Archive for the ‘General Manager’s role’ Category

A Musical Analogy

Monday, July 15th, 2013

An orchestra is made up of a large number of individuals accomplished in their chosen instruments.  Through discipline, hard work, and long practice each musician has mastered the many-faceted intricacies of instrument, musical notation, and both solo and group performance.  Individually they are musical professionals, yet to be hired by a reputable orchestra they must prove not only their instrumental prowess, but also their skill and temperament to play in a larger group under the direction of the orchestra’s conductor.

A hospitality organization is typically an enterprise composed of a half dozen or more business specialties, each requiring managers of proven performance in their individual fields.  Not only must they demonstrate the knowledge, expertise, and disciplines of their vocations – rooms management, accounting, sales and marketing, food service, facility maintenance, housekeeping, retail management, recreation operations, golf management, agronomics, and human resources – but they must also work well together as a team of professionals dedicated to a common purpose under the direction of the general manager.

In preparing for the concert season the conductor must lay out his proposed program of concerts, the individual pieces selected for play, and his unique vision of how each piece is to be played – the orchestral composition, the musical arrangement, the style of play, and selection of solo performers, and other factors – and then rehearse the orchestra to achieve the desired performance.  Despite the accomplishments of individual musicians, the orchestra will never achieve critical acclaim, renown, and success without this unifying effort.

The general manager of a hospitality operation has a similar role to play.  Despite the qualifications of each department head, despite the specific knowledge of their chosen professions, without the direction and guidance of the general manager the multiple businesses will not perform in an integrated, professional, and successful manner.

To achieve this unity of effort the general manager must paint a clear vision of how the organization will perform and interact with customers/guests/members. He must also define and continually reinforce organizational values and culture, while providing clear expectations for each department’s performance.  Without this effort to clarify, unify, and integrate departmental operations, the enterprise operates as separate businesses, each with its own standards and each interacting with customers according to the dictates and example of its department head.

After nearly forty years in the hospitality industry, I am clearly convinced that the greatest mistake too many general managers make, particularly in small, standalone properties, is to get too involved in daily operations.  It’s a mistake I made all too often in my career.  Instead of guiding, instructing, and coaching department heads to run their operations like their own businesses, instead of spelling out my expectations, creating meaningful work plans based on measurable accountabilities, and then holding them strictly accountable for results, I spent too much time taking the initiative and solving problems myself.  Not only did this mire my efforts in operational problems when I should have be charting the strategic course of the business, but it also robbed conscientious department heads of their initiative and sense of responsibility for their operations.

Bottom Line:  General managers should be ever vigilant about maintaining their proper role in the operation.

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 hospitality hardworking  managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for the Hospitality Industry!

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The Proper Role of General Managers – A Second Opinion

Monday, June 7th, 2010

On April 26th I posted a blog on The Proper Role of General Managers in Private Clubs and asked for feedback from other club managers.  The following response came from Rob Duckett, General Manager of The Mountaintop Lake and Golf Club in Cashiers, NC.

“Below is a list for what I focus on and believe to be the most important roles of the General Manager:

  • The General Manager fosters the Culture and overall Vision of the Club.  Every effort and every decision that is made by the General Manager will aid in the execution of the Club’s Culture and Vision.
  • The General Manager is responsible for defining the Culture and Vision so that they can be easily communicated to others to ensure that they can foster them as well.  The General Manager is constantly looking for anything that might detract from the Club’s Culture and seize opportunities to add to the Culture so that the Vision can be realized.
  • From an organizational standpoint the General Manager should provide leadership by acting as a business partner for each department head, running each department as its own business within the whole of the club.
  • Together the General Manager and the Department Head will create a Vision for the department, establish goals, short term and long term, and create and regularly update Standards of Operation that act as an agreed upon system for successful operation of the department.  Once the General Manager and Department Head are in agreement on the Vision and Standards of Operation, the General Manager will assist the Department Head with Leadership, execution of the standards, staff training and accountability to a degree dependent upon the experience and level of expertise of the Department Head.  Acting as Mentor and Coach, the General Manager is responsible for maximizing the development and professional growth of the Club’s management staff.
  • The General Manager is also responsible for establishing systems of accountability for financial and service performance.  (These systems are most effective with the input of staff involved).   For Example: Department Heads use a checkbook system to assist in tracking expenditures for their department which is monitored by the General Manager to help them stay within budget.
  • Each time a problem arises, we evaluate the systems that support the operation to determine if a system needs to be altered or a new system needs to be created to eliminate the problem in the future.
  • The General Manager is a steward of the facilities, ensuring all is maintained up to standard and there is a continuous search to improve the facility to support operations.
  • A good General Manager is responsible for the Club’s public persona, how the club is viewed as an employer, community partner and goodwill ambassador.  It is important whenever someone ‘touches’ the club or its staff that the experience is a positive one.  This awareness will pay dividends in areas of member attraction, business relationships, employee recruitment etc.
  • The General Manager role is one of communicator.  As the Club’s #1 ambassador, the General Manager sells the Vision, Culture and Standards to all who will listen.  This especially includes members and staff, as well as business partners and folks in the community.   The General Manager is the one person who ties everything together and is the most knowledgeable in all things associated with the Club.  The better the communicator the General Manager happens to be, the more confidence the Board, members and staff will have in the General Manager as their leader.
  • As the Club’s business manager, the General Manager ensures the Club is in compliance with all regulatory agencies and holds the proper licenses to operate the business.

“There are many duties the General Manager must perform and you have outlined most of them.  I believe most General Managers do understand what their role should be, but I feel they have trouble overcoming all the issues that will allow them to be most effective.  Roadblocks in the form of uncooperative board members, ‘Sacred Cow’ employees and financial restraints keep them from being successful.  I see many managers who just don’t know how to overcome these challenges.  I personally feel these challenges are what make what we do fun and challenging.

“Many General Managers do focus on putting out the fires and from time to time we all do, but if the General Manager is focused on the principles you outline there will be less frequent fires to put out.”

Thanks, Rob, for your input and insights.  Anybody else have any thoughts on the matter?

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the club industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers — those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking club managers throughout the country and around the world.

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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What is the Proper Role of General Managers in Private Clubs?

Monday, April 26th, 2010

I’m probably going out on a limb with this blog, but I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what is the proper role for a club General Manager.  I recognize that there is no single right answer to this question, that it depends to a great deal on the strengths and weaknesses of the individual, the size and organization of the club, as well as the desires and direction of the club’s board.  Nevertheless, here’s my stab at it along with my rationale.

General Managers of private clubs wear a lot of hats and tend to be involved in a large number of ongoing day-to-day operational activities and issues.  This involvement seems to flow from various organizational deficiencies:

  • Some department heads need a lot of guidance to properly run their departments. The GM must get involved because a subordinate manager created problems. This is usually a direct result of poor training and leadership development.
  • The organization of work at clubs is inadequate or inefficient, requiring frequent GM interventions. This is a result of a lack of or inadequately implemented operating systems and training of subordinate managers.
  • The GM gets involved in responding to complaints about poor member service. This is usually a result of inadequate staff training for which the department heads are responsible.
  • The GM does not have sufficient reporting mechanisms to monitor the performance of the club departments. This masks problems that arise and grow undetected, eventually blowing up, and ultimately requiring time-consuming GM intervention and involvement. If the GM is only using the monthly operating statement to monitor performance, he is flying blind to the details of his operation and does not have real-time information upon which to take action and base decisions. A properly implemented system of departmental benchmarks and reports would help with this problem.
  • The difficulty of holding department heads accountable for the performance of their departments, which leads to toleration of weak department heads and poor performing departments. Without work plans with measurable accountabilities and benchmarks any attempt to hold subordinates accountable is dependent upon weak and subjective evaluations.

The miring of General Managers in day-to-day operational problems prevents them from engaging their key strategic responsibilities.

The following is my list of the strategic requirements of a club General Manager:

1.       In conjunction with the club Board of Directors, establishing the club culture, mission, vision, guiding principles and operating standards of the club.

2.       Establishing a strategic plan to accomplish the same.

3.       Providing the Board with timely and accurate information and routine reports to help them fulfill their requirements to oversee the operation.

4.       Managing member perceptions by maintaining a visible presence in the operation and communicating frequently and thoroughly with the membership.

5.       Maximizing membership sales by ensuring that a “stretch” marketing plan is developed and that the Membership Sales Director provides ongoing reports detailing efforts to generate leads, qualify prospects, and close membership sales.

6.       Establishing and ensuring compliance with club operating standards, policies, and procedures (the operations plan).

7.       Providing ongoing strategic thinking, planning, and decision making.

8.       Implementing and maintaining a discipline of thorough planning and continual process improvement.

9.       Establishing annual operating and capital budgets to guide the financial performance of the club.

10.   Establishing and ensuring implementation or execution of club culture, club annual plan, annual operating and capital budgets, and department head work plans.

11.   Establishing monthly review of departmental operating performance, ongoing departmental benchmarks, Tools to Beat Budget, and other indicators of operating performance.

12.   Monitoring and establishing accountability for operating performance of all departments.

13.   Establishing consistent club-wide leadership and professional development of department heads and supervisors to include:

a.       Training (leadership development, club culture, legal compliance issues [sexual harassment, appropriate interview questions, disciplinary procedures, etc.], liability abatement issues [safety, food sanitation, hazardous material handling, responsible alcohol service, etc.], and club organizational issues).

b.       Work planning by developing meaningful goals, work plans, and objective measures of performance.

c.       Mentoring of key subordinates to take on some of the GM’s duties.

d.       Monitoring performance using Tools to Beat Budget and monthly benchmarks and reports from subordinates.

e.       Conducting meaningful reviews tied to work plan accomplishment and operational performance.

f.        Establishing accountability based upon meeting work plans and performance goals.

14.   Establishing and ensuring staff development to include:

a.       Initial training in club culture, liability abatement issues, and position skills training.

b.       Ongoing training in same.

c.       Employee empowerment.

15.   Establishing and maintaining the means to continually communicate with constituencies.

16.   Ensuring department heads topgrade talent by using Disciplined Hiring and Screen for Success when recruiting, screening, and hiring.

17.   Ensuring appropriate internal controls.

18.   Ensuring the cleanliness, upkeep, and maintenance of all club facilities, grounds, furniture, fixtures, and equipment.

19.   Ensuring a safe operation for employees and members.

20.   Ensuring the club’s legal compliance with all aspects of federal, state, and local laws such as FLSA, FMLA, ADA, EEOC, youth employment, alcohol laws, food sanitation, etc.

21.   Establishing and maintaining a continually fresh and robust schedule of activity programming for members of all ages and interests.

22.   Ongoing professional self-development per self-developed work plan presented to and approved by the club Board of Directors.

As can be seen from the foregoing list of requirements, a club General Manager has much to do – primarily in guiding the direction, quality, and performance of the club.  Given the scope of these large responsibilities, GMs cannot afford to be bogged down in the day-to-day details of the operation – this detail is the job of individual department heads.

Though it is often a challenging and time-consuming process to organize the operation, train subordinate managers to fulfill their responsibilities, and maintain the high standards to which all clubs aspire, ultimately the time spent developing managers and establishing the disciplines of a well-run club are worth the effort.  No General Manager can do it all and must depend upon subordinate managers to do their jobs properly to give him or her time to focus on strategic issues.

Jim Collins, in his groundbreaking book Good to Great:  Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . and Others Don’t, identified the critical success factors of great companies.  One of those factors was the need for “disciplined people taking disciplined action.”  In other words, the entire management staff must understand the full requirements of their positions and execute them in a disciplined way – that is, routinely and without being told.  Only then can the chief executive focus on the long term health and direction of the company.  While Collins’ book addressed large publicly traded companies, I’m convinced the same principles apply just as much in the challenging world of private club management.

Having put my thoughts out there, I’m anxious to hear other opinions.  Post a comment or send your thoughts to

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the club industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers — those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking club managers throughout the country and around the world.

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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