In the past twenty years, our firm has conducted hundreds of executive level position searches. As part of the process we strive to understand each club’s unique requirements and expectations for the role we are working on—GM/COO, Director of Golf, Golf Course Superintendent, Assistant General Manager, etc.—we survey the key stakeholders regarding their most desired competencies and leadership styles. While priorities have changed a bit over the years, especially since the recession, the top five areas most often cited as “critical” for the GM or GM/COO role have remained constant.

Whether you are a board member or a manager, it is imperative to periodically “look in the mirror” to evaluate your skills or those of your manager in the following key areas to ensure performance is at the top of its game:

  1. Visibility and Engagement – Regardless of the size of club operations, the two key stakeholders—members and staff—want to know their GM/COO and believe that he/she knows them. It’s that simple. Job one, in most clubs, is the creation and consistent execution of a high-quality member experience; that often comes when the ‘tone at the top’ of the staff food chain exemplifies gracious, respectful “presence” in all areas on a reasonable basis.
  2. Volunteer Leadership “Dynamics” – Fortunately, most club board members have now come to recognize the importance of effective non-profit volunteer leadership, rather than taking it for granted or making it a popularity (versus competency) contest. Today’s GM/COO’s, in almost every club, need to be the catalyst for consistent education of volunteers and monitor how their duties are performed on behalf of the greater good, not for themselves but for the constituency. As a manager, having extraordinary skills in dealing with ever changing volunteers and, therefore, expectations, is even more critical than ever.
  3. Team Development and Retention – Having the skills and knowledge to attract and retain an outstanding “team” who clearly understand what is expected of them and who work in an environment of appreciation and support is essential.
  4. Financial Acumen – It should go without saying, but you MUST have the wherewithal to understand how the business is run and as importantly, be able to convey your thoughts to the team and the volunteer leadership so they have “trust and confidence” in what you are saying!
  5. Food and Beverage Competency – As most of us realize, the one area of every club operation that every member uses is the food and beverage program. Having the requisite skills to either know how to create and sustain an innovative, high service focused model or hiring the right people who can do so, is a MUST! Expectations are through the roof in today’s club world for a consistently well-done food and beverage program that, in essence, creates a “Cheers-like” environment of appreciation and recognition.

These key areas sound simple, but are too often taken for granted or not reviewed and evaluated as often as may be necessary.

Take a look in your mirror and see what you think!

Kurt D. Kuebler, CCM, CMAA Fellow, is a partner with KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE, a consulting firm providing executive search, strategic planning and data analysis services to the private club and hospitality industries. Kurt can be contacted at kurt@kkandw.com.