Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Emotional Intelligence in the Rental Business

We had a fire in one of our rental units a few weeks ago.  We were fortunate.  No one was injured and the damages did not spread to the other half of the duplex.  Still, the unit was declared uninhabitable.  Of course, the fire was investigated.  It started in the kitchen.  In the end it was determined that the fire happened due to negligence on the part of the tenants.

The displaced tenants, a refugee family of six, found themselves homeless after the three day hotel stay covered by the Red Cross was up.  Their initial plan was to immediately find another place to live, which we agreed with.  We were surprised when they approached us a week later and asked if they would be allowed to move back in after the damage was repaired.  While Dad spoke with my husband through an interpreter, the two small daughters looked up at me with hopeful eyes.  My husband laid out the conditions upon which we would allow them to re-occupy the unit: a new lease, a new deposit, a rent increase, and payment in full for any damages their current deposit did not cover.  They agreed.  We put it in writing.
“This just doesn’t feel right,” he told me day before yesterday. 
He had been at the unit the past two days and was having a difficult time getting the tenants to get their belongings out of the unit so the disaster recovery team could do its work.   He continued.
“They are hoarders.  They’ve made no effort to clean up their belongings, and we can’t have their smoke-filled furniture back in the unit after it’s clean.  I’m just not comfortable with them moving back in.”
“But we told them they could.  We put it in writing.”  I argued
“And after we let them move back in, then what?” he countered.  “I’ll have to do inspections every month, and I’ll probably end up evicting them anyway.”
I argued with him for two days.  My emotional connection with this family had me hooked.  I wanted to help them.  I also felt a strong emotional need to not go back on my word.  This literally blinded me to the fact that allowing them back in would be a poor business decision.  When I finally recognized this, we both confessed to having made the decision to re-rent the unit to them based on emotion. 
This is so very easy to do.  We meet prospective tenants.  We see the wife gush about the glass top stove in the kitchen.  We see children fall in love with their new rooms in our apartment.   And when they don’t meet our qualifications, it’s really hard to turn them away.  But we have to do it anyway.
Thankfully, my husband is more emotionally intelligent than I am when it comes to our rental business.  He contacted the family yesterday and told them to find another place to live.  Yes, it was a difficult call to make.  Yes, they were disappointed.  And yes, it was the right business decision.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Have an Emotionally Intelligent Valentine's Day

Today is Valentine’s Day, and expectations are high all over the world.  The “holiday” of romance, fueled by the flower industry, the card industry, the chocolate industry, and the restaurant industry, promises once again to bring joy and delight to thousands.

And disappointment to thousands of others.  From the pre-pubescents hoping their crushes will put  valentines in their boxes, to the people in new relationships pining for a great display of enduring love, to the people in long standing relationships hoping that this year she/he will remember, romantics are hopeful for the wonderful validation of their worth that comes only through a spectacular remembrance of Valentine’s Day.  And it doesn’t happen.
This is where emotional intelligence comes in.  News flash – Valentine’s Day is a commercial holiday that has nothing to do with an individual’s self-worth.  However, disappointment can lead to a range of strong emotions:  sadness, fear, even anger.  I once got so angry at a boyfriend for not remembering me on Valentine’s Day that my emotional outburst scared him away completely. 

The skills of emotional intelligence can help.  Here’s one way of applying them to Valentine’s Day disappointment:
1.  Self-Awareness:  (The ability to accurately perceive your own emotions in the moment and to understand your own tendencies in different situations.)  Think about your own expectations and how you will feel if they are not met – and then look at the reality of those expectations.  Are they overstated?  Are you buying in to the commercialism?

2.  Self-Management:  (The ability to act – or not to act – on your own emotions.)  Can you put your disappointment aside?  If no, can you verbalize your disappointment without sadness, fear, or anger?
3. Social Awareness:  (The ability to accurately pick up on emotions of other people and to understand what is really going on with them.)  OK, some of us are pretty clueless when it comes to things romantic.  Can you perceive caring and concern in a relationship even when your significant other didn’t meet your expectations for a romantic Valentine’s Day?

4.  Relationship Management:  (The ability to use your awareness of your own emotions and those of others to manage interactions successfully.)  If being remembered on Valentine’s Day is important to you, communicate this to your significant other.  Have a discussion.  If she/he doesn’t value it as much as you do, take the initiative yourself.
Bottom line – you don’t have to allow the hype of Valentine’s Day to damage a relationship.  In fact, using your emotional intelligence skills and communicating may make the relationship stronger than ever.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

How to Get a Job as a Campground Host

This summer will mark our third working as campground hosts.  We've been asked many times, both by campers in our campgrounds and by friends (and friends of friends), “How do you get this job?”  Here’s how:

1.  Pick Your Area
Most National Forest campgrounds are managed by private concessionaires.  This is a win-win.  The concessionaires hire the staff and are allowed to make a profit.  In return a portion of the profits are allocated to the forest service for ongoing campground improvements.  This makes it so the forest service doesn't have to ask Congress to allocate funds for campground improvements. 

If you have a particular area you’re interested in; visit the campgrounds.  Even if they are closed there will usually be a placard on the entrance kiosk telling you who manages the campground and how to reach them.

2.  Contact the Concessionaire
Campground hosting jobs are, by nature, high turnover.  We’ve met a few couples who have managed the same campground for several years, but they seem to be the exception, not the rule.  The point is, the concessionaires are always looking for people to manage their campgrounds.  When you reach out to them, they will talk to you and answer all your questions.

They want to know where you want to work, and will do their best to match your request with a campground opening.  If there’s a particular campground you want, ask for it.  It may be available.

These are minimum wage jobs.  Some concessionaires pay minimum wage for a set number of hours depending on how busy the campground.  Others pay a salary which basically equates to minimum wage; you just don’t have to fill in a weekly time card.  The concessionaires submit bids to the National Forest Service for the annual contracts, and are expected to hold to their bids, so you’ll find them pretty strict about not going over your allotted hours.

State and National Parks have different rules, and some state and national parks camp hosts are volunteer positions. 

Yes, you do get days off.  Depending on how busy the campground is, you may just take your days off and let the fee tube system do its job – or you may have alternate hosts to cover for you. 

We've worked for two different concessionaires now and have been happy with both.  American Land and Leisure manages campgrounds throughout the U.S.  Their web site is  AuDI Campground Services manages campgrounds in Northeastern Idaho and Oregon.  Their web site is

3.  Get the Trailer Ready
Most campgrounds require the hosts to have a hard-sided trailer or motor home, and most campgrounds provide dedicated water and sewer to their hosts.   Some campgrounds provide electricity to their hosts, but most do not. 

We use a combination of generator and solar power when we’re “unplugged.”  We installed solar panels on the roof of our trailer to keep the batteries charged.  We also installed an inverter. An inverter takes battery power and converts it to the 120v power we’re used to plugging into. Quite literally, it’s DC-AC.  No, it won’t run a television or a microwave, but hey, you’re camping.  It’s OK to rough it a little bit!

4.  Have Fun
If you enjoy the out of doors and like people, campground hosting is an ideal way to spend a summer – or winter, depending on your location.  Here’s hoping camp hosting is a wonderful experience for you!