A Service Attitude

March 30th, 2015

While each person brings his or her own attitudes to the workplace, your company expects employees to be indoctrinated into a culture of absolute dedication to quality and the needs of the customer.

Your emphasis as a leader and all the training focus for your employees is on learning how to say YES to customers.  If this attitude is kept foremost in mind, it will help you and your employees handle any unusual requests or difficult situations involving customers.  This indoctrination is the ongoing responsibility of leaders at every level and can best be accomplished by your wholehearted support, daily reinforcement, and personal example.

Equally important, this attitude should characterize your work relationships with fellow employees – your internal customers.  Everyone who works for your company is a member of a team trying to accomplish the same mission.  Cheerful and complete cooperation with one another makes work easier, more meaningful, and fun.  Your first thought when approached by a customer, external or internal, should be “How can I help this person; how can I be of service?”

Attitude is the major determinant of success in any endeavor.  Your thoughts color everything you do.  Each person has a filter through which all sense perceptions pass.  Since the conscious mind can only process so much information, perceptions are screened and only those supporting your thought system, biases, and views are accepted.  All others are rejected.  Stated another way – since your brain interprets sensory information to support what you already believe – YOU ARE WHAT YOU THINK!

If you believe yourself to be misunderstood or mistreated, you will seek every piece of evidence to support this belief.  If you are optimistic and happy, you will select every perception that supports that happiness and optimism.  The process is self-reinforcing and reciprocal.  If your thoughts tend to the negative, you will see only the negative.  If a person is a liar, he or she will assume that everyone lies and will go through life never trusting anyone.

The implication is that you create the world you want through your thoughts.  People who are upbeat and look for the good in everything know that, while they cannot control events, THEY CAN CONTROL THEIR REACTIONS TO THOSE EVENTS!  Simply put, you can make whatever you want of any situation.

Attitudes are clearly infectious and you owe it to others to be as positive and cheerful as possible.  One defeatist, grumbling, negative attitude can ruin the day for many others.  The sad thing is that you allow the negative person to do this.  When one considers the uproar in society over the danger to people’s health from passive smoking, it is surprising that they aren’t just as adamant about the threat to health from passive bad attitude.

So don’t tolerate your employees’ bad moods.  Confront them; shock them back into an acceptable frame of mind.  Tell them to go home if they can’t be in a better mood.  The requirement must be:

“Be of Good Cheer or Don’t Be Here!”

As a leader you are responsible for building morale within your team.  Protect your employees from people with negative attitudes and sour moods.  Don’t permit one employee to drag down an entire operation.  Confront, counsel, and, if necessary, discharge the employee.

Excerpted from Leadership on the Line:  A Guide for Front Line Supervisors, Business Owners and Emerging Leaders

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!

Quality and Service

March 16th, 2015

I have yet to come across a hotel, resort, restaurant, club, golf course, or management company that doesn’t claim to offer its customers/members/guests extraordinary, legendary, remarkable, superb, world-class (you pick the one) levels of service; yet how many of these organizations have taken the time or made the effort to define their quality and service standards?

Let us take a moment to define what we mean by service and quality.  According to Dictionary.com:

  • Service is “the act of helpful activity.”  In hospitality operations it is the process or performance of some task or event for your customers/guests/members.
  • Quality is “a characteristic or property that signifies relative merit or excellence.”  In our industry the word is used to express the relative merits or excellence of the facilities, amenities, activities, and service we provide our customers.

Given that a hospitality operation’s quality is defined by the relative merits of those things and the service provided to customers, let us pose some questions regarding the service to which you aspire or claim to offer:

  • Have you or your organization defined what service is for your service-delivery employees?
  • Have you explained or trained your employees what you and your customers’ expectations for service are?
  • Do you know what your customers expect when it comes to service?  If so, how do you know?  What methodology is used to determine customers’ needs and expectations?
  • Have you identified your key service touch points or moments of truth for your employees?
  • Have you taught or demonstrated for your employees how to handle various touch points in all their possible variations and contingencies?
  • Have you documented touch points and service standards, policies, and procedures to ensure that they are taught consistently to each new employee and new generations of employees?
  • Do you have a means of measuring compliance with service standards, policies, and procedures?
  • Do you have a process to address service failures?
  • Do you have a process to make service failures right for your customers?
  • Do you have a process to discover underlying causes of service failures to ensure they don’t happen again?
  • Do you have a consistent process to educate employees about changes to standards, policies, and procedures to eliminate service failures?
  • Do you have a means of monitoring service failures to identify trends or spot problems?
  • Do your employees know that they can self-report their service failures without fear or repercussions?

If you’ve answered “no” to the majority of the questions above, you do not provide quality service.  What you do provide is a series of interactions between customers and employees that may or may not meet the expectations of customers or management.  The quality you provide is based purely on chance and, therefore, has an unacceptably high risk of service failures.

If the above describes your operation’s quality and service, there is much to work on to meet the promises you’ve made to customers/guests/members.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!

The Foundation for Remarkable Service

March 9th, 2015

It all starts with leadership.  Strong and stable leadership is the single most important requirement to successful hospitality operations.  While there are many styles of leadership suited to any industry or endeavor, experience over many years in hotels, resorts, and private clubs makes it clear that a service-based approach to leadership works best in the service industry.

Service-Based Leadership differs from other leadership styles in its focus on serving the needs of employees to provide them with the proper tools, training, resources, motivation, and empowerment to serve customers.  The importance of this support can be inferred by the question:

“How can employees provide quality service if they are not properly served by the leadership, example, and ongoing support of their managers?”

Being a serviced-based leader requires many different skills, but two are so critical to providing quality service that they bear special mention.  First is the will to make it happen.  Building a Remarkable Service Infrastructure is not a one-time event or a single set of instructions to employees.  It is a challenging and ongoing endeavor that may take years to fully implement.  Building a Remarkable Service Infrastructure entails changing people’s attitudes and behaviors.

Even in a start-up operation where there is no tradition or ingrained institutional habits to overcome, newly hired managers and employees bring their own service experiences with them.  Given the relatively poor and inconsistent state of service throughout the industry, most often they simply bring habits practiced in previous jobs.  This multitude of experiences and habits must be transformed into a unified system that supports the discipline of quality.

The second necessary skill is communication.  There is a tremendous amount of detail involved in hospitality operations.  An open flow of information all around makes it easier to communicate expectations, give daily direction, uncover issues and problems, and ensure that all employees are on the same page.  Communication bottlenecks, usually caused by uncommunicative and aloof managers, impede efficient operations and make it harder for everyone to do their jobs.

To build the infrastructure, the leader must communicate service values at every opportunity and continually reinforce the culture of service.  The leader must be both patient and persistent. Instructions and reinforcement will have to be given over and over again.  Training and implementation must be repeated at intervals until every employee gets the message and provides consistent quality service in every situation.

While it is recognized that the General Manager must be a strong leader, it is also critical that the operation’s subordinate managers and supervisors are also trained to be strong service-based leaders.  While some of a leader’s skill-set seems to be inborn, such as confidence and an analytical mind, and others are developed early in life, like judgment and basic communication abilities, the great majority of a leader’s skills are learned.  But unless junior managers are systematically trained to develop the skills which have to do with building and sustaining meaningful work relationships, their leadership development will be haphazard, and the vision and message of service will not be communicated consistently or faithfully to line employees.

Upon this leadership foundation, then, are the components of the Remarkable Service Infrastructure – those organizational systems and disciplines which comprise the building blocks that lead to Remarkable Service.

Excerpted from The Quest for Remarkable Service

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!

Providing Guidelines for Empowered Behavior

March 2nd, 2015

Hospitality operations need to ensure that leaders provide guidelines and information for empowered behaviorHaving developed the necessary environment for empowerment by valuing and trusting employees, while communicating values and goals to them, the leader’s next step is to establish the framework for empowered action.

With the understanding that most hospitality employees have never experienced working in an empowered organization, the leader must plant the seeds of empowerment by suggesting ways in which employees can act in empowered ways.

1.   Develop a list of most frequent customer complaints or issues.  By enlisting your employees’ help in identifying problem areas or issues, you send a strong message to them that you value their opinions and input.  This is the first step in helping them realize that they can be empowered to solve the problems.

2.   Brainstorm empowerment opportunities.  Once your team has identified problem areas, brainstorm with them how these problems might be properly resolved.  In the give and take discussion while brainstorming, your team will gain deeper insights of how and why problems should be resolved in particular ways and what might be the best resolution of a particular issue.

3.   Establish standards or limits of empowerment.  As the leader, you should guide the discussion to the appropriate solutions.  Ultimately, while employees may make decisions and take empowered action, it is up to you to ensure that they take the appropriate action and understand the guidelines of their authority.  In other words, you’re responsible for establishing the standards and limits of their empowerment.

4.   Challenge your team to work on one or two of the identified problem areas.  Select the most pressing of the identified problem areas or those that represent easy-to-fix issues; then challenge your team to make decisions on their own and take action to resolve them.  Make sure they understand that they will not be punished for doing the wrong thing and that any errors will only be used as learning opportunities for everyone involved.

5.   Set up a schedule of ongoing meetings.  Meetings every week or so are opportunities to review how the team is doing, what problems they’ve encountered, how they might resolve such problems, and to encourage the team toward further empowerment.

Excepted from The Power of Employee Empowerment

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!

There’s Gold in Catering, But You Have to Mine It!

February 24th, 2015

Catering is the most lucrative food and beverage activity for a private club.  This is so because of the economies of scale in serving a known number of guests a specific menu at a set time.  Club operators with the appropriate facilities fully recognize the value of catered functions as a means to boost revenues and net profit.  Savvy club members recognize that a robust catering operation subsidizes their club’s operation, relieving ever escalating cost pressures, rising dues, and periodic assessments.

Despite the many benefits of catered functions, how many managers put the necessary effort into this greatest of opportunities?  With a little bit of effort you can mine the vein of catering gold for your club.  Here are some common sense ways to exploit catering to your club’s benefit:

  • If your facilities and the opportunity are sufficient to justify the cost, hire a dedicated catering manager to sell and service catered events.
  • Establish a catering contract and policies to cover all aspects of the catering operation to include space utilization, minimums, guarantees, room charges, special service fees, room set ups, equipment rental fees, etc.
  • In conjunction with your chef, design attractive catering menus, pricing, and a catering sales packet.
  • Develop a catering marketing plan to focus action and accountability on attracting business.
  • View your catering space the same way a hotel views a room night or an airline views a seat on a flight – as the most perishable product you have.  If not used on a given day or evening, the revenue opportunity is lost forever!
  • Benchmark your catering operation in detail.  At a minimum track your space utilization rates and average revenue per function for each catering venue in your club.  Break down your benchmarks into times with similar demand or usage such as weekday (Tues, Wed, Thurs) versus weekend (Fri, Sat, Sun).  Track the utilization of your most lucrative venues such as your main ballroom for high end functions such as weddings and holiday parties.  Compare year to year benchmarks to track progress or spot weaknesses.  Use previous year benchmarks to set sales targets for future periods.
  • Aggressively court your membership to hold or sponsor functions for their businesses, trade associations, or as a venue for the special occasions of families and friends.
  • Ensure your staff recognizes the importance of catering to the success of the club and that the many “touch points” in planning and execution are seamless, efficient, and with “over the top” service.
  • Ensure follow up to all events to guarantee complete satisfaction and continual process improvement.

Bank robber Willie Sutton said he targeted banks because “that’s where the money is.”   Club managers need to target their catering operation for maximum use and efficiency for the same reason.  While I may be mixing metaphors, don’t neglect the catering gold for a lack of effort to fully “mine” the potential.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!

What I Expect from My Catering Director

February 16th, 2015

As every club manager knows, catering is the most lucrative part of a club’s food and beverage service since it adds revenue volume, economies of scale, and certainty to a very uncertain and volatile business.  Lucky is the club that has the appropriate facilities and venues, as well as a board that recognizes the contribution and necessity of a robust catering business to the club’s bottom line.  But having the facilities and strong backing of the board is only the first step in a successful catering operation.

Having a disciplined and detail-oriented Catering Director to oversee the operation is the single most important contributor to success in catering.  Not only must the club find and hire such a professional, but the General Manager must clearly spell out his or her expectations for the Catering Director.  Here are my requirements:

Conduct a market analysis of the club membership and the areas around the club to determine potential demand for catering and meeting services.  This analysis should consider any rules or restrictions the club has on accepting outside business, as well as identify and analyze in depth any competition the club will have for these services.  This analysis should be reviewed and updated annually.

Prepare an Annual Catering Sales Marketing Plan and budget.  This plan should identify potential target markets and how to best reach them, specific programs or campaigns to market club catering and meeting services, monthly sales goals, and measures and reports to track efforts to meet the plan.

Prepare appropriate collateral materials to support the catering marketing effort.  These should include a proper presentation folder and brochure with lots of professional photographs of your club and venues; sample menus and price lists, room diagrams, planning checklist, planning worksheet, sample room set-ups, sample contract, and all club policies relating to catering.  These materials tend to be quite expensive, but they are important selling tools in your catering business.  There are other low or no-cost options available as you can see here.

Organize the planning and execution of the catering department to include the one-time development of the following:

  • Room diagrams for all venues to include dimensions, capacities with various set-ups, and occupancy limits; location of electrical outlets, lighting and sound controls, telephone jacks, HVAC controls; availability of wi-fi; availability of window shades and lighting controls to darken rooms; and a list of available audio/visual and computer equipment.  Diagrams should be prepared for each venue with various set-ups to show prospective clients and as a guide to help club staff set up rooms for specific events.
  • Menus and pricing for different meals and types of events, including sit-down banquets; receptions with buffets, serving or carving stations, or passed trays; continental breakfasts; and meeting breaks.  Experience has shown that a limited number of “packages” aid in the selling process and reduce the time investment in custom menu planning.  This is not to say that the club won’t do custom planning, but anything that limits the up-front investment of planning time makes the operation more efficient.
  • Menus and pricing for different alcoholic beverage arrangements such as open bars, cash bars, beer and wine service, cordial service, champagne service.
  • All catering policies to include hosting policy, deposits, minimums, guarantee counts, cancellations and postponements, service charges, client decorations, entertainment, corkage and plating fees, client supplied food, donations, rentals, methods and timing of payments, fire safety, etc. must be determined, formalized, and printed up to provide to prospective clients.
  • A catering contract that includes all the policies and notes who, if anyone, is allowed to modify the contract at the event.  This is useful protection for the club when, in the flush of a great celebration, the client’s daughter tells the staff that she wants to keep the open bar going for another hour.
  • Written policies and procedures for all the various meal, alcoholic beverages, and meeting set-ups.  This is used to train the banquet staff to a common standard for set-ups, preparation, execution, breakdown, and cleanup for events.  This is a major one-time effort, but it will save the club hours in efficiency of operations, while providing consistent quality service to all clients.
  • Training material for catering staff covering all aspect of catering preparation, set-up, and service.
  • Agreements with rental and special services firms for tents, limousines, valet parking, audio-visual, telecommunications, computers, party favors, and decorations.

Access membership demographics for celebratory dates such as anniversaries and birthdays to be used to “sell” private functions and parties to club members.  It is also important to “mine” the data of members’ business ownership as these companies will be prime target markets for business meetings and events.

Benchmark usage of all venues to determine utilization rates with the aim of establishing policies and pricing strategies to maximize use and revenues of key dates and times for prime function space.

Benchmark activities by type such as banquets (plated and seated), receptions (buffets, serving stations, passed trays), and coffee breaks.  Track number of events, number of attendees, revenues, average revenue per event by type of event.  This information can be used to budget, establish future period goals, and help establish policies and pricing to maximize revenues by type of event.

Prepare a Weekly Catering Sales Report for the general manager to include catering event and revenues for the week, key benchmarks, prospecting efforts, call reports, and 60-day rolling forecast of upcoming events.

Conduct after-event calls and surveys of catering clients to determine level of satisfaction with event and service.  The focus of such surveys is to capture future business while improving any areas of dissatisfaction.

Like any other product or service, the club’s catering function must stand head and shoulders above its competition and continually strive to improve its quality, service, and standing in the community.  Such dedication to quality and continual process improvement will ensure the club the success of its catering operation.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!

 

Can This Be a Risk-Reward for Club Managers?

February 9th, 2015

Risk-Reward is a commonly heard term when discussion a golfer’s choice of shots in a competitive match.  In taking a significant risk of failure, the golfer can go for the green and, if successful with a challenging shot, reap the reward of a better score.  In the financial world “risk-reward” is used to describe the potential for greater gain by taking a riskier position.

The underlying connotation is often a gutsy decision based on the elevated risk of failure.  Such a gamble may be appreciated, even applauded, when the stakes – whether winning the match or scoring big in the commodities market – are personal, that is, the downside impacts only the person taking the risk.

In the club management profession, though, the actions of the manager impact the welfare and investment of the club’s members, so decisions affecting the club’s performance and solvency should be made with care and full consideration of all risks involved.  Certainly this is what conscientious managers do every day while diligently managing the operation, meeting the budget, ensuring the club continues as a going concern, and planning strategically for the club’s future.

As every club manager knows, such strategic planning requires careful evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of the club, as well as seeking those opportunities that offer greater success and security while recognizing and avoiding potential threats to the organization’s viability.

While there may be some sizeable external threats to a club such as competition from a new club with more extensive and up-to-date amenities or the closing of a large employer in the community resulting in the loss of members, there are far more significant threats within the club’s operations – the unappreciated and often ignored potential for legal action as a result of unaddressed liability issues.

Such issues usually arise from one of two causes:

1.   Managers and supervisors, intentionally but more often inadvertently, violating federal, state, or local laws and ordinances relating to the workplace.

2.   Lawsuits by members, applicants for membership, current or former employees, vendors, visitors to the property, community members, or club neighbors for almost any complaint imaginable, but most often related to club operations, ill-advised operational or board-mandated policies, or alleged negligence on the part of the club or its employees.

In the first instance, the underlying problem is often poorly-trained managers or supervisors who are unfamiliar with the detail and nuance of a wide variety of regulatory requirements such as the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, Equal Employment Opportunity/Discrimination, and others.  See Legal and Liability Issues for more information.

While it is in every manager’s best interest to be familiar with the basics of such regulation, it is the absolute responsibility of the club to properly train their management and supervisor employees in the full scope of their duties.  This can accomplished by a combination of establishing and making available detailed club standards, policies, and procedures covering all areas of concern (for an example see Club Personnel Standards, Policies and Procedures) and by providing sufficient indoctrination and ongoing refresher training and reminders of these important requirements (for examples see Managers Handbook and On the Go Training).  Doing anything less is a form of management malpractice and, given the potential for significant fines and penalties, as well as the damage to the club’s reputation, is a risk that must not be ignored.

In the second case of lawsuits arising from a broad range of issues, the burden is again on management to be familiar with existing case law that has created a fairly broad picture of the legal risks of operating a private club and a clear indication of actions and safeguards to put in place to avoid such suits.  See Book Review – Club Litigation Book – Keeping Clubs Out of Court for a comprehensive review of club litigation and steps to take to avoid lawsuits.

Managers must understand that while lawsuits are relatively infrequent occurrences, they most frequently spring from loosely-operated establishments that have not considered and planned for known or potential contingencies.  Finally, the cost of defending from litigation and the size of potential judgments can be an existential threat to the ongoing operation of the club.

Bottom Line:  Risk-Reward can be a gutsy play on the golf course, but ignoring the legal and liability risks to a club can have a devastating downside for which there is no reward.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!

 

How to Attract and Retain Super Service Employees

February 2nd, 2015

By analyzing and considering the wants and needs of super service employees, it is possible to set up programs to attract and retain them.  In simplest terms it boils down to respect, status, meaningful work, and enhanced compensation.  In particular I would focus on the following:

  • Establishing consistent Service-Based Leadership at your club.  The underlying premise of Service-Based Leadership is leaders at all levels who recognize the essential task of serving all constituents, including employees.  Weak or self-serving managers will drive them away.
  • Implementing employee empowerment – a natural extension of Service-Based Leadership.  Empowered employees are enlisted as partners in the club’s effort to improve the operation and provide high levels of service.  Super service employees want and need this enhanced participation and contribution.
  • Improving communications with employees.  All employees, but especially the super service ones, want to know what is going on and how the operation and direction of the club affects them.
  • Mentoring employees.  Curious and intelligent, super service employees appreciate the time and effort made in giving them the big picture and a deeper understanding of the workings of the club.
  • Creating “master” server positions that recognize higher skill levels and greater knowledge.  The job descriptions for these positions must clearly lay out those distinguishing skills, characteristics, and duties that warrant more responsibility and higher compensation.
  • Creating a clear career path of knowledge, skill development, and certification which allows other employees to set their sights on the more highly regarded and compensated master level.
  • Assigning master level employees the task of teaching and training those who aspire to the higher level.  Such tasking serves the super service employees’ need for participation and contribution while improving the overall skill level of other employees.
  • Challenging super service employees to engage in creative project work such as taking a larger role in training, creating more effective training programs, formulating and executing member relationship management strategies, and establishing a “wow” factor program for members.
  • Recognizing and rewarding super service employees.  Ensuring they know they are appreciated.  This not only serves their needs, but demonstrates to other employees their value, thereby motivating others to follow their example.  Rewards should also be tangible, such as:  higher pay based on their higher levels of performance and contribution; incentive opportunities based on clearly defined benchmarks; preference in scheduling; and educational benefits to further enhance job skills, knowledge, and opportunity.
  • Providing benefits to all employees based on well-defined employment statuses, i.e., full time, part time, and seasonal or temporary.  At a minimum benefits should include holiday pay for designated holidays, vacation time, personal/sick time, health benefits, and retirement benefits.

As an industry we can no longer view employees as a disposable asset, which is what we do when we view ongoing turnover as a cost control measure.  Operating small, stand-alone hospitality organizations with multiple businesses, high levels of service, and lean management staffs covering long hours and weeks is too difficult a task to do without a stable, competent workforce.  When we view labor as a disposable, easily-replaceable commodity, we condemn ourselves to high levels of turnover with its attendant training costs, turmoil, and loss of organizational continuity.  High levels of turnover must be viewed as a critical organizational and leadership failure that is damaging in all ways to the club’s mission and operation.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!

 

How Much Time Does Your Club Waste Reinventing the Wheel?

January 26th, 2015

Jim Muehlhausen has written an essential book for every small business entitled The 51 Fatal Business Errors and How to Avoid Them*.  It’s a book that every club manager should read and act on in his or her own operation.  In it he lists Fatal Error #43 as Reinventing the Wheel Daily.  To quote from the book,

“Every day a CEO with no written operation plan walks through the door, she says to herself, ‘Hey, I wonder how we should run the business today?’  This process of reinventing the wheel will end up consuming all the valuable time of the organization and the CEO.  In the name of flexibility and custom one-off solutions to problems, the CEO has doomed herself to a firefighting existence.”

The solution to the problem according to Muehlhausen is to have a written operations plan.  While most clubs executives have heard of an operations plan, few clubs have them.  As Muehlhausen says,

“If writing an operations plan is so powerful, why don’t 100% of businesses have one?  Well, writing an operations plan is a REAL pain.  It requires hard work, sacrifice, and a deep understanding of your business.”

And it’s coming to grips with a lack of understanding of your business and how it works in all its details that is the real value of writing an operations plan.  This is especially true in clubs which operate a variety of specialized businesses requiring specific knowledge and expertise.  Further, the intensive detail involved in delivering a quality service experience to members requires that the methods and processes of service and service delivery be spelled out in great detail.  W. Edwards Deming, the 20th Century’s renowned advocate for quality, recognized the importance of process when he said, “If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you are doing.”

Other authors have touched on the importance of the operations plan.  As we described in The Quest for Remarkable Service:

“Michael E. Gerber in his best-selling book The E-Myth Revisited [E for entrepreneur], describes the strength of franchised operations based to a great degree on the depth and quality of their written operations plans and says,

‘To the franchisor, the entire process by which the business does business is a marketing tool, a mechanism for finding and keeping customers.  Each and every component of the business system is a means through which the franchisor can differentiate his business from all other businesses in the mind of his consumer.  Where the business is the product, how the business interacts with the consumer is more important than what it sells.’

And ensuring that every employee knows how to interact with customers in every situation is what ensures the success of the franchise.  Gerber goes on to say,

‘. . . without a franchise no business can hope to succeed.  If, by a franchise, you under-stand that I’m talking about a proprietary way of doing business that differentiates your business from everyone else’s.  In short, the definition of a franchise is simply your unique way of doing business.’

When you truly understand this, you recognize that to be successful in the challenging world of club management, you must define your standards, policies, procedures, and work processes and organize your club as if it were a franchise – one where how it interacts with its members and how service is delivered sets it apart from all others.”

So what exactly is an operations plan and how can you go about preparing one for your club?

While this author found a number of definitions in searching the Internet, they all revolved around the concept of documenting the way an enterprise conducts its business.  In an effort to produce a more club-specific definition, I offer the following:

A club operations plan is the fully-integrated and detailed description of the organizational structure, systems, and processes that enable the multiple operating departments of the club to deliver a seamless, consistent, and high quality private club experience to its members.

The key words and phrases in this definition are:

  • Fully-integrated meaning consistent across all operating departments.
  • Detailed description of all the club’s individual standards, policies, and procedures.
  • Organizational structure describing the interrelationship among all functional areas of the operation.
  • Systems meaning the integrated body of standards, policies, and procedures supporting each functional area or department.
  • Processes are the individual standards, policies, and procedures to consistently accomplish required actions.

While I think Mr. Muehlhausen is spot on with his advocacy of the importance of an operations plan, I disagree with him (at least when it comes to club operations) when he says, “There are no template programs to create an operations plan.  The plan is custom to your business, so you cannot ‘borrow’ someone else’s and modify it.  You have start from scratch.”

I say this because Hospitality Resources International has created a large amount of standards, policies, and procedures that can act as a template and be customized for individual operations.  After all, what we as club managers do is similar from club to club and industry best practices are well-known and widely used.

The book is:  The 51 Fatal Business Errors and How to Avoid Them, 2nd Ed., Jim Muehlhausen, Maximum Communications, Indianapolis, 2008.  It can be purchased here.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!

Eight Steps to Performance Accountability

January 19th, 2015

The greatest failure in performance management in any enterprise is the failure to hold managers accountable for their performance.  Many hospitality operations do a poor job in the area of accountability.  This failure is crippling to the long term health and viability of the enterprise.  Here are eight steps to help measure performance and hold managers accountable:

  1. Work Plans.  Have each manager prepare an annual work plan spelling out goals, proposed accomplishments, and timelines for completion of each item.  It’s always a good idea to involve managers in preparing their own work plans though these must be based upon broad guidelines from the owners and general manager.  While their buy-in is important to their commitment to their individual plans, ultimately plans must meet the needs and desires of the owner and general manager.
  2. Budgets.  In order for managers of profit or cost centers to be held accountable for meeting budgets, they must participate in developing their own budgets.  An unrealistic budget will defeat a manager from the get-go, but “softball” budgets cannot be accepted either.  One of the best ways to budget is to use volume and average sale/hourly wage benchmarks to build the revenue and payroll parts of the budget.  Not only do historical metrics make for more accurate budgets, but analyzing these benchmarks on an ongoing basis makes for a better understanding of shortfalls in revenue or overages in payroll costs.
  3. Benchmarks.  All departments must be benchmarked in detail – at a minimum revenues, cost of goods, payroll, and other operating expenses should be benchmarked monthly.  These and other benchmarks are the most objective measures for holding managers accountable.
  4. Tools to Beat Budget.  Use the Tools to Beat Budget program whereby all managers with bottom line responsibility track their revenues and/or expenses in real time, thereby exercising greater control over their budget and financial performance.  Properly maintaining the Tools to Beat Budget binder provides all the information necessary for in-depth monthly reviews of performance by the General Manager and other interested parties.
  5. Monthly Review Meetings.  Hold monthly meetings with department heads to review progress on annual plans, actual to budget performance, benchmarks, and efforts to correct operational and performance deficiencies.  These meetings permit ongoing review and course corrections or added emphasis as necessary.
  6. Routine Departmental Inspections.  Use routine inspections with a standardized checklist to inspect all operating areas on an ongoing basis.  Such inspections should monitor and note cleanliness, order, maintenance, safety, security, and other signs of organized and efficient operations.  These inspections when standardized, scored, and benchmarked provide an ongoing measure of these basics of an operation.
  7. Interdepartmental Support Evaluations.  Since all departments of a operation are interrelated and depend upon one another for peak performance, each department head should fill out standardized evaluations on interdepartmental support and cooperation.  As an example:  the accounting department will have a hard time meeting its requirements if operating departments do not submit coded invoices, payroll data, inventories, benchmarks, and other financial data in a timely fashion.  If department heads know that their performance in these areas is being monitored and rated, they will put greater emphasis in meeting these requirements.
  8. Performance Reviews.  Base periodic performance reviews for each manager on specific accomplishments and meeting well-defined performance measures.  Meaningful reviews are directly dependent upon the effort put into defining expectations, establishing specific work plans, and creating objective measures for accomplishment and performance.  While it takes some effort to set up a system of objective measures, the rewards for doing so are immense and well worth the effort.

Unless a General Manager does everything himself, he must rely on the efforts and performance of his subordinate managers.  But without measurable accountabilities he has no real means to drive his agenda, performance, and other initiatives to improve operations.  When department heads aren’t held accountable, only the General Manager will be.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!