Archive for the ‘employee empowerment’ Category

Get Your Employees to Think Like the General Manager

Monday, July 18th, 2011

Imagine a club operation where all the employees think like the General Manager.  Imagine what the operation would be like when 100% of the staff is focused on the details of the operation.  Imagine the impact on the bottom line if the entire management and service team are dedicated to maximizing revenues and controlling costs.

Most club managers would scoff and say that such an operation can never exist – that it’s as unlikely as Mideast peace.  Yet the path to that dream is based on one simple premise – getting all employees to view their club through the eyes of the General Manager – that is to think and act like the General Manager in all they do.

Since the “dream” is to get employees to think and act like the General Manager, they must be trained intensively to understand the full dimensions of their jobs, including the nuances of service as well as the techniques of their position.  They must understand how their daily functioning impacts and impresses members; that they must think outside the limits of their job descriptions to recognize that service entails an all-encompassing responsibility regardless of position or function.  They must know that they can take the initiative to solve problems knowing that they’ll have the support of their leaders.

The military has long recognized the importance of soldiers taking the initiative to exploit battlefield opportunities.  In the flux of combat, commanders know that their initial orders cannot cover all possibilities.  To overcome this deficiency and to imbue their fighters with the confidence to act as the situation dictates, the military includes a statement of “the commander’s intent” in its field orders.

Professor Milan Vego of the U.S. Naval War College says, “The main purpose of the intent is to provide a framework for freedom to act.”  He goes on to say, “The intent should allow the subordinate . . . to exercise the highest degree of initiative in case the original order no longer applies or unexpected opportunities arise.”

In the highly fluid world of club operations, managers can take a lesson from the military and ensure that their employees fully understand their “intent” – the desired outcome in all service situations.  The way to do it is to empower your employees.  Willing, committed, and empowered employees will make a world of difference in delivering remarkable service levels to your members.  Recalling the words of John Tschohl, founder of the Service Quality Institute, “Without empowerment, an organization will never be a service leader.  Empowerment is the most critical skill an employee can master and a company can drive in order to lure and keep customers.”

But just how do you go about empowering employees?  Management consultant Susan M. Heathfield in an article on the principles of employee empowerment listed the following:

  • Value your people
  • Share your vision
  • Share your goals
  • Trust you people
  • Provide guidelines and information for empowered behavior
  • Provide frequent feedback
  • Focus on problem solution; not placing blame
  • Recognize and reward empowered behavior

In a white paper entitled Employee Empowerment this author laid out the necessities for empowerment:

First and foremost, strong leadership is an absolute necessity.  Leaders must:

  • Be open with their employees.
  • Be trusting and trusted.
  • Be secure in themselves, their position, and their knowledge; not threatened by knowledgeable employees or those who show initiative.
  • Be willing to share praise and shoulder blame.
  • Be good communicators.
  • Place a positive emphasis on problem discovery and solution.
  • Allow their employees to demonstrate initiative and innovation, while giving them the “freedom to fail” without repercussions.

Secondly, the necessary disciplines and systems must be established to continually review work processes while involving employees.  It’s also important that procedures be in place to keep the General Manager and other department heads fully informed of any resulting changes.

Next, the club must be committed to and deliver extensive, ongoing training to its employees.  Untrained employees cause confusion and the resulting chaos will drive good employees away.  Employees must also be recognized for their accomplishments and contributions.  This recognition will further cement the partnership.

Lastly, employees must respect their leaders and willingly follow them.  They will only do this when they see their leaders’ passion for excellence and personal commitment to success.  There can be no substitute for this example.

The dream of employees thinking and acting like the General Manager is one that can be realized, but only through a commitment to employee empowerment and all that it entails.  When employees understand their “manager’s intent” in all situations and know that the exercise of initiative will be valued and supported, the dream can become a reality.

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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Guest Blog: The Future of Club Programming

Monday, June 6th, 2011

There is a tremendous population shift underway in our country with the various age and cultural demographic changes that will modify the way we do business in our private clubs well into the future. Studies have shown that our 65 year old age group will double from 40 million to 89 million and from 13 percent of the population to 20 percent by the year 2050. While this seems like a long way off, the impact that this means to our economic outlook, and how we do business in our clubs will be impacting and must be dealt with today.

A recent study from Stanford University on the longevity of Americans living longer in our society states that Americans will continue to “Age Up” for decades into the future. With medicine and wellness practices, Americans are living much longer. With this change, there will be a transformation of organizational psychology and club programming concepts that will have a major impact not only with government policies and programs like Social Security benefits and Medicare but us as club managers and CEOs of our organizations with how we conduct business.

The realization of what this means to the business of private clubs is significant. Our entire market is changing clubs across the country. As we experience continued growth of our “Waiting to Resign Lists” with members wanting to get out of the club, for various reasons, we must begin to pay attention to how we deal with this problem. As we all know, our clubs operate with dues as our primary source of income. Without this revenue stream, we will not be able to operate. Last year alone, over 400 clubs closed their doors for various reasons. This is an alarming rate of closures in which we need to be concerned about.

The aging demographics of our membership coupled with the current global financial crisis, along with our member’s investment portfolios shrinking by 25 percent or more is causing a major transformation of the wealth distribution in our clubs. The way we are conducting business today will be outdated in the very near future. Our senior members are living longer and are spending more time at our clubs, but they are spending less money.

Several clubs have discounted their dues for seniors in an attempt to keep this age group active at their clubs and off the waiting to resign list. The reasoning is that this membership group has already paid their dues so to speak, but as younger members soon realize that the senior group is using the club more than they are, there begins to be resentment among the membership creating different factions. The younger members are feeling like they are paying the way for the senior member.

We need to ask ourselves if discounting the dues for senior members is the business practice or not or are there other measures we can take to better deal with this concern. What programs do you have in place to meet the needs and demands of this aging group? Are these programs sufficient and do they add value to the lives of our senior members, giving them a reason to continue being members of your club? A term “Productive Aging” is becoming the buzz word amongst our aging members 50 years and older.

Many clubs are being proactive and are already planning for the next few decades and how to better serve their aging membership, while still recruiting younger members, which are the future of our clubs. There is no doubt that we have age and cultural differences in our clubs. Our senior members do not desire to dine or be near the younger members and their young children, so we must develop seating areas or dedicate specific dining rooms in our clubs to accommodate this need.

What other programs are we developing to better serve our aging membership? Below are several programming ideas for you to consider implementing in your clubs for this age group.

  • Investment groups made up of members
  • Book clubs – many clubs are creating their own personal libraries that are situated in unused areas of their clubs, which has become popular with members
  • Wine clubs
  • Travel clubs
  • Hiking or outdoor recreation and fitness programs
  • Cooking classes – heart healthy cuisine
  • Organic gardening – several clubs are providing areas on club grounds for those members to have their own personal garden that they maintain
  • Self-defense training – how to avoid an attack in the mall parking lot (hopefully not your club parking lot)
  • Writing and poetry groups
  • Member focus groups – to share cultural and local lore
  • Hobbies and craft groups
  • Health, nutrition and wellness classes
  • Classes on how to retrofit your home to prepare for aging
  • Outdoor stargazing events
  • Fly fishing classes
  • Cycling groups
  • Card groups (besides bridge)
  • Storytelling and oral history presentations – lecture series
  • Mental exercise groups – crossword puzzle competitions
  • Philanthropy groups – big brother and big sister groups
  • Community outreach groups
  • Volunteer groups – to clean up neighborhoods a side streets and waterways around your club
  • Club historical preservation societies to gather your club’s history / archives
  • Technology – computer classes
  • Mystery theme dinners
  • Comedy night
  • Movie nights for families
  • Pet grooming classes
  • Pet obedience training (along with member’s and their kids as well)
  • Care giver programs
  • Club concierge services
  • Car wash – on site to wash, wax and detail members cars
  • Relationship building programs – (matching single members together)
  • Etiquette and formal dining classes
  • Retrofit your club with handicap accessibility
  • Sport shooting – clays events
  • Kayak and canoe clubs
  • Bus trips to local museums, art exhibits and sporting activities
  • Coffee shops – Wi-Fi Internet access in your clubs
  • Music lessons – how many members would like to learn how to play the piano but feel they are too old to learn but are capable?
  • Discovery nature center in your club
  • Nature walks on club property – with signs marking plants and trees along with a nature walk book to identify foliage
  • Natural healing and wellness classes
  • Business center to include access to a club computer, fax machine, photo copy machine and so forth
  • Genealogy research classes
  • Recipe book – your club members personal recipes
  • Club history book
  • Club member personal history book – let your members tell their stories
  • Shopping trips
  • Photography clubs

Adding these types of programs for your entire membership to enjoy will support their need to remain as members ensuring the future of your club.

Don Vance, CCM, Master Club Advisors, Club Leadership Digest

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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So You Want Your Club to Be a Service Leader

Monday, January 31st, 2011

What’s the first step?  Teaching employees service skills, techniques, and attitudes?  Nope!  This approach will have only a limited, short-term effect on some of your staff . . . and even these will give up pretty soon if they don’t see a consistent service ethic and example from their leaders.

Becoming a service leader requires a long-term, sustained effort from a management team committed to a consistent service-based approach to leading their service teams.  The ultimate goal of such an approach is to empower employees to think and act like managers — to take the initiative and ownership to resolve service issues wherever encountered with the sure knowledge of their leaders’ backing and support.

Simply put, the requirements and priorities for becoming a service leader are:

  • Establishing a consistent, club-wide service-based leadership style with its emphasis on serving employees by providing all the necessary tools, training, resources, support, and example to provide high levels of service.
  • Establishing a consistent, club-wide culture of service continually reinforced by all managers.
  • Creating a highly organized operation where expectations and standards are understood by all, and managers and employees are held strictly accountable for conduct and performance.
  • Ensuring that managers at all levels of the organization understand and consistently employ the many disciplines and best practices of operating a well-organized club.  This requires that all managers are trained to common standards and performance expectations.
  • Hiring well and training thoroughly so that the club employs the best people with the right personalities for the positions they hold and that every employee is trained in the necessary knowledge, skills, and attitudes for the jobs they perform.
  • Providing personalized service to your members, requiring that you and your employees know what your members want and their names, interests, and preferences.  This requires the system and organization to discover, organize, and disseminate such information to your employees so they can use it in their daily interactions with members.
  • Empowering your employees to take the initiative, make decisions, and take actions to “wow” members and resolve any and all service issues.  Such empowerment requires that employees are well-trained not just in the how’s of service, but also the why’s.  Finally, you must carefully define the parameters of employee empowerment and decision-making and create a supportive environment that never blames employees for their decisions and actions, only looks for better ways of doing things.

As can be seen from the above requirements, becoming a service leader is not an easy undertaking or one to be approached lightly.  On the contrary, it requires the management “will to make it happen” and the service-based leadership to create the environment that naturally promotes service.

But regardless of the effort involved, the bottom line is, as John Tschohl, president of the Service Quality Institute, says — “Without empowerment, an organization will never be a service leader.”

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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Various Training Initiatives

Monday, January 24th, 2011

One of the key tenets of teaching is that different people learn best in different ways — some by seeing, some by hearing, and still others by doing.  Another key point in learning (and marketing) is that most people need to be exposed to information a number of times before it really registers with them — hence the need for reinforcement of key material.  Lastly, given the immense amount of information club employees need to master, there is an ongoing need to continually remind employees of basic workplace knowledge, skills, and attitudes.  The problem for club managers is the sheer size and scope of undertaking a thorough training regimen for employees.

Recognizing this challenge, here are some tools and ideas that will help teach and reinforce key information:

  • Checklists.  Checklists provide a reminder to employees of tasks to be completed during a work shift or on a periodic basis.  They also ensure accountability for completion of key tasks by employee signature on the checklist.  Examples are Opening Checklists, Closing Checklists, and Daily, Weekly, and Monthly Cleaning Checklists.
  • The Daily Tip are daily pointers or quotes to reinforce service principles and techniques.  These brief reminders are printed on 8½ by 11 inch card stock, placed in document protectors, and posted by time clocks, on bulletin boards, or any other prominent location.
  • Training on the Go materials.  These are short training topics on a variety of subjects.  Printed out on 8½ by 11 inch card stock and placed in document protectors, they can be pulled out by managers to review with employees whenever a brief period of time opens up, during pre-shift meetings, and other opportunities when employees gather.  Club Resources International has prepared Training on the Go topics for Food and Beverage, Organizational Values, Human Resources, Leadership, Management Disciplines, and Safety.
  • The Year of . . . — taking a cue from the United Nations and other large organizations, select an important topic or task and focus the entire club staff on it for a year.  Focusing on a topic for a full year takes some effort and should be reserved for major campaigns of strategic value for the club.  Examples might include The Year of Personalized Service, The Year of Formal Training, or The Year of Improved Club Safety.
  • The Weekly Focus.  There are fifty-two weeks in a year and literally hundreds of details and tasks in any service business.  By focusing on one specific detail or task for a week, such as suggestive selling or club policies, management can give detailed standards, instruction, and emphasis for a particular item.  When the employee moves on to a new topic the following week, they will still retain much of the previous week’s emphasis.
  • The Monthly Focus.  This is the same as the Weekly Focus, but stresses a larger and more important issue to the success of the business, such as employee courtesy or getting orders from the kitchen to the table quickly.

The end result of these initiatives is to bring club values, organization, discipline, and execution to an enhanced state.  Over time, the focus and repetition will institutionalize key success factors.

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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Details and Quality

Monday, January 10th, 2011

How often have we said that clubs are a detail-intensive business?  There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of details that must be attended to daily to provide the high levels of quality that members expect.  It’s also easily understood that the general manager and management team are incapable of checking each detail every day.  So what are the necessary strategies to achieve the requisite levels of quality?

  • Ultimately a robust program of employee empowerment will encourage employees to think like the general manager, be aware of the manifold necessities of quality and service, be ever alert for problems and issues, and demonstrate the ownership to correct problems wherever and whenever they find them.
  • Thorough communication of values, standards, and expectations to employees so they understand what, why, and how it must be done.
  • Comprehensive initial and ongoing training to ensure employees have all the necessary knowledge, skills, and appropriate attitudes to render consistently high quality service.
  • Detailed organizational systems and processes to allow the operation to function efficiently.  When things happen consistently and routinely in all areas of the club, employees have the time and the inclination to focus on quality.  When everything is screwed up all the time, employees will find it difficult to care.
  • Consistent service-based leadership which requires managers to provide employees with all the necessary tools, training, resources, and ongoing support to do their jobs efficiently and effortlessly.  The underlying premise of such leadership is the ultimate value of people in any endeavor and the need to serve all constituencies, but particularly the employees who render service directly to members.  Such a leadership approach creates and sustains the strong bonds of personal pride and team effort.

While creating the necessary club environment to provide each of the above requirements is neither rapidly nor easily accomplished, it ultimately is the ONLY way to build enduring quality in a service 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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Value Your People

Monday, November 15th, 2010

In an article on employee empowerment, business consultant Susan M. Heathfield said, “Your regard for people shines through in all of your actions and words. Your facial expression, your body language, and your words express what you are thinking about the people who report to you. Your goal is to demonstrate your appreciation for each person’s unique value. No matter how an employee is performing on their current task, your value for the employee as a human being should never falter and always be visible.”

What things can you as a leader do to demonstrate your regard for people “in all your actions and words”?

Know and use employee names.  Everyone likes to be recognized as an individual and called by name.  Certainly your members do and your employees do as well.  Introduce them to members and guests when appropriate.  Failing to do so implies they’re just part of the scenery instead of key contributors to the success of your operation.

Learn about employees as individuals.  Get to know them, their life situations, their dreams and plans, their goals in life.  This does not mean you are to become their friend or confidante, but it does mean you have enough interest in them as individuals to try to understand their situation, their needs, and motivations.

Greet employees daily.  You should never fail to greet employees when you see them each day.  You don’t like to be ignored as if you were unimportant, and neither do they.

Share your time with employees.  As busy as you are, make time for your employees.  They have questions, concerns, and needs that should never be ignored.  Be open and approachable.  When you are not, when they are afraid to come to you for fear of your reaction, you are kept in the dark about what is really going on in your team.  If any employee is monopolizing your time or is a “high maintenance” employee, do not be shy about letting him know the inappropriateness of this behavior.

Recognize each person’s strengths and weaknesses.  None of us is the perfect manager, server, retail attendant, etc.  Don’t expect your employees to be.  Learn each person’s strengths and weakness.  Capitalize on the strengths and help each person overcome their weaknesses.  The time you invest in helping an employee develop his or her skills and abilities is well worth the effort and will be appreciated far more than you’ll ever realize.

Be involved in the workplace and work processes.  Do not create a hostile work environment by failing to adequately engage with your employees.  Without your ongoing guidance and direction, petty dissensions and friction will grow among the workers of your team as they struggle to figure out who must do what.

Look out for your peoples’ welfare.  Make sure your employees get adequate work breaks, that their work spaces are set up for comfort and efficiency, that they are properly trained and equipped for their jobs, that you adjust work schedules when possible to meet individual needs, that you resolve pay discrepancies quickly, that you get back to them to resolve issues they’ve raised.

Treat employees as adults.  When you treat employees like children, they will act like children.  Don’t talk down to them or treat them as if they’re immature.  When you give people responsibility, most will reward your trust.  Those who demonstrate they can’t be trusted should be encouraged to move on.

Show respect.  This is critically important in the way you speak, the tone of your voice, your choice of words, and your body language.  Your respect for others cannot be faked.  You must sincerely value people to treat them with respect at all times.

Do not take advantage of people.  Employees are not your servants and should not be expected to perform personal services for you.  If you delegate tasks, make sure there is value in it for them, either in enhanced compensation or a genuine learning opportunity.

Demonstrate the common decencies of human interaction in all your dealings.  Be kind and courteous.  Give your people the benefit of the doubt.  Don’t be quick to take offense or become upset.  Maintain control of your temper and reaction to events.

Thank employees often.  How easy is it to say “Thank you”?  It costs nothing and it reaps great rewards.  The only requirement is that it must be sincerely given.

Say goodbye at the end of the day or shift.  A farewell is a common courtesy that you would extend to family and friends, if for no other reason than as an acknowledgement of departure.  The members of your work team, who you depend on for your success, should receive no less a courtesy.  Again, the need for sincerity is absolute.

American poet and author Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Value your people and they will be willing and committed participants in your quest for quality and service.

Excerpted from Leadership on the Line – The Workbook, Ed Rehkopf, Clarity Publications, 2009

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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The Hospitality Challenge

Monday, September 6th, 2010

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 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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Eight Steps to Performance Accountability

Monday, July 19th, 2010

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Tools to Beat Budget.  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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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 himself, he must rely on the efforts and performance of his subordinate managers.  But without measurable accountabilities he has no real means to drive his 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 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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Implementing Employee Empowerment

Monday, May 31st, 2010

There are three principal areas where empowered employees can contribute significantly to improved club operations.

  1. Resolving member issues.
  2. Helping improve work processes as part of Continual Process Improvement.
  3. Taking on certain delegated management functions.

Resolving Member Issues

Employees who deal most directly with members on a day-to-day basis are in the best position to solve service issues and resolve member complaints in a timely fashion or before they escalate into larger issues.  Unfortunately, in some clubs front line employees are seen as the first line of defense in saying “no” to members.  Only when the member gets sufficiently angry and demands to see the manager, can the problem be solved.  Yet this approach sends two very wrong messages – one to the member that says we don’t trust you and we don’t mind wasting more of your time as you explain the problem again to a manager; and the other to employees that says that we won’t let you say “yes,” but we, the managers, often will, thereby contradicting you and making you look bad.

Since the bottom line in all our dealings with members is to say “yes,” there is no reason to put either the member or the employee in the situation described above.  A far better solution is to provide useful guidance to employees and give them both the responsibility and the resources to solve service issues.  A good start would be to allow employees to decide on their own how to resolve any issue by “spending” up to a certain amount to fix the problem – either by “comping” a meal, sending a token of apology, or doing something special for the member.

Without a doubt the cost is insignificant compared to the loss of member goodwill and patronage and is a small price to pay if a lesson can be learned or a work process improved.

And herein is the important point, every time employees use their authority and spend money to solve a problem, they must fill out a Service Issue Resolution, CRI Form 180, explaining in detail what went wrong and what could be done differently in the future.

When employees gain more confidence in their abilities to resolve issues and as management continually improves work processes based upon reports of problems, a culture of quality service will gain momentum.  Employees will feed off each other’s successes and take the initiative to solve a host of little service issues as they take more pride in their work and their contribution to the overall effort.

Helping Improve Work Processes

Part of your club’s culture should be to foster a process of Continual Improvement in all aspects of your operations.  This means that you should review systems, standards, policies, procedures, programming, training, and work processes to continually improve the way you do business and provide service.  While managers typically have broad industry experience and the big picture of what is necessary to succeed, it is the line employee who is most closely connected with the member and the details of service.  Who, then, would be in a better position to recommend improved work processes than the person who works most closely with service and service delivery?

As we have often said before, in our business the devil is in the detail.  When you make a commitment to involve your employees in designing and improving work processes, they become energized by the involvement and look for more and more ways to contribute.  The more involved they become in contributing to the success of the organization, the more responsibility they will assume for ensuring that success.

Taking on Delegated Functions

As empowered employees take on more responsibility, managers can select individuals, who show both the motivation and aptitude, to take on some of the management functions of the organization.  An excellent example is provided again by the Ritz-Carlton Company.  They select and train certain individuals to conduct initial screening interviews with prospective employees.  These empowered employees relish the task and see themselves as the gatekeepers in keeping the company’s hiring standards as high as possible.  They get paid slightly more for their additional duty and derive prestige in being given this important task.

Necessities for Empowerment

Having reviewed the benefits of empowering employees, we again state what is necessary for a club to provide this empowerment.

First and foremost, strong leadership is an absolute necessity.  Leaders must:

  • Embrace the principles of Service-Based Leadership.
  • Be open with their employees.
  • Be trusting and trusted.
  • Be secure in themselves, their position, and their knowledge; not threatened by knowledgeable employees or those who show initiative.
  • Be willing to share praise and shoulder blame.
  • Be good communicators.
  • Intrinsically understand and value the important role of line employees in the organization.
  • Place a positive emphasis on problem discovery and solution.
  • Allow their employees to demonstrate initiative and innovation, while giving them the “freedom to fail” without repercussions.

Secondly, the necessary disciplines and systems must be established to continually review work processes while involving employees.  It’s also important that procedures be in place to keep the General Manager and other Department Heads fully informed of any resulting changes.

Next, the club must be committed to and deliver extensive, ongoing training to its employees.  Untrained employees cause confusion and the resulting chaos will drive good employees away.

Employees must also be recognized for their accomplishments and contributions.  This recognition will further cement the partnership.

There must be opportunities for employees to grow personally and professionally.  When employees know that the club is also committed to their advancement, they will more willingly participate in making it successful.

Lastly, employees must respect their leaders and willingly follow them.  They will only do this when they see their leaders’ passion for excellence and personal commitment to success.  There can be no substitute for this example.

Summary

Empowering employees is a requirement in any effort to provide remarkable service.  Busy managers cannot do it all and need the help of their willing, committed, and empowered employees.  While it takes time and effort to establish a culture of empowerment at a club, the resulting improvement in operations, efficiency, and service levels make it well worth the effort.

Excerpted from Employee Empowerment.

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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Adding Value – The Club Controller

Monday, May 10th, 2010

The Club Controller is an important member of the club management team.  There are a number of constituencies that rely on the expertise and efforts of the Controller, including the General Manager, the club’s Board or ownership, the department heads with bottom line responsibility, and, of course, the employees who jobs depend upon the solvency of the club.

The Controller’s role is more than that of an accountant who, according to accounting definitions, records and reports financial transactions.  In addition to maintaining the General Ledger, Accounts Payable, Member Billing and Accounts Receivable, Payroll, and Financial Reporting, the Controller plays a vital role by assisting managers in maintaining the profitability of the club.

The functions of the Controller tend to fall into a routine of monitoring daily activity, processing bi-weekly payroll, ongoing processing and payment of invoices, monthly member billing, and end of month closing and financial reporting.  Once a year, the Controller has a central role in the annual budgeting process for the club.

But the Controller also provides guidance and assistance to the General Manager and department heads in meeting their fiscal responsibilities to the club and its members.  These managers have a broad range of detail- and labor-intensive requirements and must deal with the daily challenges that arise in a high quality service environment.  By keeping in mind the underlying principle of service-based leadership – of providing the necessary tools, training, resources, and support to key constituents – Controllers should offer targeted outreach assistance to managers; particularly to department heads – those key individuals with bottom line responsibilities.

Outreach services include:

Ensuring that department heads have clear accounting guidance:  Written accounting standards, policies, and procedures should be available to all managers.  While Club Resources International has produced and offers a great many of these, detailed procedural guidance should be prepared and implemented at the club level.

Assisting department heads with club-required programs:  Department heads may need assistance with benchmarking spreadsheets, Tools to Beat Budget, Annual Budgeting, and preparing for monthly meetings to review financial performance.

Providing timely operating data:  Those with bottom line responsibility have need for timely information about their operations.  The two most important are Weekly Revenue Reports and Pay Period Summary Reports that allow managers to monitor their revenues and their single largest expense – payroll.

Ongoing training on accounting issues:  In any complex operation there is the need for ongoing refresher training on key matters.  Staff turnover and the constant focus on daily operations sometimes make it difficult for managers to keep accounting issues foremost in mind.  Controllers should monitor departmental compliance with accounting policies and provide refresher training for arising issues and ongoing problems.

Making periodic visits to department heads:  These visits, based on the premise of  “How can I help you,” “Is there anything the Accounting Department can do to assist,” or “Your department seems to struggle with timely inventories.  Is there anything we can do to help?”  When coupled with a service-based attitude, such visits will go a long way in improving accounting processes while building a positive team spirit among managers.

Conducting an accounting audit of each department:  This annual check-up should be conducted with an attitude of helping department heads.  A simple checklist of important accounting considerations will provide both the department head and the Controller with a guide to identify and address areas needing improvement.  After the audit is completed, the Controller should work with the department head to draw up a plan of action to address any issues or concerns.

While the foregoing may sound like a lot of additional effort for the Controller, a club with a smooth functioning accounting process will usually perform better.  Additionally, many of the continuing irritations for the accounting staff arise from operating departments failing to meet accounting requirements in a timely and accurate manner.  These two benefits alone will make the Controller’s extra efforts well worthwhile.

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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