How Building Lasting Relationships Is The Key To Running A Successful Camp – Cole Kelly

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Cole is the Director of Camp Weequahic in Wayne country in Pennsylvania. He has a huge amount of experience in the industry and joined me to talk about the importance of building long lasting relationships with families, staff and campers.


In this interview you will learn:-

  • How to create and develop your values at camp and get buy in from staff, parents and campers.
  • Why your alumni are the key to developing your community and how they can continue to support your camp for life, not just for summer.
  • What Cole is doing about the Covid Crisis and how he is managing this with his staff and families.

Full Transcript

Duncan (00:05):
Okay. Hello and welcome to this interview with Cole Kelly and myself. For those who don’t know Cole, he’s the director of camp Weequahic, I said that right? Weequahic. I had to look on your website to find this one out. And I’m sure you get this quite a lot, but it says with Weequahic, rhymes with mosaic. I’m getting better. And you’re in Wayne country in Pennsylvania, right?
Cole (00:35):
Yeah. So Wayne County, Pennsylvania is in Northeastern tip of Pennsylvania. It’s one of the campaign hotbeds in the Northeast anyway, where there are 26 camps that are a part of what’s called the Wayne County camp Alliance. All either private camps, not profit camps, very different camps. But there are a lot of us up there and it’s been, a great place to, to run summer camp.
Duncan (00:57):
Awesome. Good stuff. And then you’re also the host of a podcast called campfire conversations, which is funny actually is how I came across you in the, in the first place called, I was, I was thinking of names to call this interview series, we started just coming up with some ideas and one of the ideas come by conversations and I’ll ask, brilliant, yeah, let’s do it. So put a little post out saying we’re going to get started and then someone and instantly put one up saying that I think this has already been done. And I was like, ah yeah I guess I probably had seen it somewhere and it’s locked in my head as one of the first ideas for what we should call this. But yeah, we didn’t go for that name.
Cole (01:44):
I’m happy I have one listener. That’s great. Yeah, that’s actually been a really fun process and I tell you much like what you’re doing, it’s just so much fun to learn from, from other people and have a, have a good reason to ask them questions. Um, I think that’s been the neat process about running summer camp cause you learn so much from other people for so long. And then to be able to be on the other side of the microphone if you will, and ask the questions. It’s, it’s really been a ton of fun.
Duncan (02:09):
Yeah, it’s great. I’ve, I’ve certainly enjoyed speaking to the people who’ve come on this show and it’s yeah, it’s a really nice way to learn about what other people are doing and you know, tap into the knowledge that you’ve got, which is, you know, years and years of experience in the industry and um, you know, to share that with other, other camp directors or the people working in industry I think is so, so beneficial. So, yeah, I really, really appreciate you coming on and joining us with this sharing what you’ve, you’ve done in industry.
Cole (02:37):
Happy to
Duncan (02:38):
So we, we spoke a while ago and we were thinking what the, the topic for this was going to be. And it was clear that Cole’s done a lot of building relationships, long lasting relationships with families that has come. So we thought it’d be a good topic for this. It’s a hugely important topic for any summer camp is the relationship building for, maintaining the families who come back year after year and, help them to develop those relationships so you get really strong alumni who can then, bring other people to the camp and, get a really nice community going. So we thought that’d be a really good topic to talk about for this show. So, thanks very much for joining us Cole, look forward to hearing all about it.
Cole (03:24):
Of course. Yeah. Happy to.
Duncan (03:28):
Cole, to start with, can you just tell us a bit more about your camp?.
Cole (03:31):
Sure. It was actually founded in 1953 and it’s named after the high school, which is a high school in Newark, New Jersey. Our founder, and his, his wife, , decided they want to, I guess they had been running a great day camp for a number of years. And finally someone said, you know, you aren’t, you really need to run an overnight camp. And he found this, you know, old barn and, and farm, up around this pretty little Lake the early 1950s and then 52, I guess he bought it in 53. He opened up his first summer, experience and it was in the same family of his time up until 2009, when my wife Kate and I came on board and, had kind of taken the torch from the, the less tech and stuff for families and, and kept it going.
Cole (04:29):
We’re a coed camp. We have children that come from, we’ll see this past summer we had 14 States and 16 different countries come to the, uh, come to camp. Uh, we’ll have about 450 kids, a session, boys and girls, and they get to choose their activities. So we would be considered a nontraditional activity camp and that the kids get to pick what they want to do. Um, but we always like to say that we’re, we’re offered structured choice format, which means that the kids choose what they want to do, but we tell them when they’re going to do it and we tell them who they’re going to do it with. Um, for the most part, girls, probably girls and boys play with boys. Um, it’s really not that big of an issue until you get to be about 12 or 13. And then we find that, uh, we have some very wonderfully athletic young ladies that decide they’re not going to be athletic anymore cause they’re around the boys.
Cole (05:16):
And we have some boys that cry a lot when they do get beat by the girls. So we try not to put them in those situations. Um, but really that the whole point of, of what quake is, it’s kinda funny camp is this great vehicle in which you can provide really fun and really life changing experiences. And I know a couple of your guests have spoken about that. Um, but we really want it to be the platform for our campers and our staff members to get a sense of our, our major values to things that are kind of our why. Uh, and for us, that sort of stuff is, uh, dealing with building gratitude, um, choosing your attitude and developing your courage. And we feel like if we can create situations where the whole community is doing that, then it can really create ripples in a child’s life and a young staff member’s life and put them off into the world and in ways that, um, will be really beneficial for themselves, but also for the world as a whole. So that’s, that’s kinda who we are and what we do.
Duncan (06:20):
That’s awesome. And I had a look at your website to find out a bit about that. And then it’s very clear from your website, that’s, that’s what your values are and it’s, clearly communicated. And I think, all of the materials, but how did he come up with those values to start with and, and how did you kind of get those sort of embedded as that’s what your camp, is all about?
Cole (06:43):
Well, you know, we, we came at camp from a standpoint of, of an educational experience and I guess we’re kind of nontraditional for-profit camp directors in the Northeast. I’m from the Southeast. Uh, I’m originally from Athens, Georgia and my wife is, was born in Minnesota, but lived in Seattle, lived in London and kind of all over. Um, we did not grow up in camping. This is a profession that we chose, um, because we, we loved the idea of working with children and we love the idea of working with young adults and our, and our counselors. Um, and we have just a ton of fun while trying to organize things but organize it around a meeting. Um, so we fell into love literally when mutual friend got us together and Kay happened to be working at a girl’s camp at that time. And, and that’s what kinda got us started.
Cole (07:31):
But we chose the values. We were thinking, we had this great tradition of caring for children and it was a nice tagline is a nice motto and it is true that that’s what we do. We just wanted to find kind of the bedrocks, um, Simon Sinek wrote a great book called start with why and we really want to try to figure out why are we doing this? And we are both, um, people of faith. We both come from a Christian Church background and, and 10 and so we’re trying to figure out what are the values that not only speak to us as, as Christians, but also would speak to really anybody. What are some universal values that, that all families would want to have instilled in their children. And to us, the idea of, of being a grateful human being, seeing the world. Um, with the cups, not only half full, it’s, it’s, it’s full, full.
Cole (08:25):
You know, it’s full with not only water, but also it’s full of air and being grateful for that. It creates this wonderful ripple effect where everything else in your life gets better, you become more successful, you become a happier human being if you see the world through the lens of gratitude. Um, so that was one that was an easy one. Um, I did a masters in sport psychology and there was, early on psychologist named William James, um, Henry James, Wayne jet anyway, his big, uh, back in the 18 hundreds was the one thing that you can totally control, that no one else can influence over you at all, is how you react to things. And that was really kind of pounded into me by going to him. Bob Rotella, who is one of the deans of sports psychology, um, in the U S uh, and he happened to be one of my teachers at my program at university of Virginia, and he worked with some of the best athletes in the world.
Cole (09:21):
He said, look, you get to choose how you react. That’s the only thing you get to choose. By the way, I was like, okay. And that always made sense. So that’s one of the things I want to try to figure out. How can you teach them? And the idea of picking your attitude is the best way I could determine it. And then the last one my wife came up was, was, was courage because you know, really, I can’t remember who said it, um, but it might’ve been Cicero that said that you can, with courage, you can practice all the other virtues without courage. You can’t practice any of them. So courage is really the handle in which the tool of gratitude or the tool of, um, fortitude or the tool of whatever other virtue you want to put out, you have to swing it with courage. So it all starts there. So we thought, right, those are the three things that we really want to talk about. Gratitude, attitude and courage. And um, it, we tried it out for a couple summers and it really stuck and it really makes the most sense for us. So that’s, that’s kinda how we got there.
Duncan (10:21):
That’s, that’s really cool. It’s really nice how they all kind of linked together and there’s clearly been a lot of thought and development about how that’s going to be shown in the camp and how that’s going to be part of the camp. So that’s really cool.
Cole (10:35):
Duncan (10:37):
And, I suppose with, you know, values and attitudes like that, how have you passed that onto their kids? Obviously it’s, it’s communicated in the materials, but how do you go about that, installing that during the camp?
Cole (10:52):
You try not to actually, well, you know, it’s funny. So it’s a, uh, a goofy drill that I do, and I’ll explain it to you, but it was shown to me the best way. So if you take your, your say the fingers are your right hand and you take your moment, your, your point of finger and you, you make them into a circle, then you fan out the other three. So it looks like you’ve got like an AOK kind of circle around your finger and you say, okay, well, you know, I want you to think about three things that are most important to you and you, and I’m telling this to all the staff members when they get to camp. Um, and we usually do it during a lunch meeting, sometimes sometime when they’re a little off guard where I just kinda caught them and get them thinking a little bit.
Cole (11:31):
All right, so take your, your middle finger, your ring finger and your pinky finger sticking straight up in the air. Think about the three things that you want to get out of the summer. You know, one of the three, if you leave with nothing else, you want to leave the camp with these three things. And then I say, okay, now you thought about those. Take that circle that you made with your pointer finger and your thumb and I want you to put it on your chin. But when I do it, I actually demonstrate I’m standing up, I demonstrate it by putting that circle actually all my cheek, none of my chin. And then I tell them to stop. And usually about 75% of the room have copied me. They’ve done what I’ve done. They’ve put there, they’re that circle and their cheek rather than doing what I said, which I told them, put it on your chin.
Cole (12:12):
And I say, okay, stop, look where’s, where’s your circle? And they all kind of giggle and say, Oh, it’s so much fun. It’s all my cheek. It should be on my chin. And that’s the very simple, quick lesson of kids aren’t going to listen to what you, you say they’re gonna do what you do. Attitudes, values that we’re trying to teach. They have to be caught. They can’t be taught. So the number one thing that we do as a, as a camp is focused on the staff members that come in the door to help us create the community that we’re trying to create camp. If the staff members aren’t on board with those values, it doesn’t matter what we say. It doesn’t matter what we believe because the kids are going to be around those young men and women that, you know, 19 to 22, 23, two year old young men and women from all over the world and they’re going to catch whatever it is those staff members are doing because those, they have so much more cachet than I do.
Cole (13:04):
I mean, I’m the old fart walking around campus and I had to encourage all the time, you know, the, the kids are going to look up to that 19 or 22 year olds. Like, gosh, they’re so awesome. I want to be just like them. Whatever they’re doing. So they have to be, are, are examples of the embodiment of those values through their daily lives. So that’s really the first and foremost thing. Number two, um, it’s a goofy thing, but it’s also one of my favorite things in the day, I guess. Really. It’s not goofy. It’s just a fun thing for me to do. I, I go through every bunk of the boys up until about seventh graders. So they’re about 12, 13 years old. Um, and I ask every boy for their two favorite things about the day. And I do the same thing for the staff as I’m going through.
Cole (13:49):
And this is at the end of the day, right before they go to bed. Um, my wife or head counselor, uh, we’ll go through and do the same thing with the girls. They’ll ask for the two happiest for that day. And that’s a way for the kids and the staff to go to bed thinking about the really cool stuff they got to do that day. Um, the attitude piece. So, uh, teaching gratitude, the attitude piece we talk about, all right, did you choose the right attitude? Are you handling it the right way to talk through things? Um, and then the courage piece is we give them a lot of opportunities to try things that are totally outside their norm, whether it be climate, the wall, you know, I’m trying to get 50 feet up. Um, whether it’s making a new friend, whether it’s seeing somebody who sat in and showing how you can go up and just sit with that person who said, you don’t have to do anything, you just have to be with them.
Cole (14:35):
Um, and that takes courage for a lot of our kids. So we try to highlight that. Um, the last piece we’ll do is we actually, our counselors every night at flagpole, we’ll have what we call nominations, where my wife Kate standing on the flagpole right before we lower it, um, around seven 45 because all right, you know, counselors give you a nomination, kids you saw do something great. And the counselors nominate the kids who they have seen show gratitude or pick a great attitude or show courage. And those are the kids that come forward and they’re the ones that lower the flag. Um, so we try to weave a ton of this stuff in, mostly by, by mentorship and by leadership of what people are actually doing at camp. And then we try to tie in these little nuggets. And then the last thing, campfires, we have finite campfires at, at what quick.
Cole (15:23):
And I spend about 10 minutes teaching, gratitude or attitude or courage usually through a story or something that trying to get to the point where their eyes don’t roll in the back of their heads as they’re bored. but those are the pieces that we do, but it really, you know, don’t, you know, you’ve been at canvas, it’s all about the people. So it’s got to start and end with that. Awesome. That’s pretty cool. That’s a nice way of getting them across. And then, I mean, we talked a little bit before about how they supposed to use these values after camp and how you create not just the experience during the summer, but how do you create this intimate community, which uses those values after camp and how do you keep that community when compass finished? Um, so how, how do you approach that Cole and yeah.
Cole (16:12):
You know, I think that I do my best that we as a team, we do our best to try to look at this as a relationship with somebody. Um, and I, I did a training with the Disney Institute a couple of years ago and they, the lady said something that was eyeopening to me. Um, the, this lady who was training us, she said, you will every potential for them cast member to walk into your office and whether they get a roll on your cast or not, that they talk beautifully about the experience and about your organization. And I thought to myself, [inaudible], that makes total sense. Any time somebody interacts with you, whether you offer them a job or not, whether you’ve got a space for them at camp or not, whether they’d been with you for one summer or for 10 summers, you want them leaving saying that place that community made me feel welcome and special and, and worth, you know, worth the effort.
Cole (17:10):
Um, and so we have talked a lot with our staff members who interview, um, potential team members for us, um, that regardless of whether or not they get a job, we want them leaving, you know, saying that I felt valued by that and they’re good people. And you should go talk to, I’ve had a number of situations where I’ve gone into family’s homes to try to get them to come to a quake as, as campers and they’ve decided that they wanted to have an all boys experience or they wanted to have an all girls experience, which is a different experience than what we offer. But they’ve also said Cole, and I love what you had to say, it’s just not right for us. I’ve already told three friends you might be hearing from X, Y, and Z. So that’s already a relationship that I’ve created with that family is the same reason why, you know, scrappy and Dana and Sue when they’re staffing, you know, they might not hire somebody, but that person says, Oh, you know, you should really look at someone else.
Cole (17:59):
Or maybe they didn’t choose our, our camp for whatever reason, but yet they told other friends those. So if we can build an honor, those relationships, regardless of how long or deep they are, then it bears fruit for the camp. But I think more importantly, it shows the outside world what your camp is really all about. And that’s where it’s got to come from. It’s, it’s not a transactional experience. It’s true. It has to be a relationship experience because that’s what changes the course of people’s lives, even if just for a few moments. Yeah. That’s really nice. And you know, looking to, to keep these involved after, after the finish camp and the alumni. Yeah. Yeah. So that is just constant communication. Um, you know, like when we, when our CIT is leaves, so our, our oldest campers are 16 years old. Um, during that last summer, we start transitioning them in, or at least introducing them to the possibility of being a staff member in the future.
Cole (19:04):
Um, but also how are you going to take this and apply this to your life? Right. A lot of kids, when they’re at camp, they’re learning so much that they don’t even know that they’re learning. And so if you, I think you have to be really intentional during those, that last year that they’re with you and saying, look at the things you’ve learned and let’s look how we put them into practice. And they sit there and they go, Oh, wait a second. Yeah, I, I do know more about this and I do understand why I need to make my bed. I do understand about seeing the world gratefully. I do. And I see how that now changed me. And so then the hope is they come back to be a counselor assistance for us, which is, um, a, a role that we’ve created for basically 17 year olds.
Cole (19:46):
They come on and help and then you hope they come back as staff members. And even if they don’t, you send them notes, you know, throughout the year. Just as a reminder, Hey, you know, are, what are you grateful for today? You know, list three things that you’re most excited about from today. Okay. What was the last time you helped somebody who seemed like they were kind of out of bounds a little bit or feeling lost? You know, what did you show that kind of courage and so you continues to send out kind of seed those things along. You pull them in with all the newsletters. You, you continue to hope that they’re going to be a part of your social media experience so that way they can continue to get those reminders. The thing that we found is that if a family feels really connected with you at camp and you do a good job of knowledge showing that you care for the people, but yet you’re trying to prepare to prepare them for the future lives, they’re going to continue to have that relationship with you because you’ve become a place where a lot of those values and a lot of those habits, maybe they weren’t formed at camp because they are, they’re formed it at these great homes and these great families that our kids come from and these great schools, but they’re tested and they’re refined at camp in a way that, that you really can’t get, you know, in other places, you know, you don’t get a, that can’t kind of camp experience where it’s all about the social skills.
Cole (21:10):
It’s all about the relationships. You know, we don’t care about where test scores are. We don’t care how tall you are. We all care. Um, how many languages you speak. We just care about you as a person. And that’s what great camps do. So I think because we come at it from that standpoint, because we remind them throughout their last couple of years and because we continue to remind them as, as young adults as they grow, um, it takes, and those relationships can remain I think stronger because of that.
Duncan (21:41):
Yeah, sure. Yeah, it’s very, very powerful. And I’ve got some examples around here in Switzerland where the alumni is used. And I used to work for a school called Le Rosey. It’s this big international school in Switzerland and they focus very much on a school for life. And they have this huge alumni all across the world. And that alumni is one of the main reasons people will, will go to the school and to, um, you know, be a part of that, that group of people. And if it’s really nurtured and that community belt, then like the, the effect that can have on your camp and your mission, your purpose, your, your values. It’s, it can be, it can be huge. And I think from, from working in some camps and from, uh, you know, working with lots of camps, it’s, it’s clear some camps miss that, that piece of it. And uh, I think they miss out a lot as a, as a result. But you have to be able to focus on your alumni as the community as a whole. I think it has got massive, massive wins associated with it.
Cole (22:49):
Yeah. I love that idea of, of school for life because, you know, we, we never stopped learning and you know, something that we’ve talked about with our, our team here, you know, there is, I think a role for camp for life out there as well because for so many, it’s the touchstone of, of childhood when they think of their childhood, some of their first memories go back to camp. Like, Oh my gosh, it was just so much fun. And it doesn’t matter if you’re a seven week camper, you know, or, you know, two weeks at a day camp, you know, the people that just love it just seem to love it. Yeah.
Duncan (23:23):
Yeah. It’s, it’s given me a really good idea to just start a new camp actually, but, uh, heard some that another time. Um, so, excuse me. It’s like all the, I’m sure the question on, on lots of people’s minds at the moment is, is all about code. I mean, it’s just taken, taken over everything at the moment. Um, so I, I’m interested in how your campus is dealing with this and how, uh, how you’re planning for, for this summer. How are you dealing with all this?
Cole (23:46):
Sure. Well, I think the, the big thing for us, um, just I guess on a couple we’re dealing with in a couple of different levels. One, you know, our team is educating, um, themselves and each other as much as we possibly can. I’ve never been, I’ve been in camping now for, uh, almost 20 years and I’ve never had this level of communication with other camp professionals, um, ever. And not just at a conference, which, you know, we’re a very large conference, um, several weeks ago before this really took hold in the States. Um, but since that point I probably talked with four or five different camp directors on a daily basis. Uh, just asking questions. How are we supporting your families? How are you supporting your staff?
Cole (24:37):
So there’s, there’s been that piece. What are you learning from the CDC who your departments of health? So you education in the environment about communicable disease. We saw our always been high, you know, because we were very concerned about that as community, small communities with, with kids and staff members. That knowledge and that knowledge seeking has totally ramped up. So that’s, that’s one. Number two, I think from a relationship standpoint, um, we’ve talked to a ton of families. Um, we’ve, we sent out a good bit of communication specifically saying that we don’t have any answers right now. Um, and we probably won’t for the next, um, really several weeks, maybe two months. Um, and there, there are two things that, that we as camp equate, we know for certain number one we equate, we’ll be ready to open when we’re told we can do. So. Um, and w we don’t know when that’s gonna be, we’re planning on it being a regular start.
Cole (25:33):
June 27th for us, you know, which, you know, we’re, we’re recording this at the end of March, so we still got three months where there can be a lot, a lot of change between now and then. Um, so we are planning to be ready to open and if it’s not the 27th, then maybe it’s the July 4th or you know, whatever it is we are going to be ready for, for business. I know that number one. Number two, I’m certain that our commitment, we’ve had a great relationship with all of our families for the last many, many years we’ve been at walkway and regardless of what happens at the end of the summer based on coven and whatnot, my goal is to have just as great a relationship with those families. So I can’t tell him anything else because I don’t know. And they don’t know. And really frankly, no one knows at this point.
Cole (26:20):
But just coming from the standpoint of we’re going to be ready, number one, and number two, we’re going to honor the relationship no matter what it takes. I think that puts a lot of our families at ease. Um, and it’s the same way with our staff members. Um, we have three full time staff members that they’ve just been reaching out to our team, you know, and there our team is widespread. They’re all over the world. Um, they’re in situations where they’re concerned. Um, yeah, we have staff members that, Oh, from all over Europe, we have staff members from all over Mexico and Stephanie was all over Australia, New Zealand. Um, as far as way as the great state of Texas, I mean, lots of different countries. Um, and there are, they’re all worried about summer as well. So we’re, we’re doing the same thing with them. Like, you’ll, we’re going to be here, we’re gonna all get through this as a team and we’re going to provide a great experience.
Cole (27:08):
So that’s the communication that’s going out. And then the last thing that we’ve been doing is we created a new Facebook group for all of our families and for our staff members, um, cause they’re a part of the family as well. And we can, we’re not doing finite online campfires, um, where we can get interaction. We do our services. So we’re trying to bring camp to the rest of our lives, um, just to try to keep people involved and going and keeping the channels open and, and supporting everybody as much as we possibly can. So that’s, that’s how we’re approaching. Um, you know, we’re, we don’t do an insurance. We don’t do all this other, you know, things we just are going to do everything we can to honor the relationships to the trust that our parents have given us. And you know, when all of a sudden done, I think we’ll be fine. Um, my hope is that we open, I’m planning like we’re going to open. Um, and we’re also creating a ton of plans for every eventuality that we can see. We, there was a great article or letter written from, uh, Tom Rosenberg and Scott Bodey, who are the heads of the ACA American Tampa associate. And they, they reminded us that camp people are champions of change and masters of management. Um, and I thought, yeah, that’s, that’s really good stuff. So we’re, we’re doing all we can to, to live up to those monikers.
Duncan (28:27):
That’s great. And to think of this in a, in a positive way, if you, if you can, it’s, um, the being forced to go online and you know, create all these resources online and you know, getting virtual comp plans in place, like the, the potential that can have for getting camps or getting people working in camps, just thinking in a different way and creating resources, which then could open up a, a stream of revenue for the camps through the year. You know, they’re big things which could come out of this in a positive way. And, you know, just rethinking the way some things are done. And, and, and I see this in the schools here and you know, teachers being forced to go online to teach lessons. Of course there’s, there’s big resistance towards it or you know, difficulties, challenges, hurdles to get over. But I think there’s going to be big benefits for teachers seeing some of the benefits of online learning and, um, using technology. So, you know, I know things are completely horrendous for most businesses across the world that bought that, that surely will be some, some good things to come out of it as well. And, and, and I think that could be a really positive thing.
Cole (29:41):
Yeah, totally agree. I saw a great, um, short video on YouTube from Jocko wilnick. I don’t know if you’ve heard of him, but he was a Navy seal commander and has been, he’s one of the, the leadership gurus of, of, of the day right now. Um, and I actually met him and he’s a very imposing around. Um, but he told a story about how a friend would always tell them there’s some problem and Jocko was simply re reply. Sorry, respond with good. [inaudible] good. I’m glad you’ve got that problem. I was like, why are you so glad I got the pump? Cause now you get to figure out a solution. Um, and it’s totally true. I mean we, well you, you get so used to doing things a certain way and good, bad or indifferent, but it’s just that way you do it. So change doesn’t come really on a slow process.
Cole (30:35):
You get these big bangs of change and this for the camping industry in the education industry and so many industries is going to be one of those big explosions where we had to figure it out. And the people that keep their head about them that work together with everybody else that honors the relationships with their there customers or clients, their families. And it’s really not customers or clients, it’s with their families. They’re going to figure it out. And you know, from a revenue standpoint, yeah, I’ll probably help. But more than that, it’s just from a relationship standpoint, you’re going to send them the fact that you know, your organization is going to stand by and be creative and help, um, in so many different ways. So I, I agree with you that this is a challenge and it’s a huge opportunity, um, for people that want to educate and inspire to go out there and do great things, um, that they wouldn’t otherwise have done. So it’s time for us to go get it.
Duncan (31:34):
Yeah, for sure. And yeah, what an amazing community to, um, you know, all the select groups Travis put together and, you know, all the, we’re getting involved in a virtual campfire that is with Kurt and it’s just a, yeah, it’s fantastic to see a community pull together like that. And I can’t imagine many of the industries like offering as much support as the summer camp industry. I don’t know.
Cole (31:56):
Pretty incredible, isn’t it? I mean, the amount of sharing, like just wide open here. How about this? Yes. I mean it’s just, it’s so wonderful. It’s so affirming to be in the industry. Yeah. So many smart people that are willing to give.
Duncan (32:09):
Yeah, it is, it is incredible. And uh, I, I, it must be rare. I have not worked in so many industries just in education really in some comes. But I can’t imagine that level of sharing goes on in, in maybe any other industry. Um, you know, there’s no feeling of competition or you know, keeping things to yourself. It’s just like, this is what we got. This is it. You have this. If it helps, that’s great. If not, no worries. Yeah. That’s an amazing part of the industry.
Cole (32:37):
Yeah. I had a great mentor in camping. We were in the same organization, but we had different, different camps and technically could have been considered competitors. And she looked at me and she said, Cole, I don’t want every kid. I just want the kids that are right for my camp and I want you to have the kids that are right for your camp. I myself, like that makes total sense. And you know, since Chancey her name was Jancey Dorfman um, since she told me that, I was like, yes, you’re totally right. So let’s help everybody get the kids that are right for them.
Duncan (33:08):
Yeah. Yeah. That’s nice approach. And it’s as much convincing kids that going to summer camp and doing something constructive during the summer and convincing parents as well is, is as much the battle as um, you know, making sure the kids come to your camp and not someone else’s. So
Cole (33:26):
yeah. Oh, it’s such a gift. I mean, if you find the right camp for your child and every child is different. And I mean, I’ve got three boys and they’re all so different. Imagine your girls are very different as well. So it’s a great, if you could find a camp that’s going to be right for all of them, but just follow the right one because cash can really help them flourish.
Duncan (33:45):
Yeah. Yeah. That’s great. Cool. So a, is there anything you would’ve liked me to ask about or are there any topics you’d like to dig into further?
Cole (33:57):
Well, I think one topic that we haven’t talked a lot about, um, are the relationships with the staff members. Um, and I think that that’s something that a lot of camps, let me rephrase. That’s something that we’ve really focused on at the best and required of my wife. Her nickname is Dr. Kelly. She’s not a doctor. She plays on TV. Um, he really focused early on on the relationships and the quality of relationships that staff have with each other. Um, and she rightly so I think said that if our staff members feel connected with each other, that they’re taught how to care wisely, helped communicate, um, then they’ll actually be able to provide a better experience for the kids. And I think that’s one of the dirty secrets secrets of camping is that it’s, it’s children taking care of children. You know, you’ve got 19 to 22 year old young men and women that are really in charge of the care for these, you know, eight, nine, 10 up to 16 year olds.
Cole (35:00):
And that’s also one of the beautiful things about it because it’s the near peers that are there that are providing the majority of care. Obviously it’s creating a situation that’s very structured. It’s very safe. You know, you have professionals that are, are really running the show, but it’s, it’s those young people that are providing the 90% of the care. And if you can build quality relationships with those young people as staff members, then the camp, regardless of where you can’t, it’s going of course, and that to me, I agree with with my wife having done this now for 19 years with her, that if you can build great relationships with those staff, then your camp’s going to be great. The other nice part about that is, is that when those staff members leave your camp and they’re bawling because they don’t want to leave because they’ve had such an amazing, intense experience, they’re going to be the first ones that even if they can’t come back to camp, they’re going to tell all their friends about what an amazing experience they had at named my camp and give you so much great word of mouth to try to get more staff members and possibly new campers.
Cole (36:07):
Yeah. So I think that that’s something that, it’s hard work, but it’s something that we all need to do as an industry is really take care of to build relationships, not only with our staff members, but to build them between the staff members.
Duncan (36:20):
Yeah, yeah. No, I think that’s, that’s extremely important is something I focused on as a, as director of a camp. And it made things so much better initially is running the camps but then so much easier as well for the year to have a staff who couldn’t wait to come back and you know, such good staff relationship that, you know, more could be asked them if needed, but then also the extremely supportive and any challenges about as a camp, you know, if we would needed numbers pushing or you’d like, you know, they would, they would step up through the year. They would help out with any, any, um, marketing campaigns we had running. And it was a, yeah, just building that base of staff and how much easier it makes it the following year to have your main staff coming back. And then who could recommend friends who were, you know, really good quality, which just made things so easy.
Duncan (37:16):
It’s a staffing, um, you know, situation for the camp. And I’ve spoken to a lot of camps who have real issues with the staffing and um, you know, I think it’s, and then you start digging into why they having it and it, yeah, the pain, terrible wages or the not the conditions aren’t great and you’re like, you know, you’ve got to find a balance of time off or if a decent salary, you know, and it’s, it’s tricky finding that balance, but you know, staff staff were running the camp and you have to be treated extremely well and you know, before, during and after the camp and he knew that right then. I mean, they can make your life 10 times easier.
Cole (37:51):
Totally. Yeah. If you have the right people, you can have a great camp in a parking lot, you know, you really don’t.
Duncan (37:59):
So yeah. That’s nice way to put it. Cool. Well it’s been, it’s been awesome to talk with you. It’s been awesome to find out how you operate in and we’re quite quiet.
Cole (38:15):
Hard to say. You did a lot.
Duncan (38:20):
it’s been great to, to find out about how you approach the relationship building with, with staff, with parents, with the families, with the kids. And it’s solely by this lifelong experience that be, it’s not just about summer, it’s about joining program, which instill values, which had effort for life, and they become counselors. They become a staff, become alumni, and you know, the part of your organization for life. And that’s, I think that’s a great way to approach it. Awesome. Well, thanks for having me on, man. Great talking with you. Yeah, likewise Cole. Thanks a lot. Yeah, I hope to connect soon. Love it, chase. Goodbye.


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