GGA Partners Expands Executive Search Practice, Appoints Shelley MacDougall, Director, Leadership Development

Shelley MacDougall brings fast-growing firm over 30 years’ experience in executive coaching, corporate training, and leadership development across private club and hospitality industries.

September 9, 2021 – GGA Partners announced today the appointment of Shelley MacDougall as Director, Leadership Development to lead executive coaching, leadership development and employee training services under the Executive Search practice.

“Our team at GGA Partners are passionate about helping our clients succeed – and we look for leaders who share our vision. At a time when employee engagement is incredibly vital, organizations need heightened understanding of effective retention strategies and training solutions. That’s why this expansion will allow us to better help clients align their business and talent strategies. We are excited to welcome Shelley to GGA Partners’ growing Executive Search practice,” said Managing Director, Patrick DeLozier.

Before pursuing a career in leadership development and coaching in 2006, MacDougall held senior positions with Marriott International and The Glencoe Club, one of North America’s leading private sports and social clubs. Shelley regularly coaches and presents at Club Management Association of America’s (CMAA) World Conference, Canadian Society of Club Managers (CSCM) National and Regional Conferences, as well at numerous affiliated associations, clubs, and organizations.

“Joining the GGA Partners team provides an exciting opportunity for me to bring my experience to an organization that lives its values – professionalism, trust, and confidentiality,” said Shelley. “The talented professionals at GGA Partners are deeply committed to helping clients achieve their goals and I look forward to tailoring our services to meet their unique needs.”

Shelley serves as a CMAA Career Services Coach, and is co-founder and facilitator of The Extraordinary Leader Program – a group coaching program designed specifically for the private club industry. As an accredited coach and member of the International Coach Federation, Shelley coaches and develops CMAA, CSCM and club industry professionals to reach new heights in their careers.

Media Contacts:

Samar Abdourahman
GGA Partners
t: 416-333-5008
e: samar.abdourahman@ggapartners.com

 

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

Don’t Let Them Ignore You

GGA Partner Henry DeLozier highlights 5 key attributes to help golf course leaders achieve recognition for their talents and efforts.

We all want to be recognized for our talents and efforts. In fact, in a world where we take more than 93 million selfies a day, being ignored is certainly one of life’s biggest disappointments. One long-held suggestion to avoid being overlooked or taken for granted is this one: “Be so good they can’t ignore you.”

It’s advice offered by comedian Steve Martin, author Cal Newport (in a book with the same title) and printed on T-shirts and wall posters that adorn corporate breakrooms across our country. No matter our objective – recognition that leads to a promotion or simply the satisfaction that comes from a boss’s or colleague’s “good job” – excellence that demands attention seems a logical and valuable strategy.

Here are five attributes that can make you so good that you cannot be ignored:

1. Great attitude is a key factor in your success and ability to be noticed, whether you’re a golf course superintendent, golf professional or club manager.

Savvy employers hire for attitude above other attributes. Stated in the negative, no one needs a grumpy or uncooperative manager leading today’s work force. There is enough friction in getting operational teams to perform at the high end of their capabilities without someone with a negative attitude pulling us down.

According to author Emily Smykal, whose findings were part of a CareerBuilder study by Harris Poll, nearly three in four employees (72 percent) spoke to the power of a positive attitude. “Positivity leads to a more productive workday and creates a better environment for fellow employees,” she writes. “Great employees consistently stand out for their upbeat attitudes and earn positive reputations for themselves.”

Building and keeping an attitude that leads others toward common goals requires a comprehensive understanding of the job’s requirements and a willingness to teach others to work harder, better and smarter. What’s more, great attitudes are contagious.

2. Eager learning keeps everyone involved sharp.

Constant learners tend to be open, creative and receptive to new or different ideas – even if they’re someone else’s. Heather Huhman wrote on Glassdoor that an eagerness to learn shows openness to new ideas, willingness to think beyond today’s facts and invaluable curiosity.

Robert Half, a specialist in recruitment and employment services, recommends that every resume show an eagerness to learn. This trait adds value for the employer and expands the performance potential of the employee. When you’re learning and growing, you are becoming a more valuable employee and one whose contributions are easily recognized.

3. Trustworthy teammates, especially in troubled times, are valued for their consistency, stability and integrity.

Difficult and exigent circumstances reveal those who can stand tall and steady in crisis. One’s day-to-day commitment to being a trusted and respected teammate is manifested in a thousand acts. Ensuring that your actions match your words is an important trust-builder, as are genuine eye contact, thoughtful interactions, an openness to criticism, and the willingness to express oneself openly and with trust.

The world champion sprinter Carmelita Jeter breathlessly testified to the power of trusting teammates at the 2012 London Olympics when – after running the anchor leg on the women’s 4×100-meter relay team, she said: “I knew they trusted me like I trusted them. And I would not let them down.” Jeter and her trusting teammates bested a world record in the event that had stood for 27 years.

4. Mental toughness is critical when we encounter adversity, in life and on the job.

Are you resilient and persistent enough to overcome challenging circumstances? According to Inc. magazine, qualities that make you mentally tougher are patience, perspective, focus (on priorities) and the willingness to confront adversity. The mentally tough understand that criticism or adversity is often not of a personal nature and see it as an opportunity to keep pushing toward their goal.

5. Careful planning – Planning is critical to sustained success. Managers who take a focused approach to plans and planning outperform their club’s budget. Advance planning reduces risk as managers identify potential threats and opportunities. Established, well-stated goals and objectives simplify and clarify your intentions.

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

3 Attributes of an Outstanding Club Manager

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

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

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

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

Rewarding? Yes. Challenging? Most certainly.

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

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

But what makes an outstanding club manager?

1) Strong work ethic

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

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

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

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

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

2) Forward-thinking

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

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

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

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

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

3) Welcomes accountability

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

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

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

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

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

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

Connect with Patrick DeLozier

Hiring Staff with Staying Power

Sourcing high quality staff who are in it for the long run is a challenge for all clubs, not least those situated in rural areas. GGA’s George Pinches demonstrates how putting in the hard yards at the point of search can produce the people you are looking for.

1. Talk to us about the current hiring landscape for clubs. Is high staff turnover still an issue?

Staff turnover remains an ever-present burden clubs have to face. One which is costly in both monetary and non-monetary terms.

The difficulty for clubs is the complex nature of the reasons behind the hiring challenges, ranging from:

Economic forces – When recruiting and retaining both management and staff, clubs often come up against macro-economic issues that are beyond the scope of the club to address

Cost of living – In many markets, the high cost of living limits the available staff within the club’s catchment area

Geography – Location and commute-time constraints can often lead to prospective employees seeking out a more practical job opportunity

So, the landscape can be challenging both for the club and for prospective or current employees, with only some of these variables within the club’s control.

2. What issues does this create in relation to morale and sense of identity within a club?

Private clubs are the ultimate in repeat business, so members want to know staff on such a level that staff know their preferences without even needing to ask.

Consistency and recognition are very important aspects of the club experience, and this is greatly hampered by a constant change in club personnel at every level. Managers often find themselves in a position of needing to start from scratch each season – losing the staff morale and good will built up over time.

Retaining club professionals and instructional staff is critical due to the personal nature of their interaction with members and their children. They are a great ‘unifier’ in the club environment across members, staff and the board, and the continuity in these roles is of paramount importance to the mood of the club at any one time.

3. How can clubs experiencing prolonged high staff turnover get themselves out of this cycle? What do they need to do differently?

They can pay attention to the local market and strive to be an employer of choice. While compensation is important, many other factors impact recruitment and retention.

In terms of taking practical steps, start by investing in the current management and staff. Professional development is a key component, regardless of whether an employee eventually leaves. Many private clubs become a sought-after employer because of the people they have produced within that sector.

Second, just as the club uses a member survey to gauge member satisfaction and obtain specific information that is useful in planning, engaging staff through a survey can be just as enlightening. Management, and to a much lesser extent the board, need to hear from the silent majority to understand which initiatives lead to less turnover.

The use of data-driven decision making is just as critical in Human Resource Management as it is in other aspects of club leadership.

4. How much can a robust structure and process help in all of this?

Recruitment and selection must be a structured process. Clubs must take the time to establish well-defined search criteria which clearly reflects the knowledge and experience you seek.

When recruiting for core positions, avoid short-term thinking and think carefully about emerging trends and the skillset you need to face the challenges of the future.

Retention, at the most senior level, involves setting clear expectations in writing with a well-defined monitoring and performance appraisal policy in place. Typically, Boards want accountability, measurable results and consistent results within the club’s unique history, vision, and culture. GM/COO’s want clear expectations in writing, and for their results to be regularly monitored and evaluated.

5. Are there certain measures a club can take to help identify the types of individuals they are looking for? More importantly, the ones who will help achieve a greater level of continuity within the club?

Clubs benefit from attracting and retaining individuals who have decided to make the club industry their career path, individuals who envisage a time when they are leading their own club and are keen to learn and develop. There is always a risk that you will lose that “rising star”, but they will often return when the opportunity presents itself.

How do you find these individuals? Predictive Personality Testing is one tool which helps augment the search process to isolate those with the best behavioral and cognitive fit for your club, later confirmed through a more traditional interview process.

Referrals are another tool for attracting, sourcing and retaining managers and staff. GM/COO’s who are active and networking in the club industry develop a deeper and wider connection with their peers, which can pave the way for referrals and approaches from prospective employees.

Any tactics you deploy in your search will be underpinned by one fundamental component: reputation. The reputation of your club, both from a staff or member perspective will either attract or put off prospective employees. So, think about the influence of online reviews, social media, and other outlets where people are expressing an opinion about your club. Address just criticism through investigation and resolution – this will clearly demonstrate your duty to the club’s stakeholders, build a positive reputation, and appeal to prospective employees who are in it for the long haul.

This article was authored by GGA Director and Club Governance expert George Pinches.

Staying Sharp

In his business leadership bestseller, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” Stephen Covey talks about the need to balance productivity and effectiveness in order to maximize potential.  The most successful leaders maintain their personal equilibrium, Covey says, by staying sharp through an ongoing process of personal change and improvement.  He likens the lifelong journey to “sharpening the saw,” which he says needs to happen across four dimensions: physical, spiritual, mental and social/emotional.

Staying sharp is a disciplined process that takes shape over a period of time.  For anyone who wants to develop a plan for self-improvement, increasing motivation and creativity will be critical.  Here are some ideas that may help:

  • Rest your mind.  Diverting one’s attention from the problems of the day and, especially, work-related problems, invigorates the mind for expanded innovation and problem-solving.  A rested mind improves your memory and your mood.  A rested mind also empowers self-knowledge for those already skilled in their jobs.  Self-knowledge helps us be receptive to talking about other people’s problems, needs and expectations.  Improving self-knowledge helps managers learn from their mistakes and deal effectively with criticism and feedback.
  • Manage your time.  Leaders skilled in time management use their time effectively and efficiently, which allows them to focus efforts on priorities.  They are less likely to be overwhelmed by the wide assortment of challenges and demands in their jobs.  Effective time managers can address a broader range of activities and delegate with greater clarity because they recognize a start and stop to discussions, tasks and problems.

On the other hand, managers who are unskilled in time management are disorganized and wasteful of time and other important resources.  They tend to drift from problem to problem, leaving co-workers confused about priorities.  The resulting inefficiency only seems to grow with time.

  • Pursue work/life balance.  In a servant-leadership capacity, balance is sometimes fleeting because we’re always putting the needs of others before our own.  Nevertheless, pursuing balance between the professional and the personal is critical to effectiveness in each.  This balance is a direct result of taking time to sharpen the saw; it prevents leaders from becoming one-dimensional and fully capable.

Normally one is considered to be out-of-balance when he or she overdoes one at the harmful expense of the other.  At one end, workaholics seem to find never-ending demands for working while those lacking balance place greater emphasis on on-the-job fun and activities at the expense of effective professional conduct.  A clear signal of being out of whack is the inability to address priorities on either side of the balance point.

Bringing harmony to your four-dimensional needs – physical, spiritual, mental and social/emotional – helps managers be more productive and fulfilled in their lives.  Covey says it’s often a matter of working smarter rather than working harder.  Here are a handful of activities to consider while sharpening your own saw:

  • Invest time and energy into learning.  Learn a new language or how to play a new instrument.  It is difficult to worry about problems at work when your mind is at work learning.
  • Read about the lives of great leaders and the challenges they overcame to reach their potential.  We’re inspired by the trials and perseverance of others, which have a way of making our challenges a little less daunting.
  • Travel to a new city, region or country.  Travel provides a literal and figurative escape that often clears our minds and brings new perspectives to problems and challenges.

Finding balance not only takes time to sharpen our saws, it also takes a plan.  We can all learn from one of the great woodcutters in history, Abraham Lincoln, who said, “If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first four hours sharpening the axe.”

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

Becoming a Destination

For 80%* of members and visitors, the golf course is the aspect of a club they hold most dear. It is pivotal to the club’s reputation.

However, when we imagine a ‘golf destination’, don’t we think of something more than just a club with a great golf course?

The word destination intimates something that goes beyond the golf course. It could be a desirable location, a known identity, a famed history, a longstanding tradition, exceptional service or just an overarching experience of quality.

If a club wishes to elevate its status, to be recognized as a destination, then there are three key areas that club leaders need to develop:

1. Developing the Customer Experience

The customer experience itself is typically comprised of three parts: the complete customer journey, a customer’s interaction with brand touchpoints, and the environments a customer experiences – including digital.

By developing an intimate understanding of each of these areas, and thoughtfully mapping them to the satisfaction of members and guests, you can make significant strides in the customer experience at your club.

A ‘complete customer journey’ is different for each and every individual, but starts before you think it might. Earlier this year I spoke of the advent and importance of online reviews – which are just one way customers research your club. Add in social media, web presence and press coverage and you’ll quickly realize that, actually, the customer journey and experience can often start well before they enter the front gates.

To learn about this in greater detail, member and customer surveys provide an excellent opportunity to seek intelligence and data. Reviewing these insights in the context of your club’s mission statement will then reveal improvements you can make.

Next, how do customers experience, navigate and interact with your club once they are through the gates? What is the first thing they see when entering? Who is the first person they will meet? What improvements can you make to improve or enhance that welcome or first interaction?

Remember: Customer’s expectations are often informed by their experiences elsewhere and can be unfair, misaligned, or even unreasonable in the context of your club. Expectations relating to food and beverage provision can be informed by the Michelin Star restaurant in a major metropolitan area, or expectations of service may be informed by their recent stay at a five-star hotel.

For this reason, any changes that you make should be in the context of fulfilling – or reviewing – your club’s mission statement: this brings an authenticity, integrity and brand-oriented focus to the experience improvements you make.

2. Developing Surrounding Facilities

Destination clubs typically focus new development or capital enhancement efforts in one of two areas: facilities that complement their core service offering OR facilities which offer them a competitive advantage over their local market and immediate competitors.

The trend in recent years has been to focus capital improvements on facilities appealing to families, children and, more generally, health and wellbeing. Clubs putting in place such additional amenities look to do so with the support of a long-term strategic plan, underpinned by strategic intelligence. In other words, they are taking the necessary steps to secure the long-term sustainability of their club.

Clubs looking to capitalize on trends and gain a competitive advantage have often done so with smaller, yet impactful additions. Take casual dining for example, where we have come across café/lounge-style areas conducive to working and individual club utilization, or straightforward, family-friendly dining experiences like fire pits, pizza ovens, ice cream bars and food trucks.

Developing facilities and expanding the amenity package can help to position the club as ‘the only place with _______’, and support the need and ambition to offer a genuine competitive point of difference in a challenging marketplace.

3. Appealing to a Wider Audience

Aside from offering an exceptional customer experience, true destination clubs cast a wide net by appealing to a broad spectrum of audiences. Membership privileges often include such things as extended family access; customized, unique, and well-attended social events; reciprocal and travel programs with other destinations; as well as tournaments, competitions, and special events that support the continued expansion of the club’s brand footprint and reach.

The key to enhancing the club’s appeal to a wider audience is not simply an exercise in volume or offering a litany of activities, but it is rather to position the club as a network extender. The club should be perceived as a way to enjoy shared, common experiences – known to be highly connected to achieving a sense of happiness and fulfillment. The club isn’t just for the ‘primary member’ anymore, it should be for everyone relevant to that members’ life.

This is not to say full privileges for all. The suggestion is that drawing connections between the club and customers’ social lives increases relevance, which is essential in support of member and customer retention and overall club satisfaction.

In the eyes of members and customers, for a club to be truly recognized as a destination, it must become a conduit for their lifestyle. The club is a platform to more effectively enable them to live the life they want to lead.

To facilitate that, embrace an unerring commitment to cultivating a superior customer experience, developing surrounding facilities, and appealing to a wider audience. By delivering on these key criteria a club can embark on the journey to changing customer’s perceptions and be known for being much more than just a place to play golf.

*Syngenta, Growing Golf in the UK, 2014

This article was authored by GGA Manager and Member Satisfaction expert Bennett DeLozier.

On Message

As a business, it’s important to step back at times and ask yourself the question: who am I talking to?

When it comes to local marketing, clubs can easily get caught up in getting their message out without really being aware of who they are aiming to reach. Sadly, this can amount to hurling words into the abyss in the hope that they will find someone relevant.

The fact is, it’s impossible to craft a truly compelling message if you don’t know who you are talking to. The key to effective messaging is targeting, and the key to targeting is thorough market research.

Internal Market Knowledge

Knowing your market starts with knowing your own club.

The first step in this discovery process is to build a clear picture of your current club members. Better understanding who and where your club is right now will help you to visualize who and where it could be the future, as well as tuning you in to areas of opportunity that exist around you.

This type of information from your members can be sourced from surveys, focus groups, suggestion/comment boxes, informal meetings with management or staff, or operational metrics tracked as part of a broader business plan.

What insights should you be looking for?

Member/Customer Information

  • Demographic profiles (age, gender, family composition, ethnicity, income level, other club memberships, political leanings, religious affiliations, etc.)
  • Home addresses (zip codes, secondary homes, distance from work, school districts)
  • Contact information (names of family members, email addresses, phone numbers, social media habits)

How Members Use the Club

  • Rounds played by segment and month/week/day/hour
  • Revenue by type
  • Amenity utilization metrics (fitness, dining, tennis, event attendance, etc.)

Understanding the habits, preferences, lifestyles, wants, and needs of existing members is invaluable, because it will enable your club to identify and target individuals with similar profiles to existing members.

This is the “low-hanging fruit” for clubs, and it is the first place you should invest your energies. If you have successfully sold to people of a certain demographic in the past, then there is a good chance you will have success selling to similar prospects in future. People are also prone to associate and identify with likeminded individuals, so these prospects will be drawn to your club if they see that they can relate to your existing members.

The next step is to use this data to build a picture of who is missing from your club. What market segments are you not connecting with? Is it female golfers, Millennials, fathers with young children?

Understanding who is missing at your club will teach you a lot about where your messaging may be letting you down. Depending on the demographic around your club, you may find that some of these missing segments are on your doorstep, and it is just a case of reaching out to them in the right way.

External Market Knowledge

Once you have learned all you can from within your club, it’s time to turn your eyes outward: who are your neighbors and who are your competitors?

What data should you be looking to gather?

Demographic/Psychographic Information

  • Demographic and income data
  • Details on lifestyle groups in your area (psychographics)

Supply/Demand Data

  • List of all competitors in your market area
  • Summary of service and amenity offerings at each
  • Collect data to quantify demand (golf participation rates, studies, visitor information etc.)

Local Market Data

  • Demographics on public websites like governmental or municipal agencies
  • Customer and demographic mapping through Google
  • Comprehensive reports available through sites like Tactician or Environics

Putting a ‘face’ to local market areas will provide pertinent insight to help define your targeted message. If the profile of certain local market areas doesn’t match that of club members, then you may be faced with making bigger changes to your messaging than you expected. Armed with this information you can adjust your communications strategy accordingly, or else decide that you could invest more fruitfully in membership recruitment elsewhere.

The club must also know who its competitors are – what they are offering, their strengths and weaknesses – in order to create a message that differentiates your club’s offering.

This type of external information can be sourced anecdotally from calls to neighboring club managers or through online reviews, backed up by qualitative data sourced through competitor websites.

By gathering the right market knowledge from both internal and external sources you will be equipping yourself for growth. Not only can you identify the “low hanging fruit”, but you can also target demographics that your club is missing out on. Your message will become stronger by understanding what separates you from your competitors, and also, most importantly, by knowing exactly who you are talking to.

This article was authored by GGA Senior Manager and Market Intelligence expert Michael Gregory.

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

Polish Your Skills

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

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

Leadership/Command Skills

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

Professional Selling Skills

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

Business Acumen

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

Learning on the Fly

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

Standing Alone

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

Organizational Agility

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

Dealing with Ambiguity

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

Performance Management

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

Hanging Tough

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

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

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