20 Best RV Park Business Practices-Recap of Panel Session 2010

By Jeffrey CriderConvention logo

One of the seminars that took place at the 2010 ReV up in Reno convention focused on the “20 best business practices” in marketing, finance, operations and management.

Randall Hendrickson, president and founder of Phoenix, Ariz.-based Horizon RV Resorts, a campground and RV park management firm that manages 2,300 RV and park model sites and motel units in seven states, shared several kernels of wisdom on the marketing front. Among them:

  • Develop a marketing calendar. Know when your advertising renewals are coming up and be prepared to make changes to your listings to make sure they are as up to date as possible. Also be sure to schedule updates to your website as well as your listings on GoCampingAmerica.com and every other website you do business with. “If you have inaccurate or out of date information (on your website or in other forms of advertising), you’re really shooting yourself in the foot.”
  • If you’re cutting back your spending on print advertising, don’t pocket the money. Instead, spend it on increased online advertising to promote your park.
  • Consider using ReachLocal.com to maximize your “pay per click” online search term advertising.
  • Make sure you are utilizing and participating in all of the public relations and marketing services that are available to you through your state and national campground association memberships.
  • Conduct an analysis of your website traffic to determine where your website visitors are coming from.
  • Use the GuestRated survey program. “I don’t know what we would do without it,” Hendrickson said, adding that the data collected is “beyond imaginable.”
  • Regularly monitor RVParkReviews.com, a website where campers post comments about their experiences at campgrounds and RV parks. “You have to be informed about what others are saying about you,” Hendrickson said, adding that it’s also helpful to “Google yourself,” pairing “your park’s name” and the word “review” as search terms.
  • Keep in mind there’s a difference between “transactional hospitality” and “experiential hospitality.” That means having front desk staff members who are friendly, professional and helpful to your guests, both in person and on the phone. “If you fail to deliver at the front desk, you have failed miserably,” he said.

John Croce, managing member of Huntington Beach, Calif.-based Team RV Management LLC, whose properties include Yosemite Pines RV Resort & Family Lodging in Groveland, Calif., offered several financial management tips, based on his 40 years of experience managing real estate, including RV and mobile home parks:

  • Develop an accurate financial statement using established accounting systems. You need to know exactly where you stand financially so you know what you can afford to do. You also will need to provide accurate financial data if you need to refinance or sell the property.
  • Don’t hide income because it will cost you down the road. “Your net operating income is how banks and buyers look at your park,” Croce said. “The higher the NOI, the more you can get in refinancing or to sell the property,” Croce said, adding that no one really cares how much money you put into the park or what you paid for it. It’s the park’s ability to produce revenue that counts.
  • Find a good CPA and a good attorney. Croce said that financial and legal counsel can advise you on more issues than taxes and business problems. They can also help advise with business opportunities as they come up and also provide other counsel to help you make the most of your business.

James Urquhart, CEO of Petaluma, Calif.-based Campground Management Group, offered his advice on ways park owners can improve their operations. His recommendations include the following:

  • Check out ChaosOver.com. It’s a training program that will help you improve your organizational skills and efficiency, and give you some breathing room.
  • Use a computerized reservation system: Urquhart said a web-based systems that enable you to process real-time reservations are best so that guests can make reservations at their leisure.
  • Make sure your Internet service provide (ISP) can support your Web-based reservation system.
  • Develop a standard operating procedures manual for your park by department and by job function.
  • Develop a calendar or timetable for the completion of all park tasks.

David Gorin, a former president and CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), longtime campground industry consultant and founder of Best Parks in America network, offered these tips on campground and RV park management:

  • Manage by walking around your park every day. “Leave the desk and see first hand what’s going on,” Gorin said.
  • Set measurable objectives and inspect what you expect. How many times does the phone ring before someone picks it up? How often do the restrooms get checked? How long does trash sit outside people’s rigs before it gets picked up? How long does a tear in a screen door remain as is before it gets repaired? How often is touch up painting done? Do you have a system for reporting scratches in paint and other repairs that need to be addressed? These are just some of many issues that should be addressed.
  • Provide your staff with all of the tools they need to do their jobs
  • Honestly evaluate your employees’ compensation. Are you paying them enough?
  • Stick to your strengths and use outside resources for projects or services, such as tree trimming and Wi-Fi, which often require specialized expertise.
  • Consider direct mail for outreach. Lists can be good and very effective, he said.
  • Consider some of the things you could do to be a good corporate citizen.