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. 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!

  2. Angie Seaton

    In very glad to have found you. We are turning our large country home into a small B&B (starting with 2 rooms, adding the third shortly after hopefully). We made it official and public just yesterday so it’s real now. I’m excited and nervous but very hopeful because of our location. I am going to learn everything I can from your available resources and expertise.

    1. Susan Poole Post author

      Hi Angie!
      Owning a bed and breakfast is the best move I ever made – and I hope you will agree! Like any business, location is the key to success, so it’s good to hear that you feel you have a great spot. Keep me posted on your progress and let me know if I can help.

  3. Michelle Brossier

    Hi Susan,
    I was so very happy to find your site and this article in particular. I currently run a small bar on the outskirts of a small town in South Carolina with my fiancee. After 6 years of 18 hour days 7 days a week, crazy late hours and very little personal time; I’m burnt out. I’ve always wanted to have b&b and have been looking at historic homes (nation wide) that would make a fairy tale vacation for my guests within my budget, then researching the area where a specific home is located. There are not many affordable to me in my area. If you have any advice on relocating to the b&b I’d love to hear your input.

    1. Susan Poole Post author

      Hi Michelle!

      The workload that you are describing as a bar manager sounds very similar to the life of a B&B owner, except you’d be trading late nights for early mornings! However, as the B&B owner, you would have a little more control over your schedule and could either look for a seasonal property where you will have the off-season to re-coup, or the opportunity to close down as you feel is needed.

      You are taking all the right steps to finding the correct property by making sure you are researching the area to make sure there are things that will bring people to the area that requires them to need accommodation.

      Good luck with your search!

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