On October 1st we welcomed guests to Bethnal and Bec and our 3rd luxury accommodation, exactly 4 years after we opened and welcomed guests to our first 2 retreats.
What this rather innocuous opening sentence doesn’t convey is the absolute hell that the building process was, and the fact that our guests had to wait in the pub until 8pm as we were literally still finishing the building, and missed their scheduled checkin time by a few hours. Not the worst place to have to wait, but not what they had paid for.
For those readers who are either embarking on a major renovation or new build, (or those who are thinking about it) I am going to give some advice which we learned the hard, hard, hard way.
My #1 piece of advice is that no matter what, do not open up for bookings until your building work is 100% finished, even if this means you think you may miss out on a few weeks of business – it’s just not worth it, financially or emotionally.
Based on our builders estimates of completion date we gave ourselves a good 6-8 weeks leeway before we opened up our calendar for bookings. This time would be for snagging, testing, soft launch etc.
However, covid + supply issues + dodgy builders = a highly unpleasant process and a scramble to welcome our first booked guests to a lovely property.
But it was not 100% perfect as it should have been, and indeed 5 weeks later we are still having to get tradesmen in during the 5 hours we have between guests as we are fully booked every day for the first 2 months of opening!
In hindsight we wouldn’t have opened bookings until we were completely happy with a finished product. Even financially this may have been better, as we ended up paying for additional labour to try and make our open date as well as paying more for supplies that could be delivered or sourced quickly.
Not to mention that we sometimes had to compromise on what we really wanted due to time constraints.
Emotionally, how our marriage survived the stress is unknown.
I was often doing the finishing touches and decorating, which was in the builder’s contract, at 2 or 3am, as we just knew the builders simply would not be able to complete it in time.
We are going to practice what we preach, as we have another property to renovate.
This time it’s remote to our own home in Felixstowe Ferry, and our first ever family friendly place by the sea.
So even though this property may be very seasonal and we could miss out on the summer business by not opening up bookings before the estimated completion, we are simply not going to do it.
Bookings will only open when we are 100% satisfied with the project, when we have spent time in it ourselves and we have had a soft launch of guests to ensure any snagging is complete.
I think if you’re creating a great place, then even at short notice you will get bookings once you open up, especially if this is in the school holidays.
By doing this we are hoping that the next renovation will be a somewhat less painful experience, mentally, physically, emotionally and financially……plus our marriage should be stronger!