b'GUEST VIEWSo, We Built a CampgroundErin and Finding Ways to Keep Staff Busy Dan ThiemMeeting the needs of our operation is a challenge in winter.We have fewer hours for staff in the off season than in summer. However, recruiting and training staff is hard and expensive, so for the last couple of years, we have made a strategic decision to keep our core staff on the payroll even if we dont strictly need them operationally.As we head into winter, we changeness cant be staffed by any standardthingsaroundcamporevenjusthours to backfill their vacations. The our operation from predominatelymodel we devise in a spreadsheet.dive deep into our SOPs to see whatextra staff means operating in the hosting campers to focusing on re- The complexities and richness of dif- revenue or efficiency gains we canoff-season is possible when we all pair, improvements and rechargingferentemployeesituationsmeansmake.want to take vacations at different for the next season. Sometimes wewe must be flexible, accommodatingOne of our employees is lookingtimes, which hopefully results in a close for part of the off-season, andand understanding while allowingforwardtorefinishingfurniture;wholestaffthatisrefreshedand sometimes we try to stay open. How- for the needs of our business as bestmany of our pieces are unique andready for the next season.ever, underpinning our entire off- as possible. need a little love, and cold, slow win- Even when we retain staff over season agenda is staffing, one of theMeeting the needs of our opera- ter days are a perfect time for thatwinter and have a well-oiled crew biggest challenges we face as a busi- tion is a challenge in winter sinceproject. Another employee embroi- going into the season, we still need ness.our business is seasonal. This meansderedcustomornamentsforthemore employees for the summer. Who do we have on staff? Do theywe have fewer hours for staff in thecamp store. Our challenge is to makeWerecompetingfortemporary want to keep working? What hoursoff season than in summer. However,the investment worthwhile for theworkers with a lot of other seasonal can we provide? And what hours dorecruiting and training staff is hardemployees and our business. businesses so were always looking they need? and expensive, so for the last coupleUltimately, we feel there are moreat new ways to recruit, including Wehavetriedallmannerofof years, we have made a strategicupsides for us in the long run. Expe- hiring ski area workers, teachers, staffing models to find the perfectdecision to keep our core staff on theriencedstaffcanjump-startthehighschoolstudentsandother mix that suits our seasonal opera- payroll even if we dont strictly needspring camping season more quicklypeople with summers off. When we tions. We even tried switching reser- themoperationally.Theyaretooand efficiently than having to hiredohaveagroupreadytogo,we vation systems to capitalize on morevaluable to us to furlough and try tonew employees. This saves us payrollmakesurethatweallowenough automation and simplify training forre-hire in the spring (the job marketdollars in the shoulder seasons whentime for training and that all the our seasonal workers (regular read- is also competitive, and they proba- we can operate with a lean staff thatstaff are properly supported in that ers will know how that worked outbly wont come back).knows what theyre doing. Also, Cal- process. for us!). This has some obvious downsideifornia weather can be fickle, so evenAdditionally, its hard to perform During COVID a lot of our staffimplications. Its expensive for theif its slow in the winter, we can getones job and train at the same time, was a solid group of high school stu- business and in months where wesomewonderfullongstretchesofso we budget training time so that dents(afirstjobforallofthem,make less in a month than a typicalgreat camping weather and havingno one is exhausted from talking and whichinvolvedasteeplearningsummer day, its a tough pill to swal- staffon-handreadytooperateexplainingforeighthours.Hope-curve). Weve tried unique schedul- low.Findingenoughprojectsformakes capitalizing on those oppor- fully, with enough time for training ingtoprovideemployeeswithanstaffcanalsobearealchallenge.tunities easier. andtheexperienceofouryear-early shift before heading to anotherWithout the daily hustle and bustleFinally, weve found that a lot ofround staff, our new recruits can hit job. Weve also tried hiring our chil- of camp life, employees can be leftstaffunderstandourwinterslow- the ground running when the park dren (spoiler, they werent impressedwondering what to do. We try anddown and look forward to taking agets busy in May and June.with us as bosses). In all those cases,focus on deep cleaning the facilities,bit more time off, especially whenWe cant run a business without weve come to realize that our busi- using labor time to spruce up sometheyknowtheyareguaranteedemployees. Were in awe of some of the smaller mom and pop shops that can run as a two-person team, but our campground needs a dedicated staff thats not us (weve tried that and failed spectacularly). Employees are essential to the strength of our business. We support them as best as we can through wages, flexibility and when necessary, defending them to obnoxiouscampers(yes,itdoes happen!). We value them and appre-ciate all their unique contributions to our business. Despite the challenges around at-tracting, training and retaining em-ployees, we love our employees and theyre a part of our camp family. We hope as you think about the end of your season and the staff that helped you get there; you also see them as a part of your extended family with all the warmth those relationships pro-vide. On that note, we hope you all had a happy Thanksgivingif you need us, well be cleaning bathrooms at camp because our staff got the day off. Erin and Dan Thiem are the own-ers of the Inn Town Campground in Nevada City, Calif. Inn Town Camp-groundwasrecentlynamedthe nations Best RV Campground by USA Today 10 Best. WCM12 January 2024Woodalls Campground Magazine'