Archive for March, 2011

Why the Wrong People are Hired

Monday, March 28th, 2011

Dr. Bradford Smart, author of Topgrading, How Top Companies Win by Hiring, Coaching, and Keeping the Best People, said that his research showed that 50% of all hires are mis-hires.  While there is no fail-safe method of hiring only the right people, there are common denominators underlying most mis-hires.  They include:

Failure to Use Due Diligence. Given the responsibility managers have to hire the right people and avoid hiring the wrong people, hiring supervisors need to exercise “due diligence” throughout the hiring process.  Due diligence is a financial/accounting term that means to conduct an investigation of a potential investment and/or confirm all material facts in regards to a sale.

Generally, due diligence refers to the care a reasonable person should take before entering into an agreement or a transaction with another party and is essentially a way of preventing unnecessary harm to either party involved in a transaction.  While the term “due diligence” has come to take on the wider meaning of doing one’s homework to prevent mistakes, clearly the original definition applies to hiring employees, that is making an offer of employment to another party.

Lack of Interview Skills. A brief informal survey of hospitality executives revealed that none has ever received formal training in how to screen and interview applicants or in reference-checking techniques.  Despite the overwhelming importance of hiring the right people, it seems to be assumed that people can figure out for themselves how best to do it or will intrinsically know or possess such skills.

At the same time, a survey of hiring managers showed that most managers think they do a good job of interviewing job candidates.  Given the sad hiring success rate, which is no better than flipping a coin, there is an obvious disconnect between hiring managers’ perceptions and reality.

Not Taking Full Responsibility for the Hiring Process. There is only one person responsible for hiring the right people and that is the manager or supervisor of the person being hired.  The hiring manager or supervisor is the one who is accountable for his department or section’s performance and, therefore, is the only person who should make the hiring decision.

Never assume that hiring is the responsibility of a human resource department.  They may assist in the process, but their assistance is consultative or clerical.  If any person hired turns out to be a bust, the only person responsible and accountable is the hiring supervisor, and he must bear the consequences of mis-hiring.

Hiring a “Warm Body” to Fill a Position. There are times when there is a great sense of urgency to fill a key position.  Often an empty managerial position puts a greater burden on other managers and the General Manager.  There is also the well-known phenomenon of the “spinning top.”  Without sufficient management to add the daily ‘spin of leadership,’ the operation soon begins to wobble and fall.  As a result, hiring managers are keen to fill vacant leadership positions quickly.  Despite these pressures, hiring managers should resist the temptation to hire a less-than-ideal candidate to quickly fill the vacant position.

Don’t settle for less.  At best you’ll have a B-Player.  At worst, you’ll have someone that you’ll need to spend hours and hours working with before letting him go, only to start over again.

Failure to Learn from Past Hiring Mistakes. While it is understood that every hiring manager will make some hiring mistakes, it is essential that lessons are learned from mis-hires.  This can only be done if there is sufficient documentation of the hiring process.  Without a written record that includes a resume or application, thorough interview notes including questions asked and answers given, and details of each reference checked, there is no way to go back after a mis-hire to try and determine what was missed during screening and interviewing.

With proper documentation, the hiring manager can review the entire screening, interviewing, and hiring process to see what signs were missed in an attempt to improve interview and reference-checking skills during future hires.

Summary.  When you recognize why the wrong people are so often hired, you are in a position to do something about it.

Initially, Disciplined Hiring may take more time, but the more it is used, the easier the entire process will become.

Excerpted from Leadership on the Line – The Workbook, Ed Rehkopf, Clarity Publications, 2009

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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Three Priorities for Prioritizing

Monday, March 21st, 2011

In our business there is always more to do than time or stamina permit.  Setting priorities, then, is a necessary discipline for all hospitality managers.  But when much needs to be done, how should we set our priorities?  There are three principal priorities to get the most done:

1.   The Low Hanging Fruit.  Do the easy things first.  The sense of accomplishment from these simpler tasks gets the ball rolling and gives you and your work team a sense of accomplishment.

2.   The Biggest Bang for the Buck.  Another means of setting priorities, especially in a tough economy, is to go after those things that don’t cost much, thereby allowing the greatest accomplishment at the lowest cost.  As with the Low Hanging Fruit, making progress and checking off accomplishments will create momentum and enthusiasm for more challenging tasks.

3.   The Pareto Principle.  Also known as the 80-20 rule, it says that for a wide range of events and activities, 80% of the results comes from 20% of the causes.  This principle is named after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto who observed in the early 1900s that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population.  Other observations over the years such as 80% of crime being committed by 20% of the criminals, 80% of a company’s business coming from 20% of its customers, and 20% of a hospital’s patients using 80% of healthcare services have further reinforced what has become a common rule of thumb.

Busy managers should recognize and apply the rule to their operations.  By focusing on the 20% cause, you can influence the 80% of effects.  As an example, if 80% of your dining room business comes from 20% of your members, you and your staff should make special efforts to meet the needs of this group.  If 80% of your overtime comes from 20% of your team’s tasks, focus on finding a less costly solution to completing those tasks.  If 80% of your time is taken up with 20% of your work tasks, find another means of addressing those tasks, such as more efficient ways of completing them or delegating them to a properly trained employee.

Setting priorities will always be part of every manager’s responsibilities.  Using these three simple means to establish priorities will allow you to get the most done in the quickest manner with the least effort.

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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Twelve Reasons I Benchmark

Monday, March 14th, 2011

Benchmarking is one of the most significant things a general manager can do to improve the performance of a club.  By understanding the underlying “drivers” of the operation, he or she can take action to enhance results.  As Lord Kelvin said, “If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it.”

Here are the reasons I benchmark in detail:

1. To establish the baseline or “benchmark” of existing operational performance.

Businesses generate many variable measurements of performance.  Existing data determines the baseline performance against which all future operations will be compared.  If data has not been tracked in the past, begin by measuring existing performance and make that the benchmark.  Often past data is available, it’s just that no one has made the effort to collect, organize, and summarize it.  With a little effort baseline measures can be reconstructed from past periods.  If this is too much trouble, begin by collecting today’s data.  In a short time valid benchmarks will emerge, though usually a full year’s worth of data must be collected to account for seasonal variations in business.  In the absence of significant changes, the longer the data is tracked, the more valid it becomes as the standard for the operation and as a predictor of future activity.  But, a corollary to this is that the older the data, the less relevant it is to current operations.

2.   The benchmark performance can be considered the operating standard and all future performance can be compared to it.

Once the operating standard has been established, all future performance is compared to it.  “Out of line” benchmarks become warning indicators that something demands closer scrutiny.  Often there are valid reasons for out of line numbers, perhaps the benchmark is a true anomaly that will correct itself in future periods, or it may be the start of a trend that bears management consideration and decision.  In any case, by monitoring the benchmarks, managers are aware of changes in their business and will be prepared to take action as warranted.

3. After tracking operating statistics for a sufficient period of time to ensure a statistically sound sample, benchmarks can be used to establish performance goals for future operating periods.

When establishing budgets, management can use historical benchmarks to establish realistic and accurate goals for coming operating periods.  Once goals are established they can be used to compare to actual performance day by day, week by week, and month by month to measure progress toward overall objectives.  Should actual performance fall short of expectations, management can make timely interventions to get the operation back on track.

4. It is useful to compare an operation’s performance measures for a given period to other past periods, to other similar operations, or to the industry as a whole.

For example, comparing September of this year to September of last year or this year’s Mother’s Day brunch to all previous years’.  In large, multi-unit, restaurant companies, one restaurant is compared to all others of a similar kind by use of benchmarks.  There are also national trade associations and certain accounting firms that publish annual performance comparisons of various types of restaurants on a nationwide or regional basis.  It’s a good exercise to compare an operation’s performance with the national average for similar types of facilities.

5. Identifying under-performance or best practices.

Hopefully, comparisons with previous periods or other similar operations will be for the better, but if not, it will alert management to problems and possible solutions.  By monitoring the operation’s continuing performance measures and closely analyzing the circumstances that lead to extraordinary performance, a department head can identify best practices – those actions, conditions and practices that optimize efficiency and profitability.  In the case of downward trends, it can alert management to necessary interventions.

6. Benchmarks from past periods can make budgeting for future periods easier and far more accurate.

Absent major change, the best predictor of the future is the record of the past.

7. Revenue benchmarks from previous periods aid in forecasting business levels in future periods.

Accurate forecasting of future business allows managers to properly staff their operations and schedule appropriately for expected levels of business.  This, in turn, helps control payroll cost while ensuring service to members.

8. Tracking revenues and comparing them to historical benchmarks allows management to measure member response to products/services and new initiatives.

The most accurate indicator of member response to new initiatives such as new menus, new hours of operation, improved service training, hiring a new chef, etc., is the response seen in member patronage and buying habits.  If members traditionally spend an average of $132 per month on food, but since the new chef came on board that average has climbed to over $200 per month, management could feel comfortable that their decision to hire a new highly-paid chef was the right one.  Without the benchmark of previous operations, how would they know, except by anecdote and gut-feel?

9. While most managers have a general sense of the many variables influencing their operation, having the hard numbers and statistics supports the validity of decisions, proposed changes in the operation, and requests for additional resources.

Careful tracking and analysis of performance measures is the basis for sound decision-making and is extremely useful in proposing changes in the operation.  Proposals for capital purchases have a better chance for success when supported by details and analysis.  Further, there is no better way to manage the boss than with timely reports about the challenges and progress of the operation.

10. Benchmarks can be used to establish performance parameters for bonus and other incentive programs.

When goals are established based upon historical benchmarks, the ongoing performance measures can be used to determine eligibility and extent of bonus payments and other forms of incentive programs.

11.   The few minutes spent each day in recording and reviewing key operating statistics make a manager intimately familiar with the rhythms and flow of his operation.

Over time this develops into what can readily be called an intuitive understanding of the essential aspects of the business.  As a result a department head is able to foresee and prepare for expected variations in the business, such as traditionally slow and busy periods; doing this will ensure keeping costs in check while maintaining high levels of service.

12.   A significant reason for benchmarking is that it establishes the condition of the operation upon a new manager’s arrival and gives him a graphic demonstration of the many operational improvements under his leadership.

This is most helpful in gaining the trust and confidence of bosses, peers, and employees alike.  Coincidentally, it also makes it easier to justify increased compensation for job performance.

Note:  Club Resources International has developed benchmarking spreadsheets for all areas of club operations.  The Excel files can be downloaded and customized for your operations.  You can find them here.

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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Why You Can’t Teach Leadership

Monday, March 7th, 2011

Italian astronomer Galileo once said, “You cannot teach a man anything.  You can only help him discover it within himself.”  While I’m not sure the context of this quote, I might disagree with him when it comes to teaching specific skills and techniques such as taking a tee time or opening a bottle of wine.  I would, however, fully agree when considering the teaching of knowledge and understanding.  This can come about only when the learner has a desire to learn and connects the topic to the deeper understandings of his knowledge and life experiences.

With this as a background I would unhesitatingly say that you cannot, in the traditional sense, teach leadership.  The exercise of leadership in a free society is not about authority and control as it once was.  Rather it’s about influencing one’s constituents, and one can only effectively influence others when a meaningful relationship has been established; and I think we’d all agree that relationships with a wide range of people can be quite challenging.

The knowledge and understanding to be an effective leader in any situation, but particularly in the people-intensive service business, requires a person who is self-analytical and who examines every less-than-optimum outcome for better ways to interact with constituents.  At root it requires someone who cares about the quality and importance of his relationships and who is sensitive to the needs, motivations, and feelings of others.  Such caring and sensitivity:

  • Means that a leader must recognize the ultimate value of people in any endeavor or activity.  The leader must understand also that because of the authority she possesses she must take full responsibility for her relationships with constituents and the outcomes those relationships produce.  If she fails, there is always more she could have done.
  • Does not for a moment mean that leaders are not demanding of their subordinates when it comes to their conduct, discipline, and performance.  Success in any enterprise will only come about with a clear vision, exacting standards, and the dogged determination to prevail regardless of circumstances and obstacles.

When things are not going well, a leader must recognize where the ultimate responsibility lies and be prepared to analyze his attitudes, beliefs, and preconceptions about the situation.  Such ongoing introspection helps the leader learn and improve.  In time this continual puzzling over and practicing leadership techniques and skills will make the leader more effective in any situation.

So if leadership cannot be taught, how does one help influence others to become more effective leaders?

  • The consistent example of senior leaders is the most effective teacher.  As Einstein said, “Setting an example is not the main means of influencing another, it is the only means.”
  • Mentoring – the ongoing guidance and influence of superiors will point the way for emerging leaders.
  • Continuing examination and discussion of leadership situations and courses of action will create an awareness of issues and alternatives.
  • A suggested reading list of leadership books will help by exposing younger managers to a wide variety of leadership situations and solutions.

ed-jpeg-4But each of these efforts to influence leadership development will only be successful when the learner has the desire to be a more effective leader, the willingness to take 100% responsibility for himself and his development, and the ongoing self-analysis to find a better way.

Note:  Club Resources International has a number of tools and resources to help managers develop their leadership skills including Leadership on the Line: A Guide for Front Line Supervisors, Business Owners, and Emerging Leaders, Leadership on the Line – The Workbook, and Leadership on the Go discussion cards.

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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