Values and culture. I know, I know…. Many of you have been inundated with books and seminars regarding the “new” way of doing business. There is a lot of discussion about the importance of building a safe and healthy culture, and here at the ranch we have been swept up in that discussion. I’d like to tell you that we have it all figured out and offer a “to-do” list that you can apply to your businesses, relationships, and your families. But, alas, once again, I find myself qualifying my musings as a dynamic set of operations born out of failure and surprise successes. This series is intended to explain our method, operation, and philosophies, and to offer a transparent look into what we think makes Vista Verde a special place — the staff.
We all know Millennials often get a bad rap. Each generation seems to take a beating while they are in the early stages of their existence, and I remember it well in my own generation. As a proud member of GenX, I was told that I was self-seeking, greedy, materialistic, and thought I had all the answers. As I look back, I think I was no different than every generation before and every generation since – I was sailing through the storm of adolescence. I am sure you remember it as well, and for most of us it wasn’t pretty. Trying to figure out who I was and what I wanted to do with my life demanded most of my available contemplative moments (if I even took the time), and my parents forked over a lot of money for me to drift through a college education without any solid answers. Sorry, Mother and Dad, and thank you!
The staff you meet here at the ranch are really no different. While you see the smiles and authentic gratitude they exude, they are often asking themselves the same questions. We, as leaders, have a unique opportunity to walk with them at a critical time in their lives. It is truly a privilege. To be able to share our successes and our mistakes is redemptive for a lot of us – our failure produces some fruit.
It begins with orientation. In a little less than two weeks, we train them to be competent and to pursue excellence in the tasks we hired them to accomplish. From servers to guides, there is a “Vista Verde Way” of doing things, and we dive down into the minutiae. There are many details to making the ranch run well, and our goal is to be excellent from opening day to close. While we spend entire sessions on basic hospitality, our first order of business is helping our new staff members understand why we exist and how we define success. I have been boring them with my talk about our mission statement and core values for years. Many former staff can probably recite my talks – not because they were so inspiring, but because they heard them so many times. But it is important that our staff know why we do what we do, and that we have a higher purpose than just making money and getting through the day. To that end, we dedicate another session to talking about community, what that means at VVR, and the need to be proactive in caring and loving each other before we can be the same with guests. We value authenticity around here, so it is important that we show the same respect, love, care, and selflessness with each other as we do with our beloved guests. If I am kind and respectful and giving only to the folks who pay me to be so, I am merely mercenary – someone who loves, serves, and cares for only folks who pay him to do so. No thanks. Life’s too short.
Truth be told, our staff are a major component of our mission. Yes – we want to provide you with a meaningful and life-giving experience here at the ranch, no doubt about it. But we also want to utilize the ranch to grow our staff into authentic leaders with a heart to serve others – to pay it forward. We want them to be excellent at their jobs here and in the future elsewhere. But, ultimately, we want them to be great sons and daughters, friends, neighbors, and, eventually, great spouses and parents and community leaders. Many of you have maintained relationships with our staff, and many of you have jumped in and invested in our staff over the years. You may have heard about the establishment of our “Elk River Kipper Scholarship” (named after a great mentor to our staff, Charlie Cammer), and I would encourage anyone to consider getting involved in helping staff to take the next step in their education.
Once again, thanks to all of you who have been so influential in passing on your wisdom and encouragement to our staff. As a member of the notorious GenX generation, I refuse to believe the dire Millennial stereotype. I would invite you to do the same.