Archive for October, 2012

Impediments to Quality and Service

Monday, October 29th, 2012

We frequently write about those steps that a club must take to promote excellence.  As an alternative let’s examine those things that act as impediments to quality and service.

Think about each of the following obstacles to a smooth-running operation where quality and service are paramount; then decide whose responsibility it is to remove the impediment:

  1. Lack of culture or failure to consistently reinforce the culture
  2. Lack of standards (stated expectations)
  3. Lack of communication
  4. Lack of leadership, leadership consistency, and example
  5. Lack of organization; toleration of a chaotic work environment
  6. Lack of disciplines to hire the best staff
  7. Lack of planning, operational review, and process improvement
  8. Failure to remove obstacles to efficiency
  9. Lack of training or training consistency
  10. Lack of teamwork, morale, and enthusiasm
  11. Lack of understanding about what members want/expect
  12. Lack of member relationship management plan
  13. Lack of employee empowerment
  14. Lack of accountability

If you have a true understanding of the responsibilities of leadership – that a leader is responsible for everything his or her unit does or fails to do – then correcting every one of these impediments is a function of management.

Intrinsically understanding this validates that W. Edwards Deming was right when he said, “The worker is not the problem.  The problem is at the top!  Management is the problem!” and “There is much talk about how to get employees involved with quality.  The big problem is how to get management involved.”

Understanding what causes a problem is the first step to correcting it.  So take the next step and read The Quest for Remarkable Service which provides an overarching plan for excellence in club operations.  Then begin implementing the processes and disciplines that will remove any and all impediments to quality and service.

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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Emergency Evacuation Simulations

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Given the difficulties of scheduling emergency evacuation drills and the resulting disruption to members and guests, club managers must use other means of training and testing employees on their responsibilities and actions during an emergency evacuation.  Such an alternate means would be the use of departmental Emergency Evacuation Simulations.  These routine periodic simulations would consist of a variety of cards describing simulated emergencies for each area of the operation and a supervisor testing employees what their actions would be when handed the card.

Simulation cards would be readily identifiable by design and color.  Each card would:

  • Describe an emergency scenario.
  • Require the employee to describe his or her actions, including:
  • Notification of the emergency.
  • Location of emergency exits.
  • Primary and alternate evacuation routes.
  • Steps to evacuate members, guests, and other employees.
  • Location of exterior assembly area.

Require the employee to list:

  • Appropriate life safety actions in the presence of fire, heat, and smoke.
  • Steps to fight or slow the spread of the fire.
  • Require the employee to:
  • Point out the location of fire pull stations.
  • Point out the location of fire extinguishers.
  • Explain the types of fire extinguishers and their respective uses.
  • Simulate the use of a fire extinguisher, while describing the necessary operating procedures and techniques.

The supervisor presenting the simulation card would grade the employee responses and point out any incorrect actions or answers.  The whole exercise should take no more than ten minutes and can be executed without disturbing normal service routines.

The use of Emergency Evacuation Simulation cards will increase the fire safety awareness of staff and reinforce critical information and experience regarding emergency evacuation procedures with a minimum disruption to members and guests.

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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“Nudging” Employees towards a Better Future

Monday, October 15th, 2012

A concern for all Americans is to save enough for their retirement years.  Recent news that overall Americans for the first time since the 1930s had a negative savings rate, dramatically points out that as a nation we don’t do a good job of planning for our futures.

Other than opening personal savings accounts or making investments in the stock markets or real estate, most people have only two avenues to retirement savings – one is the mandatory Social Security system in which all employees participate through their employer.  The Social Security program is a defined-benefits plan where the amount a person can draw at retirement is fixed based upon their lifetime contributions into the plan.  While periodic increases are legislated by Congress, the benefit amounts are fixed by law depending upon the age a person retires.

The other is a defined-contribution plan such as IRAs or 401(k) plans.  In these plans, people may make tax-deferred contributions to savings accounts which are then available at retirement.  In 401(k) plans there is the added benefit of receiving a “free” employer match – in the case of one club 50 cents on each dollar the employee contributes up to 6% of income.

The unfortunate fact is that, nationally, some 30% of employees eligible to participate in a 401(k) retirement plan do not take advantage of this opportunity.  Employer and all managers have a special responsibility to promote the welfare of their employees.  So how can we encourage employees to participate in this plan that is so obviously a major benefit to them?

In the past, we have encouraged managers at all levels to use the “bully pulpit” of their position and their leadership and persuasion skills to encourage their employees to join the plan.  Many managers have done this to great effect, but still participation rates are not what they could be.

A recent book entitled Nudge, Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness (Thaler and Sunstein, Yale University Press, 2008) offers a number of strategies that have been proven to enhance employee participation rates.

Making savings automatic with a change in the Default Rule:  Most plans require employees to opt in to the retirement plan.  As an alternative, you could make enrollment at a specified savings rate and asset allocation automatic, requiring the employee to make a conscious decision not to participate.  A study in 2001 showed that automatic enrollments increase participation rates from 20 to 90 percent immediately, with an ultimate participation rate of 98% after 3 years.  This study also showed that the dropout rate with automatic enrollment was only slightly higher than it had been prior to automatic enrollment.

An alternative to automatic enrollment is to require every employee to make an active or Forced Decision about whether to join the plan:  In this scenario, upon hiring, employees are required to check a “yes” or “no” box for participation in the plan, and specify their savings rate and asset allocation preferences without a default option.  One company increased participation by 25% with this strategy.

Another strategy that has proven successful is to Simplify the Enrollment Process:  As with the Forced Decision, they were required to check a “yes” box for participation, but with a “basic” savings rate and pre-selected asset allocation.  With this scenario participation rates jumped from 9% to 34% in the first four months after implementation.  As an aside, it was also found in studies that the more investment options employees had; the less likely they were to participate.  As the authors say, “With more options, the process becomes more confusing and difficult, and some people will refuse to choose at all.”

While some experts argue for more education of employees, studies have shown the results to be relatively ineffective with only a small increase on participation rates.

One club provided frequent reminders of the benefits of encouraging employees to participate with flyers, reminders in newsletters, and the “Dollar a Day” Plan, yet still had a significant number of eligible employees who did not participate.  Managers should use their leadership and influence to “nudge” employees toward greater participation.  At the same time, the 401(k) plan Oversight Committees should be asked to consider alternatives to the existing enrollment process.

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: Winterizing Your Pool

Monday, October 8th, 2012

As the summer swimming season draws to a close, it’s time to turn your attention to winterizing your pool.  Most pool managers have been through this drill a number of times before, but it never hurts to provide reminders.  The following information is courtesy of the Meredith Swimming Pool Company of Greensboro, NC.

  • Never stop maintaining your pool.  Just do it less frequently during the off season.
  • When possible, cover your pool.  This keeps the water cleaner and cuts down on chlorine demand.
  • Run your pool’s filters twice a week when no one is using the pool and water temperature is below 55 degrees.  Run you filter for eight hours each time.
  • Routinely shock your pool.  When you filter less, the free available chlorine level needs to be increased.  Shock the pool to a level of 5 ppm (parts per million) when you first shut it down and then once or twice a month as needed to maintain that level.
  • Don’t forget to test the water.  You must keep the free available chlorine level above 1 ppm.  The pH must be kept between 7.2 and 7.8 in order for the chlorine to work effectively.
  • Empty and clean your skimmers and strainer basket regularly.  If you do not cover your pool, you will need to vacuum and brush the surfaces as needed.

One of the contributors, Bruce Furman, adds the following steps to his winterization:

  • Backwash after every vacuuming.
  • Drain water from the accessory (gadgets and gizmos) pumps with a wetvac.
  • Put a small amount of antifreeze into the inlet strainers to ensure pumps don’t freeze.
  • Shut off breakers to the pumps.
  • Turn off interior pool lights and shut off breakers.

Physical Maintenance for Pools

While the following maintenance instructions apply year round, they also apply during the off season when pools are often neglected.

Brushing – Brushing is essential, even for pools with an automatic cleaner.  Without brushing, air pockets form on the walls and bottom and promote algae growth.  Brushing also clears debris and the early stages of algae growth from areas that receive poor circulation.  If the pool is brushed once a week, it eliminates these air pockets and cleans off the surface to allow the sanitizer access to any organic growth that may be present on the walls.

Vacuuming – If you do not have an automatic cleaner, vacuuming is necessary to eliminate dirt and debris that falls to the bottom.  This matter makes the pool look unsightly and can also promote algae growth.

Filtering – The filter should be running a minimum of 8 hours a day, and these 8 hours should be continuous.  It is most helpful if these 8 hours are during daylight, when more of an environmental load will be put on the water.  Inadequate filtration is one of the most common causes of cloudy water.  The filter media should be chemically cleaned every 6-8 weeks.

Pool Furniture

Wash off all poolside furniture to remove residual chlorine from bathing trunks and oils from lotions and sunscreens.

Inspect all poolside furniture for necessary repairs and separate those needing repair from the others before moving to winter storage.  Furniture needing repair should be set aside for repairs over the winter months.

Pool Decks

A thorough pressure cleaning of pool decks is recommended after shutting the pool down for the season.   This will help clear away all food debris and grease, as well as chemical residues, and ensure a longer deck life.

Contributors:  Bruce Furman, General Manager, The Peninsula Yacht Club and George Frederick, Operations Director, East West Partners Swim and Tennis Clubs

Guest Blog: Activities – Where Do You Find Them?

Monday, October 1st, 2012

The entire food and beverage industry including event planners and activity professionals are always looking for new and innovative events, musicians and programs to set themselves apart from their competition.  The big question is… where can you find them and will you be able to afford it?

Calling a nearby talent agency seems to be the easiest and most logical way to secure entertainment.  But, we all know that this usually comes with a sizable price tag and many times it’s not worth the extra money.  Below, I’ve outlined the many places and spaces you can find inexpensive, quality programming and entertainment in your own backyard.  I’ve used real examples from Huntersville, Charlotte, and North Carolina.  Chances are that these very same examples (with different names, titles, etc.) exist in any other area of the country.

To find ideas I gobble up all the local papers, magazines and newsletters I can find to hunt down local talent and event ideas.  Yes, even the cheesy local paper with the entertaining “crime beat” section and magazines most households would toss before even cracking them open.  I am amazed at what my own community offers in programming and entertainment.  I found that the majority of the events and programming is coordinated by local parks and recreation departments, community centers and libraries.

Below are the many publications in my own area from which I have cut out or photocopied event ideas, band names, informational articles, etc…

  • Huntersville Herald – local small-town newspaper (entertainment section)
  • Lake Norman Magazine (community calendar)
  • Charlotte Parent (local talent ads & feature articles)
  • Today’s Charlotte Woman (local talent ads & feature articles)
  • AAA’s Go Magazine (free if you are a member)
  • Huntersville Park & Recreation Newsletter
  • Ice House (Local Arts Center) Newsletter
  • Carolina Country (“junk mail” – free in the mail)
  • Blue Ridge Outdoors (free at newsstands)
  • Carolina Sports Link (free at newsstands)
  • Our State (magazine subscription)
  • Blue Ridge (magazine subscription)

So far, I’ve uncovered a wide variety of information.  Below are just a few things…

  • Alternative local summer camps (arts, science, living history, Civil War) which can be utilized as a Saturday afternoon program (found in the entertainment section)
  • 10+ local bluegrass, country, rockabilly, old time and jazz bands (found in community calendar)
  • Gold Panning with local historian (library newsletter)
  • Free Line Dancing Lessons (found in community calendar)
  • Names of local writing, gardening and flower arranging experts (found in entertainment section)
  • Mock crime investigation scene program for teens (library newsletter)
  • $6 North Carolina Quiz Book for poolside trivia (Our State magazine)
  • Arts and craft program for making thank-you or holiday gifts for teachers (Charlotte Parent)

I’m sure you are thinking, I don’t have time to find all these papers and newsletters AND read them! May I suggest…

  • Subscribe to local or state magazines
  • Get on local arts, science, museum or community center mailing lists
  • Pick up free entertainment guides or specialty publications at area grocery stores, your child’s school, health club, spa (the places you normally go to)
  • Don’t throw away junk mail if it pertains to what’s happening in your area

Grab your reading pile when you need a break from the computer or it’s a rainy day and things are slow at the club.  I guarantee that you will spend less than 30 minutes browsing through the above information if you know what you are looking for.  When you find it, cut it out or photocopy it and start your idea binder.  You may not use the band or idea for months, but at least you’ve got it in your back pocket.

Utilizing local talent will eliminate the middle man, be cost effective and many times give your event the uniqueness you are looking for.

Cindy Williams, Corporate Director of Activities and Events, East West Partners Club Management

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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