White Paper: Day-to-day Campground Management Best Practices

By David Gorin

Years of experience in the small business world as retail store owner, RV park owner, consulting company owner and founder of a nationwide marketing group has conclusively provided evidence, at least to me, of the importance of day-to-day management. While small business experts will advise business owners to try to rise above the day-to-day work and devote more time to managing, planning, learning, observing and visioning as the necessary ingredients for success, keeping fingers firmly on the pulse of the business on a day-to-day basis, is absolutely essential for the smaller business owner.

At a recent Western Regional RV Park and Campground Convention in Reno, Calif., I was pleased to join a group of very highly regarded and experienced park management executives on a panel to discuss various industry best practices in many aspects of campground management. Since my passion is operational excellence, my role on the panel was to address best practices that may be applied to the day-to-day operations of an RV park or campground.

Here's a summary of those practices.

1. In addressing your employees, how often have you stood before them and told them how important they are to the success of the business? We've all done it. But how many business owners really are paying staff at a level that really reflects how important you tell them they are? While we all have heard that there's more to a good job than compensation, a very competitive pay program speaks volumes to employees. It truly tells the employee that their job is important and the compensation makes the job worth having. I strongly suggest never cheaping out on staff. A great staff returns dividends many times over in so many ways. If you must, make pay cuts last on your list when business sags.

2. Manage the park by walking around every day. Seek out employees and guests on their turf rather than waiting for them come to you. See the workplace and workers. See where your guests are and what they are doing.

3. Wherever possible, set measurable objectives and inspect what you expect. For example, trash left at sites must be removed within 30 minutes. Or, physical damage (paint scratches, broken screens, etc) to buildings must be repaired within six hours. The phone must be answered within four rings. Then train employees to meet these standards and inspect their work and the overall park with meeting these standards as the objective.

4. Provide every employee with the tools to do their job the way you expect the job to be done. From the office computer and phone system to the lawn mowing equipment, the quality of the tools will always be reflected in the quality of the work your employees can do.

5. Always walk the talk - live by what you say and how you behave. Guests are your most important asset? Staff is our most important asset? What do you say and what do you really believe? Does your day-to-day behavior reinforce that among your employees? Does your behavior convey the model you want emulated? It's do what I do. Lead by example. Model the behavior you expect from others.

6. Move forward in some way every month and every year. Standng still means falling behind. Change creates growth. Change and moving forward do not always mean quantum leaps and big moves. Sometimes small incremental change is sufficient. Big or small, changes keep the juices flowing for employees, guests and the business.

7. It seems that it's become the common wisdom that on-line advertising is now the best advertising. While that may be so with many demographic segments, it has still not reached the level where a large majority of all segments are relying on or tuned in to online media. If you rely too heavily on just that vehicle, you run the risk of missing large segments of your target market. Don't neglect print advertising, direct mail, new print venues that come up from time to time, special events, etc. It's a large world out there. People still read mail, magazines, etc. Go to RV and outdoor recreation shows. You may need to adjust the size of your print media, better target the message and the audience or otherwise re-tool the old advertising, but eliminating it could be a big mistake.

8. How many times have you heard of the importance of sticking to what you do best? Playing to your strengths and core competencies and using outsourced expertise for specialized needs is a wise strategy. How many park owners are experts in Wi-Fi, food service, tree trimming, roofing and technology. For most in the park business, you are an expert park operator or manager. Yes, you may have expertise in electrical repair, water and sewer systems or using heavy construction equipment. That doesn't make you an expert in everything. Others can do some things better than you can. In the long run, using experts can save huge amounts of money and time and provide a far superior product.

9. Often overlooked as part of one's day-to-day management - taking time to be a good citizen. Be involved in your community. Don't overlook local relationships. Spend some of your money locally. Consider time spent daily on community relations and charity work to be a critical part of your day-to-day management.

Inside the Beltway - August 2012

On July 1, 2012, the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA) ceased to exist, having officially closed its door and cuddled back in to the offices of the RV Industry Association from which it was evicted some number of years ago..... Read More