RV Park Mastery: Episode 52

Is It Time For Uniforms?

Every business reaches a moment in which it is better served to seem “corporate” in nature. Is it that time for your RV park? That’s the focus of this RV Park Mastery podcast, in which we’ll explore the benefits and disadvantages of appearing “big” and how to get the most bang for your buck.

Episode 52: Is It Time For Uniforms? Transcript

Let's admit it, we are all impressed with uniforms. When we see people wearing a uniform, when we see businesses that are branded with a uniform. With a uniform look, it definitely makes us feel safer, happier, better about whatever activity we're doing. This is Frank Rolfe, here with the RV Park Mastery podcast. We're talking about uniforms. If it is time to take your business to the next level, to have people wearing uniforms and to bring a uniform look to the property. Let's first talk about why it is beneficial for a property to look corporate, to look like a big company.

Well, obviously, the first reason is it just looks professional. It's hard to imagine a large business, whether it is Federal Express or United Airlines, in which a uniform doesn't give all of us a greater sense of security and affirm the buying decision to use their product or service. We would be horrified if someone showed up, for example, with the FedEx package, wearing a T-shirt with a rock band on it, we'd say, "Well, this can't be FedEx, this can't be right." And then we started inspecting the package thinking, "Well, it must be broken inside because a guy dressed like that, well, he couldn't be professionally delivering packages." So we all have kind of a stigma about things that look big company. So the first reason you'd want to look big company is simply that; when you look like a big company, then it's a turn on for customers, there's no question about that.

The next item is it gives you kind of a liability hedge. People, when they see uniforms in big companies, they also imagine that that big company probably also has a big budget and a big law firm, and they really don't wanna mess with that if they were gonna follow some kind of strange liability claim, like a slippering fall. Some people would say, "Well, but wouldn't that egg them on to do it now?" Because a lot of your personal injury lawyers and such, they learned over time, the big companies don't just get out the old checkbook in the case of a problem, it's more of the small mom-and-pop that feels overwhelmed, that doesn't know what to do.

Next, you have the simple fact that it deflects anger off the manager if there is in fact any problem. So when a manager looks to be part of a big corporation, it's much easier for the manager if there's something that went wrong with the customer's experience, to not take the heat, but simply say, "Well, I just work at this company, but I know they wanna make you happy, let's get this solved." So it helps to deflect that negative experience. And on top of that, it does give you one extra decision-making moment, gives you one more chef in the kitchen, one more bit of good cop/bad cop, because now you in fact do have the ability to get it as an active participant, whatever the problem is, you namely as the owner, because when it's a big company, they don't assume the manager can make decisions by themselves, and it seems perfectly reasonable that they would wanna go ahead and vet that decision with their boss, the next person up the totem pole.

Next, and this is a really big one, obviously. When you see someone from a big company wearing a uniform, then it's going to give the customer the belief of higher rents. It's just the way it works. When we see a big company and how professional it is, we just assume as part of their mandate of being big, of being corporate, that they're gonna charge a little more and we're okay paying that because we feel so much better about life when we have a big company that we're working with. When we're entrusting our travel trip as a customer, when we see that uniform man, we're willing to pay a little more for that because we feel like that was a much better buying decision.

So if uniforms are that great, then why don't we have uniforms everywhere? Well, there are some reasons, there are some things that uniforms don't give or send the signal that it's positive. Normally it's not though from a customer experience. A lot of people say, "Well, I wanna stay small, because when I stay small, that's the way for me to go and buy other RV parks." Well, yeah, a lot of mom-and-pops would rather work with the small mom-and-pop other than the big corporation. But how many parks are you gonna go out there and buy? And if you did on those occasions, couldn't you dress down and not try and looks so corporate? Other people will say, "Well, but looking corporate is so expensive." Well, let's look at that for a moment.

Alright, what does it cost to actually have the look of being a big company? Let's start with the uniform itself that your manager might wear. Most manager uniforms don't include anything more than a shirt, typically a polo shirt that's sewn in the name of the RV Park. That is not an expensive item, you can get a very professional shirt like that for about $40, all bills paid with embroidery. And if you want to make it even look more professional, in the winter months or when it's raining, how about giving them a couple of coats? Again, with the RV Park sewn onto it. And again, that's not that expensive. Go online and look, you can probably get a very, very nice wind breaker/rain coat for maybe $50, $60, and you can even get a nice thick winter coat with all your embroidery on it, for about $100. That is a very, very small investment. If I bought two polo shirts, fully embroidered, and two coats, what am I really talking about spending? Well, maybe $250.

How long will it last? Years and years and years. Is that a reasonable bang for the buck? Oh, I would say so. Definitely would. What else can I do to look more corporate, to look more uniform as far as the park itself? Well, a nice sign up front would help a lot. What's a sign-up front cost? Depends on the sign, but often you can get assigned for a couple of thousand dollars. You may say, "Oh, now we're talking big money." Well, but are you really when you look at the impact of that on your customers? I don't think so. Studies have found that signs are well worth paying more for, but they're definitely something that has a lot of, a lot of bang for the buck.

The other item we've found in our properties, it gives you a lot, a lot of bang for the buck is when you install all the signage in the park that is all the same. And the best way to do that is by using white vinyl posts sleeved over 4x4 posts with an attractive cap on the top, and then just drilling into that your new signs. It's not expensive at all, you can replace all of the signage throughout your RV park that is not attractive, maybe old rusty metal or old beat up wood with signs that are in horrible condition. When you change all of that out, it does have an enormous impact. It does make you look like a much much larger corporation. And again, the cost isn't much, you can probably replace every sign in that property for $100 to $200 a pole. 10 of those signs, maybe signs to say, "Here is the lot numbering system to help people out." Maybe things that say, "Caution! Children at play." Things like that. Those are not expensive.

You might be able to do the entire RV park for maybe once again, a couple of thousand dollars. That's not really that expensive for what you get for it. And then there's all kinds of other little items to help give an RV park that edge, to make it look more corporate in nature. Such things as more professional trash cans, don't buy an aluminum trash can out at the hardware store, that looks cheap, that looks cheesy. Go online and buy one that's more professional, the kinds you see in city parks. Again, seemingly expensive, but not that bad. You can buy one of those trash cans fully professional for maybe $400 to $500, maybe in a nice forest green color, what other color you found attractive that looks so much more professional.

And while we're really trying to get everything perfect, let's not forget other items such as simply striping your streets. That has a huge, huge impact. Installing some flags out on your frontage to catch the eye and give it more of a professional look. Again, not a lot of money there. So the bottom line is, when people tell me, "Well, it's too expensive for me to look like a big corporation," that's rarely true. Every step I just talked about, you can achieve it all for probably $5000 or less. There's no way you can tell me that was not $5000 well spent. The bottom line to it is that branding and uniforms, these are the type of things that will really help take your property to the next level. So when you have a property that looks well-groomed like it's owned by a big company, even though it's not, you will get better values at appraisal, you will get more attracted banks, you will get better loan terms, you will get happier customers, you will get better social media reviews, you're going to get everything better. And speaking of social media reviews, let's not forget, we now live in the world of the internet.

So another part of having that big company feel is you need to always be found under any simple search on Google of an RV park in, whatever that community may be, with a professional website and good, hopefully four or five-star social media reviews. Now, what does all that cost? Very little. You can have someone build a website, typically $500, maybe $1000, last a lifetime, and social media reviews are basically free. So is SEO online. The bottom line to it all is too many RV park owners are not taking full advantage of all the options available to them to have that big company look, and that's a shame because there's great benefit to having uniforms, to branding your property, to make it look more corporate. This is Frank Rolfe, the RV Park Mastery podcast. I hope you enjoyed this. Talk to you again soon.