The Three Keys to Effective Governance

Governance in private clubs can too often resemble what is seen on the evening news: factions, resentment, distrust, skepticism, cynicism. In troubled times, sound governance is essential.

In our continuing Whitepaper Series, Senior Partner Henry DeLozier highlights the three keys to effective governance and proactive steps leaders can take to address and improve it at their club.

 

 

Read our Governance Whitepaper

Four Factors That Impact Innovation

At GGA Partners, we have watched the pandemic create innovative opportunities and innovation in clubs unlike what we have seen in many years.

In our continuing Whitepaper Series, Senior Partner Henry DeLozier reminds managers and club leaders how critically important innovation is, especially during these pandemic times.

 

 

Read our Innovation Whitepaper

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.

Talent: The Big Differentiator

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 first 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.

A strategic people plan turns vision into reality.

“You can design and create and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality.”

– Walt Disney

Every club has a strategy and a corresponding expectation: If it executes the strategy effectively, it will grow and prosper. Underpinning its strategy are detailed plans – financial plans, marketing plans, capital plans and agronomic plans. The most successful businesses, including the most successful private clubs, also have what we consider the most important plan – a people plan.

Creating a people plan – one that aligns the goals of an overall strategy with the talents and passions of your team – is a discipline known as talent optimization. Just as Walt Disney turned over the execution of his vision for “the most wonderful place in the world” to smart managers and thousands of Disney cast members, today’s astute club leaders turn to their teams of dedicated staff to implement their vision for long-term success.

As you face the challenges brought on by this crisis, there is no better time to examine your staffing model and create a strategic people plan to guide your new normal. In a post-pandemic future, your people strategy must change because the world has changed. There are four important phases to navigate to adjust your talent optimization plan:

Phase 1: Adapt your business strategy

Based on how business has changed recently, ask yourself:

 

  • What are you trying to accomplish?
  • What does success look like?
  • How will you flex to meet the demands of your new normal?
  • What new processes/products/services will you offer?
  • What processes/products/services will you eliminate?
  • Operationally and culturally, what’s working? What’s not working?

Recalibrating your strategy will involve tough decisions. You will need to assess the strength of the business, an exercise that will force an examination of people in key management positions, as well as support staff. For help, reach out to your network and bounce ideas off your colleagues. Enlist professional consultants to brainstorm best practices. And don’t be deterred if you hear “that will never work.”  Most great ideas start with critics who recite those exact words.

This is the perfect opportunity to hit the reset button. Think about all the times you wished you could make changes but allowed circumstances to delay acting. Now is the time to give yourself permission to pivot, to try new things and to take calculated risks.

Phase 2: Plot your revised organizational structure

As you finalize your new business strategy, you need to flex your people plan.

 

  • Take time to reimagine how your team should be optimally structured
  • What does your perfect world organizational chart look like?
  • What talents do you need more of? Less of?
  • Don’t think “specific people, specific titles, specific pay rates”
  • Instead, think “positions, responsibilities, behaviors, skills and talents”

As you create this new organizational structure, keep in mind how your operation is changing.  Will there be more curbside service in the future? Will there be fewer group activities? Will there be a greater need for virtual activities? Will there be a less formal food and beverage operation? Will there be a greater need for technology integration?

The Future Is Now

Let’s be clear about why a club business strategy is important:

 

  • It determines where the club is going
  • It gives a sense of direction for the entire club, employees and members alike
  • It supports smarter decision-making

Your club business strategy, which communicates key aspects of why and how the club operates, includes:

 

  • Objectives the club wants to achieve
  • Its services, products, stakeholders and members
  • Guidance on how the club competes and operates in its segment
  • Financial resources required to achieve the objectives and support the operating model

Talent is arguably the last big differentiator a business has. It is what stands between average clubs and innovative clubs. In our next article, we will dig into phases three and four and discuss the process of selecting the right talent to support your revised business strategy and creating a plan to develop that talent for long term success.

Webinar: A Changing Future for Golf Course Superintendents

This webinar was originally aired by the Florida Chapter of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America.

The Florida Chapter of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) and Henry DeLozier, GGA Partners, have a frank discussion on golf and what the future might look like for golf and golf course superintendents in Florida.

Speaking with Nick Kearns, Director of Green and Grounds at The Oaks Club and President of the Florida GCSAA, Henry shares his big picture perspective on changes resulting from the global health crisis and the details to which golf course superintendents need to be paying attention.

Spotlight:

 

  • Budgets will come under pressure, anticipated economic slowdown and its impact on golf course maintenance budgets.
  • The significance of the golf course superintendent and his/her ability to provide patrons a safe platform to enjoy golf will increase.
  • Emerging trends and best practices in the industry, pre-vaccine and post-vaccine.
  • Accelerated pace of change and impacts on supply chain.
  • Heightened expectations for expertise, prioritization, and communication.
  • And much more.

 

(29 minute watch)

Podcast: The Changing Face of the Golf Industry

This podcast originally aired by the American Society of Golf Course Architects as part of their ASGCA Insights.

Speaking with Marc Whitney, Director of Communications at the American Society of Golf Course Architects (ASGCA), Henry DeLozier of GGA Partners provides his unique business perspective on the changing face of the golf industry in light of the global health crisis.

“Control the things that you can control. Adaptability for all parties is the key going forward. Now is the time for clubs and architects to come together. Architects can bring forward cost effective designs and ideas to make clubs more successful.”

Listen to Henry’s perspective on where golf finds itself today and how the industry can focus on the future while also learning from the past.

 

(13 minute listen)

The New Normal?

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, Henry DeLozier discusses steps to take in advance of reopening and ramping up operations.

We may not know what our world will look like after the current crisis subsides and our clubs reopen, but we should be preparing for it nonetheless.

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

The more effective strategy is the one that many other businesses are taking to navigate the crisis in creative and productive ways. Their leaders may not know what the future holds, but they’re getting ready to adapt to whatever is necessary to succeed.

As clubs begin to ramp up into a post-virus world, private club leaders, in concert with key operational managers, well-informed members and designated board members, are following four important guidelines:

1. Updating 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.

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 may be starting over. 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 that way 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. Strengthening the team.

Every club in your area is 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. Introducing 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. (Example: “around-the-world” theme parties featuring different destinations members traveled to without leaving the comfort of the West Bay Club in south Florida, executed by Brian Schultz, the club’s former manager.)

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

We may not know what the new normal will look and feel like until it arrives. Meanwhile, we know members will be anxious to return to their clubs and to take advantage of all it offers them. Taking the steps outlined above will help get your club ready.

Crystal Ball Thoughts on the Shape of the Next Normal

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, Henry DeLozier highlights GGA Partners’ crystal ball thoughts on what the post-crisis environment will look like for club and leisure businesses.

Gordon Gecko wasn’t the good guy in the Faustian tale Wall Street and, yet, the character played in the 1987 movie by Michael Douglas left behind some memorable advice, “The most valuable commodity I know of is information.”

In early April, GGA Partners gathered its team of trusted advisors and thought leaders for the express purpose of developing strategic tenets to guide GGA clients across the globe. Following are glimpses of impacts for private clubs and club leaders:

Expect Longevity

Murray Blair and Fred Laughlin, directors at GGA Partners, observe that the effects of the epidemic will be lasting and may be sortable now into certain phases:

Pre-Vaccine – Until a reliable vaccine is developed, tested, and made available for widespread usage, conditions for most clubs will change only slightly from current circumstances. Baseline operational methods will change significantly as partial- and full-closures are showing operators and members new – more attractive, in some cases – methods which satisfy members’ concerns for caution and dining at their clubs. Many clubs are finding that demand for dining options at the club is growing as so many previously competitive restaurants are closed.

Operating costs will vary widely. Housekeeping budgets will increase substantially as members want to experience highly obvious signs of the club’s emphasis on sanitary conditions, cleanliness, and personal safety for members and staff. Labor costs will vary widely based upon local supply/demand balance as many workers will be less mobile than before.

Post-Vaccine – After a vaccine has been found and put into use, members will renew their active usage of their clubs differently. Bennett DeLozier observed that club members who previously were nonchalant on matters of strategic planning at the club will demand that their club have a clearly stated and broadly understood game plan. Many members who are responding GGA attitudinal surveys observe that there was no expectation of a health pandemic and, yet, believe “The club should have had a disaster preparedness plan.” Strategic planning, which was previously an indicator of the best leadership in clubs, will be important to most private clubs more so in the future.

Continued & Reinvigorated Family-First Focus

Barb Ralph, one of GGA’s most tenured team members, opined that members will seek more family-oriented facilities, programs and services. The notion of “clanning”, first suggested by futurist Faith Popcorn in her 1996 book, Clicking: 7 Trends That Drive Your Business–And Your Life, documents Barb’s thinking on the importance that causes many to want to keep those dear to them in a safe haven – like their club.

A New Normal

Linda Dillenbeck, a director for the GGA Partners Club Communications Practice, looks beyond the pandemic to underscore the critical importance of effective and trusted member communications from the club to its stakeholders: members – their families and friends, employees, neighbors, suppliers, and vendors.

Linda suggests that in a time when new standards are being established, the necessity of effective communications from clubs to their members will be a difference-maker to the clubs’ future economic durability. “Club’s with a proactive communications approach will be at a distinct advantage throughout and after the coronavirus epidemic,” according to Dillenbeck.

Shifting Operational Needs

Speaking from the perspective of the millennial generation, Alison Corner, Ben Hopkinson, Andrew Johnson, Mingye Li, and Andrew Milne agree that clubs will change significantly and – in some ways – toward operational needs and priorities previously reported through GGA Partners’ millennial research installments.

To summarize the ideas from these brilliant young minds, clubs will shift dramatically into (a) high-gear focused on membership recruitment and retention; (b) new activities, like musical events and performance art; and (c) new membership types, categories, rights, and privileges.

Martin Tzankov, a GGA manager, expects the new normal to bring a focus to financial durability to clubs. Martin notes the importance for club leaders to mind the strategic priority of balance sheet management and the financial health of their clubs.

Many club leaders forget the four cornerstones of board service: leadership, governance, strategy, and finance. Looking ahead, the clubs that perform best after the coronavirus pandemic will be those holding the best information. Perhaps Gecko was right.

Club Leadership for Tough Times

This webinar 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. 

In case you missed it, this webinar – hosted by the National Club Association (NCA) in early April – explores the ways effective club leaders are responding to challenges and evolving circumstances posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

In it, Henry DeLozier, Partner, and Patrick DeLozier, Director, feature as experts on crisis response and facilitate discussion about how the board and management at one of the world’s best clubs are dealing with today’s pressing issues.

Nicholas Sidorakis, GM at Southern Hills Country Club, and Bryan Johnson, Southern Hills Board President, explain how they are navigating the everyday challenges of the current health crisis while focusing on the future well-being of Southern Hills Country Club.

View or listen to the webinar (54 min)

View or download presentation slides (.PDF)

A special thank you to Henry Wallmeyer, Joe Trauger, John Good, and Cindy Vizza at the National Club Association for the opportunity to participate.

 

Lifting the Fog of Crisis

This article continues a series of communications from GGA Partners to help leaders of private clubs address challenges arising from the COVID-19 coronavirus that are confronting their businesses and their employees. Today, Henry DeLozier, a partner of our firm, highlights that now is the time to remind members of their club’s relevance and value. 

Lifting the Fog of Crisis: Now is the time to remind members of their club’s relevance and value.

The “fog of war” is a term coined in the 19th century to describe the uncertainty military troops often experience in wartime situations. Amid the deep uncertainty that the coronavirus has brought to our families, communities and businesses, many of us find ourselves in our own fog of war.

As club leaders reckon with the impacts – both immediate and long-term – of the current pandemic, lifting the fog of misunderstanding and encouraging engagement are important to your club’s longevity and success.

Here are two important steps to make your club a beacon of hope and inspiration to club members, their families and friends:

Make your club a positive influence for members.

Members appreciate knowing how the club, its members and staff are responding to current challenges. They are especially interested in how the club is taking care of its employees. In addition to e-mail updates enhanced with photographs and short videos, also consider:

Organizing virtual events. Using such technologies as Zoom and Google Hangouts, host a virtual happy hour. Keep the number small enough that everyone can be part of the conversation. As the organizer, start with a general update from the club and then let members take over with questions and updates of their own. This is an opportunity to lift people’s spirits, so keep it fun as much as possible.

Telling stories that inspire. Tell members about staff who are volunteering to care for others, including other members, while continuing to do their jobs at the club. Many members have special relations with club staff and will appreciate staying connected through stories.

Encouraging members to take away meals and snacks. Brad Bourret, GM at Cabarrus Country Club in Concord, NC, launched Take-Out Tuesdays before the crisis. He now reports that take-out for his club has exploded in volume. In troubled times, keeping connected to the things and people familiar to them gives members a greater feeling of safety and well-being. Think of it as comfort food.

Increase members’ understanding of club matters.

Provide regular updates. These are obviously not normal times, but retaining some level of normalcy is comforting. Members will appreciate knowing what is taking place at their club. Maybe a new freezer has been installed or the locker rooms and bath house have been fully steam-cleaned to ensure the club’s usual high sanitation standards. If spring flowers and shrubs are blooming, send photographs or a short video that reminds members of the natural beauty they enjoy at their club.

Introduce learning opportunities. Many members don’t understand how some aspects of their club functions. For example, club finances, board governance and the process for recommending members are unclear to many members. In addition, basic operations, such as housekeeping standards, the care and maintenance of facilities and kitchen storage and cleanliness practices, are obviously timely subjects. Now may be a good time to capture their attention and communicate important information on these topics through a podcast.

Conduct single-topic surveys. If you want to know what your members are thinking, what questions they have and what suggestions they would like to make, ask them. Short member surveys – which typically require less than 10 minutes – are great ways to update your understanding of members’ wants, needs and expectations.

The most serious crisis most of us have ever experienced has settled a fog over much of our lives, including our clubs. Efforts to lift the fog, including making your club a positive influence for members and increasing their understanding of how the club operates in good times and bad, reminds members of the importance of the club in their lives.

Your club’s relevance is among the many things being attacked by this virus. Now is the time for club leaders to take the steps that keep the club a meaningful and valuable part of members’ lives.

Menu