The Reason for Business

Volume 4 Letter 7

In 1988 Paul Newman and a few friends created a place for kids called the “Hole in the Wall Gang Camp”. The camp is for special needs kids who because of their illness have a lot more to deal with than any kid should. The camp now serves over a 1000 kids each summer between the ages of 7 and 15 – they all attend free of charge [1].

Like any awesome summer camp the days are packed with fun activities. There is a wheel chair accessible tree house, a 30 foot tall climbing tower and a low ropes adventure course.

The Hole in the Wall gang deals with children who have afflictions such as HIV/Aids, Hemophilia and cancer. OK Corral ranch hands – the on site doctors and nurses who staff the infirmary (known as the OK Corral) take care of all the medicines, chemotherapy, G-Tube feedings etc. during the each camper’s stay. However, one of the most magical aspects of the camp is that it doesn’t feel like a place for sick kids. Even the OK Corral is decorated like an old saloon and the doctors and nurses dance in the dining hall in the evening along with everyone else.

For every camper there is one councilor and, in a testimony to the effect the camp has had, twenty percent of the camp counselors are former campers. Campers spend six to eight days at the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp but through the internet stay in touch with their new buddies all year long.

Like any camp there are fish stories, boat stories, stories of fears overcome and challenges met. This is a story about challenges met and fears overcome by people who had first the dream, then the vision, the plan and were able to execute the whole thing. Like any business I’m sure the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp has had to make tough strategic choices but they have a vision – “to serve children and families coping with cancer and other life threatening illnesses” and they do it very well.

Each of the companies that we work for was started by someone or a group of people who had a dream – a vision to serve others. This service is either done for payment either in money or as volunteers know, a feeling of doing something great for someone else – or some combination of the two. Developing a vision and then objectives to measure the progress made toward accomplishing that vision are important and often overlooked elements of a strategic plan.

A good strategic plan starts with a good analysis of the market and then states the vision and the objectives. A vision statement need not be wordy but it must state concisely what you and your team wish to accomplish. It sets the tone for the business for ‘there is nothing which builds moral more quickly and more completely than…the feeling that those in authority know their own minds'[2]. Include in the vision some noble elements beyond market share and profit – elements of service to employees, customers and others who can’t repay us but bring richness to our lives and our businesses.

The objectives are used to measure one’s progress in reaching the vision. Both long and short term objectives must be:

  • Tied directly into the vision.
  • Specific – they need to state exactly what is required at each step.
  • Measurable – milestones need to have measurable outcomes so one can plot the progress.
  • Actionable – objectives must be something that the team can control or at least strongly influence.
  • Realistic – the objectives must be something that can be accomplished.
  • Timely – say when the objective will be accomplished (while a vision may never be accomplished only achieved as in the example above).

Developing a strong vision and setting objectives can have a profound affect on a team’s performance. I also encourage you to take a page from Paul Newman’s book and add to your vision, elements of caring for others in our society. The Hole in the Wall Gang (and all the gangs like them) will make you honorary members. Have a great summer!

1. Hole in the Wall Gang Camps – for more info

2. “The Span of Control” Lionel Urwick. Harvard Business Review (May – June 1956) Original quote is “There is nothing which rots morale more quickly and more completely than…the feeling that those in authority do not know their own minds”

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