Archive for July, 2012

Setting Up a Linked Policies Database at Your Club

Monday, July 30th, 2012

Communications among the management staff of a club is critical to keeping everyone informed, on task, and functioning as a team with a common vision.  But other than a weekly staff meeting it is often challenging for managers to get together, given their varying schedules.

The advent of emails and the Internet has made it easier for managers to communicate among themselves, but the power of computers and the club’s intranet can be harnessed to truly improve communication and consistency in operations.  This can be done by setting up a linked intranet of club values, standards, policies, procedures, training material, benchmarks, and other operating and organizational material.

In 1999, as I opened a new club, all department heads were writing standards, policies, procedures, and training material for their departments.  By establishing a basic layout template, we were able to create a great deal of material with a common look and feel.  Much of this material is now available on the Club International Resources website for all clubs to use.

But after creating this material, we took it a step further by creating the linked database on our club’s server.  This meant that as an individual was reading a golf policy and it referenced a particular form, the reader could click on the form number in the text.  The form number was linked to the form so that the reader could automatically see and, if desired, print out the form.

All this was simple to do by using MS-Word and the link button on the toolbar at the top of the Word document.  The link button is the little symbol of the earth with a chain link at the bottom.  You simply underline the word or phrase you want to link, click on the link button, and scroll through your folders and files until you find the file you want to link.  When you finished selecting the file, you will have a hyperlink to that file from the selected (and underlined) word(s) in your document.

The beauty of this linked intranet is that all of your club’s key documents, standards, policies, procedures, and training material are easy-to-find and readily accessible to any manager who may need them.  Further, any changes or upgrades can be made in one place and all managers notified of the change via an email.

Steps to Building an Intranet at your club:

  1. Download any desired material from the CRI.  Modify it to suit the needs of your particular club.  As an alternative, use your own created material.
  2. Set up a Main Index Page in a Word file.  Usually this will be set up by department, so that if someone wants to go to Food & Beverage, they click on Food & Beverage and the link will take them to the F&B Index Page.  Each department’s index page is nothing more than a Word file with the numbered policies and procedures linked to the actual files.
  3. For uniformity sake, the GM should set a standard design template (font type, size, header, footer, and text formatting) so that every file has a common look and feel.
  4. While each department head can set up their own department’s policies and procedures and index page, it is helpful to have someone – usually the club’s admin assistant set up the Main Index Page and create the necessary links from file to file.

While building such an intranet takes time, in the end it provides the club with a cohesive set of operating standards and policies that will make everyone’s job easier.  Having set one up, I can tell you its well worth the time and effort – and ultimately not that difficult.  As with so many other things, it’s really a matter of organization.

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 Ultimate Value of People

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

We acknowledge each operation as a team of dedicated individuals working toward common goals and we recognize the ultimate value of people in everything we do.

While each employee has his or her own duties and responsibilities, every employee of our club works toward the common goal of understanding and exceeding the expectations of our members and guests. Ultimately our business is about people and they must be valued and respected wherever and whenever encountered.

Every employee contributes to the success of the club. The only differences among employees are their level or authority and responsibility. Every department and the club as a whole is a team of people working toward a common goal. The complete support, cooperation, and dedication of all employees is necessary for our success.

We are in the people business. Members, guests, employees, and managers are all individuals who should be acknowledged and valued wherever and whenever we encounter them. Friendliness, courtesy, and good cheer should pervade every area of our operation. Discord, rancor, and unpleasantness should be rooted out wherever found.

Take Away:   The most basic and important understanding a leader in the service and hospitality business must have is the ultimate value of people.  Wherever and whenever you meet them, regardless of position, title, or dependence on the leader, they must be honored and valued.

Excerpted from Values 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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Club Legal Compliance and Liability Issues

Monday, July 16th, 2012

As with any small business, a private club must deal with a number of legal compliance and liability issues.  Some that are directly related to employment and staff (such as the Fair Labor Standards Act, Hiring/Firing, Workers’ Compensation, Sexual Harassment, and Youth Employment) are made more challenging by the sheer number of employees, the youthful nature of the workforce, and the typical levels of turnover in the industry.  A brief discussion of each follows:

State Alcohol Laws

Individual States establish and enforce laws pertaining to the licensing and sale of alcoholic beverages.  In addition to adhering to these laws that govern on and off premise sales, the hours alcohol may be served, the age of servers, purchasing, and in some cases the disposal of empty bottles, there are strict requirements and penalties for over-serving patrons and serving underage persons.

In recent years there have been a number of highly-publicized cases involving liability for the deaths of individuals killed by drunk drivers.  The courts have held that the serving establishment and the server may be held liable when they over-served an individual who then got behind the wheel and killed someone.

Youth Employment

The States and Federal Government have passed laws regarding youth employment.  These laws specify industries and professions in which youth employment is banned or restricted.  Further, some States still require youths to obtain a work permit before beginning work and all States specify the hours that youths of particular ages may work, as well as banning youths from working with various types of dangerous equipment.  A recent high-profile lawsuit against Walmart resulted in a large fine for allowing underage persons to work with cardboard baling equipment.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is a significant concern in the hospitality industry because of the youthful, mixed gender work force and the late working hours involved.

Hostile Work Environment

Often, but not always related to sexual harassment and/or discrimination, ensuring that the workplace does not become a hostile environment for any employee requires continual vigilance on the part of club management.

EEOC/Discrimination

The Civil Rights Act of 1964, common referred to as Equal Employment Opportunity, requires employers to provide equal employment opportunities and bans discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, age, sex, national origin, disability, or veteran status.  This law covers all aspects of the employment relationship, including hiring, training, promotion, job assignments, compensation, discipline, termination and application of all of the club’s policies, procedures and benefits.

American with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The Americans with Disabilities Act provides civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin and religion.  It guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in public accommodations, employment, transportation, State and local government services, and telecommunications.  While private clubs are exempt from certain provisions of the ADA, local building codes require incorporation of ADA-compliant facilities in all new construction or facility renovations.

Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA)

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 establishes standards and enforcement mechanisms for ensuring safe workplaces.  This legislation and the federal and state agencies established to implement and enforce it have created a comprehensive array of requirements affecting the small business.  At the core of a business’ responsibilities are ensuring a safe workplace, reporting and investigating all accidents and incidents, training of staff in safe work practices, and record keeping to protect against claims of negligence.

Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA)

Certain requirements are place upon employers whose employees are members of the Armed Forces Reserves or National Guard called to active duty or meeting their annual service requirements.

Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

The Fair Labor Standards Act addresses a number of compliance issues associated with payroll record keeping, overtime, exempt versus non-exempt status, and various other compensation-related requirements.

Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides certain employees with up to 12 workweeks of unpaid, job-protected leave a year, and requires employers to maintain group health benefits at employee expense (if elected by the employee) during the leave.  The details of this act require careful administration.

Hiring/Firing/Wrongful Termination

Hiring, counseling, dealing with misconduct and work performance, and terminations are fraught with legal issues and can become a major headache for the club that does not take reasonable and appropriate steps to train its management staff.

Workers’ Compensation

Employees injured on the job are entitled to Workers’ Compensation.  This state-administered program is specific in accident reporting procedures and level and length of benefits.  Employers with high incidence of Workers’ Comp claims can expect to pay higher insurance premiums.

Unemployment Compensation

This federally-mandated, but state administered protection for employees who become unemployed through no fault of their own, can become an expensive program for employers who are lax in documenting employee discharges or who do not consistently challenge claims without merit.  The higher an employer’s unemployment experience, the higher the tax rate.

Hazardous Material Handling & Storage

Clubs utilize a wide number of hazardous materials such as pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers in turf-grass management; chemicals to test, treat, and balance the water in swimming pools; and various cleaning compounds used in housekeeping, maintenance, and kitchen ware-washing.  In addition to training employees in the correct handling, cleanup, and storage of these chemicals, each facility is required to maintain up-to-date Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) on each hazardous material.

Food Sanitation

In this day and age food sanitation is sometimes taken for granted by diners, but ensuring food safety requires careful training of staff and constant vigilance on the part of food service managers.  Not only can food-borne illness open the club to liability issues, but the damage caused by an outbreak can be damaging to the club’s reputation and bottom line.

Public Health – Aquatics

There are significant safety, public health, hazardous material, and liability issues associated with operating aquatics facilities.  Without prepared operating standards, policies, and procedures, as well as a thoroughly trained staff and carefully documented testing and treatment of water quality throughout each day, clubs are exposing themselves to water-borne contaminants, injuries due to toxic chemicals, and death by drowning.

Summary

The legal compliance and liability issues involved in club management are significant, requiring a General Manager who is alert to all of the ramifications and trains subordinate managers thoroughly and consistently.  Even with sufficient initial training, there is always the need for ongoing refresher training to ensure that all concerned are up-to-date and fully aware of their responsibilities.

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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Member Relations

Monday, July 9th, 2012

The term “Member Relations” encompasses the most difficult and challenging area in the club business.  It is difficult for the same reasons that managing employees is difficult – it involves people with all their needs, desires, agendas, and egos.  But a significant difference between member relations and employee relations is that managers have the means to control their employees’ behavior and attitude, while managers have only the ability to influence members’ perceptions.  It is also understood that all service employees, including managers, are in a subordinate position to members in that your jobs involve serving these people who are your ultimate bosses.

Given this recognition, it is imperative that all club managers, from general manager to department heads to supervisors, devote time and attention to the many challenges and pitfalls of member relations.

The following material is an effort to put member relations in the context of a manager’s overall responsibilities.  While there is no single managerial skill, ability, or attitude that will deal satisfactorily with all situations involving members, there are certain guidelines that should help in most situations.    Beyond that, managers will have to use their best judgment and discretion in dealing with the variety of situations that may arise.  Member relations is an art, not a science.  Judgment and discretion are paramount.  But as with any art form, practice and experience develops a skill set that can hopefully meet any challenge.

The Customer is Always Right!

“The customer is always right,” is an old adage often given as a guide to follow when dealing with angry or dissatisfied patrons.  But you must understand in the service business, all concepts of right and wrong are irrelevant.  There is only the member’s perception of a problem.  This is your only reality, and you have but one course of action – to positively influence that perception.  By disputing the perceived problem, you are only amplifying and reinforcing a member’s irritation.

First and foremost when dealing with a complaint, do not become defensive.  It’s not easy, but if you allow yourself to put up your defenses, you’ll send the wrong signals to the member and you will never hear what he or she is saying.  Try to mentally step back from the situation and realize that the member is not attacking you personally, though it may sometimes seem that way.

Whatever has happened up to the point of the complaint is unimportant compared with what you are about to do.  Take a deep breath if necessary.  Focus all your attention on the member to find out what he or she is really saying.  Do not assume you know what the complaint is.  Listen patiently and sincerely.  Ask questions to ensure you understand.  Be sympathetic.  The problem is yours, not the member’s, and you must do everything in your power to resolve the situation.

Offer to replace the item or correct the problem within the limitations of your responsibility.  In all cases, do not offer a negative answer to the member before you have consulted your supervisor.  No matter what has occurred your goal is to make certain that the member is satisfied.

Communicating with Members

Many problems with members can be avoided by good, ongoing communications.  When members understand the club rules and regulations, when uncertainties are clarified, when changes in policy and procedure are announced in advance, members are not confused or embarrassed by a lack of information.

Some communications are routine, as in the monthly club newsletter; some are formal, as in periodic letters from the general manager; but the greatest and most comfortable type of communication is from managers who are highly visible in the operation and interact with members on a daily basis.  This informal communication and contact will build the greatest level of trust and rapport with members and will assist management when unpleasant news, such as dues increases, must be communicated.

Further, this daily interaction with members will allow small problems to be defused before they become big issues.  A side benefit is that it permits you to “take the pulse” of the membership on an ongoing basis and keeps you from being “blindsided” by festering problems that suddenly blow up.

As with employee relations, the key to member relations is trust.  Members trust management that is visible, concerned, proactive, reliable, and easy to approach.  This trust is essential in any long term relationship.

Training Staff

While you as a manager may have an excellent understanding of member relations, it is also imperative that your employees are trained with the same understanding and skill set.  Just as you rely on them to accomplish the work of directly serving members, you must also rely on them to interact professionally and appropriately with members at all times.

To do this they must be well-trained.  This requires good initial training and ongoing reminders of the importance of your service standards.  As with all other training, member relationship training is the absolute responsibility of managers.  If any one of your employees renders less than outstanding service, you are the one ultimately responsible for this failure.  While the club may provide certain material to help you in this training responsibility, it is you who must make it happen.

Use this material and help your employees understand how it can help them do their jobs.  Your employees must do more than just read the material; they have to interact with it.  In other words, if someone is told to sit at a desk and read the training material, they may only remember 10% of what they read.  Role-play with them and have them treat you as if you were a member.  Have them perform the tasks that are taught in the training material.  This will help them remember what is expected of them.  A Chinese proverb summarizes this theory:  “I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand.”  Show them the correct way of performing their tasks and then have them reinforce it by performing it for you.

While teaching employees the right way to do things, don’t ever miss an opportunity to learn from mistakes.  Without embarrassing the offending employee, discuss service failures with your employees and let everyone learn from the mistake.  Often such review and analysis will point to better ways of doing things or improvements to training materials.

Quality, full-service training (learning) for all employees who interact with members is paramount to the success of the club.  Take advantage of all the training resources at your disposal and encourage employees to search out ways to increase their knowledge of the business.  Reinforce their learning with praise and acknowledgement at every opportunity.  This praise will reinforce the positive things they do until they become habits.  Great habits make great employees!  Aristotle said:  “Excellence is an act won by training and habituation.  We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”

Setting the Example

While training employees is extremely important and prepares them for the challenges of members relations, nothing is as important as you setting the example for your staff.  Managers at all levels must “walk the walk” as well as “talk the talk.”  If you preach one set of standards to the employees, but display another, they will not only lose respect for you, but they will follow you in all your bad habits or practices.

Recovering from a Bad Member Experience

Despite your best preparation, practices, and efforts, there will inevitably be an occasion when you or your staff fails to render the appropriate level of service.  It may or may not be directly or indirectly your fault, but a problem has been created nevertheless.  The key here is not what went wrong (though this should always be examined after the fact to avoid repetition), but how you recover.  In these cases, recovery is always the key!

Sincere apologies on the spot and attempts to rectify the situation are always the best solution, but are not always possible.  In some cases, the member has gone away mad.  When this happens, it is essential to follow up the next day or the first appropriate opportunity.  A phone call to the member or a letter expressing your sincere regret and giving some indication of how the problem will be fixed to avoid future incidents is appropriate.  In some instances, this type of follow up when the member has cooled down can be an opportunity to build a higher level of trust.  The key is to take personal responsibility to repair the damage.

Time is the most important element in making a recovery.  You must be willing to get involved in the moment and handle the crisis in a timely manner.  Making a recovery can provide you with the highest level of personal gratification.  If you are successful, you gain the member’s respect and you will foster a rewarding sense of self-worth.  Hopefully, the need to make a recovery with a member will be a rare occurrence, but you should hone this skill at every opportunity.  It will serve you well in any endeavor.

Bottom Line:  Understanding these key elements of member relations is a critical part of every manager’s skill set.

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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Service Awareness and Responsiveness

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

There is no better way to demonstrate your dedication to the welfare of members than to be aware of and responsive to their needs.  This means that you are always alert for ways to serve and assist.

Part of awareness and responsiveness is anticipating members’ needs.  This means you need to know where members are, what they are doing, what their habits are, and try to put yourself in their place.  What might they need or want next?

  • For servers in the dining room, this means that you should constantly survey the dining room, as well as your section, to see if a member is signaling for assistance or looking around for her server.  Do not congregate and socialize with co-workers during meal service – it absolutely detracts from your awareness of and responsiveness to members and their needs.  This is just as true in the pantry and kitchen as in the dining room itself.
  • golfer-swinging-2For the outside golf staff, it’s being alert to which member has guests coming, noting their names, and watching for their arrival.  Assume they are unfamiliar with club facilities and escort them to the locker rooms or pro shop while informing them of other members in their party, frost delays, carts on the path, when the beverage cart will be running, and any other information to enhance their experience at the club.
  • For the housekeeper, it’s turning off the vacuum cleaner when members or guests are present, or interrupting the cleaning of a rest room to allow members privacy.
  • For the golf course maintenance staff, it means shutting off equipment when golfers are present or watching for a golfer’s errant shot.

It also means that you should show hustle.  A person who shows hustle is actively and energetically involved in whatever he or she is doing.  It is important because it demonstrates effective use of time and a willingness to do whatever is necessary to get a job done.  The opposite – slow-moving and dawdling sends a message of inattention and laziness – certainly not something to inspire confidence in those who witness it.

But while you should always demonstrate hustle, you must never let members see you breaking a sweat.  Good service is a form of theater and you should always give members the impression that what you do on their behalf is effortless – that everything is well-planned, organized, and well-executed.

Bottom Line:  Being alert and responsive to members’ needs is the essence of good service.

Excerpted from Service on the Go, Club Resources International

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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