Five Business Lessons from Emma Jacobs, Owner of Westville B&B, Durban.

  1. Chase your passion, not the big bucks

Owning your own business is hard. Do something you love and the money will naturally follow. People see your passion for what you do and it is infectious. If you focus on the outcome of money, the input of dedicated, customer-focused, hard work is sometimes overlooked. Sincerity of relationships is key.

  1. Client Problems and Complaints are Opportunities

If I get a customer complaint, the very first thing I do is thank them. This often takes them by surprise. My theory is that Customer complaints are gifts of feed-back, that allow you to improve your product offering or client service. If you do not know about a problem, you cannot fix it. Make sure to close the loop and give feed-back on the resolution to the customer. If for whatever reason I cannot fix the problem for a guest before they check-out, I at least let them know that I have acted and what the plan to fix the problem is.

  1. Supplier Relationships

Suppliers are “external team members”. In the Westville B&B context, these are people like our caterer, the lady who does our shuttle service and tours for us, etc. They are vital links in the chain of customer service to our Westville B&B guests. Pay your Suppliers promptly. Treat them well. Thank them and be fair to them. Stand up for them as you would for a staff member. They also need to make a living, and they will serve you better if they feel you are not squeezing them too tight for the best price.

  1. Put Everything through the Books

Put everything through the books. Some business owners try and avoid VAT and have “cash” prices, or try and avoid Franchise fees by not putting all their sales through their books. This is not only illegal and unethical, but it also puts you at risk.

One day you may want to sell your business and the buyer will find discrepancies when they do their Due Diligence. Also, you may need to apply for a Bank Loan or Bond, and you will need an accurate reflection of your actual income to substantiate the income you are reporting to support the loan.

  1. Give Back

Support charities in your area and in your networking groups. It’s the right thing to do. Even as a small business, you have a moral responsibility to donate in cash or kind, or with your time and skills.

Give back to your Industry. Over the years, we at Westville B&B have hosted over 40 International Hotel School Students. Why? Because it is our way to give back to the Industry, by giving young Hospitality specialists an opportunity to learn and grow in an award-winning five-star Bed & Breakfast.

I offer my time to talk to B&B Networking events, as my way to “raise the bar” in the field. Other B&B owners often comment that I am so generous with my time and knowledge. Why? Because I want them to be better. Weak links in the B&B Industry where guests have had bad experiences, pose a risk to us and our B&B.



Emma Jacobs


Westville B&B and 18 Burlington B&B and Conference Venue

Emma has been in Hospitality since 2003, and before that was in Corporate Training & Development. She graduated with a BA in Languages and Human Resources, and a Postgraduate Diploma in Organisation & Management from the University on Cape Town. They have five children, and Emma’s hobbies include Karate, Knitting, and Oil Painting.

Mel Gard