Super Service Employees

February 2nd, 2019

For those of us who eat out with any regularity, we’ve all had the experience, unfortunately too rarely, of being waited on by what I call a “super server.”  From the moment she approaches the table we know we’re in for a treat.  Sparkling with personality, she overflows with knowledge about the food, beverages, and accompaniments.  She immediately sizes up our interest in engagement and calibrates her contacts accordingly.  She speaks with confidence and authority, questioning us regarding our preferences and without hesitation recommending what she thinks we’ll enjoy.  The best of the best can unerringly take and serve orders without benefit of pen and dup pad – an ability that never ceases to amaze me. Such extraordinary individuals are worth their weight in gold.  Not only do they serve with flair and expertise, but they sell, thereby increasing the average check, while making a distinctly favorable impression of competence and professionalism that brings diners back again and again.  This is true in restaurants and just as true in private clubs where members appreciate the recognition and special touches that a super server adds to the dining experience.

Far more frequently, we’ve experienced the norm of service – undertrained, inexperienced employees who may understand the basics of service, but little more.  Often lacking in knowledge, personality, and attitude, their service may meet minimum expectations but seldom inspire the diner to sample the extras – appetizers, desserts, wines, and specialty drinks – that the kitchen works so hard to create and which enhance the overall dining experience.  If truth be told, these employees are doing no service to their employers and in many cases are doing outright harm by driving customers away.

The often repeated maxim for employers “to hire for personality and train for technique” encompasses a basic truth.  Attitude, personality, and engagement seem to be inborn skills and are difficult to teach.  While training can provide service skills and knowledge, thereby increasing a server’s confidence and maybe even engagement skills, the best service employees posses an indefinable quality that is difficult, if not impossible, to replicate.

Given the dearth of these extraordinary service employees, they should be recognized and compensated for the rare skills they possess.  Too often though, their presence on an employer’s staff is viewed as simple good fortune with little or no effort made to differentiate them from the common herd.  The result is that in short order they move on to greener pastures where their talents are more fully appreciated.  When this happens the loss to the establishment is often more than can be appreciated at the moment.  Not only has the employer lost a super server, but a money-maker, an ambassador, and an example for less accomplished co-workers.

And everything said about food servers applies as much to super service employees in retail, activities, golf, tennis, administration, and other areas of the club.

What can clubs do to attract and retain Super Service Employees?  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 which is 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” service 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.  Such master positions can then become the aspiration of new or less accomplished employees.
  • 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, incentive opportunities, preference in scheduling, and educational opportunities.
  • 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.

None of these solutions is easy to implement and will certainly add costs to the club, but I believe the current employment paradigm is far more damaging to a club’s success and remains a significant “hidden” cost of operations.

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 managers throughout the country and around the world.

Mastering the ABCs

January 21st, 2019

As children we all mastered our ABCs, the basic building blocks of language and learning.  The term “ABCs” has long since come to signify the basics of any endeavor.

All of us who work in our industry recognize that the profession is made up of mastering the many basics of hospitality and service.  Even in an enterprise as seemingly complex as food service, it is the execution of the basics that underpin all our efforts and ultimately leads to success.

Of all the things I’ve learned in my hospitality career spanning over 35 years, the ultimate discipline of success is the necessity of executing the basics well.  Jim Collins’ research for his groundbreaking book, Good to Great, Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . and Others Don’t, pointed undeniably to “disciplined people taking disciplined action” as one of the prerequisites to any successful enterprise.

While there are many innovative, cutting-edge ideas to improve the products, service, and performance of your operation, you must build these enhancements onto a foundation of the basics.

With these thoughts in mind, I’d like to commend to you the most basic, yet ultimate tip for operating your club that as you contemplate the many ways to add service and value, you must always focus your attention and that of your entire staff on the ABCs, that is . . . Accomplish the Basics Consistently

Excerpted from 101 Tips to Improve Your Club Operations.

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 managers throughout the country and around the world.

Our Need to Serve

January 6th, 2019

Jim Collins says that people “want to be involved in something that just flat-out works,” but I believe it is something more.  I believe that people have a great need to connect with or serve something larger than themselves.  Whether it’s building a skyscraper, embarking on a campaign to eradicate hunger, working on the design of an award-winning advertising campaign, or even dressing in favorite NFL team colors and attending all the home games – people need to connect to a larger purpose or endeavor.

Great leaders understand this basic human need and have the ability to create that connection for their followers; unfortunately, not always to good purpose-witness Hitler’s rise to power and spell-binding hold on the German people or, in recent times, the illusion of success created by the leaders of ENRON before its financial collapse.

But the connection I am talking about need not be a life-altering cause or event.  Most of us live rather uneventful lives.  While our need is to earn a living and support our families, an astute leader recognizes the opportunity to create something out-of-the-ordinary – a special enterprise that performs better than others and is a source of purpose and pride for all.

In connecting people to the challenge of creating something special, the leader feeds the employees’ need to do something beyond self while advancing the purpose of the enterprise.  All that is necessary is for the leader to frame the challenge in terms of shared goals.  In the service industry this is a fairly simple task. Our purpose is to serve.  The quality of our service encourages customers and repeat business, which in turn ensures the success of the enterprise for the owners, and, ultimately, the job security and advancement opportunities of everyone involved.

Throughout my career, I have met many eager, enthusiastic young people, some just starting out their adult lives and relishing the opportunity of their first jobs.  Unfortunately for most, their youthful idealism is crushed pretty quickly by the realities of the workplace, particularly when they are not well-led, when they are not properly trained or supported, and when they are treated as if they didn’t matter.

At the same time, I’ve heard managers complain about the poor state of the labor pool and their inability to find decent employees who have commitment to their jobs.  Listening to such complaints I have to wonder what steps these individuals have taken to motivate their employees, to provide training and meaningful work experiences, to connect their workers’ labors to a larger effort.

To expect that the wide variety of applicants for positions will inherently know and understand a leader’s vision and the values that underlie the enterprise’s efforts is foolish.  All employees, whether first-time job seekers or those who have worked in a variety of jobs and settings, need the vision of connecting to a larger purpose, and they need a Service-Based Leader who can provide them the meaningful employment that serves their greater needs.

Excerpted from Leadership on the Line – The Workbook.

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 managers throughout the country and around the world.

The 100/0 Principle

December 22nd, 2018

Al Ritter has written a great little book, The 100/0 Principle, subtitled The Secret of Great Relationships.  While this may sound like any one of the score of self-help books published annually, one merely has to look at Mr. Ritter’s resume – MBA from Dartmouth, marketing and operations positions with Pepsico, CFO at Swift and Company, Senior VP for Citigroup, consulting for Accenture, and founding his own consulting company – to recognize that this short, simple, and easy-to-read book holds much promise for business leaders in any setting and level of organizational hierarchies.

I believe the simple concept at the heart of this book is arguably the single most important guarantor of success in any relationship, certainly in the personal arena, but beyond that in any organization or business enterprise. Such well-known leadership authors as John C. Maxwell, Brian Tracy, and Warren Blank have all recognized the central role of relationships in any attempt to lead.  As Maxwell said, “People who are unable to build solid, lasting relationships will soon discover that they are unable to sustain long, effective leadership.”

What Mr. Ritter so strikingly advocates in his book is that if you want any relationship to be successful, you must take 100% responsibility for the outcome while expecting nothing in return.  While this statement may seem shocking to some, I believe it is counter-intuitive wisdom of the highest order.  To examine why, consider the following statements relating to leadership:

  • A leader is responsible for his own success.
  • A leader is responsible for everything her organization does or fails to do.
  • In a free society, all but the most socially or economically disadvantaged followers have choice and can go elsewhere.
  • Meaningful relationships are based on trust.
  • Followers don’t automatically extend their trust to a leader; it must be earned.
  • As the one with the power and authority, the leader must take responsibility for establishing trust.
  • If, for whatever reason, a relationship with followers is not going well, a leader cannot expect or wait for others to fix it.
  • Ergo: He or she must take full responsibility for the relationship.

Mr. Ritter states and I believe that taking complete responsibility for your relationships and expecting nothing in return will yield vastly improved results in every arena of life.  His book offers concrete advice and steps, such as creative listening, suspending judgment, and unconditional acceptance, for readers to adjust their thinking and change their responses to difficult people, challenging situations, even “toxic” bosses.  While his experience with The 100/0 Principle has been mostly successful, he outlines a few situations where it doesn’t apply.  He also candidly admits that there are no guarantees that it will always work, but that in the majority of situations, dramatic results are achieved.

Roger Enrico, former Chairman and CEO of Pepsico said, “The soft stuff is always harder than the hard stuff.” I can’t imagine that anyone who has attempted to lead would dispute this basic observation.  Read Al Ritter’s book – it offers a simple and straightforward approach to getting the soft stuff right!

The Book is: The 100/0 Principle:  The Secret of Great Relationships, Al Ritter, Simple Truths, LLC, Napierville, IL, 2010

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 managers throughout the country and around the world.

Leadership Consistency

December 10th, 2018

Management teams can be dysfunctional for a host of reasons, but there is none so basic as a variety of competing leadership styles.  To expect that any group of managers, each with his or her own background, training, and experience, will have a similar and effective leadership style is unrealistic in the extreme.

Yet as with so many other aspects of management, consistency is essential to faithfully communicate and reinforce the club’s culture, service ethic, and environment for employee empowerment.  Without leadership consistency, employees get a mixed service message, and their morale and commitment varies from manager to manager and department to department.

Imagine a management team made up of department heads with the following leadership styles:

  • Military – with its requirement of absolute, immediate, and unquestioned obedience,
  • Democratic – where decisions are only made after lengthy discussion and debate,
  • Gunslinger – with its emphasis on shoot first, aim later,
  • Absent – where the leader is never around or is hiding in his office,
  • Aloof – while he is there, he never interacts with or engages his followers,
  • Uncommunicative – where the leader gives everyone the silent treatment,
  • Teed Off – where the manager is angry all the time at everyone,
  • Screamer – where he assumes everyone is deaf and yells at everybody,
  • Political – where the manager believes his only function is to suck up to members,
  • From another planet – where the leader expects that everyone will know what to do and will do it without being told,
  • Fear-based – where the leader rules with an iron hand and scares the heck out of everyone, and
  • Service-based – where the attitude and primary motivation of the leader is service to others – to members, to employees, to shareholders.

Clearly, such a jumble of leadership styles will lead to a confusing and contradictory example and message for employees, as well as create barriers to cooperation and teamwork between departments.

The solution to such a fragmented workplace is for the General Manager to promote a consistent style and application of leadership club-wide.  This can only be done by providing consistent leadership training to the entire management team.  Given the uneven comprehension of leadership issues among any group of managers, the benefits of a uniform understanding and application of leadership will bring club operations to a uniformly high state of performance.

Tip:  Use Leadership on the Line:  A Guide for Front Line Supervisors, Business Owners and Emerging Leaders and Leadership on the Line – The Workbook to teach Service-Based Leadership to your management team.

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 managers throughout the country and around the world.

Spelling Out Your Disciplinary Process

November 24th, 2018

Discipline is necessary to maintain the direction and focus of any organization and to establish and maintain standards of quality and service.  The desire is to achieve excellence and success and supervisors should understand that these goals are dependent upon the quality and commitment of employees.

Unfortunately, in every group of employees, there are some who have attitude problems, lack commitment, or are not capable of meeting standards.  When confronted with such a problem employee, it is the responsibility of supervisors to deal quickly and effectively with the situation before it degrades the efforts of the rest of the staff.

The following are suggested guidelines for a club’s disciplinary process:

Supervisor’s Responsibility.  It does no good to have rules, regulations, and policies spelled out, if they are not going to be enforced by all supervisors.  Whenever a supervisor overlooks an infraction, he encourages others to similar violations.  A lax supervisor can be more damaging than no supervisor at all.  Further, supervisors are expected to actively confront any problem employee in their departments with the aim of correcting the problem.  If it cannot be corrected in a reasonable period of time, supervisors are expected to discharge the individual while following established termination policies.

Good Communication.  Good communication is important when working with a problem employee. Some supervisors do not like to confront staff on seemingly small issues.  As a result, many small problems build up until the supervisor finally blows his top and is ready to fire the employee.  However, termination is inappropriate because the supervisor has not previously discussed the problems with the employee, warned him of the consequences of continued problems, or offered any help to correct the problem.  Good communication would prevent this situation.  If the supervisor talks frequently with employees, points out minor problems as they occur, and addresses continuing problems in a proactive and formal way, an employee will never be surprised should he be discharged.

Disciplinary Philosophy.  The club subscribes to the “Hot Stove” approach to discipline.  Employees are told what is expected of them and what the consequences are of ignoring rules, requirements, policy, and procedure.  If they then touch the hot stove, they get burned.  The rationale behind this philosophy is that supervisors want to deal with staff as adults who are responsible for their own actions and they want to avoid inconsistency in applying rules, requirements, policies, and procedures.

Rules, Requirements, Policies, and Procedures.  This philosophy requires that supervisors tell staff what is expected of them.  First, do this by spelling out in detail what the club’s rules, requirements, policies, and procedures are.  The Employee Handbook contains many club-wide rules for employees.  Second, expend some effort through orientations and formal training to make staff fully aware of their responsibilities and the club’s expectations.

Fairness and Consistency.  A club’s disciplinary process must be fair and consistent.  This will follow naturally from rules, requirements, policies, and procedures being applied fairly and consistently to all employees.  Supervisors who are not fair and consistent will create major problems within their departments.  There is no quicker way to destroy departmental morale and trust than to play favorites.  Often the perception of fairness is as important as the reality.  Supervisors should not only be fair, but also give all appearances of being fair.

Constructive and Progressive.  The club’s disciplinary process is designed to be both constructive and progressive.  By this it is meant that all disciplinary actions are aimed at correcting erroneous or inappropriate behavior and successive disciplinary actions will be progressively more severe.  These two aspects are, in reality, part of the same philosophy.  While the club wants to help employees overcome their problems, when the problems continue, it wants to get the employee’s attention with progressively more severe consequences.

Higher Standard for Supervisors.  Because of a supervisor’s position, experience, training, education, and other factors that led to hiring, they are held to a higher standard of conduct and performance than line staff.  In disputes between staff and supervisors, it is expected that supervisors will have solidly documented cases showing thorough investigation of any incident.  While supervisors will always be supported when in the right, line employees will be given the benefit of the doubt when there is insufficient evidence or the absence of a thorough investigation.  The best way for a supervisor to ensure that he is supported in his decisions is to have all his facts together before taking disciplinary action.

Summary.  Given the many potential pitfalls in discharging problematic employees, all managers and supervisors must have a thorough understanding of a club’s disciplinary process.  Spelling out the key elements of that process is an important first step.

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 managers throughout the country and around the world.

Adding Value – The Club Controller

November 9th, 2018

The Club Controller is an important member of the club management team.  There are a number of constituencies that rely on the expertise and efforts of the Controller, including the General Manager, the club’s Board or ownership, the department heads with bottom line responsibility, and, of course, the employees who jobs depend upon the solvency of the club.

The Controller’s role is more than that of an accountant who, according to accounting definitions, records and reports financial transactions.  In addition to maintaining the General Ledger, Accounts Payable, Member Billing and Accounts Receivable, Payroll, and Financial Reporting, the Controller plays a vital role by assisting managers in maintaining the profitability of the club.

The functions of the Controller tend to fall into a routine of monitoring daily activity, processing bi-weekly payroll, ongoing processing and payment of invoices, monthly member billing, and end of month closing and financial reporting.  Once a year, the Controller has a central role in the annual budgeting process for the club.

But the Controller also provides guidance and assistance to the General Manager and department heads in meeting their fiscal responsibilities to the club and its members.  These managers have a broad range of detail- and labor-intensive requirements and must deal with the daily challenges that arise in a high quality service environment.  By keeping in mind the underlying principle of service-based leadership – of providing the necessary tools, training, resources, and support to key constituents – Controllers should offer targeted outreach assistance to managers; particularly to department heads – those key individuals with bottom line responsibilities.

Outreach services include:

Ensuring that department heads have clear accounting guidance:  Written accounting standards, policies, and procedures should be available to all managers.  While Club Resources International has produced and offers a great many of these, detailed procedural guidance should be prepared and implemented at the club level.

Assisting department heads with club-required programs:  Department heads may need assistance with benchmarking spreadsheets, Tools to Beat Budget, Annual Budgeting, and preparing for monthly meetings to review financial performance.

Providing timely operating data:  Those with bottom line responsibility have need for timely information about their operations.  The two most important are Weekly Revenue Reports and Pay Period Summary Reports that allow managers to monitor their revenues and their single largest expense – payroll.

Ongoing training on accounting issues:  In any complex operation there is the need for ongoing refresher training on key matters.  Staff turnover and the constant focus on daily operations sometimes make it difficult for managers to keep accounting issues foremost in mind.  Controllers should monitor departmental compliance with accounting policies and provide refresher training for arising issues and ongoing problems.

Making periodic visits to department heads:  These visits, based on the premise of  “How can I help you,” “Is there anything the Accounting Department can do to assist,” or “Your department seems to struggle with timely inventories.  Is there anything we can do to help?”  When coupled with a service-based attitude, such visits will go a long way in improving accounting processes while building a positive team spirit among managers.

Conducting an accounting audit of each department:  This annual check-up should be conducted with an attitude of helping department heads.  A simple checklist of important accounting considerations will provide both the department head and the Controller with a guide to identify and address areas needing improvement.  After the audit is completed, the Controller should work with the department head to draw up a plan of action to address any issues or concerns.

While the foregoing may sound like a lot of additional effort for the Controller, a club with a smooth functioning accounting process will usually perform better.  Additionally, many of the continuing irritations for the accounting staff arise from operating departments failing to meet accounting requirements in a timely and accurate manner.  These two benefits alone will make the Controller’s extra efforts well worthwhile.

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 managers throughout the country and around the world.

Ten Disciplines That Will Transform Your Club

October 23rd, 2018

Arguably the greatest business book to appear in the last quarter century is Jim Collins’ Good to Great, Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . and Others Don’t.  In preparation for the book the author and his research team identified and examined 11 publicly traded companies that significantly outperformed their competitors for a period of 15 or more years to find out what made them so successful.  The findings were sometimes surprising, often at odds with conventional wisdom, but definitive in that they were based on empirical evidence, not business theory.

One of the findings is that all Good to Great companies had a culture of discipline.  Quoting from the book:

“Much of the answer to the question of ‘good to great’ lies in the discipline to do whatever it takes to become the best within carefully selected arenas and then seek continual improvement in these.  It’s really just that simple.”

“A culture of discipline is not just about action.  It is about getting disciplined people who engage in disciplined thought and who then take disciplined action.”

Here are ten disciplines for the club industry that, when conscientiously and consistently applied, will revolutionize your operation.

  1. Service-Based Leadership.  Don’t assume that your management team has the necessary leadership skills.  Consistent, club-wide leadership is necessary to ensure that the General Manager’s vision is thoroughly implemented and consistently communicated to all employees.  To avoid dilution of core values managers must be trained to a common understanding and application of leadership.  Service-Based Leadership provides the example of service to all employees and creates the environment for employee empowerment.
  2. Organizational Values and Culture of Service.  Every employee must be immersed in a consistently reinforced culture of service based on well-defined values.  Unless you establish the desired culture of service, one will arise on its own and invariably will be at odds with your vision.
  3. Benchmarking.  You can’t improve what you don’t measure.  All club departments must be benchmarked in detail.  These benchmarks will tell you far more about your operation than just whether or not you made a profit.
  4. Real Time Accounting.  The discipline of tracking your revenues and expenses in real time will focus the entire management team on meeting or exceeding budgets.  It will also make budgeting for future periods far easier and more accurate.
  5. Continual Process Improvement.  Never rest on your laurels.  Yesterday’s accomplishments may have been good enough for yesterday, but being the best requires never-ending effort.  Create a culture of continual process improvement to relentlessly pursue excellence.  Your mantra, like that of your members, must be “what have you done for me lately?”
  6. Disciplined Hiring and Screening for Success.  Turnover is prohibitively expensive in the people- and detail-intensive arena of club operations.  The discipline of hiring well and getting the right people in the right seats will lower your employee turnover rate.  Benchmark your turnover rate by department to continually analyze and improve performance in this critical area.
  7. Work Planning and Performance Review with Measurable Accountabilities.  To keep organizational development and progress coordinated and on track, every department head must have a work plan with specific tasks, timelines, and accomplishments.  These coupled with detailed departmental benchmarks will permit performance reviews to be based on measurable accountabilities instead of gut feel.  When the entire management team is held individually accountable, performance naturally improves.
  8. On the Go Training.  Training is a necessity in the people- and detail-intensive club business.  There is much for employees to know and master, but with tight budgets and a pressing schedule of operations it is often neglected.  One way to overcome this is to format essential training in small on-the-go sessions that can be taught in spare moments or pre-shift meetings.  When material is prepared this way, it becomes a matter of daily discipline to pull out and review essential material.  The final discipline is to keep track of all training sessions so that over time nothing is overlooked.
  9. Member Relationship Management.  Members are the life blood of your club.  How you and your staff interact with them is more important than anything else you do.  Your relationship with your members cannot be left to chance.  It must be managed as carefully as your budget and requires a formal plan and thorough training of employees.  In the final analysis, member relationship management will determine whether or not you meet your budget and your mission of exceeding member expectations.
  10. Employee Empowerment.  John Tschohl, founder of the Quality Service Institute, says “Without empowerment, an organization will never be a service leader.  Empowerment is the most critical skill an employee can master and a company can drive in order to lure and keep customers.”

Empowered employees are viewed as full-fledged partners in your quest for high levels of quality and service.  They are encouraged to think, act, and make decisions on their own based on guidelines you define, but they must fully sense the club’s commitment to such empowerment.  Simply saying that employees are empowered does not make it so.

Excellence in the service industry is neither easy to achieve nor commonly found.  It takes commitment and “the will to make it happen.”  Jim Collins says being great requires “disciplined people taking disciplined action” day in and day out in the face of any adversity.  But for those who choose to meet the challenge, the rewards are as great as the effort involved.

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 managers throughout the country and around the world.

Assert Your Competence and Authority with Benchmarks

October 8th, 2018

At one time or another every club manager’s abilities are challenged by a pointed question from a committee or board member.  For example:

Mrs. Johnson, a member of the clubhouse committee, asks in a sharp tone, “Mr. Smith, why don’t you do a better job of training your waiters in the dining room?”

While there are certainly many possible responses to this complaint disguised as a question, consider the benefits of a reply like this:

“Well, Mrs. Johnson, last year each of our servers had 20 hours of formal training, plus we conduct brief on-the-go training sessions as part of every pre-shift meeting.  On average each server who has been with us for six months or more has had over 40 hours of job specific training.  Last year, club-wide we averaged just over 92 hours per employee of formal training on a wide range of topics, including organizational values, legal and liability abatement, work rules and club policies, and safety, as well as job-specific skills.  This was a 7% increase over the previous year. We’re currently working on a program to expand server training with a series of videos on tableside etiquette and serving techniques, which we’ll roll out next month.  We’re always working on ways to improve the efficiency of our training delivery system, but keep in mind that every hour of training costs the club $10.47 per trainee.  I’d be happy to share our methods, resources, and job specific curriculum with you, as we could always use another set of eyes on what we’re doing.”

Mrs. Johnson nods her head knowingly and replies in a much softer tone, “Uh . . . no thanks, Mr. Smith.  I was just wondering how we go about training our staff.”

As this example suggests, there is no better way to assert your competence and authority than to be conversant with a wide range of operational data.  Such information is as useful to the head golf professional, golf course superintendent, clubhouse manager, dining room supervisor, chef, and controller, as it is for the club’s General Manager.

But to have such information at your fingertips, ready for any and all challenges, requires that every club department benchmark their operations in detail.  While these details are absolutely essential to the department head, important summary benchmarks must be forwarded monthly to the controller for inclusion in the Executive Metrics Report.  This report is then attached to the monthly financial statement and forwarded to various board and committee members.  Ultimately this information, tracked over time, educates board members and helps the General Manager establish his authority while advancing his vision and agenda for the club.

Knowledge is Power!  And the more knowledge you have about your operations, the more power and control you will have over the club’s direction and your own destiny.  So avail yourself of the great variety of benchmarking resources available on the Club Resources International website and start benchmarking your operation today!

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 managers throughout the country and around the world.

Continual Process Improvement

September 23rd, 2018

Given the many details associated with managing a quality, high-end club, it is imperative that management commit to and promote a process of continual improvement in all areas of the operation.  This requires a positive emphasis on problem discovery, a discipline of constant review, and an understanding that in quality service operations, the devil is in the details.  As more and more areas of the club’s operations become systematized and routine, management at all levels, with the commitment and assistance of their empowered employees, must continually “peel the onion” to deeper and deeper layers of detail.  Further, no detail must be seen as too trivial to warrant management’s attention and the establishment of standards and procedures to ensure it is attended to by the staff.

The purpose of Continual Process Improvement is to constantly seek better ways of doing things – that is to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and financial performance of the club while providing a quality of service and level of satisfaction that encourages greater use and enjoyment by members.

The discipline of Continual Process Improvement requires that all managers and supervisors are focused on and committed to improving the performance of their club, department, or section at all times.  It means that no manager or supervisor should be satisfied with the status quo, but should constantly be looking for ways to improve.

In order to ensure the development of such a discipline in the club, the General Manager must constantly remind subordinate managers of the need to improve and make improving existing operations a key component of subordinates’ annual work plans.  Further, the GM should continually enquire, “What are you doing today to improve your department?”  When this level of interest is demonstrated by the GM, subordinate managers and supervisors will understand the importance of Continual Process Improvement.

Examples of Continual Process Improvement

  • Review of Revenue Generation or Payroll Cost during monthly budget review. Formulation of initiatives to increase revenue such as promotions, specialty dining nights, additional golf programming, tennis clinics, etc.
  • Review of retail benchmarks by the Head Golf Professional can help him improve his future retail buys. By knowing what sold and what didn’t sell, and what percentage of overall sales were soft goods versus hard goods he can make informed determinations about purchasing and merchandising.
  • The HR Manager can review employee turnover rates and exit interviews by department to determine which Department Heads need further training in Disciplined Hiring or counseling on better treatment of employees.
  • Annual review of club standards, policies, and procedures by department to see what worked and what didn’t. Brainstorming modifications of same to improve operations.
  • Monthly review of major costs by Department Heads to see if there is a better or cheaper alternative to current expenditures. The Controller can do the same for Administrative and General expenses.
  • Review of forecasted business levels and actual staffing by day of week and meal period to improve future F&B staff scheduling.
  • Review of training material with new hires after their introductory period. Determine how well initial skills training met the actual needs of new employees.
  • Examine and propose modifications to equipment placement or work flow in kitchen or food pantry areas to increase the efficiency of staff.

Methodologies for Continual Process Improvement include:

  • Preparing in-depth subordinate managers’ work plans and performance reviews. The time spent continually improving the work performance of your subordinates will allow you to focus on more strategic issues, delegate more day-to-day tasks to subordinates, and plot and follow the improvement of your club – department by department.
  • Reviewing major events, activities, and programs. Formal meetings after the Member-Guest Tournament, Mothers’ Day Brunch, 4th of July Festivities, Summer Camp, Swim Team season, etc., will allow all Department Heads to review execution and performance from their individual perspectives. The best time to do this is the week following the event when all is fresh in everyone’s mind. Have your Administrative Assistant sit in and take notes which are then distributed to all interested parties. Next year, as planning starts, pull out the notes from the previous year and make adjustments as necessary.
  • Selecting one department per month and conducting an in-depth review. In the course of a year all departments would be reviewed. Take a half day for the review and include other Department Heads in the process. Start by having the selected Department Head give an overview briefing regarding the department’s operation. The overview should be an honest “State of the Union” about where the department is and where it is going. Cover goals, both short and long-term, challenges and obstacles, key member interfaces, special services touches, review of training process, and review of departmental financial performance and benchmarks. Give a tour of work spaces describing issues with work flow, storage, telecommunications, etc. After the briefing and tour, ask other Department Heads to help brainstorms ideas for improving departmental performance. To be most effective, the subject Department Head should set the agenda and guide the discussion. After the session, the Department Head should draw up an action plan to implement ideas with a timeline and milestones for completion. The effort put into a monthly departmental review should provide multiple benefits such as continually “confronting the brutal facts” of departmental operations, fostering a sense of teamwork among Department Heads, and, of course, Continual Process Improvement.

Continual General Manager interest in improvement is the single most important driver of Continual Process Improvement.  When the GM requires Department Heads to demonstrate CPI, and their performance review depends upon it, it will happen.  Without the GM’s interest, it won’t!

Without a means of measuring improvements, it is impossible to gauge the benefits of any changes to the operation.  But before you can evaluate the impact of any changes, you must know what the operating standard is (i.e., the existing benchmark or “baseline” of any operation, event, or process).  When you know your operating standard, you can then compare changes in the standard as a result of new initiatives or changes to the operation.  For example:

The Food and Beverage Director determines that with improved product training servers will be better able to “upsell” members on wines.  Because she tracks her numbers of bottles of wine sold per day, week, and month, she knows that the club typically sells 47 bottles of wine per month at an average sale of $16.43.  After several weeks of intensive wine training for her staff, she begins to see the number of bottles sold creep up, along with the average sale.  After four months, her new operating standard is an average of 71 bottles of wine sold per month with an average sale of $19.12.  Further, because she benchmarked which particular wines were selling well and coordinated her wine purchases with the chef’s new menu offerings, she was able to offer a new selection of higher margin Chilean and Australian reds.

Continual Process Improvement is a discipline found in most successful enterprises.  It is done with the understanding that in a competitive marketplace what you do successfully today, may not be successful tomorrow.  In a world where rapid change and innovation have become the norm, we can only maintain our reputation for quality service by continually working to improve that service.  In the words of our members, “What have you done for me lately?”

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 managers throughout the country and around the world.