Navigating the Shift from a 900 Room Hotel to a Charming B&B

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In this Boostly podcast episode, Liam interviews Harro, owner of the Hive at 52 B&B in Cheshire. Celebrating 30 years in England and a decade at his B&B, Harro reflects on his extensive hospitality experience. 

The Hive, named for its beehive-like activity, attracts older couples interested in local attractions and family visits. 

Harro utilizes Free to Book software for efficient management and invites listeners to connect via his website and social media for further information. 

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[00:00:00] Liam: Welcome to the Boostly podcast. This is a podcast that gives hosts the tools, the tactics, the training, and most importantly, the confidence. So you can go out there and get yourselves direct bookings. We have a mini-series on this podcast where we dive behind the host, where we talk to successful, interesting hosts from around the world.

[00:00:15] And today we've got an amazing host. Uh, somebody I've known for many years. I consider him a friend who's part of the team Boostly community and is a great big character there. Um, he runs a, uh, bed and breakfast and, um. We're going to get his kind of journey and all of the teachings and all of the things from his long hospitality career, um, that we can share with you as our listener today.

[00:00:38] So let me introduce, uh, our special guest and this is Harro. He's from a business called the Hive at 52. And, um, yeah, this is fantastic to dive in. I'm excited about this today. So welcome along Harro. Thanks for joining.

The elevator pitch

[00:00:52] Can you give yourself an elevator pitch and describe the business as to where it is in the world? And, uh, what it's like.

[00:01:00] Harro: Yeah. Uh, I have 52, as you say, it's a BNB. It's only small. Uh, we've got three bedrooms. Uh, we are based in a village called, uh, Weaverham, which is in Cheshire in the Northwest of England. Uh, we've been open for 10 years this year. So at the end of the year, uh, I think we opened in November. Um, so the 10 years, so, um, 10 years of my life really, before that.

[00:01:27] I was in hospitality for 20-odd years in hotels, so it's not, not anything new for me, so, um, so yeah.

[00:01:33] Liam: I just, I detect it's not a, uh, a local accent, so, uh, we're about to see you from. What, is your history before this?

[00:01:41] Harro: Um, I'm originally from Holland, or as it's now called, the Netherlands. Uh, came over in 1994, so there we go, another celebration.

[00:01:51] I've been in the country for 30 years, it is August. Nice. Uh, came across, uh, first of all, just for a year, um, to work in London and, um, then decided to, to stay on a bit. Got a new job, another job, and, um, I ended up, um, in Cheshire and I'm married to an English lady as well, so that sort of made me stay as well.

[00:02:15] Um, and yeah, so 30 years this year, so.

[00:02:19] Liam: Nice. Two big celebrations. So all the, um, talking about decades in, uh, in two different celebrations, which is amazing. You've got to do something special this year. Is there anything special planned this year? Is, is this, it's quite a big year for you?

[00:02:32] Harro: Uh, not, well, I haven't thought of it.

[00:02:35] Um, it just sort of just comes about. Um, you know, time, time flies. It's quite scary in a lot of ways. So I don't know. I probably will do something. Um, but I haven't thought of it.

Why a bed and breakfast?

[00:02:49] Liam: You mentioned there was a lot of time in hospitality before you opened the business. So talk us through that and some of the kind of lessons and things that you've learned that you took into your own business.

[00:03:00] And then, um, if you can talk us up to why you started your own, um, bed and breakfast.

[00:03:06] Harro: Yeah, so when I'm in the Netherlands, I studied hotel and catering management and, um, I did that for years. I had to do a bit of national service as well. But luckily, I was a chef in the army. So that helped me a little bit.

[00:03:21] Um, and then when I came to the UK, I was a chef for about nine months, uh, in a hotel in central London. And, um, but I knew that I, Couldn't make a career out of it because I didn't have the city, city and guilds or MPQs, whatever they call now. And, um, so decided to go across, uh, to the front of the house. So started in a 900-bedroom hotel on Oxford Street, uh, as a receptionist and then slowly sort of climbed up there, moved around in London.

[00:03:52] Uh, and then, um, I got a position as revenue manager in a 900-bedroom hotel on Piccadilly Circus. Um, which was my first senior position and then in an absolutely beast of a hotel as well. Um, and, um, so I learned, learned a lot that quite quickly, uh, moved around and then got myself up to operations manager in a hotel.

[00:04:17] So I did everything, so rooms and food and beverage. Um, then the children came along and I didn't want to do the long days anymore. Work the weekends, work Christmas, work all the days people normally have off. Uh, and then I went back into revenue management, uh, and that's where I ended up, revenue and sales, um, for the last couple of years of my, uh, my, my career.

[00:04:40] Um, and then at one stage, I finished a maternity cover in a hotel, and it was a period where it was quite uncertain. I don't know if it was a recession or something like that, but it was very difficult to find a position. Um, so then I worked, uh, did, just did a temporary role as an F& B manager somewhere, and then we sort of started to talk about maybe we should do something for ourselves.

[00:05:04] It was sort of in the back of my mind. My wife is in hotels as well. She's an accountant in hotels. So that's sort of where it came from. And then I want at the time that time when I couldn't find a position, we decided to go for it. It took us quite a while to go through the process because we wanted to make sure that we put the planning in properly and had good thinking on how we would do it.

[00:05:28] And then in 2014, we sort of. Start the building work and then, then late, late in the year, we, we opened. So, um, so yeah.

Why Hive At 52?

[00:05:40] Liam: When, um, when people look at the, uh, the Hive at 52, one thing that always stands out for me, um, uh, is the branding on your business is very good. They're very strong colours. Um, how did you come up with the name?

[00:05:53] Why is it called the Hive at 52?

[00:05:56] Harro: Um, again, we looked at it and the house was initially called Roxburgh. We didn't have any sort of link. Roxburgh is quite a Scottish name. And then we start, we're just writing down names we could think of. And then he came up with Rose Cottage and, and things like that, so Bluebell Cottage.

[00:06:15] And then actually my youngest daughter, who I think was about nine at the time, said, well, why don't you call it The Hive? A bit like a beehive, people coming in and out, bees coming in and out. And we're like, yeah. So then we actually, had the branding done by somebody I used to work with. Uh, with, uh, in one of the hotels I was in.

[00:06:35] And, um, so we got him to do the three designs and, um, I think the designs he came up with obviously was the hive and we called it the hive at 52 because the domain name was quite generic. So that's why it came 52 with the number 52 as well. The other ones he had were Snoring Club and Honeycomb. So Honeycomb could be, but it wasn't a very catchy snoring club.

[00:07:04] People don't like snoring. That sounded more like a swingers club or something like that. So we decided, and we thought the hive was ideal really, wasn't it? It is a bit like the beehive, people coming in. And a lot of people now, when you look at Google, people are looking for the beehive as well.

[00:07:22] Yeah. Um, so yeah, so it worked out well and, and yeah, we, we love, we still love our branding, you know, 10, 12 years after it was designed. So yeah.

[00:07:32] Liam: Who comes to stay with you? What, what is your, um, guest avatar?

[00:07:37] Harro: My guest avatar is, uh, David and Mary who are about 55 plus 60 retired or semi-retired.

[00:07:49] They love their gardens. They love stately homes. Um, and also what they like to do is combine visits to gardens with visits to relatives who live around here. Uh, either sisters, brothers, uh, grandchildren, daughters, sons. So it's a bit of a combination, a big chunk of our, uh, avatar are people visiting relatives.

[00:08:15] Um, And quite a lot of times it's all elderly relatives or their grandchildren. Um, but yeah, the age range overall is between 55 and 70.

What software do you use in your business?

[00:08:28] Liam: What software do you use in your business or have you used over the years to help you run your business?

[00:08:35] Harro: Um, I, um, started with, well, I'm still with free to book, um, for me as a B, B and B, it's, it's, it's what I need.

[00:08:45] Um, I don't need all singing or dancing, um, and it works for me and I think it works for a lot of people. I think there are a lot of people in the group as well who are still free to book. I'm sure there are better ones. Outside, um, but what I do like about free-to-book is it's relatively small and they are quite quick to react to help desk queries and things like that.

[00:09:11] Maybe sometimes they're not as quick with reacting to new things in the out in the world. Uh, but it's a very good product for me is a reasonable price. I think, uh, and it does what I needed to do.

[00:09:22] Liam: How can we come and find out more about your business, Harrow, or, or come and, uh, you know, sort of follow you?

[00:09:27] What, what, what the socials to come and check?

[00:09:30] Harro: Um, yeah, you can find me on all the socials, LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, uh, it's either the hybrid 52 B and B. So B and the letter NB or just the hybrid 52. Uh, you can look at my website, the Hybrid 50 uk. Uh, or you know, if you want to talk to me, you can WhatsApp me.

[00:09:53] The number is on the website as well, so yeah, if you've got any questions, just ping me a message or direct message with me on Facebook or Instagram. Uh, I'm on LinkedIn, uh, what else? You know? Yeah. Or just gimme a call.

[00:10:09] Liam: I love it. And, uh, we will put the notes, uh, that you've mentioned or the, the socials that you sent us on the show notes as well, so people can check those out.

[00:10:18] However, you're listening to this piece of media. You can check out the show notes as well. So thank you very much, Harrow. That's it from us. Thank you very much for the invite. No worries. Look forward to seeing you at the next, uh, Boostly

[00:10:29] Harro: social event. Yes, exactly. Yeah. Take care. All right. Bye bye. Bye bye.

[00:10:34] Liam: Having a blast.

[00:10:35] Gonna get it on the

[00:10:36] Boostly podcast. Boostly like Bruce Lee cause it's so hard and the T is loose. Making up those rhymes. Don't write it, just do it loosely.