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!

Consistency is Key to Quality and Service

January 12th, 2015

When it comes to quality and service some clubs are consistently awesome, a few are consistently awful, and most are consistently inconsistent. While there may be many factors that contribute to the comparative performance of clubs, a major underlying difference is consistency or lack thereof in the details of their operations.

As I progressed through my hospitality career, I often heard the time-worn remark that while fast food operations don’t necessarily provide their customers with the highest quality of product and service; they build their success on providing a consistent experience.

Private clubs aim higher for their customers – the elite and affluent members of a community who pay a significant amount to belong and enjoy the ambience and personalized service of a club.  Yet simply because a club offers more impressive surroundings, higher quality amenities, and a more upscale menu doesn’t mean that members don’t have a reasonable expectation of consistency whenever they come to their club.

But in contrasting clubs, which are often standalone operations with limited staffs and no economies of scale, with a McDonalds or a Subway with their significant corporate resources is an unfair comparison.  This doesn’t mean that clubs should not aspire to consistency of operations, but it does mean that clubs must make a concerted effort to institutionalize consistency in all areas, particularly in its relationship with members.

Here are major areas of a club operation where consistency is critical:

Leadership.  How your management team interacts with employees is critical to their commitment, performance, and engagement with members.  Without a consistent conception and application of leadership at all levels of the operation, the quality and service you provide will be as inconsistent as the leadership styles of each manager and supervisor.  Leadership on the Line and Leadership on the Line – The Workbook spell out in detail the principles of Service-Based Leadership and are a great foundation for consistent quality and service.

An Overarching Game Plan.  Every endeavor demands a plan to be successful.  Without a written plan to guide various departments in the execution of their missions, inconsistencies will abound.  The Quest for Remarkable Service is a good starting point in developing your specific game plan.

Organizational Values and Culture of Service.  The values your club holds dear and the manner it interacts with members, employees, and the community at large is crucial to its success.  As with any nuanced interaction with others, these must be well-defined, taught, and modeled to ensure consistent understanding and application.  Organizational Values can help you define your own values and culture of service.

Organizational and Operational Standards, Policies, and Procedures.  How can you possibly determine what employees should be trained to know and do if you have not defined your Standards, Policies, and Procedures?  See Club Accounting Standards, Policies, and Procedures and Club Personnel Standards, Policies, and Procedures; there is no better starting point to prepare your club’s customized SPPs in these two critical areas.

Management Disciplines.  In his groundbreaking book, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . and Others Don’t, Jim Collins said, “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.”  Without disciplined managers at every level of the organization executing best practice management disciplines, a club will never achieve consistency of operations or greatness.

Member Relations.  A club’s membership is its lifeblood.  How the club interacts with its members in all its areas of engagement will determine the memberships’ commitment to and use of club facilities.  This is an area that cannot be left to serendipity.  To be consistent in how members are engaged and treated, the club must have a comprehensive Member Relationship Management Plan and all employees must be trained in its requirements.

Managerial and Employee Training.  If employees are to perform with consistency, all staff, including managers, must be trained in all aspects of their positions and responsibilities, most particularly in the details of service and service delivery.  Read Training Requirements in Hospitality Operations for a broad list of training necessities.

Employee Empowerment.  John Tschohl said, “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.”  Creating employee empowerment requires leadership, planning, and training.  Consistent empowerment training across all service delivery areas will transform both employee morale and member satisfaction.  Read The Power of Employee Empowerment for a greater understanding of this revolutionary means of service.

Planning, Execution, and Review.  The operational efforts of the club are encompassed in the ongoing process of planning, execution, and review.  When addressed and executed in a disciplined manner, this process can streamline your operation while infusing it with consistency.  Any club task that will be repeated (and this means 99.9% of everything you do) can be examined for ways to make it more efficient or replicated with greater ease.  This discipline leads naturally into the following one.

Continual Process Improvement.  Refer again to the quote from Jim Collins under Management Disciplines above, “. . . and then seek continual improvement in these.”  In the effort to continually improve, a major and continuing focus should be on improving the consistency of the club’s quality and service.

Accountability.  Everything we’ve talked about above to improve consistency of quality and service means nothing without accountability.  Without leadership, the “will to make it happen,” and strict accountability for results, running a high quality club is an exercise in futility.

Having discussed the major areas requiring consistency, you must understand that the way to build a high performing, consistent operation is not unknown, but at the same time, there is nothing easy about the effort that goes into it.  It requires the hard work, focus, and diligence that Jim Collins described as the Flywheel Effect in building a “good to great” company,

“Sustainable transformations follow a predictable pattern of buildup and breakthrough.  Like pushing on a giant, heavy flywheel, it takes a lot of effort to get the thing moving at all, but with persistent pushing in a consistent direction over a long period of time, the flywheel builds up momentum, eventually hitting a point of breakthrough.”

Fortunately, much of the initial groundwork and documentation has already been accomplished.  Given the fact that most clubs are similar in their aims and methods, there is no sense in reinventing the wheel.  Hospitality Resources International has a wide variety of basic resources available to purchase at reasonable cost.  This material can be used as is or can be customized for specific operations.

When you recognize that consistency is a significant underlying element of both quality and service, it is obvious that it must be a focus of everything you do to organize the club and train staff.  So do yourself, your employees, and your members a favor and ensure a Consistency of Message for your club to consistently excel in everything you do.

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!

Motivation and Morale

January 5th, 2015

Employee turnover rates, employee attitudes, body language, and facial expressions speak volumes about a company.  The signs are easy to see – grumbling, fearfulness, under-breath comments, lack of humor or gallows humor, cynical signs on desks or screen savers, and sour, negative attitudes.

Poor morale comes from poor leaders.  Employees are not to blame.  They are simply responding to a lack of leadership.  Poor morale is solved by a genuine interest in the welfare of employees, trust, constant feedback, good two-way communications, clear goals, and positive motivation.

Leaders must motivate their employees to do what needs to be done, not just to get by, but to excel.  Leaders are vitally concerned about their employees’ morale.  Poor morale can cripple the effectiveness of any group of people.

You must set the example and be positive and upbeat.  Bad moods can destroy an organization, especially if it is yours.  It is your responsibility to keep your employees up.  Don’t tolerate sour, negative attitudes.  Unless you put a stop to them, they will grow like a cancer and be just as destructive.

A vivid memory of mine is of working at a historic hotel where the controller had been “in residence” for over twenty years.  Martha never smiled, and she seemingly despised hotel guests, vendors, and other employees.  Her isolation, constant grumbling, and obvious contempt for all around her poisoned the day-to-day atmosphere of the operation.

Staff social functions were occasions for Martha to complain about others who had not done their part or had performed poorly.  Staff meetings always included diatribes on how planned improvements were pointless because guests always complained and employees didn’t care.  Despite her critical and central role in the operation, other employees avoided her like the plague since she was so unpleasant.  Naturally this led to all sorts of problems, lack of cooperation, and miscommunication.

Finally, after much fruitless counseling and despite her longevity, we fired Martha.  The new controller we hired placed great emphasis on being part of the team, meeting with other department heads to explore their concerns and issues, and making a positive contribution to planning and change.

Morale improved immediately.  Line employees and managers seemed to have a new enthusiasm for the challenges we faced.  Cooperation and consideration became the order of the day.  As we gathered steam, improvements in the operation were readily apparent, and we all took pride in our efforts and accomplishments.  Even our regular guests noticed the new attitude and complimented us on our many initiatives.

I expected things to improve without Martha’s ill humor, yet I was stunned by the difference her departure made.  It seems her negativity impacted many on the staff.  The collective emotional energy invested in dealing with her was put to better use and everyone was better for it.

While you can’t control the mood swings of others, you can expect and require your employees to treat their fellow employees with courtesy and respect.  You can insist on a cheerful and positive attitude.  Any employee who refuses to make this basic commitment to the group welfare should seek other employment or, if suffering from a medical condition or emotional problem, seek professional help.

In dealing with many issues of motivation and morale, a little sincere human concern goes a long way.  The people who work for you are like you, basically good-at-heart, each with his or her own strengths and weaknesses.  Be gentle and nurturing and give them the benefit of the doubt.  Show understanding in helping and teaching them.  Yet be uncompromising and fanatical in your dedication to right attitude and quality of service.

Make employees part of the team, remembering that you are their coach.  Share ideas with them, brainstorm with them, and listen to their ideas.  A person with a stake in an organization has a greater sense of commitment.

A little praise and recognition goes a long way in building morale and esprit.  If employees bring you good ideas, make sure they get recognition for their contribution.  Never, ever take credit for an employee’s idea.  Your superiors will be far more impressed by your self-confidence and generosity of spirit in giving credit where it is truly due.  Conversely, nothing will destroy your standing with employees faster than claiming credit for their accomplishments and ideas.

Know and address your employees by name.  Meet with your employees frequently, both formally and informally.  Talk to them every day.  Ask for problems; hound them for problems.  If they honestly believe you will try to solve the problems they face, they will open up.

Excerpted from Leadership on the Line: A Guide for Front Line Supervisors, Business Owners, and Emerging Leaders, Ed Rehkopf, Clarity Publications, 2002

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 Logical Conclusion

December 29th, 2014

Club managers and department heads (the various enterprise leaders) face many obstacles in attempting to provide a quality club experience with the highest possible levels of service for members and their guests.  Overcoming these hurdles, described in Ten Challenges to Operating a Private Club, requires a great deal of focus and discipline, yet the basic premise of how to overcome these challenges can be summed up by the need for unimpeded communication and consistent training.

This conclusion can be logically determined from the following statements:

1.   Club operations are labor-intensive – it takes a lot of people doing all the right things in their various positions to meet quality and service expectations.

2.   Each set of departmental responsibilities encompasses a vast amount of detail, much of it basic and routine, which must be attended to daily.

3.   While the standards, policies, procedures, and service practices to operate individual departments within the club are well-known to the professional leaders of those enterprises, these must be integrated into the larger vision of club operations.

4.   This integration requires the vision, values, and clearly-defined expectations of the overall executive – the club general manager.

5.   The vision, values, and expectations must then be communicated correctly and consistently through the intervening layers of managers and supervisors to the front line employees who both create quality and deliver service with their daily efforts.

6.   Conversely, the feedback from front line employees, who know better than anyone what works and doesn’t work and who, if encouraged, have the most realistic ideas of how to improve the operation at the level of member contact, must be communicated back to and through their supervisors and managers to department heads, and ultimately the general manager.

7.   Such communication throughout the organization can only work if there are no impediments to the flow of information such as moody, aloof, or uncommunicative managers or by managers who do not inherently understand that a leader’s role is service to employees – to provide them with the tools, training, resources, daily engagement, leadership, and example to do their jobs properly and with enthusiasm.

8.   Anything that impedes this two-way open flow of communication blunts all efforts to achieve quality and deliver service.

9.   Since managers and employees come and go with some frequency, the only way to ensure that each employee learns the details and nuances of their positions is to train them thoroughly.

10. Training material flows naturally from the club’s vision, values, expectations, standards, policies, and procedures, as well as various legal and liability issues, safety and public health necessities, and departmental service practices.  Consistent training requires that these concepts and materials be in writing regardless of the ultimate media or methods used for instruction.  To do otherwise is to operate from easily-corruptible and ever-changing oral tradition.

The Logical Conclusion:  Because quality and service are both detail- and people-intensive, a large number of employees must know what to do in all situations. Such complexity can only be mastered through unimpeded communication and consistent training.  Unimpeded communication flows naturally from service-based leaders, while written values, expectations, standards, policies, and procedures ensures the consistency of training.

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!

 

Performance Management

December 22nd, 2014

Recognizing that a hospitality organization is a collection of diverse business enterprises, each with its own requirements, disciplines, and knowledge for success, General Managers must rely on department heads to run their operations with high levels of professionalism, efficiency, and service.  But to ensure that this is consistently done with a quality that meets customer/guest/member and ownership’s expectations, the general manager must exert his or her authority to guide subordinates toward a common vision, specific goals, and a coordinated timing of initiatives across departmental lines.

With this in mind there is probably no more important thing a general manager can do to drive desired outcomes than to prepare detailed work plans for subordinate managers and hold them strictly accountable for results.

But beyond the specifics and timing of work plan elements the General Manager must also spell out in detail his or her expectations for leadership, management disciplines, and organizational professionalism, as well as performance and service standards for the operation.  The overall cycle of performance management, then, consists of enumerating expectations, driving organizational development through work planning, and providing feedback and measurements of performance by means of periodic formal reviews.

The performance of line employees, while not carrying the same scope and weight of consequence as that of managers and supervisors, is still important in that it most directly affects service and service delivery.  So while the work planning requirement may not be as significant for line employees, the need to spell out expectations for behavior and performance is still of major concern.

Further, all employees need and deserve feedback on their efforts at work.  Such feedback serves as ongoing guidance as to the suitability and sufficiency of their contribution to the collective effort.  While it is expected that employees will receive this feedback on a day in, day out basis, it is also customary and appropriate to give them formal feedback during periodic performance reviews.

Lastly, such reviews provide opportunities for helping employees with self- and career-development advice.  Such interest by management in each employee’s development will yield greater commitment and loyalty to the organization and its performance.

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!

Guest Blog: Learning Experiences

December 8th, 2014
Don Vance, CCM, CPC Chief Operating Officer General Manager Hound Ears Club

Don Vance, CCM, CPC Chief Operating Officer General Manager Hound Ears Club

One of my favorite coffee-mug witticisms says that “Everyone is entitled to be stupid from time to time—but some abuse the privilege more than others.”  As club managers, we have all been exasperated by employees to whom this seems to apply, and are often inclined to just write them off as hopeless.

But as Forrest Gump said, “Stupid is as stupid does.”  Many times, by taking a closer, more introspective look, we discover that these “hopeless causes” really reflect inherent problems within our own organizations, often caused by our own less-than-brilliant performance as managers.

We all know there’s a need for ongoing training and development of our employees.  But too often, we get distracted by the day-to-day details of our operations.  To be effective, training must be viewed as a “department,” in the same sense as F&B, golf operations or course maintenance.  Accordingly, GMs and department heads must devote as much time to their roles as “Chief Learning Officers” as they do to being clubhouse managers, golf pros or superintendents.

At the same time, we also need to constantly remind and show our employees that training is a two-way street.  A few years ago, I had a sous-chef come and tell me he was leaving, because he felt he was no longer learning anything in his job.  I asked him what his learning expectations were, and he explained that while he wanted to be an executive chef someday, he felt our current head chef didn’t want to teach him.

I explained to this employee that it was incumbent on him, as much as on his supervisor, to develop his skill sets and position himself to move up.  When I asked him what he had done lately on his own to learn, he was silent.  I challenged him to take more upon himself to advance his culinary education, and told him I would pay for any books that he wanted to purchase, or online training that he might want to pursue.  I also gave him an allowance to take approved management classes.

This employee decided to stay and pursue a “self-directed” learning program in this fashion.  About two years later, our executive chef left, and he earned a promotion to replace him.

School as a Stool

As this example shows, training works best when everyone is involved and committed, from ownership to management and down through the employee ranks.  When all legs of the stool are properly balanced in this fashion, everyone benefits—the organization and management because employees become more skilled, and the employees themselves because they can expand their careers, make connections and find new purpose and motivation in their lives.

If you’re not sure if your efforts are on target from all of these perspectives, a “training needs analysis” can prove to be a very beneficial exercise.  After all, “If we don’t know what road to take, then any road will take us there.”  This analysis can be conducted by the most qualified trainers from within your organization, or you can hire outside talent to come in and evaluate, structure and teach your programs.

Here, too, it can be very beneficial to get employees involved in the process.  Have some of your lead employees work with management to develop training action plans and set clear objectives.  Then firm up the entire process by holding group employee meetings before any training begins, so managers and employees can agree and understand the expectations of the programs.  Too often, we teach without completely explaining why, or what, we are teaching.

Once training efforts are underway, it’s equally critical to make sure they are kept current and innovative.  Are you still using the same employee training handbook you created (or most likely, plagiarized) from a prior operation?  Is your training program truly specific to the needs of your current operation?  Are you teaching your employees the very latest techniques for their jobs?

A good barometer for honest insight into where you are with training is employee turnover.  Like the sous-chef who came to me, a key contributing factor to why many employees leave is when they are not properly trained and therefore feel confused, frustrated, threatened or just unsure about their ability to contribute to the operation.

Valuable History Lessons

In the club and resort business, a well thought-out training plan should also include teaching the history and culture of your property.  It’s easy to overlook this critical part of training as we rush to get to the details of service techniques, but the two are closely related.  By focusing on how members and guests have come to perceive our operations and expect certain levels of service, “culture training” will properly orient employees to “the way it has always been”—and must continue to be.

Remember, too, that while many people like to learn by “doing” or from experience, others learn best “by the book.”  What’s really needed is a balance of both.  While every training program should be formalized enough to include written training plans, handbooks and a classroom setting, my advice would also be to not paralyze it by making it too cumbersome with “book learning.”  Instead, be sure to also include a full dose of interactive and “on the job” education.

I learned this from personal experience a few years ago, when my F&B Director came to me and expressed concern that we were losing qualified employees during the training process.  This prompted us to analyze our entire training program, and we soon saw that it was too formal and intimidating.

We took our four-inch training handbook, removed chapters, and restructured the plan so we would present specific areas of training one at a time, as opposed to the entire book all at once. This had a noticeably positive effect on the success of our training— and led to an equally noticeable reduction in employee turnover.

Article written by: Don E. Vance, CCM, CPC, Chief Operating Officer/General Manager, Hound Ears Club

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!

Growing Your Leadership Skills

December 1st, 2014

As any individual grows in leadership, his or her 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?

  • Always keep an open mind.  Try not to pre-judge situations or people.
  • Never assume you know it all.  The more you learn, the more you realize how little you know.
  • Be open and accessible to constituents—particularly followers.
  • Remember that each follower and each constituent is unique and may require different motivators.
  • 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.
  • Don’t cast others as adversaries.  Find out their legitimate concerns about your agenda.  Accept the challenge of winning over your most difficult constituents.
  • 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.”
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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!
  • 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.
  • 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.

Ed Rehkopf, 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 hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!

The Profound and Powerful Persuasion of Principles

November 24th, 2014

Over the years numerous authors have stated and reinforced the notion that leadership is the foundation of organizational excellence.  Examples abound in the world of business, in sports arenas, in warfare and battle that sound leadership is the first and foremost requirement of success.  Even in hospitality and service, leadership plays that essential role.  As Tony Hyde, Senior Executive Vice President of East West Partners Club Management, said, “The longer I’m in this business, the more I realize it’s all about leadership.”

Yet most successful club managers will tell you that no matter the individual skills and talents they possess, there is much more in the way of organization, structure, and management disciplines that must be brought to bear to create and sustain a high-performing operation.  First and foremost of these are well-defined organizational values and a continually reinforced culture of service.  Why is this so?

  • A leader’s values are those bedrock principles that govern the actions by which she gains the trust and loyalty of her followers.  A recent ad for Notre Dame University said it best, “The value of a leader is directly proportional to a leader’s values.”  Dr. Bob Nelson, founder of a company specializing in management practices improvement, has said, “You get the best efforts from others not by lighting a fire beneath them, but by building a fire within.”  Leadership is not so much what you do.  It’s what you inspire others to do; and nothing inspires like principled action.
  • As we have often stressed, a leader must spell out his or her expectations for followers.  While these expectations must cover the standards, policies, and procedures of performance and execution, there is nothing so basic, yet so important, as ensuring that all employees, especially managers and supervisors, have a firm grounding in the values of the organization.

This indoctrination in best accomplished by continuing exposure, ongoing example, and constant reminder of the underlying principles by which the club conducts itself in relation to the board, the members, employees, vendors, and the community at large.  Without the effort to spell these out in detail, an organization has little hope of modeling and teaching employees what is expected of them in their dealings with others.  Yet how many clubs have made the effort to define their organizational values?  Some have, others have not.

To assist clubs who may want help in this area, Hospitality Resources International has prepared a wide variety of organizational values covering mission, vision, guiding principles, operating standards, managers’ code of ethics, principles of employee relations, and standards of management professionalism.  To further assist organizations in teaching these essential principles, HRI has created Values on the Go, a program designed to present organizational values in brief formats for ongoing training and reminder.

The material in Values on the Go is intended for the management staff, including all employees who supervise the work of others and may be used in any appropriate group setting, but most particularly in the general manager’s weekly staff meeting.  By spending a few minutes at each meeting discussing these topics, a general manager can be assured that subordinate managers understand and continually reinforce values and culture.  It can also be used to train new management hires in the details of the club’s organizational values.

As Mac Anderson, founder of Simple Truths, author of more than 22 books, and inspirational corporate speaker, has said, “The three keys to inspiring . . .  service – Reinforce, Reinforce, Reinforce.”

Without an effort to reinforce to employees the basic values of the club, the general manager is failing to value one of the most invaluable of all leadership qualities – the profound and powerful persuasion of principles.

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!

Detailing Your Club Operations

November 18th, 2014

At root our business is about details – the specifics of the products and services we provide and the manner in which we provide them to meet the expectations of our members.  Given that private clubs entail a variety of distinct businesses based on the amenities provided, the tally of daily details easily runs into the thousands across the full spectrum of club operations.  And it’s the way a large number of employees consistently attend to and execute those details that create and sustain members’ perceptions of the value of their club experience.  So while it’s the big picture of strategy that sets the course and trajectory of the operation, it’s the daily attention to detail that creates the expected level of quality and service.

So who is responsible for delivering that quality and service?  Ultimately it’s the general manager, though for practicality sake, the authority to do so is delegated through the club’s department heads and managers to the employees who deliver the service.  But delivering a consistent level of service and quality requires that a vast amount of knowledge, information, guidance, and ongoing training be provided to employees by perhaps 15 to 20 supervisors and managers.  This can only happen if all employees are immersed in a well-defined and continually reinforced culture of service.

This is easily said, but far more difficult to create and sustain in the dynamic and fast-paced environment of club operations.  Clearly the solution is to build as much of the details of service as possible into the structure and routine of the organization.  Here are the necessities:

  • Understand the expectations of your members.  Without a basic understand of what they want and desire, you may miss the mark and all your efforts will be for naught.
  • Ensure consistent and unimpeded communication of organizational values and culture of service.  There is so much for service employees to know and understand that any impediments to the open flow of information will defeat your efforts from the get-go.
  • Identify, prioritize, and focus on the details of departmental touch points.  These are the logical starting point for all your efforts to improve quality and service.  As these are mastered, continue to uncover and address deeper levels of organizational detail.
  • Provide thorough and consistent training of all employees.  Understanding the touch points of your operation does little good if that understanding is not passed on consistently to each new employee and generations of employees.
  • Foster employee empowerment to deal with the unscripted moments and challenges of service.  Management can never foresee all the contingencies of service.  Employees, with the full backing and support of their supervisors, must be encouraged within the parameters of their training to use individual initiative to overcome any service challenges.
  • Utilize organizational structure to institutionalize consistent service delivery.  What we do ain’t easy!  Help yourself and your employees by structuring the routine to happen routinely.  This takes both the will and the organizational discipline to make it happen.  When 80% of the details happen routinely, everyone can focus on the 20% that will wow your members.
  • Institute a robust process of continual improvement to analyze and enhance service and service delivery, detail by detail, department by department.  As we say in Continual Process Improvement, “Given the many details associated with managing a quality club operation 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 operation 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.”

While many owners and managers will say their business success is dependent on location, location, location, in the demanding world of the private clubs, it’s how we handle the details that determine our level of service and success.

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!