The first tier of our plan is still very much a work in progress, and is mutating wildly every day, it seems. What started as a crazy idea during spring break has evolved into business plans, bank meetings, investor searching, scouting trips, blood, sweat & tears, and one might convincingly argue that we're no closer to starting up than we were then.
Obviously, one can't merely walk into a bank and request enough money to build a multi-million dollar complex in Washington, so Lindsay and I realized that we needed to start smaller, attempting to find a hotel, motel, or bed and breakfast that was small enough for us to be owner operators for our first step.
Of course, not just any place would do. There's a surprisingly large number of motels for sale across the united states, but we really wanted to find one that fit a few very specific criteria.
1- Size. We needed to find a place small enough to run it by ourselves, or with very minimal help. Our profit margin would be much higher then, and it would give us the satisfaction of being in charge and responsible for every aspect of the business. When we succeed, we want to rest easy knowing that it was because of us.
2- Location. Obviously, the location of the actual motel is important, but we also wanted to find a place in an area that we wanted to live, ideally near the Or/Wa border where we would like to eventually build our final business. We also looked towards the coast, not just from a personal enjoyment factor, but also secure in the knowledge that regardless of national conditions, the allure of the ocean will always be strong for vacationers.
3- Condition. While it would be fun to waltz into a property that's performing at peak, with everything decorated tastefully, clean, and well run, that isn't a property you can improve easily. We wanted to find a place that was functioning, but one that we could immediately improve and make our mark on. At the same time, we didn't want to try and revive a business that was floundering, building falling apart, bad management, bad reputation, something that would be such an uphill battle that we'd be exhausted long before we started turning a profit. Essentially, we needed to find a place that used to be loved. Somewhere that had owners that cared for and took care of the property, performing needed repairs, taking care of the customers, and keeping good records, but one that the owners have stopped caring about as much. Ove where the decor is a bit outdated, the beds old, the landscape neglected, with a shoddy website. Something we could create into a gem.
4- Price. Our biggest, and most persistant problem. We don't have a lot of money. If we did, we could walk in tomorrow, and have our pick of a dozen prime properties. Unfortunately, we're going into this with a lot of enthusiasm and ideas, but virtually no capitol. Our families are not well off, and especially in todays market, finding funding or investors for a hospitality business is next to impossible. Hotels pricing is also all over the place. A common problem seems to be places pricing themselves based on their percieved value, or on what they really make but don't report, both things that shoot ourselves and them in the foot when we go to a bank. Money. We've learned a lot of good, hard lessons about it's power lately.
So essentially, what we're looking for is a small, cheaply priced motel on the coast that is in good shape, but not too good, that reports all of it's income, is willing to deal, and has lots of room for improvement, allowing us to start in on our dreams for the future!
Sure, it sounds easy on paper...