Every winter, my daughter, Pam, her husband and my grand dogs come to visit my wife and me in Phoenix. Now I’d like to think it’s because she misses us… and… she does, but it does help that she lives on the east coast where it gets just a LITTLE colder than here.
While she and her husband are RVing across the great USA (she wasn’t new to the club as she’s been RVing for years now), they still have to work. Her work is at a summer camp in the Poconos in Pennsylvania. For those who don’t live in the northeast, there are summer camps that kids go to for 7 weeks! That’s right 7 weeks!
So, when I say to people when they ask what she does and I tell them she’s a camp director at a summer camp, the next thing they ask is, “What does she do the rest of the year?” I reply, “She works full time, and she has navigated the globe to find staff.”
Hmmm… finding staff… sound familiar to you?
Anyway, when she was here in January 2021, she was working from my home and said that she’s never had so much of a problem recruiting and hiring people like college kids, staff for the kitchen, people for the pool and lake and more.
Yes, COVID restrictions had shut down tight the ability and availability to hire people from the usual places they had used for decades. They recruit and hire well beyond just the USA in places like the always reliable United Kingdom, Eastern Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
Know that Pam and I have talked about business since she was a teenager because she shares my love for it, and we both got that love of business from my dad, Irving. She uses many of the systems I teach at camp, including Staffing Power!, with great results. But this year things were different as all of you know all too well.
My wife, Natalie, Pam and her husband were at the dinner table one night, and she looked at us across the table and said solemnly: “If I call you, will you come and help?” To which I said, “You want me to come and be a camp counselor again for the first time in 50 years?” She replied, “Yes… Possibly.”
Here’s the thing, Pam told us there were plenty of campers aching to get to camp and have some normalcy in their life again but no way to get fully staffed and get them into their “bubble!” Beyond the logistical nightmare of testing plans and isolation protocols to keep camp healthy, they still had to make camp a safe and supervised place for kids to create memories.
Talk about the logistical nightmare of doing all this! Yes, they did what amounts to what I call Planning Power!, and that meant (to name just a few more logistical challenges listed above) they had to create outdoor dining so they could spread out. They had to get certified to do testing for COVID at their health center, and way more. This camp is like trying to run a major city!
Two weeks into the start of camp, I hadn’t heard anything from Pam, that is until I got “the” phone call. It was Pam. She said, “I don’t want your advice. I don’t want your opinion. I want you on an airplane to come here to help me and I need you… now.”
I said, “Listen. I need a week to finish up some business obligations and to make sure my team is fully dialed into our systems so I can come be there, stay focused, and help.”
I sat down with my team (virtually) and we put together a plan for my absence that outlined what would get done, by whom and by when, as I was going to be available very infrequently. This meant maybe once a day because I’d be working sunup to sundown. Plus, I knew internet was going to be spotty.
Anyway, one week later, Natalie and I were on a plane headed to camp.
When not teaching archery, helping to supervisor mountain biking, working in the woodshop as an assistant, sanding glass and ceramics, sweeping the floor of the art shack, working the line control (there’s always a line of kids to manage) and way more, I checked on my business. I was able to do that once a day for about 30 minutes as I sat a shift in the security booth. When I couldn’t get Internet, and if I missed a day, I didn’t sweat it because I knew if something went awry I’d get a text message as cell service were also spotty for making and receiving phone calls.
Really, I needn’t have worried as my team was humming along and stuff got done because we had systems in place and people who were trained on those systems.
Systems helped my online business run without me for nearly a month.
Here’s the thing. We had an Org Chart (surprised?) so we knew who was responsible for what.
This experience only strengthened my already strong belief from my own plumbing, heating, cooling and electrical business and 20 years of helping contractors pretty much everywhere to learn that if you want freedom, systems are the way.
P.S. The systems that were in place at Pam’s camp were also what allowed Natalie and me to step in and actually be of help.
The protocols and systems they put in place were so successful that we ended up enabling 500 kids who desperately needed to hang out with other kids to have a great summer. For that, I’m forever grateful!