Archive for December, 2010

Basic Service Issues

Monday, December 27th, 2010

There are certain basic service issues common to most clubs.

  • Maintain Decorum.  Clubs typically develop an atmosphere that is a reflection of its membership.  Whether formal or casual, the attitudes and behaviors of members will establish an appropriate decorum for the club in general and various areas of the club in particular.  Employees need to be aware of and maintain this decorum.
  • Avoid Familiarity.  Many members live a more casual, relaxed lifestyle and they naturally carry this casualness into their interactions with club employees.  Some members ask employees to call them by their first names and enjoy joking and exchanging banter with employees.  This, however, can create a potential minefield for employees.
  • Avoid Sensitive Topics and Language.  Club employees should always avoid engaging in or responding to conversations with members on sensitive or controversial subjects such as religion, politics, discussions of other members, and ethnic or off-colored jokes.
  • Enforce Club Rules.  Each club has rules and regulations for its members to follow such as dress code, proper golf course etiquette, ready play, prohibition of carrying coolers on the golf course or in the pool areas, etc.  Unfortunately, when members do not follow the rules, it is up to employees to enforce them.  Often the infraction is unintentional and the member simply needs a reminder.  In some cases it may be best to make an exception in the immediate case to avoid embarrassment, but the member should always be educated in the process to avoid future problems.  When informing members of a rules violation, it is always helpful to offer an alternative to the member, for instance, seating inappropriately dressed members in the bar to eat instead of the dining room.
  • Offer Special Touches.  There are small, yet special touches that demonstrate the club’s commitment to service.  Special touches should be devised and included in all areas of the operation.
  • Meet Service Requests.  As an operation that caters to the needs and desires of its members, clubs will make every effort to meet the special requests of its members.  Going the extra mile to provide service will always impress members and their guests.
  • Satisfy High Maintenance Members.  Employees should understand that there will always be ‘high maintenance’ members.  Satisfying their higher expectations is part of the cost of doing business and the ultimate challenge of service.  So employees should not dwell on the difficult few; rather, they must recognize each request or complaint as legitimate and focus on the solution.
  • Know your Facility.  Every dining room has good seats and bad seats.  The good seats are near the fireplace in winter, overlooking the verandah in summer, or a booth for quiet, intimate dining.  Conversely, there are bad tables under air conditioning vents, near pantry and exterior doors, or near a large party of young children.  You and your employees should be aware of the good, the bad, and the ugly of the club and seat members accordingly
  • Know Member Names.  Members want to be recognized and acknowledged at their club.  These are among the main reasons people join clubs.  Strive to learn their last names and address them as Mr., Mrs. Ms., etc., every opportunity you can.
  • Know Member Habits.  You and your employees should make every effort to learn the habits of members, particularly those who use club frequently.  Whether it’s Dr. Jones liking his martinis dry and straight up or Mrs. Smith’s inability to tolerate dairy products or Mr. Martin always having a Courvoisier after his meal, these tidbits of information, when followed up on by employees, provide a higher level of service and a personal touch that is always appreciated by the member.
  • Reinforce Club Value.  It is through the daily casual conversation with members that you have the ability to build value. Most members pay dues monthly or quarterly, so the club must reinforce to them that their money is well spent.  Talk about the upcoming club activities and events, talk about an exciting new offering in the dining room, talk about items of interest that will help them see the benefits of being a member at their club.
  • Maintain Club Appeal.  One way to ensure that the club is appealing to members is to pretend you are the member.  Each time you arrive to work, walk into the club facility as if you were a new member or were entertaining guests.  Walk around the clubhouse, view the dining rooms and bar area, take a look in the bathrooms; all the time acting as if you have never set foot on the premises.  Look from top to bottom and see if you discover something that is out of place, dirty, or in need of repair.  Then take action to fix it.
  • Establish WOW Factors.  We must all recognize that what excites and astounds today will be seen as old news tomorrow.  In order for the club and its employees to continually provide the unexpected service touches that wow our members, we must challenge ourselves to brainstorm and plan for ways to continually impress.  We cannot leave it to chance.

Make sure you and your employees are aware of these issues and know how to act/respond in all circumstances.

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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A Modest Grand Theory

Monday, December 20th, 2010

Albert Einstein, after his world-shaking General Theory of Relativity was published, validated, and accepted by the scientific community, spent the remainder of his life working on a Unified Field Theory that attempted to boil all physics down to one elemental formula, hopefully as elegantly simple as his earlier stroke of genius – E=mc2.  While he never achieved his Grand Theory, I fully understand his desire to distill complexity to simplicity.

On a far humbler scale, I have also been impelled to boil the seeming complexities of club operations into a smaller number of principles that when followed would lead to organizational success.  What I’ve come to believe is that there are four basic requirements for any successful organizations.  They are:

  • Leadership – the skills that permit those who direct an enterprise to win the enthusiastic support and efforts of their followers to the accomplishment of specific goals and tasks.
  • Organization – the ability to structure and integrate the complex and interrelated programs and processes of the enterprise to promote efficient operations.
  • Management Disciplines – the ability to consistently implement generally-accepted requirements and best practices at all levels of the organization.
  • Hiring Well and Training Thoroughly – the programs and disciplines that cultivate the attraction and retention of the best talent, as well as consistent, efficient, and professional completion of all tasks and engagements with members.

Having outlined these four requirements, I would go on to say that they are all supported by one key element and that is discipline.

While complex business enterprises require both broad and specific skill sets for success, these mean little if each individual and the corporate group as a whole don’t have the intense and overriding discipline to focus daily on the essential tasks at hand and complete them as efficiently as possible.

Complex enterprises may be based on sound management ideas and theory, but without, as Jim Collins says, “disciplined people taking disciplined thought and engaged in disciplined action,” they will never build enduring greatness.  In other words, despite whatever talents your management team may possess, without discipline you’re just muddling through.

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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On the Go Training

Monday, December 13th, 2010

Clubs face a challenging training burden if they are to deliver the high levels of service expected by their members.  Yet with tight budgets how can managers meet their training obligations while controlling costs since every hour of training is a payroll hour for each employee being trained?  Add to this the difficulty of getting all of your employees together at one time for a formal training session.

The answer to these challenges is to build your training programs around the “on the go” concept where ongoing training material is formatted in brief – no more than five to ten minutes – sessions.  In every shift, in every club department, there are spare moments, time when employees have finished their shift preparations, time when employees are socializing among themselves or awaiting instructions from supervisors.  Since you’re already paying for this time, plan on putting it to good use.

In every department there are hundreds of operational details that employees must learn and refresh themselves with some frequency.  This is just as true in golf operations, golf course maintenance, aquatics and activities as it is in food and beverage.  All that is necessary is for the department head to outline training requirements in brief doses and format them so they can be pulled out at a moment’s notice for either group-led or individual instruction.

With today’s ability to find anything on the Internet with just a few keywords and keystrokes, all the information you need to teach your employees values, etiquette, product knowledge, safety, security, sanitation, HR requirements, responsible beverage service, or how to operate or maintain any piece of equipment is readily available.  You just have to format it for easy use.

Club Resources International has developed a number of On the Go Training programs for food and beverage, leadership, management disciplines, human resources, values, and safety.  These offer a proven model of how easy it is to format material and train your employees to increase their knowledge, skills, abilities, and service techniques.  For example, check out the Training on the Go material on the CRI website.  I’d also recommend you read Chris Conner’s excellent article on his club’s experience with Training on the Go – Training on the Go – A direct line to restaurant profits?

Then get to work developing your own On the Go Training material.  Set a goal of developing two classes per week and then stick to that discipline.  In a year you’ll have a hundred ready to go classes for staff training.

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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Pet Peeves – Discovering and Correcting the Details of Service

Monday, December 6th, 2010

Every club manager has pet peeves – those things, seemingly small and inconsequential, that drive him or her crazy.  Here’s my short list:

Cigarette butts – nasty and unsightly, they are usually found on the ground at club entrances or sticking up like porcupine quills in butt cans.  They can also be found littering the ground after out-of-door parties or around tees and greens on the golf course.  I make picking up cigarette butts a focus for all employees – managers and line staff alike – by training, constant reminder, and example – I have no problem picking them up wherever I find them.

Hand-lettered signs – anywhere on the property, these signs are usually prompted by some last minute management concern – out of order equipment, temporary situation, or directions to staff or members.  With the ease of making more professional looking signs with computers and laser printers, there’s no excuse for any hand-written sign.

Out of date items on bulletin boards or other displays – I expect subordinate managers to pay sufficient attention to detail to ensure this doesn’t happen and I regularly check bulletin boards during club walkabouts.

Dog-eared, dirty menus – unappealing, unsightly, unappetizing, these menus are a turn-off to diners and are a prominent sign of a poorly-run operation.  Again, with the ready availability of computers and laser printers, there’s no excuse for this.  Food and beverage managers shouldn’t allow it to happen and servers should know better than to hand such a menu to members and guests.

Trashed restrooms – this usually happens when the club is hosting a large party or event.  In short order, heavy usage will turn restrooms into disaster areas that are seen by lots of people – certainly no way to foster a reputation as a well-run club.  The solution is to schedule housekeeping coverage whenever large events are held and to require that managers check restrooms frequently during events.

“You guys” – these dreaded words greet me more than I care to count and drive me nuts.  To my mind there is no quicker way to show the world that your club has no standards and training for dining room servers, pro shop clerks, or bag and range attendants than to address members and guests as “you guys.”

So these are my pet peeves.  I’m sure every club general manager has his or her own list of similar items.  But regardless of managements’ aggravations, they are meaningless compared to the members’ pet peeves.

Without knowing what drives your members crazy about your operation, you’re asking for trouble.  I recommend asking your members what their pet peeves are in periodic surveys.  Then use the feedback to better train employees and focus their attention on these seemingly small details of the operation.  I would even go so far as to compile a list of all pet peeves brought to management’s attention to create a class to teach all new hires, as well as for periodic refresher training.

Pet peeves – everyone has them, but discovering and correcting what’s bugging your members is an important step on the road to service excellence.

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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