This past week I took my grandson Jacob on a “Pawpaw” trip. I have four grandchildren and I committed to do a one-on-one trip with each of them when they are about 12 years old. Jacob was my #3 trip. Grandson Hunter and I went to Chicago in 2010 and granddaughter Caitlyn to New York City in 2014. The Caitlyn trip was one-on-three since she was accompanied by her mom and Mimi, my wife.
Last week Jacob and I flew to Durango and we, over four days, experienced Mesa Verde, Soaring Tree Tops, Animus white-water rafting and a horseback trail ride. In planning each excursion, I deliberated about the economy and degree of enjoyment of self-guided vs. guided tours. My decision in each case was to opt for a guide. In a strictly business context I was the owner and Jacob was my customer. My mission was to maximize his fun. In that scenario, the guides and restaurant service personnel were my “employees”.
During the week there were three standout experiences worth noting where leadership was evident.
- We stayed at the Strater Hotel, originally built in 1887. There was a plaque outside Room 222 where Louis L’Amour stayed and wrote. Despite all the aura of history, it impressed me to meet Andrew Fotis, a hospitality consultant hired by hotel President Rod Barker to elevate the food service. Andrew knew the secret of food service: management presence!
- The Soaring Tree Tops Adventures excursion was an “all day” zip line operation. What was evident here was the owner’s attention to the hiring and training of the young people who managed our group of 27 that day. Each day a new group of tourists show up, many without prior experience, and those kids ( twenty-somethings-all ) made it fun for everyone. Their job is physically challenging woven in with a gift for gab and humor … despite the fact that the location is isolated in the Animas River canyon. Finally, you would never detect that there is an element of monotony in their work.
- Our “trail boss” on our horseback trip was Dean Mize of San Juan Sky Outfitters. Dean led us on a 3+ hour ride up from Elk Park, deep in the Weimenuche Wilderness Area up to the top of Molas Pass. Long story short, Dean clearly revealed his “job” was a labor of love. During his brief pre-ride orientation, he said “we’re it about 9,000 feet here and are going to land at about 11,000 feet. This is quite a ride, you can’t do this anywhere else in the world. So, if you find a better ride, let me know because I want to take it”.
Takeaways: the better prepared service and wait staff personnel are, the better the customer experience, bringing repeat business and an elevated gratuity in appreciation. Hiring-the-best criteria and selectivity gives those chosen a true sense of honor. Finally, employees who are clear about the leader’s purpose (in this case, fun) will be fulfilled by their ownership of results and meaningful work.