Archive for the ‘club operations’ Category

A Modest Grand Theory

Tuesday, October 15th, 2019

Albert Einstein, after his world-shaking General Theory of Relativity was published, validated, and accepted by the scientific community, spent the remainder of his life working on a Unified Field Theory that attempted to boil all physics down to one elemental formula, hopefully as elegantly simple as his earlier stroke of genius – E=mc2.  While he never achieved his Grand Theory, I fully understand his desire to distill complexity to simplicity.

On a far humbler scale, I have also been impelled to boil the seeming complexities of hospitality operations into a smaller number of principles that when followed would lead to organizational success.  What I’ve come to believe is that there are four basic requirements for any successful organizations.  They are:

  • Leadership – the skills that permit those who direct an enterprise to win the enthusiastic support and efforts of their followers to the accomplishment of specific goals and tasks.
  • Organization – the ability to structure and integrate the complex and interrelated programs and processes of the enterprise to promote efficient operations.
  • Management Disciplines – the ability to consistently implement generally-accepted requirements and best practices at all levels of the organization.
  • Hiring Well and Training Thoroughly – the programs and disciplines that cultivate the attraction and retention of the best talent, as well as consistent, efficient, and professional completion of all tasks and engagements with members.

Having outlined these four requirements, I would go on to say that they are all supported by one key element and that is discipline.

While complex business enterprises require both broad and specific skill sets for success, these mean little if each individual and the corporate group as a whole don’t have the intense and overriding discipline to focus daily on the essential tasks at hand and complete them as efficiently as possible.

Complex enterprises may be based on sound management ideas and theory, but without, as Jim Collins says, “disciplined people taking disciplined thought and engaged in disciplined action,” they will never build enduring greatness.  In other words, despite whatever talents your management team may possess, without discipline you’re just muddling through.

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.

On the Go Training

Sunday, September 29th, 2019

Clubs face a challenging training burden if they are to deliver the high levels of service expected by their members.  Yet with tight budgets how can managers meet their training obligations while controlling costs since every hour of training is a payroll hour for each employee being trained?  Add to this the difficulty of getting all of your employees together at one time for a formal training session.

The answer to these challenges is to build your training programs around the “on the go” concept where ongoing training material is formatted in brief – no more than five to ten minutes – sessions.  In every shift, in every club department, there are spare moments, time when employees have finished their shift preparations, time when employees are socializing among themselves or awaiting instructions from supervisors.  Since you’re already paying for this time, plan on putting it to good use.

In every department there are hundreds of operational details that employees must learn and refresh themselves with some frequency.  This is just as true in golf operations, golf course maintenance, aquatics and activities as it is in food and beverage.  All that is necessary is for the department head to outline training requirements in brief doses and format them so they can be pulled out at a moment’s notice for either group-led or individual instruction.

With today’s ability to find anything on the Internet with just a few keywords and keystrokes, all the information you need to teach your employees values, etiquette, product knowledge, safety, security, sanitation, HR requirements, responsible beverage service, or how to operate or maintain any piece of equipment is readily available.  You just have to format it for easy use.

Club Resources International has developed a number of On the Go Training programs for food and beverage, leadership, management disciplines, human resources, values, and safety.  These offer a proven model of how easy it is to format material and train your employees to increase their knowledge, skills, abilities, and service techniques.  For example, check out the Training on the Go material on the CRI website.  I’d also recommend you read Chris Conner’s excellent article on his club’s experience with Training on the Go – Training on the Go – A direct line to restaurant profits?

Then get to work developing your own On the Go Training material.  Set a goal of developing two classes per week and then stick to that discipline.  In a year you’ll have a hundred ready to go classes for staff training.

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.

Report This!

Sunday, September 15th, 2019

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.

Principles of Employee Relations

Sunday, September 1st, 2019

We have spoken frequently about the importance of well-defined values in club operations.  None is more important that the manner in which we conduct our employee relations.  Here is a sample statement of those values.

1.  All employees will be treated with dignity and respect.

2.  We pledge to conduct our employee relations in an honest and straightforward way.  Any necessary criticism or counseling will be conducted in private in a constructive manner with the intention of instructing and correcting rather than blaming.

3.  Every employee contributes to the overall success of our operation.  The only difference among employees is their level of authority and responsibility.  Every employee is important.

4.  The great majority of people want to do their jobs well and take pride in their work.  When an employee fails, it is often a failure of management to properly train or communicate performance expectations.  In other words, we can’t expect employees to do something properly unless we have properly shown them how to do it.

5.  Employees have no idea what goals management has for them unless those goals are communicated.  They have a need and the right to know how their performance is contributing to the achievement of those goals.  Continual feedback is essential.

6.  Management must make every practical effort to keep employees informed on matters concerning standards, policy, procedures, long range plans, projects, work conditions, and compensation and benefits.  An informed employee is a better employee.  Supervisors should be available at reasonable times to answer questions and hear employee concerns.

7.  Recognition is important to all of us.  If we have the authority to correct, we also have the responsibility to praise.  We cannot have one without the other.

8.  Every one of us has a responsibility to help our fellow employees.  We do not work alone.  Rather we work together for a common purpose.  We owe it to ourselves and everyone we work with to be personally pleasant and mutually supportive.  One unpleasant personality or negative, non-cooperative attitude can ruin the workplace for all of us.

9.  We must empower our employees through meaningful contribution, while striving to make our workplace interesting, challenging, and rewarding.  We can do this only by involving employees in decision-making and continual process improvement.  The ideas and energy of our employees are truly the driving force behind any success we may achieve as an organization.

10.  Our workplace must also be pleasant, enjoyable, and even fun.  Too much of our lives are given to work for it to be viewed as a necessary drudgery.  Each employee is challenged to do everything possible within good taste and reason to make their workplace more enjoyable for us all.

When a leader make it clear to all in her organization how employee relations will be conducted, it reduces the problems created by inappropriate and inconsistent treatment by managers.  Just as children get mixed messages when their parents have different approaches to child rearing and discipline, club employees can suffer when their managers have different ways of dealing with staff.

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.

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.