RV Park Mastery: Episode 25

The Dangers of Bad Employees

In a modern America there is nothing more dangerous from a liability perspective than having employees. While they can create value, they can also be a toxic danger to your business. In this RV Park Mastery podcast we’re going to discuss the perils of having bad employees and the damage they can do to your business, as well as strategies to mitigate this risk.

Episode 25: The Dangers of Bad Employees Transcript

America was built by hard work. Some of those individuals owned the business, some of them worked for the person that owned the business, but today in America there's often more danger in employees than there is benefit particularly with employees who are not good at their job. They can actually damage and destroy your RV park. This is Frank Rolfe, the RV Park Mastery Podcast. We're going to be talking about the dangers of bad employees.

Let's first start off by a definition of what a bad employee would be. It would be somebody who rather than pushing your business forward actually pulls it down. When you buy your RV park there's certain metrics that you buy and that is your goal. Just like the GPS on your car, that's where you're trying to get to. A certain rate of return, for example. However, the bad employee stops you from hitting your target. Rather than being part of the solution, they become part of the problem.

Now how do they do that? It could be done based on an attitude. They just have a bad attitude. They don't like people; maybe they just don't like you. It's reflected in the way they answer the phone, the way that they interface with customers, their goals. Everything is poisoned by the simple fact that they just have this prolonged bad concept of doing business, and it totally reflects badly then on you because as a result they hurt your customers relationship to you. They hurt their perception of the business and how they were treated, so the bad attitude can be horribly, horribly toxic.

Then you have the employee that prefers to embezzle perhaps. So what they'll do is they'll seemingly have a good attitude but the problem is the money that's imparted to them in that nightly rent or weekly rent, well that simply goes in the employees pocket and you, as the RV park owner, never actually know that the money was there because they have quietly stuck it into their account and not into yours.

Some employees come at you from a different perspective. They simply want to sue you. They want to get in the door, they want you to hire them, get in the door, and then they will fake injury or fake some other claim against you, and then correspondingly file suit. So any way you cut it, there's many different ways an employee can go bad. And as a result, you have to be very, very careful at all times to make sure that employee is pushing your business forward and benefiting you rather than harming you.

What can you do, then, to try and mitigate the risk of the bad employee? If we know that they can be so harmful, so detrimental, so absolutely decisively horrible to the way your bus turns out, what can you do to minimize that effect? How can you help insure that everyone you hire will be there for good reasons and not bad? The first one is simply in hiring. You've got to make sure you hire the right people. If you ask us what is the most important attribute an employee would have, I would say there's basically two. Number one, good people skills. What do I mean by good people skills? I mean someone who not only likes people but they're able to help solve complicated issues with customers, help make the customer always feel like they have been respected, that they have been honored. They're just good with people. It has nothing to do with book learning. There are people out there with great people skills who may have not graduated from high school, but I've never seen an RV park employee who succeeded in helping that business who did not have good people skills. You just have to have it.

The second item is just being responsible. A good employee at an RV park has to understand the basic necessity of opening the doors at the right hour, closing them at the right hour, all the basic things we all take for granted as being a part of business, yet the bad employee doesn't follow any of those rules or mandates. So all the time when we're looking at a good manager, we're looking for somebody who understands how business works. Someone who is just a responsible person.

If you read the book Dave's Way which is the story of Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendy's, you'll see that he harps often on the fact that a good manager is able to ride the wave. Which ride the wave in the fast food industry means you prepare for the lunch crowd, because lunch is where Wendy's does approximately 80% of all revenue. So the good manager as lunch approaches starts getting those hamburgers on the grill, makes sure that they have all the associated items like the buns and the pickles and the ketchup and the mustard, and everything all ready to go. Because they know that when that rush comes for lunch if they are not able to meet the demands of that rush they won't hit the revenue target and those customers may in fact never even come back. If you really think about what makes an employee able to ride the wave, it just always ties back to responsibility. Did they remember to show there on time? Did they go ahead and make sure they had the right employees in the right positions? Did they have all the right parts? So if you have people skills and an inherent sense of responsibility then you typically will be okay.

So when you're hiring, you have to make sure that those people have those qualities. Look at their resume. Talk to them. Ask yourself is this someone that I think has good people skills? If I was a customer is this someone I would want to be around? Just see if they feel to you like they're inherently responsible. If the answer is yes in both those categories, then that employee might just work out fine. However, many times the RV park owner gets lazy and selects someone who doesn't have those basic attributes. They know that there's something weird about the potential employee. They don't feel good in the interview. They feel like they're kind of odd, unable to speak with yourself or anyone at the interview in a normal manner. Yet they say well I've really got to hire someone, don't really want to look at a whole bunch more candidates, this person is not ideal I think they'll do. Those can be very fatal words to your business. You've got to make sure that you do good hiring.

Number two, you need to make sure that you do good training. Nobody knows how to manage or even what their function is at an RV park unless you show them. So you've got to actively engage them in the continual conversation of what their job is and how to improve it. Don't assume anyone understands anything to do with an RV park. There's no RV park class in high school or in college. So you've got to make sure that you're not only hiring the right people, but that you're training them appropriately. Training can be really boring. It can be really un-fun, but at the same time since the employee is so very important I think it's worth your while to put a little more effort into training them. Many RV park owners put less time in training their employees than they do for example watching a single football game. If you can bear to watch a football game for three hours you can certainly put three hours of training into your employee to make them better.

Number three, you've got to make sure that you manage them appropriately. The employees need tough love. They often need negative reinforcement to show them what they're doing wrong, and then positive reinforcement to show them what they're doing correctly. So if your employee is not getting the job done as you want it, tell them that. Don't hide from that; be honest with them. Say look, when I hired you this is what I needed you to do and you're not doing it, so here's how I think we can get this train back on the tracks and make it happen. So don't hold back. Don't be shy for letting people know when you're not happy. Letting them know you're displeased is going to be beneficial to you because as a result they will do a better job and they will do more of what you need. But if you hide from that fact, if you simply don't want to have the confrontation of you and the employee in a negative manner, you'll suffer from it. Because they will assume whatever they're doing is perfectly fine with you. Or sometimes they'll say, "Well, this owner, he's kind of weak. He doesn't really seem to push me on anything, so since he doesn't care I guess I'll get away with murder even more so."

Finally, you have to be willing to pull the trigger on the employee who is not working out. There's an old saying it's easier to change people than to change people. What does that mean? It means if someone is not working out, rather than trying to change their behavior which took them their entire life to develop, just go ahead and go on to the next candidate. That doesn't mean you can simply wake up one day and decide to fire the employee that's not working out. In almost every state there's a labor law methodology of what you need to do. Often, you need to write them up for not getting the job done. Give them certain amounts of time to correct their behavior. There may even be follow up warnings required. So follow the law. Make sure you're doing it correctly. But once you know what that law is, don't shy away from actually taking bold action because every day, every week, every month that goes on with that bad employee on your books, you're harming not just yourself and your own attitude but you're harming all your customers.

The problem with today's world with RV parks is those customers have so much more power than they did in the old days just through social media and social media reviews. They can really, really harm your business if they start giving very negative posts about your RV park and what the quality of life is while they're there. So for the sake of your business, for the sake of your investment you have to be willing to take action. When you spot that bad employee, then note it's a bad employee and that you have to get them out of your business.

Now if you think you can redeem them, if you think it is possible by all means go ahead. I am in no way saying that's not a good course of action. But when clearly it's not going to work out, don't hold onto them for years simply hoping and praying that at some point they will change the errors of their ways because they never do. By the time that does occur, your revenue might be down 50% because even though you did everything else right in your investment you did one terrible thing and that was you hired and retained an employee that was never going to work out.

So again, employees can be a very positive force in any RV park. They can push you to new levels. They can help you hit all your targets. But they can also do terrible things to your business. Make sure that you hire them, you train them, and you manage them effectively. When all else fails, you need to be able to go in and replace them with an employee that actually can help your business to hit its goals. This is Frank Rolfe, the RV Park Mastery Podcast. Hope you enjoyed this. Talk to you again soon.