Archive for the ‘planning’ Category

Eight Key Basics to Successfully Operating a Private Club

Sunday, November 26th, 2017

The club industry is facing difficult times and while we are all facing challenges, each club faces its own particular problems.  As is usually the case when facing difficulties, this is the time to get back to the basics of our business.  Here are 8 things each club should examine:

1.  Leadership.  Clubs need clear-sighted individuals to guide them through tough times – but not just at the top.  They need strong leaders at all levels of operations.  It’s also important that the leadership styles of club leaders at all levels are congruent.  Different leadership approaches can dilute or damage the General Manager’s service message when it’s not reinforced consistently by all managers and supervisors in both word and deed.

2.  Organizational values and culture of service.  Every employee needs to understand what, how, and why you do what you do.  The basics of what you stand for as an enterprise are of absolute importance.  Defining your values is only the first step.  They must be continually and consistently reinforced to all employees.

3.  Planning.  Haphazard planning results in haphazard operations and equally haphazard performance.  Your club should have a 3 – 5 year strategic plan focused on your competitive position in the marketplace.  The club should have an annual plan for what it expects to accomplish and the General Manager and all Department Heads should have detailed annual work plans.  As important, the requirements of work plans must involve measurable performance parameters.  Detailed benchmarking of all areas of the operation is the easiest and best way to do this.

4.  Benchmarks.  You need to understand the variables of business volume and average sale that underlie all of your revenues.  Without this knowledge you may be lulled by historical levels of revenue when they are actually made up of declining volume, but higher prices and fees.  Benchmarking in detail is also an excellent way to listen to what members are saying with their buying habits.

5.  Accountability.  The club business is too demanding not to hold individual managers accountable for results.  The performance of every manager and supervisor must be measured against their annual work plan and there must be consequences for failing to meet goals.  Poor performing managers degrade the efforts of the rest of the team and drive away good employees.

6.  Employee Turnover.  There is a high cost to turnover and it usually related directly to the quality of the club’s leadership at all levels.  It is particularly costly when you do a good job of training your people.  Do not become the minor league training ground for your competitors – both private clubs and local restaurants.

7.  Training.  There is much for employees to know in serving your members.  You cannot expect that your employees will inherently know what to do unless they are systematically and consistently trained.  Training gives your employees the knowledge and confidence they need.  Confident employees are more apt to engage your members and provide higher levels of service.

8.  Member feedback.  You need to understand what your members think about your club, the products and services it provides, and the service your employees render.  Surveys are an excellent tool to do this, but you must act on the information you receive in intelligent and thoughtful ways to make the most cost-effective decisions in satisfying wants and needs.

Getting back to the basics is a sure way to regain your footing during and after the current seismic shift taking place in our industry.  The good news is, and there’s always a silver lining, that the best leaders and their operations will inevitably rise to the top.

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.

Brainstorming Your Way to Excellence

Monday, March 10th, 2014

Brainstorming:  a conference technique of solving problems, amassing information, stimulating creative thinking, developing new ideas, etc., by unrestrained spontaneous participation in discussion. (dictionary.com)

It is commonly accepted that two minds are usually better than one and that in the search for solutions, the free interchange of ideas among a group of people can often produce better results than one person alone.  Recognizing this phenomenon, hospitality managers should embrace the idea of periodic brainstorming sessions with all department heads to improve the organization, operation, and performance, department by department, and in toto.

The first and foremost time to do this is during the annual planning cycle prior to establishing annual enterprise and departmental goals and the coming period budgets.  Such a session can usually yield results in as little time a two days when properly conceived, prepared for, and kept on task by a clear agenda and the general manager to guide and channel discussions.  While two days sounds like a lot of time for busy department heads, in the larger scheme a well-conceived annual plan and budget is a bedrock requirement for successful operations.  Those department heads who say they can’t spare the time should take a hard look at how they’ve organized their departments, trained subordinate managers, and delegated duties.  If they can’t make time for a planning session, it begs the question what will happen to their operation should they get sick or suffer an accident.

Beyond the planning cycle, brainstorming is a healthy aid to reviewing each departmental operation – one at a time.  This can usually be accomplished in a morning or afternoon session with the subject department head briefing other department heads on the organization, operation, and challenges of the department.  After this general presentation, the department head can ask his or her peers to offer suggestions and ideas to improve the operation.  This will open the door to wider discussions involving standards, policies, and procedures; inter-departmental support and cooperation; quality of guidance or direction from above; a better understanding of individual roles and duties; and improved integration of support systems for operating departments.

While sometimes these discussions can become tense, everyone must understand that the purpose and benefit of the session is to uncover issues and find a better way to operate.  Given the potential for conflict and discord, the following rules must be spelled out and enforced by the general manager:

1.   Everyone leaves their egos at the door.

2.   Everyone will be treated with dignity and respect.

3.   Each person’s ideas will be heard and valued for their unique perspective.

4.   The general manager must be present, engaged, and fully support the process, often making executive decisions to overcome obstacles and bottlenecks.

When properly managed by the general manager, brainstorming can:

  • Illuminate problems and issues,
  • Foster understanding through discussion,
  • Point to solutions,
  • Generate new ideas and initiatives, and
  • Create a sense of shared challenge and teamwork.

But all the above is simply time spent talking unless the brainstorming session generates decisions and a plan of action with assigned responsibilities and timelines to bring the ideas to execution.  To ensure this is done, the general manager should require a summary of decisions made and an action plan for each subject department head.

When this is done and followed through, much begins to happen.  With each successfully implemented improvement or initiative, a culture of success and excellence naturally develops and strengthens, carrying the operations and all its managers to greater challenges and even greater success.

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!

Two Initiatives to Improve Your Club’s Performance

Monday, November 30th, 2009

In these difficult times Club Managers are anxious to find ways to improve their club’s performance.  While there is no magic pill to enhance service and the bottom line, there is the discipline of two time-tested ways that will make a huge difference in how your club performs.

1.  Work Planning for Club Department Heads

The job of General Manager is challenging, requiring a broad-ranging skill set covering a variety of management disciplines and operational experience to do well.  Yet, too often General Managers get overly involved in day-to-day operations and fail to meet their strategic responsibilities.  When this happens, the club limps along, reacting to the crisis-of-the-day instead of proactively addressing issues through long-range planning.

In some cases the underlying cause of this involvement is weak leadership and managerial development among subordinate managers.  The best way to overcome this weakness is to develop subordinate leaders through training, mentoring, and establishing “stretch” work plans.  Though it is initially time-consuming to do so, developing club department heads into strong leaders and managers will allow the club to routinely function at high levels and the General Manager to focus on long-range matters and strategic issues.

While ongoing training of subordinate managers will improve their skill set, they must also develop the essential discipline of establishing and meeting goals to improve their operations.  The General Manager can foster this discipline by doing the following:

  • Preparing detailed, formal Work Plans with timelines and milestones for each department head.
  • Requiring department heads to prepare departmental goals and plans for their departments.
  • Ensuring that department heads benchmark their operations to provide objective measures of progress.
  • Giving honest performance reviews based upon measurable, objective criteria.

When the General Manager takes the time to develop formal work plans for each department head, both the General Manager and the department head know what the goals are and when they are to be accomplished.  Establishing timelines and milestones allows the General Manager to monitor progress toward completion of goals.

2.  Tools to Beat Budget

The club’s accounting staff prepare monthly financial statements for each month of the fiscal year.  Statements are distributed to department heads around the middle of the month for the previous month’s activity.  Unfortunately, this means that department heads do not know how their departments performed until at least two weeks after the end of the period.  When a department’s performance does not meet budget, the department head does not know until after the fact and cannot intervene in a timely manner.

Ultimately, department heads are responsible for the financial performance of their departments and are accountable for those results.  Since they are responsible for everything their department does and fails to do, they cannot rely solely on the accounting office to provide them with the timely information they need to properly monitor and take action to ensure they meet their budgets.

Tools to Beat Budget is a program designed to help department heads monitor key elements of their budget in a more timely manner.  Further, it requires department heads to monitor revenues and expenses on an ongoing basis, which keeps them in closer touch with their actual performance compared to budget.  Finally, the data accumulated during the course of the year using Tools to Beat Budget makes department heads more knowledgeable about their operations and makes establishing future budgets far easier since all the historical information is in one place – the Tools to Beat Budget binder.

These two initiatives when fully implemented and conscientiously and consistently followed by club department heads will make a significant difference in the performance of your club.  And the sooner you implement them, the sooner you’ll see the results.

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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Guiding Principles and Operating Standards

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

Back in June I blogged about a Culture of Service and the need for constantly reinforced organizational values.  Among those values I suggested the need for principles and standards to guide the enterprise.  Here’s one attempt to define the underlying values of an organization:

GUIDING PRINCIPLES: Principles that guide the conduct of our business!

  • Proactive leadership with service-based philosophy. Our leadership is active and engaged, while strictly adhering to service-based leadership principles (per Leadership on the Line).
  • Forward-thinking, professional expertise. Our professional knowledge should not only be up-to-date, but should be constantly looking ahead for cutting edge concepts and practices.
  • Proven management and operating systems. We utilize proven management practices and operating systems to efficiently organize and operate our club.
  • Sound planning and effective implementation. All of our projects and tasks must be planned thoroughly and implemented completely.
  • Innovative programs, continually reviewed. We offer innovative programs and we continually review them to make improvements.
  • A commitment to staff development and empowerment through formal, ongoing training. We operate in a detail intensive business and can only achieve excellence by thorough training and retraining.  Employees must be empowered to succeed and to solve member/guest issues whenever encountered.

OPERATING STANDARDS: Standards that form the basis for our operations!

  • Our vision and goals are articulated.  Our Club Strategic Plan lays out the long term goals for the operation.  Club Annual Goals are prepared as guides and targets for accomplishment.  We put them in writing to formally commit ourselves to their accomplishment.
  • We are uncompromising in our commitment to excellence, quality, and service.  To serve the highest echelons of our community, we have to set and commit to the highest standards.
  • Authority and responsibility are assigned and accountability assured.  Managers are assigned both the authority and the responsibility to direct their areas of the operation according to our highest standards.  These individuals are held accountable for their results.
  • We embrace innovation, initiative, and change while rejecting the status quo.  We seek continual improvement in all aspects of our operations.
  • Standards are defined, operations are detailed in written policy and procedure, and we seek continual improvement of products, services, programs, and operating systems.  Written standards (or the expected outcome of our “moments of truth”) for our products and services are detailed in written policies and procedures.  We seek continual improvement in these.
  • Member/guest issues are resolved politely and promptly to their complete satisfaction by our empowered employees.  No explanation needed.
  • Constant communications and feedback enhances operations and service, while problems and complaints are viewed as opportunities to improve.  We can never communicate too much or too well.  Informed employees are better employees.  Problems brought to our attention allow us to focus on solutions.
  • We benchmark revenues and sales mixes to evaluate members’ response to products, services, and programs, and we benchmark expenses, inventories, and processes to ensure efficiency and cost effectiveness.  We must pay close attention to what our members are telling us by their spending habits.  Benchmarking and analyzing expenses, inventories, and processes help us be more efficient.
  • We ensure clean, safe, well-maintained facilities and equipment while safeguarding club assets.  A good bottom line is only one measure of our effectiveness; we must also take care of all club facilities and safeguard their assets.
  • We acknowledge each operation as a team of dedicated individuals working toward common goals and we recognize the ultimate value of people in everything we do.  While each employee has his or her own duties and responsibilities, every member of our staff is important and works toward the common goal of understanding and exceeding the expectations of our members and guests.  Ultimately our business is about people and they must be valued and respected wherever and whenever encountered.

By themselves such statements have little value.  But by the  consistent example of management and the constant reinforcement to all employees these values are elevated to an animating spirit that permeates the organization.

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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A Discipline of Planning

Monday, September 7th, 2009

Managing a club without a plan is like driving through a strange land without a road map.  Given the size, complexity, and money invested in making a club successful, why would anyone consider operating it by the seat of one’s pants?  Yet, this is exactly what managers do when they fail to establish a discipline of formal planning.  And make no mistake about it, it is a discipline – requiring managers and supervisors at all levels to conceive and document their plans for upcoming periods and specific events.  It also requires that the General Manager review all planning documents, as well as review progress toward completing those plans on an ongoing basis.

Every enterprise demands a plan.  Without a formal, written plan to focus attention and action upon the completion of specified goals within a specified time period, the club will lack clear direction and purpose.  By putting plans in writing, the responsible manager formally commits to its accomplishment.  Further, there is a common understanding on the part of both the subordinate manager and the General Manager of what will happen and when.  Often, the planning and execution of one department will impact other departments or the club as a whole.  Written plans ensure that all managers and department heads are fully informed about where the club is going and when things are supposed to happen.  Taking all this into account, planning is not a luxury, but a necessity for efficient operations.

Types of Plans.  Planning is necessary on many levels and in many settings.  Formally, the club should have the following:

  • A Club Annual Plan covering a period of 12 months, coinciding with the budgeting cycle.  This plan lays out the specific goals to be accomplished during the year as part of the club’s efforts toward continual improvement.
  • A General Manager’s Work Plan for the 12 months covered by the Club Annual Plan.  This plan lays out measurable accountabilities for the General Manager and is the basis the GM’s performance appraisal.
  • Departmental Plans for the 12 months covered by the Club Annual Plan.  These plans lay out the goals and objectives of each operating department.
  • A Work Plan for each Department Head for the same 12 months.  These plans do the same for the club’s department heads.
  • Plans for major project and events.  These are plans developed for specific major tasks or activities such as purchasing new golf carts, renovating a facility, or preparing for the Member-Guest Tournament.

Planning Tips.   Having gone through the planning process a number of times, I offer the following advice to all General Managers:

  • Start early.  Procrastination results in poor, disjointed planning.
  • Lay out the broad outlines of what the Board or GM wish to accomplish.  These outlines will impact the priorities and initiatives of the club’s operating departments.
  • Involve your staff.  The departmental plans must take into account the broader goals of the club, but will also include the plans and agendas of individual Department Heads.  Further, since no department works in isolation, one department’s plan may affect others – either materially or in the timing of events and accomplishments.
  • Challenge staff.  General Managers should explain the big picture of club direction and progress and then challenge Department Heads to work on specific initiatives within their departments, for example, implementing Benchmarking, setting up Tools to Beat Budget, reviewing departmental training material and plans, Continual Process Improvement.
  • Planning is a process.  No plan is completed after one pass.  Back and forth discussion between the General Manager and Department Heads and among the different departments will further refine plans insuring a well-integrated club plan.
  • Use planning as a team-building exercise.  Given the preceding tips, I encourage General Managers to use the annual planning process as a team-building process.  Call an early planning meeting with all Department Heads to lay out the purpose, process, and planning timeline.  Then establish a series of planning meetings at which each Department Head presents his or her plans to the rest of the management staff for input and feedback.  One Department Head’s ideas may spark others to similar accomplishment.  Encourage critical review of plans and challenge groups of Department Heads to work together to work on larger club or departmental initiatives.

When departmental plans are completed, General Managers must review them and incorporate the more significant items in the Annual Club Plan.  All this should be done in time to allow adequate review and feedback by the Board before the start of the budgeting process.

Lastly, plans must not be a one-time task not to be looked at again.  To be truly useful departmentals and the Club Annual Plan should be reviewed often.  I recommend a brief review of plans and accomplishments during the Monthly Review of Operating Statements.  This ongoing review and discussion of planning will ensure timely completion of tasks and keep the club on target to meet all of its Annual Goals.

Summary.  The importance of disciplined planning cannot be overstated.  Haphazard planning results in haphazard operations and equally haphazard performance.

 

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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