Rally Recap

 Posted by at 12:02 am  Nick's Blog
Mar 292012

I’ve had a chance to read over all of the feedback forms from our Yuma rally, and Terry has most of the paperwork wrapped up. Much of the results are about what I expected, though some are a bit surprising.

There are always a lot of feedback forms that tell us we’re doing a good job and not to change a thing, and while that makes us feel good, we know that there is always room for improvement. Overall, the feedback forms tell us that the selection of seminars we offered met the needs of most of the rally attendees.

As always, we had requests for more travel destination seminars, which we are constantly looking for but not having a lot of success in finding. The selection of technical seminars got a lot of positive feedback, especially Greg White’s computer seminars, the smart phone seminars by Barbara Westerfield and CoolJudy Rinehimer, and all of the seminars put on by Larry Crutcher of Starlight Solar. Other popular seminars were For Women Only, and the roundtables on topics like RVing Grandparents and volunteering.

I’m always surprised by the people who complain that we have too many seminars to choose from. If we had less, would people complain that we don’t have enough? We always get a couple of people that say the seminar schedule is too busy and there is not enough downtime. Folks, we don’t take attendance! You don’t have to attend every one.

Most attendees praised our parking crew, though a couple of people complained that they had to wait as much as three hours to park. It takes a long time to get that many rigs moved and parked safely. One person asked why he had to wait if we started parking rigs at 1 p.m. and he arrived at 1:15? It was probably all of those RVs that arrived ahead of you and waited their turn. 150 RVs and three gates to bring them in and then get them parked safely. You do the math.

And then we have some comments that make me chuckle. Most people say that the noise of the aircraft from the Marine base across the road is an inconvenience at times, but it’s the sound of freedom. But one person e-mailed asked if we could arrange to have them not fly during the rally, or to take off and land from the south instead of flying north over the fairgrounds. That would involve invading Mexico’s air space, and I just don’t think I have that much clout.

At every rally we have held, we have lost money on rally T-shirts. I won’t buy cheap shirts that fall apart in a month, and decent shirts cost money, and we have to order a minimum of 100 shirts. I don’t think we’ll continue to have rally shirts available. We broke even on the pizza party, which is fine. We don’t expect to make a profit on everything at the rally.

Which brings us to the bottom line, which is not pretty. Every year costs have gone up, Insurance, rally supplies, fairgrounds rental, building rentals, chair and table rentals, you name it and it goes up. Meanwhile, we charge much less than any other rally of our size, offering the same number of seminars, entertainment, etc. The low cost is one of the things that both attendees and vendors always say they like about our rallies. But we can’t live on accolades. We are a business, and no business can continue to lose money and survive.

When we factor in the negative return, the months of hard work it takes to put on two rallies a year, and the fact that we are physically and mentally wiped out for a couple of weeks afterward (which I believe is a big part of Terry’s present health problem), something has to change. I’m just not sure what that change is.

Do we start charging more for the rallies, to at least break even or make a small profit? Do we cut back to one rally a year? If so, where? Do we even continue to hold rallies past the Ohio rally this September, or next year’s Yuma rally? I don’t have any answers yet. But we’re open to suggestions.

Thought For The Day – Expectations are premeditated resentments.

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Nick Russell

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  35 Responses to “Rally Recap”

  1. I was going to go to Yuma this year but had to make other plans do to family. But I wont pay more than $100 for any rally unless I have full hookups. Not for a fairgrounds. Not worth it.

  2. I currently run two businesses. One is my own, in which I set rates and fees. The other is a direct sales business, in which I have no power over price increases at all. I understand your dilemma about whether or not to increase rates for rallies. Maybe the answer is to immediately begin small increases that will, over a few years, add up to positive returns. I have a hard time with people who do nothing but complain about price increases. Yes, in some areas (like fuel prices) I think there’s some gouging going on, but in a situation like yours, where there have been no increases for a long time, how can they complain? It costs money and time to put on your rallies. I really enjoy them, and if you decide to increase the rates, we will just save a little more for the next one!

    Life is never stagnant; nothing stays the same. Prices either go up or go down. I think what you do for RVers is a great service, and I’ll continue to support it.

  3. Well none of us are getting any younger and we can only handle so much stress in life. If you are loosing money on both the East and West rally, and you can not justify it through the increased exposure for the sale of your newspaper and books, then maybe it is time to cut your loses in half and just run one a year. The Eastern rally allows you to go to Florida and spend the winter in warmth which is good for your health.
    Cheers and the best to the both of you.

  4. 1. Raise your prices. Look at what GoodSam and FMCA charge for similar rallies! The folks who won’t pay over $100 per rally are going to have to search long and hard to find any.

    2. Cut back to one a year and alternate East and West venues.

    3. Write more books:)

  5. Your health, both mentally and physically, has to be considered first. Only you can do that.
    Charge more if you need to. We go to rallies that range from $70 per rig plus camping to over $200. The cost can be worth it with lots of activities, which you certainly provide. You need to see some monetary gain for all of your work.

    Drop the t-shirts – not a priority for us.

    Have one rally per year.

    Your rally schedule hasn’t worked for our schedule yet, but would love to come to one when we can.

  6. We decided when we were no longer making money in our business, we would quit and do something else. That day came, we quit, went home, left for on the road, rented our house, then sold our house, got rid of the snow shovel and lawn mower. Best decision we have ever made. We didn’t dip into our savings to support a dying business. So, don’t be afraid to walk away from your rally’s and do what you do that satisfies you and makes you a good living. Your books, your other publications and whatever else you come across. Breaking even or losing money on projects need an attitude adjustment on your part. People will be disappointed with no rally’s but your health and welfare are more important. Twenty two years later we are still on the road and having a great time with wheels under us.

  7. I don’t think that the “Nick and Terry Philanthropic Association” should go through all that work and wear-and-tear on your health to give away two rallies each year. It seems to me that you have three choices: you make some profit for all that work, you make nothing off of it, or you lose money. And it’s just not reasonable for you to lose money or make nothing off of all that work. My vote is that you raise your prices to cover your expenses and leave yourselves a little profit for what you have to do to put on your rallies.

    And if someone arbitrarily decides not to pay your rally price, then they can go pay for a week’s worth of hookups in a full-service campground outside your venue and drive into your rally each day, camp somewhere with NO hookups and drive in daily, or just totally miss out on all the fun, education, and companionship at your rally.

    Either way, the Nick and Terry Philanthropic Association needs to cover its OWN expenses before giving away its potential profit on each of those rallies. And, I sincerely doubt that tacking on a bit more cost with the registration, in order to leave a bit more profit at the end, will dissuade any sizable number of future attendees from actually participating in your rallies.

    I totally agree with Selene:
    “You need to see some monetary gain for all of your work.”

  8. First get well. Then take a vacation. shut down your computers etc. for a week. Go kayaking, sleep in. do it anyway. Then when you are both well and rested. Have a family meeting and do something like a force field analysis. You’ve been out there XX years you are XX years old and you want to spend the next five years doing what that would make you happy? If you need to skip an issue of The Gypsy Journal…just honor the quantity of issues. Only after you figure out what you want to do then figure out how you are going to get there and how you are going to pay for it and make a plan. You need a little peace in your lives. I don’t think anyone should “should ” anybody. I would erase this but you asked.

  9. Should always plan for a min profit of at least 20% above cost. You didn’t start having Rallies for the fun of it. You run a business and the Rallies are part of the business, so why should you not make a profit.

  10. Nick, I’m thinking that whatever you decide, the vast majority of your readers and rally attendees would support it, simply because ya need to be able to show a profit, and ya need to keep yourself in good health. One rally a year is good, be it in Yuma or Celina (While I haven’t attended the other rallies, looking at the schedule on the websites hasn’t impressed me a lot). Wherever it is, ya gotta charge enough to make a profit and not just break even. The number of seminars is great, wish I could’ve attended more (I guess you were never too successful at making more hours in the day, huh?). Having said all that, don’t cross out the option of not a rally; might be hard for you guys to think about that being the types of people that you are, but taking the aftermath of this year’s Yuma rally into account, your lives might be a little less hectic if you didn’t have a rally to plan for ahead of time, work on during the event, and recover from after everyone is gone.
    I’m sure that you guys are mulling over more options than what are being presented here. Just remember you’ll be supported.

  11. You know by now that no matter what you do someone will complain==so go do what you want. .=eveyone complaining about the price, I bet they don’t think twiice about paying for gas saying we will just stay home since gas is so high, well where is home to the full timers? Don’t they have to park somewhere,and where could they get camping fees for your kind of money? They do not want to do without full hookups for a week, yet they will pay alot of money for them in a camp ground. Doesn’t make a whole lot sense!! As far as waiting in line for a parking place, what a great way to meet new people and pass the day until the rally starts. I am an old Senior no longer able to travel=everyone will be there too some day, think about how that is!!!!! Go enjoy rhe day.

  12. Nick and Terry– I only go to the Yuma rally as we winter in AZ. The T-shirts can go, even though I have one. The fair grounds are quite OK, the array of seminars are good, and the door prizes are a great entertainment. We have no problem with you raising the price a little, as a previous person said, a little each year. We pray for your good health. Keep up the interesting and good work. Roger and Lorna Scott. .

  13. After a little bit of rest is under your belt, it would appear that complete reflection is in order for you folks to determine what you need and want to do to make money. A business that loses money is not in business for very long. As to raising fees, you’ll still get many folks who will come because they appreciate your rallies. For those who don’t understand what is behind the mechanics of a rally, they will always find lots of things to complain about and don’t support your vendors anyways.

    Remember: Life on Wheels was more expensive and that was years ago and it always drew lots of folks.

    A final thought: When you do run a rally, let others help you with all those little details that you have to take care of. Cleaning can be shared with others as can other chores. Maybe it won’t be as perfect as you might have done it, but it will be done very well because folks care. It’s kinda like a parent who has to let their children grow and learn to do things.

  14. I see from your post that there are RVers with a sense of entitlement, just like in every walk of life. Who knew?

    It’s silly to do all that work & wear yourselves out and not make a profit. Just making people happy won’t keep your business alive. That probably means charging more AND cutting back in some areas. Anybody who’s ever run a business will understand that. Have you bought a bucket of ice cream lately? It’s smaller AND costs more than it used to.

  15. I am going to reiterate some of the suggestions already made. Terry’s health and your health are the top priority. Getting her well and rested and both of you playing and having some fun is not a luxury – it is a necessity. You also mentioned wanting to spend some time with family. The next consideration is your financial solvency. You mentioned that you are trying to rebuild your retirement funds with proceeds from your books which tells me that you have some limitations on how much financial charity you can absorb. Enough of my lecture. Although there are always people who will complain know that most of us will love you and respect your decision realizing that it is a difficult one for both of you because of your giving natures.

    I have attended the Yuma rallies the past two years and consider them a real bargain because of the learning opportunities. The camaraderie and fun are icing on the cake.

  16. Some famous person once said “Profit is not a dirty word”.

  17. I noticed this year two things that might have cut into the profit. #1 While working the front gate for walkins we were directed to send them into the building to pay the entrance fee. One gentleman had a name tag in his pocket (assumed he had come in earlier) I mentioned he needed to display it. He said “no, it was not necessary as he hadn’t been asked to display it going into seminars”. The previous years WE collected at the gate and #2 also had monitors at the doors of each seminar making sure attendees were paying guests. I wonder how many came in without paying.

    Also increase your fees. It’s a great rally and like others have said they pay a lot more for other rallies and they still attend.

  18. I, also agree with most of what’s being said by others. You and Terry have to come first. Where is the Nick that’s always telling me that I can’t work for free. Take your own advice. You have a rally that everyone loves and I think despite a cost increase you will still have many followers. Your rallies are so much better than others offered. T-shirts> who needs ’em. Pizza party> how about pot luck? I’ll bet there are some really good cooks at these rallies and you could even swap recipes. (without onions…lol) Those who can’t can bring chips or something.

    Maybe consider doing a weekly blog post instead of daily so you have more time to enjoy things and if you want to just enjoy a day at home you can and still have stuff to write about. I don’t think that people will stop reading the blog just because it’s not a daily thing. You have built up a huge list of subscribers and loyal friends who are not going to leave just because you need to have some time for yourselves or to work on your books, etc.

    Ok, done. Just take care of each other. We love you bunches.

  19. I watched some of the “Arnold Palmer Invitational Golf tournament” last weekend. Both days Arnold was enjoying himself on nation-wide TV talking about the millions raised for a hospital while his sponsor “Mastercard” was paying somebody else to do all of the work associated with staging a pro golf tourney. Maybe you and Terry could do the “GYPSY JOURNAL / (name of sponsor) RALLY”. You two would do the fun stuff like the welcoming committee, the Cactus Queen beauty contest and handing out the door prizes etc. The first rally would be alot of planning type work with the sponsor but after that it would be up to them to succeed or fail. Your doing it with “Kindle” and it seems to be working out for you.

  20. Susan was the first one to say it and I agree. Cut back to one rally and alternate between Yuma and Celina. Or at least one East and the other one West. And raise the rate to a decent profit level.

  21. Charge more! What you provide is worth it to us recipients.

    Also, delegate more. There’s no reason Terry has to get up early enough to do the morning coffee and donuts. Or that you two should stay late to clean up. Have one crew that does the one and a different crew that does the other. Sleep is important!

    I don’t buy t-shirts so would not miss them at all.

    And do consider alternate years in each location. After all, most of US don’t commit to coming EVERY year as much as we enjoy it when we do come.

  22. Your health and sanity must come first over anything! Raising the price of the rally is a good thing,maybe just a $5 raise would help. Do away with the T-shirts like you have done for the Celina rally. If they want a T-shirt you have the Just a Gypsy they can purchase. Delegate more of the chores to folks willing to help. Folks do not need coffee and donuts every morning, still have coffee available during the morning. This alone would save Terry from getting up at 5 am. i agree with the comment on the pizza party, it is nice but a pot luck would work I am sure. Folks seem to get along without it at the Celina rally since there is not a pizza place that can do it. You may reconsider the price of walk-in $5 is the lowest for any rally, the escapee’s now charge $25 pp and they do not hold a candle to what you offer in ways of educational seminars. But as I stated at the beginning you must start considering taking time off if it means going to on rally a year so be it. Everyone who knows you will understand. Get healthy first and foremost. We love you guys

  23. Since 1987 we have seen 2 other couples doing newsletters and books. Eventually, they aged out and quit. Aging is a positive occurrence. Go with it and plan accordingly.

  24. Somebody mentioned the SKPs charging $25 for walk-ins at their rallies. Don’t even think about that. It is that greedy attitude that has turned us off Escapees forever. We were in Indiana during the time of their last rally there, and the way they handled things was terrible. No dry camping even though the fairgrounds in Goshen has lots of room. Big bucks just to walk in. Forget it, who needs them? I will pay $5 to walk into a rally since we live in Yuma during the winter but no more than that. Everybody likes your rallies because they are what Escapades used to be. So don’t go the route to become what they are today.

  25. First, we so appreciate all you do and please get well and rested. Second, we would be willing to pay more in rally fees, skip the tee-shirts and pizza party. Let some volunteers take care of morning coffee evening clean-up. Another thought would be to reduce the dollar amount of gift certificate for volunteering. I’m sure they really cut down considerably on the income. I don’t know about everyone else but we come because we get to visit with friends, learn some new skills, buy a few new toys and volunteering is part of the joy of going to a rally.

  26. DELEGATE! Terry does not have to get up at 5 am to make coffee. It’s not rocket science. Prepare the pots the night before and let whoever goes get the donuts stop in and plug them in on the way.

    At one rally we saw our chubby little hero running his legs off parking cars when his abilities were better served elsewhere. Didn’t you have lots of parking volunteers? Take the time beforehand to train them in how you want it done and let them go do it.

    We’ve been to a lot of Escapades, FMCA rallies, Newmar, you name it. We have never seen the head honchos sweeping the floor, picking up trash, or any of the lower echelon things we always see Nick and Terry doing. You don’t have to be that hands on!

    Everybody loves you two not because of the Journal or the books or the rallies. We all love you because you are REAL people. You both stop to talk to people, you shake hands and share hugs, and make us all feel like we are the center of the universe when you do. That’s what we love! Please don’t ever get so worn down or burned out that you lose that.

  27. First I want to thank you for all you both do. You are awesome. We love the way that you are always accessible to anyone. We’ve been to three of your events, (Elkhart and Yuma twice) and each time Terry has stopped whatever she was doing to greet people and make them feel welcome. Nick is always out there hugging the ladies, glad handing the guys, and making us all laugh. We see you both stopping to talk to the vendors to make them feel appreciated.

    That’s why we come to your rallies. Not the seminars, which rival Life on Wheels. Not the beauty contest, which is hilarious. Not the pizza party. We come for the Nick and Terry show. Not the “Love me admire me, be amazed by me” show another “rally” is. You two are genuine and we love that.

    Concentrate on what you do best – making people feel special, and Nick’s fine seminars and let somebody else do the grunt work. And CHARGE MORE! I don’t know of anyone who wouldn’t cough up an extra $25 to attend.

  28. I would imagine running a rally for a profit is sort of like “crafting” for a profit. . .by the time you calculate all the expense, time and effort that goes into it. . .your time could probably be better utilized elsewhere. . .it’s why I gave up my craft booth. . .after awhile, it turns into a “JOB” . . .without very much pay. . .just saying!

    However. . .if you should continue to have them. . .we certainly look forward to attending someday!


  29. We love you and will continue to do so no matter what you decide. People will complain regardless, so you might as well do what you want. Remember, when it comes to money, you two are priceless.

    Butch had an idea regarding the rallies. Why not have a “get together” or mini-rally within someone else’s rally, say for one day during an Escapade. Or a mini-rally during early-bird parking or right after someone else’s rally. Just some brainstorming ideas.

  30. In my experience with my business, the cheapest people have the biggest mouths. Don’t allow them to scare you from charging what you need to in order to make a HEALTHY profit.

  31. We have been to two of your rallys and one Escapees. We had already decided that we enjoyed yours more, people were friendlier and you had more learning opportunities. We are just waiting for you to post the Celina Ralley info to register. Raise the price for Celina and see how it goes. We (along with many others) will pay the increase and have always been grateful to you for doing what you do.

    Starting in 2013, alternate your locations and have one rally a year.

    When you put out volunteer sheets, include one for each night of clean up crew. When your evening is over, go get your dinner and trust others to do what they know they are supposed to do. (Have Terry do a checklist for the volunteers to use that will make sure the job is up to her standards every night.)

    Eliminate the donuts in the morning (save the $$ and the calories), use a volunteer to start the coffee, and I would LOVE the idea of a pot luck instead of the pizza party.

    Above all – – REST, don’t feel guilty. We need you and Miss Terry well and sharing your traveling with all of us!

  32. DITTO!! GET WELL. Then raise the fees, drop the t-shirts, rotate locations, and delegate, delegate, and delegate. Folks can bring their own coffee/tea (or buy from a vendor) if they want to socialize before the seminars. Drop the Pizza Party and let people support area restaurants or organize their own potlucks like the Boomers did the last night.

    Since I think I heard that you parked about 90 percent of the attendees on Sunday, why not start your welcome and seminars a little earlier on Monday. As a presenter and attendee, I would have appreciated a bit more time for the seminars (the hour sessions were too rushed). Cut the “passing time” or have one day (or afternoons or mornings) designated for longer sessions.

  33. I haven’t ever been to one of your rallies because our RVing time is limited and it never quite works out. Having said that, I can’t wait to come and take advantage of all those learning opportunities. I am astounded at the low price and would never hesitate to pay more. $100 seems ridiculous to me. Raise your fees a MINIMUM of $10, that is $1,000 more based on 100 participants, and I think you get more people than that. Frankly $25 raise is not too much, in my opinion. (I personally wouldn’t hesitate to pay twice as much, but that’s just me….). No need to reiterate the comments of others: your health comes first, and running a business which loses money each time will take you down. Cover your costs and make sure you get enough money so that overall you don’t feel resentful (or sick!) when it is all over.

  34. I loved reading all the comments and agree, not much new to say, except I just want to confirm that we wouldn’t hesitate to pay a little more to come to your wonderful rallies. Do just one and alternate locations…You and Terry are what make the rally a wonderful place to be…such genuine, charming folks, we enjoy you guys so much! Health is THE most important thing above all else. We really feel like you guys take on too much and don’t delegate enough, and although it’s hard to let someone else do things, you gotta do that more! Hope Terry gets back to her old self soon. Take care, you two!

  35. At first glance, doing one rally a year and alternating locations sounds like a good idea. But consider the seasons. You couldn’t put them a year apart because you’d either end up doing Elkhart in winter or Yuma in summer. I think you need to either space the rallies a year and a half apart (so they line up with the seasons) or drop one of them all together, or keep doing two a year. But I don’t see how you could do one in Elkhart in the summer and then next year do one in Yuma. It would be summer again. Yikes!

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