by Ed Schirick
your plan?" is among the most frequently asked questions in business
today. While many camp directors and other business managers remember
simpler times, the structure of our society and the pressures of business
today demand that businesses have a plan. What is your plan?
Planning Is Fundamental
Developing a plan is one of the most important business processes. Every
business and every camp should have a business plan. Your plan is the
blueprint, the diagram, or the road map for managing your camp . Within
this overall business plan context are many other plans and all are,
to one degree or another, essential for your success. You've heard about
some of these in this column before, especially risk management plans
and crisis management plans. Here's a quick, expanded list to consider
as part of your business plan:
- financial plan
- marketing plan
- advertising plan
- staffing plan
- program plan
- risk management plan
- insurance plan
- crisis management plan
- emergency plan
- site and facilities plan
- health plan
- safety plan
The planning process begins with the director whether your camp is privately
owned or not. It includes the board of directors if your camp is affiliated
with an organization, is religiously affiliated, or is nonprofit. All
plans begin with a mission or purpose and a dream of what can be accomplished.
This vision of the future requires leadership that often comes from the
director. But, vision is not exclusive to the director, and the dream
may become reality sooner if it is shared and molded with the help of
others who hold a stake in your camp business. There is awesome power
in "we," especially when a group is focused on common goals.
There are some other things to consider about planning. If you have
planning responsibility for your camp business, you know how complicated
it can be. Rules, regulations, and standards are everywhere. Taking the
time to research and gather information is very time consuming and has
been known to try the patience of some saintly camp directors.
And, then there is the proliferation of information available. How reliable
is the information? How much information is enough? How important is
this piece of information compared to another? There are many questions.
It doesn't take long to realize that there is more to the process than
one person can accomplish alone.
Build a Team
Just like the director who builds a team to advance risk management
and safety goals, many camp director's create a team of staff, independent
advisers, board members, or consultants to tackle the business planning
process. What seems like a huge, overwhelming task can be accomplished
more easily by dividing the various planning duties up among your team
members. How many people you need and who does what depends upon your
skill and experience, the talent of your staff, and your network of contacts
and advisers. Each situation will be different.
Once you have assembled your team, take some time as a group to evaluate
how your business performed last year. What went right? What went wrong?
Why? What can you do differently this year to ensure things will go better
next summer? What are your organization's strengths and weaknesses? What
problems and opportunities are present as a result? What are the obstacles
to success for next summer? What can be done to overcome them? How well
did you communicate with your camper families? Did the campers have fun?
Did you accomplish your goals?
Planning Is a Dynamic Process
Questions like these and others you develop will help you assess your
accomplishments and identify those areas where improvement is still needed.
This assessment leads to the establishment of goals for the coming year.
The creation of goals and the action steps necessary to accomplish them
impacts all aspects of the camp's business plan. For example, your evaluation
might lead you to conclude one of your bunks should be demolished and
re-built. This decision impacts financial planning. You must decide whether
to borrow the money to finance construction or pay for it out of current
assets. If you borrow the money, will cash flow handle the amortization
of the loan or put a strain on finances?
Each action has impacts that ripple throughout your business plan. Demolishing
and re-building the bunk also affects your site and facility plan. A
formal bidding process may be needed from various contractors. Who will
help you establish the building specifications? How do building codes
and the new national electrical code impact costs? Will you be able to
keep the same look to the building or are there unique materials in the
building that are no longer available? Can construction of the building
be completed before the summer session begins? What are the environmental
impacts of this decision, if any, on the property?
The bunk house project has risk management and insurance planning impact,
too. Should you buy builder's risk insurance or assume the risk of constructing
the new building yourself? How would you fund the risk? Does the contractor
that won the bidding process have the financial ability to do the job?
Did you check their references? Have they had any problems with job completion
in the past? Does the contractor carry insurance? What kind? How much?
How does it protect camp during the construction phase?
As you can probably see by now, the planning discipline has many interrelated
parts. This brief example attempted to demonstrate the complexity of
the process and highlight certain issues. It is by no means complete.
Each action you take has some implication for your business. Build awareness
of the implications and an understanding of how the various actions are
interrelated by taking the time to plan every year. Modify your business
plan and its various parts as things change. This approach will make
the annual process less difficult after the first year.
Building a team to help you with the process reduces the burden and
spreads ownership of the plan to key staff. This builds commitment among
staff, a critical factor for business success. And, your independent
advisors will understand your business better, which should help them
do a better job for you in the long run.
If you have done planning in the past but haven't done it in a while,
renew your effort for 2001. If you have never done formal business planning,
resolve to do so this year. The investment of time, money, and resources
in the planning process will deliver big dividends. Opportunity may be
knocking. Will you hear it?
Originally published in the 2001 March/April
issue of Camping