RV Park Mastery: Episode 36

Simple Steps To Managing Your Manager

Every RV park must have a manager, yet many owners don’t put nearly enough thought or strategy into getting the most out of these individuals (or even to monitor their performance at all). In this RV Park Mastery podcast we’re going to review some simple steps to aid in your selection and oversight of this vital part of your team.

Episode 36: Simple Steps To Managing Your Manager Transcript

The RV park industry is a people business and you need people to handle those people. So a real park owner without having a very good mastery of managing all those people who are part of both your customer base, and your employee pool. This is Frank Rolfe, the RV Park Mastery Podcast. We're going to talk about the simple steps to managing your manager and other employees.

Well, let's start off with the most basic item, which is selection. You've got to make sure you hire the right people. Many times people will take the easy way out and make employee hires when they know it's really never going to work. Everyone's been guilty of doing this at least once in their career. They couldn't get that many applicants, the other applicants weren't very good. And so when they come to this applicant, they think, well, they're probably not the best. They're probably below average of what I had hoped for, but gosh, darn it, I'm tired of looking at different people. So maybe they will work out. That's really not a good plan of action. That's really kind of a cop out. Who are you really letting down? You're really letting down yourself. I would rather not hire anyone than make a bad hire. When you make a bad hire, think of all the time that you waste training them, supervising them and you still get lackluster results. It harms your business and harms your personal life. So hold out for the right employee. Make sure that you don't ever get lazy and hire someone you should not.

And number two, as part of that makes sure that anyone you hire goes in on a probationary period. Because part of hiring people, sadly, is also firing people. And America is a very litigious place today. And that's why it's very important if you want to have a smooth time with your employees, smooth sailing, you've got to know the laws. Before you ever even think of hiring one, you need to know the laws in your state on everything: hiring, managing, firing. Because if you don't, you won't really know what you're doing, you might even get in worse trouble. And you'll also always be worried about what you did. You won't be very good at making executive decisions if you don't know which decision is right or wrong. If you have a probationary period, at least if the person doesn't work out, you can get rid of them based on your state's laws without having any residual effect of them suing you or saying, "Oh no, you didn't do what you promised me,"  or, "You discriminated against me." So make sure you understand your laws. And if you can, in your state, use a probationary period as a tool to make sure it's the right fit.

Next, it's essential that you train them. Some RV park owners just throw people into roles without even explaining what that role is. Okay, you're the RV park manager. Hope you do well. Wait, what do I do? You'll figure it out as you go. No, that isn't going to work. You need to train people, spend some time with them, showing them exactly what the job entails and how to do it properly. And don't assume anything. People always think oh, they know how to do that. No, they probably don't know how to do that. They need help. After you train them, and you have them in the role now comes the issue of supervising them.

Now supervising employees is very simple yet most people don't do it the right way. First, you have to let them know how they will be judged. You need to know the grading system. Can you imagine going to school and not knowing anything about what you were expected to do to get an A or an F? How confusing would that be? If the teacher everyday didn't give you the homework assignment but expected you just to guess it. If you just had to like guess all the answers or create your own exam it would be very, very tough. People like knowing when they are doing well and when they are doing poorly. It makes them comfortable because really all people like to do well. But you have to tell them exactly how they will be judged. And also as part of that, you've got to also explain to them what would get them fired because there's certain things people do that are terrible, and they can't be offset by doing a few good things.

So as you're explaining what the job is, let them know what you expect of them but also let them know what would be the ultimate fail. What they could do or what has been done in the past requiring immediately severing the business relationship, they need to know that too so they know how to watch out for those things. We do that in society, right? We have different penalties for different things people do. If you park in a parking spot with a meter, and you don't pay the meter, that fine you'll get left on your windshield wipers only what, $10. But if you park in a handicapped spot, it's about $250. What if you speed? Well, that might be $500. See, we're trying to condition people, by our response, to understand what is and is not permissible. Your employees also need to know this. They need to know what is the difference between doing a good job and doing a bad job, and also what will actually get them fired.

And be honest in your reviews, you're not really helping anyone out, when you just stay away from any form of confrontation, or any uncomfortable conversation. If they're not doing a good job, it doesn't have to be judgmental, you can just say, "Hey, I'm going to show you how to do this better. Because I know you really would like to do a better job. So I'm going to tell you what I really want you to do," as opposed to, "Gosh, you're doing a terrible job." When you give people that negative reinforcement, it just makes them do more poorly. It doesn't really solve anything. So you can be honest, and at the same time be helpful and positive.

But at the same time, don't get too friendly with your employees. That's always been the curse for many RV park owners is because they don't have that much staff, they start being too open. Now, it's a fine balance between having a good business relationship and developing a personal relationship. One helps your business, the other doesn't help at all. When you build a personal relationship with an employee, what happens is it normally hurts their performance. Because now they believe that you are more accepting of them not performing well. If you're their friend, they figure they can come in late and you won't fire them. They figure you can do all kinds of things that they shouldn't do, because they figured your friendship will make up for that. It's just never been good business.

So how do you keep things on a friendly level, yet not too friendly? Well just focus on the business don't really engage in personal conversation. That's a good way. I don't call them after hours. When they're at work, they're at work or when they're not, they're not unless there's an emergency. Often what happens is the RV park owner is hoping that they'll get a better performance by making that person their personal friend. It rarely works that way. I've only seen when you develop that kind of friendship thing things get worse than better. Typically, it does not foster in the employee the desire to do a great job to excel, it just makes them want to go ahead and take advantage.

And that leads to the final item. If you're going to simply manage your managers, you have to understand one of the greatest maxim's I was ever told in the industry. And that is that it's easier to change people than to change people. You have to think about that one for a minute, because initially doesn't make a lot of sense. But what it really means is it's a whole lot easier just to get another employee than to retrain the one you have. There are big businesses across America, places like IBM and General Motors, and they have the capabilities through giant HR departments to actually retrain those who are not performing as they hoped. But the problem is that's not you. You don't have a big HR department. And if you have one weak link in your chain, it will easily be broken in half. You don't have the luxury of having somebody who's not up to their full performance on your team. Your team's just not big enough. So when things aren't working out, do something and do it swiftly.

Stanley Marcus, the founder of Neiman Marcus once said, "Take your markdowns on people and merchandise as quickly as possible." And it's as true today as it was back in the 1950s when he said it. If someone's not working out, you are not benefiting yourself in any possible way by pressing on doing the same thing that isn't working. It's time for a change, a change for the better, a change to make your RV park a more successful place, a change and make something that is not working properly suddenly do much better. But don't hold back. There's nothing more painful than talking to an RV park owner, who's got a bad manager who is still clinging on to them a year or two later. That isn't the right strategy.

All of us, because we're all good natured, hate the confrontation of letting someone go. But at the same time, you're really not being fair to yourself, to your family, to your partners, or even really that person. If someone's in the wrong role, it's time for them to find a new role that they can succeed at in time for you to find someone new and repeat the cycle all over again. This is Frank Rolfe, the RV Park Mastery Podcast. Hope you enjoyed this. Talk to you again soon.