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21 October 2010

Taking an Inward Look

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What are some of the biggest mistakes businesses have made recently? Are camp and conference leaders at risk of making the same blunders?

TheStreet.com, a financial news and comment Web site, reported in an Oct. 18 article about the “5 Biggest Business Mistakes” large companies have made recently, most notably the decisions (or lack thereof) that led to Blockbuster filing for bankruptcy.

Here is a summary of those top five “critical business mistakes” and the companies that made them:

1. Failure to recognize and respond to a changing environment. (Blockbuster)

2. Not paying adequate attention to the customer experience. (ToysRUs)

3. Failing to develop a cost-effective, customer-centric infrastructure. (Sears)

4. Using inadequate hiring practices. (Borders, which has had four CEOs since 2005)

5. Not implementing a system to ensure accountability. (BP)

You can read for yourself this brief article and perhaps see parallels to what we do in the camp and conference world. I can see relevance for our movement and for my job in each of the five mistakes.

1. Are we aware of the changing demands or expectations of our market (i.e., today’s camp and conference guests)? Are we asking them what they want, and are we watching the trends in culture and in the hospitality industry? If we fail to respond to changing needs, we could end up like Blockbuster—out of touch and potentially out of business.

2. Apparently ToysRUs hasn’t spent enough time walking in their customers’ shoes. But creating a positive, potentially life-changing guest experience is one of the hallmarks of camp and conference ministry. It is critical that we stay in touch with the way guests respond to what we offer. Where point 1, above, focuses on market trends and looks at what potential camp/conference guests may grow to expect from the industry as a whole, this point considers what individual guests experience on your property, from arrival to departure.

3. The words cost-effective ring out from this line about infrastructure. Do we use an online registration process? Does it work for our guests? Or does it leave them frustrated? And if we implemented it to help save money while making it easier on our prospective guests, is that the actual result we’ve experienced? Or, like Sears, are we forced to spend extra staff time (and therefore, money) compensating for what the system does not do?

4. Hiring well is one of the hardest things for most leaders and organizations to master. We know what we want and need, and we think the candidate at the top of the list can help us accomplish our mission through a specific role. But are our hiring practices sound, reliable and repeatable? If not, we may end up re-hiring again and again, like Borders.

5. This seems so basic: Who is responsible? Where does the buck stop? Who has authority to make decisions in any situation that might arise at camp? If any process or project does not have a leader assigned to it, blaming, dodging and finger pointing are likely to occur, just as with the BP oil spill. Who is in charge of what?

This week, the CCCA national office staff held an offsite enrichment day, and several of these issues came up in our discussion. We took time to ask and answer the questions, “What are we doing well?” and “What can we improve upon?” I was encouraged by our team’s engagement and participation as we talked about how we can serve members better. And I think we may have begun dialogue that can help prevent CCCA from making, or even passively allowing, some of the kinds of mistakes listed above.

We also spent a good deal of time revisiting our vision and mission, which sparked good ideas and comments, but most importantly, reminded us all of why we are here.

Regrouping, refocusing and listening to each other can provide tremendously valuable insight, even to the point of helping us avoid some of the biggest mistakes made by businesses and ministries. Have you set aside time recently for such an exercise? Any advice for others who are interested in doing the same?

4 thoughts on “Taking an Inward Look

  1. Thank you for the lead to resources on communicating the essence of responsibility…or response-ability…as some say.

    If the reader has not yet followed the links to Liberty Mutual’s The Responsibility Project, take the time. The short film by Danny Glover (Second Line) has some thought-provoking images in it. Make sure to read the credits for the character name of the the woman in the final scene. That alone will get some discussion going.

    Keep restoking the Kindling, Greg.

  2. Good article. I would have to say that one of the things that is so pressingly difficult about this article is that it is dead on accurate. The amount of energy that it takes to leverage the kind of information that they are identifying as essential to agility, flexibility, and innovation requires a fair amount of effort to collect, interpret and then turn into metrics that whole groups of staff and volunteers can read and implement. Some of the smaller camps will have a hard time being able to do this without the support of folks who have a history in deep and robust business applications and core functions. It would be worthwhile for small camps to partner with SCORE or other retired business volunteers who love to collect, interpret and implement these kind of quality improvement processes within an organization and help stabilize the ministries that know how to serve. Larger camps may be able to fund a position that is able to work out these metrics across the company because of the economies of scale their size provides. Check out the local SCORE chapters in your area and see if a partnership is possible.

  3. I read last evening that the Crystal Cathederal filed Chapter 11 yesterday. In the article that I read it basically stated the same 5 things that you mentioned in this article. Good article and spot on for what is happening in the industry.

    Chef Bradley Evers

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