Networking and B&B’s in Kwa-Zulu Natal
by Emma Jacobs
B&B Owners are usually “social butterflies” by nature, so one would think that networking comes naturally to us. This is not necessarily the case. Networking like Hospitality, is an Art.
In this blog, I shall focus on real-life networking as opposed to digital networking.
- How do I find Networking groups to join? Believe in the power of Google. Ask your successful entrepreneur friends if they belong to any organisations that they would recommend. Once you start attending a networking session, ask your new connections if there are any they would recommend. You can go Industry-specific or more general.
- How do I know which one is right for me? The best way is to try. Most organisations allow visitors to attend as non-members for a couple of visits. Keep going until you find a good fit. In Durban and surrounds there are BNI Chapters, The Business Women’s Association (BWA), KZN Women in Business, the Durban and Pietermaritzburg Chambers of Commerce, the Umhlanga Women’s Achievers, to name just a few. If you are in the Accommodation industry, try the National Accommodation Association (NAA), your Community Tourism Organisation (e.g. DWCTO), your local B&B Association etc.
- How do I know if it is working? Networking is not a magic wand. It takes time for you to get to know people, for others to start noticing you and your business, and for business to start coming your way. You must work it.
- What are the other benefits to belonging to such an organisation?
- It’s not always just about networking. Being a B&B owner can be a lonely job once your breakfast guests have left, so networking with other one-man / one-woman business owners can be extremely beneficial, even inspirational. It helps us to focus on working on our business, rather than just the day-to-day operational functions we need to do.
- You raise your profile and your business’ name
- You make new friends, and build supportive relationships. You don’t feel so alone.
- You listen to guest speakers who often can share their lessons.
- What about Leadership roles within these networking organisations? Especially for people who have come from a Corporate background, and those who would like to “give back”, volunteering as a Committee member is a rewarding way of growing your scope and raising your profile, while doing a useful job. Remember that your business is still your key focus.
- Is there a way to make my organisation stand out? Yes of course! Some networking groups allow expo tables, gift sponsors, raffle sponsorships, guest speakers, and so many other ways to stand out. Many networking groups support local charities. This too is a very rewarding way of giving back and building your contact base.
- Is there something that we really should not do when networking? Don’t spam contact lists! Networking takes time and you will do more damage if you send unsolicited emails without the recipient’s permission.
- What are some of the basics of making new contacts? Always try and sit next to someone new. We so often want to sit with someone familiar, within our comfort zone. Then you might as well go for coffee. Networking is about widening your sphere of influence. Suck it up buttercup and go and introduce yourself to someone new! Make sure you leave your function knowing the names of everyone who sat at your table. Give them each a business card.
- How do I take the networking beyond the meeting? If you find a contact whom you believe you can have a mutually beneficial relationship with, then arrange for a follow-up. I for example, love to invite Trainers or Coaches for a Tea & a Tour of Westville B&B. Not only do they get to see our beautiful establishment, but it allows us to further bond and build a relationship. If you focus on this, the sales will automatically come, even if it is through a referral from that person to someone else.
- Networking is about consistency: I belong to KZNWIB and I make a point of having Member News at every single meeting. I love to let people know if we have won another award, if we are celebrating 14 years in business, or if I have had a special personal triumph. Every time my news is announced, my name and Westville B&B are mentioned. Another opportunity to shine. I attend almost every single meeting and my committee-member status also makes me visible. Consistently attend, consistently shine, and you will be remembered!
Happy Networking everyone!
TOP TEN FIVE-STAR HOSPITALITY TIPS
by Emma Jacobs
- Welcome your guest with a warm, friendly smile. If they are returning guests, welcome them back. We make a note of repeat guests on our check-in list. Verbalise that you are happy to have your guest with you: “Lovely to have you (back) with us Busi”.
- Use your guest’s name, and use it correctly. In the diverse South African context, some guests’ names are hard to pronounce, or people prefer a nick-name or second name to be used. Keep a record of this for when they return for their next visit. Ask you guest how to pronounce their name and make sure you get it right.
- Tell them your name: Introduce yourself and make sure you have a name badge, so that if they need a refresher the next morning at breakfast, they can glance quickly at your badge. Badges for all staff distinguishes who they can ask for help from, if they need it.
- Engage them with polite questions. This will be handy later when you need to introduce people. It also shows you are interested in them. It must be about them and not you.
- Introduce guests to other guests when appropriate. This allows them to engage with each other, and takes the pressure off you as the host. Introductions involving Corporate guests should include, name, company and where they are from. If you don’t know, then ask. You need to keep your wits about you, and keep introducing guests as they come in. It is amazing how often guests have a mutual connection, e.g. they have a client/supplier relationship, or their companies are colleagues in the same industry etc. Networking can happen anywhere, so long as the only thing poached at your table is eggs, then let them carry on!
- Hospitality with boundaries: personal yet professional service should be your guide on this one. You don’t want guests sitting on your couch between you and your hubby while the 5-day cricket match is on. Being overly inquisitive, could come across as being invasive. Let your guest guide you on the level of your hospitality.
- Pre-empt your guest’s needs: If your guest had Tabasco with their breakfast yesterday, pass it to them before he needs to ask for it today. If your guest wanted something you didn’t have, put it on your shopping list and place it next to him when he comes through for breakfast the next day. If your guest sneezes pass them the tissues. If they are coughing pour them a glass of water. Don’t make a fuss of it. Just do it. Seamless Hospitality is what it is all about.
- Acknowledge loyal guests in front of other guests: nothing says thank you to guests more than telling other guests at the breakfast table how many years they have been staying with you. They beam like peacocks. And so, they should. Loyal repeat business, separates great B&B’s from average ones.
- Look after vulnerable guests: older, frail, grieving, sick, or otherwise compromised guests need extra special care. Often their family members will let you know ahead of time that they have had a stroke, or now have a crutch, etc. Make sure you accommodate this and that your guest themselves does not feel like they are a burden to you.
- Don’t overdo it: Give people space, whether it be so say Grace before they eat, to chat to new friends around the table, or to have a business meeting with a colleague. Being too Hospitable is almost worse than not being hospitable at all.
THE ART OF HOSPITALITY:
By Emma Jacobs, Westville B&B, Durban
We believe so much in Hospitality, that we have taken our theme of Art and turned our Hospitality into an Art! Art is central to our Westville B&B rooms’ decor. Each room is named after an artist, and prints of their works are displayed on that room’s wall. Every night our guests go to bed with Monet, Renoir, Vettriano, Wachtmeister and Rivera, just to name a few!
So, what separates Westville B&B as Hospitality specialists? What is our secret? Why do we win so many awards? Well it’s simple. It boils down to the difference between the concepts of Customer Service versus Hospitality.
To be a successful business, you need to focus on the product or service the guest has come to you for (a clean room, a tasty breakfast), but also on how you treat them in the process (welcoming them with a smile, using their name).
Customer Service focuses on serving them, giving them what they need or want, assisting them, giving them advice. Hospitality is how you receive them, how they are entertained, made to feel welcome, and that they are welcome back. Hospitality is Customer Service’s “packaging”.
Hospitality starts from the minute your guest arrives, from the welcome, to the farewell as you wave them off in the driveway. To be told “thank you for having me”, when in fact they have paid you to be there, is an indication that you went out of your way to make them feel special.
Nothing replaces the kick of your guest saying “thank you for your hospitality”! This cannot be faked. Sincerity is key. True Hospitality specialists genuinely enjoy their guests and genuinely feel a connection with their guests, and this shows in your revenue and reviews.