The customer is always right
Leontine Haines, Dufferin Coaching Inn & Hall, took a radical career change 10 years ago when she picked up and moved from Brighton to Northern Ireland to own and run the guesthouse and event venue in Killyleagh. Here she talks about that decision as she celebrates a decade in business.
Describe your role?
I am the owner and manager of the Dufferin Coaching Inn, located in Killyleagh, County Down. I manage everything, from greeting guests on arrival, to showcasing what the local area has to offer, and helping brides and grooms plan their dream wedding reception in our newly re-launched Dufferin Hall.
What is the best part of your job?
People are the best part of my job and making things happen for them. The fact that every day is different means there is never a dull moment. I also love being involved in one of the most important occasions in a couple’s life when they hold their receptions and parties at Dufferin Hall. It’s a great honour seeing a stunning bride and groom coming down the stone staircase into Dufferin Hall and I find it amazingly satisfying know that I have had a hand in organising all of this. Receiving positive feedback and great reviews on TripAdvisor makes all the work so much more worthwhile
What aspect of your job do you find the most challenging?
My job involves long hours with early rising and late to bed as you never know when guests are going to check in or check out. Sometimes it’s difficult pleasing everyone, but that old saying the “customer is always right” still holds.
The Inn is a fabulous Georgian House but it does have its own idiosyncrasies and challenges compared to a more modern building. Sometimes creative thinking is required to overcome these challenges, but it all makes up for it knowing that our guests love the historic elements of the guesthouse.
What are the key issues facing your sector at the moment?
The Tourism Industry has to adapt to-ever changing conditions – recession, currency exchange, ever expanding competition. Attracting visitors to lesser known areas in Northern Ireland can be difficult, but the gorgeous surroundings in Killyleagh and County Down make the job a bit easier for me.
How is your organisation responding to these issues?
For me the most important thing is to give every guest who comes to stay at the Dufferin Coaching Inn a memorable experience and great hospitality, so they leave wanting to come back. I encourage, and, respond to feedback rather than hiding from it, as I believe it will help the business grow stronger. I am also an advocate of using social media to promote your accommodation, and we are embracing this more and more each day.
What is the biggest goal on your agenda for the year ahead?
To increase the use of Dufferin Hall, our intimate events venue and reception space, maintain and increase occupancy rates as we move further past the recession, and to always keep smiling.
If you had to give one piece of business advice, what would it be?
Commitment and cheerfulness would be high on my list. As a small business owner you work on your own a lot and I find getting involved and networking with other small business owners helps keep you focus on the bigger picture and not get bogged down with all the little things. I also think it’s necessary to value your team and involve them in your business – everyone works better when they feel a sense of pride and ownership in what they’re doing.
What work experience and qualifications helped you to get to your position?
I was a Registered Nurse for 32 years working in various roles including as a ship’s nurse, and A&E nurse, a school nurse and a district nurse and I believe I apply a lot of experience from those past roles to my current career as a B&B owner. Caring for people, making things happen for people, common sense, and communicating with people are all skills required for both jobs.