‘Je ne regrette rein’

It is exactly two years today, the 31 August, that Sue and I moved to Powdermills, Furnace, Argyll. And I regret nothing. It has not exactly as we had planned and at times its been a bit of a rollercoaster. Over confidence and naiveite are the two words that spring to mind when we set out on this adventure. We thought that over thirty years experience as business executives had prepared us for running a Bed and Breakfast. Well, it only helped us to recognise that we had made a bad decision or had taken the wrong action.

Our first mistake was thinking that marketing Powdermills Bed and Breakfast, near Inveraray would be easy. Just get a web site organised and the guests will come! The truth is that we launched in January 2019 with wwww.powdermillsbnb.co.uk but soon realised that we had no ‘traffic’. We needed to be on the top of the Search engines lists for accommodation in Argyll. We had to take a SEO (search engine optimisation) contract out for six months to boost our presence. This did not bring in much trade and we soon realised that we would have to enrol on booking.com to market ourselves. We did this on a day in June 2019 and six hours later we were full!

I am embarrassed to admit that after a career in operations and logistics it was our lack of organisation that made the work much harder than it should have been. We did not have enough linen for the high turnover of beds. This meant that the first month was a whirlwind of laundry, pressing sheets and cleaning the rooms. It was exhausting until we upped our linen stocks! Nevertheless, 2019 was very successful and our web site started finally to bring in trade.

We had such plans for 2020. By the first week of March we were pre booked for 60% of the year – all cancelled due to the lockdown. We re-opened on 16 July and we have been busy albeit with only two rooms operating due to Covid 19. Finally, we have managed to implement all our labour saving plans – including using an outside laundry company and it has transformed our working day. We have implemented simple systems to organise the stocks of our business and a work program that is more equitable to Sue! We are fully open from 4 September and are fully booked through until the end of October.

But the thing is – despite all the ups and downs – we would never change what has occurred. It has provided us with valuable experience – I have never rated 20:20 hindsight.

I have to admit that I love my job and near the end of my business career that was not always the case. Of course, things are on a different scale for both of us but meeting interesting people enjoying Argyll, Scotland and enjoying Powdermills has been a thrill. Receiving customer feedback via Booking.com, Trip advisor and Google has been exciting and motivating.

I have learnt skills that I would have never thought possible – from D-I-Y, gardening and cooking. Two years ago, I could hardly boil an egg – now I am chief Breakfast Chef, and have even baked cakes and scones under the very watchful eye of my ‘Sous’ Chef!

We love Argyll, the people and the community of Furnace who have been welcoming and friendly. During Covid we have even managed to attend the Furnace Quiz nights are every two weeks via zoom! Of course, it takes time to adjust to ‘Argyll time’. Nothing ever seems to be urgent but before long we have fallen into accepting the ‘chillax’ culture. We have met, at every turn, people that are only too willing to help. I could never imagine returning to ‘Auld Reekie’ although it has a special place in my heart. In fact, it is a question I am often asked by friends and guests – but the trips through to Edinburgh are not filled with nostalgia, rather disgust at the state of the roads with the all potholes still not being sorted!

I have developed a passion for the grounds at Powdermills. We feel we are custodians of the garden. However, the realisation of the scale of the work that needs to be put in was illustrated this week when I employed professional gardeners to clear and manage the ‘bog’. It will be three days work for two men – I am afraid it is beyond my physical stamina.

Yes – over confident and na├»ve but ‘je ne regrette rein’.