Trust and Collaboration

Prominent board members explained how their boards responded and what was key to the survival of their clubs….

At the Virtual World Conference on Club Management in March 2021, club executives shared lessons learned and reflected how their clubs overcame the turbulent times of the pandemic. In a panel session with Kurt Kuebler of the consulting firm KOPPLIN KUEBLER AND WALLACE, prominent board members explained how their boards responded and what was key to the survival of their clubs.

Fred Palmer, a board member from Augusta Country Club in Augusta, GA, noted his board made a decision to support the staff financially through COVID-19, which he believes was the secret sauce for retaining their great employees and keeping them motivated and passionate. He said trusting the professionals and empowering them has never been as crucial as it was during the pandemic and continues today.

“The pandemic really opened our eyes to how valuable our staff is. They had to execute all of these spur of the moment communications and operational changes and did it all with a smile. They provided a great experience for our members in a really tough environment. It highlighted the importance of our staff and how great they are at what they do,” he said.

President of the Yale Club of New York City, Yoshiko Inoue, said experiencing this painful period emphasized the importance of trust between the board and the management team at her club. Trusting that each person has the club’s best interests in mind and working together to create a positive environment were crucial. “Managing to a new future state is going to take creativity and collaboration but I am confident we can do it,” she said.

Bill Chilies the immediate past president of Houston Country Club in Houston, TX, urged club executives to empower their professionals to take control of the club. It was the biggest lesson his board learned during COVID-19. “We learned we have to back away and let the management team manage. It’s our job to be involved in strategy and to make suggestions but we recognized that our governance has to be on track and that we can’t micromanage the team.” He referred to the importance of communication and being transparent with the membership. “We discovered we can’t let committees govern the club. It’s time we moved out of the past and let the board do board work and let our staff leaders lead,” he concluded.

Kuebler summarized this portion of the panel discussion by noting the importance of succession planning at clubs. “The pandemic has highlighted the importance of clubs developing the next generation of staff who can problem solve and evolve to help the club stay relevant no matter what is going on in the world.”

The Private Club Advisor – May 2021
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