Polish Your Skills

Of all the career counseling advice given over the years, Abraham Lincoln probably nailed it when he said: “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

With one more grass-growing season under your belt, maybe you’re reflecting on your career and wondering where it’s going. Maybe you’re worried it’s not going in the direction you hoped or that it seems stuck. Maybe it’s time to take charge of your career and start creating your future. Here are nine capabilities that must be developed and improved upon to advance your career:

Leadership/Command Skills

Are you the person to whom others look in times of difficulty or crisis? John Cunningham, who began his career as a golf course superintendent and is now the general manager at Aronimink Golf Club, views career paths as a four-lane highway rather than the one-lane road many see. “Do not pigeonhole yourself as just an expert in one area. Once I started learning about the entire club business, I realized that the leadership and management skills that I had been working on in one area of the club business were transferable to many other career opportunities.”

Professional Selling Skills

Those who understand the science of professional salesmanship have a distinct advantage when trying to move someone to their point of view. For them, persuasion is a process of describing both the features and benefits of the course of action they advocate.

Business Acumen

Do you understand how the business you manage works? Are you an accomplished financial manager? Countless programs are available through CMAA, GCSAA and the PGA of America to help aspiring managers understand the business necessities of their clubs and employers.

Learning on the Fly

Many lessons in club management are learned on the fly without time for rehearsal or in-depth preparation. This requires that a manager be open to change and comfortable when dealing with unexpected problems. Mark Bado, the GM at Myers Park Country Club in Charlotte, says, “Aspiring managers should be patient and hungry to learn and to stretch themselves. We all experience setbacks and get knocked down. Surround yourself with people who have been there also and will you get back up on your feet.”

Standing Alone

The people who make major career moves are often those willing to explore new concepts and find new solutions to complex problems, ones such as labor shortages and escalating personnel costs. Often it is the champion for new concepts who reverses operational losses and plots a new course for a club’s growth.

Organizational Agility

“Take a chance and ask for help,” Cunningham advises. “The relationships that I have developed in the club business have afforded me so much perspective and insight. We all have blind spots and being collaborative and reaching out to others regarding your career will be invaluable.” Develop your own list of go-to experts in various aspects of the business and remember to pay their kindness forward.

Dealing with Ambiguity

Those who advance their careers function effectively in a state of continuous learning. Paul Levy, the current president of the PGA of America, has learned great lessons “in the heat of battle,” as he calls it. “Work on improving your communication skills (because) it’s often not what you say but how you say it that matters.”

Performance Management

“Today we live in a world where most people respond best to positive direction and motivation,” Levy says. ”When you must give feedback on performance or behavior that needs adjusting, it must be done positively and with a plan you both agree on for improvement that benefits both parties.” Every leader is held to account for his or her results; knowing how to track and measure ongoing performance yields improved results.

Hanging Tough

Adversity finds each of us. As the Navy SEAL saying goes, “The only easy day was yesterday.” Leaders are admired for their unwillingness to give in to problems. Your next promotion may come as a result of showing the determination to find a solution for which others have given up searching.

GGA’s Henry DeLozier penned this article for Golf Course Industry Magazine.

GGA and the CSCM Partner to Enhance Research and Impact

Global Golf Advisors (GGA) and the Canadian Society of Club Managers Partner to Enhance Research and Impact
GGA recognized as Platinum Corporate Partner of the CSCM

TORONTO, Ontario – October 15, 2018

Global Golf Advisors (GGA) and the Canadian Society of Club Managers (CSCM) are pleased to announce the formation of a strategic partnership to produce research and insights for the benefit of the CSCM members and the club industry at large. The CSCM Corporate Partner program recognizes industry partners that share the values of the CSCM and offer members support as leaders in the club management profession in Canada.

The CSCM and GGA have enjoyed a history of collaborative research and investigative solutions to many of the club industry’s toughest problems. The evolution of this relationship into a formal partnership furthers the mission and core objectives of the Society’s strategic plan and positions GGA to more directly support the CSCM through funding, education, and research for its members. Each year, GGA and the CSCM will collaborate on valuable industry research as well a lifestyle research paper.

“Achieving the CSCM’s strategic plan, ‘Vision 2020 – A Clear Focus For An Even Stronger Future’, is one of the most important mandates of our National Board,” explained Trevor Noonan CCM, CCE, CSCM president. “For many years CSCM and GGA have maintained a longstanding and valued relationship. By formalizing our partnership, we bring the plan’s ‘Research & Impact’ pillar to life.”

The CSCM’s vision is to create great clubs through excellence in professional club management and its mission is to promote and develop the profession of club management. The CSCM offers a variety of programs and services in response to member needs and expectations including the certification program leading to the Certified Club Manager (CCM) designation, career opportunities, and a networking forum for executives and managers involved in club management.

GGA is committed to club management and helping facilitate key elements of the CSCM’s provision for providing research, resources, and education to its members. “Club managers are charged with immense responsibility and deserve all we can do to help.” said GGA partner Derek Johnston. “We are proud to lend our support and are eager to work collaboratively with the CSCM to develop beneficial research and insights drawn from GGA’s core competencies in strategy and operations consulting, business intelligence and analytics. ”

“The creation of this valuable and timely industry research continues to position the CSCM as the industry leader it is, providing benefit to the CSCM members and the clubs they lead,” declared Suzanne Godbehere, CSCM chief executive officer. “We are very much looking forward to delivering this joint research.”

For more details about the CSCM and partnership, click here.

About The Canadian Society of Club Managers
Established in 1957, CSCM is the national professional society representing the club management profession in Canada. Of our approximately 600 members, over 70% are from golf clubs, and the remainder from a variety of city, recreation, fitness, curling and other types of clubs.

The Society’s members hold position titles that include General Manager, Chief Executive Officer, Chief Operating Officer as well as Assistant Manager, Clubhouse Manager, Controller and Food and Beverage Manager.

About GGA
Global Golf Advisors is a highly specialized consulting firm dedicated to the club and golf industries. GGA serves a global roster of clients from its four offices in Toronto, Phoenix, Dublin and Sydney. The firm was founded in 1992 as a specialty consulting practice within KPMG Canada, KPMG’s Golf Industry Practice. Since inception, the firm has provided industry-leading advisory services to over 3,000 clients worldwide.

Harnessing the Power of Strategic Intelligence

When a club undergoes a strategic planning event, they do so by assessing a number of key data sets: member preferences, club operations, finances and market forces.  All of these come together to help inform strategy and the action plan moving forward.

The fundamental challenge I see clubs struggle with all too often is keeping the information that informed their strategy up to date.

The intention is right, but the execution falls short.  Let me tell you why.

Most clubs are stretched for resources.  This typically necessitates a focus on immediate challenges, which tend to be operationally driven with solutions that are tactical in nature.  It is not surprising that most business intelligence utilized by clubs focuses on revenues, expenses and certain utilization statistics.

The research and insight required to monitor and adjust strategy on an ongoing basis goes beyond revenues and expenses.  It must provide club leaders with a 360-degree view of all forces impacting their club: from member attitudes and preferences to finances, capital sources and uses, from competitors to the economy, from real estate to a wide assortment of market conditions, the list goes on.

There is a tendency to assume many of these things do not change quickly, certainly not as quickly as daily operations; however, changes do occur significantly from year to year.  For clubs today, sustained competitive advantage is critical.  An off year in membership recruitment can hurt the club.  A few off years over a five-year period will hurt the club and can be significant.

This is where strategic intelligence is so important.  One of the biggest obstacles clubs encounter in their quest for better and current strategy is the sourcing, analyzing and visualizing of important strategic intelligence.  An effective strategic intelligence process requires careful planning and resources, and this is the obstacle GGA’s Strategic Intelligence program has been designed to help club managers overcome.

The strategic jigsaw puzzle

The key to harnessing the power of strategic intelligence is this: piecing the right data together in a cohesive way and creating a culture of staying in tune with current trends.

This is something that clubs have, historically, struggled with. However, by enabling clubs to stay connected to all of the factors impacting their long-term success, this is an area GGA can really make a difference.

One thing is clear: clubs who actively engage with current strategic intelligence to inform their decision-making perform better in the short, medium and long-term.


To discover how to leverage Strategic Intelligence for your club,
connect with Derek Johnston

Strategic Intelligence at Work

Guest author – Lonnie Lister, General Manager, Portland Golf Club

Lonnie Lister attended the University of Arizona for a degree in music education.  He worked on the wait staff at private clubs during his college summers and found that he was drawn more to club management than to a music career. Prior to joining PGC as its GM in January 2017, Lonnie was the GM at Skyline Country Club in Tucson, AZ where he spent 23 years working in various areas of the Club. Lonnie is active in CMAA and has served on the board of the Greater Southwest Chapter.

Portland Golf Club has a rich history, but like other private clubs it faces ongoing challenges.

The city of Portland has grown tremendously over the last decade, leading to dramatic shifts in both the market and demographics.

While this growth brings opportunity, it also brings about change.  For us that change impacts a number of areas – specifically around membership recruitment and retention; staff hiring and retention, and being able to control operating costs without compromising the service we provide to members.

With this in mind, the board of Portland Golf Club voted last year to adopt GGA’s Strategic Intelligence (“SI”) platform, which features several components: a Market Scan, a Member Survey, and an assessment of the Club’s “Operational Vital Signs” which compares our performance to clubs of similar stature both within our market and in other markets.

Selective targeting

The initial Market Scan, which revealed potential member households within a two to five-mile radius of the Club, was fascinating.  We learned that within a five-mile radius of Portland Golf Club there are more than double the number of golfing households than is typical for private clubs nationally.  That was a welcome surprise.

Though our Club is still very selective, the Market Scan revealed that there was much more potential for outreach than we’d been aware of before.

As membership recruitment and retention was our number one issue, what we learned inspired us to send a “welcome letter” from the Club to home buyers in our prime market neighborhoods.  This was not a recruitment package, but rather a gently informational welcome note – letting people who might be new to Portland know that this wonderful club exists nearby.

Taking the time to listen

As a club manager, one can often find themselves guilty of favoring (or at least focusing on) one ‘R’ over the other – namely, recruitment over retention.

But retention can fuel recruitment.

A Member Survey can inform what changes are necessary based on the actual needs that current members identify, which is vastly more effective.  And the satisfaction and sense of positivity this can create reverberates beyond the four walls of the clubhouse.

What was critical for us was surveying our membership in a way that was specific to the Club, not just a broad-brush approach.  This meant we could directly address concerns of our membership and maximize the effectiveness and insights of the survey.  Already this has delivered responses that are candid and honest, and provided a robust foundation to inform strategic decisions.

Reassuring the Board

The SI platform has also been incredibly helpful in reassuring the Board that the Club is operating efficiently.

We can see in the Operational Vital Signs report that in almost every measure Portland Golf Club is performing well.  Where we find anomalies, we can take a closer look to understand what these are, and we can then decide if they are something we need to act upon or factor into our strategic decisions.

One such anomaly we found at Portland Golf Club was that most golfers prefer to walk, explaining why our cart revenue is below national benchmarks.  This is not a trend we see changing, so rather than acquire more carts or attempt to upsell them at every opportunity, we decided to focus our efforts in other, more fertile areas for business development.

Going deeper

There’s no doubt Portland Golf Club has embarked on a journey which places strategic intelligence at the forefront of the decisions we make.

Now we are in the second year of our SI subscription and have engaged in a Market Analysis to take a deeper look into what we learned from the original Market Scan.

As analysis looks at trends, rather than simply a snapshot of the market, this will allow us to plan better in what is clearly a fast-changing region.

Portland’s metro region now numbers more than 2.4 million people.  Almost 50% of the adult population has a college degree, and in Portland Golf Club’s primary market areas that percentage is even higher.

Armed with this knowledge, we can embark on our membership recruitment and retention activity with a clear sense of who our prospective customers are and where they are situated in relation to the Club.

Empowering the manager

Given my history working in a number of different roles in the club environment, I have always felt very comfortable on the operational side of the business.  However, the three most important issues we face at Portland Golf Club are all byproducts of local market growth outside of our Club’s operations.

Strategic research is providing us with data and insights we need to address each of these issues and is helping the Club in both the short and long-term.

This journey is changing the way I think and the way our team strategizes.  It provides me with more data than I have ever had available to me at other clubs and is full of relevant information that we depend on daily.  Our management team and committees routinely refer to the intelligence reports, our budgeting process benefits from the availability of current data to support assumptions, and our Board meetings are more productive and efficient.

I now feel that there is a greater connection between the service we deliver on the ground to the level and breadth of service prospective members are looking for – because we are armed with the data and knowledge to have confidence to be more aware of market needs.

Moving forward

So, where do we go from here?  Whereas before we were a Club reacting to changes and adjusting plans for the following year, now we are a club looking 2, 3, 4, even 10 years into the future.

For a time, it felt as though the city of Portland’s growth was getting away from us.  Now, we are ready for how it will develop and who will move here, giving us the ability to refine the value proposition that this Club offers them both now and well into the future.

Learn more about Strategic Intelligence here. 

Averting Surprises

On the west coast of Scotland, between the islands of Jura and Scarba, lurks a monstrous whirlpool so menacing that it even has its own name. Fed by a tidal surge that picks up speed as it races through the narrow strait separating the islands, Corryvrekan is a devilish surprise awaiting ill-prepared sailors, taking unsuspecting ships to a watery grave.

Though not quite so devilish, it’s often the unknown that sinks a good year and an otherwise solid strategic plan in the golf business. But rather than chalking up performance setbacks to something out of your control, consider five planning suggestions that will help avert those ever-lurking surprises.

Align Your Core Values

Know what you stand for and what you mean to accomplish. Ask yourself:

What’s most important to me? Your work and interactions with others demonstrate your value system, whether you are a hard-nosed money manager or a touchy-feely departmental manager. See that your actions are consistent with your core values.

How does my work serve others? In management, one is often a servant leader who must place the needs and expectations of others ahead of his or her own. Study your course or club and understand what values are most important to your customers, members and staff. Organize your work to fulfill their priorities and your desire to serve others.

What legacy do I wish to leave? Most people do not consider the lasting impact of their countless hours of dedicated work. But they should because the best way to serve the interests of your facility and the environment is to make sure your work is building the reputation you want to leave for your successor and generations to come.

Understand Your Market

What do you know about your market? Is it primarily golfers? Families? Non-golfers seeking socialization? You should know. Are your golfers mid-level managers or high-flying wheeler-dealers? Are the women of your club working professionals or those who do not work outside the home?

Three ways to know more about your market:

  1. Understand the demographic profile of the most current member survey.
  2. Obtain the demographic profile for the local area that you serve (www.census.gov).
  3. Host discussion groups or roundtables so that your market segments can tell you about themselves and what they want from you.

Establish Clear Goals

Be specific in what you expect of yourself and your staff. Set goals that align with your long-term vision, then confirm that they align with those of management and board of directors.

Your goals for next year should be set by now. If they’re not, have a conversation with your manager and make sure you’re both on the same page. While you’re at it, set up regular meetings during the year when you both can sit down to review progress and make adjustments.

Develop a Realistic Action Plan

Convert your core values, goals and objectives into an action plan that is sized appropriately to your resources, including staff and budget. Then align authority and accountability to make sure everyone knows their roles, responsibilities and deadlines. reckoning as certain as the Corryvrekan.

Refer to the action plan and chart of accountability every week, month and quarter to ensure that you are on-course. Good or bad, report your progress up the organization. Transparency builds and sustains trust.

Re-evaluate Constantly

Few plans are perfect and most goals and objectives requires adjustment from time to time. Be flexible. Stay current and measure everything accurately and without bias.

Similarly, ask your staff to evaluate their own work and yours. Ask members and regulars for feedback. Listen to the most frequent critics … they often know what they’re talking about! Hold yourself and your plan accountable for the results being achieved.

Sometimes, as was the case with ships encountering the vagaries of the Corryvrekan, surprises are out of our control. Often, though, some careful planning will give us the opportunity to steer clear of turbulence that lurks ahead.

This article was authored by GGA Partner Henry DeLozier for Golf Course Industry.

Strategic Intelligence Overview: Part 2 of 3

Clubs are beginning to discover the power of utilizing data to operate more strategically (see “Strategic Intelligence Part One,” September 2018). While enterprise grade analytics platforms that help to consistently track and analyze data may still be out of reach for many clubs, Derek Johnston of Global Golf Advisors says there are steps clubs can take now to lead to better decision making. He recommends club managers start with straight forward objectives for using and analyzing data:

  1. Inform key decision makers at your club with customized, accurate, timely and actionable intelligence about your club’s membership, market, operations and finances.
  2. Improve productivity and effectiveness of board and management meetings with sophisticated and reliable business intelligence.
  3. Help club executives efficiently and effectively evaluate, develop and adjust strategy on an on-going basis.

In order to effectively collect, analyze and present the right information to the right audiences, Johnston suggests you look at your club’s strategic plan and overall club goals to identify the key questions you need to answer first. For example: If your goal is to increase intermediate membership conversion rates and build a larger pipeline, some of the things you would likely want to know are:

  • Conversion rates of intermediate membership over the past five years.
  • Number of prospects in your pipeline in the past five years and how many are in it currently.
  • Reasons intermediate members have and have not converted in the past.
  • Preferences and attitudes toward the club of those who have converted to full membership in the past.
  • The size and make-up of their personal networks and their willingness to recommend the club.

“If you could gather all of this information, track it and trend it over time, you could come up with a pretty good action plan to achieve your goal,” explained Johnston. “Work through this exercise for each of the most important categories of strategic intelligence: governance, membership, market, utilization and participation, employees, operations, capital and finance.”

Once you know the information that you need to frame your decisions, then you can begin to source the information from both internal (POS, member database, P&L) and external sources (population demographics and psychographics, real estate data, social media, web traffic, etc.). When you have the necessary data, you can analyze it in a way that considers your club’s unique circumstances, visualize the information in a manner that provides historical context and trends, and then determine the best approach for presenting the information to the various decision makers at your club.

Stay tuned for Strategic Intelligence Part Three in the next issue which will address examples and the key results of clubs that have leveraged data to achieve a desirable outcome.

This article was authored by GGA Partner Derek Johnston for the Private Club Advisor.

GGA and Bigwin Realty Announce Transaction Advisory Partnership

TORONTO, ONTARIO – October 1, 2018

Global Golf Advisors Inc. (“GGA”) and Bigwin Realty Inc. (“Bigwin Realty”) are pleased to announce the formation of a new partnership focused on providing industry-leading advisory services around the purchase and sale of golf course properties in Canada.

Craig Johnston, Director – Transaction Advisory of GGA said, “We believe our partnership with Bigwin Realty will provide golf course owners and investors with a go-to resource for the purchase and sale of golf course properties in Canada. From assisting owners with their exit strategy, to understanding the fair value of their property, to sourcing buyers and brokering transactions, we will truly be a one-stop shop.”

David Smith, President of Bigwin Realty said, “With the changing business environment for golf course owners in Canada, the combined service offerings of GGA and Bigwin Realty will provide our clients with unparalleled support to maximize the value of their investment.”

The partnership’s service offerings will include the following:

  • Exit Strategy Review/Development: Help owners understand the exit opportunities which will provide the greatest after-tax value.
  • Business Valuation Services: Provide independent and objective estimate of value of the business and underlying property; and provide recommendations for value enhancement.
  • Brokerage Services: Broker the purchase and/or sale of golf course properties.
  • Transaction Structuring and Evaluation: Assist owners in evaluating solicited and unsolicited offers and provide direction on the most advantageous deal structuring.
  • Purchase and Sale Negotiations: Support owners or investors in purchase and sale negotiations.

For more details on the partnership and properties currently available, click here.

About Global Golf Advisors
Global Golf Advisors is the largest consulting firm in the world dedicated to the golf and club industry.  GGA serves a global roster of clients from its four offices in Toronto, Phoenix, Dublin and Sydney.  The firm was founded in 1992 as a specialty consulting practice within KPMG Canada, KPMG’s Golf Industry Practice.  Since inception, the firm has provided industry-leading advisory services to over 3,000 clients worldwide.

About Bigwin Realty
Bigwin Realty is a full-service real estate brokerage, whose founder has spent over 30 years working in the golf, recreation and resort industries.  Bigwin Realty firmly believes that a real estate company should offer more than typical brokerage services, providing clients with a more focused knowledge of the industry it serves.