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Being a CEO as a Camp Counselor

For over a decade, I’ve spent my summers going to camp.  Describing it is near impossible but for 24 days I lived in a cabin with my best friends, had food fights, played some of the strangest games ever, and made memories and learned values that are simply not attainable in any other place.  What was less than an hour away from my house could have been on another planet.  As I got older, and the main camp became less exciting, we got on a bus for 34 days and drove all the way to the west coast from Michigan doing day hikes and back countries along the way.  The next year, with a newfound love for the outdoors, we drove to Alaska on one of the most impactful experiences of my life.  We only got mail twice that summer, but one of the times I received a confirmation for a patent application for BRUW, it was just the beginning.  I made cold brew for my entire trip, made them all drink it, and thought about the exciting future that lay ahead.

 

The next winter we launched on Kickstarter, and over time BRUW grew to where it is today.  There was only one problem.  With a full time job, continuing on the path of camp to become a staff member was getting more challenging.  BRUW was growing slowly and I decided that taking a summer off, or at least with less work, wouldn’t be the end of the world.  I went to be a counselor in training and my focus turned to the summer.  My attention turned from fulfillment and fundraising to making sure the canoe doesn't flip.  It was incredible.  My stress disappeared and it was replaced by my mind running wild with thought and new ideas that could solve some of my largest problems formed.  The detachment from responsibility and technology and the “outside world” didn’t impact me like I thought it would.  I expected to have growth slow down and sales decrease with the absence of a full time employee.  And immediate sales definitely did slow down, but the ideas and strategy which came to me during the time off has only catapulted BRUW forward in the long term.

 

That brings us to this summer.  Preceded by a year of being on TV shows, HSN, launching on large retailers, and streamlining our production, taking a summer off was not a possibility.  While new ideas and strategy and a detox from the daily workload is important, the need for someone managing operations day to day supersedes it.  My only option was to work two full time jobs.  

 

Working at camp is one of the best jobs on earth.  We get to give kids the experiences that we had growing up.  It’s incredibly difficult without a doubt, but so rewarding.  We’re with the kids from 8am until 10:30pm when we start our planning meetings to figure out what to do for them the next day.  That’s assuming someone doesn’t break a leg or get in a fight or become homesick, all of which we need to handle as if we had planned for it.  We need to blow these kids minds with programs non-stop and make sure that this summer is the best summer ever. The only problem is that it doesn’t give much time to run a business.

 

Before this summer, I was working on BRUW a solid 6-8 hours a day, not too bad but still significant.  We’ve kept up our growth patterns this summer and it’s demanding more and more from me which is awesome, but really hard.  Fourteen hour days are hard enough, but knocking a few more onto that to run a company is intense.  I’ve had to hire two people over the past two weeks to help keep up with our demand.  Due to the long days, business calls usually happen after midnight. Pro tip- if you want to make sure you hire someone responsive, cold call them at 1am and ask if they have a few minutes to talk.  It works great.  

 

Running a business at camp is definitely an experience.  I don’t have time for a full daily workload which is both terrifyingly stressful and weirdly relaxing.  Last summer I focused almost entirely on ideas, and during the year I focus almost entirely on operations, but this summer I’m somewhere in between.  The daily grind is ridiculously important but being able to talk to people without looking at a phone and just take in their ideas is too often overlooked. Camp enforces ideas like pushing your comfort zone and collaboration, traits that leaders of successful businesses need to have.  Just going to work every day and making sure a company grows is important, but taking the time to make sure you’re growing on the right path is critical to a venture, and a person’s, success and happiness.  

-Max Feber