Interview with Camp Coach – H Rothenburg

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Duncan Robinson: OK. So welcome to another episode of campfire stories where we interview camp directors and consultants who have launched, grown and scaled the camps. This is Duncan Robinson. I’m coming at you from Switzerland. And we’ve got a great guest on the show today. It’s H. Rothenberg who runs Camp Coach. He has got over 30 years of camp experience, he’s got loads of stuff to share, very excited to have him on the show. Thanks a lot for joining us. H. Welcome. 

 H:Thank you for having me. I’m pretty excited to talk camp. 

Duncan Robinson:Great stuff. So tell us H. where did it all began for you? Why did you get interested in summer camps? 

H: I appreciate that I was very fortunate in that my parents went to camp themselves… I’m just on the south side of 50 now… and my parents went to camp to give people a frame of reference so from my family going to camp they prioritized it for myself and my sister sending us to a day camp program and then to an overnight camp program. When I was in college I had the opportunity to work at an all-boys overnight sports camp and I worked and wound up working there for nine years. And during that time I met my wife who was directing a Girl Scout camp in southern Indiana and we met recruiting staff. So we wound up recruiting each other and it worked out beautifully. She came into the private camping world with me and I wound up being at that boys’ sports camp for nine years in northern Wisconsin. My wife and I got married at that camp and on that property. 

 And then that camp was sold in 1997. And in 1997-1999 my wife and I worked for a non-profit camp outside of Chicago that had one hundred and eighty acres and forty five buildings with eight different programs on the property and they hired me to be what they called the director of Camp and Conference Services, and my wife was hired as one of the directors of one of the programs and that’s the only place I’ve ever directed her in my life. 

 But we had this opportunity to first work with a private camp and my wife came from the Girl Scout world but then we worked for this private nonprofit and did a tremendous amount of work on things like goals and budgets and strategizing for our business. And we wound up working there for two years and then we had the opportunity to buy a camp that was for sale in Virginia and that was in 1999 and we purchased Triple C Campin the winter of 1999 

Our first summer was the summer of 2000 and we moved our family our children at the time were 2 and 8. We moved our family from the suburbs of Chicago to the rural areas of Virginia about five miles outside of Charlottesville Virginia is where triple C camp operates. When we bought the camp it was operated as a day camp but previous to that it had been operated as an overnight camp. So the property was originally built with about 12 buildings and about thirty five acres and swimming pools and some horseback riding. And it was built by the Baptist Church of Richmond in the 1950s. 

Well by the time we got a hold of it in the late 1990s the camp had turned into a day camp for children from Charlottesville but with this fantastic traditional overnight camp feeling background.  So when we bought Triple C in 1999 we had about a 150 campers per week and then by last summer we wind up with about 325, 350 a week  so we’ve grown quite a bit in the last 20 years and lots of things go into to taking a business and helping it grow. 

 Duncan Robinson: Yeah for sure. I can imagine that being quite a bold step going from employed by a camp to then fully committing to buying a camp and running. Could you tell us a bit more about that?

H: I’d be happy to. , You know it really was and I’ll say one of the greatest things for me is that I had a partner to do it with specifically my wife and we’ve worked so well together in the camp world and that I’m very big picture philosophical, relationship oriented with the families and the campers and the staff and she’s very detail oriented and we’ve really balanced each other well as a partnership certainly in the last 20 years that we owned our own camp. 

 But in order to make that leap I think that’s a difficult thing for somebody to do when they’re on their own or by themself not just programmatically for sure but also financially. It can be a pretty difficult and daunting task to take on buying an existing camp and there’s a lot of decision that go into this situation. We were we were in a space where… we were in Chicago and no longer working for the private nonprofit that we were at and we wanted to own and operate our own camp, and we had visited and talked with several owners and directors in the Midwest and there wasn’t a lot available in that area at the time in the late 1990s. So we started looking east and we found 10 properties that were for sale and we made the list because we didn’t do as much by… a little bit by internet and email but a lot of paper at that point in time still. And we went and visited 10 properties that were for sale along the East Coast from New Hampshire and Maine upstate New York. We visited camps in West Virginia and in Virginia and actually the camp we bought Triple C camp in Charlottesville Virginia was the last camp we visited and when we pulled up the road the very first time my wife said I’m home. So that was a strong signal that we were in the right place. We walked around the property for a bit got to know the people that were selling it and we decided to pull the trigger on it. But it was… even with that our children were 2 and 8 at the time and our parents who wanted us to stay in the secure jobs, were saying; what are you guys doing taking my grandchildren cross-country and not knowing if this business thing is going to work out… 

Duncan Robinson: Yeah that’s a bold move that say it’s really impressive. 

H:You’ve got to have some faith and you’ve got to have commitments. And so here I was with my best friend and my partner (my wife) ,where we were both all in and no matter what we were going to make it work and we actually moved to Virginia in December and did not even close on the business until January. The sellers let us move into the camp. You know you talk about bold and taking risks. It’s possible that the business deal would have fallen through and we would have been quote homeless but at the same time we were so committed to making it work and we felt like the sellers were also committed to making it work that we were willing to take that risk.  And that’s not for everybody 

Duncan Robinson: Yeah. And what was it that that pushed you over the edge? Like maybe you were thinking about for a long time but what was it that just made you finally decide this is what we’re doing, we got to go all in this time. 

 H:You know I worked for other people for nine years at this private boys’ sports camp and really saw their lifestyle and the way that they raised their children. And I felt in love with the lifestyle of camp and the way that you can raise children, so that happened first and then I met Libby my wife. We met and I kind of showed her this is the life I’m really excited about living and the way I want to do it. And she got on board and having that partner and somebody to constantly work with and rely on I think that this business at this level is too big for one person to do on their own. 

 I think the two people can handle it and even over the years we’ve had other many other staff that have helped us year round and certainly multiples seasonally; but you need strong leadership, you need great delegation of things because there’s just so many moving parts because in addition to running 11 weeks of summer camp with 325 children each week during the summer and seventy 75 staff we also at our peak doing 200 days of year round programming in addition to the summer camp, we have school and school groups, sports teams, corporate groups, church youth groups, boy scouts, girl scouts homeschooled kids, birthday parties, anything that we could do to bring people to our site and our property and give them programs.

So after we bought the camp one year later we built a ropes course and we started hosting school groups, birthday parties and then about 5 to 6 years later we started doing nature and environmental programming for schools not just day programs but overnight programs as well. So by making it a year round program it fed our summer camp and our summer camp helped the year around programming with staffing and vision and roles and responsibilities but it gave us this opportunity to really have much more of a year round business. 

 Duncan Robinson: OK, that sounds great. That’s really nice way to develop it. I can imagine it gets pretty busy. 

H:  It can. And I’ll tell you frankly you know we did it 15 years hard and strong and I went to my wife and I said you know I’m a little burnt out. You need to come up with a plan. So we came up with a plan to hire some assistant directors and replace me and I started consulting for other camps. Meanwhile my wife has stayed in at our camp our daughter who is 27 now is involved with the inner workings of the business and the finances and the relationships with the families. 

 And we’ve got two assistant directors working with us who are fantastic they and their family are living in the house at camp where we raised our children. And so we’ve kind of brought in the next generation and they’re working along with our daughter and my wife, right now, is supervising and supporting them. But then the plan is for her to back out then in the next year or so. So we’ve got this plan in place and this gives us the opportunity to do other things and still operate our camp. 

Duncan Robinson: That’s great. And you say it took 15 years before you started to bring other people into to take over, is that right? 

H:Yes, We’ve had other people work with us but I was the primary for the business as far as the relationship oriented person for the community, the face of the face of the camp. My wife was the details Queen behind it; she did way more than I ever did. But that was very much my role the relationships with the community, the children, the staff and the families. 

 Duncan Robinson: Right. And you mentioned about leadership and delegation and as being key for getting in the business up and running and getting it going and I think that’s such an important part of camp leadership and camp directing, I start directing camps about three years ago and the first year was just carnage; the level of leadership you need to just get through the summer initially and then to normalize things and get things going. I found the leadership side as just being crucial to develop myself first and then other people in the camp. Do you get any set of tips and strategies to develop leaders on the camp? 

H:I doand training is so critical and before you get to training, the interview process. Just because somebody wants to work with us doesn’t mean we necessarily want to work with them. And you really got to find the right fit especially when you’re talking about the leadership of your organization or of your business maybe full time year round people especially as a small business. It’s got to be more than just the work you’ve got to connect on other levels because there is the personal aspect of what we do by taking the roles and the responsibilities of other people’s children. You really need to be connected to the people that you’re growing them with. 

 So your key leadership has really got to be on board with your core values and your vision for your organization.  And as long as that fits in very often it’s kind of like going out with a new friend and having a drink with a friend and talking about who you are. You know, who you are and the direction that you’re going and see if that’s a good fit for both parties …because of it… and not just the philosophy but of course timing and dates are important and finances are important. But if you don’t connect on that level of vision for the organization then that’s not somebody you should hire especially in a leadership role of the organization. 

 And there are special people out there who will jump on board with your vision. When you are the entrepreneurial type that is leading your organization you’ve got to make sure that your vision is clear. And so having things written out, having a great website as well as documented procedures and information so that people can learn on their own as well as learning when presence that really helps staff as their onboarding and then the continued support you know leadership from my perspective is much more about supporting people accomplish what we’re expecting them to do. That’s my leadership perspective. It’s not telling them what to do but it’s supporting them with what the vision of our organization is. And our staff our frontline people need the regular support. 

Most camps their frontline staff is between the ages of about 19 and 25. And when you’re talking about these folks that they have specific needs that we need to support and we need to know about so …the closer… the more you build a relationship or even a friendship, a working friendship with your camp staff and you’re the role model for them as well then you have this opportunity to really build something great because it’s going to trickle from the camp directors to maybe unit heads or to frontline staff and of course then to what’s most important the children. And of course we always do what’s in the best interest of the children. So hiring the right staff is just so critical. Yeah I could go on if you wanted me to.

Duncan Robinson: Yeah! That’s nice. I fully agree with finding right people, having a good process in place and for getting them on board, making sure they shared a vision of the organization and then continually supporting them during the camp as well. Do you have really good tips for how to support staff during the camp? I imagine in 11 weeks they can get pretty burnt out. I wonder if you find towards the end of camp maybe you don’t get the same level of commitment that was at the start. 

H: Yeah! That’s important while we have the campers, you know it’s a different game that we got pre camp training when it’s just the staff sometimes it’s a different reality than when the children are there we say sometimes if we could just have staff at Camp all the time wouldn’t it be wonderful? It will be a different level of challenge but the staff being the key to the success of any camp, I’m really talking about the frontline staff who are working with the kids moment to moment, day to day, it’s really important to make sure that they are taken care of in regards to able to accomplish the job that you’re expecting them to do. 

So there are just times when things happen. You know, in our camp we have 325 campers, about 75 staff so we’ve got just over 400 people on thirty five acres of land and imperfect things tend to happen. Imperfect Things come up when you have that many people in that small space so support is really critical. And so for example we have a saying that if something happens we’re going to clean up the puke; meaning myself, my wife, and the camp directors. If a child literally throws up then one of us is gonna go clean it up because we want the counselors to be back with the kids having a good time engaging and building. But sometimes that puke is emotional as well. We want to make sure that they know that they’re supported emotionally when children are really struggling and having a difficult time. 

But we want to make sure that the staff have outlets during the course of the summer like working out is a great one. I’ve had staff that has done the program P90 extra during camp and we had breakfast at 7:30 every morning so they would be up at 6:00 and some 6:00 to 7:15 they were doing P90 extra 6 days.

Duncan Robinson: P90 extra, what does that involve? 

 H:It’s just an intense workout, thing that you can do off the Internet 

Duncan Robinson: Right. 

 H:It’s a 90 day extreme program. Yeah great program through this company called Beach Body. Anyway, but I’ve had staff who have done something like that but I’ve also had staff that just maybe want to go to the gym in the evenings, on their night off or they want to go for a run and you know you want to make sure that areas and places around camp are appropriate for staff to have time off.  You know, like a staff lounge a place for staff to unwind but also plug into their other life a little bit. Give them a little bit of screen time; during their time off make sure that Wi-Fi is available during that time off if you are a cell phone free team, you know, think about what you would want during your time off as that 19 to 25 year old. You know, they need to decompress and to have that time. Also getting off camp and a lot of camps that are rural will offer vans going into town and offered those types of options for your staff. Give them that level of support and do it at the camp’s expense for staff to have to pay to get into town it is a rough thing sometimes for; staff that should be a camp expense. 

 And then pick them up and have a designated time and all part of the plan to take care of our people making sure that they get to places like Wal-Mart or places to get things that they may need for their personal lives. Make sure that that happens very quickly for your staff. Those are little things…

Also physical team, you know sometimes there are camps that will have like a competition against another camp and it is staff versus students softballfor two camps against each other. Yeah, I have a little social or something around that or just some nice camaraderie where they’re working but they’re also playing and having a good time, and involve our staff and things like Camp culture war  and find special ways to make it fun for the counselors have little special events have contests in front of the kids because we want to use the counselors as role models and so we want to show the kids how to compete. Maybe you’re having some issues with competition you have counselors intentionally have a competitive contest and show the kids how to behave how to honor and respect your own team, the other team and the game. When the game is over high five each other and really intentionally set up a strategy… but it is fun for the staff when they intentionally get to really role modeled for the kids. Those types of things I think in addition to time off really help and I also know there are some camps that will do things like special food like late night maybe at 11:00 o’clock at night after kids are completely asleep. Maybe they’ll have some pizzas in the mess hall or the dining hall for staff, so those types of things as well. Those little things can go a long way for counselors over the course of 8 to 11 weeks that they’re working at a camp. 

 Duncan Robinson: Yeah that’s really nice. We do a nice challenge for the staff called the step challenge which we do on the staff training and then someone sets the best time and then let’s say through the camp someone is out to try and beat it pretty much every day and putting a message in the group saying I up now taking the record set.  It just creates a nice level of competition going on the side and then I think being clear with the hours that stuff is working and I think I’ve seen some camps where they almost just take advantage of some of the counselors and just expect them to work so long and then they end up not having the time off which it leads to problems. And we try to be really clear with the hours that stuff is working and we let them know this, there are some flexibility in that, we say things come up and we’ve got to deal with it but we try, and I try, to honor those hours as much as possible. So staff needs time off I think it’s really important part and they need that time to enjoy it as well. 

 H:At the beginning it’s critical that you’re proactively communicating what your expectation is. So it should be listed on your Web site as part of the application process so that they know what they’re committing to. It should also be discussed in the first interview or the first phone conversation, that important because there’s some people, it’s just too much, and then there’s some people like Yeah I’m all in, this is gonna be amazing. So once they arrive then you have to follow through and have it be what you said it was gonna be. 

And you’ve got to honor that because then you’re going to have a disgruntled, frustrated ,upset employees camp staff who will then negatively affect your camper who will then negatively affect other campers. And that’s not the direction we wanted to be coming from. 

Duncan Robinson: For sure.

H: So we really need to be upfront with who we are and the direction and there are camps like you said that open with their staff. But I also know camps who are up front about that, who say yes we are working more hours than the average bear but honor it. And be respectful to your word and what you said you were gonna do for people and always do a little bit more than you said you were going to do. If there was something special we were asking all staff members to do this eight times during the summer and it’s written into the agreement that they’re gonna have this special responsibility but really in my mind I’m thinking oh everybody I really want you to do it four times. You know, that’s already something that I’ve given the staff. Sometimes you need to do that for morale but sometimes, legitimately, you don’t need them as much as they mean for something that maybe you thought you would. And you can give them the option or the opportunity to do something different and make the extra money.  You know just be very upfront. 

I think it’s so important with this group of folks that we’re just very straightforward with them and upfront with them. I think they expect us to be honest, I think we should expect ourselves to be very straight up and forthcoming. We’re raising and growing and developing people’s children, we need to be forthcoming with each other and how we’re doing it. 

 Duncan Robinson: Yeah. That’s pretty good advice. So H. you’ve taken your camp from 190 a while ago to now 325. What’s been your main strategy for doing that? What have you focused on to really boost number and grow the camp?

H:The first is flat out hard work, time effort and energy. And you have to figure out what you do well and you have to go after it. You know my wife and I started a corporation called Make It Happen, because it’s an LLC so it’s called Make It Happen LLC. And that’s what we believe; is that if it’s something that you want and you’ve identified it you’ve got to go after it and this was something that we wanted and the marketing strategies, the improvements to the camp facility, the improvements to the camp program, the staff growth in the development and the amount of time that it took… regularly during the summer you know campers 80 to 90 hours a week, in a non-summer I’d say we were probably around 60 hours a week. 

Duncan Robinson: Really:

H:You know, for 10 to 15 years. We were absolutely all in on our own business and now we’ve got other people who can walk into our roles because even we’ve written out, and I think this is important for any business, procedures of how things are done versus have just being my knowledge or my wife’s knowledge. You know, we’ve got things documented for people who follow us on at least how we’ve done it. Ultimately they’ll do it how they choose but they can walk in and there are resources and there’s support and there’s information for them in regards to setting them up to be successful in giving that level of support even in potential absence. But I think you know the short answer to your question is hard work. 

Duncan Robinson: Yeah, Sure.

H: You know we could talk about marketing strategies; we could talk to you… There’s a lot that goes into your specific question about the growth. 

Duncan Robinson: Yeah.

H:but you also have to identify what’s important. I’ve always been a believer in strategic planning; you know annually writing goals and writing budgets. I think that those things help an organization become successful even when you’re just one, two, three, four people if you’re writing out annual goals and you have a, b and c priorities and some of your goals are about staff, some of your goals are about program, some of your goals are about your facility etc. Then you have the opportunity to grow and develop and improve because you have a plan you have vision. 

 I’ve always said that this is comes from John Wooden who’s an American basketball coach “failing to plan is planning to fail”

Duncan Robinson:  Yeah so true. 

H:If you have a plan, in my opinion, it can’t just be in your head. We want it documented. And you might not follow it perfectly but at least you’ve gotten your thoughts and your ideas and your vision out there and especially if you’re working with other people, it holds you accountable to those thoughts ideas and vision. 

 It also gives them an opportunity and a space for their level of leadership. You know I was in charge of transportation, we owned seven buses, and when I wasn’t available my wife would step in and take care of. While my wife was responsible for our finances, if she wasn’t available then I would step in and support to do what needs to be done. So having a strategy on how you’re going to work with your team is also critical to the long term success. 

 Duncan Robinson: Yeah. I think that’s so important and the goal setting part is crucial with a team. I remember we had our annual goals but then we brought that down into week long goals and how many enrollments we needed per week to meet that.  And it meant everyone was focused every time got enrollment. We had high fives going on and it was great. You know, we’d like every week to the goals, we had a couple of really successful years and it is those goals that we are tracking each week, what we’re aiming for, what we’re getting and then reflecting on that and it’s just like you know where you’re, you know where you’re going and you’re on the pathway. So it’s motivating. I think for everyone is involved 

H:Definitely. And then those things can go hand-in-hand with budgets because your goals will affect your budgeting on the revenue and the expense side. Even something let’s say one of my goals is to get more professional development for our staff. Well I have to identify what type of professional development, is that online, is it going to conferences, in person, what’s going to be the travel expenses. I need to document and plan all that out in advance so it just doesn’t pop up and say well how am I feeling today. Do I want to pay for this person to go or do I not want to pay for this person to go. I want them to have an experience and so annually we go to a major conference and annually we go to a minor conference. And then we also have budget a little bit of money for some online training. And so that’s automatically written into our budget. Not only do my wife and I know it as the owners of the business but our staff who work year round, who have this as a perk because they know we believe in professional development they know it’s written into the budgets as part of what they’re involved with because her salary is part of the budget and so them going to professional development It’s got to come from somewhere. And so we work it into things that they’re responsible for so that they really see the value of it. It becomes all part of our system. 

Duncan Robinson: Yeah. That’s nice. And then to talk about channels H. so if put the hard work in and you’ve got the messaging line, you’ve got the values you stand for, taking that to market… I think you’ve been saying you run things in the year during which helps fill the camp as well. But how are you going about getting the message out? What you found to be the best ways get out in front of your customers. 

 H:I think the number one thing is you’ve got to have a current updated flashy Web site and flashy doesn’t mean that it has to look high tech because a lot of traditional camps have a very campy looking feel to them. But people are expecting in today’s world a professional business needs to have questions answered on a website. It needs to look professional; it needs to be interactive appropriately on cell phones on mobiles as well as desktops. That’s just expected in today’s business world. 

And a website is really the foundation for your business to tell your client who you are and what you’re about. So make sure that that message is clear at the very beginning of your website; who you are and what you’re about. It’s very simple thing but you’ll go to website and you’ll like I can’t figure out what this is. So I think that’s really important as far as how we’re getting the message out. And there are a lot of great systems and ways to gain those campers and you know a lot of the moms are on a lot of social media and moms being our number one client and the financial side. Instagram and Facebook seem to be most camps go to platforms. And there are a lot of camps that will push posts to local areas or to different neighborhoods for low cost through some of those and some can really find successes with that other camp programs tell me that they don’t care for that at all and you’ll find that with most things I think you’ve got to try some things in your area and your region in regards to social media. 

 And one thing that’s nice is you can try at low levels and track it and then really figure out what you want to do from there. I think that’s really valuable feedback but you should be followed. You should know how many clicks you have on your website through Google Analytics and that type of information is really valuable in regards to how your websites are being received and how people are getting to it. I find that information really valuable. I also look for local camp advertisements; meaning a lot of news articles as well as online audition, will have camp audition. And so if it’s a community where I’m drawing children from that I always try to participate in those community events. I feel like if we’re not in them, even if we’re full, I feel like we’re conspicuously absent because I think families go and look at a camp audition-. They should see our camp program in there because that that’s what we are and if there’s a camp audition once a year or twice a year we should be in it. 

The number one way for my entire life and the lives before me in camping to get campers is word of mouth, you have a happy camper he tells his friends, moms tell each other’s moms and then they send their kids to camp together or to a camp at all and just telling people that camp was a good experience is a great thing as well. 

Duncan Robinson: Yeah 

H: But certainly word of mouth from Happy Camp families is the number one form of feedback that we get as well as it’s the number one success rate. We used to do what I call home visits in overnight camp where we go visit families in their homes and talk about camp and get to know the child and the family. And some families love that, some families are more interested in maybe meeting at a hotel and where there’s four or five families at one time. If you can have families visit your camp that’s ideal to learn about your program and to learn about you. But I always recommend to directors that they should meet the parents, they should meet the families. 

Duncan Robinson: Yeah

H:I think it’s important especially as small business if the director or the owner is involved that they’re the person that the families are building the relationship with. 

Duncan Robinson: Yeah definitely. I think so important to get that like and trust basis straight with the directors and the parents are reassured that they’ve got your trust and then you’ve got them. 

H:And then that director should be the person, if necessary, who calls that family. You know if something happens with the child during camp or something that’s going on because that’s the person who has the relationship and should represent the business. 

Duncan Robinson: Yeah. 

H:You know very often camps will push that down the line to a unit head or to a program Director and Assistant Director. If you can, especially if it’s a tough conversation, If you can as the director and your camp’s not too big, it’s a great opportunity to build a stronger rapport and relationship, positive or negative call if it comes from the owner of the camp

It’s different to when the call comes from the program staff. 

We want parents to feel like we are their partner in growing and developing their child. And when parents and families feel like they’ve got this partnership they’ll go all in. 

Duncan Robinson: Yeah.

H:You know all the excess stuff but they want to feel like they’ve got a partner in raising their child because it’s hard. 

Duncan Robinson: Yeah. And if they’ve got that relationship then they’re going to be there for seven eight years so it’s worth developing that relationship anyway. It’s the longevity of the relationship, like they feel you as a partner then you go on to life…


Duncan Robinson: That’s great, that’s such great approach. And to pick up on the word of mouth this we use in this while we have built camp tree because it’s about helping camps grows through word of mouth and it’s such an effective channel. And we’ve used it extensively in Switzerland and had great results with it. Yeah, we’re helping camps now. Just help them with the word of mouth. So yes such an important channel, if they’ve got friends talking about you and it’s much better than you broadcasting how good you are on Facebook and Instagram. So yeah I think it is such good such a good channel and cheap as well, which is great for camps.

Duncan Robinson:So that’s great. Currently you’re on 325 campers and how… I guess it’s just about to kick off here… When do you start the camps? 

 H:So we have groups and programs with a corporate group at camp yesterday which is from the Darden School of the University of Virginia on our ropes course and we have Girl Scout programs and some family camp programming that’s coming up before actual camp, and then we do our staff training kind of in a unique way. Our staff training is the week of June 3rd in our community the private schools are also out the week of June 3rd and families of about 70 kids come to work with our returning staff that week of June 3rd. And so our first year staff and a few returners are in training and our returning staff work with the campers whose families have asked us to have that extra week of camp. 

 So it’s good on the business side financially but it’s also a nice role model for our first year staff to see children on the property during training 

Duncan Robinson:Yeah! Much more effective training with kids that.

H: Yeah,So it’s really a unique thing and it’s worked well for us and it covers the cost of staff training right. 

Duncan Robinson:Right. 

H:Because we pay our staff for that week of course. 

 Duncan Robinson:Yes, an expensive week.

H:We start June 3rd and we go for 11 to about the 3rdweek of August and we’re very fortunate this summer. I spoke with our daughter who’s been leading the hiring. She’s right on track with staff hiring. I always say keep hiring keep hiring because you just don’t know what’s going to happen with people, people drop out. We actually had a horseback riding staff number dropped last week and they’ve already filled the spot at least verbally. So hopefully they’ll get a young woman under contract. But that just happens you know even when they’re under contract staff drop. It’s not like we’re going to sue them. So you know having the contracts, nice to have a piece of paper between you but the kids can drop for any reason. 

Duncan Robinson: Yeah sure. 

H: And so I always like to have anywhere from 3 to 5 extra staff. It also it also gives you the opportunity to be a little bit more flexible for all of your staff. If you can give somebody a half a week off or a week off if they have a special family event or a trip or something that they want to do. If you’re a little overstaffed it gives you that flexibility to support your staff.  

 Duncan Robinson: Yeah. This nice approach! Cool and what are your main challenges at the moment with the camper size. What have you been struggling with recently or it’s all plain sailing? 

H: You know we’re very fortunate, we’re in a great community who really believes in being outside and for me personally, I said I led the camp for 15 years and now this will be my fifth year stepping away. The hardest part is the staff is; is the explanation to potential staff members that the camp is a real job and that this is one of the best experiences you’re going to have in your young life but maybe your entire life because a lot of people go into jobs and careers that they don’t love or that they don’t enjoy and that that isn’t have as much diversity and responsibility. Being a camp counselor especially in an overnight camp, when you’re responsible for someone else’s child and multiples of them for twenty four hours a day seven days a week is not normal for people who are single in that age range. 

 And so to have all that responsibility and all that leadership and all that role modeling is unique for a young person and something that will really benefit them for life. So I think one of the things that I always tried to do in building a relationship with staff members was making sure that I would be a great reference for them when they left camp, that they knew that, Like I said, I had their back but also that this was something that we were there to support them in because it’s hard and that they would benefit long term. I’ve always called camp counselors on resume is a professional… I’m sorry it just slipped out of my head …Yes, youth development specialists. 

Duncan Robinson: Nice. Nice. We got her in the end. So many times it’s gone. 

H: That’s that instead of a camp counselor I call youth development specialists say as 

Duncan Robinson: See it massive. But that term councilor can be a bit vague idea and used for some many different things, so? Youth development officer you say?

H:youth development specialist, officer that works and that kind of a write up on a CV or on a résumé really puts somebody maybe a little bit ahead of somebody else. I always tell the staff as well try and find a way to get your résumé or your CV to the top of the pile. You know you got to be a little creative a little different a little unique. 

Duncan Robinson: Yeah. That’s awesome. Gosh! We’ve covered a lot and it’s already 45 minutes and it is coming past and in a flash.  As such a lot of great information and great advice, Thanks so much H. for sharing all that. 

 H: Yeah, I’m glad that I could help out.

Duncan Robinson: If anyone wants to find out quicker, where can I find you? 

H: Sure the easiest way on my Web site is My phone in the US is 4349060112 and I’m coach at as far as email goes. So yes it’s been a lot of fun in the name of our camp it is called Triple C campin Charlottesville Virginia and the website is 

Duncan Robinson: Awesome! Thanks so much H It’s been a pleasure talking to you. Thanks so much for the advice and all the best. 

H: Thank you.

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