In a word, we are busy!! My official title is Team Lead and my territory is 6 campgrounds, totaling over 200 sites, and a lodge. Despite my best efforts my days always seem to start between 7am – 8am and depending on what’s happening in the campgrounds they end around 7pm. I do get some breaks in the middle, but most days so far I have had minimal downtime. Part of that is because I am new to the area and the position, and the learning curve (at least for me) has been pretty steep. I’ve also been working 6 days a week since I arrived, and that has mostly been due to getting a handle on the job. It’s important to note here that working the extra days is voluntary, but I just don’t feel comfortable leaving the property at this point, although we have taken a few day trips to run errands. The thing is, there is always something to do, and since the tasks have a ton of variety my multi-tasking skills are definitely getting used. I enjoy the variety though and Lee is really enjoying himself as well, mainly because we both feel that despite the hard work we are actually accomplishing things. For both of us that is an important part of our job satisfaction and we are both getting that in spades.
Back to trying to describe my day. First thing in the morning, I walk a few hundred feet to the office and check my email. Since my bosses have multiple locations they are managing, lots of the communication is done via email, which works fine for me since that was mainly how I communicated in my former professional life. Once I get a handle on any new information/tasks that have come in, I talk to the office/maintenance folks about what’s happening. I am not a micro manager by nature and I don’t like it when people do it do me so I go to great lengths to avoid doing it with others. It’s tough when there is so much going on and because I am new I try to strike a balance between understanding what is going on and actually directing people in their tasks. As much as possible I trust people to handle their individual jobs and bring any issues or problems to me. That seems to be working well with most people although at times it can be a delicate line to walk.
That’s really my main job, being the point person for communication, and thankfully people are talking to me. Nothing worse than not knowing what is wrong with folks, and in order to encourage that type of environment I not only make sure there is lots of one-on-one time with people, but I also do everything I can to address their concerns as quickly as possible. In order to facilitate this I try to get out of the office as quickly as possible and drive around and talk to people. So far that has been my favorite part of the job, even though I often come back from those rounds with a long list of new things to work on. That is an area I can provide the most value, and although I can’t always solve the problems I am committed to at least giving them an answer why. My boss has also been really great about helping me with this and it’s amazing how much trust you can build simply by listening to people and giving them what they want. Let me give you an example:
One of the camp hosts doesn’t have a motorized gator and he requested a hand pulled cart to use when delivering firewood or cleaning the restrooms. Getting him a gator would have been expensive and difficult so I appreciated the fact that he came up with a more economical solution that provided him with what he needed. Since we had 5 carts at one of the other campgrounds (used by customers to take their gear to hike-in sites) I decided to move one to his campground. That decision might have seemed like a no-brainer, but I had to think about whether 4 carts would meet the needs of the guests and whether anyone would have an issue with me making the change. Once I determined it wouldn’t be a big issue, I had to arrange for someone to deliver it to him. I got lucky on this one and was able to talk to everyone and have it delivered the same day, but unfortunately these types of changes are not always that quick. As much as possible Lee and I try to cut through the “red tape” as quickly as possible and get problems solved, but as I said, there are times this can be a challenge for a variety of reasons.
And because we have multiple campgrounds, there are times when we have completely different issues in multiple places happening at the same time. Obviously I can’t physically be in more than one place at a time, but thankfully I have a couple of people I can rely on to drop what they are doing at a moment’s notice and provide onsite assistance. Lee has been wonderful about this, and in all seriousness I am really lucky to have him. He can switch gears really quickly, and rarely pushes back when I ask him to help someone out. His responsiveness is not just because I am his wife, but more because that is just who he is. He has a lifetime of experience working in live events and is used to his priorities changing very quickly. Having someone who is that customer/team focused is invaluable to me because of course often everything happens at once. Let me give you an example of that:
Recently we had an issue where someone was lost and I was working with the local Sheriff’s department to get someone out to our remote location. This was particularly challenging because they were in the middle of working on an active injury search and rescue in the forest that pretty much all of their people were tied up with. Simultaneously the camp hosts were trying to accommodate several groups of walk-in campers, and I was trying to call the people who had no-showed the night before to see if they were running late or weren’t coming so we could open up the spots for others. Forest Service policy allows us to reassign campsites if the guests do not show up by 4pm the next day, but we try to make those courtesy call first in order to avoid a guest arriving and their spot having been given away. This was complicated by the fact that it was Memorial Day Weekend and my first time making those calls. I knew conceptually what needed to be done, but it took me a little while to get the proper information and figure how when and how to make the calls. Lee saw that all of this was happening and decided to drive up and down the main road a bit to see if he could find the lost person. He ultimately found the man walking on the main road pretty far from their campsite, and was able to relay information which I could then give to the Sheriff. He then spent over and hour and a half driving back and forth keeping an eye on the man waiting to find out if the Sheriff’s department was going to send someone. Thankfully everything turned out OK, but it was pretty stressful for awhile.
That is obviously an extreme example, but there are lots of times when multiple issues come in at the same time, and since I often don’t know the answer to the questions I need to contact someone to find out. This will get easier as the summer progresses and I learn more about the rules up here, but I am constantly surprised at how varied the scenarios are, and how often a judgement call is needed. I think that through and hope that I get it right more often than not. More importantly I am absolutely confident that my boss will have my back in any case where I get it wrong, as long as I can explain how I made the decision. Nothing worse than living in the grey area without feeling supported, but thankfully that has not been an issue here, although I have certainly experienced it in other jobs.
To help with that long-term I am spending some time documenting the more important processes here. It is something I enjoy doing, and most people seem interested in, so as these scenarios come up I get an answer and then document the process going forward. I try to only do this on the more common scenarios though. I want people to feel they have the leeway to make judgement calls, and as I explained to them, once we have a rule I have to enforce it. Some areas in my mind, like the cash policies, should be completely black and white, but other “guest-facing” policies should be less rigid. My general guideline on this is to always say yes unless we have a compelling reason to say no. I try to do that with all the camp hosts who need things, and would like them to do that with the guests as well. Certainly you have to be careful of people who are trying to work the system, but in general if a guest needs something special and it doesn’t cost us anything, why not? This is a change in mindset for some folks, but mainly people seem to like the idea and are running with it, which makes me feel really great.
So that’s the broad strokes of my day, and I am hoping that as the season progresses I will spend less time putting out fires (not literally) and more time in positive proactive customer interactions. That’s an area I really feel I could add value, plus would be very enjoyable for me. For now I am happy that we are able to make people’s day to day life a little easier. And speaking of that, I am going to have Lee explain what he does all day in a later post.
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