Monday, October 29, 2012

Staffing a Paintball Field

Of all the jobs involved with running a paintball field, staffing and dealing with employees is probably the most difficult, in my opinion.  The number of staff we need at our field varies greatly.  For instance, if my business partner and myself are both present at the field when open for business and we only have a small group of players (which happens often on weekdays with small private bookings), we only need one extra staff member.  On the other hand if we have several games going on simultaneously with 150 or more players present at the field, we might need 12 or even more staff.

Therefore we need a sizable list of part time, on call employees to draw from.  We can’t promise these employees a lot of work, because there often is not a lot of work available for them.  Yet on occasion we do need them, desperately.  Luckily by offering discounts to employees, we have quite a few regular players that are willing to put in a shift now and then.

Like any business, we see a wide range of employees.  Some are great, others, not so much.  Those that don’t do so well, get called back very infrequently, or not at all.  Those that do really well, get called often.  It’s only natural.

One of our competitors advertises that they use only adult refs.  It’s an obvious dig at us, as we have both adult and teenage staff members.  And I’ve seen many a forum discussion over the years about how “kids” shouldn’t be allowed to ref.  Kids can’t handle altercations that take place at paintball fields and can’t stand up for themselves, is the main argument.  It’s a fair statement, IF those things are commonplace at those fields.  But they aren’t at our field.  The intensity level is low enough that altercations are rare.  We also have adult or senior refs on duty every day that could step in if necessary.

Could we have only adult staff?  Yeah probably, but the overall quality of the staff would slip seriously.  Why?  To get 12 or more refs for busy days, we need an extensive call list.  We usually have about 40 or so names on the list to draw from, but sometimes, that’s not enough, especially in the summertime, which also happens to be our busiest time.  Most competent, responsible adults have other full time employment as well as having other adult responsibilities.  Imagine trying to have 40 or more responsible adults on call to put in a shift at a paintball field every once in a while.  It would be nearly impossible.  Sure, you could probably find 40 irresponsible adults that might be willing to show up now and then, but who wants them?

On the other hand, the younger teenage staff we have to draw from is quite extensive.  They are also eager, at least many of them.  For many it’s their first job and coupled with discounts on playing the game they love, they usually try quite hard.  They are often in better physical shape, meaning they can run to paintchecks much quicker.

Some of our younger refs over the years have stayed with us to become adult refs, but most move on to bigger and better things, which is what I expect them to do.  If they are good, eager teenage employees, then chances are they are going to become responsible energetic adults.  They aren’t going to stick around working at a paintball field when there is so much more out there waiting for them.

Therefore, when a paintball field advertises that they have only adult employees, then my radar goes on alert and I wonder how good the overall staffing is.  Unless the field has very little business and needs very few refs, my intuition tells me that some of those “adult” refs may not necessarily be stellar employees.  By not discriminating by age, we have the ability to attract and keep more good staff.  That’s the way I see it anyway.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Bucking the Trends

I was reminiscing today at the field about the good old days of being a teenager.  We were talking about the parties we went to.  They were usually house parties with a lot of attendees where everyone gathered to get drunk.  The music was usually blaring so loud; you couldn’t have a conversation with the person beside you.  Every once in a while someone would put their thumb up and say something along the lines of, “Isn’t this great?”  Of course I would agree, because to disagree would make you an outsider.  People would think you were weird.  Looking back at my youth, those times were not very memorable.  I can honestly say that i didn’t actually enjoy those big, loud parties and I have a feeling most of the other people, if they were truly honest with themselves, didn’t get a lot out of them either.  But it was the thing to do and if you wanted to fit in, you attended.

That’s sort of the way I feel about big scenario paintball games.  I hear people who go to these games and they come back and say stuff like, “It was just insane.  There were so many people there and there was so much paint flying, it was crazy”.  And I believe them.  But was it fun?  I’ve been to big games and it was OK, but I have to say that for the most part, I found it quite frustrating and less fun than the average day of paintball at the local field.  With the number of people on the field there was much less chance for movement.  Being the type of player that likes to be at the front lines and get as close to my opponent as possible, I got shot by my own team in the back more than by the other team.  When I did hit players (with a pump, I only hit them once), more often than not they didn’t call themselves out.  There were never enough refs to make sure people followed the rules.  In general, I just didn’t enjoy it that much.  And I’m quite perplexed that others do.  But apparently they do, because they keep going back.  I’m just not sure why.  Is it just because it’s a big paintball event and they want to be able to say they took part in the insanity?

As I’m getting older, I’m feeling quite comfortable in my skin and I really don’t care a lot about what others think.  I like to make up my own mind about things and I try to form my own opinion, based on how I feel rather than how I am expected to feel or react.  Maybe I’m just not cool anymore. Maybe.  But I just don’t care.