Executive Search: General Manager/COO for La Crosse Country Club

                   

General Manager/Chief Operating Officer
La Crosse Country Club
 Onalaska, WI

The Club

The La Crosse Country Club, located in Onalaska, offers country club services and programs to members in the Western Wisconsin area.

The centerpiece of this family-centric facility is the 7,181-yard Arthur Hill-designed golf course occupying two separate valleys among the rolling hills of Emerald Valley along with a spacious practice facility. Beyond golf, members can choose from a variety of other activities to entertain the entire family. The tennis center features five courts, including a stadium option with Nova ProBounce and pickleball. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, members and their families take advantage of fun in the sun at the Club’s main pool and the family pool. When it is time for a meal, members have four options including the Main dining room, Grill room, Mulligan’s bar and at the cabana bar and patio.

The Club does a robust event business and is known as a premier wedding venue available to members and non-members year-round. The elegant facility, which features both indoor and outdoor space, is available to host up to 250 guests and the experienced professional staff has a reputation for taking care of every detail.

Club Overview

  • Members – 436
  • Initiation Fee – $5,000
  • Annual Dues – $7,015
  • Gross Volume – $4.2 million
  • Total Annual Dues – $2 million
  • F&B Volume – $1.2 million
  • Gross Payroll – $1.9 million
  • Employees – 104
  • Board Members – 9
  • Average age of members – 36

The General Manager/Chief Operating Officer Position

The General Manager/Chief Operating Officer manages all aspects of the club including its activities and the relationships between the club and its Board of Directors, members, guests, employees, community, government, and industry. The GM/COO coordinates and administers the club’s policies as defined by its Board of Directors, develops operating policies, procedures and directs the work of all department managers. Additional duties include the implementation and monitoring of the budget, the Club’s products and services and maximization of member and guest satisfaction. The GM/COO must also secure and protect the club’s assets, including all facilities and equipment.

Primary Responsibilities:

  • Leads the senior management team to maintain and improve the member experience and foster a unified team culture. Builds strong teams by motivating staff and leading by example. Provides direction and expectations, continuous performance feedback and recognition that leads to positive outcomes to enhance member experiences through inspiring department managers and employees. Exhibits leadership skills in team building, employee motivation and service training while promoting employee well-being. Respectful and professional in all interpersonal dealings.
  • Properly manages all aspects of the Club’s activities to ensure the highest quality standards for food, beverage, sports and recreation, entertainment, and other Club services. Reviews and initiates programs to provide members with a variety of popular events.
  • Coordinate the development and execution of the club’s long-range and annual operational plans to achieve the club’s mission.
  • Prepare comprehensive operating plans and budgets, obtain approval from the board, and operate in accordance with approved budgets. Maintain a long-term capital budget to assure the sustained material condition of all physical assets of the club.
  • Plan, develop and approve specific operational policies, programs, procedures, methods, rules, and regulations in concert with board-approved policies.
  • Work with board-established committees to ensure they are well-supported and operate in accordance with approved policies and directives.
  • Performs competitive analyses of Clubs and other businesses providing member alternatives through personal observations and historical reports. Provide the board and committees with relevant information on trends and developments.
  • Oversee security, risk management, and health and safety programs to implement and manage measures put in place to protect members, employees, staff, and club physical assets.
  • Maintain clear, consistent dialogue with the board and develop a comprehensive communication program to keep appropriate constituents apprised of club operations, member satisfaction, and financial performance.
  • Operate the club in accordance with all applicable local, state, and federal laws. Ensure compliance with regulatory and other governmental agencies that have oversight of various club assets and operations.
  • Perform other duties and functions the board may direct that are consistent with this job description.

Direct Reports:

  • Controller
  • Director of Events
  • Golf Course Superintendent
  • Head Golf Professional
  • Director of Food and Beverage
  • Executive Assistant

Candidate Profile:

The successful candidate should possess the following core competencies, experiences, and attributes.

Leadership:

  • Ability to define a simple and understandable vision of success for the management team.
  • See the big picture, take stock, identify problems/needs, and conceptualize solutions/strategies.
  • Focus on the essentials, attend to detail, and follow through on decisions.
  • Attract and develop a strong and supportive management team capable of ensuring a smooth transfer of responsibility when tasks are delegated.
  • Demonstrate a strong member satisfaction ethic and to interact with the membership in a frequent and friendly manner.
  • Manage day-to-day pressures and maintain a healthy and positive culture.

Communication:

  • Excellent written and verbal, timely communications to appropriate constituents.
  • Encourages two-way communication from all stakeholders alike.

Service Excellence:

  • Experience as a senior leader at a private members club or other similar top tier facility, with an understanding of what it means to provide a premium member experience and a passion for delivering it.

Financial/Business Acumen:

  • Knowledge and understanding of business and financial acumen, both from an operational and a strategic perspective.
  • Strong understanding of private club governance and ability to implement strategic club initiatives.

Candidate Qualifications:

  • A minimum of 7 years of progressive leadership and management experience in a private club, hospitality, and leisure environment.
  • A bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university, preferably in Hospitality Management or Business preferred.
  • Certified Club Manager (CCM) or in active pursuit of designation preferred.

Note: A pre-employment background check will be required.

Compensation

The successful applicant will receive an attractive compensation package commensurate with experience and qualifications along with a comprehensive health benefits plan and retirement savings matching program.

Inquiries

IMPORTANT: Interested candidates should submit resumes along with a detailed cover letter which addresses the qualifications and describes your alignment/experience with the prescribed position by Friday, May 12, 2023.

Documents must be saved and emailed in Word or PDF format (save as “Last Name, First Name, La Crosse GM/COO Cover Letter” and “Last Name, First Name, La Crosse GM/COO Resume”) respectively to: execsearchus@ggapartners.com. Please e-mail resume with references.

Lead Search Executives

Michael Gregory
Managing Director & Partner
GGA Partners™
michael.gregory@ggapartners.com

Dee Anna Clarke
Director
GGA Partners™
deeanna.clarke@ggapartners.com

For more information about La Crosse Country Club, please visit www.lacrossecountryclub.com.

5 Tips for “Yes” in Your Capital Call Communications

People fear change when they don’t understand the reason for it. And when they don’t understand the reason, they resist it.

In our work related to capital investment communications, we find that the vast majority of private club members understand and accept that it is their duty to leave their club better than they found it, with the caveat that the investment they are being asked to make is reasonable and necessary.

While obtaining a positive vote for your upcoming assessment is not guaranteed, getting members to say yes to being assessed can be much more achievable by following these 5 guidelines:

1. Communicate the Need

One of the keys to achieving a positive assessment vote outcome is to clearly communicate the need for the proposed upgrades. Whether your irrigation system is past its useful life and now costs more to maintain than replace or your casual dining area cannot service the demand or still has 1980’s decor, it is important to educate members about the need for the upgrades as well as the benefits that members will receive from them.

2. Engage Members in the Process 

Gone are the days when new amenities being proposed were based on the desires of a board member or two. Today, board members and management teams have adopted a more strategic approach to determining investments needed to ensure their club’s continued success. Club leaders are apt to rely on member surveys and focus groups as the starting point to understanding the need and the desire for capital improvements. It is a good first step, but not the only one. The most effective club leaders prepare preliminary plans and drawings with the understanding that once members have a chance to review the information, there will likely be a need for changes. We encourage clubs to present the plans in multiple meetings with small groups of members. This allows the facilitator to engage each member to hear questions and comments. This method allows the facilitator to control the flow of the meeting and ensure that one or two members are not monopolizing the meeting. Once all meetings have been completed, a recap of the key takeaways should be shared with all members.

3. Don’t Rush the Process 

Typically, the reaction to the introduction of major capital improvements and the associated assessment will be quite mixed. At GGA, we typically find that 20% of members will fully embrace the upgrades and 20% will be adamantly opposed to the plan. The remaining 60% need time to process the information and become comfortable with the prospect of the changes to the club and their budgets. That’s why it is vital to allow time for members to process the information, become comfortable with the plan and consider how it will benefit them. If you rush to a vote, there is a good chance the level of support needed will not be achieved. But if you take the time to communicate how you are addressing member concerns, answer member questions, provide plan updates, then ask for support, you will have a much greater chance of getting to that “yes” vote.

4. Develop an Equitable Payment Plan

The most senior members at clubs are least receptive to paying a lump sum assessment, using the argument that they will be paying for something they will not be able to enjoy for long. To ensure the capital improvement payment plan is not the deterrent to support, many clubs have moved to a “pay as you go” program whereby a small portion of the total assessment is paid in a lump sum, but the remaining assessment amount is paid monthly or semi-annually over three to five years. Not only does this payment option make it more manageable for all members, it also shows that those who will be enjoying it for years to come will assume more of the burden of paying for the plan.  

5. Bring Members Along on the Journey

Just like you, members are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information that bombards them every day, which means that your capital investment communications need to work harder than ever to break through the clutter. Efforts to keep members informed along the journey to improve their experience should carry a consistent theme, be repetitive and as short as possible.

A clear, consistent communications plan to educate and engage your members in the process of planning your capital improvements will ensure that fear is not the deciding factor of your club’s future.

Interested in learning about GGA’s Capital Call Communications services?

If you would like to learn more about how we can help your club execute a capital call, please contact us.

The Art of Influence – Executive Presence in the Boardroom

What do people think when you walk into a room, open your mouth to speak, or engage with others? Are they excited for what is about to happen? How do they see you, and how do they experience you? What happens as a result of your presence?

Senior leaders are increasingly discussing Executive Presence – what it is and how to have more of it. No matter how you define it, it has much to do with how we influence others.  To be clear, Executive Prescence is not about how many followers you have on your social profiles but rather, how you connect, communicate, care, and impact others.

In his recent book, “The Gift of Influence”, Tommy Spaulding reveals how we can be more mindful and effective in wielding influence throughout a lifetime of connecting with others. He outlines research that suggests the average person will influence up to 80,000 people in their lifetime – about the size of a football stadium. He suggests that “If you commit to living a life of positive influence, you will never look at your personal and professional relationships the same way again.” “Leadership is not about influence. It is influence.”

Influence has everything to do with leading in the boardroom, the staff room, and beyond. Here are some considerations on how to elevate your presence, your influence and your life.

Trust – The Strongest Foundation

All relationships start and end with trust. Think about the best board relationship of your career or greatest team you have ever been a part of. What was the level of trust?

If you want to build trust with others, make sure you are trustworthy yourself as well as trusting of others. This doesn’t mean establishing blind trust without questioning. It means that we always have the intention of trust.

Years ago, author Stephen Covey likened trust to an emotional bank account. As with a real bank account, we want the balance to be at its highest. And so, it is true with a trust account. When the balance is high, the relationship is easy, more productive, and positive influence occurs. On the other hand, a low trust account breeds an environment of fear, a lack of engagement, negative influence and limited results.

Ensure you are making more deposits than withdrawals into your trust account with others: Be upfront. Be clear with your intentions. Do what you say you will do. Find the answers. Show you care. Acknowledge others.

Communication – A Main Ingredient

Most great influencers are extraordinary communicators. They understand that the words they say are powerful, and the way they say them is even more.  They get to the point – and they have one! Brevity and clarity are their style. They say what they mean and mean what they say. They speak with good intentions. They have the good of the other person and the organization in mind, not themselves. A great communicator uses the language of vision and possibility.

In the leadership development practice, we have a saying “Say Less. Ask More.” The best leaders exercise the skill of listening more and speaking less. They are curious. They don’t have all the answers and genuinely seek them out. They ask powerful questions that engage others, explore solutions, and bring about growth. The focus shifts to others, not themselves.

A positive influencer also knows how their body language and voice add to or detract from their impact. They are purposeful yet speak with integrity and authenticity. They read the room, they remain calm under pressure, and they connect and engage others. Their eye contact, facial expressions and gestures are appropriately warm and powerful at the same time. They influence.

Humility – If You Don’t Have It, Find It

No question, you need to be competent in your role, but do you need to be the smartest person in the room?

Positive influencers own their competence, yet never let their competence own them.

The most purposeful leaders have the gift of humility. They let the results speak. They always give credit where it is due. They show up as competent, kind, caring leaders, and they often get amazing results. Their reputation speaks for itself, without their own input. They are keenly self-aware and always learning and growing.

Are you aware of how you “land” with others? Do you speak the language of team or individual?   What message are you trying to send? Be acutely aware.

The great news about executive presence and influence is that they are learned skills. Start where you are. Dive in. Get feedback from those that you trust. Acquire some training or coaching. Change some habits and see how your positive influence soars – in the boardroom and beyond.

Interested in learning more about GGA’s Leadership Development and Coaching services? Contact our team.

Inflationary Impacts on Budgeting

Since 2012, the Federal Reserve has targeted a 2% inflation rate for the US economy; however, recent inflation rates are currently hovering closer to 6%, after averaging 8% in 2022.

These ever-fluctuating inflationary rates are felt deeply in clubs, who are heavily impacted by increases to personnel costs as well as food and beverage and other key supply purchases.  Club leaders are expecting continued high inflationary increases to key departmental expense budgets, including expected increases of 7.3% to payroll expenses and 6.2% to non-payroll expenses.  

Unlike more traditional industries, where pricing strategies can be more nimble to reflect volatility in costs, clubs are generally bound to operate within the confines of an annual budget cycle, establishing member dues rates once a year and leaving limited flexibility to adapt or react as economic circumstances change within a given period. Clubs get one chance to get it right for the year, and live with the consequences of the assumptions and decisions made during budget-time.

Clubs can be best-prepared to addressing these inflationary challenges by being proactive with their budgeting strategy to validate the inputs, and ensuring that they have a robust communication plan in place to support the outputs.

Understanding the specific factors that will impact budgetary line items is the first step towards creating an effective budget, and the key factor that will impact your ability to clearly communicate any resulting pricing changes. Breaking down the specific inputs which have the most significant impact on overall membership dues, whether that be payroll, cost of goods, or other operating items, and getting a clear line of sight to the factors impacting their increases will allow you to budget effectively and provide an opportunity to communicate those reasons clearly, increasing the likelihood of membership acceptance of the changes. For instance, rather than applying a consistent inflationary rate across all line items, consider the specific regional and cost-specific information that will impact individual line items.

In line with the budget for the year, be sure to prepare a robust communication strategy to prepare members for the upcoming changes. Leverage external data points wherever possible to support the assumptions you are making, and ensure you highlight the wins wherever you can. As the cost of labor goes up, the relative cost of technology to replace that labor goes down. Consider opportunities to leverage technology to supplement / support (not replace) human capital and share that with your membership.

Whether investing in technology to supplement your variable workforce, altering your menu design to improve margin yields, or ensuring that your labor costs are keeping up with regional trends to secure your workforce for the longer-term, the more you can communicate with your membership, the more confidence you can have when it comes time to implement the impact of these changes via dues increases.

Rather than reducing service or programming offerings, the vast majority of clubs have responded to increasing costs by passing along these inflationary increases to their members.  While inflationary pressures are certainly widespread, and members can be expected to be generally receptive to the idea of resulting cost increases, the more diligence that can be demonstrated by management throughout the budget process, the greater the membership buy-in is expected to be, and the less the membership resistance you can expect to hear.

Inflationary impacts are certainly being felt far and wide throughout the industry, and can make club budgeting challenging. Being proactive with your budgeting strategy, knowing how to respond to inflation,  and communicating clearly and effectively with members can help to mitigate effects that result from inflation.

How GGA Partners can help your club address inflation

  • Investigate ways to improve your cash flow.
  • Explore ways to reduce your debt payments.
  • Make suggestions to make your budget more inflation-proof.

Contact us today to discuss how we can help.

Online Voting, Explained

The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated digitization across many sectors, inspiring many to wonder: why didn’t we do things in this way before? This is indeed the case for electronic voting. Many clubs implemented electronic voting, albeit by necessity, to navigate complex challenges brought on by the pandemic. However, electronic voting is still relatively immature within the club industry. If you are curious about electronic voting, we answer five common questions that help to paint a clearer picture of electronic voting.

Why do online voting?

With the option of electronic voting, participation rates traditionally increase. Instead of needing to attend a meeting and fill out a paper ballot, members can access the ballot at home on their computer or at work on their phone. Voting can be completed in minutes and members receive a virtual confirmation assuring them that their vote was tallied. Higher voter turnout means higher levels of engagement among your members, and a simpler democratic process.

If planned properly, online voting can also be much more cost-effective. Your club can save on printing and mailing costs that would not be required through an online platform. It can also allow your club to allocate time and human resources to other areas of club operations.

By moving ballots online, elections are transitioned to a safe and secure platform, used routinely by private organizations and corporations. Online voting allows an ongoing audit trail that virtually eliminates the potential for human error which would not exist with paper ballots.

Online voting is customizable and implementing changes to your election is simple. The online voting system can be set up according to specifications provided by your club. This includes branding the voting website, ballot loading, preparation and loading the list of voters, and managing authentication of voters. When it comes time to vote, a mass email is distributed to all electors with a direct link with unique authentication credentials encrypted into it, making it easy for the member and safe for the club. Once the vote has been completed and the results are analyzed, online voting provides clubs with faster and more accurate tabulation of results, saving the club time and resources. The online platform also allows for further demographic segmentation while maintaining voter anonymity.

Do our bylaws align with online voting?

When first adopting an online vote, many clubs notice that their bylaws make it complicated to shift their voting to an electronic platform. Most clubs’ bylaws were written before the introduction of online voting, and therefore, may not adequately account for it. Just because a club’s bylaws or state statutes do not restrict a club from conducting a vote online, it does not mean their bylaws are optimal for doing online voting. Although many clubs are technically permitted to conduct online voting, their bylaws may prohibit them from doing so in an efficient and logical manner.

Typical barriers and bylaws that may interfere with a smooth online voting process may include:

  • Proxy requirements and the format of the proxies, i.e., general proxies vs. directed proxies.
  • Critical timing requirements and limitations on when proxies can be collected and when voting must occur.
  • Explicit requirements to issue paper notices, ballots, or proxies.
  • Specification of who is authorized to administer, issue, or receive proxies and ballots.

So, what is a club to do?

A change to your bylaws may be required. To successfully implement online voting, advisors can help clubs identify the required changes to their bylaws that are more compatible with online voting.

Who will be responsible for planning the vote?

Elections vendors offer support and guidance on the logistics and technical aspects of how the voting will occur. Votes require strong leaders/leadership team to plan and coordinate various aspects of the vote, such as communicating with members, producing meeting notices and information circular packages that are cohesive with the online voting process. Involving the club’s legal counsel is always advisable to ensure compliance with bylaws, state statues, and any other important requirements.

How should members be prepared for online voting?

It is recommended to initially implement online voting for a ‘low risk’ vote, such as an AGM vote where there are no polarizing motions or elections tabled. Although hybrid votes can be more complex, when they are set up appropriately, they can be a good first step for members to become familiar with the process. For example, in a simple vote with no proxies, members could be mailed a paper ballot or be given the option to vote online. The outcome of how many people elect to vote online vs. by paper can provide you with a good gauge on what your members are comfortable with. You can also observe turnout from other online engagement efforts, such as member surveys.

What vendor or service should I use for online voting?

There are many vendors, each of which excel at different aspects. Important factors to consider when selecting a vendor may include:

  • Budget
  • Structure: whether the vote will be a hybrid vote or exclusively online.
  • Vote requirements: will the voting experience need to be integrated with the technology being used to run the meeting via video?

Ready to implement electronic voting for your next vote?

If you would like to learn more about how electronic voting can help you run successful votes, please get in touch.

Menu