It was supposed to be easy. A couple of screws, a couple of bolts, and voila - a brand new, four-seat swing set, ready and waiting for my daughter's enjoyment.
If the picture on the box was accurate, this was going to be the best fourth birthday present ever. Not only did this baby have room for the whole Auth clan and a guest, it also held the possibility of eliminating daily arguments over whose turn it was to swing, which also made it a gift for the parents.
Moments after opening the box, the quick project I had envisioned took a turn for the worse. My drill bits were too short and I was stranded at home with no way to get to the store (my wife had taken the girls to the library while daddy assembled the birthday surprise).
With no other options, I turned to my neighbor for help and began a process that was to continue for the next six hours. Together, my five-year-old son and I drilled, screwed and cut as the swing set slowly took shape, pausing only to throw tarps over the project as my wife pulled back in the drive with the birthday girl in tow.
As the sun began to set, we moved from the garage floor to the back yard, only to find that we didn't have enough muscle to lift all the heavy beams into place and secure them at the same time. We were at the brink of disaster.
There was simply no way to hide the half-completed swing set from my daughter if we didn't finish it that night.
Revisiting our earlier solution, we turned to another neighbor (and husband of our circulation manager) for a little help. Working under makeshift lights (augmented by occasional rain and lightning) the swing set took its completed form with my son ceremoniously pounding in the last bolt and helping to fasten the last nut.
As my son put the new swing set through its paces (a reward for being such a good helper), I couldn't help but think about how special this otherwise ordinary Wednesday night had turned out.
I was almost glad the project hadn't gone smoothly because it gave my son and me a great deal of time together and re-connected me with neighbors who had become friends.
It also struck me how similar this experience was to running our own little business and how similar it was to the experiences you face on a daily basis as you run your camps. Things don't always go as planned. That's a fact of life, but it's not necessarily bad.
Unusual experiences, even mistakes, give us (and our employees) an opportunity to break out of the routine and work to find a solution to a unique problem.
It also provides us with some insight into ways we can improve our businesses and provide a better experience for our customers.
To that end, we've put together a blockbuster issue, including: the Camp Business Market Report 2002 with national camp statistics on everything from annual sales to average price per session (page 6), a profile of Lutherwood Camp (Cascading Along, page 14), a feature on in-line skating at camp (Rock 'N Roll, page 17), and much, much more.
I hope you enjoy this issue and wish you continued success in your camp business.
Rodney J. Auth
President and Publisher