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.

2021 Predictions on the Shape of the Next Normal

When we were introduced to COVID-19 in March 2020, no one had any indication that ten months later the number of cases and its toll on society would continue to rise. The introduction of a vaccine is promising, but the road ahead remains filled with uncertainty as to when the next normal will arrive – and what shape that normal will adopt.

Since its inception, GGA Partners has traveled the globe working with private clubs, golf courses, investors, real estate developers, resorts, municipalities, and financial institutions. This has provided unique insight into the state of golf, private club, and leisure businesses from many different perspectives.

We have observed that even before the coronavirus pandemic, significant change was underway across the private club landscape. As we prepare for the “new normal” the thought leaders at GGA sat down to predict what they believe is coming in 2021 and beyond.

1. COVID-19 accelerates change already afoot in governance

According to Senior Partner Henry DeLozier, the change brought on by the pandemic is going to necessitate even more rapid change in governance, which GGA has seen clubs struggle with this past year.

“In corporate America, the concept of stakeholder capitalism was at the forefront in 2020 and that has transcended to the private club space,” commented DeLozier. “We’re hearing members across the private club spectrum questioning why they do not have a larger voice in their club and how board selections, as well as decisions, are being made.”

Private clubs that do not have current and effective governance will suffer from decreased member satisfaction and a constant churn of its membership base.

2. The capability to communicate effectively and efficiently will be key

Linda Dillenbeck, GGA’s director for the firm’s communications practice, stated that there continues to be a need to assist clubs in their efforts to communicate effectively and efficiently.

“It is basic human nature that people do not like change,” said Dillenbeck. “To minimize the disruption of pending changes, it is incumbent upon the management team and board of directors to clearly communicate the what, how, and why of their decisions then allow members to voice their opinions. This provides the level of two-way communication members are demanding.”

In addition to communications about club finances and capital improvements, clubs need to improve the use of the data they have collected to provide tailored communications to members. For example, notices about evolving restrictions on golf events should only be sent to those who play and those about activities for families with children don’t need to be sent to empty nesters.

Beyond member communications, clubs that will be successful in 2021 will be those which can retool and refine their external communications to ensure the message of what truly makes the club unique is presented clearly.

3. Greater work flexibility will impact club utilization in new and challenging ways

Report after report has trumpeted the tremendous increase in rounds played during the pandemic. According to GGA Director John Strawn, that is in large part due to work-from-home adaptations which are providing greater flexibility in how and when employees complete their daily tasks.

“People have more control over their work lives,” said Strawn. “Golf experienced fewer restrictions during the pandemic and that has brought out many new and fringe players leading to full tee sheets at both private and public golf courses.”

Full tee sheets are causing negative feedback from those who play more frequently as there is a belief that those not paying full dues are taking coveted tee times. To solve the problem, Strawn predicts clubs will need to revisit their strategies and ultimately their business models more frequently to ensure they are meeting this new and different demand effectively. Flexibility will be critical until the long-term impact on golf demand is better understood.

While clubs continue struggling to ensure fair and equitable access to the tee or courts while accommodating increased demand, Senior Associate Andrew Milne added that clubs should expect that best practice solutions may shift regarding reservations and tee sheet management to include lottery systems and Chelsea systems to ensure dissatisfaction among members is minimized. Understanding that new reservation management approaches may change the value proposition for members, a clear plan and message acknowledging this, and for measuring and adapting the approach as the future becomes clearer, will be important.

4. Clubs must better understand what women want from their club

According to the National Golf Foundation, while only one in five golfers are women, females represent a disproportionately higher percentage of beginners (31%).

Women ease into the game for a variety of reasons; to spend time with their family, to compete, to be outdoors, and to enjoy the support, community, and socialization. As these women age and consider joining a club, they will choose the clubs that shape programs, staff, activities, and offerings to blend the female competitive group with the group that is more interested in the social community.

“We’ve known for some time just how important the role of women and the family dynamic is regarding the decision on whether to join a private club,” commented GGA Director Murray Blair. “For clubs to succeed in 2021 and beyond, they will need to understand how women are impacting the decision-making process and implement the necessary adjustments to make them feel welcome, whether they play golf or not.”

5. Operational efficiencies gained during the pandemic will carry forward in 2021, and their challenges will too

Among the most remarkable takeaways from 2020 was the ability for clubs to adapt their operations and service offerings swiftly and effectively in the face of facility closures, variable human resource availability, and rapidly changing restrictions for public health and safety.

Contactless payments, varying tee time intervals, and pace dispersion tactics are pandemic-inspired efficiencies which GGA Associate Andrew Johnson predicts will continue.

Adding to the list, GGA Director Ben Hopkinson expects clubs will become more efficient at managing grab-and-go meals, take-out dining, and mobile ordering, following the best practices of companies like Uber Eats and DoorDash.

New ways of operating have also brought about new challenges, some of which will persist into 2021 and require even more new solutions to be generated at clubs and courses.

GGA Senior Associate Andrew Johnson expects that the increased costs associated with COVID-19 mandated protocols such as labor for sanitation and cleaning, as well as elevated maintenance expenses due to increased rounds, will remain through 2021.

Clubs that effectively determine what increased interest and golf participation means for facility accessibility, program creation, membership categories and associated privileges will find increased membership satisfaction and interest from new prospects.

6. The pandemic’s impact on club finances will remain uncertain, expect to see more measurement, flexibility, and experimentation

Despite successful adaptations in club operations and economic relief opportunities afforded by governments and municipalities, the full extent of the pandemic’s economic impact will remain varied across club types depending on business structures and market areas.

GGA Senior Manager Martin Tzankov, remains concerned about the financial position of many clubs and believes the brunt of the economic impact has yet to be seen.

“The reliance of clubs on dues increases and capital assessments has been particularly apparent this year and may have stretched the value proposition too far for some,” stated Tzankov.  “2021 will show the clubs where a clear and present value proposition is being presented to members, who in turn, will continue to pay the cost of belonging.”

GGA Partner Derek Johnston believes there are clubs that will be able to increase pricing and sustain the increases in the long-term and there are clubs that will overshoot the mark. Johnston expressed concern that some clubs may move joining fees too high, too fast; golf businesses may move their green fees too high, too fast; and some may move away from tee sheet management practices too quickly.

“Nobody knows what’s coming.  If clubs have experienced less attrition than in the past, it may be due to members being unwilling to give up their safe sanctuary, but when things begin to stabilize post-vaccine that may not persist,” he explained.  “I believe that a portion of the historical attrition hasn’t been abated, just held back.  There will be increased attrition over the next 12-24 months and there may not be the same demand there to replace those who leave, especially as other social and lifestyle pursuits become more widely available again.”

2021 will be a time for clubs to experiment.  A measured, flexible approach to joining fees and dues will be a prudent approach this year.

7. A club’s success will in part be driven by its sum of parts in 2021

Craig Johnston, a partner and head of GGA’s transaction advisory practice, emphasized that the success of clubs during and following the pandemic will in part be driven by its sum of parts. Johnston explained “A private club may include a fitness center, retail store, several restaurants, a golf course, and a marina. The pandemic has impacted the utilization and thus success of all those ‘parts’ differently, and therefore the overall success of the club will largely be dependent on the club’s product or shall we say parts mix.”

“Every club is going to be different depending on its type of business and the operations which comprise it, the extent and variability of pandemic-related changes means that comparatives are going to need to be refined,” continued Johnston.  “Clubs that understand and appreciate the challenges and successes of the various parts of their business will be in a better position to realign and optimize heading into the ‘new normal’.”

8. The movement of people and relocation of companies will reshape markets

Our news feeds have been full of stories about high-profile people and companies moving out of California into Texas, as well as the movement of bankers to Florida from New York. If looking at this as a trend, you might imagine seeing increased need and greater attrition among clubs in the California and New York markets and, conversely, excess demand for clubs in markets like Texas and Florida.

According to GGA Manager Alison Corner, it will be important for clubs to understand the movement of people – not just the movement away from major urban centers and into the suburbs, but also the movement of companies and the actual physical locations of corporations – because they may have drastic impacts to how certain club and leisure businesses perform over the next 5 – 10 years.

Clubs that are mindful of these relocation trends will help themselves to recognize and either seize new opportunities, or mitigate future risks.

What Are You Doing to Develop Future Leaders?

One of the most important responsibilities for managers is developing the next generation of leaders and preparing them for the professional challenges they will face. The most obvious way to develop leadership qualities is simply to pay your knowledge forward by identifying the most important lessons you’ve learned — often the hard way — and passing them on to your team.

That responsibility starts with acknowledging that agronomic knowledge is simply table stakes. Knowing how to grow turf and keep it healthy is expected of anyone in the superintendent role, and most up-and-coming turf managers come to the job well prepared. GCSAA educational programs and the generous teaching of consulting specialists and suppliers go a long way in helping to lay this foundation. Certainly, the college of hard knocks provides its lessons as well.

But what lessons will you teach your assistants and crew members? And how can you help prepare them for their next opportunity to move into more responsible positions? In addition to making yourself available as a mentor, you can also broaden your own knowledge by paying attention to what your most respected peers consider their priorities. Here are suggestions from two of the best in the business.

Bill Cygan is the exceptional young superintendent at Silver Spring Country Club in Ridgefield, Connecticut. After graduating from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Bill spent six years as an assistant at Innis Arden Golf Club in Greenwich and another six years caring for the West Course at Winged Foot.

Build strong relationships and communicate often.

“This is not easy and doesn’t happen overnight, but the stronger your relationships are at the club, the smoother the ride will be, especially during times of adversity,” Bill says. “Relationship building should include department managers — especially the golf pro, controller and general manager — as well as certain key members of the club, including the green chairman and treasurer, who can be important allies.”

Trust your teammates.

In addition to the administrative leaders with whom a successful superintendent works, Bill adds, “Be sure to build a strong team responsible for the daily golf course maintenance operations.” The strength of the team is your strength.

Carlos Arraya, the assistant general manager at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis, began his career as a golf course superintendent and over two decades has grown into a key leadership position at one of America’s finest clubs, having hosted the 100th PGA Championship in 2019. Carlos teaches several key points of focus:

Lead the way.

“Understand your leadership style and voice,” he says, adding that managers who favorably influence the next generation of leaders practice mindfulness, leaving their ego at the shop door, putting the interests and needs of their crew ahead of their own and recognizing a job well done. Further, he recommends continue evolving as a leader to best handle the needs of a changing workforce.

Be present.

Some managers are overly focused on the next job, but Carlos counsels: “Focus on being great in your current role.” One can never know too much; by the same token, one can never know everything, so don’t pretend that you do.

Hone your own character.

Superintendents and managers of all descriptions work in the proverbial glass house. The key to being effective at each level is understanding that one is setting an example for others up and down the organizational chart. “Know the difference between an excuse and a reason,” he says. “And don’t fall into the trap of professional jealousy.”

Rely on science.

“(Superintendents) are trained in the scientific method. But sometimes we overreact and are too quick to make a decision,” he says. Club and course managers can pressure superintendents, especially when times are tough, to have immediate answers. “Be deliberate, rely on the science.”

Developing young people into experienced and highly effective crew members, ones who will one day lead their own operations, is one of the most important jobs of any superintendent. And only when you lose some of your best people, when they move on to the top job at another club or course, you will know that you’ve been successful.

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

What’s Next Rests in Your Hands

Every superintendent’s hands tell a story. Tough as worn boot leather, marked with the scars of the trade, a superintendent’s hands are testament to long days and honest work that never seems to end. Their hands groom and maintain the course and grounds that are an owner’s most valuable asset while holding the employment and income stability for their crews.

By all accounts, a superintendent’s hands shape the future. That’s as true with the things that are visible — tee boxes, fairways and greens — as those that are not, namely the meticulous plans that support every aspect of an agronomic program. How do the best superintendents plan for the future? They start with three basics:

1. An overall plan for their work.

The overall plan for the care and upkeep of your course establishes the standards of excellence by which you should be measured. The agronomic plan describes your cultural practices for the basics and should include detailed descriptions of fertility, irrigation, labor, arboreal and the sub-plans that support each of those major pillars.

Plan so that you can make your agronomic plan an educational and informational guide that uses photographs and narrated video to keep your owner, board and greens committee well-informed. In addition to setting standards, your agronomic plan is a great opportunity for you to teach key stakeholders what they should expect of you and your team.

2. A comprehensive communications plan.

Once your agronomic plan — together with its supporting details and sub-plans — is established and approved, it’s time to implement your communications plan. Target all stakeholders — your team, the rest of the management staff and your golfers — to help everyone understand your plan of action. This is not a time to seek permission. This is the time to demonstrate your knowledge, experience and expertise.

Set a schedule for your messaging and meet it. Use multiple media to deliver the message — video, brief written descriptions and small-group field days, when you take members onto the course to demonstrate how your programs are being executed.

Some superintendents become victim to overpromising details and conditions that cannot be delivered. Be alert and carefully describe what you will accomplish. By the same token, do not understate the value of your efforts. This is no game for sandbaggers. Demonstrate your professionalism and capabilities with clear-cut descriptions of who you are, what your team goals are and how the goals will be successfully achieved. Show what features you will emphasize on the course and explain the benefits of each element of your strategy.

3. A self-improvement plan.

GCSAA provides countless opportunities for superintendents to stay current on science and technology and to learn about new trends. The most respected and rewarded superintendents also seek out opportunities — and a regimen — for self-improvement. Here are a handful of keys for improving your own capabilities:

  • Read more. Leaders in every field are readers who continually gather more information that bolsters insight and wisdom.
  • Get fit. The pressures that come with the job and the common inclination to treat oneself well when one feels overlooked or unappreciated combine to add weight, cholesterol and risk to your well-being. Get in shape and stay there.
  • Identify and address blind spots. What do you overlook or consider to be inconsequential? Which people or circumstances trigger frustrations during your day? The better you identify threats to your overall view of your world, the better you will navigate unexpected events.
  • Live with BHAGS. Set big, hairy, audacious goals for yourself and your crew. The bigger your dreams, the more fun it is when you make them real.
  • Avoid negative people. Their attitudes can be contagious and poison morale. Build your network around positive people who inspire you and bring out innovative thinking and your best work.

Superintendents hold in their hands the franchise value of their course. Describe your plan to make it even better. Communicate your plans clearly and honestly. And never stop making yourself an even more valuable professional.

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

Leveraging Differences in the Boardroom

GGA Partners Releases New Whitepaper on Private Club Governance as Part of Thought Leadership Series

‘Leveraging Differences in the Boardroom’ Now Available for Download

TORONTO, Ontario – International consulting firm GGA Partners has released Leveraging Differences in the Boardroom, the third in its new series of thought leadership whitepapers. This authoritative guide explores the benefits of clubs with diverse boards and suggests several steps to take when recruiting with diversity in mind.

Leveraging Differences in the Boardroom evaluates the consequences of unintentionally insular board composition and challenges the idea of “sameness” in the boardroom, which limits the ability of a board to effectively perform its duties and threatens a club’s health and longevity. The paper illustrates how multiple perspectives contribute to greater success in governance and argues for adjusting the profile of a club’s leadership to better serve members and prospects.

“We often see board members with similar professional, cultural, and ideological backgrounds and perspectives,” explained GGA Partner Henry DeLozier, one of several authors of the piece. “Boards that are neither representative of the membership nor reflective of their surrounding community risk losing the opportunity both to serve their current members and to attract new members.”

In addition, the whitepaper encourages that clubs intent on increasing diversity among their board take a holistic, multi-dimensional approach to its creation. “Forward-thinking boards understand that it is the breadth of perspective, not the mere inclusion of various diverse traits, that benefits the organization,” said DeLozier. “In addition to social diversity, professional and experiential diversity are also important in increasing the range of perspectives represented on the board.”

Board diversification is likely to be met with resistance from the status quo, which the paper aims to help club leaders overcome by providing tactics for building a diverse board, developing new board member criteria, and making a commitment to diversity.

In addition to governance, GGA Partners recently published new whitepapers on strategic planning and branding. The firm has announced that another in the series focused on innovation will be published through the third quarter of 2020.

Click here to download the whitepaper

 

About GGA Partners

GGA Partners™ is an international consulting firm and trusted advisor to many of the world’s most successful golf courses, private clubs, resorts, and residential communities. We are dedicated to helping owners, asset managers, club and community leaders, investors and real estate developers tackle challenges, achieve objectives, and maximize asset performance.

Established in 1992 as the KPMG Golf Industry Practice, our global team of experienced professionals leverage in-depth business intelligence and proprietary global data to deliver impactful strategic solutions and lasting success. For more information, please visit ggapartners.com.

Media Contact:

Bennett DeLozier
GGA Partners
602-614-2100
bennett.delozier@ggapartners.com

Speaking the New Language of Brands

GGA Partners Releases New Whitepaper on Private Club Branding as Part of Thought Leadership Series

‘Speaking the New Language of Brands’ Now Available for Download

TORONTO, Ontario – International consulting firm GGA Partners has released Speaking the New Language of Brands, the second in its new series of thought leadership whitepapers.  This authoritative guide redefines a traditional brand value equation and illustrates how adding emotion and experience to a private club’s brand story will increase its value with members.

Speaking the New Language of Brands highlights ways iconic “mega-brands” mold, define, and advance their organizational identity toward the goal of influencing consumer purchasing decisions.  The paper evaluates a traditional outlook on the brand value equation and asserts a redefinition which paves the way to enhanced value perceptions among private club members.

“Traditionally, the key to building value in the eyes of the consumer has been demonstrated in a simple equation, where perceived value is equal to performance divided by price,” explained Henry DeLozier, one of several authors of the piece. “We believe there is a far more effective – and cost efficient – way to increase the value members place in your club and in your brand. It’s by introducing emotion and experience into the equation.”

In addition, the whitepaper argues that a successful branding program is based on the idea of “singularity” and should be designed with differentiation as the primary goal.  “Harkening to the days of the Old West, a branding program should differentiate your cow from all of the other cattle on the range,” said DeLozier.  In other words, creating in the mind of a member or prospective member the belief that there is no other club on the market quite like your club.

Building a brand is easier said than done.  For club managers not familiar with the brand development process, the whitepaper explains six essential steps for clubs to follow when constructing their brand and draws on examples from inside and outside the private club business.

In addition to branding, GGA Partners recently published a new strategic planning whitepaper and has confirmed that others in the series focused on governance and innovation will be published through the third quarter of 2020.

Click here to download the whitepaper

 

About GGA Partners

GGA Partners™ is an international consulting firm and trusted advisor to many of the world’s most successful golf courses, private clubs, resorts, and residential communities.  We are dedicated to helping owners, asset managers, club and community leaders, investors and real estate developers tackle challenges, achieve objectives, and maximize asset performance.

Established in 1992 as the KPMG Golf Industry Practice, our global team of experienced professionals leverage in-depth business intelligence and proprietary global data to deliver impactful strategic solutions and lasting success. For more information, please visit ggapartners.com.

Media Contact:

Bennett DeLozier
GGA Partners
602-614-2100
bennett.delozier@ggapartners.com

Not the Time to Wait

Henry DeLozier highlights three important points for club leaders to ramp up club operations and refine their game plan.

When asked what steps they are taking to prepare their business for the post-COVID-19 environment, many small- and medium-sized business owners and managers say they’re taking a “wait-and-see” approach. While that attitude is understandable, with conditions and health and safety guidelines changing by the day, it’s also not advisable.

The more effective strategy is the one that many other businesses are taking to navigate the crisis in creative and productive ways: Anticipating and preparing for a post-COVID-19 business, whenever that may come and whatever it might resemble.

In a wide range of businesses, preemptive leaders are driving revenue through new marketing tactics and sales channels, putting new incentives in place to spur immediate purchasing and capture pent-up demand, moving more of their in-person interactions online, pivoting their business to address new needs and developing new products to position their business when customer demand returns to normal.

Others are enhancing their digital presence by sprucing up their website with new content or fixing online issues for a better customer experience. And many businesses are strategizing by mapping out potential scenarios for the future.

Three important points to consider when ramping up club operations:

1. Update the club’s financial plan.

The business interruption and financial impacts will be profound and may even threaten the club’s existence. The board must reset the club’s financial plan by evaluating the current in-flow of dues revenue and the realistic projection of pending banquet and catering activity. Refer to the club’s historic reference points for revenue as the key component in ramping up successfully. Balance revenue projections with the probable attrition rate caused by members who will leave the club for health and financial reasons.

Look realistically at the club’s expenses and prepare yourself – they will be discouraging. Plan to restart programs and services in a phased manner that focuses on the most popular and engaging programs in the eyes of your members.

It’s important to remember that members may have different priorities in a post-recession world. Knowing what those are through surveys and focus groups is far more advisable than assuming the old normal is also the new normal. Keep in mind that the club may not be able to restart at a level and pace that meets members’ expectations without what may be significant investments.

In a financial sense, the club is starting over financially. This can be good for clubs overloaded with expensive debt since it gives them incentive to renegotiate their debt structure. Interest rates are at historic lows and will remain so for some time. This makes it a good time to restructure the club’s financial plan to remove historic flaws, such as membership-optional communities and outdated governance practices.

2. Strengthen your team.

Every club in your area is being affected differently by the pandemic. Some will retain staff with little change. Others will be forced to reduce operations, programs and staff. Some of your own employees will decide not to return or may be unavailable. Be prepared and recruit aggressively to fill and strengthen key positions on your team. It’s also a good time to review and update personnel records, roles and benefits.

3. Introduce new social programs.

As leaders hit the reset button, remember that private clubs enjoy an emotional relationship with their members far more than a transactional one. When evaluating and creating programs, consider the following:

Members will want to see one another and be seen. There will be a great opportunity for friends to be reunited and reminded that their club is a safe haven for their families and friends.

Look at events that are either successive – where one event sets the stage for the next – or part of a series of similar events. Give members the sense of ongoing relationships rather than one-off types of events.

Host member information exchanges. As members anticipate their clubs reopening, they will have lots of questions, which can be boiled down to “What’s changed – and what hasn’t?” Assemble a team of staff members who constitute the Answers Team.

Get ahead of questions by anticipating as many as you can and communicating the answers widely through email, newsletters and social media.

Creating a Reliable Game Plan

The most effective transitional leaders will be those who can manage information aggressively. Keep your stakeholder groups of members, employees, suppliers, and extended business partners – like bankers and insurance carriers – well-informed.

Your members and stakeholders want information, to be sure. Even more importantly, they want confidence that their club is in steady hands. They want to see evidence – action more so than talk – that the club is taking measured steps and addressing the key strategic issues without distraction with petty short-term matters. This capability requires a reliable game plan.

In May, GGA Partners conducted a series of weekly webinars to help club leaders construct their game plan and illustrate the thought processes that go into reopening and operating again in the wake of COVID-19. The sessions offered a deeper look into these three important points and tactics to prepare for a post-pandemic business environment.

The archive of each webinar and accompanying slide deck (if applicable) are available on CMAA University, complimentary to all CMAA members. Once you are signed in to CMAA University, you can find the recording and accompanying resources under CMAA Member Education, COVID-19 Resources. The content is then organized by topic area, see below for where each of the four webinars are housed:

Crisis Management and Communications

Changing Communications for Changing Times – Linda Dillenbeck & Bennett DeLozier – May 27, 2020

Member Surveys in Uncertain Times – Michael Gregory & Ben Hopkinson – May 20, 2020

Reopening Your Club

Transitional Leadership: Restarting Your Club – Henry DeLozier – May 6, 2020

Business Continuity

Future Trends in the Workforce – Patrick DeLozier – May 15, 2020

If you don’t know your login information, please contact CMAA through this online form.

 

This article also featured in Golf Course Industry magazine

Running Toward Change

This article continues a series of communications from GGA Partners to help private club leaders address challenges confronting their businesses and their employees because of the global health crisis. Today, Henry DeLozier suggests that change on a massive scale is no longer something that should surprise us.

Technology’s tools give clubs a way to prepare for the new normal.

We’re hearing a lot these days about the “new normal” and how the coronavirus has forever changed the ways we work, shop, travel and interact.

But wasn’t it not long ago that we were talking about another new normal? Remember the new normal that followed the financial crisis of 2007-2008, which led to a global recession? That pivot from the previously abnormal to a new normal ushered in more stringent guidelines for financial institutions and in a much larger sense ushered out the sense of trust we had in many other institutions and the people who ran them.

And although the term was not yet in vogue, didn’t the seismic shift from analog to digital – the tipping point came in 2002, when the world began storing more information in digital than in analog format – qualify as a new normal?

All of which led some creative soul to design a bumper sticker that said it all: Change Happens. (You may remember it with a synonym for change.) The most adaptable among us learn to deal with change; the most successful turn it into a competitive advantage. How do they do it?

Don’t be surprised – be prepared.

When he first heard Bob Dylan’s 1965 anthem “Like a Rolling Stone,” Bruce Springsteen said, “[It] sounded like somebody’d kicked open the door to your mind.” With that song, Dylan changed how artists thought about making music. Major change often seems to arrive suddenly – with the speed of a stone rolling down a steep hill – and without warning. Its capriciousness makes us anxious. But if we know it’s coming, we shouldn’t be surprised. We should be prepared.

An embrace of the tools that technology now affords us is an important key to our preparation.

Derek Johnston, a partner in our firm, says although club leaders could not have anticipated the pandemic, they could have been better prepared.

“Many clubs were ill-prepared to quickly analyze the potential impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, to run initial scenarios, to easily gather more information, to test their hypotheses with their membership and, ultimately, set a course of action,” he says.

That is not to say that clubs have responded poorly. On the contrary, club leaders have performed in truly admirable fashion. Many clubs just had to work much harder than those that had already implemented data analytics processes and plug-and-play dashboarding tools, like MetricsFirst or continuous member feedback tools like MemberInsight.

“Some club leaders still question the need to bother with data analytics tools and programs. This misunderstanding is simply misguided,” Johnston says, adding that the term “analytics” seems to intimidate some and conjure visions of data overload and complexity. Another fallacy, Johnston says. “Data analytics, when executed properly, is intended to actually simplify information and present insights in very crisp, clean, and easy to understand ways.”

Ginni Rometty, executive chair of IBM, told Fortune magazine editor Alan Murray, “There is no doubt this [coronavirus] will speed up everyone’s transition to be a digital business.” She identified four areas of impending change: 1) the movement to the cloud; 2) the move toward automation; 3) the overhaul of supply chains, and 4) the movement toward new ways of doing work. Each force will happen in accelerated fashion, she predicts.

Rometty is not alone in her assessment. Almost two out of three respondents to a recent Fortune survey of Fortune 500 CEOs expect technological transformation to accelerate. Doug Merritt, CEO at Splunk, a big-data platform, pointed out two important observations: 1) a rapid digital transformation and 2) the elevated importance of gathering and interrogating data.

Top-performing clubs will similarly leverage the pandemic to implement advanced methods for executing work and providing services. Retooling such routine practices as monthly billings, guest policy tracking, and point-of-sale transactions will happen quickly. Likewise, separating work from jobs will trend even more in the wake of the pandemic.

“Clubs that are actively maintaining both real-time operating dashboards and strategic dashboards, combined with a proper financial model, are taking preemptive steps toward dealing with change,” Johnston says. “When it happens – and we know it will – they will experience far less conflict amongst their management team and their board. Ultimately, their preparation will enable better decisions, faster.”

Getting the Right People on the Bus

This article continues a series of communications from GGA Partners to help private club leaders address challenges confronting their businesses and their employees as a result of the global health crisis. Today, in the second of two articles on strategic people planning, Patrick DeLozier (Director, GGA Partners) and Jodie Cunningham (Partner, Optimus Talent Partners) highlight the importance of talent planning and optimization for a post-COVID-19 future.

Now’s a great time to re-examine job requirements to ensure the best fit for your club

In our first article on strategic people planning we discussed the first two phases of talent optimization: 1) adapting your business strategy and 2) plotting your revised organizational structure. In part two, we will focus on phases three and four: 3) selecting the right talent and 4) inspiring people development and engagement.

This part of your strategic people plan centers on filling roles in your organization with people best suited for the job. It’s a process that author Jim Collins in Good to Great likened to bus drivers (leaders) getting the right people on the bus (team), the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats (roles).

One cautionary note as we begin: Someone who was right for a specific role pre-pandemic may not be right for the same role now. Your business has changed, and some people may need to change seats. Others may need to get off the bus.

Phase 3: Select the Right Talent

Define the job. Before you start inserting applicants and rehires into the selection equation, you need to define your jobs. Without clarity, anyone involved in the hiring process will simply be guessing about those best fit for the job. The answers to a few basic questions will help form a solid job description.

 

  • What are the most important and frequent activities of this role?
  • What specific knowledge, skills and abilities are required?
  • What skills and experiences are complementary to those of the current team?
  • What behavioral style and temperament is best suited in this role?
  • Is independent decision-making or collaboration more important?
  • Does this role require social interaction or a more analytical, introspective approach?
  • Are normal working conditions in this role stable and consistent or constantly changing and pressure-filled?
  • Does this role require a big picture, strategic view where risk taking is welcomed, or is it more task oriented and risk-averse in nature?

To win the war for talent, your managers must be fully invested in driving the hiring process from start to finish. When you train managers to use people data in the hiring process, they will make smart, objective decisions, as opposed to desperate or bias-filled ones. Managers should enter the hiring process with the following information, knowledge and understanding.

 

  • A plan for all three phases of the interview process: before, during and after the interview.
  • A list of functional and behavioral-based questions that ensure consistency across all interviews.
  • An understanding of how to probe for (and evaluate) detailed applicant responses.
  • An understanding of the information they should and should not share regarding club culture, benefits and working experience? (Remember, the applicants are interviewing the club as well.)

Phase 4: Inspire People Development and Engagement

Once you have hired your team, it is critical to keep them engaged and ensure they work effectively together. To do this, you need to be mindful of four forces that can lead to employee disengagement:

 

  • Misalignment with the job. Poorly defined positions, sloppy hiring practices and evolving business needs can create a mismatch between employees and their roles. A bad fit will ultimately affect motivation and productivity.
  • Misalignment with the manager. The relationship between employees and their managers is the most critical contributor to engagement. But many managers are poorly equipped or not trained to effectively understand their employees’ individual needs. They struggle to communicate with and motive their employees.
  • Misalignment with the team. Team-based work is more critical than ever, yet poor communication, insufficient collaboration and an inability to manage tensions inherent to teamwork extract a major toll on productivity and innovation.
  • Misalignment with the culture. To be productive and engaged, employees need to feel they belong. When they feel out of sync with their organization’s values, or when they lose trust in their leadership, their own performance suffers. The result can be a toxic work environment that undermines productivity.

As clubs emerge from a pandemic-enforced hibernation and begin to re-establish business operations, now is an ideal time to evaluate the roles and responsibilities that make your club function efficiently and effectively.

Carefully defining each important job, making sure those involved in the hiring process are well-prepared and being alert to employees who may not be the ideal fit will help ensure that you have the right people on the bus and that they’re in the right seats. Your club’s success depends on it.

RelationSHIFTS: COVID-19 and a ‘New Normal’ for Clubs

This article continues a series of communications from GGA Partners to help private club leaders address challenges confronting their businesses and their employees as a result of the global health crisis. Today, Laurie Martin (Founder/CEO, Life Interrupted Inc.) offers several tips for club leaders to consider while navigating the ‘new normal’.

As a leader, you have made it through the initial weeks running on adrenaline as you and your organization have had to pivot quickly to address the COVID crisis. While you continue adapting to your makeshift workspaces at home, and preparing to keep your people safe, the realities of emotional, physical and psychological upheaval are revealed

Over the past few weeks, I have noticed a common thread of stresses related to adaptation and uncertainty. Phrases like: “Since I’ve been home, I have never worked this hard”, “I need stress-debriefing techniques to keep my sanity” and “I can’t stand this!” demonstrate the need to acknowledge the tensions in our surroundings and start a conversation about finding stability and hope.

Now, clubs around the world are moving into position to open slowly and methodically. As a leader, your fears and concerns for employees and their families, members, and the general public are heightened. The focus has been on best practices to deter or stop COVID-19 from coming to the club.  Now, employees have become essential workers and their stress levels will be heightened.

Leaders will need to create best safety practices that work for their clubs.  They will also need to provide a support system to help employees and members deal with the enormous changes of the new normal at clubs.  Employees will be looking at each other wearing appropriate personal protection equipment and following a series of new safety protocols and wonder if the masks or shields will protect them. Members will now be playing their sport very differently and question whether the club will ever be the same again.

There’s no question, this pandemic has created a different way for clubs to operate now and likely in the future.  The templates of tasks and best practices that clubs around the world have received are only a small part of what employees and leaders need to consider.  Each club is unique, with its own practices and services. As a leader, you will have to determine what works best for the club. You may consider to have a second opinion from an external professional working in risk management/health and safety professional guiding you to opening day.

Here are some tips to consider while coping with the new normal at your club:

Embrace the new normal

Our professional and personal lives have shifted and it is important to accept the reality that things will never go back to the way they were. Create new plans, or enhance previous plans and enjoy the freedom to be creative.  Use the skills and knowledge you’ve accumulated through this crisis.

Choose your thoughts

If we do not choose positive thoughts, we will face sadness and experience that “I give up” feeling. Try to remain optimistic and choose thoughts that will motivate you. You must believe you can do something, or you won’t even try. You can overcome negative thoughts with positive ones.

Stay connected

Fear isolates and distances people. As a leader and an entrepreneur, it is your responsibility to keep your family, friends, employees, colleagues, board of directors, and members connected and updated. Communication, collaboration and transparency are key during this difficult time. Promote video chats, share resources, reach out and ask how everyone is doing, encourage more casual interactions, and spread optimism. This is also an opportunity to learn new things to enhance your knowledge and streamline your business.

Share your feelings

It is beneficial to demonstrate the emotional side of your leadership, especially in tough times where members, friends, family, and colleagues are anxious or uncertain of the impact of COVID-19 on the economy. Now is the time to reach out and ask how others are dealing with working from home or with the stress of COVID-19. It’s also good to share your concerns. Sharing your own vulnerability will help others to do the same. Remember, we are all experiencing similar feelings of grief, stress, uncertainty and living day by day.

Accept diversity

It is important to remember that each one of us has a unique home life. Our lifestyles, habits and priorities all differ, which is coming to light as we collaborate from our homes. Some may be experiencing additional challenges such as financial burdens, potential job loss, death of a loved one, divorce, fear of going back to work, etc., and it is important to be mindful of this. Additionally, our methods of coping differ, so be gentle and try to keep an open mind.  It’s important to create time out for yourself too.

Stay away from deception and misinformation

There is a great deal of fear associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and, unfortunately, this fear has triggered a wave of insecurity, and misinformation. It is important to distance yourself from this when possible. Ignore negativity and work from facts not rumours. Educate yourself by reading reputable, peer-reviewed sources and recognize and address your own fears. Contact an external resource you know in the club industry that provides education and tools that can be resourceful.

Set boundaries

If you live with others in your home, working in tight quarters can cause increased stress nd frustration. It is important to establish boundaries. Determine who is going to be in which room, when, and set an agreed time limit for how long.  This will help minimize disruptions.  Having a clear conversation about how to reasonably share your home space will ultimately reduce conflict. You may want to consider setting boundaries on screen time and media exposure which can reduce the feelings of being overwhelmed and help you gain control of your situation.

Create a routine

If you are working from home, building a routine will help you foster a sense of normalcy and allow you to stay on track. Wake up at your usual time, get dressed as you would normally, have your coffee and breakfast, get your kids ready, stick to some type of exercise regimen. Create a good night-time routine and stay away from reading emails before bed.  This will keep your immune system healthy and boost your resilience.

Take breaks

Taking breaks throughout your workday is pivotal to productivity. Take a 5-10-minute break every hour to stretch, take deep breaths, drink water, have a healthy snack or get some fresh air. You should also take some time to have your lunch each day. Support a local business in your area by ordering food through a delivery service.

Practice self-care

As leaders, it is natural to put the needs of your family, employees and members before your own. However, it is important to take care of yourself too. Take care of your body, your mind, and your spirit.  Make time to unwind.  Practising self-care will reduce your stress, clear your mind, and help you to better support and work with others.

Don’t forget hope

While COVID-19 is impacting our daily routines, it is comforting to know that there are still moments of strength that help us realize we can get through this together. Communities coming together, inspiring stories, businesses opening, and people connecting while respecting physical distancing are all signs of hope that we shouldn’t ignore.

A ‘new normal’ for leaders

As leaders, you’ve already felt the stress and emotional upheaval when the clubs were closed down for the pandemic.  Now you get to experience the stress of anticipating when they will open again, and question whether you’re doing everything you can to keep people safe.  Hopefully, leaders are doing their due diligence by taking the templates and customising the best practices and creating policies in place, ordering personal protective equipment and supplies ahead of time.  Asking for a second opinion by reaching out to the services of risk management or health and safety experts familiar with the club industry to guide them to a new normal for pre- and post-opening day.

Although these days are filled with uncertainty and we continue to feel overwhelmed, disconnected and out of control, it is important remember we are all in this together. There will be an end to this pandemic, and we are going to learn a lot about ourselves as leaders and as people.

 

Laurie Martin, CTTS, EPC, founder of Life Interrupted Inc.

She is an innovator with an ability to change the way club leaders think, both professionally and personally, and to enhance their lives.  Laurie brings over 25 years of risk management and crisis education experience, and more than 17,000 hours of accredited frontline experience.  She educates by using a solid process for preparing for any crisis or critical life interruption, before, during and after.  Laurie’s techniques keep leaders and their teams connected, resilient, focused and to stay safe.  All programs provide education credits.  To learn more, contact Laurie at laurie@lifeinterrupted.ca, or, visit lifeinterrupted.ca.

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