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I read.  I read a lot.

Last week I read Great By Choice by Jim Collins.  If you read Good To Great and wondered if Collins was speaking to you, if his book applied to your work in the camping industry, I doubt you will have the same concern with his most recent effort.  Great By Choice is worth your time.

But this is not a book review.  Read the book and write your own review.

"Great By Choice" - Jim Collins

It did make me think, am I choosing greatness for my camps?  Am I preparing my organization to be the best camp and conference center in the country – regardless of economic, political or social turbulence?  The truth is, I can do more.  I am betting there is more you can do, too.  Using the lessons I gleaned from the book, I will offer you a few points to consider as you prepare for a lifetime of greatness.

First, look at yourself as a leader.

  1. Are you a disciplined in your approach?  Are you a fanatic about good customer service?  Are you ruthless when it comes to ensuring your programs are of the highest quality?  Are you a benevolent dictator when it comes to ensuring the positive experience of every camper, family, and visitor that crosses your threshold?  Do you invest the extra minute in developing your staff . . . even when you would rather take a minute for yourself in the shade.  Are you “filling your bucket” by attending conferences, reading books, and seeking wisdom outside your field?
  2. Are you paranoid?  I know, we work in camp – we are all paranoid.  We are chronic worriers.  We worry about our staff.  We worry about our campers.  We worry about whether or not we will hit our fundraising goals.  The real question is, does this paranoia make you productive or does it cripple you?  Use the paranoia to drive you.
  3. If you are left-handed, do you balance your creativity with empirical evidence?  If you are right-handed, are you balancing the empirical evidence with creativity?

Second, are you using the 20 Mile March mentality?

Collins talks about the 20 Mile March.  Often the best leaders in their field make changes 20 miles at a time.  They do not seek to cover 100 miles a day, nor do they take a day off.  They pick up their packs and polish off 20 miles each and every day.

Which do you fire first, bullets or cannonballs?

Bullets are a low-cost and low-risk means of testing a new strategy.  A cannonball is a high-risk, high-cost means of launching a new program, a new pricing approach, or entering a new market.  In your camp, do you fire bullets first, wait to see the result, and then launch the cannonball?

Are you leading above the Death Line?

  1. Are you planning for the worst and preparing reserves?  Do you have a contingency plan before you lose that big conference group?  Do you know exactly how you will respond to that fire or flood?
  2. Have you assessed the risk, but not let yourself be crippled by it?
  3. Are you able to “zoom out” and “zoom in” to make sure you can assess changing economic or social conditions that impact your program?

Are your operating procedures Specific, Methodical, and Consistent?

I like to ask my summer camps director, Sue Williams, if you were run down by a rabid deer tomorrow, could summer camp run without you?  Is the camp program durable, replicable and consistent?  There is an interesting point in this question.  We put a lot of emphasis on “out-of-the-box thinking” and innovation, but the empirical evidence shared by Collins indicates that successful leaders and organizations experience less than 15% change over 20-30 years.  Less successful organizations experienced 60% change in the same period.  Consistency seems to trump innovation.

Finally, are you prepared to be lucky?

The answer to this question is answered by how you responded to the previous 5 queries.  I can tell you, I believe I could be more prepared for luck to come my way.  I could be more disciplined and more diligent about planning for the worst case scenario.

I wish you be best in preparing for the luck that will come your way!

We’ll see you at Camp,


Summer Camp Source: Nathan Scott Brant