Labor, Capital Spending Top 2022 Budgets

Budgeting for 2022 is complicated by rapidly changing circumstances and market conditions. GGA Partner Henry DeLozier offers insight into areas where budgetary impact will be greatest. 

Budgeting for 2022 is complicated by rapidly changing circumstances and market conditions. For most experienced hands, anticipating changes within their industry and business is far easier than predicting the breadth and depth of the impact the changes will have on their budgets. Here are two significant categories where budgetary impact will be greatest:

1. Labor costs

Historically, the cost of labor and employee benefits represent the largest line item in a golf course’s operational budget. A trend toward a $15-plus per hour minimum wage and desperately low labor supply conditions will only increase the budgetary impact of labor and benefits. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the resulting impacts on labor, two truths are becoming evident:

  • Those clubs and courses that kept staff on the payroll and continued long-term relationships with their employees are being rewarded in two ways. First, those courses are not having to search a tight labor market for replacements. Second, course care and upkeep have been sustained by committed and knowledgeable employees who have a running head start on those clubs that have been forced practically to start over.
  • Working knowledge of your specific course and conditioning expectations promotes a more cost-effective recovery process.

But what if circumstances and decisions beyond your control have forced you into a game of agronomic catch-up? Here are some remedial actions to consider:

  • Update your agronomic plan to state your expectations for course conditioning. New employees need (and want) to understand what is expected of them. Be thorough. Be enthusiastic. Show how much you care.
  • Plan for robust new hire training. Pair experienced hands with newcomers. See that the veterans describe the values and standards of the work to be done with the same clarity and as enthusiastically as teaching the job’s “how to” components. Train the trainers to ensure across-the-board engagement and understanding. Plan daily technical training for your round-up sessions to bring new hires up to speed and promote consistency.
  • Hire veterans. There are approximately 19 million veterans in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. As the increasing number of veterans mustering out of service expands, many trained and mature workers are searching for jobs. Some three-quarters of these veterans saw wartime service. Take the steps to learn more about those who have given so much and see how much they can give to your operation.

2. Capital maintenance

Capital spending for most golf facilities has expanded decidedly as an improving economy loosened purse strings and made more money available for deferred capital maintenance spending. Financial analysts at our firm note that capital spending is up by more than 55 percent at U.S. golf facilities, with most projects focusing on course renovations and restorations of historic designs, greens reconstruction and new bunker projects.

With the upsurge in golf’s popularity in the wake of the pandemic, many facilities have experienced growth in rounds played and membership enrollments. According to Golf Datatech, rounds played in 2020 increased by 13.9 percent over 2019 and through the first quarter of 2021 are up another 24 percent. The increased demand for tee times has given owners and managers new confidence to expand facility spending.

What are the smart moves being made by superintendents? They’re updating capital project rosters and renewing long-awaited requests for capital to upgrade facilities. And they’re not waiting. They’re describing the features and benefits of the intended projects and supporting financial projections with trustworthy third-party analysis.

In these uncommon times, it is important for turf pros to remember the sun does not shine on the same dog’s back every day. Market demand will shift. Access to labor will change. But the self-imposed high standards for most superintendents will remain and the expectations of enthusiastic golfers will expand. Prepare your 2022 budget carefully and with a broader understanding of social, economic and market conditions.

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

Mid-Year Predictions for the Second Half of 2021

At the start of the new year and in the spirit of planning, the thought leaders at GGA Partners sat down to predict what we believed to be coming throughout the year and shared our 2021 Predictions on the Shape of the Next Normal. Now, halfway through 2021 with the spring season in the books and summer underway, we reconvened GGA leaders for a mid-year check-in on predictions for the latter half of the year.

1. Ensuring fair and equitable access to amenities remains top of mind, especially on the golf course

A trending topic throughout the industry is golf’s demand surge and how long it will sustain, much has been written on this point and those who are closely watching rounds played metrics anticipate a clearer reading by the end of the summer.

Stephen Johnston, GGA’s founding partner, expects that private clubs will see the surge continue to elevate rounds played by members which will likely increase issues relating to compaction of tee traffic and accessibility.  He predicts the benchmark regarding average number of rounds per member to be higher by approximately 10% following the pandemic and also increased golf course utilization by members’ spouses and family members.  Both factors will create a greater demand for tee times at private clubs.

Johnston believes some clubs may need to consider permitting round play by fivesomes instead of foursomes, potentially catalyzing logistical challenges such as a greater need for single-rider power carts in order to maintain speed of play at the same rate as foursomes with all players using power carts. For club managers and course operators, this entails an increased need for current and detailed evaluation of the benefits of membership and the relationship between playing privileges and the practical ability to book a tee time and get on-course.

2. Effective demand management is key and will shift from agile, flexible approaches to new operating standards as demand stabilizes

During the pandemic and throughout 2020, many golf, club, and leisure businesses recognized the increased need to more accurately and routinely measure the utilization of amenities, adapting operations management to react quickly to change.

Craig Johnston, head of GGA’s transaction advisory practice, anticipates an evolution in this one-day-at-a-time, agile monitoring approach into a new and more formalized standard of operating procedures.  “At the start of 2021, we said we would see clubs provide flexibility and experiment with various operational changes,” he explained.  “With the pandemic feeling like it’s steadily moving toward the rear-view mirror, members will be expecting clubs to begin instituting the ‘new normal’ operations and the data compiled by clubs in the first half of the year will be critical to deciding on the new normal.”

Johnston believes that membership demand will continue to be strong through the second half of the year and that it is likely utilization will reduce marginally as members begin travelling again for work and social obligations.  Even with a marginal reduction in utilization, demand for private club services will remain strong and will continue to put pressure on capacity and access in most clubs.

Senior Partner Henry DeLozier encourages club and facility operators to embrace short-term continuations of high demand while keeping an eye on the future and the non-zero probability of a demand shift in the coming years.  “Clubs must create pathways to sustain demand while navigating utilization volume.  It is unwise to place hard or irreversible limitations on capacity while clubs are at historic maximums for demand and usage,” cautioned DeLozier. “Clubs will do well to establish a clear understanding of demand and utilization to enable innovative programs which serve to fill periods of low demand in the future.”

3. Ongoing uncertainty about the pandemic’s long-term impact on club finances will increase the review and reevaluation of club financial projections to ensure sustained budget flexibility

While data regarding utilization, participation, and engagement throughout the summer months continues to be captured and consolidated, business leaders should not delay their financial planning and instead get to work on reevaluating finances and updating their future forecasts.

“Now is the time to review, evaluate, and reset club debt levels,” emphasized Henry DeLozier. “Clubs need to recast financial projections based upon elevated joining/initiation fees arising from high demand.”

In support of alacrity in financial planning, DeLozier notes that labor shortages spurred by the pandemic will increase payroll-related costs at a material level. He also predicts that comprehensive risk review is needed at most clubs to evaluate possible impacts arising from cyber-crime and/or declining club revenues during 2022.

Beyond internal shake-ups in utilization or operations, club leaders should be anticipating external impacts that could impact their financial plans.  A hypothetical example raised by DeLozier is if the U.S. economy were to become more inflationary.  In such a circumstance he believes clubs would see an increase in the costs of labor and supplies which would necessitate increases in member dues and fees, a deceleration of new-member enrollments as consumer confidence dips, and a slight slow-down in housing demand.

Right now, uncertainty remains with respect to the virus as well as the resulting economic impact from the pandemic. From a financial standpoint, clubs will do well to advance their forward planning while retaining budget elasticity.  “It will be imperative for clubs and boards to build flexibility into their budgets and agility into their operations,” added Craig Johnston.

4. Existing governance practices, policies, and procedures will be revisited, refurbished, and reinvigorated

A litany of new ways of operating and governing the club arose as a result of the pandemic, some of which suggest an efficacy that can be sustained in a post-pandemic environment.  Essential to assimilating these adaptions into new standards of procedure is a review of existing governance practices and the documentation which supports them.

“At a time when boards can measure the full range of financial performance metrics, updating club governing documents is a primary board responsibility,” noted Henry DeLozier.  “Board room succession planning must be formalized to prepare clubs for the inevitable downturn from record high utilization.”

In considering the nearly overnight adoption of technology tools to enable remote meetings and board-level deliberations, partner Michael Gregory noted a substantial increase in the use of technology tools that go beyond virtual Zoom meetings.  “The pandemic has allowed clubs to test online voting,” he explained.  “For many clubs, once things return to normal, their bylaws won’t allow for the continued execution of online voting unless they make changes.”

“We have seen the adoption and implementation of online voting to be a huge success for the clubs who have tried it for the first time,” said Gregory. “Members love it, it’s easy, it’s convenient, it leads to higher participation from the membership, and many clubs are in the process of changing their governing documents to allow for online voting as a result.”  The challenges and opportunities of employing online voting are detailed in our piece on taking club elections digital, which features a downloadable resource that can be shared among club boards.

5. In human resources, expect to see deeper reevaluations of compensation structures and employee value propositions

Weighing in from across the pond, Rob Hill, partner and managing director of GGA’s EMEA office in Dublin, predicts that club leaders will face bigger challenges in human resources throughout the remainder of 2021.

The first of three particular items he called out is a reevaluation of compensation.  “Making decisions about employee pay is among the biggest challenges facing club leaders in the wake of the coronavirus shutdown,” stated Hill. “As they begin compensation planning for the rest of the year and into 2022, these leaders not only have to consider pay levels, but also the suitability of their mission and operating model to thrive in a post-pandemic world.”

Citing his recent experiences in the European market, Hill shared that club leaders are challenged with finding new ways to operate smarter and more efficiently, while also looking for innovative ways to implement sturdy, low-cost solutions that their employees will love.  Which leads to his second point, that there will be a renewed emphasis on what employees love and how clubs, as employers, can provide an enhanced value proposition for their employees.

“As employees get back to work onsite, employers are finding that what their people value from the employment relationship has changed,” Hill explained.  “Where pay has been viewed as largely transactional in the past, clubs may need to provide new types of benefits, especially programs that provide more flexibility, financial security, and empowerment to retain and motivate their people.”

Lastly, there is likely to be considerable movement of talent over the coming year brought on by employees’ new work-life ambitions and financial imperatives, said Hill, “As demand for their skills and experience grows, the very best talent will seek out employers that demonstrate they view employees not as costs but as assets and reflect this in their approach to compensation.”

Recalling our start-of-year prediction that the movement of people and relocation of companies will reshape markets, partner Craig Johnston added, “The relocation of people continues to be a prominent trend and one that is likely to continue in the second half of the year.”  For club employers, it’s not just the changing physical locations which impact the cost and supply of labor, but also the expectations of employees as they seek out competitive new roles and work experiences.

6. The repurposing and reimagining of club facilities, amenities, and member-use areas will continue

The pandemic pushed to the fore the need for clubs to adapt their facilities to match changes in the ways members use and enjoy their clubs.  A combination of practical evolutions for health and safety and circumstantial evolutions drawn from widespread ability for members to work remotely created increased desire for clubs to offer more casual outdoor dining options and spaces to enable members to conduct work while at the club.

Partner Stephen Johnston believes these sentiments will continue to near-term facility improvements at clubs.  “With more flexibility in the workplace and members working from home periodically, there will be a need at the club for members to do work or take calls before their tee time or their lunch date,” he said.  “It has been evident for some time that members generally prefer to enjoy outdoor dining and since, throughout the pandemic, it has become apparent that guests draw greater comfort in outdoor experiences, I see a greater demand for outside patio and food and beverage service.”

As society begins to reopen and communities begin to stabilize, time can only tell precisely how clubs will continue to evolve their operations, whether that be scaling back pandemic-relevant operations or doubling-down on new services and efficiencies.  Evident in our work with clients are significant efforts to reorganize club leaders, reevaluate operations, and retool plans for a successful future in the new normal.  Here are a few highlights of efforts clubs are making for the next normal:

 

  • Reinvigoration of governance processes and engagement of leaders to ensure alignment between boards and club strategic plans.
  • Renewed surveying of members to keep a pulse on how sentiments have changed from pre-pandemic, during pandemic, and currently as communities stabilize.
  • Enhanced adoption and application of electronic voting as clubs reevaluate membership structures, governing documents, and operating policies amidst “displaced” members.
  • Reconfiguring of budgets, capital plans, and long-range financial models.
  • Refinement and advancement of membership marketing strategies, tactics, and materials.
  • Tightening relationships between facility planning, capital improvements, and member communications campaigns.

Constantly Thinking About Budgets

With most 2021 budgets prepared and submitted, many golf course superintendents and their managers are reviewing and updating agronomic plans for the coming year. A sound agronomic plan is a living document that must anticipate upcoming conditions and respond to emerging circumstances. In volatile times, certain constants must be considered. Let’s evaluate some of those constants in the context of today’s conditions and challenges and see how they might affect budgets.

Constants

Certain irrevocable factors influence the proper care and upkeep of golf facilities with budgets leading the list. Your budget is the mathematical “North Star” on which you steer your performance. It’s also a measure of your intentions. One superintendent summarized his budget by saying, “You can run but cannot hide from your budget, so you might as well pick it up and run with it.” In other words, dig into the process and learn to deal with the variables.

For 2021, here are several budget guidelines to understand:

  • Most planners expect a choppy year ahead. Set aside funds for the unexpected events that will emerge and keep your powder dry.
  • Plan for three categories of expense. Fixed expenses for such budget overhead requirements as utilities and equipment leases are unlikely to change, although careful budget managers ask for relief on such fixed costs through abatements or forgiveness that may help to stretch budgeted resources. Second, labor costs will ebb and flow as impacts from COVID-19 and closures of club facilities will place irregular demands on labor dollars. Give yourself some room to maneuver. Third, discretionary needs will emerge as fellow managers and golfers seek new solutions to new problems. So be prepared.
  • New ideas and methods introduce new solutions for labor and overhead costs. Be alert and watch for new and innovative possibilities that make your work eventful and add purpose to your accomplishments.
  • Changing weather patterns demand that golf course operators become better informed and more proactive in planning care and upkeep practices. While much of your work is influenced by changing weather conditions, superintendents know to rely on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for accurate weather pattern forecasts that help them more accurately plan and schedule their maintenance practices.
  • Golfers’ expectations continue to escalate. You can count on golfers wanting “more and better,” which means course managers are always searching for process and results improvements. For 2021, golfers’ expectations include enhanced sanitation and clearing of on-course comfort stations, golf carts and practice range equipment. Next year will demand sustainable care and upkeep standards despite irregular resources that may be interrupted by supply chain and budgetary limitations.

Upcoming Conditions

Course managers must anticipate changes being introduced for labor management and workers’ expectations. Such changes as reducing the number of workers exposed to one another is requiring managers to divide crews and adjust shifts. Your team’s protection is vital.

Changing climatic circumstances requires enhanced emergency preparations. Consider your clean-air, fire and immediate-notice evacuation plans for workers and affiliated departments. Your liability insurance carriers are a good starting point for collecting guidance, as are emergency preparedness agencies in your vicinity.

Emerging Circumstances

Develop your short list of resources on which you will draw for new threats and opportunities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health are examples of resources on which you can rely. The coming year will reveal new problems, challenges and circumstances with which golf course managers must reckon.

Emergency services professionals, such as your local health care, water supply and cyber-security experts, are valuable resources on which you can call. Beyond your club’s insurer, call on fire and police experts to provide guidance in planning ahead.

This article was authored by Henry DeLozier for Golf Course Industry magazine

Plotting for Budgetary Triumphs

GGA Partner Henry DeLozier offers 5 tips to help golf course superintendents obtain the resources they need to meet expectations.

The budget cycle is complete at most golf facilities for the 2020 calendar year. If your budget was approved and you received the allocation you hoped for, congratulations. But if you feel a lack of funding puts your plan for staffing, course conditioning and maintenance in jeopardy, you might need a different approach to the next budget cycle. Here are five steps to consider when planning your budget.

1. Identify the Gatekeeper.

There is often one person who sets the tone for the next year’s budget. It’s normally the controller or accounting manager; in private clubs, it may be the chair of the finance committee. This person sets the minimum standards for the budget, and he or she must be educated and kept informed regarding your priorities and needs. Research the background experience of the gatekeeper so you understand the perspective from which he or she considers budget requests. Take the time well ahead of the budgeting period to ensure that this key player understands what is needed and the extent to which you have gone to manage costs.

2. Understand the Budgeting Process.

Many golf courses and clubs use different budgeting processes, sequences and schedules for development, planning and decision-making. Make sure you understand the expectations for your role, and then work diligently to exceed them by providing background and support information ahead of schedule. Understand how your club handles budgeting and who the decision-makers are. Meet with them to explain your needs and priorities. Explore and learn their viewpoints concerning your budget needs and how they evaluate your problem-solving. Help them to know how much thought and planning you have given their viewpoints.

3. Plan Ahead of the Process.

Schedule quarterly budget-planning meetings with the gatekeeper and key influencers of your budget submittal. Inform them fully of your needs for the next budget year, answer their questions and demonstrate your commitment to their preferences and needs. Invite them into your operation so they may judge for themselves your organization and methods of management. They need to understand that you are efficient and diligent with the funds for which you are responsible.

4. Organize Your Roster of Priorities.

Knowing the viewpoints of the gatekeeper and influencers involved in your budget helps you prepare your list of your priorities. Be concise in stating your game plan and the rationale behind your requests. Support each proposed budget line item with incremental details for costs per unit of measure and the number of units required. Show all the facts and figures that support your needs. Your objective is to ensure that the gatekeeper understands the due diligence and conscientious approach that went into your request, which will increase their confidence in the validity of your request.

5. Educate the Influencers.

Prepare individualized budget discussions with influencers. Schedule one-on-one meetings with each person who will have a voice in approving your budget. Persuade one influencer at a time until you have met with each of them and gotten their buy-in. See that you understand their viewpoints and biases. Once you fully understand the individuals, evaluate the group thinking to which you must respond.

By understanding the budget influencers’ priorities and then presenting your credentials in an organized and well-researched fashion, you’re well on your way to getting the decision you want and the budget that will help you do your job more effectively.

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

Protecting Against Project Mythology

Anyone taking on projects great or small during 2019 might consider a lesson from Phidias, the Greek sculptor, painter and architect.  Phidias is best known for his statue of Zeus, the king of the ancient gods.  However, it was his creation of the statues on the frieze of the Parthenon, the temple of the gods in Athens, from which we can draw an important lesson on project planning and management.

Phidias’s bill for his work on the heroic-scale statues was initially declined.  The bursar of Athens said that the statues should have been created in a front-only perspective, instead of Phidias’s 360-degree perspective, because the statues would be placed well above eye level and citizens would see only the front view.  Phidias replied, “The gods will know.” And his bill was paid.

Every project you plan and execute this year, whether a new swimming pool, the replacement of sand bunkers or a clubhouse remodel, will face 360-degree scrutiny.  Many will evaluate the quality of your work. Here are five important steps to help your efforts stand the test of time:

  1. Plan from start to finish. Lay out the process to be used, the materials required and who will be responsible for a successful outcome.  Organize your project team to ensure that each team member understands where he or she will pitch in and be held accountable.  See that your action plan is thorough.  Comprehensive planning anticipates the end result and establishes standards of expectations.  Ensure that the finished quality of your work is excellent.  Quality is remembered long after cost is forgotten.  Plan the post-completion “unveiling” of your results as carefully as you plan the first meeting.
  2. Set realistic schedules. Avoid over-promising and being unnecessarily conservative.  Creating a critical path of the actions required to complete the project is an important key.  Scheduling also requires a complete plan.  Many projects – and the credibility of those responsible for them – are undermined by incomplete or poor scheduling.  Establish a broad understanding of when you will execute in-process measurements and evaluations.  The things that are measured get managed. Get to work and finish ahead of schedule.
  3. Budget thoroughly. The two greatest points on which to brag about a finished project are “complete” and “under budget.”  Ensure that the budget is inclusive of all expenses, including labor, materials and post-project clean-up and finishing work.  Check and double-check unit count, whether pounds, square acres or individual item costs.  Confirm the accuracy of your costs-per-unit measurements.  These two checkpoints – unit-count and unit-pricing – protect the downside of important projects.
  4. Communicate constantly. See that all stakeholders are kept informed of progress and problems – especially the latter.  Because so many people feel invested in key projects, and think their voices should be heard, create a communications plan that includes video updates as well as written reminders and status reports.  Reduce the likelihood that stakeholders are uninformed of progress.  Likewise, update those responsible for completing the project by making sure they receive regular and routine project updates.  It is nice to know that everyone on the team is keeping up their time-sensitive tasks and sharing in the accountability.  Remember that members and regular customers like to be included with project updates.
  5. Celebrate generously. Pass around the credit and share the successful completion of the project.  See that there is plenty of credit to go around.  Recognize those who authorized your work on the project.  Name those who did the work.  Make and distribute photographs of the finished project and those who celebrated with you.  Use follow-up storytelling to identify those who are enjoying the results of the project.  Be inclusive of all who are affected by the project.

You may think that the work you did to complete a project successfully is sometimes ignored or forgotten.  In fact, in these times of tight budgets and 360-degree evaluation, very little is overlooked by management or membership.  Remember the lesson of Phidias: the quality of your work will endure and even if some people do not appreciate your contributions, the gods certainly will.

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

Budgeting 2019

Budgeting for 2019 requires a broader-than-usual alertness to changing times and impacts on golf-oriented businesses. Newfound elasticity on revenue sources, such as dues and fees, will allow many to plan for revenue increases. That’s the good news. More sobering is the fact that most courses and clubs will strain to cover the rapidly accelerating costs of operations.

While it’s helpful to know that costs are rising, budget planners benefit even more from understanding the factors driving cost increases. Here are five cost areas where knowledge of underlying trends and timing will lead to accurate projections.

Labor

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment Cost Index notes that wages and salaries for U.S. businesses increased 2.9 percent for the 12-month period ending in June 2018, following a 2.4 percent increase in June 2017. The cost of benefits rose 2.8 percent for the 12-month period ending in June 2018, after increasing 2.2 percent in June 2017. Employer costs for health benefits increased 1.6 percent for the same 12-month period.

Insurance

The costs associated with insuring golf facilities are increasing. Willis Towers Watson’s insurance industry semi-annual report (2018 Insurance Marketplace Realities) projects increases in insured categories more vulnerable to natural catastrophe impacts.

  • Property: Previous-loss history more than doubles premiums in most markets. Clubs located in markets exposed to catastrophic claims will increase as much as three times those of non-exposed clubs, while those clubs with catastrophic experience with losses may see increases from 15 to 20 percent.
  • Casualty: WTW projections indicate that rates for casualty insurance will increase less than 4 percent.
  • Auto Liability: For clubs with automobile insurance premiums, rates are expected to rise from 5 to 9 percent. Ongoing market challenges exist in this space, and two years of steady price increases have not kept pace with loss trends and adverse developments. Rates are expected to rise more steeply.
  • Cyber: Golf clubs are vulnerable to cyber-risk. The WTW study notes a 15-fold increase in two years with claims near $5 billion. Organizations without claims can forecast increase of 5 percent or less.

Healthcare

“Over the past nine years, employee out-of-pocket spending for a family of four increased 69 percent in the form of higher co-pays and higher deductibles, along with 105 percent employee premium contribution growth,” Keith Lemer, CEO of WellNet Healthcare, said in an interview with CNBC earlier this year, noting that over the same period a year earlier employer premium contributions increased 62 percent.” Lemer added, “In 2008 more than 8 percent of a family’s income was spent on health care. In 2015 (last available data) it rose to 12 percent. This means people are making less money today as a direct result of the cost of health care.”

Food

The costs of food consumed at home diverged a few years ago from the costs of food served away from home – in restaurants and clubs. The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicted grocery store price increases from 1 to 2 percent. Food consumed away from home is expected to increase from 2 to 3 percent. For menu planning purposes, be aware that beef and veal are projected to rise 2 to 3 percent, egg prices will increase 4 to 5 percent, while cereal and bakery prices will go up 3 to 4 percent. The USDA expects prices for fats, fruits and vegetables to drop.

Fuel

Large consumers of fuel and oil by-products, including golf courses, will see some relief in fuel-related costs in 2019, according to an August 2018 J.P. Morgan forecast. “While geopolitical tensions and lingering risks of large supply disruptions remain an upside risk, we think that prices will be corrected downwards towards end of the year and remain capped in 2019,” J.P. Morgan analyst Abhishek Deshpande wrote in the note reported by CNBC. This is important for golf where oil prices and those of oil by-products, including fertilizer, have direct budgetary impacts. For budgeting purposes, managers should watch oil futures. One can expect higher gas prices about six weeks after an increase in oil futures.

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

The Revenue Menu

At a typical golf club, who should be involved in building revenue for the club?

Building revenue is a part of everyone’s job at a club.

If you are a leader, it’s important that everyone under you shares your vision to increase sales.  That necessitates good communication, as with any efficient team, but if all areas of the club are on the same page when thinking about how best to benefit the bottom line, the results will speak for themselves.

They say no man is an island, and no part of your club operation is either.  If you want to build revenue, it needs to happen at all levels of your business.

How can a club encourage all levels of the operation to be thinking about revenue growth?

Attitude always reflects leadership.  If the leader’s attitude is demonstrated in a commitment to increase revenue, most subordinates will embrace the importance of the task.

Therefore, it is incumbent on team leaders to teach staff, not just what to sell – which goods and services yield the most profit margin for the Club – but also how to sell it.

Often staff members are enthusiastic about developing new skills and all they need is guidance.  The truth is, few among us are natural-born salesmen, but selling is a skill that can be learned.  Think about investing in a professional selling skills program to train the club’s staff, and the selling strength of the club will expand immensely.

How should the operations team decide on which revenue sources to focus their energies?

A great way to get the ball rolling is to create and use a ‘Revenue Menu’.  Think about all of your available revenue sources, list them out, and leave no stone unturned.

You will want your team to focus on what yields the most to the club and sell high-yield items as much as is reasonable; however, it is also important that each staff member knows all of the products and services that they can offer a customer.  This way, when the high-yield items are not appropriate they can move down that list.  It all adds up: if you don’t get the little money, you won’t get the big money.

Membership dues and guest fees are high-yield segments, as are fees for motor carts and range balls, and these are usually the best place to focus first.

However, one notable exception to the notion of focusing on high-yield products is instruction.  When people commit to becoming better golfers, they use the club more often, feel more loyalty towards it, and make it a priority in their thinking.  Helping others to enjoy golf more through instruction is a sound business approach.

What are some of the key tactics that should come from any “Revenue Menu”?

  • Membership dues and fees will be the primary source of revenue for most clubs, and should always be a priority.
  • Items that have little cost of sales attached to them such as motor carts and range balls.
  • Increase rounds played through non-dues golf rounds (guest play) and events.  This should be a priority for every pro.
  • Win the kids and you win the moms; win the moms and you win the game.  Treat children well – it’s good business.
  • Reward customer loyalty, but reward it only when you get what you want (e.g. buy 10 buckets of balls, get one free, etc.).
  • Cause customers to earn discounts.  When you do a points program at your club, be sure it doesn’t become a problem with customers looking for more.
  • Make instruction a priority.  Revenue comes in different ways, not only directly.

The key is that your Revenue Menu needs to be a living document, not just a one-time event.  It’s important to follow and map the items on your menu to see how they are performing.  This allows you to adjust your tactics as you move forward and discover which items are more fruitful investments at your club.

This article featured insights from GGA Principal and Partner Henry DeLozier

End Budget Procrastination

To the list of things we love to procrastinate on (exercising, dieting, organizing the garage and learning to speak a foreign language), we should add budgeting.

Experts on such matters tell us that we’re all guilty of procrastination. But we delay, defer and prolong for a number of different reasons. Maybe the biggest is that we see an important task as a daunting project, one that intimidates and practically immobilizes us. Another reason – although we don’t like to admit it – is that we worry that we might fail. Whatever the reason, budgeting brings out the best (and worst) in our fellow procrastinators.

Let’s dive into some strategies and tactics that can help break the budgeting process into manageable chunks and reduce the accompanying fear.

Standards of Excellence

Standards-setting must precede budgeting to ensure that club leaders and management are aligned in communicating expectations. At the highest levels, the standards should be affirmative, simply stated and realistic. These statements serve as Magnetic North to give departmental managers a clear-cut understanding of the desired destinations.

Superintendents use an agronomic plan to describe their intentions and methods. These descriptions identify the manpower required and the costs attached to that labor. Care and upkeep standards correlate to the activities required by the golf course staff to achieve the standards and frequencies required. Routine task planning, such as mowing, irrigation and fertility management, combine with special project needs to detail the number of hours and materials that will be consumed and the associated costs.

Superintendents know that most budget initiatives die because of a lack of understanding, not because the request is flatly rejected. That’s why those experienced in the budgeting process are among the most accurate and detailed in their descriptions, summarizing assumptions and providing calculations that underlie each line item. They make sure that decision-makers understand what is needed, why it is needed, and what the results and benefits will be if the costs are approved.

Strategic Goals and Objectives

Most successful courses and clubs operate with clearly stated goals and objectives, which are detailed in their strategic plan. Management is charged with executing the plan and achieving the goals. Their budget is a key element of their plan, forecasting revenues and costs that provide the financial roadmap to the intended destination. There are three guideposts along the way:

  1. Confirm that you accurately understand what is expected. If there is any ambiguity, it will show up in the budget.
  2. Explain what is necessary in order achieve the established goals and objectives. Show that you fully understand the fit-and-finish requirements of each goal and objective.
  3. Describe a path to completion that includes checkpoints so everyone involved stays updated on progress. Describe progress in terms of percentage complete, budget status and timeline. If progress is poor, say so. And describe corrective steps being taken to get back on schedule.

Communication

Open and honest communication is a key for successful budget planning and execution. That’s especially important to remember when preparing complex and potentially confusing course maintenance budgets. Here are three communications techniques to make your budget easier to understand and approve:

  1. Educate your audience. Most committee and board members are not agronomic experts. Therefore, superintendents and managers should educate them and club members in the art and science of proper course care so the budget reflects adequate funding to achieve agreed upon standards of excellence.
  2. Conduct field-day demonstrations. A part of the education process is taking decision-makers onto the course to show them what is working, lacking and needed. Show what is required to achieve the standards of excellence on which all have agreed.
  3. Provide monthly updates that show how the budget is being managed, monitored and achieved. Managers and members develop increased trust in superintendents who hold themselves accountable for the desired results. Provide visual updates to management, board and members so everyone feels invested in the outcome.

 

This article was written for and published by Golf Course Industry Magazine by GGA Partner Henry Delozier

Get Prepared for your 2018 Budget Cycle

Autumn is with us and indications are that as club leaders prepare to go into their annual budgeting cycle, most European economies are witnessing steady improvement and positive forecasts.

Goldman Sachs describe the outlook for continental Europe’s economy as “cautiously optimistic” as the housing economy continues to recover in most markets, credit is loosening, unemployment is improving, and in particular, consumer confidence is building.

The caution, reflects a strengthening euro and of course Brexit uncertainty. Nobody knows yet where that is taking the UK or Europe, but it’s going to be disruptive and it’s not going to be positive.

So, emerging gradually as we are from years of frugality and incessant cost reductions, while also looking to better position the club for any future headwinds, how should club leaders be approaching this upcoming budget cycle?

Here are five guidelines and questions to address.

1. Evaluate variances in the current budget. How do this year’s actual results compare to your budget? Variances of more than 5% should be evaluated closely. Maybe you were overly optimistic? Maybe your execution was off? Beware of line items that were not accounted for in the budget. The question to ask: “How will we generate different and better results next year?”

2. Review and refine your scope of operations. The scope of operations describes all that the club does, including which days and hours the club is operational and which services are offered and on what schedule. In most clubs the scope of operations remains untouched from year to year. But it should be evaluated at the launch of each budget cycle. Refining your scope of operations is one of the easiest and most effective ways to improve performance results. The questions to ask: “What do our customers and members really want?” And “How can we operate more efficiently and eliminate waste from lightly used or inaccessible services or service times?”

3. Take a zero-based approach. Don’t rely on a simple calculation of a percentage increase on all expenses. Start with a clean budget sheet and plan each line item for a precise method of operation. Zero-based budgets are built brick-by-brick, with one assumption added to the previous. Any flawed assumption weakens the foundation. Understand and document each assumption in each line of the budget. To build a budget from scratch one must be organised and thorough. It will take more time to ask the questions and to find the answers.

While zero-based budgeting isn’t easy, it’s the sign of a real professional. The result is a budget that is more thorough and reliable than one produced by any other method. The question to ask: “Are my assumptions realistic and based on facts/data?”

4.  Increase revenue expectations. Revenue growth has been slow or stagnant for several years. Many managers continue to try outdated programs that did not work in the first place. Customers and club members seek value. Price increases in importance in their eyes when value is lacking. So before you budget for improved revenue, make sure you’re maximising value. Revenue increases originate in the following ways:

  • Sell the worst – least desirable – tee (or court) times first. The best inventory sells itself. Revenue growth comes when attention is given to selling what doesn’t readily sell itself. This increase in utilisation is like finding new money.
  • Bundle services to provide greater value for members and customers and to support price increases. Can you bundle services that give your members greater value and improve operational margins at the club?
  • Make popular goods and services available to your members and customers ahead of the demand curve. Do you use virtual retailing options to expand access to new and popular products?

The question to ask: “Am I thinking like my customers and members. Am I giving them what they want – recognition, respect and courtesy?”

5. Attack and reduce overhead and administrative costs. Most clubs accept increases in products, services, rates and premiums as the cost of doing business but as a club leader don’t give up so easily. Be committed to the hypothesis that there is a lower cost alternative and to negotiation. Even if you are proven right just 10% of the time this diligence will impact your budget parameters. The question to ask: “Have I thoroughly explored and negotiated the possibility of a decrease in property taxes, utilities, insurance premiums, professional services and supplies?”


The summer is only just behind us but your planning for 2018 should be well underway. That process starts with the budget.

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