Archive for March, 2012

Susie’s Lemonade Stand

Monday, March 26th, 2012

Verizon Wireless is now running its second round of Susie’s Lemonade Stand TV advertisements.  The commercials feature actress Michelle Bennett playing cute-as-a-button Susie whose product and business acumen combine with Verizon to build a successful small business – all seemingly overnight.  At the end Verizon triumphantly announces, “The small business with the best technology rules!”

But the ad, which tells a great little story with a great little actress, is based on a false premise.  Technology by itself, never rules.  In the highly competitive and complex world of modern business, it is only the judicious use of carefully selected technologies by highly-disciplined people and organizations that rule.

Jim Collins in his groundbreaking book, Good to Great, Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . and Others Don’t, states categorically that “good to great companies used technology, as an accelerator of momentum, not a creator of it.  None of the good to great companies began their transformations with pioneering technology, yet they all became pioneers of the application of technology once they grasped how it fit with their [Hedgehog Concept] and after they hit breakthrough.”  This statement is all the more cogent in that it’s based on careful research and empirical evidence, not cuteness and feel-good emotions.

In The Quest for Remarkable Service this author pointed out that, “Alone, technology can do very little, but as the capstone of the other carefully crafted and consistently implemented disciplines, it becomes a powerful partner in a club’s quest for remarkable service.”

Lastly, in an article entitled Do You Know What Your Club Management System Can Do? I reported that, while CMS companies provided feature-rich software, most of those features went unused by club operators.  What seemed to be lacking was not technology, but knowledge of technology and the discipline of how best to use it.

Don’t get me wrong, Susie’s Lemonade Stand is a great ad!  It tells a warm and fuzzy story of a winning character’s entrepreneurial spirit and success, but it doesn’t tell the greater and truer story of the underlying disciplined efforts necessary for that success.

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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Dining Suggestive Selling Opportunities

Monday, March 19th, 2012

Dining offers many opportunities to make upsell suggestions as can be seen from the following list:

Beverages.  Offering beverages is the usual way to start a meal.  In addition to offering non-alcoholic beverages such as water, tea, lemonade, and sodas, many diners will want an alcoholic beverage, so be prepared to suggest a wine, beer, or cocktail.

Cocktails.  There are a host of creative cocktails for any taste and occasion.  The heyday of cocktails was in the Forties and Fifties, but these retro drinks are making a comeback.  Many times the person who would routinely order a Vodka and Tonic might be induced to try a refreshing Tom Collins, Sea Breeze, Banana Daiquiri, or other mixed drink.  Talk to your bartender about his or her suggestions.  Learn about a new cocktail each shift or week, and in no time you’ll have a large repertoire to suggest.

Wine by the Glass.  Many diners who wouldn’t want a full bottle of wine for either cost or consumption reasons, can easily be tempted to have a glass of wine.  In addition to house wines, many clubs will offer upscale or premium wines by the glass.  Make sure you’re familiar not only with what wines are available by the glass, but be able to entice members to try them by knowing about the wines, where they come from, what they go with, their flavorings and aromas, sweetness or dryness, and reputation for quality.

Appetizers.  Appetizers are a great way to start a meal, usually taking less time to prepare, allowing diners to snack on something while thinking about what entrée they want, and they go well with cocktails or other beverages.  As you’re taking drink orders, suggest appetizers to go with them.  Another great way to sell appetizers is to offer a medley or sample of several appetizers that the entire table can share with their drinks.

Soups and Salads. Most clubs will offer a variety of soups and salads, with light, refreshing ones in hot weather and more hearty offerings in the winter.  Many diners will opt for just a soup or salad or maybe a soup and salad combination.  Often, if your soup, salad, and dressing offerings are really creative, you can interest diners in a cup of soup or a salad by creative descriptors and your wholehearted recommendation.

Desserts.  Your club will offer a variety of desserts for those with a sweet tooth.  Like appetizers they are often shared.  Be prepared to tempt your diners with mouthwatering descriptors and don’t forget everyone’s often overlooked favorite – ice creams.

Liqueurs.  Club bars carry a wide assortment of liqueurs (cordials) that make wonderful after-dinner drinks.  Many are world-famous for their proprietary flavorings and recipes, and have been around for decades, even centuries.  They are great served neat, on the rocks, or even over a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  Make a point of becoming familiar with these; just make sure you pronounce their names properly.

Cognac, Brandies, Ports make a great closing complement to a meal.  Again, familiarize yourself with those your club carries and be prepared to recommend them after dinner or with coffee service.

Espressos, Cappuccinos, Specialty Coffee Drinks.  Many clubs will  offer specialty coffees and after dinner drinks made with coffee.  Don’t hesitate to suggest these to those diners who want to linger at the table over conversation.

Sparkling Wines and Champagnes.  These wines are usually associated with celebratory occasions, so be aware if someone is celebrating a birthday, anniversary, or other occasion.

The keys in any effort to suggestively sell are product knowledge, menu familiarity, and creative enthusiasm.

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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High Turnover – A Direct Result of Poor Leadership?

Monday, March 12th, 2012

Leigh Branham, Founder of Keeping the People, Inc., as reported by Business & Legal Reports, listed the “Hidden Reasons” employees leave.  While it can be argued that all of the listed reasons have to do with leadership, three are directly related to poor leadership:

  • Little or no feedback/coaching
  • Feel devalued and unrecognized
  • Lack of trust or confidence in leaders

Given the widely-recognized cost of high levels of employee turnover, every club should be vigilant for the causes of turnover; but how best to do this?

First, to be aware of turnover, clubs should benchmark their personnel actions and turnover rate by department.  Employees depart for one of the following reasons:

  1. Discharged for cause – misconduct or performance issues
  2. Laid off for business reasons – either at the end of the busy season or downsizing
  3. Voluntary quit or abandonment of position
  4. Retirement

In benchmarking turnover, it is category #3, the voluntary quits, that warrant the closest scrutiny.  If a particular department seems an endless revolving door for employees, it bears looking into the reasons.  There are two primary ways to find out why.

One is a routine program of exit interviews by the HR Manager.  Basic inquiries during the interview should be, “Why are you leaving our employ?  Is there anything we could do to change your mind?  Tell us about your work experience while working here.”

A second method is for the General Manager to call several of the departing employees to inquire about their reasons for leaving.

Typical responses would be “returning to school,” “leaving for a better paying position,” “lack of benefits,” and “too much evening/weekend work.”  Sometimes the answer is an honest and direct, “Didn’t like my boss” or some variation thereof.  In any case, the General Manager should be concerned about any trending reasons for departure.  If it’s low wages and lack of benefits, it might prompt a review of prevailing wages and benefits with the view of improving one’s own.

If it’s problems with the boss, and the complaint is heard with any regularity, it may be time for the General Manager to coach a department head on his or her style of leadership, communication skills, and engagement with staff.  Just as the General Manager would be expected to intervene in any matter affecting the club’s performance and bottom line, high levels of turnover caused by poor leadership skills in one department or another cannot be tolerated.

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: Who Should Manage Labor Cost?

Monday, March 5th, 2012

peter_dehlinger-79x80At a recent HFTP sponsored event I was engaged by the Controller and HR Manager of a prestigious private South Florida club on their challenge with department heads to use their recently installed time and attendance system.  As a web-based system, managers could access the data base at any time and from remote locations if they chose, providing them the ability to manage their employee time data at their discretion.  Sounded like a good system, however, systems and software are only as good and productive as the people who ultimately use them.

So let’s review the management team that makes it all happen at a club.  The F&B Director has overall responsibility for delivering excellent service to the members in the dining room, grill room, or other outlets.  The Superintendent has to maintain the fairways and greens in optimum playing condition at all times.  The Director of Golf organizes events, runs a retail outlet, manages a fleet of carts, and delivers professional services.  The Executive Chef oversees the selection, pricing, and preparation of menus for regular and special events.  There could also be a Spa Director, Tennis Pro, and others depending on the amenities offered.  The bottom line is all these managers direct the staff that perform the tasks to make all the above areas of operation function over a wide area, and in most instances seven days a week and not limited to banking hours!

As examples here are just 18 different instances involving situations on a daily basis where the department head is best suited to manage and account for an employee’s time, instead of having the Controller/HR Manager do this.

The Employee:

  1. Was absent
  2. Arrived late
  3. Forgot to clock in
  4. Was scheduled and did not show
  5. Was called in to cover for someone else
  6. Called in sick
  7. Clocked into the wrong department
  8. Was not scheduled but clocked in for work
  9. Started on the weekend when HR was closed
  10. Left before his scheduled time for personal reasons
  11. Was borrowed to work in another department
  12. Earned a bonus or tip
  13. Had a worker’s comp accident
  14. Worked through a meal hour
  15. Forgot to clock out
  16. Had to work unscheduled overtime
  17. Was sent home for disciplinary reasons
  18. Clocked out for another employee

Since we know that the largest single operating expense of a club is payroll, then effectively managing labor cost at the departmental level is critical to meeting or beating budgets.  Pushing this responsibility away from the immediate manager is a formula for inefficiency; increases the opportunity for errors and oversight; and reduces the ability to effectively control labor costs.

Best practices would dictate that rules to ensure compliance with state and federal wage and hour regulations are implemented at the accounting / HR level, and incorporated with the labor management and time keeping system.  Likewise personnel exceptions that happen at the operational level are best resolved by the immediate, authorized supervisor, and not by a department manager who is removed by time and distance from when an event happened.

If this sounds logical, then why do clubs handle this differently?  From our experience with installations at clubs nationally, we find resistance to delegating these tasks to department heads comes from multiple sources:

  • Club legacy practices that time and attendance is an accounting / HR responsibility.
  • Department heads that promote their member-related services as primary and push back on employee time management.
  • Controllers and HR Managers that resist letting go of control of elements of the process involved with payroll generation.

The bottom line is that the cultural change and implementation of best practices has to originate from the top of the organizational chart.  This process begins with an inclusive job description that defines not only the service aspects of the department head position, but also the administrative functions, including budgeting, reporting, and accountability results including labor cost management.  When the club makes the investment in a modern labor management system including secure biometric time terminals, a manager has access to the tools to positively impact his department’s bottom line.  They should be held accountable accordingly, and any good manager would want the responsibility for managing the employee time related data that drives his department cost, and ultimately his performance-based income.

Peter J. Dehlinger, MBA, is President for Gatekeeper Business Solutions, Inc. and can be reached at pdehlinger@gatekeepersolutions.com.  Gatekeeper Business Solutions, Inc. specializes in a proprietary suite of software tools (LMS) that includes time and attendance, scheduling, and integrated payroll processing for midlevel private and public sector companies. To learn more, visit http://www.gatekeepersolutions.com.

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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