Archive for August, 2012

Rules of Engagement – Just How Friendly Should Your Employees Be?

Monday, August 27th, 2012

Club managers are always on the lookout for those rare individuals with engaging personalities – those people who are naturally outgoing and friendly and who can connect effortlessly with members and guests.  And while we all would agree that such employees make service and service delivery a snap, it is also important to recognize that some employees need coaching on boundaries and the appropriateness of overly friendly service.

While many members appreciate and enjoy their interactions with service staff, even engaging in playful banter, chit-chat, and teasing with their favorite employees, there are also those members who expect a more formal and detached level of service.  It is also often the case where the member who likes to “play” with employees when in the bar after a round of golf, does not want the same level of engagement at Sunday brunch when family and friends are present.

The challenge then for any employee is to assess each service situation and gauge the member’s mood and interest in engagement.  Here are some of the factors involved:

T1me of Day and Day of Week:  The time of day can have a great deal to do with a member’s interest in engagement.  Some members are not morning people and don’t appreciate noise, exuberance, or conversation early in the morning.  If a member has his nose in the paper, he probably doesn’t want any more than polite and efficient service.  On the other hand, Friday and Saturday night cocktail hour is a time of conviviality and sociability and an employee could expect a more playful interaction.

Occasion:  Dr. and Mrs. Jones celebrating their anniversary will probably appreciate discreet service with as few interruptions as possible.  Service should still be prompt and attentive, but servers should take their cue from the intensity and privacy of the couple’s conversation.  Conversely, a group of ladies coming in for lunch after a morning of tennis are probably keyed up and looking forward to a fun time together.  The same group while entertaining their gardening club with a number of guests would expect a more distant and detached approach.  The businesswoman entertaining clients may want formal, correct, and efficient service with as few interruptions as possible so she can conduct her business in a manner that reflects well on herself and her club.

Members in the Party:  The makeup of a member’s party will have a lot to do with the level of engagement.  A group of members and guests just off the golf course are probably more ebullient, particularly if someone shot his low round, had an eagle, or sank a forty foot putt to win the match.  On the other hand, a member hosting his aged parents for Mother’s Day Brunch is not there to “play” with employees.  It is also possible that a member who comes in alone for a drink may interact with staff very differently than when he is with his wife and children.

Past Experience:  There is no better predictor of the future than past experience.  If a member has always been reserved and formal, with little or no personal engagement with staff, employees can expect that he will continue to be so.  John, the single junior member, is casual, relaxed and always enjoys playful repartee with the bar staff.  No doubt he will be that way when he stops in after work for a few drinks.  However, should John arrive with a date, he may not want the same level of engagement from the bartender.

As can be deduced from these examples, there is no hard and fast way of knowing how a member will act, react, or interact with the friendly engagement of employees.  Therefore, it’s up to the employee to assess the mood and manner of the member.  Most people have a good sense of when someone wants to interact with them.  Employees should always hold back until a member makes it clear by initiating a greater degree of contact.  When in doubt, an employee should go no further than being courteous, polite, and friendly.

Ultimately, though, it’s up to managers to train their employees that, “No matter how friendly members may be with you on any or all occasions, they are not your friends; they are your employer.”  Keeping this firmly in mind will help everybody from transgressing the Rules of Engagement.

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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Utility Benchmarking: The First Step in Energy Conservation

Monday, August 20th, 2012

Almost daily we hear more disturbing news about environmental degradation and the impact on our planet of our ever-increasing levels of fossil fuel consumption.  Just a few years ago there was a significant debate on whether the current period of global warming was man-made or if it was just part of the natural cycle of the planet.  While some scientist continue to question the exact causes of warming oceans, melting icecaps, degradation of the ozone, and other symptoms of our impact on Mother Earth, the consensus today seems to be we are facing a looming crisis and that much needs to be done to decrease our carbon footprint in all areas of our lives.

While most of us wait for some stroke of technology or government intervention to lead us out of the crisis, there are currently and soon-to-be other significant reasons for the business sector to address the problem within the scope of their operations – that of cost.  While government regulation of utility prices has kept the upward climb of utility costs manageable, we cannot always expect this to be so as the cost of extracting oil or converting to new greener technologies is expected to rise dramatically in coming years.

Environmentalists have long pointed out that the cheapest alternative to ever rising energy costs is that of avoidance – of conserving energy by the end user.  This applies to our homes, but increasingly is being looked at by businesses as a way of reducing or stabilizing these costs.  It seems at every turn we are being encouraged to change our light bulbs, better insulate, shift demand to non-peak hours, purchase more energy efficient machines, or just turn off unneeded lights and equipment.

Whether you are currently considering new investment in energy-saving technologies or will wait until it becomes a financial imperative for your club, you will not be able to adequately determine the cost/benefit of any initiative without an understanding of the energy use at your club.  Without this understanding any decision you make will be based upon wishful thinking or the promises of vendors.

So now is the time to start benchmarking your utilities which is easily enough done by tracking your consumption and cost for electricity, gas, and water.  For each one of these commodities you receive a monthly bill from your utility companies that provides all the pertinent information.  It’s a simple matter of extracting this data from the invoice and putting them in Excel spreadsheets month-by-month and year-by-year for each area of your operation for which you receive a bill.

Whether you plan to act soon to control energy costs or wait to some future time, these utility benchmarks will serve you well as you determine options and costs.  Someone once said that, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.”  I would say that it’s also true that, “You can’t improve what you can’t measure.”  Start measuring your energy use patterns and costs now so that you can make those improvements when it becomes necessary.

Click here for utility benchmarking instructions and here to find spreadsheets.

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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Active and Engaged Management

Monday, August 13th, 2012

If you are interested in advancing your career, the easiest and quickest way to do so is to add value to your employer.  When you consistently demonstrate your ability to take initiative, solve problems, and make your boss’ job easier, you will be recognized as one who adds value to the organization.  The following principles, embodied in the concept of “Active and Engaged Management,” will allow you to stand head and shoulders above your peers and will ultimately lead to greater and greater successes in life.

Reject the Status Quo

Every organization has its way of doing things.  Often its methods are a result of stopgap measures implemented over time to deal with various problems that arose.  Seldom are its policies and procedures formalized in writing; and even less often are they well-thought out from a big picture standpoint.  Despite the haphazard nature of most methods, they are considered sacred and untouchable by employees because “we’ve always done it that way.”

An Active and Engaged Manager, however, does not accept this status quo.  He or she shines the fresh light of reason on the organization; continually asking questions – Is there a better way to do this?  Does this make sense?  Does this really serve our members’ interests?  Can I do this more efficiently another way?

This willingness to look for new ways to do things allows the Active and Engaged Manager to realize the next principle . . .

Seek Constant Improvement

Every aspect of an operation – from product and services to standards, policies, procedures, work methods, and training material – should be analyzed for ways to do them better, faster, more efficiently, and with higher levels of service.

When a manager is dedicated to constant improvement and seeks the input of his or her employees, the entire department becomes energized with ideas, innovation, and enthusiasm.  And while the organization as a whole and its members benefit from the improvements, the employees gain the greatest benefit – knowing that their efforts contribute in a meaningful way to the success of the organization.

Be Proactive

Managers should also be looking ahead to ensure his or her department is ready for any contingency.  While most businesses have a seasonal routine, the Active and Engaged Manager reviews past activity for ways to improve (Continual Process Improvement) and continually seeks new ideas, events, and activities to keep the club interesting and fresh for its members.

Managers should always be looking ahead – at least three months for routine operations, and further for major club activities, events, or projects.  This continually advancing planning horizon allows all planning requirements to be completed in a timely manner and allows sufficient time to order all supplies and materials while putting advance notice of the activity in the club newsletter.

Have a Plan

Every event, activity, project, or initiative demands a plan.  Without a proper plan you approach everything helter-skelter, waste valuable resources and time, and subject your employees to your own disorganization and lack of discipline.

By putting your plan in writing – even as simple as a one page outline of timing and responsibilities – you are better able to communicate your plan to your employees and to other affected departments.  Such a written plan also broadcasts your competence and abilities to everyone who sees it.

The Army had a phrase to express the need for planning.  The sanitized version of the six P’s is:

“Prior Planning Prevents P. . .-Poor Performance”

Follow Through and Follow Up

Whatever he or she undertakes, the Active and Engaged Manager will follow through to ensure that all details are covered and all actions completed.  Often follow through requires modification in the original plan when unexpected situations arise.

Lastly, the Active and Engaged Manager will follow up on all completed actions or projects to learn from mistakes and to ensure that the initiative met the expectations of members, other managers, and employees.

In Closing

Being an Active and Engaged Manager is more of a mindset than possessing specific skills.  It involves the willingness to tackle any problem, the understanding that every problem has a solution, and the realization that problems are opportunities in disguise.

The choice to be an Active and Engaged Manager is up to you.  On the one hand, you’ll add value to your organization and ensure your future success; on the other, you’ll tread water and wonder why your career isn’t going anywhere.

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: How’s All This Technology Working for YOU?

Monday, August 6th, 2012

Do you feel better because you are always “plugged in” or have more stress because you are?

When was the last time you;

  • Arranged a meeting outside your office
  • Picked up the phone to talk to someone instead of sending an email
  • Gave your fingers a “rest” from texting
  • Hand wrote a letter
  • Turned off the Smart Phone on the weekend
  • Took time out for yourself to recharge
  • Exercised, did yoga, meditated or read a book?

Yes, using technology is a necessity for survival and economic growth in today’s world without borders.  The challenge as Jerry Bridge of LifeWorks Education said is:

“…to learn how to use the technology we have invented rather than allow it to use us, so that it improves our human connections and does not replace them.”

Remember those human connections when we used to shake hands and meet people, talk on the phone, write letters, go to trade shows and conventions – today it is all about being LinkedIn, Blogged, Tweeted, Meeting On Line, Skypeing, and being tied to the Internet! I yearn for the days when phone calls were private – now everywhere I go I am bombarded with people’s conversations on their blue tooth enabled phone that I have no interest in hearing and topics that should not be shared in public. Put them behind the wheel of a car, and now you have a one-handed driver distracted by a phone conversation, when they should be focused on the road and drivers around them.

Today’s generation has evolved to have the fastest fingers on a mini key board, but they are challenged when it comes to composing a letter or holding a conversation! As a father of Gen X children, I am a prisoner of unanswered phone calls, but text messages keep me in-touch with loved ones through their chosen communication medium. Although this fills my glass half full, I miss the sound of their voices. Texts and emails can be so bland and one dimensional, while in a conversation you can detect subtleties, emotions and laugh together – replacing them with LOL and OMG is just not the same!

The same applies to business, where the email has become the standard with its own lexicography and rules. Be careful not to CAPITALIZE words though or you could be unintentionally (or intentionally) sending a message you would think second about doing in person. The thoughtful writer puts that difficult email into their Draft folder, and reviews it the next day to make sure it communicates the desired message. Unless it is critical it can wait 24 hours, because as we all know once you push the Send button you cannot pull it back!  Some of the most admired and successful companies today – SouthWest Airlines is the first one that comes to mind – have instilled a culture that combines the various techno-mediums with human touch to make the individual feel special and valued. If you really want to “WOW someone,” send them a hand written note to say Thank You for their time, hospitality or business, and renew that human connection!

peter_dehlinger-79x80Peter J. Dehlinger, MBA is President for Gatekeeper Business Solutions, Inc. and can be reached at 1.888.428.3577 or email: pdehlinger@gatekeepersolutions.com. Gatekeeper Business Solutions, Inc. specializes in a proprietary suite of software tools (lms.net) 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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