So I have caught the bug again. Another book idea has crept its way into my head and wont get out.

With Hacking Fear almost finally on Amazon I think it might be time to move on to my next work and it looks like Summer Camp MBA is it.

I bought the domain (nothing there yet) and I have drafted an intro chapter and want to share it with you. Below is the start of what I hope to be my second published book.

It takes a village:

Those of you that have not written a book may not realize it is a group effort. I need your help. I need your feedback, your ideas, your stories, your input. What do you like? What don't you like?

If you want to be part of the process please feel free to signup for the Summer Camp MBA mailing list.

So please enjoy the first chapter of summer camp MBA:

NOTE: Any thing with { } brackets around them need to be fact checked.


Summer Camp MBA - Chapter 1:

As I begin to write this opening paragraph I am staring out over a mountain range that surrounds {X} square miles of Camp where, for this week, around one thousand children and staff call home. {25} cabins each containing up to {40} campers are slowly waking up, brushing their teeth (I hope), and strolling down to breakfast. They will eventually make their way to the morning session of their chosen programs.

Behind me Junior Staff are starting to open one of the three gyms where hundreds of gymnasts, tumblers, cheerleaders, snowboarders, and parkour athletes will be working out today.

In front of me I can see half a dozen skate parks and bike tracks that will be ridden by skateboarders, scooter kids, BMXers and mountain bikers.

{Tens of thousands} of dollars worth of frozen pizza, ice cream, frappuccinos, slushies, cookies, and other various snack foods will be sold today.

Social media will be flooded with {thousands} of photos of smiling campers chasing their dreams of being a high level gymnast or landing that big skate trick. This in turn will drive traffic to the Camp’s website and boost enrollment in the upcoming weeks.

And this is all just today. Imagine an entire week of this? Imagine 12 entire weeks of this. Imagine the other various locations of this camp with several thousands more campers each week.

Now imagine what it takes to run this place at this location alone:

  • Feeding 3 square meals a day to just under a thousand staff and campers with big appetites because they spend their days working out or instructing.
  • Housing all those people each week.
  • Transporting staff and campers to and from camp from all over the country/world.
  • Dealing with all of the waste roughly one thousand individuals create, both garbage as well as keeping the toilets flushing smoothly.
  • Keeping one thousand people healthy; both from injuries incurred while training as well as from the sore tummies and asthma attacks.
  • Recruiting staff members and dealing with constant turn over; training new staff each week to operate this place.

Imagine what it takes to do all of this and more.

Forty some years ago the founders of this place bought a small farm in the middle of nowhere mountain country. They started off with just a dream. Since then they have managed to grow this place into one of the world's most popular summer camps and sprout up international franchise locations all over the world. This amazing, beautiful, and complex machine is a living, breathing masterpiece. It is truly amazing what a handful of people led by two brilliant visionaries built in the middle of nowhere; In a valley surrounded by farms, miles from the nearest traffic light.

This place is a great many things to a great many people. To some campers it is skateboard heaven. Parkour athletes may see it as the holy land of parkour. A lot of the gymnasts see it as their favorite week of the year. To some of the younger staff it is a great way to train and earn a hundred or so dollars a week (a hell of a lot better than flipping burgers). Other more serious career coaches see it as a way to learn from other more established coaches. To pretty much everyone, staff and camper, it is an amazing life changing experience.

To me it is all that and more. Though I love all of the simple enjoyments here:

  • Playing "Mat Tag" for warm up.
  • Enjoying a free ice cream while watching some kids butcher a song during karaoke
  • Having a s'more around a bonfire
  • A ride on the go-karts
  • Enjoying the company of my many friends that I have made from many various backgrounds
  • Hobnobbing with any one of the many Olympic gold medalists that attend camp
  • The excitement in the eyes of an athlete after I help them achieve a big skill
  • Sneaking in a hand balancing workout in between coaching sessions

But as a serial entrepreneur I can appreciate this amazing place for the side that most of the campers are completely unaware of: the business side. Camp is also a business. The reality is that in order to create all of those experiences, serve all of those meals, maintain all of those skate ramps and trampolines we need staff, materials, and facilities that all cost money. To make the money to do all of these things Camp has to be a business. It must have employees, do marketing, provide a service, and in the end turn a profit.

Chances are that the fact that Camp is an amazingly well designed and run business is exactly why you picked this book up. You too probably want to learn from the 40 plus years of lessons learned the hard way by the founders and people that run Camp. Here in this book are lessons I have attempted to put into writing for your benefit.

What you can learn from this book:

I find it fascinating how the lessons I have learned at Camp can be applied to such a wide variety of businesses, even in industries as different as my tech consulting business. In this book I go over many of the lessons I learned and applied to my own business. Lessons such as:

  • How camp sells a particular clothing item at {25} times markup from the wholesale cost of the product.
  • How they actually have campers paying to come and produce promotional content for camp.
  • How they manage to cut costs and scale down from around 200 staff to just {12} full time staff in the off-season.
  • How camp manages to run with an astounding {25-50%} staff turn over every week.
  • How to manage an ever changing staff of inexperienced and experienced people with extremely diverse backgrounds and skillsets

And many more lessons which I hope you can apply to your own life and business.

Who am I?

I am just a guy that has had the privilege and honor of being able to observe, to learn from and to implement many of the brilliant lessons this amazing place has to offer. Many business lessons, but also life lessons that have made my life all the better. In case you're curious how I have been so fortunate as to land in a position where I could soak up so much knowledge I will share a bit of my story with you.

In 2004 I was a wide eyed 19 year old who had just returned home to Wisconsin from a catastrophic summer semester of college in Arizona. I had started assistant coaching at the local YMCA again which had been my passion since I started coaching at the age of 17. The athletes in my charge were going to go to a sibling branch of Camp in my home state of Wisconsin where I was invited to be a "Visiting Coach" for the week.

I had never been a competitive gymnast and had never been to any branches of Camp. When I got there I immediately fell in love with it. The next few summers I spent every week I could at the Wisconsin branch of camp. Eventually around the age of 22 I fell victim to the fallacy that I needed to get a "real job" and stopped going to camp all summer each summer.

Luckily the "real job" phase didn't last long for me. I proceeded to start and crash a series of small tech businesses each time falling back to coaching gymnastics as my rock; each time growing tougher and more experienced. During this time the Wisconsin camp was closed and the land was sold to a large private investor.

The summer of 2013 one of the directors at the original, non-Wisconsin, camp location convinced me and one of my high level athletes to come out for two weeks at the beginning of summer. We did our two weeks and I immediately fell in love with camp all over again. The two weeks flew by and we headed home. The Monday morning after I got back I got a phone call from the tech consulting contract I was working explaining that the startup had fallen on hard financial times (go figure) and had to lay off all of the contractors.

So there I was with no job, no severance, no 2 week's notice or anything. Having been in far worse financial situations before, I didn't panic. Instead, having recently re-fallen in love with the camp life, I calmly called up the head gym director (who I will talk more about later) and asked if they needed staff for the rest of the summer. Luckily they said they would take me so I jumped on the bus camp charters to and from Chicago to camp each week and headed back to Camp. Between then and now I have called Camp my summer home and hope to continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

Why "Summer Camp MBA"?

Often times there are many paths to the same destination. Not everyone is cut out for academia; I sure was not. Some people learn best by getting their hands dirty. Theoretical concepts don't sink in as much as the sting of learning a hands-on lesson the hard way. Perhaps I was impatient when I dropped out of school to start my first tech startup instead of riding out my undergrad and then enrolling in another two or more years of school for my academic MBA. Perhaps I would not have run my first startup into the ground so catastrophically. But would I have even started my first tech startup starting my self down the path of failures that lead to successes in business and in life if I was not that impatient youth?

Academic Disclaimer:

What I am about to say is not meant to detract from the many great business schools out there. I have been fortunate to have been invited to speak to classes at the University of Wisconsin's business school and enjoyed it very much. But as I said it is just not for everyone.

Real World MBA:

So what do you do if you are not suited for academia but you still want to take your business learning to a higher level? You could do what one of my favorite authors Tim Ferriss did in his post How to Create Your Own Real-World MBA. The post sums up an experiment he did: Instead of paying the massive cost of going to school to get his MBA, which would have gotten him theoretical book knowledge, he took a sum of money equal to the cost of getting his MBA and started investing in real projects. He wrote off the money he allocated as if it was already lost, same as if he had spent it on the traditional MBA. This way he would not be afraid to risk it because, in his mind, it was already spent. After two years of investing in real world projects he learned a lot of harsh non-theoretical lessons and had accumulated real experience that he could apply to his investing career moving forward.

Academic MBA VS Summer Camp MBA:

I am not so foolish as to think that I could wallow away my summers in the utopia that is Camp for a decade and walk away with the same piece of paper Academic MBA students get. My "Summer Camp MBA" is completely different than an "Academic MBA". While Academic MBA students were reading books on accounting practices I was working registration and processing tens of thousands of dollars of cash into camper’s bank accounts; seeing the effect of upselling horseback riding to the families waiting in line would have on our bottom line. While they were listening to a lecture on economics I was watching one of the founders of camp tear down the welcome day setup and rebuild it the way he believed would be most effective.

I passed no written tests to get my Summer Camp MBA. I never received a report card. My grades were received in the form of paychecks, coach of the week awards, and thank you letters from the children. My office hours were held with camp directors by the burger grill while sitting on a skate ramp.

I never did any of those things that Academic MBA's do. In reality the only thing I did do (which is actually more similar to a doctoral candidate) is to write, for lack of a better term, my 'thesis' which you are reading now.

What did I do that makes my Summer Camp MBA valuable in the business world?

I observed those that had spent over 4 decades of their life running this massive, amazing, and odd business.
I helped run aspects of that business to get hands on experience.
I worked with actual customers, saw actual dollars exchanging hands.
I made mistakes that had real consequences that stung. When I fell down I picked myself up and did better the second time through.
I took the lessons I learned and applied them to my real world businesses.
Instead of just reading books on the topic I wrote one.

This book is my magnum opus. An informal final paper to share what I have learned over the years on business from Camp with the world. So without further adue I invite you to join me in learning and applying the lessons I learned while earning my Summer Camp MBA.

PS: Why I don't use Camp's real name:

You probably realized that Camp is not just called "Camp" it has a real name and a hell of a brand behind it. So you're probably wondering "Why I am not using that name?" The answer is because I have not yet asked those who run Camp's permission yet. One of the many lessons I have learned is to ask forgiveness, not permission. My plan is to write this early draft of Summer Camp MBA and show it to some key people. If the powers that be want to allow me to use their name, great. If not, I am perfectly fine publishing this book simply calling this amazing place just "Camp".

{end of chapter}


What do you think?

So that was it, what do you think? I would love to hear your feedback, positive and negative. What do you like about the idea? What don't you like? What would you like to see in the book? Do you have any insights you would like to share?

Follow along:

If you are interested please feel free to signup for theSummer Camp MBA mailing list. I am contemplating doing a kick starter for this project. If I can get $100 pre-sales perhaps I will take a couple of months off of consulting to work on the book full time.

Thank you!

Thank you all for sharing this amazing journey with me. I could not do it without your support.

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