On Top at Mountaintop

I had the opportunity and pleasure to speak at a meeting of the Charlotte-Blue Ridge Mountain chapter of the Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals (HFTP) this past week in Cashiers, NC.

This was my fourth occasion to speak before HFTP groups and spoke this time on The Quest for Remarkable Service, Service-Based Leadership, and Employee Empowerment.  The setting for the meeting at the Mountaintop Golf and Lake Club could not have been more idyllic.  Spring has come to the NC Mountains and the rhododendrons are in full bloom with the Mountain Laurel not far behind.

L-R:  Ed Rehkopf, Myra Bumgarner, Rob Duckett

L-R: Ed Rehkopf, Myra Bumgarner, Rob Duckett

For those unfamiliar with Mountaintop, it is a recent addition to the fabulous stable of Discovery Land Company properties.  Now in its fourth season under General Manager Rob Duckett and selected as the top country club in the country by GolfWeek Magazine, Mountaintop has raised the bar for the entire industry when it comes to exceptional service and delivering the “wow” factor to members and guests.

Three things strike me as I contemplate Mountaintop’s service levels.  First, is the engaging, knowledgeable, and professional manner of their employees.  Without exception they make you feel welcomed as if you were a long, lost family member or friend.  Second, are the unexpected service touches, large and small, that both surprise and delight – from the golf course comfort stations stocked with an unbelievable assortment of complimentary snacks and delectables, to the iced bottled water placed by the valet in the cup holder of your car as you depart.  Lastly, is the genuinely pleasant and friendly demeanor of every employee, both line staff and management, whom you encounter.

I joined Rob for dinner Thurdsay night and we talked about his management style and the special challenges he and his staff face.  As I listened I began to understand how he has achieved such a well-deserved reputation for service excellence.  It can simply be summed up in one word – leadership!  During my brief time on property employee after employee spoke glowingly of their boss.  They described Rob as “a great leader,” “demanding, yet fair,” “open and approachable,” “a great communicator,” and “brings out the best in all of us.”

While so many of us struggle to find and retain good employees, Rob has managed to attract great people who stay with him or come back season after season; and remarkably he has achieved this in a remote mountain setting with a limited pool of qualified people.

While Mountaintop’s membership pay well for the privilege of belonging, I am convinced that Rob’s rare leadership style could provide similar results in almost any club at any price point.  Granted the service touches may be less extravagant, but it’s the human element that really makes the difference and Rob’s leadership does bring out the best in his people.

Top (L-R): Dennis Buckner, Gray McRimmon, Dennis Leftwich  Middle: Steven Argo, Linda Fletcher, Pat Weyandt   Bottom: Melody Bumwell, Chrissy Sheridan, Myra Bumgarner

Top (L-R): Dennis Buckner, Gray McRimmon, Dennis Leftwich Middle: Steven Argo, Linda Fletcher, Pat Weyandt . . . . . . . . . . . . . Bottom: Melody Bumwell, Chrissy Sheridan, Myra Bumgarner

About the HFTP:  As mentioned before this is my fourth time speaking to various HFTP groups – and I’ll do so again next month in NJ and again the following month in Richmond.  At each conference I’ve attended I have been truly impressed by this group of hospitality professionals.  Their meetings are far more than social networking opportunities.  Education and sharing their challenges and solutions is a large part of the agendas.  With their headquarters in Austin, TX, and an international office in Maastricht, the Netherlands, this group strives to enhance the professionalism, career development, and advancement opportunities of its 4,800 members.

The topic of Service-Based Leadership touched off a lively discussion of the do’s and don’ts, the characteristics of good leaders, some of the causes of weak leadership, and the need for more leadership development and accountability throughout the industry.  The implications of this important topic were emphasized in a dramatic way by the example and experience of Mountaintop and its marvelous staff.

Special thanks to our Mountaintop hosts, Myra Bumgarner, Controller, and Chrissy Sheridan, Assistant Controller, for a memorable day.  They and the rest of the Mountaintop staff made us all – participants and presenter – most welcomed and at home on top of their mountain!

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly 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.

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