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Every winter, my daughter Pam, her husband and my grand dogs come to visit my wife Natalie 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 our great country (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 attend for seven weeks. That’s right — seven weeks!
So, when people 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 tell them she works full time and has navigated the globe to find staff.
Hmmm, finding staff. Sound familiar to you?
Anyway, Pam was working from my home in January 2021. She’d never had so much of a problem recruiting and hiring staff for the kitchen, pool, lake and the numerous organized activities.
Yes, COVID-19 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 the United States in the always reliable United Kingdom, Eastern Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
Pam and I have talked about business since she was a teenager because she shares my love for it; we both got that love of business from my dad, Irving. She uses many of the systems I teach contractors with great results. But this past year, things were different — as you know all too well.
The four of us were at the dinner table one night. Pam looked at us across the table and asked 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.”
Pam told us there were plenty of campers aching to get to camp and have some normalcy in their life again, but no way for the camp to get fully staffed and get kids into their “bubble.” Beyond the logistical nightmare of testing plans and isolation protocols to keep campers healthy, they still needed to make the camp a safe and supervised place for kids to create memories.
Talk about a logistical nightmare! Yes, they did what amounts to my Planning Power! program. They created outdoor dining so they could spread out for social distancing, they got certified to conduct COVID testing at their health center — and much more. This camp is like trying to run a major city!
Systems allow work-life balance
Two weeks into the start of camp, I hadn’t heard anything from Pam — 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 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 checking in once a day because I’d be working sunup to sundown. Plus, I knew Internet service was going to be spotty.
One week later, Natalie and I were on a plane headed to camp.
When not teaching archery, helping to supervise 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 much 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 service and missed a day, I didn’t sweat it because I knew if something went awry, I’d get a text message (cell service was also spotty for making and receiving phone calls).
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.
Those systems helped my online business run without me for nearly a month.
Here’s the thing: we had an organizational 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 — that if you want freedom, systems are the way.
Also, the systems in place at Pam’s camp 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 and have a great summer. For that, I’m forever grateful!