March 9, 2020

Interview with Mark P Fisher @ Inspiring Growth. Leadership, storytelling and Inspiration.

In this interview find out about:-

  • How guest groups can significantly increase revenue for camps.
  • How storytelling is a key skill in your marketing efforts and how you can improve it.
  • How mark has systematically improved revenue in several of the camps he has worked with.
  • How he is now building an accelerator to widen his reach and help more people.

Mark loves to tell stories and he loves to inspire growth in others. He shares his story and experience during his 20 + years in the camp industry as Camper, Counsellor, Director, VP & Executive Director.

Find out more about Mark and his quest to Inspire growth in others. Visit https://www.inspiringgrowth.biz

Full transcript here….

DR:

I know you’re very busy, but we’re really, really interested. Mark and I connected a couple of days ago, and just found out, I suppose, a little bit about what Mark’s been doing with Inspiring Growth, and the accelerator he’s starting, which he can tell us a lot more about very soon. I was really interested just to dig in a little bit more, find out more about that, and also share that with other people as well.

Thanks very much for joining us, Mark.

Mark P Fisher:

Well, it’s cool to be able to connect with you, from Switzerland and Maryland.

DR:

Good stuff, yeah. I thought, Mark, it would be really interesting just to share your story into the camp industry. I know it goes quite a long time back, but it would be really interesting to know where it started, for you?

Mark P Fisher:

Well actually, it started on a rock, in the middle of an island, on a lake in the Adirondack Mountains. My mother had dragged me to a camp when I was about 15 or 16 years old, and that week at camp transformed, really, the trajectory of my whole life.

Mark P Fisher:

I had a counselor, he tapped me on the shoulder, he pulled me out of a meeting. I think it was like, halfway through the week. His name was Ray. Ray had some insight into this crazy 16 year old kid, because he put me on this rock, and he looked at me, and he said, “Hey Mark …” Of course, when he tapped me on the shoulder, everyone around me in the room was like, “Oh, busted,” because he was the guy that took care of every problem on this island.

Mark P Fisher:

So, he took me out on this rock. He looked at me, and he kind of folded his arms, and he looked at me, and he says, “Mark, I sense you’re a leader.” And instantly, he had appealed to my ego. And he had me, right? He completely had me. I said, “Yeah, what do you need?”

Mark P Fisher:

He goes, “Well, I think every food fight has emanated from your table. The panty raid at the girls dorms, I know started from your dorm. That big, huge, 50-gallon drum that’s worth 100,000 points for the team that has it at the end of the week, I know you know where it is.” I said, “Yeah, it’s buried in the lagoon.”

Mark P Fisher:

Then, he started asking me some questions about faith. I’ve got to tell you, Duncan, I was caught off guard, really. But, because I was at camp, in the middle of creation, enjoying myself, having a ton of fun, I felt like my defenses were down. And it was at that conversation, that he began to probe about what I believed, and who I thought God was, and where my life was heading. It was so … It just got inside me, it got inside my heart, and it started to have this encouraging, convicting, empowering effect on me.

Mark P Fisher:

So, in my case, because it was a faith based camp, he asked me what I thought about God, and where I was going, and I told him, I said, “Honestly, I don’t know.” I said, “When I sign my name, I sign it DS and R&R. Drugs, sex, and rock and roll, dude.” He said, “Well, do you have a faith, do you believe in God?” I said, “Dude, listen, everything I’ve done in my 16 years, I don’t know if God could ever even forgive me.” He said, “Really?” I said, “Yeah, I really don’t know.”

Mark P Fisher:

It was at that moment where he had the wisdom of Solomon, I think, and he looked at me, and he said, “Have you ever heard for First John, 1:9?” This is how much I knew about the Bible, okay? I know not all camps are faith based, I work with hundreds of camps, I understand that. But, from my experience, I looked at him and I said, “First John, 1:9. Is he in my dorm?” Like, I didn’t even know it was a Bible … John, that’s all I heard.

Mark P Fisher:

He said, “No, it’s a Bible verse.” Then he looked at me again, and he says, “I bet you can’t memorize it.” I said, “I bet I can.” He said, “I bet you can’t.” So, we went back and forth. He finished up with me, and I went off.

Mark P Fisher:

I had heard about a girl, her name was Jody. Jody had gotten to this camp by memorizing a million verses, I guess. I don’t know the whole story. So I found her, and I said, “Do you know this First John, 1:9?” Jody said, “Oh yeah, I know that.” I said, “Could you teach it to me?” So, I feigned ignorance, Duncan, for three hours to be able to sit with this girl, on a rock at the lake, and she taught it to me.

Mark P Fisher:

Then, on the last day at camp … You know, there’s 500 campers. Before we went off to lake and on the barge, I found Ray. I went up to him and I said, “Hey Ray, First John, 1:9. If we confess our sins, He’s faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Ha!” This is how arrogant I was. He said, “That’s amazing. Do you have a Bible?” I said, “No, I have a Jody.”

Mark P Fisher:

So, he walked in the bookstore, bought me my first Bible, handed it to me. He says, “I think God’s going to use you someday.” I had no idea that seed that planted in me, as a 16 year old kid, would turn into 28 years in the hospitality industry, with camps, and conference centers. From California, to Virginia, to all across the country. I think that’s the power of camp, and that’s why I love working with my VIP clients, who want to grow their camps. I get to inspire that growth, and have gotten to do that for many years, now.

DR:

That’s awesome. What a nice way into it. It’s nice that experience has then gone onto helping lots of other people to grow in a similar way you have, and help them to grow their camps, and themselves as well.

DR:

After that camp experience then, what was your first camp experiences as a member of staff in one of these?

Mark P Fisher:

As a real, full-time leader … I did a bunch of camp counseling. I actually went back and became the Program Director of that island camp, four years later, if you can believe it.

DR:

Right, right.

Mark P Fisher:

But, I was newly married. My wife and I have been married, now, 22 years. Excuse me, 32 years. My wife and mother, my mother invited my wife to a place called Sandy Cove, in Northeast Maryland. It’s a beautiful lodge on the headwaters of the Chesapeake Bay.

Mark P Fisher:

My wife came back and said, “Mark, you’re not going to believe the beauty of this conference center.” Now I thought if I got into camping, I’d be in my 50s, and this was my early 30s. So I said, “Well, let’s go back up together, and visit.” I met the President, and I asked him some questions about his marketing, and his sales. He says, “Man, we don’t have any money, we’re struggling.” I said, “I’ll help you, pro bono, whatever.”

Mark P Fisher:

But, I am a bit competitive, so I said, “Why don’t you send a letter out, I’ll send a letter out, and see which one does better?” Sure enough, just because I just knew a little bit more than he did, it did really well. Before you knew it, he offered me a full-time job. For six years, I was the Director of Sales and Marketing at Sandy Cove, on the headwaters of the Chesapeake Bay.

Mark P Fisher:

It was during that time, I created this sales and marketing strategy. People would say to me, “Mark, you have this marketing instinct,” and so I started developing a training program called Marketing Instincts, to other camp leaders. Then, a second one, which was called Marketing Without a Marketing Director. Now, these are all self-published, but they helped a lot of camps grow. So, I was VP of Sales and Marketing at Sandy Cove, and then I got bored.

Mark P Fisher:

I went out West, and I stopped in New Mexico, and that just didn’t last because it wasn’t a good fit. Then, we landed in Southern California, at about a $15 million camp, that had six locations in Southern California. I became the VP of Sales and Marketing there, and we grew 98% in my eight years that I was there.

DR:

Wow, fantastic.

Mark P Fisher:

It was crazy. I mean, it was a team effort. I just happened to be the cheerleader, and the coach, and the one that moved the ball.

DR:

Yeah, yeah. Yeah, that’s phenomenal growth.

Mark P Fisher:

Yeah. Then, by that time, we had five kids.

DR:

God.

Mark P Fisher:

My wife and I, she was homeschooling them, and I was working, it was a crazy life. Then, after about eight years, I resigned from that position. Then, I came back to Sandy Cove, as the President, where I served for eight years, until health issues took me out of the game.

DR:

Right. Right on. Amazing. God, five kids doing that as well, that’s an incredible effort. I’ve got two kids and, my goodness, they’re awesome, but lots of effort. No, I really, really commend you with that.

DR:

Yeah.

Mark P Fisher:

We have four grandkids, now.

DR:

Aw, amazing. Amazing. Cool. So, to get 98% growth from already what was a big camp when you joined it, but then, to double in size in eight years, what was the strategy behind that? What were your main strategy for doing that?

Mark P Fisher:

Well, that’s a great question. There was no secret.

Mark P Fisher:

One of the three steps I teach in my Inspiring Growth accelerator program is to test. Now, some people think it’s a four letter cuss word. Like, “Test, what are you talking about? Don’t you know?” No man, I don’t know. My philosophy of marketing is very simply. Don’t try to create waves, find the wave and then put your surfboard in front of that wave, because it’s a whole lot cheaper, and a lot more fun.

DR:

Yeah, right.

Mark P Fisher:

So, what we did is we began to test all of these different strategies. This was really early, early Internet, it was mostly direct mail, and print, and stuff like that.

Mark P Fisher:

But, the number one characteristic, in looking back, as I’ve been asked that question, that led us to such growth, Duncan, it’s curiosity. It’s asking questions, it’s constantly taking rocks, and uncovering them, and figuring out.

Mark P Fisher:

For example, when I was hired, the President said to me, “A lot of people like to say that we don’t need a Marketing Director, because we’re almost full, all the time.” I said, “You’re full, all the time?” He goes, “Yeah, our programs, in the summer, are full almost all the time.” I said, “Really? What about the rest of the year?”

Mark P Fisher:

Now, most camp people will know the term, or the different language, but guest groups, those are the groups that come in, that the camp or conference center serves, that aren’t a part of a program that they’re running. I know you ran a camp, you might hire all the staff, and music, and speakers, and all that kind of stuff, and people just come and plug and play. But, there’s opportunity with guest groups, where you can serve them with your flavor, or brand, of hospitality. So, the first thing I did is I focused on the guest groups.

DR:

Right.

Mark P Fisher:

I went to the team that was responsible for booking that, and I said, “Who does what?” Again, I asked a lot of questions. What I discovered is that the same people selling guest groups were servicing guest groups. I want you to think about that, for a minute.

Mark P Fisher:

What incentive does a person who serves have to sell more?

DR:

Yeah, the opposite, isn’t it? It’s like, “The more I sell, the more I have to work.”

Mark P Fisher:

Right. These were not bad people, these were good-hearted people. There were three of them that were responsible for, I think, it was $2 million worth of sales. So I sat them down, one by one, and I said, “I want to ask you a question. Pretend you just went to lunch, you came back from lunch. You’re sitting at your table, there are two sticky notes to call somebody. One sticky note was a person you knew, a group leader you knew. One sticky note was the name of someone you didn’t know. Who would you call first?”

DR:

Yeah, the one they knew.

Mark P Fisher:

Two of those people said, “Oh, the one I know.” One of them said, “Well, the one I don’t know.” I said, “Why?” He goes, “Because there’s gold in them there mountains. That could be a sale.” Then I said, “Exactly,” and I divided to conquer.

Mark P Fisher:

I said, “You guys are going to serve, you’re going to sell. I’m going to incentivize you both, based on your results and performance.” And then, we took off.

DR:

Right. Cool.

Mark P Fisher:

It was fun. My motto is, “Have fun, but get it done.”

DR:

Yeah, yeah. Incentivizing for performance, that can be a can of worms. Like, you’ve got to incentivize for the right things. How did you identify that? I guess, it’s easier with the sales side. With the service side, I suppose its customer satisfaction, is that right?

Mark P Fisher:

Well first of all, that’s one of the things I really like about your referral program, because you have tapped into human nature. What’s going to motivate somebody to refer somebody? Well, maybe it’s a t-shirt, or $50 off, or whatever it is, but it’s a direct incentive, based on your activity.

DR:

Yeah.

Mark P Fisher:

So, I try to pay attention to human nature, and what motivates people.

Mark P Fisher:

Now, I have a client now, on the East coast, that I have three salespeople, and four service people. We have just grown by $530,000 in the last 10 months.

DR:

Wow.

Mark P Fisher:

One of the ways we did it was incentivized programs based on monthly goals. I had the sales team, they get their bonuses, but the service team, what I said was, “The way you can have the greatest influence, beyond guest satisfaction which we already measure, is group growth.” Have you ever heard of that phrase?

DR:

Group growth? No.

Mark P Fisher:

So, a salesperson sells a group for 100 people, let’s say $10,000.

DR:

Right.

Mark P Fisher:

Signs the contract, gets the 10% deposits, then hands it to the service team. The service team begins to nurture, and cultivate that person. Because in this case, we built a brand, on the East coast, at Sandy Cove, where the team says, “We make it easy and fun, for you to hold retreats at Sandy Cove.”

DR:

Right.

Mark P Fisher:

So, on the guest service side, I said to the team, “If you can increase the growth from 100 to 110, to 120, to $10,000, $15,000, you’re going to get bonused on the growth.” Are you with me?

DR:

Yeah, sure. Yeah, yeah.

Mark P Fisher:

So, the growth last year … We had to start with a measuring place, and this is the first thing I teach in the Inspiring Growth accelerator program. You have to look at what you’ve done, and then you have to set a goal based on reality. Not on desire, which yes, you’re going to set a goal out here on desire, but …

Mark P Fisher:

We looked and we said, “Okay, they had about $230,000 worth of growth, last year.” We didn’t measure it every month, they didn’t train on how to get that growth. So, we spent a lot of time ripping away all of these unnecessary systems, that slowed everybody down. You know what I’m talking about? Somebody says, “Hey, we should do it this way.” And then someone says, “We should do it this way, and then we should do it this way.” Then pretty soon, you’ve got people doing all this work, and they’re not customer centric. Are you with me?

DR:

Yeah, yeah.

Mark P Fisher:

So, the group growth for this team, we incentivized from … I said, “Look, if you can get a 15% growth, this is what you’re going to get on a quarterly basis.” You know what they did? I mean, I just was with them yesterday, we’re about to celebrate. They went from $230,000 to $503,000 in 11 months, Duncan.

DR:

Yeah, that’s amazing. That’s awesome.

Mark P Fisher:

It was setting the goal, it was focusing, it was incentivizing. That’s the kind of stuff that I see, that inspires growth in people. I just inspire it in them, by bringing things that help, and work. And then, I’m a cheerleader, and I hold them accountable.

DR:

Yeah, that’s awesome. You mentioned goal setting being crucial to that. Setting goals, being realistic you mentioned. But then, can those goals, if they’re not high enough … I suppose, trying to set a goal which is realistic can end up being a falling short of what they’re capable of. So, do you have some sort of stretch goal?

Mark P Fisher:

Excellent.

DR:

Okay, okay.

Mark P Fisher:

That’s exactly the phraseology I use.

DR:

Okay.

Mark P Fisher:

So, when we sit down, I say, “This is what you did last year. Tell me what goal you want me to hold you accountable? The goal that you say, I can do it, no problem?” Then, we’ll build our budget on that number.

DR:

Right.

Mark P Fisher:

Then, we’re going to take 15% more, as a stretch goal. If you hit over here, baby, where do you want to go? Sometimes it’s more than 15%, sometimes it’s 20, 30. At one point, it was 18%. But, helping the organization not spend and budget their money on the stretch goal, I helped them set their budget based on what we think we really can do. Then, all the excess is party money. I mean, not literally party money.

Mark P Fisher:

But, how many times have you been in an organization where you were getting eight, nine, 10 months into the budget, and you’re behind? So then, you’re having to cut people, and programs, and services, and fixing things around camp, sometimes even right before summer.

Mark P Fisher:

Duncan, one year I said to my team … They wanted me to set the budget, and they said, “You know what?” I said, “We’ve had almost 20,000 people on our waiting list, and we acquired another camp.” I said, “I think we can just fill it.” It was arrogant.

Mark P Fisher:

Pride comes before the fall, it was a horrible experience. But, I short for 95% occupancy, and in May, before summer hit, we were so far behind budget that we had to lay off 18% of our staff.

DR:

Oh no. No, that’s not good.

Mark P Fisher:

Dude, I wanted to jump off a cliff.

DR:

Ah, that’s rough, yeah.

Mark P Fisher:

We called it Operation Mission Critical. No spend, except for what’s mission critical to deliver the services. It was painful, and I will not … I mean, I don’t want to do that again. I don’t want to have this arrogance that says, “Oh yeah, I can do that because I did it before.”

Mark P Fisher:

There’s an ancient principle that says that sometimes people go into a city, and they say, “We’re going to go into the city, and we’re going to make money, and we’re going to do this.” Well, I remind myself, unless the Lord wills, this, and this, and this is what we hope will happen. So, there’s this balance between a faith, and an action.

DR:

Yeah, yeah. I had a similar experience. The first year I ran camps, everything was late. We were late launching, we were late recruiting, we were late with pretty much everything, really. We were relaunching the camp, and it was just stress, the whole thing was stress.

DR:

We got to the end, and it was just like, “Never again, are we going to go through that.” So, we do everything early, we get everything out, straight away. We start recruiting, we start getting everything in place, and we vowed not to let that happen again. That was it.

Mark P Fisher:

That’s the pain that creates change.

DR:

Yeah, definitely.

Mark P Fisher:

That’s one of the things that I’ve learned in my life, that not all pain is bad.

DR:

Yeah, you’ve had a really profound experience with pain, which has completely changed your life. Would you mind digging into that a little bit?

Mark P Fisher:

Oh. Well, the irony is my middle name actually is Paine, P-A-I-N-E, which is way too much of a coincidence, I think.

Mark P Fisher:

But yeah, thank you for asking because that part of my story is … It turned my life upside down. When I came back to Sandy Cove as the President in 2006, within the first four years, I had five stomach surgeries. I was in the hospital a lot. I had a frequent flyer card, for our local hospital. Part of it, all of these stomach issues, I was not handling my stress well.

Mark P Fisher:

Now, I was asked to take over an organization that was founded in the 1940s, and take this mammoth ship, and right it before it sunk. The Board was supportive of me, but because of the changes I was making, I was creating some enemies. I was making mistakes. I had to right size the staff. There was 157 on staff, and I had to take that down some.

Mark P Fisher:

After five stomach surgeries, I was in chronic pain. My pain doc began to prescribe narcotics, pain medicines to help me with my pain. The pain medicines did work, but after five or six years of it, my pain doc was like, “You’re a husband, a father, I don’t think you’re going to want to stay on these pain meds.” Now, this was a little before the big opiate crisis that we now hear a lot about, this was just before it blew up. So, I didn’t know a lot about it, but I was completely dependent on those pain meds.

Mark P Fisher:

So in 2013, I was leading the organization, five kids, some were getting married, I needed to get off these pain medicines. My pain doc said, “There is a procedure I can do, a million to one it will go bad, it’s a great procedure. What we do is we’ll take a …” I’d never heard of it, but it was called a spinal cord stimulator. What it is, he makes an incision in the base of your spine, puts a wire, a cord up your back, and takes a battery pack, puts it on your belt. He says, “It’s not going to heal you, but it’ll electronically block the pain from your abdomen, and you’ll be able to function.” I said, “Look Doc, that sounds scary, but if I did this, could I get off the pain meds?” And he said, “Yes.” I said, “I’m in.”

Mark P Fisher:

But Duncan, here’s the thing. My wife came to me and she said, “I don’t think you realize, Mark, that all of this pain medicine is affecting you in such a way that our fifth child is being raised by a different father than the other four.” For me, Duncan, that was the moment of clarity, I was going to do something about it.

Mark P Fisher:

So, I had the procedure and for 15 glorious minutes, it worked like, … It was just beautiful. I could feel it, they were adjusting it. I could feel the blocking pain, I was excited. Until it felt like someone was pouring acid into my bloodstream, and I just went into shock. I just started screaming, the pain just shot up to a 10. You know, I’m screaming, and this is an outpatient procedure in a doctor’s office, I’m not even at a hospital. The doctor runs in and he looks at me, and he’s like, “What’s going on? We need to get him to the hospital.”

Mark P Fisher:

So they raced me off to the hospital, and on the way to the hospital, I lost all feeling from my waist to my toes. What he didn’t know is that he had accidentally cut a blood vessel in my spine, and I was bleeding out. And that if I didn’t get it taken care of within eight hours, I could be permanently paralyzed. My wife, a beautiful Texas redhead, was as feisty as she could be in that ER< where they were paying no attention to me because I wasn’t a heart attack.

Mark P Fisher:

Thank God, the most skilled neurosurgeon in our state was on, he opened my back up. Took a six hour procedure, drained, sewed me back up. Laid me in bed, told my wife, “We’ll have to wait and see, when he wakes up.” I remember, it was about one in the morning, and I woke up. All five of my kids were at the foot of my bed, my wife’s there. My youngest goes, “Pops, can you move your toes?”

Mark P Fisher:

I didn’t know what had happened to me. Think of a car wreck, all of a sudden you wake up and you’re like, “Where am I?” He goes, “Pops, can you move your toes?” I was like … and they all celebrate, they’re cheering. Thank God, the doctor was able to reverse the damage. In six weeks, I was actually performing the wedding of two of my kids, I wanted to walk my daughter down the aisle.

Mark P Fisher:

The unfortunate part was that completely took it out of me, took my energy. The doctor sent me home. My Board of Directors said, “You have a great team, let them run the place,” and for three months, I just laid at home, stared at the wall, and wondered how I could kill myself because I was so depressed. I just thought, how am I going to come out of this? It’s going to take, they said, 18 months to recover.

Mark P Fisher:

Within three months, my Board brought me in, and they did the absolute right thing that a Board should do. Any camp Board should do this with their President, or their leader, Executive Director. Their job is to care for, and hold accountable the leader. Not the rest of the staff, just the leader. They looked at me and they said, “Can you get back on the horse?”

Mark P Fisher:

I don’t know about you, Duncan. Has there ever been a time in your life that you knew that the next thing you were about to say would change the trajectory of your life?

DR:

Yeah, a couple of times. Yeah. It doesn’t happen very often.

Mark P Fisher:

That was my situation, and I said, “No.” They were like, “What?”

Mark P Fisher:

I said, “I know what it takes, and I don’t have the energy. The doc said it’s going to take 18 months. I don’t think I can keep going.” They said, “Okay. Give us 24 hours. Come back, we want to chat.”

Mark P Fisher:

When they brought me back the next day, they looked at me and they said, “Thank you. We know this has taken … this task, this eight years of leadership, and moving an organization from $5 million to $8 million, and all those things has taken a lot out on you and your family. We’re going to take care of you for a year, we’re going to provide medical, we’re going to provide a career coach. We’re just grateful.” It was like this painful gift, that I had to give up what I was so enjoying, to get healthy again.

Mark P Fisher:

You want to know how many times I’ve had that problem since I stopped being the Executive Director and President?

DR:

Probably never.

Mark P Fisher:

I’ve had some physical issues, but nothing to that degree. While I sat on my couch, for months, staring at the wall wondering what I was going to do with my life, I got a phone call from a friend. He asked me if I would be interested in helping consult for him. And then, another one, and then another one.

Mark P Fisher:

Pretty soon, I had six clients, and I’m working from my couch, in my living room. After about a year of doing this random consulting practice, which had no real focus, one of the clients said to me … He was a camp director, who we had just had 62% growth at his camp. He called me and he says, “Fish,” he said. “Man, what you’ve done here has inspired growth in me as a leader. This 62% growth is amazing, I’m actually thinking of running for Mayor of Prescott, Arizona. What do you think?”

Mark P Fisher:

I said, “Greg, wait. What did you just say?” You see, the name of my company at the time was my name, Paine Fisher Marketing Group. He said, “You inspired growth in me, as a leader.” I realized, at that moment Duncan, that perhaps not all detours are detours. Perhaps, they’re actually the path.

Mark P Fisher:

I realized, that’s the name of my company. If I can work with CEOs because I’ve sat in that chair, and I can inspire growth in them, that’s what I’m going to do with the rest of my life.

DR:

Awesome. And, that was the start of Inspiring Growth. Cool, very cool. Very nice story.

DR:

Clearly Mark, storytelling is one of your passions, no doubt. You’re very good at it. I think storytelling is a skill in itself, and it’s a skill when marketing, a skill as a leader. I think it’s a key skill, isn’t it? What would you say about storytelling, Mark?

Mark P Fisher:

Oh, it’s the second part of the three steps I take camps through. That is, you have to clarify your story.

Mark P Fisher:

So, there’s three parts, for me, that I teach. That is first, set your goals. Then, clarify your audience. Who are you targeting? Your story. Why should I even pay attention to you? And, clarify your message, your call-to-action, why I should do business with you.

Mark P Fisher:

Thank you for your compliment about storytelling, but I’ve got to tell you, I work at it. I participate in storytelling forums. There’s an international program called The Moth, Moth Storytelling. If you Google Mark P Fish, Moth Storytelling, you’ll see one of the stories I told, about my son and future daughter-in-law, and how my wife and I prepared a place next to a river, for them to get engaged. It went terribly bad, for me. I keep pushing myself to be a better storyteller.

Mark P Fisher:

Part of the motive of storytelling is that storytelling … There’s two motives. Storytelling bypasses the intellect, and moves to the heart. When we try to invite people into a camp, and you say, “I’ve got a rock wall, and a bungee,” all these features, that’s data.

Mark P Fisher:

But, when we turn the story, and we say, “I have a rock wall. Let me tell you a story about Catherine. She was 10 years old, she was petrified to get on the that rock wall. As a matter of fact, it affected everything about her life, and her confidence. But, her counselor encouraged her, and by the time she got to the top of that wall … Now, she didn’t go straight up, it was a bit of a scary path for her. But, when she turned around, and rang that bell, and looked down at everyone cheering at her, you could see this glow of confidence that had just been built into the fabric of her life, because of that rock wall at camp.”

Mark P Fisher:

Now, what’s better? We have a rock wall, or we have a story? So, it motivates me to find the story inside of the experiences of my campers, and then retell that as a part of the invitation to bring you back, or to refer your friend.

Mark P Fisher:

The second motive is I’m a recovering teller.

DR:

What’s that?

Mark P Fisher:

For so much of my leadership life, I told people what to do. Telling creates resistance, where questions creates relationship. So, what I’m learning as I’m growing is that when I can ask you a question, and I can illustrate it with a story … Think about it. Who is one of the greatest storytellers of all time? Jesus.

Mark P Fisher:

He was asked over 300 questions in the course of his short, three years that were recorded. You want to know how many times, out of those 300 and some odd questions he was asked, he answered with a direct statement? Almost none. Almost all of them, he responded with a question, or a story, a parable. You ask me this, I tell you story. Where do you fit in that story?

Mark P Fisher:

So, the power of storytelling in our marketing becomes, really, the acceleration of our brand.

DR:

Cool. If someone was looking to improve their storytelling skills, or how to include stories in their marketing, what advice would you give them? You obviously mentioned The Moth. Is that something you could?

Mark P Fisher:

I would download The Moth podcast, and start listening to stories. Five, 10 minute stories. The Moth, it’s a non-profit. My adult kids turned me onto it, five or six years ago. It’s true stories, told in front of a live audience, with no notes. And, it’s a competition.

DR:

Right.

Mark P Fisher:

If you want to become a better storyteller, these are all amateurs. There are people who are just telling life stories. I think what it has done for me is it has inspired me to learn how to tell a story.

Mark P Fisher:

There’s only three parts to a story. A beginning, middle, and end. The problem is, most of us create a narrative that just meanders, right? It just goes all over the place, we never know how to land that plane. So, learning how to land the plane of a story is critical, so The Moth.

Mark P Fisher:

The second one I would encourage is go to StoryBrand.com, and look at Donald Miller’s work. Donald Miler wrote the book Story Brand. Brilliant marketer, he has a ton of free resources. He talks about the power of a story, you can see it. He breaks apart stories, like movies, like Star Wars, for example. There’s seven points to that story, and it’s all about a hero’s journey that ends in either a tragedy, or a comedy. It’s usually the hero reluctantly having to move down a path, that he finds a mentor who calls him to action. And that action is then encouraged, and then it ends in either tragedy or comedy, so learning the makeup of a story.

Mark P Fisher:

Then, just really sitting down with your team and saying, “We are not the hero of the story.” This is the number one mistake I think most camps make, is they try to make themselves as this hero of a story, and they’re actually just the guide. The hero is the 10 year old girl at the top, who overcame her fears when she climbed that wall, and we’re the guide to get her up there. So, learning to tell the story that says, “You did it! You did it.” Not, “I did it for you.” Does that make sense?

DR:

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, it totally makes sense, and you see a lot of that in marketing, where it’s like, “We did this for the kids.” Or, “We did this, and the kids did this.” It’s like, it needs to be child first, child centered, child story, what they’ve overcome, what they’ve done. And yeah, it’s a result of being at your camp, but that come second, it’s just part of the story.

Mark P Fisher:

You’re right. There’s an ancient proverb that says, “Let another person praise you, and not the words of your own lips.” Again, which is why I think the referral program that you developed is brilliant, it’s what drew me to you. It’s like, this guy’s got it, he’s figured it out.

DR:

Well, it ties in with figuring out where your wave is, and getting on that wave, and making it bigger. That’s the key, then. All camps have tight marketing budgets, you’ve got to really focus on what you spend on. Yeah, find out what works, focus on that. We found word of mouth was, which the majority of camps will probably agree, word of mouth is the key for getting the marketing going, getting new enrollments going. If you can leverage that, if you focus on getting it going, then it can do great things for your numbers.

Mark P Fisher:

That’s why you and I have talked. We’re going to test your program within one of my four VIP clients, in the next 15 days.

DR:

Yeah.

Mark P Fisher:

I hope to be able to report back a positive. But, you notice the word I’m using? We’re going to test it.

DR:

Yeah, yeah.

Mark P Fisher:

We’re going to try it. But, all tests require a little bit of risk, a little bit of resources. In this case, you’re the guide. You’ve figured out a system, and I know it’s not fool-proof. It’s probably 5.0 of what you first started with, right? You tweak and tinker.

DR:

Yeah, of course.

Mark P Fisher:

Testing it is great.

Mark P Fisher:

I’d also like to say this. Word of mouth is now amplified through online reviews. If you think about … Can we play a game?

DR:

Go on that.

Mark P Fisher:

Time to play a short game?

DR:

Sure.

Mark P Fisher:

I want you to think about the last thing you about online. What was the last thing you bought online?

DR:

What was it? It’s probably some skis.

Mark P Fisher:

Water skis or snow skis?

DR:

Snow skis, yeah.

Mark P Fisher:

Okay. Did you happen to look at the reviews, and the star rating of the skis?

DR:

Yeah, of course. Yeah, it’s important, you look for the five stars.

Mark P Fisher:

Who wrote those stars?

DR:

Well, I hope it was a legitimate testimonial.

Mark P Fisher:

Now, there are organizations that try to game the system, but the truth of the matter is, you’re influenced by a referral that wrote an online review.

DR:

Yeah.

Mark P Fisher:

One of the things I help my clients do is make sure they’re digital reputation is stellar. Statistically, if your camp falls below a 4.0 in overall rating, whether it’s on Facebook, or Google, or wherever people are rating and reviewing you, if it’s 3.9 or below, statistically, the data research … Guess what percentage of people who are looking for camps, if it’s 3.9 or below, will actually click into your website?

DR:

Pretty low, below 10%.

Mark P Fisher:

12%.

DR:

12%? Gosh.

Mark P Fisher:

So, if you’re not managing your online reputation, and asking people to review you … Can I show you something?

DR:

Yeah, sure.

Mark P Fisher:

I wrote a blog, it’s called The Deer Have Guns.

DR:

Okay.

Mark P Fisher:

I had a podcast by the same title. Consumers can make or break your reputation, whether it’s referrals, or online and digital, so there are strategies that you can follow that will get your reputation up, without lying, or cheating, or gaming the system.

DR:

Yeah. Yeah no, that’s interesting. Cool.

DR:

We’ve covered a lot there, Mark. It’s been fascinating. If people were wanting to improve their leadership skills, if they’re wanting to work with you a little bit more, where should they go to find this out?

Mark P Fisher:

Well actually, I have good news and bad news, on that front.

Mark P Fisher:

One of the things the health issues taught me is that if I spread myself out too thin, I get anxious, and then everyone around me hates me, because I’m just a butt head. So, I only take on four VIP clients at a time, and I’m full up right now. Those are usually six and 12 month engagements.

Mark P Fisher:

However, I am building the Inspiring Growth accelerator program, and it’s in the development stages. I am looking for five Camp Directors who would like to be guinea pigs for the accelerator program. If they’re interested, just go over to InspiringGrowth.biz. That’s InspiringGrowth.biz, and you will see an area where you can apply to be one of the first five Camp Directors that will test this program. I’m going to give you a 60% discount, if you would be willing to jump in, and help me build it.

Mark P Fisher:

Honestly, most of the time we build an airplane midair. It’s like, “Where do we crash and die?” I don’t want to think that everything in my head is what everybody who are Camp Directors want, or need. So, I want to do it in conjunction with five Camp Directors, so that’s what I would encourage you to do.

DR:

Awesome, that sounds really good. Am I right in thinking this accelerator is a combination of 20 odd years of experience in the camp industry, condensed into a how many month period, would you say? To go through the accelerator.

Mark P Fisher:

So I started with seven steps, and I’ve whittled it down to three, because I want people to be able to literally put their foot on the gas, and accelerate their growth within the next 90 days.

DR:

Right. 90 days, a 90 day program? Cool.

Mark P Fisher:

Yeah. Some people can get it done in a month, if they want. So, it’s a combination of online training, and then Q&A with me on a weekly basis, and then a group of fellow leaders doing it together. It’s sort of a cohort of learning together, and testing things, and working together. What you put into it is what you’ll get out of it.

DR:

Cool. It sounds really good. All that experience condensed, experience working with people, the leaders in the camp industry, condensing it down into a 90 day program, offering that to people who are interested to [inaudible 00:43:53] before it’s all completely finished, but that’s a great place to be, because you get more one-on-one with you, you get more hands-on, and you get to direct how it goes as well. Lots of good reasons to get involved with that.

Mark P Fisher:

Yeah. The 90 days is when we’ll start seeing results. I think you can go through the program within five to six weeks.

DR:

Right, cool. It sounds awesome.

Mark P Fisher:

Can I ask you a question, Duncan?

DR:

Sure, go for it.

Mark P Fisher:

Tell me a struggle that you have gone through, in building this business of yours that has actually been a detour, that became a path of growth? Can you tell, maybe a story or an example of a client, or your own personal story?

DR:

Sure, sure. I mean, my foray into the camp industry was a little bit by accident. I left work, I was a teacher. I left work to become a Mountain Guide. I was away all the time, training, and skiing, and climbing. It was awesome, but it had a really negative impact on my family. I couldn’t put up with that, I was just feeling really selfish. Although I was loving working the mountains, loving working with people, I didn’t like negatively affecting my family.

DR:

So, I decided to take another change, and I got a job directing a summer camp as a part-time thing, so I could still do some work in the mountains. Then, that job, it was really tough, but then we did really well, so it developed into a bigger, and bigger job. I started consulting for about seven camps around Europe. Then, it just got bigger, and bigger. Then, what was a complete accident really, has just turned into a path.

DR:

It’s led onto this, building Camp Tree, which has been awesome. But yeah, a challenge as well, a big challenge. Yeah, I would never have thought this would be my path, but I’m very happy to be on it. Things have a strange way of turning out, so I’ve kind of always lived by that mentality. Even though, … Yeah?

Mark P Fisher:

Has it been better for your family?

DR:

Yeah, way better.

Mark P Fisher:

Okay.

DR:

I mean, last year while working full-time, trying to do this on the side, sure it’s really hard, but I try to not let it effect family. Since going full-time on it, then it’s way better for family, I can rearrange my time, and give full support to my girls, which is the most important thing.

Mark P Fisher:

Right on.

DR:

No, it’s awesome.

Mark P Fisher:

High five to you.

DR:

Okay. Thanks a lot, Mark. Really appreciate your time, and your knowledge, and experience, and sharing it with us.

Mark P Fisher:

Yeah, thank you for inviting me on. I wish you great success, especially as we test the referral program with some of my clients.

DR:

Sure. Awesome, thanks Mark. All the best.

Mark P Fisher:

Peace.

DR:

See you.