Well it is Groundhog Day and that means the season is on the downward side, meaning that we begin to plan for next year. Many resorts have already begun the process while others are just talking. Maintenance capital request will be put on the table, discussed with healthy debate, priorities set and then the wait for funding, how the year ends. Also at this time serious new programs or physical assets are discussed, expansion of snowmaking, new/replacement of lift(s) or new buildings.
Have a couple of inputs on this subject and I’d say much of my learning has come from the mistakes I have made in this area. These inputs would apply at all levels companywide down to department.
1. Does the proposed project enhance the mission/vision of the whole – company then department? Certainly matters of safety – assume that would be part of anyone’s mission/vision – need to be prioritized.
2. Is there data available, accumulated and analyzed to support this project? Does the analysis bring you back to item 1?
3. The analysis should provide a financial performance that you can track. If you can’t measure it than you can’t manage it. This needs to be part of your budget process as well – more on that later.
There is no formulaic solution to allocating the available funds, of course if you have unlimited funds not an issue but we are talking about the ski industry. Team discussion will now have to take the information from the 3 items and make the best decision for which items make it to the final “GO’ list.
My last part of this is the investment in the people resource. Here is where many ski resorts/areas fall down. I’d say as an industry we have been successful at advancing technology and infrastructure forward to improve operations; however, there has not been the same level of investment put into the human resource side of the equation. This is understandable, it is easy to invest in hard assets, where measurable returns are more visible, than it is to invest in soft assets, people. Bringing the subject up will cause many to have the hair on the back of their neck stand up. Dealing with people is complex, can be emotional and require more time than seems available.
Couple of easy questions:
1. What is the single largest annual expense you incur?
2. How much do you invest in training companywide?
3. What % is the training spent of the total payroll?
4. How much do you spend on all maintenance at the ski area?
5. What % is the maintenance spent of total net book value of the assets you maintain?
6. Is there a reasonable comparison between the two percentages?
This doesn’t mean anything more than to give you a perspective on the value you place on training. Training certainly isn’t the only method of investing in your human resource. There is substantial data that shows that companies in all sectors of the economy that invest via various methods and programs in their people out perform those who may talk the talk but do business as usual and don’t pay special attention to their people.
Been to many ski area where the lack of training shows. I don’t buy the seasonal aspect of a majority of our workers, with the right program you can have happy lifties at no added cost. I encourage you to add to your capital list for the upcoming year training and development programs for your staff with a firm commitment to have this be the beginning towards a healthy and productive culture.