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Club Leadership Alliance Names John M. Schultz as CEO

John-Schultz-Club-Leadership-Alliance

Charlotte, NC (June 16, 2022) – Today, private club industry powerhouse Club Leadership Alliance (CLA) announced the hiring of John M. Schultz, CCM, CCE as the company’s first Chief Executive Officer. A partnership between three of the nation’s most highly regarded firms serving private clubs, CLA provides services, tools, and expertise specifically tailored to help private clubs thrive. Established in June 2020, the CLA is comprised of partner firms KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE, McMahon Group, and Club Benchmarking. The addition of acclaimed, award-winning former private club General Manager John M. Schultz as CEO heralds an expansion of the CLA offerings and an increased industry presence for the Club Leadership Alliance and its partner firms.

After 18 years leading 36-hole member-owned Carmel Country Club (Charlotte, NC) to recognition as one of the country’s most successful, family-oriented private golf clubs, John Schultz brings numerous strengths to the Club Leadership Alliance and club clients seeking to improve the effectiveness and success of their governance and operations. Schultz’s achievements at Carmel Country Club included implementation of waiting lists in all membership categories, increase of initiation fees by 100%, and improvement of the club’s net worth by $40 million following $60 million of capital improvements that transformed the club’s culture and addressed every area of the member experience.

Schultz sees his new role at the Club Leadership Alliance as an exciting opportunity to partner with the industry’s best. “By combining forces around our shared expertise and vision, we’re helping private clubs increase their value, elevate member experiences, and achieve new levels of success in all areas.” Individually, the three CLA partner firms are national leaders in the private club industry, with over 3,000 clubs served. Together, KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE, McMahon Group, and Club Benchmarking have collaborated for more than a decade. By pooling their expertise, data, and resources, the partner firms increase the reach of their individual offerings, which remain independent, while providing new and increased opportunities through the CLA for private clubs to become top performers.

Club Benchmarking Founder and CLA Partner Ray Cronin said Schultz brings a unique skillset to CLA that was the “secret sauce” behind Carmel becoming one of the industry’s greatest clubs. “The innovations, discipline, and vision John Schultz brought to Carmel’s strategic governance program have been emulated at top clubs nationwide. Now, as CEO, Schultz will work with the three CLA partner firms to drive the industry forward by helping clubs seeking to transform their leadership models and embrace best practices.”

Contact: Elizbeth Malcom, elizabeth@clubleadershipalliance.com 

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About CLA
KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE, McMahon Group and Club Benchmarking, three of the most highly respected firms serving private clubs, have established the Club Leadership Alliance. After more than ten years of working together independently, the firms felt it was essential to work more closely in order to more effectively serve clubs in all their operational, financial, staffing, strategic and facility aspects.

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Club Leadership Alliance Names John M. Schultz as CEO2022-06-16T17:58:36+00:00

Smooth Seas Don’t Make Skilled Sailors

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If recent years have taught us anything, it’s that circumstances can change quickly. We want club leaders to be prepared for changing tides, not just sitting back enjoying the smooth seas. The most respected leaders emerging from the challenges of 2020 were proactive, strategic thinkers who actively planned for and anticipated the future. These traits will remain essential for club leaders going forward.

When things are going well, it is very easy to start taking things for granted. We may overlook certain deficiencies due to the fact member numbers and corresponding revenue streams are at all-time highs. There’s an old saying, “it’s easier to get to the top, than it is to stay on top.” This is certainly true for many in the golf and country club industry due to the sudden resurgence of golf that the pandemic brought. This rise in golf has led to the current “golden age” the private club industry thinks it is experiencing. When member rosters are full and club usage patterns are off the charts in every area of the club, it is easy to get caught up in the comfort of perceived smooth sailing.

However, clubs must be planning and programming to maintain the interest and usage. Just because things have been great, doesn’t mean it will stay that way. During a podcast conversation last year, Kurt Kuebler and Joe Beditz of the National Golf Foundation, addressed the influx of golfers and reiterated the importance of identifying tactics to retain golfers beyond the initial surge. Joe Beditz recommended a multi-reach approach to programming/services and recommending the following to strengthen the connection to the game:

  • Get people comfortable with game terminology, staff, course, etiquette, etc.
  • Find ways to overcome the obstacles that limit players’ ability to have fun.
  • Help golfers get that “great shot euphoria” sooner by building their foundational skills.
  • Create social opportunities around the game that players care to participate in.

In addition to golf, most clubs experienced a boost in membership interest during the pandemic and many are fortunate to have waiting lists to get into the club. However, it’s important to recognize whether your club has a true wait list or if the wait list is just a result of a timing issue. There is a stark difference in having 10 to 15 individuals waiting to join your club versus having a wait list of 50 or more.

You can determine the strength of your wait list by using a simple standard of multiplying your annual attrition x 2. For example, based on a 400-member club with an average annual attrition rate of 7%, a very strong wait list would have at least 56 names on it (they would typically lose 28 members per year). If their wait list was only 15 people deep, you can see that one weak recruiting season would quickly diminish this club’s wait list.

As the world begins to transition to an endemic state of mind, staycations will turn into vacations. Clubs will once again be competing with how members spend their leisure time and recreational dollars. Over the last two years recreational and travel opportunities were limited so members flocked to their clubs. Now, clubs must up their game and be prepared to compete with the masses once again. This is the reason we recommend clubs use pre-COVID attrition rates to estimate future attrition rates.

Given current world events, the residual effects from COVID-19, the political unrest, potential natural disasters, and the volatility of the financial market, it’s hard to know what lies ahead. What is your club doing to anticipate future member needs? Are you surveying members to better understand their priorities and satisfaction levels? A full membership doesn’t mean an engaged and happy membership. What is your club doing to ensure new members coming in become loyal, long-term members? Have you enhanced new member onboarding to make sure these new members are properly engaged and indoctrinated into club culture? Historically new members have been “at risk” of leaving the club within the first few years of membership if they didn’t feel sense of belonging or if they weren’t using the club as much as anticipated. It is imperative that clubs do everything possible to help new members get acclimated with the club, staff, facilities, rules, programs, and the club community. Providing effective orientation and engagement tools for new and current members will create loyal, life-long members.

A surprisingly few clubs have an organized and dedicated orientation process. A letter welcoming new members into the club, along with a copy of the club’s by-laws, club history and 25 pages of rules and regulations doesn’t cut it.

Clubs should make the effort to create an Orientation Guide that includes some of the “why” of what makes your club special. While building culture is often an over-used term, this is the club’s opportunity to highlight and instill various club practices, values, traditions and strengths from the beginning. Familiarize new members with various departments and department heads and get them comfortable with how different areas of the club operate and the various amenities and services that are available.

Learning as much as possible about your new members will assist the club in providing a level of service that is expected when joining a private club. Knowing the interests and tastes of your members is critical, from whether they prefer bourbon or tequila, are gluten free, to where they went to school, or what pro or college sports teams they root for can help clubs personalize the member experience. While clubs attain some of the basic information from new members during the application process, there is so much more information that directly correlates to providing an elevated member experience.

It is also important to evaluate how things have transpired at your club over the past 24 months. Has this sudden unplanned success exposed weaknesses within your club’s overall marketing and operational processes? What could your club be doing to increase brand awareness in the community?

This is the perfect time for clubs to re-evaluate all of the fundamentals regarding the club’s marketing plan. From making sure the club’s marketing collaterals are of the highest quality and telling the proper story to potential members, to wait list policies, membership classifications and offerings, and onboarding strategies for all new members, every aspect of a club’s marketing plan is critical to ensure clubs can navigate through the potential of choppy waters ahead.

While we all would rather sit back and enjoy the smooth seas, now is the time to plan for your club to sustain the potential volatility that will certainly reappear in the future. Club leaders that recognize social, political, and environmental issues and think strategically about their impact on club members and how they use the club, will be better prepared for the next big storm. Commit to frequent and transparent communication with members, employees, and the community at large. Don’t make long-term changes to club rules and bylaws based on short-term circumstances. Adjust programming and marketing initiatives to continuously engage members in all aspects of the club. Stay focused on the future because even though the seas are smooth for now, it’s the clubs that continually anticipate and adapt that ride out rough waters better than those who don’t.

About the authors….

Tom Wallace, 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. Tom can be contacted at tom@kkandw.com.

Steve Graves is founder and president at Creative Golf Marketing, a specialized consulting and marketing agency that provides membership solutions for the private club industry. Steve can be contacted at steve@creativegolfmarketing.com.

THE BOARDROOM MAGAZINE – May/June 2022

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Smooth Seas Don’t Make Skilled Sailors2022-06-16T15:33:17+00:00

Attributes Next Generation Country Club Boards

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As the club industry, technology and society evolve, so must club boards. According to Tom Wallace of Kopplin, Kuebler and Wallace, the next generation of board members will be more sophisticated, knowledgeable and have different expectations than board members of the past. It’s the reason why he urges clubs to follow these best practices for finding high-quality board members: identify specific traits board members should have and require committee service as a prerequisite to board service. If a member doesn’t have the necessary traits or isn’t successful on a committee, he or she likely won’t be successful as a board member, Wallace said.

“It was once a common practice for club boards to have one engineer, one lawyer, one accountant, etc. Today, worrying about actual professions is less important than seeking out people who are good leaders, effective communicators, fair and objective thinkers, engaged members who use the majority of club facilities frequently and who are good stewards of the club (those who are there for the right reasons),” Wallace wrote in a recent issue of Club Trends, a publication of the National Club Association and The McMahon Group.

Cultivating younger board members, diversifying demographics and looking for varying perspectives need to be priorities for clubs. Wallace believes that in order to provide a compelling member experience, clubs must have members with different viewpoints, backgrounds and experiences serving on the board and participating in the decision making processes.

It is also important to ensure the board is an appropriate representation of the membership. New members are often overlooked for board or committee service because they are thought to be too “inexperienced” or lacking in club knowledge. But Wallace believes new members can be outstanding candidates for service. “Few clubs actually seek new members to serve on boards, but new members may have great ideas, fresh outlooks and not be limited by the way things have been done in the past,” he explained. “They also have clear and specific reasons why they joined the club. This insight and perspective can prove beneficial in decision-making.”

In addition, creating a positive board experience is essential for attracting the next generation of board members. Wallace says 90-minute board meetings; purposeful, clear and consistent communication; a detailed board orientation; and ongoing board education are all key components to ensuring the board experience is effective and successful. “Actively working to make the board experience rewarding, enlightening and fun is essential,” he concluded.

Private Club Advisor – June 2022

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Attributes Next Generation Country Club Boards2022-06-08T16:45:10+00:00

Pre-Shift Briefings For Food & Beverage Teams

The keys to creating great member experiences are communication, teamwork and preparation. Annette Whittley, search executive and consultant with Kopplin, Kuebler and Wallace, shared the essence of an effective pre-shift briefing during a food and beverage seminar at the CMAA World Conference on Club Management earlier this year.

When planning pre-shift briefings, think about who, what, where, how and when. Who will conduct the meetings, where will they take place, for what purpose, how will they be executed and when will they happen. Consistency in communication is important, so think about having your meetings at the same time and place daily with no distractions.

What kind of content should be included during pre-shift briefings? Whittley recommends food, beverage, service, handouts and feedback. Include regular menu items, not just the specials and highlight menu changes and 86’d items for both food and beverages. Review service  techniques, pointers and reminders. Provide handouts of essential information and share feedback from members and guests.

Pre-shift meetings should be upbeat and fun, sending the team into service with positivity. They are also great times to recognize and reward employees. “Introduce competitions, have quizzes, announce tests, offer prizes, boost employee pride and always aim to make your briefings fun,” Whittley urged.

“These meetings are also a great time to hold employees accountable,” she said. Give constant, gentle pressure that accumulates over time to encourage, empower and develop teammates. This can be for specific individuals or the team as a whole.

“Pre-shift briefings are the only period of time during the day when you have the complete and focused attention of your team. Make sure you use that time to connect, listen, inspire and drive your employee and member experience forward each day,” she concluded.

About the author….

Annette Whittley, is a food and beverage training consultant and search executive with Kopplin Kuebler & Wallace, a consulting firm providing executive search, strategic planning and data analysis services to the private club and hospitality industries. Annette can be contacted at (561) 827-1945 and at annette@kkandw.com.

Private Club Advisor Plus – May 2022

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Pre-Shift Briefings For Food & Beverage Teams2022-06-03T17:56:18+00:00

Country Clubs Saying No To Private Events?

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While the focus of clubs has always been on members, many functioned using outside events to subsidize operations. COVID forced clubs to be more member-centric, as private events and large gatherings were canceled. Even though many clubs lost significant revenue from the lack of banquets and private events in 2020 and 2021, the silver lining was clubs discovered that the key to success is a member-centric experience and member-centric budget. In other words, they found other ways to support club operations without outside events. Today many clubs have transitioned to a new model where they do not hold private events, or hold very few.

According to the Club Leadership Alliance, clubs thriving today reset their financial model by stepping away from outside banquets and golf events and no longer need revenues from those sources to balance their budgets. “If you must have outside events to make your budget work, it could mean that your members are allowing their dues to be subsidized by outside events (nonmembers). As stewards of the club, you must build a member-centric financial model that ensures dues cover your cost of operations. It’s the only way to be sustainable,” Tom Wallace, a partner in the Club Leadership Alliance, explained.

Should clubs start turning down all private events? Well, not exactly. The alliance agrees that hosting certain milestone events for members (such as a wedding for a member’s child or member’s funeral reception) should remain an active part of a club’s operating plan as private parties play an important social role and are a significant member benefit. “We recognize that clubs might not be able to cut events out overnight. But the key is to not make events a commercial venture where the club is chasing events to generate revenue to subsidize the membership experience.” Frank Vain of the Club Leadership Alliance concluded.

Private Club Advisor – May 2022

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Country Clubs Saying No To Private Events?2022-06-03T17:44:54+00:00

Private Club Employment Reviews

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Performance management has never been as important as it is now. If you love your job and you want to keep it, or if you have a great CEO/GM or department head that you want to keep, this article is for you.

I’m astounded at how many managers of great clubs haven’t had a review from their board in five years (or more!). I’m shocked when managers are let go and say they had no idea it was coming. I’m always floored when department heads share that they haven’t had any feedback from their supervisor(s) for months on end.

Feedback is the breakfast of champions. It should not be feared; it should be thought of as fuel and here’s why…

I came up in the industry with few reviews and little feedback from my supervisors. In my first year as GM/CEO of The Club at Mediterra, my board initiated my first 360-degree review. Fifty people, including board members, committee members, department heads and line-level employees, shared what they thought were my strengths and areas of growth opportunities.

I vividly remember receiving the report from my club president … all 99 pages of it. At first, I was defensive, but after sitting with the comments for a bit, I was grateful. I was appreciative of the board members, many of whom were successful high-level CEOs, for their insight on my leadership, and I was grateful to my teammates for their honesty.

I grew exponentially from that experience. My confidence was boosted by the positive things people said about me, and I took the initiative to work on and improve what they said were my areas of growth.

Feedback is about alignment and evolution; without it, you will never be at your best. It’s the reason top-performing clubs are constantly analyzing their approach and providing feedback to continually evolve and improve their performance.

I’m often shocked by the lack of reviews and performance-based conversations because they are crucial to a person’s success. If you aren’t giving and receiving feedback regularly, you aren’t doing yourself any favors. You are doing a disservice to yourself, your team and your club by avoiding a tremendous growth opportunity.

If you aren’t giving your direct reports feedback, you aren’t raising their bar or pushing them to grow. If your board and team aren’t giving you feedback, they aren’t helping you develop.

Shirlene Industrious (pictured left), my former HR director at The Club at Mediterra, says, “It’s healthy for you to know where you stand and it’s healthy for you to share your insight with your team. It may be uncomfortable for some of your direct reports to receive your feedback but they need it; some even crave it.

“It’s up to you to show them where their growth opportunities are and assist them in creating roadmaps to achieving their goals. Collaborating with them on defining the necessary benchmarks fosters a healthy, proactive working environment. Create an atmosphere of self-awareness because feedback is critical to everyone throughout the entire chain of your club.”

I get it, reviews are time-consuming and they may be intimidating. If you’re overwhelmed by a 360-degree review, start with an employee satisfaction survey. Like a member survey, it’s important to know where your people stand and what they think of working at the club.

An employee survey pinpoints the gap between what leaders believe and reality. It’s a great way to get a read on the leadership team, culture of the club and the overall happiness of employees. When you receive the scores of the employee survey, you can identify areas of improvement or concern.

“If you have key staff that you can’t imagine operating the club without, then don’t take them for granted,” Industrious says. “It’s not just the complainers you need to pay attention and focus your efforts towards. You have to constantly water ‘the tree’ because it may be green one day and brown the next. Employee engagement can fade at times; continuous feedback is essential for the people you want to keep around.”

Attracting and retaining great employees is a challenge in any industry, but providing guidance and growth opportunities is the way to keep your employees happy. Regular reviews, stay interviews, healthy feedback on performance and insight on your own leadership will help you get people to stay.

It’s the reason I urge club leaders to set a board policy to ensure that reviews of the board, the GM and department heads happen annually at minimum. If it’s not board mandated, there’s no guarantee it will happen.

It’s essential that everyone at the club gives feedback to those they work for and gets feedback from those who work for them. And it should happen no less than once a year. Best-practice clubs are giving and receiving feedback on an ongoing basis and it is evident in their performance.

As a GM, if you fear receiving feedback, you may need a shift in your perception. There is comfort in knowing where you stand with your board and your team. Feedback provides direction and alignment to areas of focus. Positive annual reviews are an excellent documentation of your past performance for future club presidents and even other job opportunities.

Giving and receiving feedback is essential to your career and your growth as a leader; your development is an evolution, not a revolution. Not seeking feedback from your board and your employees puts you at a disadvantage. If you want to be a great leader who is performing at the height of your game, make giving and receiving feedback part of everything that you do.

About the author….

Tom Wallace, 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. Tom can be contacted at tom@kkandw.com.

THE BOARDROOM MAGAZINE – March/April 2022

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Private Club Employment Reviews2022-04-26T14:00:11+00:00
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