b'KEY PEOPLE BY JEFF CRIDERLori Severson Working to Increase the Size and Stature of WACOYears before she was hired as CEO of the perennial challengetime management. From a time-management standpointWisconsin Association of Campground In fact, over the past three decades, Sev- alone, Severson has demonstrated that sheOwners (WACO), Lori Seversonhad devel- erson has not only given advice that has knows how to follow her own advice andoped a successful career as a motivational helpedmanybusinessesimprovecus- make it work for both she and her growingspeaker. tomer service and profitability, but shes roster of clients.Her clients ranged from small Midwest- quadrupled the size of WACO, acquired In addition to running Severson & Asso-ern manufacturers to the Walt Disney Com- and renovated a dilapidated campground ciates, her private consulting firm, Sever-pany. Her topics included everything from and turned it into a profitable operation, son manages WACO, with 189 campgroundhow to give great customer service to the es- and taken over the financial management members; the 535-member Kampgroundssentials of business communications, mar- of a nonprofit foundation that helps inner of America(KOA) Owners Association; andketing,projectmanagementandthat city children. the Gilbert Brown Foundation, a nonprofitfoundation founded by former Green BayPackers nose tackle Gilbert Brown, akaThe Gravedigger, which supports manyprograms to help inner city children, in- Lori Seversoncluding inner city pro football camps andan anti-bullying initiative. Severson dealt with the dog challengeIf thats not enough, for the past 10 years, by finding a pet friendly hotel and findingSeverson and her husband, Rick, have also day care for dogs.owned and operated Champions River- Severson said she has been able to growside Resortin Galesville, a fixer-upper that WACOs membership base by consistentlyshe transformed into an attractive seasonal providing members with tools and infor-and overnight park with close to $1 million mation they can use to grow their busi-in improvements. nesses more than they could on their own.SeversonstartedhercareerwithG. We try to make sure we help camp-Heileman Brewing Company, running the ground owners see that they are better withHouse of Heileman on a corporate level for us, she said. How can we help their bot-sevenyearsbeforejoiningWinCraft,a tom line? How can we provide value addedWinona,Minn.-basedmanufacturerof to them? How can we make them moneypromotional products for college and pro- or save them money?fessional sports teams, retailers and other Severson said its essential that camp-businesses. She eventually partnered with ground associations clearly demonstratea co-worker, Mary Spittler, to launch Sev- theirvaluetocurrentandprospectiveerson & Associates in Galesville in 1996. members in multiple ways.Their motivational speaking and con- Some campgrounds dont care aboutsulting business went well until U.S. man- the directory, Severson said. Theyll say,ufacturers started moving more and more Im all seasonal or Im full anyway.oftheiroperationstoothercountries. Some campground operators are alsoWhen manufacturing started going over- totally willing to leave it up to their peers toseas, the association management busi- shoulder the costs of paying for the indus-ness fell on our laps, Severson said. trys government affairs efforts.She landed a job opportunity managing ButdotheyunderstandhowtodoWACOafterworkingasamotivational more business during the week or how tospeaker for the association. A group of do things differently to create additionalfolks on the board talked to me about in- revenue? Severson asked. We have devel-terviewingfortheassociationmanage- oped a Facebook page for members onlyment position. They were not crazy about whereyoucanaskquestionsofotherhiring somebody who didnt have experi- campground owners.ence in the industry, she said, but they WACO has also developed a cooperativetook a chance on her and learned firsthand printing program that enables participat-what Severson could do. ing parks to print 30,000 8-inch by 10-inchSinceshetookovermanagementof fullcolor,double-sideguestguidesorWACO 20 years ago, Severson has nearly brochures for $650 for each park, or theyquadrupled the size of the association and could pay $1,200 and have them printed onturned the annual WACO trade show into 11-by 17-inch paper and have it folded.the largest of any state or national camp- Twenty-six campgrounds participate ingroundindustryassociation.WhenI this program and they end up getting theirstarted, we had 41 (campground) atten- brochures for much less than if they did itdees at convention, she said. This year, on their own, she said.WACO had 125 campgrounds and vendors Itgetsbetter.WACOdistributestheand we filled 192 booths. 30,000 brochures for each of the 26 partic-WACOhelditsconventioninmid- ipating parks at 15 RV and camping shows. March, just before COVID-19 restrictions Seversonalsoprovidescampgroundbegan to be imposed across the country.owners and their employees with annualSo how did Severson increase camp- training on guest services. This involvesReal Log Park Model Cabins ground and vendor participation in the more than simply training the front deskWACO show? By finding out why people staff on how to do their jobs better. Itswerent coming before. training the maintenance staff to be moreWe went out and visited every owner, friendly to park guests and to even doshe said. The two biggest reasons they things like carry a park activity schedule so Real Rustic Log Cabins werent going to convention were kids and they can answer questions and be helpful Turn-Key! dogs. to guests who need help. Durable and Appealing Kids were an issue, Severson said, be- We do a lot with attitude training, Sev- Highly Profitable causetheWACOshowtakesplacein erson said. We often have people who Pays Off Within 1-3 Years March, when kids are in school. So, we haveneverbeeninthe(campground)created a kids camp, and we have a cur- workforce before. They could be (first-time)Park Model Cabins riculum that goes with it. The kids are still work campers.Starting at $27,900 in school learning even during the WACO Severson said the key to providing goodLocated in Lancaster, PA show. The first year we only had 12 kids. service is not just providing the guest withNow we have an average of 75 kids who at- the information they are seeking but pro-717-445-5522www.LancasterLogCabins.com tend. We have expanded it so that vendors viding it with the right tone of voice andcan bring their kids to camp, too. Key Peoplecontinued on page 3022 -November 2020Woodalls Campground Management'