Recently (Ok it was last year… this post has been sitting in my draft folder for a while) I participated in the Canadian Camping Association’s #ThanksToCamp campaign, and I thanked camp for giving me the skills and courage to become an entrepreneur.
I wanted to expand on that a little bit here. Camp (and a few businesses courses) has given me pretty much all the tools needed to be a successful entrepreneur.
After scouring the internet (meaning I did a google search on ‘top skills for entrepreneurs’ and of the 71, 800, 000 results, I read the first 10… so this is clearly a VERY detailed ‘study’) to find the top qualities associated with entrepreneurship, I then added a few of my own.
These are in no specific order, they just happened to be the top 5 on my list. But I have a loooong list so you can expect more posts like this down the line.
Ok, here are the first 5 ways camp prepared me for entrepreneurship.
Not afraid of risk
At camp we encourage each other to step out of our comfort zones and take risks.
We learn how to evaluate risk (risk management is a FAVOURITE topic of a lot of camp directors!) and decide:
A. If it’s worth doing
B. How to prevent or mitigate the risk if we decide it’s worth doing
And THEN we create all kinds of plans for dealing with crisis situations if something does go off the rails.
Being an entrepreneur is innately risky – it may be a completely different kind of risk than a high ropes challenge course, (with well inspected equipment, professionally designed elements, and excellently trained staff. heh.) but it’s terrifying and thrilling all the same.
Entrepreneurs TOTALLY think they have the market cornered on *grinding* and *hustling* (I really dislike those terms by the way). But I’m here to argue that they’ve got NOTHIN’ on overnight camp professionals!!
Everyone from counsellors to directors knows that a ‘long day’ means anything over our regular 16 or 17 hour day. We wake up at 6 or 7, typically hit the ground running and work until about 11pm.
(I aimed for shutting the office down by 9pm – which would still be about a 14 hour day)
Sometimes those final hours are spent making the rounds saying goodnight to campers, dealing with a clogged toilet, comforting a homesick camper, or catching up on paperwork we didn’t get to that day. But one thing is for sure, the 12 or 13 hours I might end up putting in some days as an entrepreneur – without the added pressure of making sure dozens or hundreds of people are safe, happy, entertained, (and it’s worth saying again- safe), simply feels like a vacation!
Understand and accept failure
Failure is a part of growing. Camp people understand this and embrace it, at least in my camp world. I’ve never embraced the ‘everybody wins’ mentality – especially when it was at its peak in the mid 2000’s. I used to FIGHT it. I’m all for age appropriate activities, and non-competitive programming, but you better believe that if we’re playing capture the flag there’s a winning team.
Campers (and staff) discover that there’s always a lesson to be learned when they don’t win, or fail, as the case may be. So we lost this round of capture the flag, we’re not going to throw a tantrum. We’re going to congratulate the other team, regroup, debrief about where we went wrong, and figure out how we can win the next round. Maybe that team had faster runners, better communication, or had a better strategy for flag placement.
Maybe our team got overconfident or complacent, maybe we didn’t work well as a team… as long as we can see it as a learning opportunity – without blame, then I guess you can consider that a win (but we’re not giving out a trophy for it!)
As an entrepreneur, it’s SO important to be able to deal with failure. Even though we like to aim high and achieve big goals, we need to be able to manage our expectations too, and realize that not EVERY idea will be a success EVERY time.
The important thing is that we are gracious in defeat, regroup, debrief, and figure out how to improve for next time.
Calm in a crisis
Oh man. I feel like there’s sort of a spectrum of ‘crises’, and depending on how ‘high up the food chain’ you are, the bigger the crises gets.
For a camper, a crisis might be that they’re on an out-trip and a huge storm comes along, soaking all their clothes, and ensuring they can’t paddle back to camp until the winds die down.
So they’re cold, crying, scared, and grumpy. That is totally an understandable crisis for a 10-year-old.
For their counsellor, this isn’t that big a deal. They’ve been here before. They know how to keep a fire going in the rain, they’ve been in touch with the camp, they’re dressed for the weather, and their extra clothes are dry because they packed them properly.
So they lend some to the campers, keep them calm and use this experience as an opportunity to teach them some important survival skills so they won’t be so worried next time this happens.
While that counsellor deals with the wet, grumpy campers, some others start bickering and someone storms off into the woods.
Now the counsellor might feel like this is a real crisis. They have a bunch of campers shivering and crying, a fire that needs tending, an angry camper stomping around camp, and another storming off into the woods. The counsellor is also damp and kind of chilly.
They may experience that familiar feeling of rising panic, and quickly need to form a plan to de-escalate the situation.
A more experienced staff member would look at this and be able to prioritize, stay calm and quickly assign duties. Making sure everything gets done, and all of the campers are safe. They’d teach the other staff and campers how to manage this sort of situation through their example.
As a director, they’re in the middle of meeting a payroll deadline, keeping an eye on the weather when they get a call from the stranded out-trip group that a camper has run into the woods, the camp chef stops in the office to let them know that the freezer has stopped running, and the assistant camp director informs them that there’s a pretty big leak in the middle of the dining hall.
This would likely make a new director uncomfortable, worried, and more than a little stressed.
An experienced director would calmly deal with these situations, shrug, and thinks to themselves, “Well, at least there haven’t been any trips to emerge. It could always be worse”. Because they’ve been through worse. They know that most situations that feel like a crisis can be managed by staying calm and having a plan.
As an entrepreneur, there will be lots of crisis situations that will come up. The website will crash on a huge sale day, a customer will leave a scathing review publicly, there will be some sort government red tape at the last-minute before launch, etc. etc.
For me, knowing that no person is physically in danger, helps put EVERYTHING into perspective. Even though it’s a bummer, dealing with a website crash just seems SO manageable when you compare it to a trip to emerg.
Problem solving/ creative thinking (plan a-z)
I mean… I think it’s fair to say that few people are more creative than a camp team with a low-budget, a bunch of kids, and a week of rain!!
Give any camp person 5 minutes to brainstorm activities when the rainy day program has run its course and see what they come up with. (Post your lists in the comment section below, what a fun read that will be!)
Entrepreneurs need to be creative problem solvers. For sure. And if camp has taught me anything, it’s how to brainstorm 26 possible solutions for any problem.
They might not all be great solutions but at least I always know my options. And there are usually a few gems that come out of a quick brainstorming session.
I think that anyone who works in camping is a problem solver. We immediately start looking for solutions when we see a problem. Then take immediate action, and we teach this to our campers through our actions.
These are crucial traits for entrepreneurs.
Ok, so that’s it for now. I’ve got a huge list of these, so I’ll publish a new one every few weeks.
If I’m being honest, I think that working at camp can prepare you for pretty much any job. Any of these skills are transferable, whether you’re a bus driver, tax account, personal trainer, or *ahem* Prime Minister… 😉 all of these qualities can help you succeed.
Even though I’ve got my list, I’d love to hear from you! What qualities would you include?
Also, I’d love to hear your 5 minute rainy day brainstorm! Share your thoughts in the comment section below.