During the Super Bowl Chrysler ran an ad with Clint Eastwood proclaiming that is was “halftime in America” and that we should buy a Chrysler that is imported from Detroit. I don’t really get what the commercial was about and I don’t plan on buying a Chrysler any time soon, but the reference to halftime got me thinking. I am in my “mid-forties” and have been working professionally for a little over 20 years and if I retire in my early to mid-sixties (which would be awesome) that would put me at about halftime of my career. Since it is halftime I want to look back on the first half of my career and recognize the 4 people who have shaped my thinking and career the most. Whether you know it or not the things I say and think have been shaped by these four individuals more than any others.
I will take this opportunity to share these people with you and what they taught me that continues to shape my thinking and my philosophy around the work I do.
Doug McMillan – Doug is the CEO of the YMCA of the Triangle Area (Raleigh/Durham NC). Doug has been known for coming into your office and unloading a wealth of information. He is full of ideas and a programming genius when it comes to camp. One day over 10 years ago Doug stopped by my office and among other things that I’m sure he said that day he made this statement, “a camp director is responsible for the enrollment of their programs”. That statement changed everything for me! I could no longer blame the economy, the community, my boss or whatever other circumstances that I could think of to take the responsibility away from me. This fact, that I am responsible for the enrollment of my program, dictates how I interact with campers, with staff, with parents and with donors. I am always recruiting campers!
Tracy Howe - Tracy is a Senior Vice President with the YMCA of the Triangle and when I was the Executive Director of Camp Kanata I was one of his branches of the Y that he supervised. In 2004, soon after I had become the director at Camp Kanata Tracy bought t-shirts for the full time staff that had the Kanata logo on the front and on the back it said “fill the beds”. Tracy taught me that if your programs are filled a lot of the budget issues will take care of themselves. It was amazing that over the next 6 years as we filled camp to capacity we were able to invest in the property, add staff members and provide a better programmatic experience, just from filling our programs. Yes, you need to manage your expenses at camp, but Tracy taught me that when your beds are filled with campers the management part of the budget becomes less stressful.
Bo Roberts - Bo was the VP of Camping Services for the YMCA of the Triangle and my boss for 7 years. I learned a lot from Bo over that time (might be an entire blog post), but the one thing that I want to mention here was something that I thought was crazy at the time! One day Bo and I were walking around camp and he says, “Dave, I don’t want to see any sticks on the ground at camp.” This might seem like a small thing, but our camp was in the woods! Sticks just happen in the woods! You can’t pick up all the sticks! I never did pick all the sticks up at camp, but Bo’s thoughts on taking care of all the details has made me a little crazy with taking care of the details at camp. Bo taught me that everything matters (even the sticks on the ground) These days I am hyper focused on the details and even more so about things that the customer may never notice, but I am not driven by what others might see I am focused on what I see.
Connie Kendrick – Connie is the VP of Leadership Development and Quality at the YMCA of Greater Charlotte and might be one of the greatest supervisors of all time. I only worked for Connie for 2 years, but during that time I became a much better camp director even though I wasn’t directing a camp. Connie taught me that it is not enough to talk about quality, you have to measure quality. The department that Connie supervises, and that I was a part of, is the “YExperience” group and our focus was to make sure that we are delivering a quality product to our customers at the Y. My focus was on camp (day and resident) and afterschool programs. I learned about listening and responding to customers and using the Net Promoter Score to measure quality and to follow up, follow up, follow up to get the results we want.
So, 20 years into my career and these are the big 4 ideas that have placed me where I am:
1. I am responsible for the enrollment of my programs
2. If I fill the beds most of my budget stress goes away
3. The details matter
4. It’s not enough to talk about quality, I have to be able to measure it
A big thanks to all the people who have invested in my career so far and I am lucky to be surrounded with some great leaders and colleagues now that might show up on my next list 2o years from now.