What is your dream vacation? Is it world travel, exploring countries, people, and places you’ve only read about? Is it visiting our vibrant metropolitan cities, seeing great performances in great venues?
My “vacation” mindset comes from my non-profit executive career. I spent fifteen years taking kids to residence camps and travel camps. We traveled in school buses, vans, and – in the old days – cattle trucks.
Some of those kids had never been out of their own cities. We created teams to set up campsites, cook, serve, and clean up after each other. Many had never worked on an effective team before.
We challenged every camper to serve their families, friends, and neighbors in the years to come.
We awoke in some of the most beautiful places in the country – national parks, pristine beaches, rustic plains. We were coaching character while learning about our nation. It was gratifying work. For these kids and even for our adult volunteers, our trips were fabulous vacations.
I thought I knew a lot about creating inspiring experiences, but nothing prepared me for our family vacation in 1980 at the Lost Valley Ranch in Deckers, CO.
My dad called my brother and me to propose a family reunion at this dude ranch. Some of his business colleagues had raved about Lost Valley, so dad thought it’d be a great experience for everyone. The trip was mom and dad’s gift to us – and it’s a gift that continues today.
From the moment we arrived on the ranch property, everything the staff team did was focused on creating a relaxing and fulfilling experience for every guest. There were organized activities as well as a multitude of selections to suit one’s unique needs.
First, you went to the corral. The wranglers interviewed you about your horse sense and riding experience, and paired you with a suitable equine companion. Adults could choose from a variety of rides each day, some less strenuous, some more adventurous, guided by gracious and skilled wranglers.
Teens loved their full program of riding and even some “working ranch” activities, like moving the cattle from one grazing range to another. Younger children enjoyed activities that kept them engaged and entertained through the day.
Meals were delicious and served family style. Families typically ate breakfast and dinner together while lunches were served on the trail with your ride groups.
Evening programs featured the staff presenting a classic melodrama show or sing-alongs by the campfire. Staff members juggled multiple responsibilities – wranglers served time as cooks, wait staff sang and played each night as well as helped with trail rides during the day. Maintenance crew served as pool lifeguards.
There was nothing out of place, from the western cabins to the organized corral to the schedule of activities one could pick from. Every staff member was pleasant and focused on your needs. No question went unanswered. Every interaction validated your unique needs and opportunities.
It was an amazing time. The Lost Valley culture created a seamless vacation experience for us and our fellow guests. Mom and Dad brought us back two more times, in ’82 and ’84. It caused my family to fall in love with Colorado. Daughter Karin (on the right at sixteen years of age in the photo above) chose to go to college in Colorado. She married a local. Son Andy moved to Colorado a few years later and married a local.
We still talk about the great times we had at Lost Valley. Today, our home in Conifer, CO, is only 24 miles from the ranch.
Your team’s interactions with customers leave lasting impressions, as well. Are they as powerfully positive as those we experienced at Lost Valley – or not so much? How might you build an aligned team that consistently WOW’s your customers?
Photo © S. Chris Edmonds Photography. All rights reserved.