2006 was a milestone year for husband and wife team Phil and Debra Wright, owners of the busy Ludlow country in The Baron at Bucknell. “At the time we had three children between two and six years of age. I was working long days as a senior-level accountant with a big firm and had an hour’s commute each way to work every day. Something had to give so we decided to pursue a major life change and redress our work/life balance.”
"I'd always had a passion for great pubs; my ideal job would have most likely been as an account manager in the brewery trade. "
The Baron at Bucknell is a lively pub-restaurant with five bedrooms and a campsite just 25minutes' drive from Ludlow. "We have around 12 employees but Debra and myself manage the overall operation. At the beginning we did outsource a lot of the marketing but now we tend to bring in an expert, let them show us how to do it and then take the task on ourselves."
With a background in finance and process improvement, Phil looks after the administration, marketing and the business side while Debra manages the kitchen and housekeeping. "We do have a social media savvy 'youngster' to stay on top of our Facebook and Twitter accounts.
"Although we use a number of OTAs, at least half of our bookings are direct. Freetobook is brilliant. We tried a couple of other online room booking systems but found to our cost that a cavalier approach to an upgrade can be costly. You need a reliable system with no chance of double-booking - it's your reputation at stake. FabPay, freetobook's online payment system for credit cards is slick and secure."
"We have a real mix of guests, with the average stay being two nights. Many of our international guests are the parents of students at the nearby independent boarding school Bedstone College. We have many regular business guests who would rather drive for an extra 45 minutes to stay with us than book into a budget-end hotel chain. In the four years we have offered accommodation, we have had repeat visits of up to six or seven times, so we must be doing something right. Although there is always room for improvement isn't there?"
So what does the rest of 2016 hold for Debra and Phil? "This year we have applied for planning permission to develop our campsite into five luxury units with hot tubs. We believe this would take us up to the next level of our business plan." Visit the property's website here: www.baronatbucknell.co.uk