Archive for August, 2018

What Have You Done for Me Lately?

Sunday, August 26th, 2018

How often have we in private clubs heard that from our members?  No one but a few creatures of inviolable habit likes the “same ol’, same ol’,” yet that’s what many clubs serve up month after month, year in and year out. Why not try a different approach that will “wow” your members?  Make “wow factors” a part of your club’s traditions.

What is a “wow factor”?  It’s anything, usually unexpected, that causes your members to say or think, “Wow, that’s really neat!” or “Wow, I didn’t expect that!” or “Wow, that’s impressive!”

Wow factors are characterized by their unexpectedness and as such any particular wow factor cannot become part of your club routine. They are executed for one-time or short-term effect.  They are also characterized by being unusual – either cutting edge or just out-of-the-ordinary.  They can be extravagant and expensive, but these should be few and far between.  Most wow factors should be small scale, inexpensive, and momentary, that is, of short duration as in one day, one evening, or one event.

The key to making wow factors is to challenge your club’s department heads to come up with a specified number of wow factor ideas for their areas of the operation – say 10 new ideas for the coming busy season.  Each idea should be briefly described on paper – what it is, how it will be done, what items need to be purchased, any talent that needs to be contracted, any associated labor cost, and an overall estimated cost.  Then all department heads should meet with the General Manager in a brainstorming session to discuss, settle on, and schedule the roll out of each wow factor.

Here are a handful of ideas to give you a sense of the program:

  • Complimentary mini-trio sampler of desserts or appetizers for all diners on a given night – this is also an excellent way to preview or market a new menu.
  • Free soft-serve ice cream or smoothies for the kids (of all ages) at the pool on a hot summer day.  An alternative would be to arrange for the local ice cream truck to pull up in front of your pool with music playing.  Everyone gets their specialty ice cream treat and you pay the bill.
  • Flowers for all the ladies dining on some non-special night just for the surprise effect.  Google search “special days” for calendars of unusual celebrations and holidays.
  • Have the General Manager act as the club “doorman” on a random evening to greet each member and guest as they arrive.
  • A giveaway of a sleeve of golf balls to each golfer on a busy Saturday morning.  Handed out by the Head Golf Professional on the first tee for maximum effect.
  • Free mini-pizzas in the lounge on an unexpected evening.
  • A themed ice carving for a ladies luncheon.
  • Complimentary and unusual hors d’oeuvres for the weekly card game in the men’s lounge.
  • Face painting or a clown or a balloon artist at your next children’s event.
  • Complimentary wine for no special reason.  A great way to clear out dead stock or showcase new wines.

Again, the key to the wow factor is its unusual nature and unexpectedness.  Several tips:

  • Execute your wow factors where they will have the most effect – food and beverage areas, golf areas, locker rooms, special events, activities, aquatics, tennis.
  • Plan, budget, and schedule.  Formalize your program enough so that the wow factors are spread out and spread around.  Always have a budget.  Say you budget $500 per month for club-wide wow factors.  The cost to the club is $6,000 per year – not an inconsequential amount, but think of the benefit to member pleasure and even employee morale.
  • Wow factor ideas are everywhere.  Borrow from other establishments or something you saw on vacation.  The Internet is a treasure trove of ideas.  Google search words or phrases such as “Fun,” “Fun Ideas,” “Fun Activities,” “Fun Recreational Activities,” and “Inexpensive Activity Ideas” and you’ll get a sense for how many resources are out there.
  • To keep your costs down, get together with vendors for freebies.  Many would be thrilled to get some exposure to your members for their products and services.  Just make sure you prominently give them credit for their donations.
  • Once you’ve used a particular wow factor, save the concept for some future time.  Avoiding routine doesn’t mean never doing it again, just doing it again when unexpected.  Over time, you’ll develop an extensive list of wow factors that can be deployed for maximum effect at some future moment.
  • Keep your wow factor strategy, plans, and schedule under tight wrap.  Don’t ruin the surprise with “loose lips.”
  • Let your members do the talking about the wow factor, not you or your staff.  Act like nothing special is going on, while the members “buzz” about the unusual and unexpected.  Certainly, you may acknowledge a wow factor when asked about it, but act like it’s no deal, just some little thing that happened “spontaneously.”

There are hundreds of websites offering unusual and fun ideas.  Get your department heads and staff excited by searching out the most unusual activities, events, or ideas.  Your members will still ask, “What have you done for me lately?” but they’ll be delighted by the unexpected moments and your staff will be energized by the fun of “giving” these special gifts to your membership.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality 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 managers throughout the country and around the world.

How Consistent is your Club Leadership?

Saturday, August 11th, 2018

Strong, stable, and consistent leadership is the single most important requirement for successful club operations.  While there are many styles of leadership suited to any industry or endeavor, experience over many years in the club business makes it clear to this writer that a service-based approach to leadership works best in the service industry with its often young, mixed gender, and multi-ethnic workforce.  This style of leadership has as its primary motivation service to others – to members, to the owners of the club, and to the employees.

ed-jpeg-4This leadership style differs from others in its focus on serving the needs of employees to provide them with the proper tools, training, resources, motivation, and empowerment to serve the club’s members.  In simplest terms, when a club’s employees are served by their leaders, they will serve the members, who by their continuing patronage serve the club’s bottom line.  An understanding of the importance of this style of leadership can be inferred from the simple question,

“How can employees provide quality service if they are not properly served by the leadership and example of their managers?”

While it is recognized that the General Manager must be a strong leader, it is also critical that the club’s subordinate managers and supervisors are also trained to be strong service-based leaders.  While some degree of a leader’s skill-set seems to be inborn, such as personality and an analytic mind, and others, such as confidence, judgment, and basic communication abilities, are developed early in life, the great majority of a leader’s skills are attitudinal and can be learned.

But to expect that your managers with varying backgrounds, education, and experiences will have a common understanding of what constitutes effective leadership is naive in the extreme.  Unless junior managers are systematically trained to develop the skills which have to do with building and sustaining meaningful work relationships with their constituencies, particularly employees, their leadership development will be hindered and haphazard.  This results in the General Manager’s vision and message of service not being communicated consistently or faithfully to line employees.  Instead of having a cohesive team dedicated to a common purpose and acting in a concerted way to further the aims of the enterprise, the club is a collection of tribes who don’t necessarily approach the mission or their jobs in the same way or with the same attitude.

Without leadership consistency, employees get a mixed service message, and their morale, engagement, and commitment will vary from manager to manager and department to department.  It’s really quite simple – if your management team does not provide consistent:

  • Vision, values, and example,
  • Communication and engagement,
  • Training, resources, and support,
  • Regard for and treatment of employees,

You’ll never gain consistency of employee commitment, contribution, and performance.

But the good news is that successful leadership skills can be taught and learned.  Warren G. Bennis, widely regarded as a pioneer in the field of contemporary leadership studies, has said,

“The most dangerous myth is that leaders are born – that there is a genetic factor to leadership.  This myth asserts that people simply either have certain charismatic qualities or not.  That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true.  Leaders are made rather than born.”

So the solution to fragmented leadership is to promote a consistent style and application of leadership club-wide.  This can only be done by providing consistent leadership training to the entire management team.  But how does the General Manager teach leadership when you have so much else to do and possibly haven’t given a lot of thought to the issue?

theworkbook_cover-4Over the years while serving as general manager in hotels, resorts, and clubs, I searched a number of times and read a number of books – most extolling the successful leadership techniques of Fortune 500 or celebrity CEOs, or written by Academics with a lot of theory but little practical advice for those toiling in hospitality management.  My frustration in trying to find something useful finally led me to write my own leadership guidance for my team, and this ultimately became Leadership on the Line:  A Guide for Front Line Supervisors, Business Owners, and Emerging Leaders, first published in 2002 and now in its 2nd edition.

This past year, in response to frequent requests to prepare a more “hands on” learning tool, I wrote and published Leadership on the Line – The Workbook, a companion piece to the original book that builds on the themes of Service-Based Leadership from the book by offering self-study sections on Leadership Basics, Values, Lessons, Applications, and Assessments.  Taken together the book and the workbook provide an effective way to teach and to learn a consistent, service-based approach to leadership.

Given the primary importance of leadership in any successful venture, it should never be left to chance.  Even if confident of your own leadership abilities, do yourself and your managers a favor by promoting a consistent, club-wide conception and application of leadership.  When consistently reinforced by your leadership and example, it will have a dramatic impact on their performance, as well as the club’s.

The book ($19.95) and workbook ($19.95) may be purchased at Amazon.com or on the Hospitality Resources International website (never a shipping charge).

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality 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 managers throughout the country and around the world.