On A Mission

Have you ever had a camp staff that couldn't wait for camp to start, where everyone was willing to pitch in to do whatever it took to make the camp a success?

Hopefully, every camp director will have this experience and many times over, where it is all about meeting the campers' needs and working as a team to accomplish it.

If this sounds like an ideal but unrealistic goal, this article might help you envision how a devoted and highly motivated camp staff can be part of your camp business.

Mission Possible

If an upstart company springboards into a first-year profit or when a well-established company hits the skids, one common element usually emerges from conversations about what caused the success or the failure. That common element is strength of the organization's mission.

Management experts write about the importance of a mission statement as the driving force that mobilizes resources to achieve a common goal. Yet, when many directors are asked about their organization's mission statement, they are stumped by the question.

The cause of the delayed response usually falls into one of three categories:

*It was something written a while ago, when business was down and it's on file somewhere.

*Copies are given to new employees but it's pretty much ignored after employees have acclimated

*There isn't a formal mission statement, but we all know what we want to accomplish.

However, when directors respond immediately to the question, the answer is often a simple one… The mission statement is the compass for making decisions and not only does everyone in the business talk about what the mission is, they also believe in it.

Steven Covey, author of the New York Times #1 Bestseller The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, believes that the mission statement must be the heart and soul of any successful organization.

The mission must articulate deeply-held values and vision. It must also be shared by employees at every level of the organization.

There are many success stories about companies who thrive through their loyalty to a mission statement. Walt Disney, Six Flags, and JC Penney are all excellent examples of this success that emphasizes a strong commitment to a mission statement.

Walt Disney's mission was simple… To create "the happiest place on earth." He also established a legacy for constant change with the guiding force that "as long as there is imagination left in this world, Disneyland will never be finished."

Walt Disney's success is now legendary, with a worldwide presence of Disney studios, resorts, cruise lines, broadcast networks, and retail stores.

Six Flags Theme Parks found a niche, despite the gargantuan Disney presence, by shaping its business with the goal of being "the world's leader in family fun and cutting-edge thrills." Six Flags has expanded to 37 parks, in seven countries with 50 million guests annually.

James Cash Penney built his retail empire on the principle of the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you."

JC Penney provided the leadership that brought retailing out of the "caveat emptor mode" to a mindset of "the customer comes first."

Penney also revisited this mission statement and developed other axioms to guide his business: "It is the service that we are not obliged to give that people value most." This became the hallmark of Penney's strategic planning and it was at the core of every employee's training.

Camp Mission

Does your camp business have a mission statement? If it does, when was the last time you read it and asked, "Do we really live by it?"

Better yet, have you discussed your camp mission with your employees? Whether your camp business is at the top and you want it to stay there or you have a vision to transform or revive a business, the care and feeding of your mission statement should be given top priority.

To ensure that your mission statement has the root system and the nutrients to thrive, everyone within the organization and its customers should be part of its cultivation.

Cultivating a mission statement can be jumpstarted by asking some basic questions: What is the business of our business? Why should campers come to our camp rather than our competitor's?

Why are we in the business of camps? What do we stand for? What are our core values? How can we be confident about that our camp experience is a positive one? How do we want our campers, their parents and our competitors to perceive us?

So how do you create or re-visit a camp mission statement so that everyone owns it? How can you develop a mission statement that can be the guiding force of excellence in a camp experience?

Once you have asked your staff members about their vision of a successful camp, put their answers down on paper. Discuss your vision with them and how it relates to what they have said. Then, distill those ideas.

Have a staff meeting devoted to establishing a camp mission statement for the next camp season. It doesn't have to be anything lengthy, or it could be. It could actually be encapsulated in a motto.

The American Camping Association has as its mission: "Enriching lives, changing the world." That is certainly a heavy order, but it is so direct and clear in communicating what their members see as their guiding principle.

If simplicity is really important, the mission statement could be communicated by a symbol -- the YMCA's guiding principle is to build a healthy spirit, mind, and body and it uses a triangle to symbolize the integration of these elements as the development of a well-rounded person.

You could also explore what other camp businesses are saying in their mission statements to clarify what you really say is your camp's success.

You can use the Internet for easy access to these mission statements. I used the search engine Google, entered camp mission statement and found 340,000 relevant sites.

It's a great way to generate ideas that fit and don't fit your camp staff's vision for excellence and can provide a starting point for creating a mission statement.

Taking the time to develop a strong, vital camp mission can pay great dividends -- a renewed sense of purpose, and a righting of the ship so that everyone is working toward a common goal and a spirit of innovation.

All of these dividends can help to ensure that the organization can keep pace with change and enjoy the rewards of meeting its

mission… and it just might be the most important staff investment that you will ever make.

Dr. Susan Langlois has more than 20 years of experience as a college professor, athletic administrator, camp director and sport facilities consultant. She is currently the Dean of Sports Science at Endicott College.

Bryan BuchkoComment