A: Randy has been an
irreplaceable resource for me. I’ve learned most of my online knowledge from
him and lots of email tips. I’ve learned quite a bit about publishing ebooks
from him too. He’s been instrumental in teaching me new business approaches and
ways of thinking about my business. I guess what I’ve learned most is how
important it is to have associates to talk with and brainstorm ideas with. When
you work for yourself you have to find ways to replace the coffee-break sessions
you had at the office.
Q: You have transformed the
B&B consulting industry through your online presence. From your history of
accomplishments, what are your ten favoured recommendations for online success?
A: In no particular order:
1) Hire professional help for site design and
2) Create your presence, or personality, for
site users to gravitate toward, to relate to.
3) Be a resource for those using your site.
4) Create new and fresh content frequently.
5) Work with what you know and love.
6) Partner with others: in the sense that you
have people you can talk to about issues and angles, and who can cross-promote
7) Create multiple income streams so that you
aren’t reliant on just one.
8) Be creative in your marketing so that you
keep the word about your business spreading and growing.
9) Create income and a legacy, not just a job.
10) Be flexible in your
business approach and expansion ideas.
Q: Tell us more about Best
Green Hotels and the evolution of your personal vision, mission, goals, and
values. How is this expressed through your web sites and forums?
A: The idea for BGH came
almost three years ago when I received yet another phone call from a chemically
sensitive traveler who wanted to know if I knew of many lodging properties that
catered to the chemically sensitive. I approached the owner of the Green Hotels
Association about creating a grid of her members to show what green actions
they took in their hotels. She felt it would be a nightmare and declined to
The idea stayed with me
though, waiting for a time to blossom. It was at the February 2003 conference, “Greening
of the Hospitality Industry”, that my flood gates for how to combine my
hospitality and environmental interests and backgrounds opened. The ideas came
as a slow trickle initially, but have increased in volume and speed since then.
The first thing I did was
add a “green page” to my B&B site, sharing ideas for the why and how of
becoming a green hotel. I understand that one of the biggest hurdles in getting
the hospitality industry to adopt green business practices is the economics of
it. Too many people think that it’s expensive to be a green hotel and don’t see
the financial savings in conserving. With that knowledge in mind I created
ECOnomically Sound. I naively thought I could whip out an article a day to
populate it with interesting, informative and persuasive features about the
wisdom of being green – or ECOnomically Sound. (The word ECOnomically is a
blend of economically and ecologically.) I quickly realized that I couldn’t
whip out a feature a day.
Once I had that site underway
I decide to add a Forum so that dialogue could happen among people with similar
interests, concerns, questions, and experience, in regards to greening of the
hospitality industry. It turns out to be a Catch 22; without the articles on
ECOSound to attract traffic, I’m not attracting traffic to the Forum either. At
least on the forum I can post quick thoughts and challenges without too much
strain, but it’s still not getting sufficient traffic.
My passion for creating a
database of green hotels just wouldn’t be held down any longer. Though lots of
my online associates told me it wasn’t a viable idea I just had to do it. It’s
been a smashing success! It took lots longer to create than I anticipated;
database programming – done by my programmer – is slower than I had expected.
But when I unveiled it I had 700 green hotels around the world listed. And I
haven’t even scratched the surface of possibilities in my research. People love
having the database, and are using it gratefully.
The B&B Forum happened
at the same time my Green Forum did, just because I felt the innkeeping industry
needed another outlet of communication. There are at least two other forums;
membership is required there, but not on mine. It’s been slow growth, but the
energy is starting to build and interesting conversations are starting to take
place – without my assistance.
Q: Since you use both web
sites and online forums extensively, where do you see these vehicles evolving
in the future? How can others implement and maintain what you have [done], in
their particular market segments?
A: I see my websites continuing to disseminate
information, addressing the hot topics of the day and my passions. The forums
are new enough to me that I’m not sure what’s going to happen with them. I’m
not sure if they have caught on with the general public yet or if they will continue
to be of value to others. Forums
seem like great resources
and platforms for people, but we’ll see if the general public thinks so and
There are lots of resources
available to help people create and maintain websites and forums. People’s
personal needs, technical abilities, and support systems will guide them to the
resources best for them. I think people should have a topic or field of
interest and go for it! Meaty content
and covering the topic in depth are important, most of the time, but I have
friends who are having fun with hobbies that they make websites and forums
around and are earning a bit of income from.
Q: Your link, http://www.thebandblady.com/reading.html,
provides a valuable resource for those interested in B&B. Summarize the
most important elements and then describe your research process; how you went
about collecting the information?
A: I generally recommend books I’ve read and
benefited from. Occasionally I recommend books others rave about that I haven’t
had time to read. I discover books at conventions, as recommendations from
friends, and by accident. I want others to benefit from the knowledge I
received from these books, so share with anyone who has interest in expanding
their foundation. When I have a book I want to recommend I go to Amazon, get
their links and post them on that page. It’s very easy and makes shopping that
much easier for my site visitors to buy the books.
Q: You have seen more than your
share of challenges and yet you have mastered them all. Can you share four
major challenges you have experienced in the last two years and how you
I’m not sure I can’t
honestly say I’ve mastered them, but they didn’t beat me.
A: 1) Challenge:
Not being readily seen on the internet. Solution: Expand what I share with
people coming to my site – adding content.
Not having enough vehicles to offer people for their education. Solution:
Write ebooks on the B&B industry, the getting in and staying in aspects, as
well as buying wisely.
Not feeling I was sharing enough of my passions with the world. Solution:
Start my environmental websites.
4) Challenge: Not feeling I had the presence or recognition
I wanted to have for the work I do. Solution: Partner with others in the
industries I wanted to be more present in so that we have a cross-promotion
going on – I mention them, they mention me.
Q: You have an enviable
reputation for quality training and advising. What ten attributes contributed
to your worldwide celebrity in this area?
This is B&B oriented
since my “green” sites are too new to have let me develop celebrity status yet.
A: 1) Continuing education – I’m an information
junky, in a wide variety of fields, giving me a breadth and depth for teaching
others about being successful.
2) I have a passion for first class hospitality,
customer service, and staying abreast of trends, and sharing that passion with
others’ helps their success.
3) Being the only woman in the field.
4) My niche and perspective are unique: I
believe that you have to approach innkeeping as a business but your left and
right brains must balance each other – you make business and passion decisions
along the way because either on their own will lead to bad business decisions.
5) I’m the first B&B consultant with ebooks.
6) I have a broad, diverse work and education
background, giving me more personal experiences to share with my clients and students.
7) Marching to my own drummer in my presentation
and business styles.
8) I have a stronger online presence than the
other B&B consultants, treating my website as an extension of me, not just
a sales tool.
9) Promoting my attitude that there isn’t just
one way to be successful in this business helps me stand apart from the others.
10) The knowledge I share
isn’t merely my own experience, it’s a blend of what I have seen work and fail
from innkeepers of all types from all over the country and in various parts of the
Q: Out of all your
activities, which do you enjoy the most and why?
A: Consulting is my favourite activity because I
feel I’m helping people attain their dreams with solid foundations under them.
That gives them great chances of success and pleasure in their work. It’s exciting
to watch the faces as clients “get it” and see how they can create a successful
B&B from their dreams (and reality) with their style and personality as the
core of their focus.
Q: This is a staple in all
my interviews. Pick five topic areas of your choosing and provide commentary.
A: Area 1: Why is greening of the hospitality industry important?
By its very nature,
hospitality is a wasteful industry. Hotels have to have heat, lights, and hot
water available at all times, so they are prepared for their guests (whether
they have guests or not). Restaurants have to have their ovens on and ice made,
regardless of the number of people who come to dine with them in a given day or
meal. That’s a huge waste of natural resources. Let me share one statistic I’ve
heard that sheds light on just how wasteful the industry is: the average 150
room hotel purchases more products/resources in one week than 100 families do
in one year. That’s a lot of consumption of resources and landfill to dispose
of the refuse.
I see the importance lying
in the areas of saving money in both purchase and disposal, attracting guests
because of the property’s heightened awareness about their guests concerns, and
avoidance of government regulation. It’s not uncommon for me to hear that
properties shy away from becoming green because they perceive it as being an
expensive direction for them to go. In reality, greening a property can be
initially done with from no to low investment on the property’s part. By
conserving energy and water they save money with no investment. Implementing a
recycling program saves a hotel money in both disposal fees as well as by
retrieving hotel property that inadvertently entered the waste stream. There
are many ways hospitality venues can be green that will make a difference to
their bottom line and keep the property maintained and operating smoothly.
There is a huge percentage
of travelers who are seeking green hotels, and even claim to be willing to pay
a bit more for their room if the hotel were taking green actions. Towel and
sheet reuse programs are popular steps for hotels to take. Sadly the programs
aren’t supervised sufficiently and housekeeping too often ignores the guests’
requests to reuse their towels and sheets, and the public has become cynical
about the reality of a hotel being green. The traveling public wants a hotel to
be green by doing more than towel/sheet reuse programs; they want to see
recycling, bulk amenity dispensers, energy conservation, xeric landscaping, and
non-disposable tableware (or if disposables are necessary on occasion, then
recyclable or compostable tableware should be used over foam products). And
when hotels develop green programs, it’s in their best interest to promote it
obviously and specifically on their websites so that their actions are visible
happens when an industry is perceived to get out of control with their waste. I
believe it’s not the government’s job to regulate business unless it’s to
protect the consumer. Typically government regulation costs the industry more
than if the industry regulated and managed itself. By the government getting
involved, the hospitality industry will suffer regulations that may not apply
to all properties, with standards that could hurt some properties, and
deadlines that may be impractical. I see that if the hospitality industry
proactively reduced its waste, the government would not get involved and money
would be saved sooner.
Area 2: Is there economic sense in being environmentally sensitive?
Absolutely! There is always
sense in not throwing money away, and that is a lot of what being
environmentally sensitive is about. By conserving time and resources, a
hospitality venue saves money. Government incentives can save on purchases and
taxes. Attracting more guests increases income, another aspect of the economic
sense in being green.
Area 3: What are some of the income pillars for innkeepers besides rooms?
- Technology: by making available technology like phones,
high speed internet, and TVs, DVD and CD players, more guests are
attracted, the main income pillar for the business.
rooms: Meetings and special
events not only give innkeepers an income pillar, but give guests a reason
to stay that they may not have had.
Shops: Guests who have had a
memorable experience want to take a part of the inn home with them. Buying
items in the inn’s gift shop allows them to do that. They buy things for
the kids, the house/pet sitter, work associates, presents for friends and
family, and even things for themselves.
with others: Selling the services of
other nearby tourist businesses, artists, and dining establishments, not
only can earn the innkeeper a bit of money, but also save them money in
their advertising by pooling marketing funds.
Area 4: Is technology important for B&B innkeepers important to stay
Definitely. For example, if
technology weren’t important, hotels would still have outhouses rather than
indoor plumbing. Today’s travelers want
the options of TV, movies, music, telephone, and high speed internet – all for
the cost of the room, not for extra fees. Having technology present encourages,
even allows business people and entrepreneurs to stay at hotels for work and
pleasure trips. Technology lets people stay connected with family and work
while they travel. People want to make those connections from the privacy of
their own rooms, though pool-side can be a refreshing option. The properties
that stay abreast of technology will be the properties that maintain their business
standing and succeed.
Area 5: How has the lodging business changed this century?
Not all of the data is in
yet, but there seem to be lots of changes for the business side of lodging.
First there was the recession, slowing business, making innkeepers sit up and
take note that income was less than before. Then came 9/11 and for some lodging
properties business stopped for months, while for others it stopped briefly and
then started to pick up. But the recession lasted awhile longer, keeping
The result of all of this
slow business is that travelers have started reassessing their priorities and
staying at the properties that fit the bill. Travelers want value, not
necessarily the lowest price – though there are those who want that – but value.
They want customer service, to be taken care of, to matter. Travelers want
clean rooms. They don’t want to be
“nickled and dimed” over energy surcharges, technology, snacks, or parking.
They want to be treated honestly and fairly. When they find a property’s
website they want to be able to understand what is offered by the property and
included in the room rate. Guests want to be able to check availability online,
not via an email – they want the answer “now”.