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COMMENT: Caring culture + business success

COMMENT: Caring Culture + Business Success

COLLINGWOOD — Living Stone Resort, formerly Cranberry Golf Resort, part of Living Water Resorts, has remodelled and changed its name. The rebranding is far more than a name change and design facelift. The team at Living Stone Resort aims to provide guests with an inspirational and transformational life experience when they come to visit — an energized meaning of life and work.

There are four core values that dictate their business practice, all starting with the letter “C”, the company president told me when I visited last month: Chemistry or teamwork; Competency or the ability to do the job; Character or the integrity needed to be a good person; and Caring for other people.

Can a company run effectively with a culture based on giving and kindness? All through my business career, I have heard things like, “he wasn’t a great manager; he was too nice.” That was usually said about managers who took too long to fire someone who was not performing. On the other hand, there are the managers in the hospitality industry who burn out their employees by demanding too much work with too little praise and no regard for personal life. “What do you want to be, a chef or a father…?”

Living Water Resort president and CEO Larry Law told me that they are changing the name as part of a personal journey as well as a company journey. When I last interviewed him a few years ago, he related how his life was transformed after his wife passed away at age 48 in 2001. Before that, he was a typical, self-centred businessman trying to make money. He realized that no matter how much money he had, he couldn’t have saved her.

That experience gave him a whole new perspective. After 2002, as a newly reborn Christian, he had a new mission — to build a fun and caring community. “I’m taking business as a mission with a higher purpose,” he said. “We are able to serve with our loving hearts, and by doing so, we value the people above anything else.”

The sign at the entrance to the newly-renovated Living Stone Resort reads, “Larry loves his people & you will too.”

Don Buckle, vice president resort operations and general manager, hadn’t been at Living Water Resorts for very long when he saw that concept in action. A school bus carrying a hockey team became stranded in a blizzard. There were no hotel rooms left in Collingwood — they were all full of travellers who were also stranded. A night shift front desk staff put the hockey team in the banquet hall, got them blankets, pillows, hot chocolate, and security. The next day, he organized a team to fed them breakfast in the banquet hall. The fact that he did all those things was impressive, but what amazed Buckle, was that he felt comfortable just doing them, knowing management would be on board and that his actions were in sync with company culture.

From left: Terry Clough (executive chef), Donald Buckle (vice president of resort operations & general manager), Steve Dzivy (assistant restaurant manager), and Larry Law (president & CEO).

Law’s community work in Collingwood includes providing Christmas dinners, in partnership with 13 local churches, to over 300 needy people in the community every year, donating $100,000 to Georgian College and getting involved with many charities — both local and overseas.

The company has a caring fund, which serves as a last resort to help staff who need it. Sometimes those are everyday needs like first and last months rent; or it can mean Christmas hampers for those who just can’t afford Christmas. The first year, the committee gave out 12 hampers filled with turkey, fresh bread, canned good and toys; now it’s up to 16. When one staff member’s house burned down, the staff initiated a fundraising campaign; and the company matched the funds.

That’s the beauty of a caring culture, said Law. “It trickles down to so many people. People are attracted to something bigger than they are.” The company supports a children’s home in Paraguay, which costs $40 per month per person. Each department chips in to support one, two or three children; even if a person can afford just $1 per month, they are part of the team supporting a child.

The caring culture at Living Water Resorts hasn’t stood in the way of business success — Law has grown the property from a 78-room hotel to 400 rooms, plus an 18-hole championship golf course, 120-boat slip marina, an Aquapath spa, three restaurants, Collingwood’s only waterfront banquet hall, a children’s camp and over 1,000 homes.

In 2016, Law was honoured with the 2016 Industry Recognition award for longstanding contributions to the accommodations industry from the Simcoe Region chapter of the Ontario Restaurant Hotel and Motel Association (ORHMA). The award was presented at the annual ORHMA awards event, but Law, who was on his yearly missionary trip to Kenya, was unable to attend.

He is grateful to God, wife, family, the executive team, and all staff. “Despite the negative environment all over the world, we have an obligation to share good news with people — that is the ultimate joy,” Law said.