Report This!

Some years ago while I was discussing the benefits of benchmarking with a club general manager, he surprised me by saying that he “didn’t like reports.”  I was so stunned by this admission that I never did discover his objection – whether he didn’t like preparing them for his superiors or didn’t like getting and reading them from subordinates.  Either way it seemed to me that he was unnecessarily limiting the flow of information and blinding himself to the details of his operation.

Let me digress for a moment to imagine a pilot of a commercial airliner in the cockpit of his plane.  At any moment of the flight from pre-flight preparation, take off, cruising to destination, to approach and landing, he has a host of dials, gauges, and indicators that keep him informed of the status of all operating systems and external factors affecting the plane – information such as altitude readings, fuel levels, engine oil pressure, status of hydraulic systems, radar signals, navigation beacons, and so on.  The pilot, by monitoring this array of displays, assures himself that all parameters of the plane’s performance are within desired standards.  If something is amiss, alarms will immediately notify him of problems needing attention, thereby assisting him in taking the appropriate action to assure the safety of plane and passengers.

It may be argued that club operations are just as complex with thousands of details that must be attended to daily (though without the serious safety implications).  Yet the person with overall responsibility for club operations – the general manager – has limited mechanisms to report on the health and vitality of the enterprise in anything approaching real time.  In some clubs the only indicator of developing problems is the monthly financial statement that becomes available weeks later.  Even then, the summary information in the club’s operating statement provides only a limited assessment of performance at best.

Modern point of sale and club management software systems have come a long way in providing the underlying detail of the operations with “drill-down” capabilities and custom reporting, yet how many general managers avail themselves of this trove of information or make a formal effort to analyze the detail in the longer term context of goals and budgets?

This brings me back again to reports.  A discipline of formal reporting can and does provide a means of monitoring specific information on a regular basis.  As such, reports are an important mechanism for the general manager, as well as department heads, to monitor performance in a timely and efficient way.  For the department head tasked with preparing the report, it is a disciplined means of focusing on the important details of departmental operations while creating a record of ongoing initiatives, progress toward goals, and departmental performance.  Once established, the discipline of routine periodic reports is the best way for a subordinate manager to influence the boss’s perceptions about his or her performance.

For the general manager, regular reporting of key information from department heads is the best way to monitor departmental performance with the least investment of time.  Instead of personally digging into the details of the operation, the general manager can review periodic reports and benchmarks and focus time and attention on out-of-line parameters.  Also, when the responsibility to monitor and report key data is put on the department heads, they are in the position of primary discovery, allowing them to formulate solutions or initiatives to correct operational deficiencies, as opposed to putting that burden on the general manager.  Lastly, by establishing such a reporting discipline, the general manager is providing a critical lesson to subordinate managers – that they are responsible for the performance of their departments, that they must pay close attention to the details of their operation, and that they are responsible for managing the boss’s perceptions of their performance by providing timely and accurate data, analyzing information, and drawing conclusions regarding operational trends.

While reports may seem like a lot of paperwork to some, once the discipline of preparing and submitting these reports is established, department heads will discover that they are just part of operational routine.  On the other hand, the benefit of everyone paying attention to key performance indicators is well worth the effort.  Ultimately, it makes the general manager’s challenging job easier and serves to make club operations more efficient.

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.

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