Archive for the ‘club operations’ Category

Leading Change

Wednesday, August 7th, 2019

Amin came to work for me as the Restaurant Manager in an historic university-owned hotel.  He faced many challenges, not the least of which was the fact that the restaurant was losing money and badly needed repositioning.

He attacked the problem with enthusiasm and energy, and he promptly ran into a buzz saw of opposition.  It seems that many of his customers, including several academics who were powerful shapers of university opinion, thought the existing operation was just fine.

While surprised by their reaction to his plans, Amin developed a strategy to win them to his cause.  He actively courted them, made appointments for office visits, listened to many nostalgic tales of meals gone by, but also heard in all the conversation their distinct desire to maintain the restaurant as a quiet, dignified place where ideas could be discussed over a good, reasonably-priced meal.

He then enlisted a respected professor’s wife and interior designer with a deep sense of university tradition to prepare designs to renovate the restaurant.  He also formed a focus group of key individuals to communicate menu preferences to the Chef.  As the plans began to take shape he was careful to keep his many advisers abreast of developments.

Amin also took great pains to involve the food service staff in his planning and designs.  Not only were their suggestions helpful, but they looked forward to the repositioning with proprietary interest.

Finally, the day came when the restaurant was closed for renovation.  During the three-week closure, a number of our “advisers” stopped by to see how the project was coming.  Most made reservations for re-opening day so they could bring friends and colleagues to see the results of “their work.”

Needless to say, the re-opening was a great success.  Certainly, there were some minor glitches, but the pride and good feeling of our many active participants carried the day.

As this example suggests, a lot of mistakes can be prevented if you take the time to completely think through the ramifications of planned changes.

  • Attempt to understand the impact of proposed changes on all elements of the organization and customers alike.
  • Change can be threatening to employees.  They sometimes do not understand that change can also be an opportunity.  Reassure them.  Much of how change is viewed is attitudinal and can be influenced by the manner in which you, as the leader, approach it.
  • Enact change in a manner that lessens the threat to employees.  Lead your staff through change.  Make sure they understand the reasons for the change and whatever new goals you have.  Brief them thoroughly on new policies or procedures.
  • New processes also impact your customers, so make sure you communicate changes to them.  Start well in advance of the proposed changes and “sell” new services and procedures to your customers.
  • Change isn’t any good unless it works.  Evaluate change and analyze the effectiveness of new systems, policies, and procedures.  Corrections and modifications will inevitably be necessary.  Do not be afraid to admit that things aren’t going as planned or hoped.  Intervene as necessary.  Stay focused and committed until all the bugs are worked out.
  • Communicate well and thoroughly throughout the period of change.  Fear feeds on itself and can get out of hand quickly.  In the absence of information, employees will usually assume the worst.  Listen to their fears and try to allay them.
  • A leader must exude confidence and enthusiasm for change.  Be supportive of the change even if you don’t agree with it.  Leaders usually have opportunities to express disagreement with proposed changes.  Once a decision is made, though, support the idea as if it were your own.  Never disparage the change in front of your employees.  You will doom it to failure.

Work to create an environment where change occurs naturally and the process of change thrives.  It can be essential to your success.

Excerpted from Leadership on the Line – A Guide for Front Line Supervisors, Business Owners and Emerging Leaders, 2d Edition, Ed Rehkopf, Clarity Publications, 2006

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.

The Essence of Leadership: Building Strong Relationships

Sunday, June 23rd, 2019

Maggie was a retired schoolteacher starting a second career.  She applied for a sales associate position with a well-known hotel and conference center.  While she had no sales experience, her maturity, calm demeanor, and articulate style impressed the Director of Sales.

The position of sales associate is challenging.  In addition to selling the facility and its services to the local community and industry, it is important to have a good working relationship with the hotel’s operating departments.  Ultimately, they are the ones who must execute the promises of the sales staff.

In short order, Maggie proved adept at winning new business for the hotel.  She had a knack for meeting new people and establishing a sense of trust.  Much of it came from her genuine, down-to-earth nature.  She was short on hype and easy promises, but long on establishing meaningful relationships built upon commitment, confidence, and trust.  Her clients knew that she was true to her word.

But as strong as she was in finding new business, she was even stronger at building those key relationships with hotel department heads and line employees enabling her to ensure that promises were kept and expectations met.  Inevitably things would fall through the cracks and some meeting room was not set up properly for one of her clients.  Maggie, because she always double-checked arrangements, would find the problem and seek help to correct it.  Because she had taken the time to develop good working relations with the housekeeping, maintenance, and banquet staffs, she never had problems finding someone willing to help.  As one porter said of her, “She always asks so nicely, there is no way to say no.”

Maggie was an outstanding success as a sales associate.  In two years she increased her hotel bookings by 18.3%, and more importantly, trend lines promised even more future business from her many satisfied clients.  Not surprisingly, when the Director of Sales was transferred to another property out of state, Maggie was asked by her General Manager to take over the position.

Your success in balancing the needs of those you serve lies in ensuring that you build strong relationships with individuals.  How do you do this?  Begin by:

  • Treating everyone you meet with courtesy, respect, and good cheer.
  • Focusing on each person you deal with as if he or she were the most important person in the world.
  • Taking the time to get to know people; sharing your time and attention with them.
  • Learning about other people’s jobs and the challenges and difficulties they face.
  • Keeping promises and following through on commitments.
  • Being principled, showing fairness, and demonstrating integrity.
  • Recognizing the ultimate value of people in all you do.

Relationships depend upon how you view yourself in relation to others.  If you see yourself as separate and apart from your constituencies, if you view others as the means to your end, if your vision and goals lack a broader purpose than your own needs and ambitions, establishing meaningful relationships will be impossible.  On the other hand, when you see yourself as part of a team with a shared mission, then a sense of service will be an intrinsic part of your service team relationships.

The difference is your attitude, your motives, and your approach to dealing with others.  Since all of these things are within your power to change, establishing a service-based approach to leadership by building strong relationships is totally up to you.

Excerpted from Leadership on the Line:  A Guide for Front Line Supervisors, Business Owners and Emerging Leaders, Ed Rehkopf, Clarity Publications, 2006

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.

The Soft Stuff

Saturday, June 8th, 2019

Roger Enrico, former chairman at Pepsico, famously said, “The soft stuff is always harder than the hard stuff.”  As one who has worked in hospitality leadership roles for over thirty-five years, I would say that truer words were never spoken.  In the detail and people rich environment of the hospitality business, it is the absence of well-developed “soft” skills at all levels of organizations that create our greatest challenges.

So what are we really talking about when we speak of the soft stuff?  In short, it’s the people skills – those aptitudes and abilities used to get the most out of our human assets.  It encompasses all of those things we talk about when discussing leadership – the highly nuanced interactions with a diverse workforce that result in motivation, morale, enthusiasm, focus, commitment, initiative, productivity, teamwork, organizational cohesiveness, and group success.

What makes it all so hard is the complexity of human psychology.  People are complex and struggle with the unique and sometimes overwhelming challenges of their lives.  Put together in a group dynamic with any number of other people coping with their own daily difficulties, both real and imagined, and it’s a mind-boggling challenge for any leader.

So what are some very real things that you can do to improve the soft stuff at your club?  Here are three basics:

Leadership training for all managers to ensure they understand the absolute importance of leadership in all they do.  My own experience points to a service-based style of leadership and the importance of building a unified and consistent approach to leadership on the part of all managers and supervisors within an organization.  The ongoing example and performance of your leadership team is THE most important driver of your club’s success.

Well-defined organizational values and constantly reinforced culture of service are an absolute must.  Don’t expect that all your managers and employees will understand your vision, values, or even how to go about providing service to your members.  Without clearly articulated values and club culture, your efforts to provide high levels of service to your membership will certainly fail.

Training, training, and more training is a bedrock requirement in the hospitality industry.  There’s just too much that needs to be done right every day by everyone on your staff to leave the details to chance.  Without training for managers and line staff, it’s a hit or miss proposition and you spend all your time responding to complaints from members, dealing with staff issues, and struggling with high levels of employee turnover.  Given the cost and effort of thorough, ongoing training, you must commit to the development and discipline of “on the go” training for all areas of your operation so you can take advantage of the spare moments during every shift.

The “hard stuff” – the buildings, golf course, and other amenities are certainly important to a successful club experience.  But without the soft stuff they are just expensive shells and monuments, lacking in the reassuring warmth and human touch that is the heart of hospitality and service.

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.

The Hospitality Challenge

Saturday, May 25th, 2019

I’ve learned a lot about the hospitality business since my first position as General Manager of an historic hotel in the late 70s.  In a variety of positions in hotels, resorts, and private clubs – in startups, turnarounds, and repositionings, I’ve learned a number of key lessons from my efforts to deliver high levels of service.  Here they are:

The customer is King.  The only perception of quality, service, and value is the customer’s.  Hospitality managers must learn as much as possible about their customers in order to meet their needs and wants – where they come from, why they come to your establishment, what are their expectations, what do they like or dislike about your property, what are their complaints, what would they like improved?

The hospitality business is detail and people-intensive.  It takes a lot of people doing all the right things everyday to deliver consistent, quality service.  Therefore:

  • Written standards, policies, and procedures ensure every employee knows what to do and how to do it; help develop specific training materials; and ensure consistency and continuity in the operation.
  • Formal training is a necessity.  Operational processes cannot be left to oral history or chance.
  • Continuous process improvement is a must.  We can never rest on yesterday’s accomplishments.
  • Thorough benchmarking of all areas of the operation ensures that we know what is going on and what our customers are telling us by their spending habits.

“The soft stuff is always harder than the hard stuff.”

  • Consistent, property-wide leadership is a must.  Disparate and competing leadership styles confound the staff and sow divisions in the team.
  • Values and behaviors must be spelled out in detail and reinforced continually.
  • Excessive employee turnover is damaging to an organization in continuity, lost time, and cost.  Except in extreme cases our first impulse (especially in difficult labor markets) is not to fire, but to examine causes; improve processes, organization, disciplines, and training; and instruct, counsel, and coach employees.
  • Employees must be empowered to think and act in alignment with organization values, the property’s mission and vision, and carefully defined management guidelines.  “Without empowerment an organization will never be a service leader.”  Why?  Because there is far more to do and monitor on a daily basis than any management team can possible handle.  Authority for service and service delivery must be pushed down to the lowest levels of the organization – where it takes place.

Work planning and ongoing performance review are essential to holding managers accountable for their performance and the performance of their departments or work teams.  Without accountability only the General Manager is accountable and he or she will fail or burnout trying to succeed.

Leadership is key at all levels of the organization:

  • To set an unimpeachable example for employees.
  • To uncover, analyze, and solve problems.
  • To thoroughly communicate standards, policies, procedures, information, and training.
  • To engage customers and staff continuously.

All of the foregoing requirements must be institutionalized so that the operation continues undisturbed in the face of any turnover and 80% of the operation functions routinely – allowing management to focus on strategic issues, planning, execution, problem-solving, and customer interface.

These lessons learned have led me to formulate a plan to create and deliver high levels of service.  This plan can be found in a white paper I’ve written entitled The Quest for Remarkable Service.

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.

Enhance Your Financial Reporting with the Executive Metrics Report

Monday, March 18th, 2019

Every month the club board, finance committee, general manager, and department heads receive copies of the club’s financial statement made up of the balance sheet and operating statement prepared by the club controller.  The intent is to provide all stakeholders with a summary report of the club’s financial performance.  Additionally, the operating statement is formatted to compare the most recent month’s performance to the same month last year and year-to-date performance compared to last year. While all this is well and good and customary for the industry, this summary information is long on overview, but woefully short on meaningful detail.  Further, the presentation of information does little to allow discovery and analysis of emerging trends.

Certainly a greater level of detail is available within the financial accounting and reporting system, but it requires special effort to dig it out, format it, and present it for analysis.  Given this, doesn’t it make far more sense to use a system that routinely presents key underlying detail?  Examples would include sales detail such as volume of business and average sale by department, key payroll detail such as overtime hours and benefits cost, membership numbers by category, and month-to-month and year-to-year comparisons of summary operating statement lines.

The simple solution to providing a deeper level of information for ease of analysis is to make the Executive Metrics Report (EMR) a key component of the monthly financial reporting package.  The EMR is made up of important operating metrics tracked by the financial accounting and payroll systems, along with key department benchmarks, both of which are formatted to provide month by month and year by year comparisons.

While every general manager and club board may have their own ideas of what metrics to include, Club Resources International has developed an Executive Metrics Report that covers key operating data.  Each club can take this basic format and customize it for their own needs and preferences.  Click here to see a sample Executive Metrics Report.  The EMR spreadsheet can be found on the CRI website under Club Operations > Resources > Benchmarks > Benchmark Spreadsheets.

The Executive Metrics Report is a significant enhancement to a club’s financial reporting and provides all stakeholders with important and timely data regarding the health and financial well-being of their club.  While it takes some effort to set up initially, the ongoing benefits for all concerned make it well worth the effort.

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.

Do You Know What Your Club Management System Can Do?

Monday, March 4th, 2019

Club management systems have come a long way since their inception as point of sale, accounting, and financial reporting tools.  Over the years various upgrades have added timekeeping, payroll, and tee time systems; member relationship management tools; custom reporting formats; dashboards for key metrics; the ability to drill down to data entry detail; member websites and online activities sign ups; and even more powerful analysis of member spending habits.  Such improvements have gone a long way toward providing club boards and management teams with timely, accurate, and actionable intelligence about their club’s operations and performance.

My own fantasy is that someday a club management system will include everything a manager could possibly need to efficiently operate the club in one convenient, easy-to-access location.  Items that I would want to see include:  budgeting tools and templates; work planning and performance review modules; human resource information systems; detailed benchmarking by department; a server-based customizable operations plan with departmental standards, policies, and procedures (SPPs); training and professional development material for employees and managers; and training administration software. Several years ago while attending a Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals chapter meeting as a guest speaker, I mentioned my fantasy to a sales representative for a club management system provider and was somewhat surprised by his response that in today’s feature-rich software, the great majority of features went unused by club operators.  In reflecting upon his statement I’ve come up with four possible reasons this might be so:

  1. The club’s leadership and decision makers – those key people who set the club’s agenda and drive operational expectations, such as the general manager, boards and finance committee members, and controller – don’t fully understand the capabilities of their club management system.
  2. While they may have reviewed the system’s features at one time and have a vague notion of its capabilities, they have neither the time nor the focus to implement routine use of key features.
  3. Ongoing turnover of key people can cause a lack of the awareness of software features.
  4. Without written accounting standards, policies, and procedures there is a lack of continuity in key accounting and financial reporting practices.  When the club’s operational practices are based on oral history instead of clearly delineated SPPs, things get lost over time.

To confirm my suspicions I spoke with Vache Hagopian, at the time Director of Marketing for Jonas Software, the largest supplier of club management systems.  He agreed with my basic assessments and quoted Bill Gates who said, “Most software upgrades/purchases are made to acquire features which were already available in their current software.”  This certainly doesn’t speak well for a management team’s knowledge and understanding of their software’s capabilities.

I then asked how a software company addresses this lack of understanding.  Mr. Hagopian indicated it was an ongoing challenge – one which Jonas works hard to overcome.  “First,” he said, “we offer a variety of training options to ensure client clubs are well-trained and understand all the features of their system.”  These include:

  • On-site personal training provided by accredited trainers,
  • One-on-one e-training with club employees which is a cost-effective method of training, and
  • Group e-training with monthly course updates. This is the most cost-effective way to train in that clubs can have as many staff members participate as they like.

Mr. Hagopian said that his company offers the Jonas Utilization Review process, which is conducted over the phone by one of their system specialists, providing a complete overview of a club’s software and education needs. The result offers an in depth report of the club’s software utilization and includes recommendations for software configuration, optimal usage and reporting, and proactive services needed for skill development. The specialist then assesses training and support needs, while developing a plan to meet the club’s specific objectives. Finally, the specialist outlines targeted training courses and appropriate resources to help equip the club’s staff with the skills and product knowledge to successfully carry out their daily work.

As much as some club managers may wish for a completely integrated club management system with everything they need to efficiently operate their clubs in one place, it seems probable that, as Bill Gates said, many of the features we want, we already have.

Bottom Line:  Conscientious club leaders and controllers should do annual reviews of their club management systems to determine if they are getting the most and best information out of their software package.

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.

Eight Steps to Performance Accountability

Sunday, February 17th, 2019

The greatest failure in performance management in any enterprise is the failure to hold managers accountable for their performance.  Many clubs do a poor job in the area of accountability.  This failure is crippling to the long term health and viability of the club.  Here are eight steps to help measure performance and hold managers accountable:

Work Plans.  Have each manager prepare an annual work plan spelling out goals, proposed accomplishments, and timelines for completion of each item.  It’s always a good idea to involve managers in preparing their own work plans though these must be based upon broad guidelines from the board and general manager.  While their buy-in is important to their commitment to their individual plans, ultimately plans must meet the needs and desires of the board and general manager.

Budgets.  In order for managers of profit or cost centers to be held accountable for meeting budgets, they must participate in developing their own budgets.  An unrealistic budget will defeat a manager from the get-go, but “softball” budgets cannot be accepted either.  One of the best ways to budget is to use volume and average sale/hourly wage benchmarks to build the revenue and payroll parts of the budget.  Not only do historical metrics make for more accurate budgets, but analyzing these benchmarks on an ongoing basis makes for a better understanding of shortfalls in revenue or overages in payroll costs.

Benchmarks.  Club departments must be benchmarked in detail – at a minimum revenues, cost of goods, payroll, and other operating expenses should be benchmarked monthly.  These and other benchmarks are the most objective measures for holding managers accountable.

Real Time Accounting. Use the Tools to Beat Budget program whereby all managers with bottom line responsibility track their revenues and/or expenses in real time, thereby exercising greater control over their budget and financial performance.  Properly maintaining the Tools to Beat Budget binder provides all the information necessary for in-depth monthly reviews of performance by the General Manager and other interested parties.

Monthly Review Meetings.  Hold monthly meetings with individual department heads to review progress on annual plans, actual to budget performance, benchmarks, and efforts to correct operational and performance deficiencies.  These meetings permit ongoing review and course corrections or added emphasis as necessary.

Routine Departmental Inspections.  Use routine inspections with a standardized checklist to inspect all club operating areas on an ongoing basis.  Such inspections should monitor and note cleanliness, order, maintenance, safety, security, and other signs of organized and efficient operations.  These inspections when standardized, scored, and benchmarked provide an ongoing measure of these basics of an operation.

Interdepartmental Support Evaluations.  Since all departments of a club are interrelated and depend upon one another for peak performance, each department head should fill out standardized evaluations on interdepartmental support and cooperation.  As an example:  the accounting department will have a hard time meeting its requirements if operating departments do not submit coded invoices, payroll data, inventories, benchmarks, and other financial data in a timely fashion.  If department heads know that their performance in these areas is being monitored and rated, they will put greater emphasis in meeting these requirements.

Performance Reviews.  Base periodic performance reviews for each manager on specific accomplishments and meeting well-defined performance measures.  Meaningful reviews are directly dependent upon the effort put into defining expectations, establishing specific work plans, and creating objective measures for accomplishment and performance.  While it takes some effort to set up a system of objective measures, the rewards for doing so are immense and well worth the effort.

Unless a General Manager does everything herself, she must rely on the efforts and performance of her subordinate managers.  But without measurable accountabilities she has no real means to drive her agenda, performance, and other initiatives to improve operations.  When department heads aren’t held accountable, only the General Manager will be.

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.

Super Service Employees

Saturday, February 2nd, 2019

For those of us who eat out with any regularity, we’ve all had the experience, unfortunately too rarely, of being waited on by what I call a “super server.”  From the moment she approaches the table we know we’re in for a treat.  Sparkling with personality, she overflows with knowledge about the food, beverages, and accompaniments.  She immediately sizes up our interest in engagement and calibrates her contacts accordingly.  She speaks with confidence and authority, questioning us regarding our preferences and without hesitation recommending what she thinks we’ll enjoy.  The best of the best can unerringly take and serve orders without benefit of pen and dup pad – an ability that never ceases to amaze me. Such extraordinary individuals are worth their weight in gold.  Not only do they serve with flair and expertise, but they sell, thereby increasing the average check, while making a distinctly favorable impression of competence and professionalism that brings diners back again and again.  This is true in restaurants and just as true in private clubs where members appreciate the recognition and special touches that a super server adds to the dining experience.

Far more frequently, we’ve experienced the norm of service – undertrained, inexperienced employees who may understand the basics of service, but little more.  Often lacking in knowledge, personality, and attitude, their service may meet minimum expectations but seldom inspire the diner to sample the extras – appetizers, desserts, wines, and specialty drinks – that the kitchen works so hard to create and which enhance the overall dining experience.  If truth be told, these employees are doing no service to their employers and in many cases are doing outright harm by driving customers away.

The often repeated maxim for employers “to hire for personality and train for technique” encompasses a basic truth.  Attitude, personality, and engagement seem to be inborn skills and are difficult to teach.  While training can provide service skills and knowledge, thereby increasing a server’s confidence and maybe even engagement skills, the best service employees posses an indefinable quality that is difficult, if not impossible, to replicate.

Given the dearth of these extraordinary service employees, they should be recognized and compensated for the rare skills they possess.  Too often though, their presence on an employer’s staff is viewed as simple good fortune with little or no effort made to differentiate them from the common herd.  The result is that in short order they move on to greener pastures where their talents are more fully appreciated.  When this happens the loss to the establishment is often more than can be appreciated at the moment.  Not only has the employer lost a super server, but a money-maker, an ambassador, and an example for less accomplished co-workers.

And everything said about food servers applies as much to super service employees in retail, activities, golf, tennis, administration, and other areas of the club.

What can clubs do to attract and retain Super Service Employees?  By analyzing and considering the wants and needs of super service employees, it is possible to set up programs to attract and retain them.  In simplest terms it boils down to respect, status, meaningful work, and enhanced compensation.  In particular I would focus on the following:

  • Establishing consistent Service-Based Leadership at your club.  The underlying premise of Service-Based Leadership is leaders at all levels who recognize the essential task of serving all constituents, including employees.  Weak or self-serving managers will drive them away.
  • Implementing employee empowerment which is a natural extension of Service-Based Leadership.  Empowered employees are enlisted as partners in the club’s effort to improve the operation and provide high levels of service.  Super service employees want and need this enhanced participation and contribution.
  • Improving communications with employees.  All employees, but especially the super service ones, want to know what is going on and how the operation and direction of the club affects them.
  • Mentoring employees.  Curious and intelligent, super service employees appreciate the time and effort made in giving them the big picture and a deeper understanding of the workings of the club.
  • Creating “master” service positions that recognize higher skill levels and greater knowledge.  The job descriptions for these positions must clearly lay out those distinguishing skills, characteristics, and duties that warrant more responsibility and higher compensation.  Such master positions can then become the aspiration of new or less accomplished employees.
  • Creating a clear career path of knowledge, skill development, and certification which allows other employees to set their sights on the more highly regarded and compensated master level.
  • Assigning master level employees the task of teaching and training those who aspire to the higher level.  Such tasking serves the super service employees’ need for participation and contribution while improving the overall skill level of other employees.
  • Challenging super service employees to engage in creative project work such as taking a larger role in training, creating more effective training programs, formulating and executing member relationship management strategies, and establishing a “wow” factor program for members.
  • Recognizing and rewarding super service employees.  Ensuring they know they are appreciated.  This not only serves their needs, but demonstrates to other employees their value, thereby motivating others to follow their example.  Rewards should also be tangible, such as:  higher pay based on their higher levels of performance, incentive opportunities, preference in scheduling, and educational opportunities.
  • Providing benefits to all employees based on well-defined employment statuses, i.e., full time, part time, and seasonal or temporary.  At a minimum benefits should include holiday pay for designated holidays, vacation time, personal/sick time, health benefits, and retirement benefits.

As an industry we can no longer view employees as a disposable asset, which is what we do when we view ongoing turnover as a cost control measure.  Operating small, stand-alone hospitality organizations with multiple businesses, high levels of service, and lean management staffs covering long hours and weeks is too difficult a task to do without a stable, competent workforce.  When we view labor as a disposable, easily-replaceable commodity, we condemn ourselves to high levels of turnover with its attendant training costs, turmoil, and loss of organizational continuity.  High levels of turnover must be viewed as a critical organizational and leadership failure that is damaging in all ways to the club’s mission and operation.

None of these solutions is easy to implement and will certainly add costs to the club, but I believe the current employment paradigm is far more damaging to a club’s success and remains a significant “hidden” cost of operations.

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.

Mastering the ABCs

Monday, January 21st, 2019

As children we all mastered our ABCs, the basic building blocks of language and learning.  The term “ABCs” has long since come to signify the basics of any endeavor.

All of us who work in our industry recognize that the profession is made up of mastering the many basics of hospitality and service.  Even in an enterprise as seemingly complex as food service, it is the execution of the basics that underpin all our efforts and ultimately leads to success.

Of all the things I’ve learned in my hospitality career spanning over 35 years, the ultimate discipline of success is the necessity of executing the basics well.  Jim Collins’ research for his groundbreaking book, Good to Great, Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . and Others Don’t, pointed undeniably to “disciplined people taking disciplined action” as one of the prerequisites to any successful enterprise.

While there are many innovative, cutting-edge ideas to improve the products, service, and performance of your operation, you must build these enhancements onto a foundation of the basics.

With these thoughts in mind, I’d like to commend to you the most basic, yet ultimate tip for operating your club that as you contemplate the many ways to add service and value, you must always focus your attention and that of your entire staff on the ABCs, that is . . . Accomplish the Basics Consistently

Excerpted from 101 Tips to Improve Your Club Operations.

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.

Our Need to Serve

Sunday, January 6th, 2019

Jim Collins says that people “want to be involved in something that just flat-out works,” but I believe it is something more.  I believe that people have a great need to connect with or serve something larger than themselves.  Whether it’s building a skyscraper, embarking on a campaign to eradicate hunger, working on the design of an award-winning advertising campaign, or even dressing in favorite NFL team colors and attending all the home games – people need to connect to a larger purpose or endeavor.

Great leaders understand this basic human need and have the ability to create that connection for their followers; unfortunately, not always to good purpose-witness Hitler’s rise to power and spell-binding hold on the German people or, in recent times, the illusion of success created by the leaders of ENRON before its financial collapse.

But the connection I am talking about need not be a life-altering cause or event.  Most of us live rather uneventful lives.  While our need is to earn a living and support our families, an astute leader recognizes the opportunity to create something out-of-the-ordinary – a special enterprise that performs better than others and is a source of purpose and pride for all.

In connecting people to the challenge of creating something special, the leader feeds the employees’ need to do something beyond self while advancing the purpose of the enterprise.  All that is necessary is for the leader to frame the challenge in terms of shared goals.  In the service industry this is a fairly simple task. Our purpose is to serve.  The quality of our service encourages customers and repeat business, which in turn ensures the success of the enterprise for the owners, and, ultimately, the job security and advancement opportunities of everyone involved.

Throughout my career, I have met many eager, enthusiastic young people, some just starting out their adult lives and relishing the opportunity of their first jobs.  Unfortunately for most, their youthful idealism is crushed pretty quickly by the realities of the workplace, particularly when they are not well-led, when they are not properly trained or supported, and when they are treated as if they didn’t matter.

At the same time, I’ve heard managers complain about the poor state of the labor pool and their inability to find decent employees who have commitment to their jobs.  Listening to such complaints I have to wonder what steps these individuals have taken to motivate their employees, to provide training and meaningful work experiences, to connect their workers’ labors to a larger effort.

To expect that the wide variety of applicants for positions will inherently know and understand a leader’s vision and the values that underlie the enterprise’s efforts is foolish.  All employees, whether first-time job seekers or those who have worked in a variety of jobs and settings, need the vision of connecting to a larger purpose, and they need a Service-Based Leader who can provide them the meaningful employment that serves their greater needs.

Excerpted from Leadership on the Line – The Workbook.

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.