Make Time for Strategic Thinking

Do executives at your club know what a strategic plan really is?

Club executives often confuse a strategic plan with a master plan, a capital expense budget or standard operating procedures when in fact it is none of those things.

“A strategic plan is an all-encompassing game plan. It is a plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal. It is a tight, clear-cut statement of what it is your club is trying to do,” explained Henry DeLozier of Global Golf Advisors during a seminar for club managers earlier this spring. “It’s a crucial document because every club needs to know where it is going.”

Strategic planning is receiving more focus in private clubs now than in the past. DeLozier believes this is due to the fact that more is expected of club leaders now (and more of leaders in general). He also says that clubs are expected to function in a more businesslike setting. Oversupplied, competitive markets require more focus and different types of clubs use different models of strategic planning. That’s why strategic planning is more important now than ever before.

The strategic plan should answer the questions what and why. It should not answer when, who or how because the answers to those questions are tactical. To keep strategy and tactics separate, DeLozier urges executives to remember the following:

Strategy = What. A primary duty of the board is to develop the strategy for the future of the club in a three to five-year life cycle. “Strategy is doing the right things for the club and its members. It is conceptually planning what the club will do and why,” he explained.

Tactics = How. This is a primary duty of management. Tactics are about executing the strategy and doing things right for the current period of time.

DeLozier urges all club executives to block off time regularly to think strategically. “Find the time to collect, study and share information. Strategy is part of a leader’s job today. Encourage strategic thinking in such a way that it becomes cultural at your club,” he concluded.

This article was authored by GGA Partner Henry DeLozier for the Private Club Advisor.

Grasshoppers, Water, and the Golf Business

Beginning in June 1874, a swarm of grasshoppers dense enough to block the sun’s rays – so copious that you could scoop them up with shovels – descended on the drought-ravaged Great Plains. They mowed down crops and brought economic devastation to entire communities. In a scene eerily familiar, the chewing herbivorous insects, a close cousin of the locust, did it again in 1931 in regions suffering from prolonged periods of below normal rainfall.

No one is predicting a return of the grasshopper, although that seems a haunting title for an apocalyptic movie. But history does warn us of the dangers of extreme drought, when grasshoppers can flourish and when turfgrasses are most vulnerable. As we move into the summer months, when rainfall is scarce in many parts of the United States, golf courses and sports facilities are reminded that they must manage water usage and consumption diligently.

Audubon International, which promotes sustainability for businesses, recreational properties and communities, is committed to bringing solutions to golf and sports facilities. “Putting your golf course, community or resort on the path to sustainability may seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be,” Audubon International CEO Christine Kane says. “We suggest starting by establishing an environmental policy that will guide your operations. This will bring your employees and members onboard and pave the way for incorporating topics such as water conservation, IPM or wildlife management into your budget, marketing and maintenance processes.”

Golf facilities and clubs also benefit from sustainability’s halo effect. Many members today expect greater levels of environmental stewardship from businesses and other organizations with which they are associated. In addition to its environmental impacts, sound water management has taken on a good-for-business shine as well.

Research points out that sound environmental stewardship matters to women and millennials especially.

Eighty-three percent of U.S. women believe that climate change is a serious problem, according to a 2015 Pew Research Center study. Nearly 70 percent of the women polled worry that such changes will affect them personally. The bottom line is that women are concerned about sound environmental practices and are receptive to learning how golf course managers are caring for Mother Earth.

Pew further reports that drought is among the top four climate-related concerns. “Fully half of Americans name drought as their chief climate change concern, and this is especially true in drought-plagued Western states compared with other regions of the country,” according to the research.

Clubs and courses seeking to attract younger members would do well to take a responsible approach to environmentalism. “Brands that establish a reputation for environmental stewardship among today’s youngest consumers have an opportunity to not only grow market share, but build loyalty among the power-spending millennials of tomorrow,” says Grace Farraj, an executive with Nielsen Environmentalism.

Audubon International launched its Water & Sustainability Innovation Award this year to recognize landscape companies, organizations and municipalities for sustainable, water-efficient projects. Corica Park South Course of Alameda, California, and its management firm, Greenway Golf, was the first recipient.

The Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf provides a tangible form of recognition for clubs and courses committed to protecting the environment and preserving the natural heritage of the game. By helping people enhance the valuable natural areas and wildlife habitats that golf courses provide, improve efficiency and minimize potentially harmful impacts of golf course operations, the program serves an important environmental role worldwide.

Audubon International also has developed Standard Environmental Management Practices that are generally applicable to all golf courses. These standards form the basis for the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for golf certification guidelines. Points of focus from the ACSP for golf facilities include habitat planning and management guidance, which educates club members and other golfers while increasing the understanding of best management practices for pesticide use.

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

3 Attributes of an Outstanding Club Manager

What does it take to be an outstanding club manager? And for clubs seeking to fill this role, what attributes should they be looking for?

GGA’s new Executive Search Director, Patrick DeLozier, explains what it takes to be among the best private club managers.

It takes a particular type of individual to be a club manager.

Seldom is it a job with set hours and set responsibilities; it is more often a vocation which requires an unprecedented level of commitment and drive.

Rewarding? Yes. Challenging? Most certainly.

Throughout my time both at the sharp end of club management, as well as participating in national associations and state boards, one thing was abundantly clear – the role of the club manager is inextricably linked with the success or failure of a club.

It is, therefore, an appointment clubs cannot afford to get wrong.

But what makes an outstanding club manager?

1) Strong work ethic

High performing club managers are leaders with a relentlessly strong work ethic.

They are dedicated, committed and visible to the whole club – including both their membership and their team.

Beyond the general day-to-day requirements, the best club managers have a sense of when and where to be at all times. Not simply to be seen, but to demonstrate leadership and accessibility, consciously engaging with everyone they encounter in a meaningful and constructive way.

For team members this means being willing to mentor, offer guidance and invest time in their well-being and progression, whatever the role. For members, it is going the extra mile, ensuring exceptional service levels and a commitment to continuous high levels of satisfaction.

The club manager should be the face and voice of the club, not tucked away in a back office.

2) Forward-thinking

Effective managers do not stand still. They are always growing, always looking forward.

For them, success is just fuel to improve, and failure is an opportunity to learn and avoid repeat mistakes.

They are relentless when it comes to innovation: they recognize trends, the importance of future generations, and consider how to best position their club to take the opportunity they present.

As golf and particularly private clubs move ever more towards service and experience, the most forward-thinking club managers are tuned into three important things:

  • Continuous investment in the property (and the areas in which to invest)
  • Attracting, training and motivating the right people for their team
  • Perfecting operational execution to create the ultimate experience for members and guests

3) Welcomes accountability

A high performing club manager never waivers when it comes to being accountable and holding oneself to exceptional standards of integrity and honesty.

While moral and ethical accountability is of paramount importance, so too is business accountability.

Successful managers engage in business intelligence and the ability to root decisions in evidence and fact. They embrace performance targets, and motivate their team to meet them.

More broadly, outstanding club managers welcome the existence of a strategic plan to determine the direction of travel, underpin all that they do, and provide a vision for the future they can unite the entire club behind.

To perform such a complex and varied role, a club manager will need an armory of attributes – not just three. But these traits should serve as a good foundation for what it takes to be an outstanding private club manager and help to safeguard your club from choosing the wrong candidate.

Recovering from the missteps of inadequate leadership can be an enormous burden, so if your club needs guidance in the recruitment of a new club manager or leader, please connect with me for an informal discussion.

Connect with Patrick DeLozier

Looking Outside the Boardroom

Board members are an important source of experience and knowledge. But when making strategic decisions on the future direction of the club, that expertise can easily be hampered by a lack of access to valuable data and actionable information.

GGA’s Bennett DeLozier explains how to connect your board with the critical insights they need from outside the boardroom.

Scenario: you’re a manager, it’s sunny, you’re in a board meeting, fluorescent lights buzz overhead.  The group is brainstorming capital improvement projects ahead of next season.  The topics of budget, capital reserves, assessments, competitor offerings, and attracting new members swirl around the room.

Someone claims that what members “really want” are new amenities, another counters that new amenity supporters are mostly younger members in restricted categories, a third comments on the price of dues for this group.  Opinions begin to diverge on membership pricing, someone mentions member satisfaction, people start using the word ‘should’, and a healthy, productive conversation turns to conjecture.

In this situation, a common reference point can bring everyone back on task. You’re confident you probably have data points on all of these topics somewhere in your office or in your inbox.  You’re scrolling, scrolling.  Before long, the meeting adjourns with decisions on hold, and you leave with a list of research tasks and staff projects to tackle in advance of the next one.

Board Members Need Information

While this scenario may be an overdramatization, it’s not terribly uncommon.  This is what happens when intelligent, capable people face important decisions without actionable information.  It deters strategic thinking and is taxing for the manager and staff.

Board members are usually smart, business-oriented people and they expect to have empirical discussions just as they have done in their own line of work.  Their job is to strategize, and a strategy is only as good as the information which informs it.

The most effective club managers gather, consolidate and deliver a war chest of information to the boardroom in order to facilitate better, easier, and quicker decisions.

The Right Kind of Data

A word of caution: not all data is good data and managers are wise to beware the data ‘dump’.  So, what does the right kind of data look like?

  • Data that is current. In a perfect world, the provision is real-time data and predictive analytics.  Data should be updated as frequently as possible and be on-hand for timely, relevant insight before annual planning exercises and performance monitoring activities take place.  In some markets, data that is 12 months old is out of date.
  • Data that comes from multiple sources. A combination of internal club data and external market data are required to be informed at both a micro and macro level.  Data from the club’s management and point-of-sale systems or reports from department heads alone doesn’t cut it.
  • Data that is useable. In presentations and speaking engagements we’ll often joke about the graveyard for strategic plans: in a three-ring binder on your credenza collecting dust.  Cheeky, but true.  Data should be readily available and accessible in a digestible manner.  Having to look for it, go get it, wait for it, or set-aside-15-minutes-for-everyone-to-skim it usually means your data isn’t seaworthy.
  • Data that works for you. Transferring the right kind of data to your board requires you to have a framework for gathering, analyzing, and succinctly documenting all the research and information that is Your data framework should not create more work for you. In other words, you need technology to gather, centralize, and process that information into synthesized insights.

What kind of information do boards want?

They want consolidated internal data to inform them about the club’s financial and operational performance, as well as member satisfaction, habits, preferences, and attitudes.  They want external data which informs them about competitive offerings, prevailing market trends, industry standards, and helps them contextualize the club’s performance relative to others.

Most importantly, they want to know about progress – where the club is now relative to where it needs to be or where members want it to be.

Why don’t boards have this type of information?

Simple. Because their manager hasn’t given it to them.  Usually the manager hasn’t given it to them for really good reasons: they don’t have the time, resources, money, or – in some cases – the culture to support data-driven decision-making.

To be clear, managers should not be expected to have the ability to answer every question which comes their way.  However, they should be expected to successfully guide the process of strategic decision-making at their club.  Here are six tips to make you more efficient and effective at connecting your board with critical insights:

  1. Survey members on satisfaction every year, if not more regularly. Be deliberate and selective with attitudinal surveys, capital improvement surveys, and club votes, but be adamant about doing a satisfaction survey every year.
  2. Know your market inside and out, literally. Knowing your internal market means helping your board know the club’s performance and members.  Knowing your external market means keeping your board apprised of competitors, industry standards, trends, and best practices.
  3. Maintain a constant grasp on the state of your club’s operational and financial data. Being able to reference, provide, or recite details about the club’s finances and operating performance is one of the most effective ways to enhance your command presence in the boardroom.
  4. Keep your data organized and ready to go on short notice. Get yourself in a position where you’re prepared to deliver an informed response to any questions which come your way or threaten to derail a productive discussion.
  5. Report on performance metrics before you’re asked. Be proactive about regularly updating your board on current status, changes, and evolutions within the club.  As the saying goes, they don’t know what they don’t know.
  6. Build upon your data and monitor how it changes over time. This will provide your board with a sense of progress and will serve as a powerful cache of information when it comes time for your annual performance evaluation.

The Dreaded C-Word

Let’s face it: soliciting independent, expert advice can sometimes be felt as an admission of inadequacy. However, the power of a third-party evaluation is something that can benefit almost any business – when selected carefully.

GGA’s EMEA Partner Rob Hill looks at the challenges and the benefits of employing an external consultant, how to select the right one, and what value a club should expect to gain from the relationship.

For many of us there’s an inherent discomfort in asking for help or support. It can often feel like an admission of being incapable of fulfilling particular aspects of your role.

But the truth is, an external vantage point can deliver an alternative assessment and different solutions to a club’s challenges – something that can be very difficult to accomplish from within.

If it’s a choice between sitting in silence (while your business plateaus) or seeking help, the latter is the only option.

A fresh perspective

Enter the consultant. The individual who is touted to have the answers to your questions, the vision you need to realize your club’s long-term sustainable future, the source of support and guidance you have been craving.

While this should be the function of the consultant, the delivery often falls short. And this is why distrust of consultants is not uncommon.

For some club leaders or board members this distrust is only a perception, for others it stems from direct experience of having achieved disappointing results with the support of consultants in the past.

Whatever the reason, skepticism looms large.

Demystifying the truth

So how do you go about finding the right consultant? How do you peel back the image to reveal their genuine credentials and potential fit to work with you?

Their previous work is a good place to start.

Ask for a broad assortment of references, testimonials and examples of work previously executed at other clubs, preferably those of a similar profile and standing. This will help you to establish a clear picture of whether they could be a valuable source of guidance.

Supplement this with online research. Websites, LinkedIn, social media and web searches are all effective channels to help you learn more about your prospective partner and ensure you have carried out your due diligence before entering into an agreement.

Reminding yourself why

Now that you have assessed a number of candidates, it can be useful to take a step back and remind yourself of the reasons behind seeking help and what additional value you are hoping a consultant can bring to your club.

While each club has its own unique set of challenges, the following is a broad set of attributes a prospective consultant should bring to the table:

  • Knowledge of a wealth of best practices and tactical advantages that can benefit club leaders (who typically have limited exposure to current trends in club strategy, leadership and operations).
  • An impartial perspective and the ability to generate new ideas you may not have already considered for your club.
  • The ability to translate often complex problems and proposed solutions in clear-cut, actionable detail.

Making the first move

Once all parties agree and the decision to employ a consultant is made, club leaders should begin by producing a clearly stated brief for what is needed and what the club is looking to achieve.

Typically, it will be up to the club manager to connect with and fully inform the candidates of the circumstances as well as the needs and expectations of the club. This will allow the consultants to develop an appropriate, tailored and effective proposal from which you can select the best candidate.

Extracting value

The key role of a consultant is to help you achieve those results that you are less likely to accomplish without the outside help, and these should be clearly laid out as the foundation and benchmark of the relationship from the outset.

What other ways should club leaders generally benefit from the relationship?

  • Provision of simple, practical guidance often derived from complex information and detail. Theory is inadequate to a club leader’s needs.
  • A clear roadmap indicating how long the consultant will need to be involved, a definition of the right goals and milestones for progress, and an outline of the specific results that will equate to a successful project outcome.
  • The ability to lean on an independent and objective source of guidance to protect the best business interests of the club.

So, while turning to an outsider can present an internal challenge, and must always be undertaken with a careful and strategic approach. Working with the right strategy consultant can pave a path for growth and success for your club that you might otherwise not achieve without that clear, focused outside perspective.

Patrick DeLozier, former COO at The Alotian Club, Joins Global Golf Advisors as Director

DeLozier to lead the firm’s Executive Search services in the United States

TORONTO, Ontario – Global Golf Advisors (GGA), the leading authority on successful ownership and management practices for golf and private club businesses, has announced that renowned private club manager Patrick DeLozier has joined the firm’s United States Executive Search team as a Director.

As a Director with GGA, Patrick specializes in Executive Search solutions and contributes his immense expertise to GGA’s Strategy and Operations consulting assignments.  “Modern requirements and expectations of club managers are more demanding than ever before,” explained DeLozier.  “We at GGA are proud to support superior clubs and resorts around the world in sourcing the very best executive and leadership talent.”

In the United States, Patrick will continue building upon the market-leading Executive Search practice GGA has established within Canada and executed on behalf of select international clients.  Derek Johnston, a partner in the Global Golf Advisors Toronto office, provided insight into the firm’s search services, “Our mission in Executive Search is to help our clients build exceptional leadership and management teams, and to support the industry’s elite performers in sourcing roles of significant influence.”

As a firm with a truly global reach, GGA’s Executive Search services are distinguished by vast connections among the industry’s elite leaders and most revered club properties, as well as the wealth of knowledge and expertise which GGA brings for both search clients and placement candidates.

GGA’s deep industry and contextual knowledge affords unique insight into the business requirements and local conditions that can affect both clients and candidates.  Clients of the firm get access to the very latest research and information on markets, talent availability, and candidate expectations.

GGA maintains a curriculum of continued professional development education and training comparable to professional education standards.  GGA search clients receive executive-level and boardroom coaching in the primary disciplines that enable powerful organizations – strategy, governance, innovation, and ethics are among categorical imperatives taught and nurtured by GGA Executive Search, which uses a holistic approach to aligning the board and the executive.

“I join the GGA team with great humility and enthusiasm,” said Patrick DeLozier, “the firm’s wide-ranging service disciplines and authoritative industry expertise enhance the search process for elite club executives.  GGA is able to source an array of candidate options while ensuring that those candidates are well-equipped with the tools they need to succeed in the boardroom.”

Patrick joins GGA in 2019 to expand on what has already been an illustrious career in the private club industry.  GGA clients benefit from Patrick’s robust network within the club management community, reaping the rewards of his intimate knowledge of club management roles, responsibilities, and challenges.

Most recently, Patrick was the Chief Operating Officer at The Alotian Club, an ultra-exclusive private club owned by Warren Stephens, who Patrick continues to serve as a Special Advisor. In 2016 he was recognized among Arkansas’ Top-40-Under-40 for his successful leadership at The Alotian Club.

As the Chief Operating Officer, General Manager, and Club Manager at several of the nation’s most esteemed and prestigious clubs, Patrick brings a deep understanding of private club operations to GGA.

He began his golf industry career with the Myers Park Country Club in Charlotte, North Carolina, working as Food and Beverage Manager from 2001 to 2005.  Patrick then served as Club Manager for six years at the Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia, home to the Masters, before joining the Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, as General Manager and Chief Operating Officer.

Through Patrick’s active involvement in national associations and contributions to a growing list of state boards, committees, and volunteer organizations, he not only understands club managers but has become recognized as a servant leader among them, known as a trustworthy and reliable advocate for their success in club management.

About GGA

Global Golf Advisors (GGA) has provided industry-leading advisory services to more than 3,000 clients worldwide including private clubs, hotels, resorts, residential golf communities, developers, homebuilders, government agencies and municipalities, financial institutions, investors and lenders.  Operating out of three global offices in Toronto, Phoenix, and Dublin, GGA is a highly specialized consulting firm focused on club and leisure related assets with a professional services heritage as the KPMG Golf Industry Practice.  The firm’s expertise lies in its ability to effectively meld club management and operational expertise with highly capable professional strategists and experienced business analysts. GGA personnel include former club managers with experience leading exceptional clubs, along with alumni of Arthur Andersen, Deloitte, KPMG, Pulte Homes, PwC, and Scotiabank Global Banking and Markets. For more information, please visit www.globalgolfadvisors.com.

Media Contact

Derek Johnston, Partner at Global Golf Advisors
djohnston@globalgolfadvisors.com
905-726-0701

Patrick DeLozier, Director at Global Golf Advisors
pdelozier@globalgolfadvisors.com
501-258-2911

Menu