That’s a bit of a mouthful isn’t it? What small businesses serve other small businesses that focus on serving the community? Camp Vendors, that’s who.
Often overlooked as services, rather than people, this small community serving summer camps is a special one. I should know, after all I am one of these services…one of these vendors.
I kind of cringe at that term, “vendor”…I’m no peddler of cheap carnival goods. I’m a legitimate business that offers necessary support to an industry I feel completely dedicated and indebted to. I think this small community of mine can be undervalued and misunderstood so here are a few tips to get the most out of your “camp vendors” in 2022.
- Mindset: Just like how a Camp Director’s ultimate mission is to serve the community while also being able to pay the electrical bill every month, so too is the Camp Vendor’s mission. Our bills may be slightly different but our mission remains the same, we aim to serve. We also understand tight budgets, timelines and the bureaucracy often in play when it comes to working with Vendors. Many of us have at one time or another been exactly where you right now (planning for an amazing summer on a shoestring budget). The best advice I can give here is to simply call your vendor, establish a relationship and talk through what options are possible. Just like a parent calling to make sure your camp is legit, safe and aligns with their values, so too should you be engaged in a dialogue with your vendors to make sure they’re legit, safe and align with your values. In my experience, the best outcomes happen when you have built mutual trust and respect through this kind of ongoing dialogue.
- Pricing: No Camp Director I know is in the business of camping to become a millionaire. They simply want to serve the community and make a reasonable living doing so. The same sentiment can be said of most Camp Vendors. We want to provide a high quality service to an industry we believe in, while making a reasonable living. We want camps to succeed so that kids can succeed. Yes we have bills to pay (just like you) but in my experience there is usually some level of negotiating possible when working with a Camp Vendor (be it a trainer, consultant or sales person). While we can’t work for free or even at cost (because we also need to be saving for retirement and supporting our families) what we can do is provide options to work within your budget. We can also be upfront about our costs, which is why you’ll always see a price listed with every training service I offer. Just like how every Camp Director salary should be listed with a job opening, so too should Vendor costs be public knowledge.
- Expectations: Lack of Communication is probably our number one pet peeve. So here are some good details for both parties to know and converse about regularly: pricing, timeline and contractual obligations. This will vary from vendor to vendor, for example working with a Fundraising Consultant (like The Sherry Group LLC) is going to be different than ordering this year’s staff shirts from a Sales Person (like David Correll). But no matter what, keep a clear line of communication open so that expectations can be shared, discussed and adjusted as needed.
- Feedback: Camp Vendors want to improve…just like camps. (Are you seeing a trend develop in this article yet about our similarities? I hope so.) Please let us know how we can best serve you again next year and we’ll be sure to do the same in return. It’s really disappointing to lose a client and not know why or how it could have been prevented. We want our businesses to grow and succeed. So please, be candid and detailed with any feedback you might have (even if it’s positive).
Pro Tip: Ask for vendor testimonials or referrals. Any reputable business should have past clients/customers who can vouch for them. Be weary of any vendor who cannot supply ample testimonials, references or referrals from fellow Camp Directors.
I hope that helps clear up a few things and gets you feeling inspired to work with your amazing Camp Supporters (sounds so much better than “vendor” right?!?). As always I’m here for you and want to chat about improving camp. -Drew