Archive for March, 2010

Continual Process Improvement

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

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

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

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

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

Examples of Continual Process Improvement

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

Methodologies for Continual Process Improvement include:

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the 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.

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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How Many Silos Does Your Club Have?

Monday, March 15th, 2010

Teamwork pays off.  We’ve all seen examples in the sports world of one team playing well together beating a team with superior individual talent.  Legendary University of North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith made a name for himself by fielding balanced teams known for their teamwork as opposed to teams with individual high scoring stars.  Some wag once said, “Dean Smith was the only coach who could keep Michael Jordan to less than 20 points a game” – because of his insistence on selflessness and teamwork.

Teamwork is also important in business where complex organizations depend upon the strengths of different departments working together.  The term “silo” has come to represent individual managers and departments focused solely on their own agendas, functions, and tasks.  The image of a silo, standing tall with sheer walls separating its contents from other silos, is an apt analogy for business departments who work alone with minimal contact with adjacent departments regardless of degree of interdependence and common purpose.

Silos are quite prevalent in the club business where individual departments perform certain well-defined functions in the overall club scheme.  While some usually have good communications and working relationships, such as golf operations and golf course maintenance, less often is this the case between clubhouse functions, such as food and beverage, membership, and administration, and outside functions.  In many cases some department heads only encounter each other at the General Manager’s staff meetings.

The danger in having silos in your club is that some managers have little understanding beyond a broad conception of what other managers or their departments do.  Without a keener appreciation of all elements of the club’s operations, how can department heads work together as a team to understand and exceed members’ expectations?

This is particularly important in those club departments that provide a supporting function to other operations, such as accounting, human resources, administration, and facilities management.  Unless these department heads get out and meet frequently with their operational counterparts, they are unable to get important feedback or conceive of better ways to serve their internal customers.

So how does a General Manager go about breaking down the silos of a club?  Here are some suggestions:

1.   Hold regularly scheduled weekly meetings with all department heads.  These meetings allow each attendee to update others on what they are working on.  Obviously, this keeps everyone better informed and gives each a better understanding of what others do.

2.   Use the annual club planning process as a team building exercise.  Many minds are better than one and often an outside view on problems can bring a fresh approach.  Read the article “A Discipline of Planning” for more information.

3.   Once a month have one department head lead a brainstorming session to improve their operation.  See the article “Continual Process Improvement” to see how it works.

4.   Take department heads to lunch at a nice restaurant once a quarter for socializing.  Follow the lunch with a brief presentation and Q&A session by a community or business leader.  Often these individuals can come from the club’s membership and would be happy, maybe even honored, to speak to their club’s leadership.

5.   Hold “Wow Factor” brainstorming sessions with all department heads.  Read the article “What Have You Done for Me Lately” for information about such sessions.

The Bottom Line:  The more your department heads interact with one another in formal and informal settings, the better they will understand the common challenges they face in running a high quality, member-focused club.  When this happens they will naturally begin functioning as a team committed to their common purpose regardless of individual function.

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.

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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Guest Blog: Make the Most of Your Club Website – 10 Tips for 2010

Monday, March 8th, 2010

For many clubs, 2009 was an extremely challenging year and was a very real sign of things to come as we embark on 2010 and beyond. Waitlists have all but disappeared, membership numbers are down, and in turn club staff are asked to do more with less while management is faced with intense scrutiny of expenses and forced to cut wherever possible.

Undoubtedly, 2010 will be another challenging year for most clubs. That said, your club’s website can be an effective tool to assist you in weathering the storm by increasing member engagement and thereby increasing club revenue.

Over the past decade, club websites have evolved from simplistic pages consisting of various pictures and static content to transactional websites where members can view important information such as their online statements and club rosters.

In 2010 the key to many clubs’ success is to implement a fully integrated and interactive website that is well designed, easy to locate in search engines, and provides fresh, relevant content to both members and the general public.

10 strategies for an engaged membership in 2010:

1. Invest in online statements and online payments. Online statements have proven to be a staple in the vast majority of club websites and continue to provide value to the club. This functionality provides several benefits including cost reduction through reduced calls to accounting staff and online viewing of statements, and increased website traffic on a weekly, monthly, and yearly basis.

2. Consider implementing online tee times in 2010. Many clubs have implemented the ability to book their tee times online. This is the single biggest driver of website traffic when implemented correctly. It is not uncommon to see login rates to the club website as well as site traffic double as a result of online tee times. It also provides the ability to reduce costs at the Pro Shop and offers better service to your members.

3. Implement member engagement strategies through online booking modules for event registration, dining, court booking, lessons, etc. When utilized effectively, these modules engage members – providing a compelling reason for your members to regularly visit your website.

4. Implement an email marketing strategy that is integrated with your website and club management system. It has been proven that email marketing is one of the most effective yet inexpensive tools available to drive club revenue. By combining member data, email marketing tools and your website, you are able to offer your members quality, personalized communication. Leverage the data in your club management system to implement your communication strategies. Using email marketing strategies, personalized messages regarding events can be targeted and sent en masse to relevant members with a link back to your website to register. This full circle communication strategy is a powerful, low cost strategy that can change your business in 2010.

5. Implement social networking tools. The social revolution is here. In 2010, take the time to become familiar with today’s tools. Is it a fad? Watch the following social revolution video on YouTube and draw your own conclusions – there are certainly some interesting facts brought to light.
Social Media revolution –http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sIFYPQjYhv8

Some strategies to consider

  • Enable RSS on your website so that users can subscribe to your content and allow other web sites to syndicate your content on their site
  • Have a blog that is integrated into your website
  • Create Twitter and Facebook accounts for your club. Cross-linking these to and from your website will garner interest and support for a Facebook group you’ve created.

6. Implement a junior program section for your website. There is really no magic in this formula as the current generation of youth lives and breathes the Internet and its social networking aspects. Consider a section catered to your youth programs at the club. Examples might include relevant YouTube videos for game improvement; a blog by your Tennis, Golf or Yachting Pro; or even a Facebook page for the club juniors. They are the future of the club and the easiest segment to engage through your website with the right tools.

7. Implement content creation and publishing strategies and stick to them. Fresh, relevant content is one of the keys to an active readership. Implement automatic date ranging of content to ensure that stale content around holidays, special events or tournaments does not remain on the site after their time has past.

8. Change your members’ only landing page frequently. This is the first page members see every time they login to your club website. Make the most of the member experience by providing relevant and timely content about upcoming events, birthdays, news items, etc. and provide intuitive links to the interactive features of the site.

9. Review your site’s SEO (search engine optimization) to ensure that your site can easily be found by Google and other search engines. Implement effective page descriptions and key words for your site’s pages to ensure that you are listed with Google local. There are several resources available on the Internet today to assist you in effectively optimizing your site with respect to search engines. Talk to your web provider about reviewing your current SEO strategy.

10. Monitor your site analytics to measure your site effectiveness. By utilizing tools such as Google analytics you can mine large amounts of user data in terms of interaction with your website. This information provides invaluable insight into how visitors are interacting with your website.

In conclusion, an effective website does not need to be overcomplicated or elaborate – it simply needs to cater to the needs of your existing and potential members. Remember, your existing and potential members are busy individuals just like you – they have come to expect the ability to view and book almost everything online in today’s marketplace. Make it easy for them to access your site, complete their club related transactions (viewing and paying statements, event/court/tee time bookings, etc.), and then get on with their day-to-day activities. Realistically, there is no single electronic silver bullet that can address all of your club’s needs; however, when your website, club management system, and email marketing tool are working in concert, together they provide you with a powerful toolset with which to increase member engagement at the club.

Steve Cowan, Vice President of Web Service, Jonas Software

Mr. Cowan is recognized for his expertise in online services and marketing and has been responsible for the launch of several key online initiatives that have significantly influenced the club management industry. Prior to joining CSI in 2004 as the Director of Sales Operations, Mr. Cowan held numerous leadership roles with organizations such as ADC Telecom and Business Objects. Mr. Cowan holds an Honours BBA from Wilfrid Laurier University and an MBA from York University.

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. Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs! Add to Technorati Favorites

What Have You Done for Me Lately?

Monday, March 1st, 2010

How often have we in private clubs heard that from our members?  No one but a few creatures of inviolable habit likes the “same ol’, same ol’,” yet that’s what many clubs serve up month after month, year in and year out.  Why not try a different approach that will “wow” your members?  Make “wow factors” a part of your club’s traditions.

What is a “wow factor”?  It’s anything, usually unexpected, that causes your members to say or think, “Wow, that’s really neat!” or “Wow, I didn’t expect that!” or “Wow, that’s impressive!”

Wow factors are characterized by their unexpectedness and as such any particular wow factor cannot become part of your club routine.  They are executed for one-time or short-term effect.  They are also characterized by being unusual — either cutting edge or just out-of-the-ordinary.  They can be extravagant and expensive, but these should be few and far between.  Most wow factors should be small scale, inexpensive, and momentary, that is, of short duration as in one day, one evening, or one event.

The key to making wow factors is to challenge your club’s department heads to come up with a specified number of wow factor ideas for their areas of the operation — say 10 new ideas for the coming busy season.  Each idea should be briefly described on paper — what it is, how it will be done, what items need to be purchased, any talent that needs to be contracted, any associated labor cost, and an overall estimated cost.  Then all department heads should meet with the General Manager in a brainstorming session to discuss, settle on, and schedule the roll out of each wow factor.

Here are a handful of ideas to give you a sense of the program:

  • Complimentary mini-trio sampler of desserts or appetizers for all diners on a given night — this is also an excellent way to preview or market a new menu.
  • Free soft-serve ice cream or smoothies for the kids (of all ages) at the pool on a hot summer day.  An alternative would be to arrange for the local ice cream truck to pull up in front of your pool with music playing.  Everyone gets their specialty ice cream treat and you pay the bill.
  • Flowers for all the ladies dining on some non-special night just for the surprise effect.  Google search “special days” for calendars of unusual celebrations and holidays.
  • Have the General Manager act as the club “doorman” on a random evening to greet each member and guest as they arrive.
  • A giveaway of a sleeve of golf balls to each golfer on a busy Saturday morning.  Handed out by the Head Golf Professional on the first tee for maximum effect.
  • Free mini-pizzas in the lounge on an unexpected evening.
  • A themed ice carving for a ladies luncheon.
  • Complimentary and unusual hors d’oeuvres for the weekly card game in the men’s lounge.
  • Face painting or a clown or a balloon artist at your next children’s event.
  • Complimentary wine for no special reason.  A great way to clear out dead stock or showcase new wines.

Again, the key to the wow factor is its unusual nature and unexpectedness.  Several tips:

  • Execute your wow factors where they will have the most effect — food and beverage areas, golf areas, locker rooms, special events, activities, aquatics, tennis.
  • Plan, budget, and schedule.  Formalize your program enough so that the wow factors are spread out and spread around.  Always have a budget.  Say you budget $500 per month for club-wide wow factors.  The cost to the club is $6,000 per year — not an inconsequential amount, but think of the benefit to member pleasure and even employee morale.
  • Wow factor ideas are everywhere.  Borrow from other establishments or something you saw on vacation.  The Internet is a treasure trove of ideas.  Google search words or phrases such as “Fun,” “Fun Ideas,” “Fun Activities,” “Fun Recreational Activities,” and “Inexpensive Activity Ideas” and you’ll get a sense for how many resources are out there.
  • To keep your costs down, get together with vendors for freebies.  Many would be thrilled to get some exposure to your members for their products and services.  Just make sure you prominently give them credit for their donations.
  • Once you’ve used a particular wow factor, save the concept for some future time.  Avoiding routine doesn’t mean never doing it again, just doing it again when unexpected.  Over time, you’ll develop an extensive list of wow factors that can be deployed for maximum effect at some future moment.
  • Keep your wow factor strategy, plans, and schedule under tight wrap.  Don’t ruin the surprise with “loose lips.”
  • Let your members do the talking about the wow factor, not you or your staff.  Act like nothing special is going on, while the members “buzz” about the unusual and unexpected.  Certainly, you may acknowledge a wow factor when asked about it, but act like it’s no deal, just some little thing that happened “spontaneously.”

There are hundreds of websites offering unusual and fun ideas.  Get your department heads and staff excited by searching out the most unusual activities, events, or ideas.  Your members will still ask, “What have you done for me lately?” but they’ll be delighted by the unexpected moments and your staff will be energized by the fun of “giving” these special gifts to your membership.

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.

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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