CASE STUDY

Carl Thomas worked for one of the big outdoor sporting goods stores for more than seven years.  Although he never completed his degree, Carl took some management courses at the local community college.  The knowledge he gained from his coursework along with his own tenacity enabled him to rise into entry-level management. Although Carl enjoyed his job, he couldn’t help wondering if there was more to life.  Carl always wanted to open his own business because he wanted to be his own boss and thought he might be able to earn a decent living.

Recently, retired from a career with the school system as a PE teacher and sports coach, Carl’s Uncle John was looking to fulfill his dream of having an outdoor adventure business.  He had inherited some property years back but had not done anything with the land to this point. When Uncle John learned that Carl was thinking along the same lines, he determined it was time to start a business.  The two decided to go into business together and brought in Carl’s younger brother, Joe, who was working part-time as an athletic trainer. The trio combined their savings and started hashing out a plan to use the five acres of land that Uncle John had inherited.

The concept was simple…to open a business where teenagers, young adults, and work teams from local businesses could enjoy hours of outdoor fun and entertainment.  There was limited sports and entertainment for the target audience so the family decided to open a themed outdoor paint ball park, which they called Outdoor Adventure Paintball Park.  Outdoor Adventure offers customers a choice of five battlefields, each offering a different level of play.

Each field provides a unique experience for hours of enjoyment.  There is the civil war field with a simulated headquarters and trenches; an old castle, which is made of multiple levels and a tower; the woods, which offers a true woodsy battle with placement of several man-made buildings for additional cover; the village, which is a large field with a wooded section running down one side, a two story building and bunkers in the middle, with a creek running down the other side; and the hill, which contains a wooded section and a number of bunkers on a steep incline. A small store is strategically placed in a location central to the fields to eliminate the need for guests to leave the playing area.

The costs to customers vary, with rental packages starting at $25 per person. Customers may also purchase a la carte based on their individual needs. Additionally, season passes are available for a cost of $150 and birthday party packages are available for $300.  The minimum age to participate in a paint ball event is 10 years.

In addition to the five battle fields, there are six air ball fields that are formatted for 3, 5 and 7-man tournament play.  Air ball fields offer a variety of layouts that are constantly changed to keep up with the latest craze in tournament play.  Many of the fields have dedicated fill stations to eliminate the need for players to leave the field to reload.

The facility also includes a shooting gallery designed to allow individuals to sharpen their shooting skills.  The gallery contains high velocity paint guns and a variety of still and moving targets.  Players may practice aiming, have shootouts or just blast away at targets for sheer enjoyment.

Carl manages the business and spends most of his time in his office with the door closed, Joe trains new employees and supervises paint ball events, and Uncle John has oversight of the shooting gallery. The business started with three employees but has grown quickly to a staff of 20.

The venture seemed like a good idea.  The family’s passion for sports and working with youth appeared to be paying off.  There are loyal repeat customers who purchase expensive equipment and supplies from Joe. These customers also enjoy attending extra training and information sessions. The tournaments have become popular and the local news has been covering the events.  Moreover, the business has a reputation for being a safe family friendly environment.

However, recently, Outdoor Adventure has been experiencing growing pains.  Scheduling is becoming more challenging as the activities on the field increase.  Staff is pulled from one area of the park to provide coverage in another.  Employees are starting to complain that they do not understand their job duties outside of the paint ball fields and feel they need additional training and procedures.  Additionally, a major event was missed due to double-booking.  A number of customers have expressed their displeasure with the service and, as a result, spending less time on the field.  Local businesses are not responding to special discounts for employee events.  There has been an increase in workplace mistakes but fortunately these have not resulted in serious accidents.  Customers and employees are starting to question the leadership and often ask, “How long can a business like this one last?” or “Who’s running the show?”

Carl has noticed a dip in sales and is now starting to feel they are losing control of the business.  While the two closest competitors are 30 – 45 miles away and do not offer nearly the same amenities, Carl understands that if they do not do something quickly, their customer base may decide travel to the competition.  Moreover, his passion for owning a sports-oriented business is waning.  He is concerned about the continued success of the business but the work no longer seems fun or interesting.

Uncle John, on the other hand, is not interested in discussing the books and does not see any need to worry.  He is not concerned about what he calls “a few random incidents” and sees the dip in sales as an indication that it would be a good idea to expand the offering.  In fact, he has been presented with the possibility of forming a paint ball competing team.  He feels this opportunity is too big to pass up and wants to convince the others that it’s a good time to pursue.

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