There Ain’t No Cavalry


When I was growing up, two out of every three TV programs were cowboy shows.  Always, someone was in distress or being attacked and the cavalry would somehow make it to them just in time, saving the fort or the family.  It was magic; it was TV; it was not reality.

Much of my time spent consulting either in person, on the phone, or through emails is spent listening to a director of a small, struggling camp.  His back is to the wall; the camp is run down, there is a lack of business, and he is new and green and was told he was the one to try to turn things around and get the camp back to its glory years.  He is looking for cavalry-type of help; I try to explain that I can’t be your cavalry; he must saddle up and do the rescuing on his own; there will be no last minute rescue by the troops.

Those are hard word to swallow.  His next question will always be, “Where do I begin?”  In nearly every case, my answer will be the same, “Start small and win quickly.”  Let me explain.

  1.  I hear these words often, “If only we could raise $100,000.00, we could really renovate our buildings.”  I smile and ask, “How many $100,000.00 campaigns has the camp had over the last ten years?”  Too big of goals usually leaves everyone disappointed.   Start small.  Raise $5000.00 and renovate the chapel walls, lights and flooring.
  2. Pablo Picasso said “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”  Or as Herb Kelleher of Southwest Airlines said even more pointedly, “We have a strategic plan, it is called doing things.”  Too much time is spent talking and too little time doing creates an atmosphere and culture of waiting for the cavalry to arrive.  Stop waiting for some big swoosh of action that eliminates the problem areas around your camp.  Attack the highest traffic building at the camp and start throwing, tossing, burning or selling.  Clean out the junk and find a paint can and a brush.  When something is ugly, put some make-up on it.  If something is broken, fix it or throw it out.   You don’t need to be an engineer or a construction type of guy to get started.  My family and I have renovated over 15 houses throughout the years to rent or to flip; in every case we are looking to make the most impact with the fewest amounts of dollars as possible.  Paint and new flooring wins every time.
  3. If you don’t know how to do some repair or remodeling work- YouTube it!  Our staff has taken their laptop to the work site so they can get detailed instructions on how to do almost everything. Want to learn how to lay ceramic tile- YouTube it. Want to make cement counter tops- then YouTube it. Don’t let ignorance keep you from tackling something.  Practice on the back of the building before you start on the entry way!
  4. Toot your own horn.  When you have cleaned up something, renovated something, re-imagined something, go ahead and tell your donors.  “We have done this last month, and we want to do this next month.”  Always talk up what you have done, but talk up what you want to do.  Results bring more results.    Action brings more action.

As the leader, you are the cavalry.  You dream, you imagine, you direct, you raise the money.  Stay committed to the project until it is done.  Don’t pass it off to another staff member.  You created the vision; you must be the one who drives the project to done.  And even before the paint is dry, have another project in your pocket ready to start promoting and raising money towards.

Sound the bugle… the cavalry IS coming!  Get out in front and lead!

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