Antonio J Guillan, MBA
2472 Mary Lou St NW
Massillon, OH 44646
June 13, 2013
Springwood Lake Camp Club
7373 Sherman Church Rd
East Sparta, OH 44626
Springwood Board, Membership, et al,
Springwood Lake Camp Club has always been a great escape from the daily irritations all of us face outside of the park. It’s hard to believe that one wouldn’t feel a relief filled escape from the daily grind and stresses from a world of work/politics by simply driving under the raised gate. However, far too often, some are feeling they leave one world of burden, just to enter another. Long term members, new members, board members, rangers, and even the guests of members; not one of these is immune to this. I have been fortunate to be the type of person that hasn’t been labeled as on a “side” by people with disputing issues within the park. So I believe this has given me a great perspective to problem solve without an emotional attachment bias getting in the way. In such cases mentioned above, I believe these issues have stemmed from either a lack of information available, a lack of communication/understanding, errant “facts”, the appearance of improper conduct, but mainly the issue is a lack of the administrative/management functioning entity that generally prevents the aforementioned issues from arising in the minds of members. Personally I think this stems from the lack of a “go to” person to organize the information as it comes in, process it, and get it to the people who need it to take small miscommunications or problems and prevent them from becoming larger issues simply due to time or logistical constraints. A person to simply reinforce peace-of-mind and prevent the grape-vine rumors that swirl the park because of people “filling in the blanks” because they either don’t have or don’t trust the information.
The purpose of this letter is to show the need for a park manager, describe what functions this manager would serve, and dispel the misconceptions I have heard in discussions of hiring a park manager. Currently the park is dependent upon unpaid board members to collectively act in the functions of a full time manager, while many of these board members have full time work and family functions already demanding of their time. The functions board members are trying to squeeze into their randomly available free time, which would typically be their time to enjoy the park as they intended when they bought in, seem to become such a burden that we have had many board members simply walk away from their position (some from the park entirely) and have made the position so undesirable that it has become difficult to even fill a ballot with enough candidates to fill the positions. Among the many fears people have of hiring a manager has been that empowering a manager to implement and facilitate the decisions of the board would create a “power shift” or somehow take the control of park functions from the board and the membership. This is simply not the case, a manager does nothing more than organize, perform, and execute the policy and decisions of the board and reports the information the board and members needs to make their decisions without having to be overwhelmed by the menial day to day operations of running the park.
The need for a manager
Springwood needs a manager for a variety of reasons that in the end would greatly benefit not only the bottom line of the park, but would benefit the membership and board members in general.
One of the first and most notable differences a manager would make would be organization and accountability of all functions the park performs for its members. I have personally experienced and heard many accounts of people asking “why is this still broken”, “when is this going to be addressed”, “when can I get someone out to approve this permit”, “why does no one notice this”, “who is responsible for this”, “who do I ask for/about…”, ect.. The strongest and most hurtful problem seems to be the accusation and appearance to some of favoritism and impropriety. A proper manager who serves the below described functions of management through accountability and documentation not only can eliminate the accusations and appearance of impropriety and/or favor, but more importantly provides the resources to be able to find and/or detect it when it occurs. For example, if someone questions where the “money from the gate” is or if it made it to the bank, the manager can simply pull a file and show a chain of custody from gate to bank with receipts and resolve the issue with information in minutes without any hurt feelings or insinuation being raised. A proper manager is the means of communicating developing issues to the board, assuring the board the issues they have decided need addressed are being addressed, and supporting the board by finding and organizing information into a useful form. The manager would also ensure the actions the board decides are implemented in a timely manner, while mitigating the costs and preventing delays as possible.
Examples of the functions a manager serves
o The previous example of “how do I know the money from the gate/café made it to the bank” is easily answered by a simple chain of custody. The example of money collected at the gate/guard stand would be made fully accountable. The ranger/gate would collect to the till, the till would be justified to the general till amount (I.E. $20 of normal till, current till is $45, it’s justified back to $20 by removing $25). The ranger/gate then logs the till justification ($25) in a log book and a chain of custody form. Both the ranger/gate and manager collecting the justification sign both the log book and form. The log book stays with the ranger/gate and the form goes with the manager. The manager then makes the deposit to the bank or other depository and posts the receipt and signed form to the chain of custody file so the money is accounted from payment to deposit. While it’s unlikely someone would ever bring the question up, the knowledge of this level of accountability ensures the trust to the membership that impropriety not only doesn’t exist, but is easily verified.
o Many of the administrative and management functions are currently left as the responsibility of unpaid board members, office employees, and rangers. Frankly, the last person who should be the first line of line work should be a board member. If the bylaws, rules, and/or policy dictate “20 feet from the front, 5 from the sides, ect” on a zoning permit, that really leaves nothing for interpretation. However many members don’t know who to contact, when they are available, or how to schedule someone to review their plans. If a manager would be scheduled Thursday-Monday in season and Monday-Friday out of season from 9-5 or whatever schedule existed, members would know who to contact and when they are available. To ensure proper conduct and bylaw compliance, the manager would be able to schedule a time when the proper board member is available to review the information and observations of the manager and approve or deny the request as appropriate. Again, the manager isn’t taking any decisions making powers from the board, but instead making the process easier, reliable, consistent, and timely for the member and the board.
o Availability of a full-time manager would also allow for consistent employee supervision. An example of this is available at the pool. Is it reasonable to expect a board member who is charged with the pool to have the constant responsibility to log the PH readings and chemical inventory/usage multiple times per day to ensure that the pool is not only open and available as needed, but also being run efficiently without the waste of having to “chase chemical levels” because they were not maintained properly? It’s not reasonable to expect an unpaid board member to commit the time and effort into maintaining a log of these levels and activities, but is a small and completely reasonable item to require of a manager, and is really a small part of their overall day.
o A manager is also responsible for the organization, scheduling, and prioritizing of employee activities. Maintenance, while a strong point of the part currently, could certainly benefit from this. For example, while the Springwood maintenance crew is very good at addressing the large and glaring examples, many small preventative and beginning issues get lost in the shuffle. Completion of small items can be a huge factor in preventing premature replacement of and creation of larger maintenance needs. A small example of this would the play center in the playground of the pool. There are some that are of the opinion the equipment needs replaced and some have called it downright unsafe. The monkey bars are broken, pieces of broken supports and fasteners are exposed, the indentation in the ground at the base of the slide is large enough now that the slide does not sit flat and steady, and the paint/treatment on the suspended wooden bridge has worn/weathered off and bare wood is exposed to the elements allowing them to begin to rot. Not only are these simple, quick, and easy problems to prevent with regular scheduled maintenance that save money by extending the life of the equipment, they are a safety concern that left unchecked could open the park to potential liability by gross negligence should an injury ever occur because of them. This is something a manager would be able to see, schedule, and prevent.
- Research and information availability
o A manager is a central point that manages the information necessary for the board/membership decisions. A manager, unlike a board member, isn’t tasked with finding the time to research information for the board, it’s their job. Instead of a board member looking for a connection to get needed information (like contacting the county recorder to find out about mineral rights), they are the connection.
o A manager also serves as the central point for collecting and producing, upon request, internal information. Instead of trying to find the current or former board member or employee, who may or not be able to be contacted in a timely manner or even still have the information, the manager is responsible for organizing and having available the needed information as needed, reducing the problem of delay or flat out missing information. While some information is collected/handled by treasurer or clerical function, the manager is responsible for maintaining the availability of that information nonetheless.
These examples are not the complete functions a manager would serve, but only a small portion of what some functions would do to benefit the park, show how the benefits of a manager are worth the cost, and to point out a small portion of some of the problems that not having a manager currently produces. The intent isn’t to write a manual or full description, just to provide a few examples to encourage the thought process.
Misconceptions about a park manager
The conversation about Springwood having a park manager has been discussed many times, and in each of those instances there have been some negative aspects that have dismissed the conversation before it really had the opportunity to be fully developed. However, many of the negatives have either been simple misconceptions or either driven by or perceived as fulfilling a personal agenda. Springwood needs to have a conversation based on the true merits of a real, educated, experienced manager.
Some misconceptions I have heard…
- A manager is a position of power and/or takes the bylaw given control from the board
o A manager is not a position of power. A manager is an employee that reports to the board and does not serve any more of a decision making function beyond that specifically tasked to the manager by the board (I.E. daily scheduling of employee activities based on the goals set by the board.)
o A manager should be completely independent of the board (I.E. not a board member or in a position of influence, like a spouse, child, or parent of a board member).
o A manager is accountable to the board and the voting members.
o Unless specifically empowered through delegated responsibility by the board/membership, the manager serves only an advisory role through management reporting to the board/members.
- A manager is a waste of money/resources
o Proper management, as opposed to the absence of management, can improve productivity of employees through task scheduling, ensuring preventative maintenance, reducing/elimination of improper/wasteful allocation of resources, prevention of delays, improved responsiveness to issues as they arise, ensuring resource availability as needed, and researching cost cutting measures to advise the board when available (I.E. items that we know are needed regularly and vary in cost seasonally).
o Eliminating misconceptions and accusation, while not directly visible financially, and fostering a more enjoyable experience for all members is a benefit of good management.
o A manager removes the heavy time requirement on board members and allows them to spend their time on improvements instead of daily operations.
- A manager would be a large cost
o Managing an organization with a functional decision making body like the board at Springwood doesn’t require hiring a manager with extensive knowledge of any particular employee function, the current staff is more than capable of their fields and a manager simply needs to be trained/experienced in properly allocating employee time and resources. This type of position wouldn’t require a large salary/compensation package to afford such employee functions. (I.E. the manager doesn’t need to know how to attach a ¾ to ½ elbow on a water line, just how to ensure the resource and maintenance employee are available and capable)
- A manager would be a distraction to the functions of the board and members
o A good manager is essentially invisible until needed; only their performance is noticeable. (I.E. when you go to a restaurant or hardware store that is well managed, you never have to seek out the manager or even know they are there)
This is a general description of why and what a manager would bring to Springwood and how having an honest and real discussion of this position really is important to the park at this time. I have spent 7 years of my life in college researching and educating myself on this very topic. I have also run my own business and worked in management functions for years. Management isn’t something you can write into a bylaw or a policy, management is something you have to do. My intent is to simply give the perspective in hopes my words can help make Springwood a better place for both the membership and the leadership of the board.
If you’d like a more complete conversation or more information from me on this topic, I am happy to have that conversation.
Antonio J Guillan, MBA