Up to Date

Being successful in the business of camp is really about managing a business that keeps pace with change. The key to success for many camp owners is in their ability to remain open to new ideas about what a camp experience can be.

Probably the biggest challenge in managing change is staying on top of your camp’s target market. For example, it is likely that the demand for adult and family camp programming may eclipse the market of the traditional, overnight and day camps for children. Another example is the surging interest beyond summer camp. Many camp business owners are looking at how they can offer camp programming for all four seasons.

Another sweeping change in camp business is the power of promotion. Even though there are still many camp businesses that can rely on a steady camper enrollment by earning repeat business and attracting legacy campers, the promotional tide is turning. Many camp owners are now adopting aggressive, promotional strategies to grow their enrollments.

Technology has played a huge role in promotion and how owners create new profits centers. However, keeping pace with technology carries its own price tag.

When you add on the challenges of risk management, rising liability insurance, the responsibility of hiring trustworthy human beings as residential employees and meeting new state regulations by conducting Criminal Offender Record (CORI) checks, the business of keeping pace with change can start to feel overwhelming.

However, the flipside of these changes is that they can present an impetus for improvement. John Lilly, a physician and researcher in human behavior, once said that “our security is our ability to change.”

I think that it is safe to say that most camp business owners believe that standing still is just not an option. However, change for the sake of change might not produce a healthy camp enrollment.

Staying ahead of the curve does take some planning and it requires more than just keeping track of what’s hot and what’s not. A huge factor in rising to these challenges is being able to assess and adapt your camp’s facilities to ensure that your camp business stays on the cutting edge.

Super StructuresIf you haven’t taken a hard look at how your camp’s facilities will help you keep pace with new waves of camp programming, you can ask the following questions: How well do you know the strengths and limitations of your camp’s facilities? Are your facilities ready to meet a shift in new camp programming demands?

If you were to expand your facilities, would you eye a prime piece of undeveloped land or would you scrutinize the existing buildings that may be liabilities because of high energy costs, lack of capacity that impacts your ability to grow, or the headaches they cause because they are just not handicapped accessible?

If you want to make the best investment to enhance your campers’ satisfaction and safety, as well as have a healthier bottom line, you need to consider both your developed and undeveloped spaces and take a look at the spaces that adjacent to your camp that you could purchase.

When camp owners get the urge to expand their facilities, more often than not, it is sparked by a crisis, such as discovering that termites have helped themselves to the floor joists of your dining hall, suffering through a second, consecutive summer of record rainfall, or experiencing an unexpected surge of camper interest in adventure activities.

The knee-jerk reaction is to fix the immediate problem as quickly and cost-effectively as possible. But as satisfying as a the quick fix might seem, taking the time to treat the crisis as an opportunity to assess your entire camp operation by keeping the big picture in mind will probably yield the best return on your next investment in your facilities. This big picture is your master plan.

Camp owners who stand the best chance of staying ahead of the curve are going to invest in a master plan of their camp facilities.

A master plan is a purposeful and investigative process that uses the same tactics as a master chess player. Before the first move is executed, the second and the third moves have already been determined.

Master planning for a camp business does not take the genius of Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer. Master planning can be as simple as identifying and understanding all of your options, projecting what the advantages and disadvantages are of each option, and then considering these options in the context of both the short-term and the long-term results.

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