A motel is a facility with rooms where guests can pay to spend a designated number of hours or nights. Normally, motels are for overnight use, but rooms can also be rented by the hour according to the motel’s policies. Motels are typically distinguished from hotels because the rooms can be accessed directly from a parking lot rather than a corridor.
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Learn how to start your own Motel Business and whether it is the right fit for you.
Start a motel business by following these 10 steps:
- Plan your Motel Business
- Form your Motel Business into a Legal Entity
- Register your Motel Business for Taxes
- Open a Business Bank Account & Credit Card
- Set up Accounting for your Motel Business
- Get the Necessary Permits & Licenses for your Motel Business
- Get Motel Business Insurance
- Define your Motel Business Brand
- Create your Motel Business Website
- Set up your Business Phone System
There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple guide to starting your motel business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
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STEP 1: Plan your business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How much can you charge customers?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What are the costs involved in opening a motel business?
Motel costs include the following:
- Staff salaries
- Supplies (linens, cleaning products, etc.)
- Office equipment
- Commercial insurance
What are the ongoing expenses for a motel business?
Motel owners will need to account for the cost of salaries, equipment, maintenance, rent/mortgage, utilities, and commercial insurance.
Who is the target market?
The target market can be anyone looking for a place to stay at a reasonable price. The target demographic usually refers to tourists or passersby, but this is not always the case. Plenty of locals may want to take a staycation to see their town in a new light (without going overboard on costs).
How does a motel business make money?
Motels charge people a set amount to use their facilities. This charge should account for not only the direct costs of the room (including utilities), but also the common areas and the service staff.
How much can you charge customers?
Motel owners can charge the going rates in their area. They may only be able to charge $15 a night for a weekday during the off-peak season. However, owners may be able to charge $100 or more per night during a three-day weekend if there’s a major event happening in their area.
How much profit can a motel business make?
Profits for motels can be substantial, especially if the demand is high. Room rates can conceivably triple during major events and peak tourist season. However, average profits have fallen in the last few years for motels from around 35% to 25%.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Motels can consider selling merchandise to their customers, including T-shirts, hats, and sweatshirts. Or they can set up a small gift shop where customers can purchase liquor, snacks, and beverages. These convenience goods and souvenirs can be sold at high-profit margins and can provide supplemental income beyond that of the standard room rates.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is important and challenging. If you don’t already have a name in mind, visit our How to Name a Business guide or get help brainstorming a name with our Motel Business Name Generator
When registering a business name, we recommend researching your business name by checking:
- Your state's business records
- Federal and state trademark records
- Social media platforms
- Web domain availability.
It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your motel business is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.
Small Business Taxes
Depending on which business structure you choose, you might have different options for how your business will be taxed. For example, some LLCs could benefit from being taxed as an S corporation (S corp).
You can learn more about small business taxes in these guides:
- LLC Taxes
- Sole Proprietorship vs LLC
- LLC vs Corporation
- LLC vs S Corp
- How to Start an S Corp
- S Corp vs C Corp
There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Additionally, learning how to build business credit can help you get credit cards and other financing in your business's name (instead of yours), better interest rates, higher lines of credit, and more.
Open a business bank account
Besides being a requirement when applying for business loans, opening a business bank account:
- Separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- Makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank or credit union.
Open net 30 accounts
Net 30 accounts are used to establish and build business credit as well as increase business cash flow. With a net 30 account, businesses buy goods and repay the full balance within a 30-day term.
NetMany net 30 credit vendors report to the major business credit bureaus (Dun & Bradstreet, Experian Business, and Equifax Business Credit). This is how businesses build business credit so they can qualify for credit cards and other lines of credit.
Recommended: Read our best net 30 vendors, guide and start building business credit.
Get a business credit card
Getting a business credit card helps you:
- Separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- Build your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money later on.
Recommended: Apply for an easy approval business credit card from Divvy and build your business credit quickly.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
Make LLC accounting easy with our LLC Expenses Cheat Sheet.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
STEP 7: Get business insurance
Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.
Learn more about General Liability Insurance.
Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.
If you already have a logo, you can also add it to a QR code with our Free QR Code Generator. Choose from 13 QR code types to create a code for your business cards and publications, or to help spread awareness for your new website.
How to promote & market a motel business
Most people will likely find you via online research. You’ll need to create a website that is search-engine friendly and easy to navigate or consider investing in paid online advertising. Owners may also want to look into partnerships with websites like Expedia or Priceline. Offer special rates or special amenities for first-time guests. Finally, consider partnering with travel agents or other local partners as a way to spread the word about your new business. Travel agents are always on the lookout for reasonable places for their clients to stay, especially in high-traffic cities or neighborhoods.
How to keep customers coming back
Attracting customers starts with being visible enough for them to find you. Ensure your online and local presence gives you a competitive edge over other local options. When guests are with you, the staff should be welcoming, accommodating, and proactive to their needs. This will help generate the reviews you need and help guests remember your business if they ever swing through your area again. Consider offering an incentive for people to fill out a survey about their experience, such as a small gift. Their feedback can help you fine-tune your operation for future guests.
Still unsure about what kind of business you want to start? Check out the latest Small Business Trends to help inspire you.
STEP 9: Create your business website
After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.
While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.
Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:
- All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
- Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
- Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.
Using our website building guides, the process will be simple and painless and shouldn’t take you any longer than 2-3 hours to complete.
STEP 10: Set up your business phone system
Getting a phone set up for your business is one of the best ways to help keep your personal life and business life separate and private. That’s not the only benefit; it also helps you make your business more automated, gives your business legitimacy, and makes it easier for potential customers to find and contact you.
There are many services available to entrepreneurs who want to set up a business phone system. We’ve reviewed the top companies and rated them based on price, features, and ease of use. Check out our review of the Best Business Phone Systems 2022 to find the best phone service for your small business.
Recommended Business Phone Service: Phone.com
Phone.com is our top choice for small business phone numbers because of all the features it offers for small businesses and it's fair pricing.
Start a Motel Business in your State
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
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Is this Business Right For You?
People who want to provide travelers or locals with a safe, affordable, and comfortable place to stay. The best owners will actively seek to improve their guests' experiences by sharing their passion for tourism and the joys of discovering a new area.
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What happens during a typical day at a motel business?
Owners will likely spend their time coordinating staff and ensuring the facility meets quality standards. They’ll need to manage employees, ensure regular maintenance, and interface with guests. Owners will oversee all activity within the motel and make adjustments as needed. They'll set financial expectations and design their marketing for their target demographic.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful motel business?
You should be organized, logical, and good with people. If you’re not committed to your staff and customers, you’re likely to overlook important details in your business. Most motel owners will hire a general manager to take care of many of the daily activities, but owners still need to stay involved enough to catch smaller issues before they turn into big problems.
What is the growth potential for a motel business?
Quality motels are always in demand in practically all areas of the country. Even in places that are saturated with facilities, patrons are always looking for something extra. For example, if your motel offers more security than those around it, this can entice people to try your motel over more established businesses in the area.
Take the Next Step
Find a business mentor
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
Learn from other business owners
Want to learn more about starting a business from entrepreneurs themselves? Visit Startup Savant’s startup founder series to gain entrepreneurial insights, lessons, and advice from founders themselves.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a motel business?
The best approach for opening a motel business is largely determined by the area in which it’s located. Owners should scout different locations and assess the competition around each one. Once owners do their research on comparable hotels or motels, they can use this information to distinguish their business.
Carving out the right brand starts with understanding what your potential customers need. Are people worried about their safety in a large city? Are they looking for a motel with more amenities? Do they believe the motels are overpriced in their area for what they receive? Is your location closer to the most popular locations in your town? As you narrow down your strengths, it should be easier to set the right branding strategy for your customers.
In the advent of websites such as Airbnb, the competition has never been more intense for motels. But not everyone wants to stay on someone’s private property where anything could happen. It’s an owner’s job to figure out what’s missing for travelers before advertising directly to those needs.
Motel owners can also consider offering unconventional options that other motels don't. For example, towns that are frequented by truckers may be able to turn a profit by renting rooms by the hour. These working professionals may just want a place to shower, eat, and change before their next stop without having to pay for a full night. Or owners may want to outfit their motel with luxury amenities. Anything from free breakfast to turn-down service can give your motel a good reputation from the moment you open.
How and when to build a team
Most motel owners will build a team immediately to ensure guests have access to staff members at all hours of the night. Look for people who are conscientious, friendly, and organized. Staff should have a strong background of the town, so they can answer questions and enhance a guest's stay. Look for people who can stay calm during emergencies and direct guests to safety.