my grateful little head I have never really had that ‘Who shall I take as my plus one to this fantastic event?’ problem. Obviously I have needed plus ones, but rarely for anything very interesting. Once I had to find someone to take to the opening of an exhibition but that was more of a case of who I could get to come with me, I was hardly beating offers off with a stick. Now however, I am in the enviable position of having more mates than I know what to do with.

Before I continue I should make the point that I am delighted to have so many people excited for Danny and I, so many people who are really supportive of what we’re doing, the announcement of the name last week has given both of us renewed excitement about this venture.

All that aside I am still faced with the ‘mates rates’ question.

Now we knew it was going to come up and it’s something we’ve discussed a lot – what kind of ‘mates rates’ do we offer, and who do we offer it to? Between Danny and I we have a fair amount of friends, family, friends of family, and work colleagues that could be considered ‘mates’; not to mention the amount of people on Facebook that we are ‘friends’ with.

Yes, there are lots of ‘mates’ but there’s also one other key thing beginning with ‘m’ that should be considered – our MORTGAGE, which is huge; not to mention our MONEY which is ever-decreasing. I’m not going to bore you with the plethora of things that we haven’t budgeted for as they are all so minor that you would laugh, yet it all adds up and if I think about them for too long it usually results in me having a very small panic attack about bankruptcy.

So, here we are, the possibility of us opening at the beginning of April is now no longer a pipe dream, it’s a very necessary reality and guests are what’s needed. Like Churchill in WWII we need you to sign up and be counted – and what better way to entice you in than with a nonchalant “Of course we’ll do mates rates” answer to your question.

Yes, of course we WANT to give discounts to everyone, we want you to come and stay not only to see us, but to also experience everything St Ives and Cornwall has to offer. We want people to fall in love with the place as we did, and we want them to have a fantastic time at Little Leaf, but we just can’t go round promising crazy rates to anyone that once knew us, or once knew members of our family, or once worked with us on a project in 2004.

Nor do we want to feel resentful towards guests by devaluing the service we hope to be providing. Delivering 100% service yet only getting paid for 75% – I know myself well enough to know that that’s not going to go down well. As a chronic people-pleaser desperate for your love and approval I want to give you a giant discount and make you make you smile. As the owner of a guesthouse with a burgeoning overdraft I fear that I will have to do the opposite.

This musing leads me back to the original question “Who is a mate?”, and “What kind of rates should they get?”.

What about a means test? Ask people questions about Danny and I to see who really does know us. Where did we meet? How long have we been together? When did I first start writing this blog? – no cheating now! That should separate the wheat from the chaff, even if it’s somewhat unconventional. Or, how about we ask for something in return… what do they do and what discounts could they offer us? After all, accountants must get asked for free advice all the time, not to mention lawyers and doctors; and I’d be lying if I hadn’t taken advantage of that in the past.

It’s a minefield and you’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. Having worked in sales for nearly 14 years I’m a stickler for standing by prices and not devaluing the product. It’s short term gain vs. long term strategy and as we’re in it for the long haul I know in my heart of hearts that we’ll have to do the right thing, and whatever that might end up being I don’t think much of your chances of getting a huge discount… but do come and stay anyway, you never know you might just think it’s worth it!

Introducing Little Leaf Guest House

In Preparations in London on December 8, 2010 at 11:40 am

8 weeks ago I got home from work to find Danny hunched over the computer browsing Google. I should mention that this is not an uncommon sight. Danny absorbs information like sponges absorb water. If he had lived before the internet he would have been the kind of person who read dictionaries.

Unpacking the shopping and going about the usual faffing that comes with arriving home after a day at work I wasn’t really listening when Danny shouted something at me: ‘What was that?’ I yelled back, to be greeted with an even louder yell of ‘How about Little Leaf?’….

I loved it. I didn’t even have to ask what the context was. I knew immediately that he was referring the name of our guest house. We’d been talking about it for a while, going over all sorts of Cornish combinations and looking up words in the thesaurus; but as soon as he said ‘Little Leaf’ I just fell in love. It sounds cute, homely, unique – perfect for the kind of establishment we plan to be running.

The Legend of St Ives (courtesy of the St Ives Guest House Association)

The legend tells how St. Ia, a Virgin Saint of noble birth went to the seashore to depart for Cornwall from her native Ireland along with other Saints. Finding that they had gone without her, fearing that she was too young for such a hazardous journey, she was grief stricken and began to pray.

As she prayed she noticed a little leaf floating on the water and touched it with a rod to see if it would sink. Lo, as she looked it grew bigger and bigger. She saw that God sent it to her and, trusting to Him, she embarked upon the leaf and was straightaway wafted across the Channel, reaching her destination before the others.

Little Leaf Guest House

This is our little leaf; our hopes that this will turn into a boat and sail into the horizon, and not sink! A boat that will weather the storms, that will take us on an exciting journey to a new land and new experiences.

Massive amount of thanks go to Tristan Peters who, with the utmost patience, put together our logo which we are very excited about and very happy with.

Little Leaf Guest House Logo

You can now find us on Facebook, and online http://www.littleleafguesthouse.co.uk (temporary page courtesy of Tim Reader), and from 23rd December (because I am a numpty and managed to scupper myself on Twitter) you’ll be able to find us under a relevant name there too.

A new start indeed. We do hope you like it.

Me, Danny, and a big house in Cornwall

In Between the mortgage and the move on November 19, 2010 at 2:52 pm

You may have noticed that I’ve gone a bit quiet this week. This has predominantly been for the following reasons:

  1. We have been moving – still! After moving Danny out of his flat, we then had to move (some of him) into mine, we then had to move most of mine into storage, we then had to move the rest of mine, and a little bit of his, into my parents house where we arrived last night, and where we will be for the next 3 months.
  2. We have been completing and exchanging on all 3 properties, which – inevitably – come with their own set of unforeseen problems and mini-crises. Notably a ‘Danny Dash’ from his office in Kensington to my office in Soho to sign papers that had we had emailed to us on Wednesday morning and needed to be received by the sender by Thursday morning (I can be grateful for the fact that it was a rare day with no tube strike).
  3. We have been planning our website and logo which is very exciting, and we have both been loving it, but our designer has been throwing questions at us that we hadn’t really considered and therefore every meeting has resulted in 2 -3 hours of debate.
  4. Work has been hell (and I am not exaggerating). I have had both my CEO and Commercial Director in Singapore and Australia and am being managed across different timezones and different cultures via email. For the managers among you, this is NOT the recommended approach for building staff motivation and commitment.

As an aside it has taken a HUGE amount of restraint not to use this blog to rant about my bosses and I am proud of this, along with the fact that I have resisted taking a AK47 into work and doing what the Vietnam veterans of America were doing in the 80s and 90s.

Going postal, in American Englishslang, means becoming extremely and uncontrollably angry, often to the point of violence, and usually in a workplace environment.

The expression derives from a series of incidents from 1983 onward in which United States Postal Service (USPS) workers shot and killed managers, fellow workers, and members of the police or general public in acts of mass murder. Between 1986 and 1997, more than 40 people were gunned down by spree killers in at least 20 incidents of workplace rage.

Anyway… excuses for the silence aside, I am delighted to announce that Danny and I have exchanged on the property in St Ives, along with completing on our respective flats (well, Danny’s is nearly there). That’s it now, there is no going back. We are just us two and a big house in Cornwall. Oh, and a larger than expected storage box room in Bow which is absolutely stuffed to bursting.

As we drove away from my flat last night, with the few belongings that are going to see us through the winter in the back of the car, I thought that I’d be sad and a little nostalgic for my beloved flat; but that wasn’t the case. Instead I was excited, excited about the future, excited about being self-employed, excited that it wasn’t the end but the beginning, and excited about our new logo which arrived on email earlier that day. This excitement briefly manifested itself in the Big Yellow Storage building in Bow where we ‘surfed’ on the trolleys through the empty gangways (well it was 9.30 at night).

Precisely 5 months ago (to the day) we arrived back from our holiday in Cornwall and announced to our friends and family that we wanted to buy a guest house in St Ives and move down there. 2 flat sales, a mortgage, and a fair amount of negotiation and planning later we find ourselves on our way to doing exactly that.

Another weekend lost to numbers

In Second time lucky on September 21, 2010 at 11:16 am

It’s Tuesday… and I’m bored to tears of looking at our ‘revised for the 99th time’ business proposal. We’ve analysed every word, we’ve re-worked every sentence, we’ve tried to inject our personality into each paragraph and sentiment, and we’ve met (as far as we know) key lending criteria. We also sacrificed another Saturday night to the Business Plan gods.

With a massive sigh we sent it off on Sunday to our long-suffering broker.

Now the high of discovering another property has left me, I am  finding it hard to accept people’s congratulations with an excited smile because in my heart of hearts I know that the mortgage is the sticking point; and if the last few weeks have proved anything it’s that mortgages, not properties, are the hard things to come by.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not down or depressed about the whole thing, just a little more laid back, and a little more cynical, and while I am certain that we will eventually get there, I’m just not 100% convinced that this will be the property we do it on, or that we will be down there by Christmas – as was originally intended.

I’ve learned that plans don’t always go the way we expect, but that’s no bad thing because I have utter faith that it will all work out in the end. A cash rich industry, guest houses do not lend themselves to robust business planning; being owned by people who consider them hobbies doesn’t help either; and that’s just something we have to accept.

Amusingly most of the owners we’ve spoken to have said the same thing, “Just tell the banks that we are retiring / running it as a hobby / only open 2 out of 5 rooms / close during peak times and they’ll understand”… hmmm, no they don’t! I hate to break it to all of you but that kind of reasoning just ain’t cutting it when we’re asking to borrow over £250k.

The stumbling block of the moment is that we found out that fixtures, fittings and furniture are not included in the price so we are waiting to find out the ‘good will’ cost of the business; based on the last 3 years’ accounts this should be minimal however there’s no point speculating, and I guess we’ll just deal with this obstacle when it turns up (which was supposed to be yesterday).

On the ‘going forward’ side Danny has sold his flat so will be moving in with me early November; based on the size of my flat it will, if nothing else, inject a sense of urgency into proceedings.