Archive for August, 2011

The “Loneliness of Command”

Monday, August 29th, 2011

The movie Twelve O’Clock High, in which Gregory Peck portrays a B-17 squadron commander in WWII, provides an important principle of leadership.  It graphically demonstrates that to do his job right, a leader must not be concerned with whether his followers like him or not.

The movie also accurately portrays another important aspect of leadership – what is commonly called the “loneliness of command.”  In this film, General Frank Savage has been given the tough assignment of turning around a demoralized squadron whose pilots have developed a bad case of self-pity due to the relentless pounding they are taking on their bombing runs over Germany.

It’s evident that the General is a caring commander as shown in the scene where he shares a cigarette break with his enlisted driver before driving onto the base to begin his difficult task.  Once there he plays the “hard ass” who has come to restore discipline and confidence in his men.

The tough love approach quickly alienates the pilots, but that doesn’t concern the General, at least outwardly.  Dean Jagger, playing the civilian lawyer turned squadron adjutant, begins to see through the General’s tough façade and realizes what he is trying to do.  Yet the General keeps his own counsel and doesn’t tip his hand despite the adjutant’s growing collaboration in his plan.  Ultimately, the strain of Savage’s concern for his men as the continued bombing runs take their toll on the revitalized squadron causes the General to suffer a breakdown – dramatically demonstrating the burdens of command.

But the lesson here is the portrayal of the loneliness at the top where the leader, despite his many burdens, keeps his own counsel and outwardly maintains his distant, command presence, regardless of his own doubts and fears.  In this situation Savage knows that his hard-nosed approach is the only way to galvanize the men into action and shake them out of their lethargy and self-pity.  So he makes himself their enemy and the focus of their wrath.  While no leaders enjoy being despised by his followers, the General refuses to confide his plans to his men or fellow officers.

The lesson here is plain.  Leaders must sometimes do tough, unpopular things in service to larger goals.  Sometimes they will be vilified for their efforts, yet a true leader does not attempt to share his burdens by confiding in his followers, no matter what his concern, worries, or self-doubt.  He knows that success, when achieved, will be the self-evident vindication of his plans and actions.  In the meantime, he has the emotional maturity to realize that sharing his concerns with his subordinates will undermine the larger effort he has undertaken.

While this example of leadership is set in the life and death situation of combat, it still applies to the less dramatic setting of club management.  In making tough decisions for the larger good of the club, the leader cannot be swayed or influenced by personal concerns of friendship with subordinates.  If he has allowed himself to get too close to his followers, his judgment may be affected and he will find it difficult to do the right things.  For this reason, while a leader must value his employees, treat them with kindness and respect, and engage with them daily, he must always maintain a professional distance between himself and his followers.  Only then can he be “free” to do what is necessary for the larger good of the club.

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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What I Expect of My Retail Manager

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

Most clubs have some sort of non-F&B retail operation such as golf and tennis pro shops, while some in more remote areas may have a general store.  Often the pro shops are operated by the professionals – both golf and tennis; in other cases, the club has a retail manager to oversee these operations.  But no matter who is responsible for the retail bottom line, there are certain things that I, as a general manager, expect.  Here’s my list:

  1. Create written standards, policies, and procedures for all aspects of the retail operation to promote organization, consistency, and continuity.  These also form the basis for training of retail clerks.
  2. Create and use an Annual Retail Buying Plan.  What, when, and how much inventory is purchased each year should be carefully planned.  The plan should be in writing and be revisited at the end of the year to see how well the club did in buying and selling various categories of merchandise.  Revisiting the plan at year’s end will help improve next year’s buy.  Good buying decisions are the most important thing a retailer can do to be successful.
  3. Benchmark the operation.  Retail operations must be benchmarked in detail to learn as much as possible about what sells and doesn’t sell.  The more the retailer knows about the customer’s buying habits, the better future buys will be.  It’s also important to analyze the results of buying and markdown decisions.  What and how many items are marked down represent the buying mistakes.  A retailer should always learn from those mistakes to avoid repeating them.  I also want them to track, monitor, and analyze monthly and year-to-date sales by product category, brand, and item to better understand what sells and what doesn’t.
  4. Create and use a Merchandiser’s Book.  Proper management of retail inventories and good business practice require that retail managers maintain close scrutiny of their buying decision, retail benchmarks, inventory purchase orders, and a log of their major merchandising decisions such as markdowns, sales, inventory discrepancies, write-offs, and any member feedback about the retail operation.  By maintaining this information in a single binder, retail managers have a convenient method of continually analyzing their buying and merchandising decisions with an eye toward continual improvement.
  5. Know the members and their buying habits by using a Membership Retail Book.  Each retail interaction with a member reveals something about his or her buying habits and preferences.  A Membership Retail Book is simply a place to organize and record the information learned about each member.  It is as simple as recording member information in an alphabetized ledger book under each member’s name or utilizing the member preference feature of your retail software.  Once information has been entered for a particular member, it is easy to add more information each time that member shops.  In time the Membership Retail Book will accumulate a wealth of information about members buying habits and preferences.  This information can be used to improve buys, better serve members, increase retail sales, and improve margins.
  6. Have an established discount policy.  Inevitably some merchandise will not move quickly and will sit on shelves or racks for some time.  Such slow-moving merchandise should be made more attractive to members by reducing the price through a series of pre-defined discounts.  Tracking such discounts in the Merchandiser’s Book may help the retailer understand what didn’t sell at full price and this understanding will help improve future buying decisions.
  7. Use a sales and promotion calendar.  An annual sales and promotion calendar should be developed to help the retailer market promotional and discounted sales.  The more members that know in advance about promotions and sales, the more traffic there will be in the shop.  It can also be used as an opportunity to learn more about member’s buying habits.  Coordinate sales and promotion calendar with the activities director who is responsible for the club’s master event and activities schedule.
  8. Rotate stock and change displays.  Move merchandise around frequently to keep the shop interesting and fresh.  Use props and displays to showcase merchandise.  Seasonal themes and decorations offer many opportunities to make the shop attractive and inviting.  Ensure shop clerks are familiar with all products in the shop.  Staff must be familiar with their inventories and knowledgeable about products carried in inventory.
  9. Conduct timely and accurate inventories to ensure that cost of goods sold is computed correctly.  Conduct a formal analysis of cost of goods sold when the monthly number is out of line.  Benchmark the cost of goods from month to month to spot any negative trends.
  10. Train staff.  In addition to teaching shop clerks customer service, merchandising, and sales techniques, they must know as much as possible about the products they sell.  The retail manager must work with vendors to provide detailed information about their products.

None of the above steps are rocket science.  More than anything they are the organizational habits of a professional retailer.  Implement any or all of these practices and watch the business and annual margins grow.

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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Put Special Occasions to Work for Your Bottom Line

Monday, August 15th, 2011

Most membership databases have considerable information of value for the conscientious club manager.  Take for instance birthdays and anniversaries.  These celebratory occasions are a real opportunity to improve the club’s bottom line.

  • Have your food and beverage manager design special celebratory packages for anniversaries and birthdays.
  • Customize birthday packages by gender and age for adults and children.
  • The package should include a cake or special dessert and, in the case of anniversaries, a bottle of champagne or favorite wine.
  • Price the packages aggressively to ensure perceived value.  The benefit of this program for the club is not in margin per meal, but in increasing the overall food and beverage volume, especially during slow periods.
  • The General Manager should send a special congratulatory card to the celebrants, inviting them to the club.  Require an RSVP and limit the celebration to traditionally slow nights by excluding traditionally busy Friday and Saturday nights.  This will build volume on slower nights and will allow servers to give special attention to the celebratory party.
  • If available, the General Manager of Clubhouse Manager should stop by the table to wish the party a Happy Anniversary or Birthday.
  • If servers are going to sing “Happy Birthday,” make sure they can sing, are properly rehearsed, and on key.
  • Children’s birthday parties also offer a special opportunity for a Birthday Bash, possibly at the pool during the swim season or a themed party in some other club venue.  This is a great opportunity for the club’s activities staff to use their ingenuity and creativeness to do something really memorable.

The potentials are significant for the effort expended.  Consider a club of 900 memberships with an average of 3.2 family members per membership.  This translates to 2,880 birthdays a year.  At a conservative capture rate of 25% of the birthdays and an average check of $75 per birthday celebration (and much higher for Birthday Bashes), the potential could be as high as $54,000 in additional food and beverage revenues.  With upselling opportunities, the number could be significantly more.

The same membership with 700 couples could yield an additional $14,000 in anniversary revenues with a 40% capture rate and a $50 average check per couple.

For the small price of an organized system, administered by the club receptionist or administrative assistant, the club can reap significant rewards – not the least of which is the goodwill of members who appreciate the special efforts made on their behalf.

Excerpted from Food Service Management on the Go

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: Shoestring Marketing — Cultivate Your Club’s Natural Resources

Monday, August 8th, 2011

The upside of working with little or no marketing budget is that it forces you to get creative.  Brainstorming is a great way to find an unusual solution, but don’t overlook your most obvious, readily available resource – your members and staff.  By nurturing relationships with these people they will, in essence, become your most effective marketing tools.  Their efforts will help differentiate your club in the marketplace, generate a buzz in the community, and help you build/retain value through Club pride in action.  These seemingly simple, and often inexpensive, options include and result in:

  • A culture of pride based on consistency and quality – in facilities, food/beverage, amenities and staff,
  • An environment which empowers staff to take ownership of their respective roles and rewards them in doing so, and
  • Informed and engaged members and staff who help spread the word.

These and other means are in your arsenal of natural resources awaiting your cultivation and utilization.

El Macero CC’s GM, Steven Backman CCM, says it best, “Hire for attitude; you can train almost anything else.”  Since starting from scratch isn’t usually an option, implement a Good Attitude=Good Hire policy, effective immediately.  In doing so, you and your fellow managers will strive to add only enthusiastic individuals to the team.  Among existing staff, look for and focus on positive actions, acknowledge successes and reward desired behaviors.  Provide a training program to insure consistent quality in every aspect of your club.  Empower staff to take ownership of what they do: “See it, Own it, Solve it, Do it” (read more:  The Oz Principle).  Engage and inform with timely information, and empower them by asking for help in building awareness of programs, services and events.   The results of implementing these practices may surprise you in the number of issues resolved quickly and inexpensively, increased pride among staff in having resolved issues on their own and increased satisfaction in working at your club through being empowered and trusted to problem-solve.    With your team of enthusiastic staff in place – providing consistent, quality service, promoting club pride and events – it is time to identify and engage your member partners.

The hospitality industry is all about relationships, and, while the importance of quality relationships with your staff is obvious, the quality of those you have built with your members is equally important.  Members feel pride in their club through consistent, quality service and facilities, as well as through a sense of belonging via their friendships with other members.  Looking to your entire membership, identify the most active and involved members, your “club evangelists.”   Invite them to get involved in sharing the Club’s message and provide them with timely, accurate information.  Encourage them to talk outside Club walls (even on social media like Twitter, if you dare!) about the last outstanding meal they had at the Club, or membership opportunities, keeping in mind that a message shared peer-to-peer far outweighs one from a traditional marketing method.  By doing so, you/they will have started the most effective marketing program available:  word of mouth.  Building and maintaining relationships requires consistent effort, working through your staff and members increases your marketing power exponentially.  Engaging and empowering these same folks, and recognizing efforts along the way, gives everyone a stronger sense of pride and ownership in their club or what they do at the club, and where they belong or work.

Hiring happy people and properly training them, nurturing relationships with your staff and members to build a strong network of club supporters, and harnessing the enthusiasm and energy that both groups bring will help market your membership opportunities, and your club, better than you ever could alone.  These efforts help you save precious marketing dollars for other programs and bolster feelings of ownership and pride among members and staff in their club.  While gauging marketing ROI is much more difficult when compared to tracking a response rate from an invitation to preview your club, having prospective members see the culture and pride IN ACTION does more to entice a prospect than any artificial meet-and-greet style event.  By conveying a feeling of pride in your club, an inside secret has, in effect, been shared which says, “Join XYZ Club, and you, too, can enjoy this exclusive experience!”

Now, ask yourself: What are you doing to harness your natural resources in your membership marketing efforts, and what is your club doing to share its “inside secret”?

jill-melbye3About the Author: Jill R. Melbye is a Principal and Certified Marketing Professional with MAI Business Services. She has worked within the private club industry for 15 years and conducts seminars and provides marketing support to the hospitality industry. She is also the publisher and author of “Membership & Marketing: From A to Z”, MAI’s quarterly eNewsletter. For more information, please contact Jill at jill@melbye-assoc.com, or visit the website www.melbye-assoc.com. Follow her on twitter! www.twitter.com/jrmelbye

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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The Service Profession

Monday, August 1st, 2011

One of my first line supervisors was a banquet manager at a large metropolitan hotel.  Ben was older, had a large family, and was a proud and loving father.  Despite his busy life, he always had time for his guests and his large banquet staff, whom he treated like family.

Though he supervised over fifty people, he not only knew us all by name, but he was aware of our individual circumstances – if we were students, where we lived, what we did in our spare time.  By taking the time to know each of us as individuals, he was able to connect with us in ways few other managers could.

For over a year, I watched him deal with guests, hotel management, and a large, boisterous, and diverse staff.  He made those of us who worked for him understand that service is not just a part-time pursuit – it’s a way of life.  It was obvious that Ben was universally respected by all who knew him.  I had seen him greet many dignitaries and celebrities by name and was even amazed to see a U.S. Senator stop by to say hello to him.

When Ben died a couple of years ago, more than three hundred people attended his funeral.  He was eulogized with warmth, humor, and emotion.  The clear lesson I learned from this great man was that the love he put into service was returned to him a hundred-fold.

In today’s society many of the conventions that marked social intercourse in the past are seen as outmoded.  Yet civility, good manners, and a desire to be of service to others remain important qualities of life.  This is particularly so in situations where you are seeking the goodwill of others.

The need to attract and retain customers has given rise to the term “service profession” to classify those who work in jobs whose primary purpose is to serve customers.  But what does it mean to be in the “service profession”?  A traditional approach would be to consider those who work in a service profession as servants.  For the time they are being served, customers are temporarily one’s superiors and should be deferred to as a sign of respect.

While this approach is technically correct, the word “servant” does not sit well with many.  Other titles such as “associate,” “server,” “wait staff,” “host,” and “assistant” are widely used to denote service employees.  Whether these titles convey the appropriate attitude required for quality service is open to debate, and ultimately that debate is immaterial.

Service employees are people who choose to serve other people as a means of earning a living.  What they are called is unimportant as long as they are not offended by it and they are imbued with a strong service ethic – the desire to help and to serve.

Establishing and maintaining this ethic is the shared responsibility of the club and the supervisor.  The club establishes its standards of service, but it is up to the supervisor to teach employees what is expected and to hold them accountable for their performance and behavior.

Service standards are much more than just the technical aspects of delivering service; they encompass employees’ attitudes and sensitivity to the needs and desires of members.  Teaching these more abstract and nuanced standards to employees is at the heart of establishing a strong service ethic.

Excerpted from Leadership on the Line:  A Guide for Front Line Supervisors, Business Owners and Emerging Leaders

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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