Growing and running a successful business has its challenges. But any entrepreneur will tell you that being your own boss has its own rewards — beyond monetary. Rolling out had a chat with Mell Monroe about his popular bed and breakfast, Welcome Inn Manor, located in Chicago’s historic Bronzeville community.
As a businessman who has had success running a business, what are the challenges you see for African Americans to set up and run a successful business?
I get up earlier and stay up later than everybody else. Entrepreneurs must constantly analyze their customer market, key niche and differentiation offerings, and especially trending and emerging markets to anticipate change and/or new opportunities to earn new customers. Think tactical[ly] and strategic[ly]. Don’t be afraid to think big. Hire only people that are committed to working and being consistent about their work product. If your employees are not consistent and reflect your own business philosophy — let them go, quickly — don’t hesitate! Otherwise, they will eventually hurt your business and everything you do to grow your business. Challenge your employees weekly and empower the leaders. Get time away from work to play!
How do you stay on top of your business?
We always pay attention and analyze our competitive sets and related competitors to make certain our prices, services and value added are at the minimum, equal or better than others. Always stay hungry for the big sales and little sales. Measure yourself by online reviews always, always, always.
How do you map out your goals? How do you measure your success?
Profitability. No more, no less, especially after the first 3-5 years; if you’re not profitable or trending in that direction there is no sense in staying in that business. Move on. Success is always measured by revenue growth, month over month, year over year and always, always, always based on customer feedback in all the many online places: Google, Facebook, Trip Advisor, Yelp, Booking.com, Expedia, etc. Reviews will make or break you every time.
Who do you consider to be your peers in your field? Who do you see or use as examples to emulate?
Other licensed B&B owners. The no. 1 B&B is what I want to emulate, along with the no. 1 hotel in Chicago. (Presently, we rank No. 2 out of 22 B&Bs).
How and what role does technology play in your day-to-day life?
Every day online prospects make decisions about where they want to stay and experience in Chicago. Also, our guests [are] encouraged to use transportation technology offerings such as Uber/Lyft to navigate their travel options. GPS helps all guests and assisting them to use their smartphones to tap into better ways to experience Chicago. Technology is essential as a catalyst for the guest experience.
What software, app or other technological innovation has made the biggest difference for your business?
Rezovations and Webervations are our most important online booking and funds acquisition device online. It allows us to offer 90 percent of our reservations to be made online, including the collection of all advance fees.
How do you and your wife handle the day-to-day operations of running the B&B?
Running the B&B is my entrepreneurial venture, which means it is my income and lifestyle. No pressure if you like people and enjoy cooking and getting up early. Very interesting business for me … Angie, on the other hand, works full time for CPS [Chicago Public Schools] as a speech pathologist and is a year away from retirement/pension. I am the innkeeper and Angie helps out sometimes after work. Our prime time is breakfast and shortly afterward. The other key time is checking in guests between 1-3 p.m. We don’t do lunch or dinner. Guests treat our place as a home away from home to come and go as they please. I do, however, find it advantageous to be a couple rather than running the business as a single person, mainly because we can vibe together with a guest so much better.
What is your favorite vacation destination and why?
We loved Spain and Mexico and all the Virgin Islands. We own in Hawaii but need to travel more in Africa and Europe and away from U.S. — on our bucket list for 2018-2020.
Welcome Inn Manor is located at 4563 S. Michigan Avenue. A two-night stay is required. Service animals are allowed. For more information, visit www.WelcomeInnManor.com, [email protected]