Employee Empowerment

June 14th, 2018

The aim of Service-Based Leadership is to empower employees at all levels to think and act in alignment with your club’s values as they serve the needs of all constituencies — boards, members, and other employees.  Ultimately, employee empowerment is the end result of Service-Based Leadership.

Instead of the traditional view that employees are easily replaceable elements in an organization, people who must be trained to do narrow, well-defined tasks and who must be closely watched and supervised at all times, the concept of empowerment says that today’s more educated and sometimes more sophisticated employees need and want to contribute more to their employer and workplace.  Yet many clubs marginalize their employees by refusing to listen to them and by failing to let them contribute to the enterprise in any meaningful way.

Further, highly successful clubs who engage their employees in developing work processes and continual process improvement have discovered that these empowered employees make indispensable partners in delivering service.  Not only do they have a greater stake in the enterprise and are more fully committed to and responsible for their work, they actually equate their purpose and success with that of their club.

What is Employee Empowerment?

So what are empowered employees and how can they help your club meet its Mission and Vision?  In the simplest terms 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 defined by the club.

Leaders must understand that empowerment is not something bestowed on employees like some magical gift from management.  The leaders’ role is to establish both the environment and atmosphere where employees feel their empowerment and are emboldened to make decisions, knowing they have the support and backing of their leaders.

The major role that leaders make in empowering their employees is to create a culture where employees are valued and recognized as vital resources of the enterprise.  They must also understand that to be successful with employee empowerment, employees must fully sense the club’s commitment to such empowerment; simply saying that employees are empowered, does not make it so.  Leaders at all levels must do more than talk the talk.

While employee empowerment may be seen as a desirable practice by management, it ultimately comes about only with the recognition by employees that they are empowered.  This means that the focus of leaders must not be on what employees are doing to achieve empowerment, but on what they themselves are doing to promote and enable it.

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.

Leadership Growth and Adaptation

May 29th, 2018

As any individual grows in leadership, his ideas about what leadership entails will mature and, in that maturation, one constant will stand out − change.  Adaptation to insistently changing circumstances is a hallmark of success.  One must approach life as a continual learning experience.

What attitudes and approaches lend themselves to this continual learning experience?

theworkbook_cover-41.  Always keep an open mind.  Try not to pre-judge situations or people.

2.  Never assume you know it all.  The more you learn, the more you realize how little you know.

3.  Be open and accessible to constituents-particularly followers.

4.  Remember that each follower and each constituent is unique and may require different motivators.

5.  Take time to stop and listen to your constituents.  In your rush to accomplish, do not forget that you need their input, feedback, and support.  Knowing their needs is essential.

6.  Don’t cast others as adversaries.  Find out their legitimate concerns about your agenda.  Accept the challenge of winning over your most difficult constituents.

7.  Take constituent concerns seriously and adjust your agenda as necessary.  Their buy-in to your program is essential to your success.  Judicious compromise is a sign of intelligence and flexibility, not defeat.  It should never be “my way or the highway.”

8.  Stay informed.  Know what’s going on in your organization, community, and the world at large.  To be effective, you must be relevant to your time and place.  To speak with authority and win people over, you must be knowledgeable about more than just your job.

9.  Nurture and care for your constituents.  While never on a quid pro quo basis, you will find that the care you give will be returned many times over in loyalty, support, and advancement of your goals.

10.  Be aware and alert to what goes on around you.  Learn by observing others, by witnessing their successes and failures.  Most knowledge comes not from education, but from your life experiences.  When you go through life in a fog of your own making-too consumed with real and imaginary dramas-you are inert, like a rock, to the wealth of learning opportunities around you.  As one leading hospitality company puts it, “keep your antennas up and your radar on” at all times” − you’ll learn a lot by doing so!

11.  When you’re stressed or something has you ill-at-ease or on edge, it is a sure sign that something is wrong somewhere.  Analyze your situation. Discovering the source is the first step in finding out what’s wrong and where you need to act.

12.  Once you’ve discovered the problem, contemplate how your leadership can overcome the issue.  Like any other learned ability, this continual “puzzling” over leadership challenges will enhance your skills and usually bring you to a better resolution.  If things turn out badly, figure out what went wrong and learn from the mistake.

Darwin was right on many levels when he said that creatures have to adapt to survive.  Leaders must adapt, not just to survive, but to thrive.

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.

Personal Responsibility and the Will to Lead

May 14th, 2018

The Freedom of Taking Personal Responsibility

Personal freedom is often thought of as the absence of responsibility.  In this respect, no one is free.  Everyone is responsible for and to someone else.  There is, however, a freedom that comes from accepting personal responsibility for oneself and one’s sphere of influence.

When you blame no one else for the challenges you face, when you realize that where you stand today is the result of all your past decisions and indecision, you look to the true source of any difficulties.  It is never the undefined “they.”  It is always the ever present “I.”

Realizing this is the true source of your freedom.  Instead of being buffeted to and fro by uncontrollable forces, you accept the power of your own authority.  For good or ill, you are the one in charge of your life.

For the supervisor, this means that, as you seek opportunity, you also take responsibility for all aspects of your duties.  Size up those around you, your superiors, peers, and employees.  If they demonstrate responsibility, learn to depend upon them.  If they don’t, find ways to compensate for their inadequacies.  In the case of your employees, take action as necessary.

In the end, you are the only one responsible for your success or failure.  If something goes wrong, there is always more you could have done.  In the case of the truly unexpected event, it’s not so much what went wrong as how you respond to it.  Instead of blaming circumstances or others, take responsibility to make things right.  By accepting this degree of personal responsibility, you free yourself from the unpredictability of life and those around you.

The Will to Lead

Taking personal responsibility equips you to assume a leadership role.  But the will to lead is a far cry from being willing to lead.  A good number of people are willing to accept positions of leadership.  But accepting and exercising leadership are two very different matters.

Having the will to lead implies a commitment to face whatever challenges may present themselves.  Simply put, it’s the will to make things happen.  Consider this example.

Bob was the front desk manager of an older hotel.  Hospitality was his profession, but running was his passion.  Each day at lunchtime, regardless of the weather, he took a five-mile run.  After running he used the employee locker room to change and shower before returning to work.

The poor sanitation and maintenance of the locker rooms disgusted Bob, but for a long time he said nothing.  Finally, he had had enough and announced at a staff meeting that the employees deserved better and that he was going to petition the General Manager to clean and fix up the locker rooms.

One of the other supervisors commented that it would be a waste of time and that they would quickly return to their former condition.  He said that the employees didn’t care and wouldn’t keep them up.  Bob responded that it didn’t matter whether the employees cared or not – he did!

Over the next few weeks with the General Manager’s blessing, Bob organized the maintenance and housekeeping staffs to scrape and repaint walls, strip and refinish the floor, replace broken and unserviceable lockers, and improve the lighting.  Then he got the General Manager to assign different departments the rotating duty of keeping the locker rooms clean.  Finally, he checked them daily for several months to ensure that they were being properly maintained.

The end result was improved employee morale and a changed attitude about their locker rooms.  Employees did care – they just needed someone to lead the way and to overcome the erroneous notion that they didn’t.  They needed Bob’s “will to make things happen.”

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.

Make It Sparkle!

April 29th, 2018

When one considers all of the things that go into making a your hospitality operation distinctive and appealing to its guests or members, one of the most visible is its cleanliness.  Whether a facility has its own housekeeping staff or contracts with a cleaning service, cleanliness is an essential element of a quality operation.  As with any other aspect of quality, standards must be defined and ensured.

The following list includes some of the essential areas that must be monitored for a high level of cleanliness:

Entryways are one of the most visible areas of the facility through which every member or guest will pass and often make the first impression of any visit.  Sidewalks and pavers must be constantly blown or swept.  Cigarette butts must be policed continually; trash or butt cans must be cleaned and emptied frequently.  The entry door must be appealing.  Smudges and handprints on glass doors or sidelight windows are unsightly and require constant wiping.  The doorsill or plate has edges and grooves that collect dirt and debris and is often overlooked.  Entry walk-off mats need to be removed and cleaned daily.

Restrooms are areas where members or guests expect the highest level of sanitation and cleanliness.  They are used constantly and need constant attention.  Sinks and counters need to be wiped down.  Mirrors get spattered and must be cleaned.  Trash cans, particularly on busy occasions, can overflow with hand towels and waste.  Supplies must be checked and replenished as usage levels dictate.

Dining Rooms and Bars, because of the food and beverages served, must be kept clean and “appetizing” at all times.  Trash cans must be emptied frequently, wiped down, and sanitized to avoid offensive odors.  Carpets around tables and chairs receive spills and dropped food items.  They must be vacuumed thoroughly on a daily basis and shampooed with some frequency.  The furniture itself must be cleaned daily to prevent food buildup.  Young children can make a mess of highchairs.  These must be cleaned and sanitized after each use.  Menu covers can quickly get smudged and grimy and should be cleaned or replaced often.

Lobby or Seating Areas often have large overstuffed furniture.  These should be vacuumed daily, particularly the cushions which collect dust and debris, under cushions, and along raised seams.  Tables and bookshelves need to be dusted daily.

Picture Frames, Paintings, and Window Molding need frequent dusting and are often overlooked, particularly if high on a wall.

Windows allow light to enter and Mirrors reflect that light.  Often one doesn’t notice how dirty they can get until light hits them in a certain way and this will most certainly to be noticed by members or guests.

High Ceilings, Chandeliers, and Ceiling Fans give dramatic effect, but are the perfect place for cobwebs and dust to collect.  Inspecting with a keen eye and the use of a telescoping duster should be a daily habit, particularly in food service areas.

Verandahs and Porches require the same discipline, but even greater vigilance given their exposure to the elements and outdoor bugs and spiders.

While not as visible, Sanitation is of even greater importance given the health and hygiene implications.  A recent television report claimed that tests had shown that the handles on grocery carts harbored more germs than toilet seats.  While hospitality operations don’t use grocery carts, the undeniable implication of this story is the near universal transmission of germs by people’s hands (and this takes on even greater importance in light of the recent flu season).  A further story had a doctor saying that the most effective habit in avoiding the flu was constant hand washing.

These two stories combined point out the necessity of using disinfectant cleaners on any surface touched by human hand.  Some surfaces that readily come to mind are door knobs and handles, banisters and railings, flush handles on toilets, sink handles, armrests on chairs, bar and table surfaces, water fountains, ice machines, dish or glass washers, or any other surface or place frequented by members or guests, and employees – particularly those employees who handle food and drink.

Paying attention to these issues of cleanliness and sanitation will go a long way in creating the very real impression of a quality operation.  While the housekeeping staff or contractor is charged with the tasks of cleanliness and sanitation, it is still the managers’ responsibility to establish the standard and to ensure it is met.  Making all employees aware of the need for a clean and sanitized operation, and providing the necessary tools and training for each department to clean whenever there is spare or down time, will ensure that everyone recognizes the shared responsibility of keeping your facility clean.

And giving it that extra sparkle will help your operation and reputation shine!

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This 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.

Guiding Principles and Operating Standards

April 15th, 2018

Some time ago I blogged about a Culture of Service and the need for constantly reinforced organizational values.  Among those values I suggested the need for principles and standards to guide the enterprise.  Here’s one attempt to define the underlying values of an organization:

GUIDING PRINCIPLES: Principles that guide the conduct of our business!

  • Proactive leadership with service-based philosophy. Our leadership is active and engaged, while strictly adhering to service-based leadership principles (per Leadership on the Line).
  • Forward-thinking, professional expertise. Our professional knowledge should not only be up-to-date, but should be constantly looking ahead for cutting edge concepts and practices.
  • Proven management and operating systems. We utilize proven management practices and operating systems to efficiently organize and operate our club.
  • Sound planning and effective implementation. All of our projects and tasks must be planned thoroughly and implemented completely.
  • Innovative programs, continually reviewed. We offer innovative programs and we continually review them to make improvements.
  • A commitment to staff development and empowerment through formal, ongoing training. We operate in a detail intensive business and can only achieve excellence by thorough training and retraining.  Employees must be empowered to succeed and to solve member/guest issues whenever encountered.

OPERATING STANDARDS: Standards that form the basis for our operations!

  • Our vision and goals are articulated.  Our Club Strategic Plan lays out the long term goals for the operation.  Club Annual Goals are prepared as guides and targets for accomplishment.  We put them in writing to formally commit ourselves to their accomplishment.
  • We are uncompromising in our commitment to excellence, quality, and service.  To serve the highest echelons of our community, we have to set and commit to the highest standards.
  • Authority and responsibility are assigned and accountability assured.  Managers are assigned both the authority and the responsibility to direct their areas of the operation according to our highest standards.  These individuals are held accountable for their results.
  • We embrace innovation, initiative, and change while rejecting the status quo.  We seek continual improvement in all aspects of our operations.
  • Standards are defined, operations are detailed in written policy and procedure, and we seek continual improvement of products, services, programs, and operating systems.  Written standards (or the expected outcome of our “moments of truth”) for our products and services are detailed in written policies and procedures.  We seek continual improvement in these.
  • Member/guest issues are resolved politely and promptly to their complete satisfaction by our empowered employees.  No explanation needed.
  • Constant communications and feedback enhances operations and service, while problems and complaints are viewed as opportunities to improve.  We can never communicate too much or too well.  Informed employees are better employees.  Problems brought to our attention allow us to focus on solutions.
  • We benchmark revenues and sales mixes to evaluate members’ response to products, services, and programs, and we benchmark expenses, inventories, and processes to ensure efficiency and cost effectiveness.  We must pay close attention to what our members are telling us by their spending habits.  Benchmarking and analyzing expenses, inventories, and processes help us be more efficient.
  • We ensure clean, safe, well-maintained facilities and equipment while safeguarding club assets.  A good bottom line is only one measure of our effectiveness; we must also take care of all club facilities and safeguard their assets.
  • We acknowledge each operation as a team of dedicated individuals working toward common goals and we recognize the ultimate value of people in everything we do.  While each employee has his or her own duties and responsibilities, every member of our staff is important and works toward the common goal of understanding and exceeding the expectations of our members and guests.  Ultimately our business is about people and they must be valued and respected wherever and whenever encountered.

By themselves such statements have little value.  But by the  consistent example of management and the constant reinforcement to all employees these values are elevated to an animating spirit that permeates the organization.

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.

Service-Based Leadership – It’s Just Common Sense

April 1st, 2018

I recently read an Internet-posted news article entitled, “Disney Offers Customer Service Training.”  Written by Adrian Sainz, the article talked about Miami International Airport employees taking customer service training from the Disney Institute, a division of Walt Disney Company set up to teach its principles and practices to other companies.  Let’s pick up on the story.

“Now the Institute has taken another client: Miami International Airport, which many travelers will tell you needs customer service training like an airplane needs wings. Surveys rank its service among the nation’s worst. The airport’s terminal operations employees are taking classes taught by Institute instructors, learning leadership practices, team building, staff relations and communication skills-many formulated by Walt Disney himself.

“Disney takes great pride in ensuring a fun time and repeat business, mainly by emphasizing customer service and attention to detail while trying not to appear too sterile or robotic.

“Early in the training, a handful of Miami airport managers visited the Magic Kingdom, where they were shown examples on how paying attention to detail and removing barriers were integral in making guests happy and keeping them informed.”

The article went on discussing various techniques used by Disney to enhance customer service.  While I found this discussion somewhat interesting, it was the reader comments posted below the article that caught my attention.  Here they are (emphasis added is mine):

1st Posted Comment:  “I work for a medical practice in Georgia that sends a few of their employees to Disney for training each year. Our patients (guests) really responded well to our new customer service guidelines. However, management really needed to attend the training as well as the regular employees. They became complacent in their ‘ivory tower’ and expected all of us to treat the patients well (and of course we did); however, management needed to extend the same courtesy and good manners to their employees. In the past 3 months the company has had record turnover and still harbors a large disgruntled employee pool. No idle words …. ‘Treat others the way you would want to be treated.'”

2nd Posted Comment:  “When we returned, all 1st level management (the ones dealing with the customers) were asked to implement the Disney experience in our daily activities. To this day we have weekly meetings with our senior management to report how our teams are embracing the changes. Unfortunately many of the associates treat it as ‘the flavor of the month’ program to improve customer satisfaction. We are still trying to make a culture change with our staff.  The most unfortunate part of the Disney experience was that although our senior management went along on the trip, I am yet to witness the impact it had on them when dealing with us 1st level managers.”

ed-jpeg-43rd Posted Comment:  “I agree with the posters who feel that senior management should lead by example and treat their subordinates with dignity and respect. It just seems like common sense, that when employees are happy and feel well treated, this will filter down to the way they treat the customers. Everyone in an organization deserves to be treated well and this makes for optimum performance.”

Three of the four postings by readers made the same point about management.  This suggests the obvious:  that without the active involvement and example of leadership (and Service-Based Leadership at that), improvements in employee morale, dedication, empowerment, and ultimately in customer service will not happen.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This 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.

Operating Standards

March 20th, 2018

As anyone who has ever read my writings knows, I am a firm believer in written standards, policies, and procedures as the basis for a well-organized hospitality operation.  Here are some of the reasons why:

Written standards (or the expected outcome of our “moments of truth”) for our products and services must be detailed in written policies and procedures.

We cannot begin in any meaningful way to train our employees until we have defined for them the standards which we wish to achieve.  These must be in writing to allow the General Manager and owners to evaluate and concur with the standards we contemplate.  When written they allow us to consistently pass on the standards to succeeding generations of employees.

Policies and procedures are the “what and how” of the way we do things.  Employees should not be allowed to freelance.  “Discretion [on the part of employees] is the enemy of quality.”  Again, policies and procedures must be written for consistency sake.  Taken together they form the basis for most training material.

Standards, policies, and procedures must be continually reviewed and updated as necessary.  Continual process improvement is the discipline that will not permit us to rest on our laurels, but instead be constantly working to make all aspects of the operation better.

What are some of the reasons that managers do not prepare written standards, policies, and procedures?

  • It takes too much time (so they don’t mind wasting immense amounts of time dealing with untrained staff and a disorganized operation)
  • No one told them to do it (in other words, they don’t have any initiative; they’re not, as Jim Collins described in Good to Great,  “disciplined people taking disciplined action”)
  • Their writing skills are not up to it (so they’ve given up instead of looking for creative ways to make it happen)
  • They don’t know what standards, policies, or procedures to prepare (then why are they a manager? – somewhere in their heads must be an idea of how they want to organize and run their operation)
  • They don’t know what format to use (could copying Hospitality Resources International’s already designed format be any easier?)
  • They have no excuse.  Which is exactly right!

Having faced these issues in job after job in both hotels and clubs, I have over the years prepared an immense amount of written standards, policies, and procedures which are available on the Hospitality Resources International website.  You can join the site for free and begin downloading these resources and customizing them for use at your club.  So honestly, there is no longer any excuse!

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This blog comments on and discusses the club 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.

Implementation of Remarkable Service

February 27th, 2018

While many think that it costs more to provide Remarkable Service levels, this is not necessarily so.  At the end of the day it’s more about organization and discipline than it is about higher costs.

It does, however, require commitment on the part of the owners or board, buy-in from the club’s membership, and a long-term, focused effort from the General Manager and management staff.  The end result of Remarkable Service, of an organized and efficient operation, and a focused staff working in unison toward a common goal, comes from Jim Collins’ Flywheel effect.  To quote from Good to Great,

What do the right people want more than anything else?  They want to be part of a winning team.  They want to contribute to producing visible, tangible results.  They want to feel the excitement of being involved in something that just flat-out works.  When the right people see a simple plan born of confronting the brutal facts – a plan developed from understanding, not bravado – they are likely to say, ‘That’ll work.  Count me in.’ When they see the monolithic unity of the executive team behind the simple plan and the selfless, dedicated qualities of Level 5 leadership, they’ll drop their cynicism.  When people begin to feel the magic of momentum – when they begin to see tangible results, when they can feel the flywheel beginning to build speed – that’s when the bulk of people line up to throw their shoulders against the wheel and push.”

Realistically, the process may take three to five years . . . or longer.  But the benefits to the club are as remarkable as the level of service achieved, including:

  • Accountable, service-based leaders
  • Willing, committed, and empowered staff
  • Lower staff turnover; improved morale and motivation
  • Greater operational efficiencies
  • Improved operating performance
  • Less liability exposure
  • Better planning and execution
  • Less turmoil and chaos in the operation
  • Improved member sales, member satisfaction and retention

The important thing for management, staff, and members to recognize is that they are working on a plan to revitalize their club.  And as legendary Dallas Cowboy coach Tom Landry said,

Setting a goal is not the main thing.  It is deciding how you will go about achieving it and staying with that plan.”

Click here to read the entire Quest for Remarkable Service white paper.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This blog comments on and discusses the club 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 club managers throughout the country and around the world.

Benchmarking

February 7th, 2018

Imagine two professional baseball teams.  One team measures every aspect of every player’s performance – the number of at bats; number of hits, walks, and strikeouts; batting averages against right- and left-handed pitchers; slugging averages; and fielding percentages.  They also measure each pitcher’s earned run average, number of base on balls, strikeouts, wild pitches; and so on.  The other team decides it’s too much trouble and keeps no statistics whatsoever.

These two teams will meet each other eighteen times a season.  While well matched in player talent, hustle, and desire, and though each team possesses competent management and coaching, one team dominates the other season after season.  Would anyone be surprised to discover which is the dominant team?

As everyone knows, this example is ludicrous because every baseball team measures players’ performance and uses this information to make crucial game decisions.  What is it that baseball managers understand that some club managers don’t seem to grasp?  The fact that everything in life follows patterns. When patterns are tracked and analyzed, they can be used to predict future performance and set goals.

Benchmarking, the act of measuring and analyzing operating performance, seeks to understand the patterns underlying a club’s operation.  Reasons to benchmark include:

  • Benchmarks can be used to establish performance goals for future operating periods.
  • Benchmarks help identify under-performance and best practices.
  • Benchmarks from past periods can make budgeting for future periods easier and far more accurate.
  • Tracking revenues and comparing them to historical benchmarks allows management to measure member response to products/services and new initiatives.
  • Benchmarks create the measurable accountabilities for each manager’s work plan.

The club’s monthly operating statements provide good basic information, but these summary numbers can mask troubling trends within the operation.  For instance, higher food revenues can be a result of less patronage, but each member spending more because of higher menu prices.  The manager is happy with the higher revenues, but is blissfully ignorant of declining clientele.

Benchmarking is best accomplished by department heads who have bottom line responsibility.  Most performance measures will fall into the following broad categories.

  • Revenues and expenses, both aggregate and by type
  • Inventories
  • Retail sales mix to determine buying patterns of members

Most of the raw data necessary to benchmark comes from point-of-sale (POS) reports.  Much of this lode of daily information gets looked at briefly by department heads or the accounting office and is then filed away, rarely to be seen again.  The real value of this information comes from tracking it over time to determine trends by day of week, week to week, month to month, and year to year.  This makes it necessary for managers to pull the information from POS reports and enter it into spreadsheet software.

A few caveats:

  • There are as many aspects of an operation to measure as time, resources, and ingenuity will allow. Focus on those most critical to one’s operation.
  • Data used in benchmarking must be defined and collected in a consistent manner.
  • When comparing data, always compare like to like.
  • Ensure benchmarks measure events with only one underlying variable.
  • Do not draw conclusions from too small a sample.  The larger the sample, the more accurate the conclusion.
  • When two pieces of data are compared to generate a benchmark, both a small sample size or extreme volatility in one or the other, can skew the resultant benchmark.

Benchmarking is not complicated, but it does require discipline and persistence.  It is best accomplished by setting up routine systems to collect, compile, report, and analyze the information collected.  Like a baseball team, the knowledge gained by benchmarking will bring a club to the top of its game.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This blog comments on and discusses the club 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 club managers throughout the country and around the world.

A Discipline of Planning

January 22nd, 2018

Managing a club without a plan is like driving through a strange land without a road map.  Given the size, complexity, and money invested in making a club successful, why would anyone consider operating it by the seat of one’s pants?  Yet, this is exactly what managers do when they fail to establish a discipline of formal planning.  And make no mistake about it, it is a discipline – requiring managers and supervisors at all levels to conceive and document their plans for upcoming periods and specific events.  It also requires that the General Manager review all planning documents, as well as review progress toward completing those plans on an ongoing basis.

Every enterprise demands a plan.  Without a formal, written plan to focus attention and action upon the completion of specified goals within a specified time period, the club will lack clear direction and purpose.  By putting plans in writing, the responsible manager formally commits to its accomplishment.  Further, there is a common understanding on the part of both the subordinate manager and the General Manager of what will happen and when.  Often, the planning and execution of one department will impact other departments or the club as a whole.  Written plans ensure that all managers and department heads are fully informed about where the club is going and when things are supposed to happen.  Taking all this into account, planning is not a luxury, but a necessity for efficient operations.

Types of Plans.  Planning is necessary on many levels and in many settings.  Formally, the club should have the following:

  • A Club Annual Plan covering a period of 12 months, coinciding with the budgeting cycle.  This plan lays out the specific goals to be accomplished during the year as part of the club’s efforts toward continual improvement.
  • A General Manager’s Work Plan for the 12 months covered by the Club Annual Plan.  This plan lays out measurable accountabilities for the General Manager and is the basis the GM’s performance appraisal.
  • Departmental Plans for the 12 months covered by the Club Annual Plan.  These plans lay out the goals and objectives of each operating department.
  • A Work Plan for each Department Head for the same 12 months.  These plans do the same for the club’s department heads.
  • Plans for major project and events.  These are plans developed for specific major tasks or activities such as purchasing new golf carts, renovating a facility, or preparing for the Member-Guest Tournament.

Planning Tips.   Having gone through the planning process a number of times, I offer the following advice to all General Managers:

  • Start early.  Procrastination results in poor, disjointed planning.
  • Lay out the broad outlines of what the Board or GM wish to accomplish.  These outlines will impact the priorities and initiatives of the club’s operating departments.
  • Involve your staff.  The departmental plans must take into account the broader goals of the club, but will also include the plans and agendas of individual Department Heads.  Further, since no department works in isolation, one department’s plan may affect others – either materially or in the timing of events and accomplishments.
  • Challenge staff.  General Managers should explain the big picture of club direction and progress and then challenge Department Heads to work on specific initiatives within their departments, for example, implementing Benchmarking, setting up Tools to Beat Budget, reviewing departmental training material and plans, Continual Process Improvement.
  • Planning is a process.  No plan is completed after one pass.  Back and forth discussion between the General Manager and Department Heads and among the different departments will further refine plans insuring a well-integrated club plan.
  • Use planning as a team-building exercise.  Given the preceding tips, I encourage General Managers to use the annual planning process as a team-building process.  Call an early planning meeting with all Department Heads to lay out the purpose, process, and planning timeline.  Then establish a series of planning meetings at which each Department Head presents his or her plans to the rest of the management staff for input and feedback.  One Department Head’s ideas may spark others to similar accomplishment.  Encourage critical review of plans and challenge groups of Department Heads to work together to work on larger club or departmental initiatives.

When departmental plans are completed, General Managers must review them and incorporate the more significant items in the Annual Club Plan.  All this should be done in time to allow adequate review and feedback by the Board before the start of the budgeting process.

Lastly, plans must not be a one-time task not to be looked at again.  To be truly useful departmentals and the Club Annual Plan should be reviewed often.  I recommend a brief review of plans and accomplishments during the Monthly Review of Operating Statements.  This ongoing review and discussion of planning will ensure timely completion of tasks and keep the club on target to meet all of its Annual Goals.

Summary.  The importance of disciplined planning cannot be overstated.  Haphazard planning results in haphazard operations and equally haphazard performance.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This blog comments on and discusses the club 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 club managers throughout the country and around the world.