The naming of Jim Benson, director of operations for Grand View Lodge,as 2010 Minnesota Resorter of the Year was an honor in itself. But take into consideration that this was the first time in history that the Minnesota Resort and Campground Association has recognized three people from the same organization with this prestigious title and the event is even more significant.
The MRCA award recognized Benson’s superior management ability; commitment to the training, motivation and self-improvement of staff; and other qualities – all clearly represented in his accomplishments. He began in the industry as a busboy in his hometown, moving to the Brainerd Lakes Area in 1983 to become a bartender at a local resort. He advanced to various managerial positions at high profile area properties, eventually joining Grand View
Lodge in 2007.
A strong believer in ‘giving back,’ Benson has been heavily involved in leadership both within his greater community and to advance tourism in Minnesota. He has served on the Minnesota Resort and Campground Association’s board of directors, and as president in 2006. He also represents the association on the Hospitality Minnesota management board, which oversees the MRCA, as well as the Minnesota Restaurant Association and the Minnesota Lodging
Within the Brainerd Lakes Area, he has served in leadership and committee capacities at the Brainerd Lakes Chamber, including on the board from 2006 to 2009; in his church; and on the Camp Ripley Citizen’s Committee.
Typically, awards such as Minnesota Resorter of the Year honor the contributions of senior management who are also facility owners. Grand View’s Benson and Mark Ronnei are the only non-owners who have been recognized – an accomplishment reflective of not only their commitment to what they do, but an environment fostered at Grand View Lodge.
Benson agrees. “In my opinion, it’s important to take ownership wherever you work – to treat every decision and every guest with respect and commitment,” he says. “I love what I do. The best part to me is the people – our employees and our guests. I learn from them every day.”
Successfully serving the needs of over 100,000 people a year at Grand View Lodge makes for a demanding job – a challenge Benson says is successful due to the organization’s team environment. “I’ve grown in this position because the ownership has allowed me to be truly involved – to attend Board meetings, create an atmosphere that will help our younger people succeed, and work with operations to address the many opportunities a property like ours presents.”
One of the highlights Benson has experienced at Grand View Lodge was the recent award longtime owner, the Cote family, received from the Brainerd Lakes Area Community Foundation for their many contributions to area charitable work. Calling the honor “truly heartfelt,” Benson says it was a tangible tribute to the fact that Grand View and its ownership care about their greater community. “They consistently make decisions on what’s important – not only to the bottom line but to those beyond our doors.”
That, Benson observes, is a dedication that is pervasive on property and throughout the management group. “There’s no better feeling than to work within a team like this with people who care as much as you do,” he says. “Yes, it can be stressful but it’s also very rewarding. What we do in this business is so important to so many people. You have to understand that and have the right perspective.”
According to Grand View’s CEO Mark Ronnei – who is a past Minnesota Resorter of the Year along with one of the property owners, Fred Boos – Benson has what it takes. “What we see in Jim is a true commitment to each individual – whether they are someone he supervises, works side by side with or a first time guest. Our environment at Grand View Lodge is one of teamwork by people like Jim who understand and love the work that they do. We are proud of his recognition and also the contributions everyone in our organization makes each day.”
Grand View Lodge is home to a collection of distinctive dining venues and inviting accommodations set amidst hundreds of acres of scenic forest. For more information please visit, www.grandviewlodge.com.