From Burnout to Bed & Breakfast Owner

Let me take a moment to introduce myself – I’m Susan Poole, and I am known as The B&B Coach.  I also own 40 Bay Street Bed & Breakfast, located in Parry Sound, Ontario, Canada.

I burnt myself out in the corporate world not once – but twice! A counselor suggested that while I was very good at what I did, I was going to end up dying from the stress I put myself under. She asked me to list 16 things I had ever wished I could do and get paid for. It was like a light bulb went off – I could do a lot of the things that I enjoyed (but never had time for) – and get PAID for it – as a B&B owner!

Well, it depends…

And that was the beginning of my five year journey.  Why five years? The major reason was I wasn’t in a real rush as my boys needed to finish school and I wanted to research to make sure this was a good idea for me. (Hindsight is 20/20 as they say – I ended up actually needing all that time!)

The first couple of years I read books, attended courses and got more and more frustrated because no matter what I tried, I still couldn’t find the information I needed that reflected my personal situation – and would help me decide whether this was a good idea or not.

I was a single woman in my 50’s who would be risking every penny of my savings (including my pension) and I needed a bank loan to be able to pull this off. I was really scared I would lose my shirt!

If you’ve read a book or two, they tell you that you will need between 3 – 8 rooms in order to make a living. OK – but how would I know how many I needed? This was going to be a big gamble for me. It’s not like I had anyone to back me up if I didn’t make enough. And, I wasn’t even sure I could run an eight room B&B!

Then I started taking some courses offered by other B&B owners. They were really nice people, but most of the courses were based on the premise that I had already made the decision to open a B&B, so they focused on how-to run the B&B.

When I started asking my questions, it was like reading the books…”well, it depends…” but nobody could even tell me what it depended on! I needed something concrete that I could apply to my personal situation.

When I attended the third course given by a bed and breakfast owner, that provided breakfast recipes,showed how to set the table and told me some horror stories about guests they had personally encountered, I knew I wasn’t going to get the answers I needed from that source.

The next step was to purchase an on-line business plan…, which told me what type of information I should collect – but it didn’t tell me how – or show me how to analyze a particular property to see if it was the right one for me.

I was really scared!

I was plagued by thoughts like:

  • What if no one came to stay?
  •  What was I going to do with the people that did come?
  • Was I going to make enough money to pay the mortgage?
  • Could I handle all the work on my own – and what would I do if I couldn’t?
  • Was I still going to have a personal life and be available to help my aging parents?
  • Was I ever going to have enough money and time to travel again?

That’s when I had my AH-HA moment!

I realized although my decision was a personal one, and I had personal goals that I wanted to achieve by owning a B&B – i.e. not dying in my 50’s from either a heart attack or stroke some of my family had done – I needed to balance those personal goals with a business-like approach; because I needed to make money at the same time And that’s what I ended up doing – I applied all those skills and knowledge I used in the working world to create my plan for my B&B.

I needed to:

  • Know how much money I needed so I could have the lifestyle I wanted.
  • Get clear on how much time I wanted to spend on personal pursuits if I really wanted a more balanced lifestyle. That way, I would be able to determine how hard I was willing to work on the business end.
  • (There was a third one, but it took me three years to find out what it was!)

Once I started focusing on those questions, I didn’t have the same anxieties because I had a very clear idea of what I wanted to do and what I had to do to make it happen (so I thought!)

I officially became a B&B owner on June 22, 2006

When I got the doors to 40 Bay Street Bed and Breakfast open in June 2006, it was already 6 weeks into the season and I didn’t even have brochures or a web site yet. However, by the end of the season, I had made as much or even more money than the other larger, established B&Bs – and even more than I thought possible for a first year!

There was one very important question that I hadn’t asked “Who did I want as my guests? By not asking – and getting clear on the answer – I calculate that I wasted three years and almost $100,000 learning that lesson!

Now, my three suite B&B is incredibly successful from both my guests’ point of view and my own expectations. It’s rated as the best place as the best place to stay on TripAdvisor. Even though I am located in a seasonal tourist area two hours from Toronto, I can make enough money in five months to live on comfortably throughout the year.

Once I did get open, I was surprised at the number of my guests and others who mentioned they were interested in owning a B&B, but had no concept of the reality of it.


I became The B&B Coach after five years of running my own B&B because, all these years later, most people have the same questions I did, and it is still extremely difficult to find the information you need to make a decision about whether owning a B&B is right for you

I had to figure it out the hard way, but it has definitely been worth it! Now, I want to share those lessons with you, so you can take the guesswork out of owning your own B&B!

To help you get started,I have created a no-cost e-book called “3 Questions Everyone Who Wants to Own a Bed and breakfast Asks – or Should”   CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD.

This e-book will help you turn those common questions everyone has into a more powerful way to assess if owning a bed and breakfast can be the dream you envision – before you make any investment.


  1. Dawn Brackrog

    We have started down the road of learning about how to be innkeepers. We figured in 4 years we will be ready, financially and research wise. It’s still nerve-wracking.

    1. Profile photo of Susan Poole
      Susan Poole Post author

      Hi Dawn!
      Yes, it will be nerve-wracking – no matter how much you prepare! However, it is far better to be prepared and understand where things might go wrong, and have a back-up plan, rather than just jump in with both feet and hope for the best. If I can be of assistance, please don’t hesitate to let me know! I’ll “see” you on Facebook!

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