In the few times I’ve had the pleasure of bumping into Win Smith, I’ve been impressed by his direct, but intelligent level of candor. He doesn’t say stuff to get a reaction or to impress people or to show off.
He speaks carefully but honestly.
I’ve come to realize that when Win talks, I should listen.
A Perfect Example
While I learned that in much smaller settings – when he was on a panel at Inntopia Insight in 2016, his involvement with the NSAA Growth Committee, etc. – his letter to the Sugarbush community about the sale of the resort to Alterra is yet another illustration.
Let me share a couple quick examples.
“The multi-resort season pass has changed the landscape. It will be increasingly difficult for ski areas like Sugarbush to compete alone against Vail Resorts, Alterra Mountain Company, and others like POWDR and Boyne Resorts. The recent acquisition of Peak Resorts by Vail was the tipping point in my decision.”
Notice the clarity and simplicity of his language. And notice the honesty about resort trends. In these situations I’ve gotten used to someone giving a vague, fluffy answer that doesn’t name names or say specifically what the challenges are. Or perhaps a passive aggressive tone toward what’s happening or the people responsible.
But in this case, he’s not disparaging the trends or the resorts he’s competing with. He’s embraced the realities and simple fact – rather than good or bad – and is looking forward, and speaking within that context.
“The amount of capital required to remain sustainable will be far greater in the years ahead….While there are many wonderful features about Vermont, the cost of doing business here is greater than in many other states. Being able to find efficiencies by being part of a larger organization in things such as purchasing power or our employees being part of a larger health insurance pool or having more affordable workers’ compensation options were other considerations in my decision.”
Once again, simple language, honest answers. You realize he’s not blaming Vermont. Every state has opportunities and challenges, these are Vermont’s. No finger pointing.
This list could go on, but I want to highlight two things I think we can all learn from this.
Transparency is the cool thing to do these days. Companies are releasing their financials and taking audiences along on their journeys, all in the name of marketing. And it works.
But this is a different type of transparency. This is the type where, if you aren’t forthcoming, your customers will try to read between the lines and end up with very different versions of the truth. You have to be honest, but remove the ego of trying to prove a point or make someone the villain.
#2) That Takes Practice
And that takes skill. It takes practice. And, thanks to the Win’s Word series on the Sugarbush blog, that’s something Win has been doing for a long time.
This is such a fantastic letter. The honesty and tone is, in my opinion, perfect. And it’s not that Win couldn’t have done so without writing so much on behalf of the resort in recent years, but I think that repetition served him well.
I think that kind of practice would serve us ALL well.
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