Originally Published: June 4, 2017 5:55 a.m.
Just as rivers and oceans ebb and flow, businesses grow, recede and then expand again. And, as we devise and plan dams, control waterways and build aqueducts, businesses require planning, creative thinking and help as they develop.
Tim and Tam Whitney started Rivers & Oceans, Inc. in 1987. Upon retiring, the business was sold to the owner’s good friend, Robby Pitagora, in 2014. Once Robby took over he began to incorporate a new vision for this adventure travel company. He hired Jennifer Outland for Marketing & Development and, along with Megan Prescott, operations manager, they began to chart a plan for growth.
“As we grew Rivers & Oceans from a team of three people to a team of 10 within a time frame of 18 months, we encountered many challenges and were quickly confronted with our limitations,” said Outland, who is now vice president of the company. “We realized we needed someone who knew the terrain better than we did, and that’s when we found SCORE in 2016.
“Our first meeting with Fred Meek and Bill Waters was invaluable,” Jennifer said. “They took the time to really listen to us. They offered solutions and insights that were grounded in their decades of experience. There’s no doubt that in those few hours we learned more than we ever could have on our own, which ended up saving us a lot of time and got us moving in the right direction.”
Rivers & Oceans is a unique adventure travel company. Although it offers such rigorous adventures as white-water rafting, it also provides less strenuous adventures such as whale watching, ocean kayaking, cave explorations, trips to coral reefs, and opportunities to simply commune with nature. It is an environmentally responsible company and trips are carefully chosen by partnering with like-minded companies throughout the world. Rivers & Oceans makes a point to accommodate all ages and abilities and can custom design adventures perfectly suited to their client’s skills and desires.
Outland said the average person spends about 40 hours planning their vacation. Rivers & Oceans does this planning for them at no cost to the client. Clients simply pay for the actual trip, and travel and follow the itinerary; fun without the sweat equity.
As the business rapidly grew, they realized that the employee handbook policies and procedures were confusing and outdated. They knew they needed to address many employee issues, but found themselves floundering.
Meek, one of their SCORE mentors, was an expert in Risk Management and Personnel Security. He served in both the U.S. Air Force and Army, and later worked with a defense contractor where he was part of the senior management team with responsibility over human resources.
Outland explained, “As a small company, we have to deal with many of the same issues as larger companies only we have fewer resources. We don’t have an official Human Resources Department, but we need to have our systems set up so that we are in compliance with the laws.
“Fred saved us from going down the wrong path and spending large sums of money on consultants. He generously gave his time to explain the intricacies of HR to us and answer our questions. He reviewed our materials, offered insight, and connected us to resources so that we were empowered. His expertise was fundamental and his guidance gave us the confidence to move forward.”
Meek painstakingly reviewed the existing employee policies, found the pitfalls and places where the laws had changed, highlighted areas that needed changing and helped them work through the process of completely revising their employee handbook.
The new employee handbook went to press and has been available for about two months. The employees, as well as management, are pleased with the final rewrite.
Regardless if you are just getting started, or like Rivers & Oceans, have been in business for 30 years, do yourself a favor and sign up for your own SCORE mentor. Call 928-778-7438, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.northernarizona.score.org.
Ginni Trask Comstock is a SCORE communications contractor.