Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Staffing a Paintball Field

We have a lot of staff that work at TNT Paintball. Other than my business partner and myself, none of them work at TNT full time. Over time, we’ve had some that have worked close to full time hours, but most work on a very casual basis, basically working a day here and there, mostly to support their own paintball habit. We have a few refs that work at a regular schedule (i.e. every Saturday).

Most of our staff is drawn from our regular customers. This works well for the most part, as they already know, for the most part, how we operate our business. We usually have a pretty good idea what their character is like from watching them play and how they act in the Staging Area between games. We still need to make sure, they understand our general philosophy.

A little while ago, one of our staff that began his playing days at TNT (like many of them have), graduated” to tournament paintball. This is not uncommon, and in general I don’t have a problem with them working at our field and playing tournament ball somewhere else when they are not working for us. But we have to be careful. Sometimes, these staff members start to adopt some of the philosophies they pick up at other fields they hang out at and bring them back to our field.

This was the case with this particular staff member. A little TNT philosophy lesson may be in order here, before I go on. When signing customers up upon arrival, they often ask how many paintballs they will need. I usually tell them that our average customers shoots a little over 500 paintballs if they stay all day, but the exact number varies from player to player a little. Most choose to buy 500 paintballs and then they might come back later in the day to get another 100 or 200. Sometimes a couple of guys will split another 500 between themselves. This has worked pretty well for us and seems to be a good amount for people to have fun, without “starving” themselves of paintballs.

The staff member in question though, started pushing higher paintballs sales. He would say things like, “The average customer uses 500 to 700 paintballs but if you really want to have a good time, you might want to get 1,000. That way you won’t have to worry about running out.”

I took him aside and asked him why he was doing this? He replied that he was trying to increase sales and make us more money. The problem here is that this particular staff member was using his experiences and his new found love for shooting high volumes of paintballs, and letting it affect how he operated when working at TNT Paintball.

I had to explain in great detail our philosophy of having players shoot an average somewhere between 500 and 700 paintballs per day. I explained to him that I didn’t want that average to increase to 1,000 paintballs per day, even if it meant that we were making more money from each individual customer. It took him a while to understand what I was trying to get across to him. He was shooting well over 1,000 paintballs per day at his new found speedball hobby and I guess assumed, because he was having fun shooting lots of paintball, that everyone would automatically have more fun as well shooting more paintballs.

My point here is that if you have staff, in any business, you need to make sure they understand your general philosophy. You may have a general mission statement that your staff is aware of, but they need guidance to make sure that general mission is actually achieved, the way you, as the owner/manager envisions it. There are far too many businesses, and many paintball fields are very guilty of this, that let their staff run their businesses the way they (the staff) want to run them. A business owner can’t let this happen.

Hiring and managing staff, is probably the single most important (and difficult) part of running a business. A business’ staff needs to be an extension of the owner/manager’s vision. If it’s not, the business is being pulled in different directions. Businesses need to have a consistent direction they are moving in and everyone involved in the business has to be made aware of what that direction is and what they need to do, to make sure it stays on course.

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