Newsletter Volume 10

In Celebration of Twenty Years

Our firm reached an exciting milestone in April of this year; twenty years of serving the private club industry with our search and consulting services. To all of our clients, our candidates, our friends and associates, it has been an honor to work alongside of you in this wonderful private club world for all of these years.

Twenty years ago, the internet and specifically e-mailing was a nascent technology that many cautiously embraced (including myself) not knowing if it was a passing fad or the future of business. I still have my doubts as to the quality and effectiveness of reacting to “instant email messages” when often a measured and timely response would allow for more thoughtful communication.

However, living with the ubiquitous technology has become the way of all business, including the most staid and traditional private clubs. As part of this amazing technology driven era we are excited to launch our new web site which will be ready for viewing in the near future. We look forward to sharing the next twenty years, or more, with all of you in this emerging new private club world.

Richard M. Kopplin
Dick Kopplin is a Partner of Kopplin & Kuebler, LLC, The Most Trusted Names in Private Club Executive Placement.

In Celebration of Twenty Years2019-09-04T20:00:30+00:00


Last week, I had the good fortune to be invited to participate in the McGladrey “Trends” Program that occurs each year in Florida where the Firm recaps and highlights significant financial and other trends in Florida clubs.  With the significant club auditing and consulting work they do around the country, especially in the club-heavy Florida market, this three day ‘tour’ of the State is enlightening for participants and attendees!

While there were a great number of takeaways that I had from the programs, a few really jumped out at me:

  • Clubs are really on the financial rebound, especially those who have done a good job of reinvesting in their infrastructure, and who have ratcheted up their creativity, relevancy and overall ‘freshness’ of offering.
  • Managers and volunteer leaders seem to recognize the increased need to ensure strong and consistent collaboration of effort, identifying first and foremost what their primary “mission” is! Making sure that common focus on the ‘main thing’ and building supportive efforts around that ‘main thing’ seems to have been the key for several clubs to reverse several years of disappointing or declining outcomes.
  • Food and beverage has become the number one amenity at many clubs, and many of them have actually figured out how to make the MAJORITY of their members happy with their F & B program! Those that do so seem to have first put CLARITY on what the purpose of F & B is at their club—an amenity, a revenue center, a break even endeavor, a social center designed to foster relationships, or something else.  Certainly, the VAST majority of clubs, especially in warmer resort areas seem to have gone totally casual with an occasional fine dining ‘special event.’    Several have gone to a Panera Bread-like, or Starbucks-like, or even upscale sports bar-like concepts to foster CONVENIENCE and SOCIAL INTERACTION, as well as to provide quicker, upscale casual dining.
  • The focus on EDUCATION of members is being done on a very proactive basis in many high performing clubs, as opposed to the historical ‘let’s keep them in the dark’ or defensive response to issue methodology that many clubs seems to have historically done. Finding multiple means of educating members about the Club, their roles and responsibilities, the ‘main things’ and more seem to have been successful via increased focus groups, town halls, and other communication methods.  One of the best I’ve seen recently was at Carmel Country Club in Charlotte, NC where GM/COO John Schultz and his Staff and Board created an outstanding new Committee Member Education Orientation program, including a complete tour of ALL front and back of house facilities by over 100 members involved in all committees!  It was especially well done!

While life on the road isn’t nearly as glamorous as it sounds, one of the great ‘perks’ our K & K Team gets while doing so is to visit so many high performing clubs and to see and hear first hand from GM/COOs, Presidents and other leaders how they are getting things done in our unique organizationally structured club environments.  Clearly, there is a transition going on in the industry to a much higher level of professional, results-oriented leadership—on both the volunteer and paid professional sides of the leadership model.

More examples of this in our next newsletter!!

Best to all!

Kurt D. Kuebler, CCM
Kurt Kuebler is a Partner of Kopplin & Kuebler, LLC, The Most Trusted Names in Private Club Executive Placement.


Educating Your Members about CMAA

“The Club Managers Association of America advances the profession of club management by fulfilling the educational and related needs of its members.” As you probably know, that is CMAA’s mission statement. Speaking from my own personal experience in working with the CMAA and its chapters directly for over eleven years, and indirectly for over 28 years, I have seen the benefits that the organization provides to its members.

The invaluable education that continues to evolve as the needs of today’s clubs and managers change and the networking that the association provides its members are quite obvious when you attend an education and/or networking event at the national or chapter level.

Members know the value that CMAA provides, but it is up to you to educate your club members, committees, and boards about the values of your (and your staff’s) involvement in the organization. Who better to sing its praises and reinforce the importance and value of the organization than the leaders and managers at the club who benefit, which in turn benefits your members?

For that reason, Tom Trainor at Grosse Pointe Yacht Club wrote an article recently for the club newsletter that shared his experience at CMAA’s World Conference and informed his membership about the organization. With his permission, I share the article with you below as an example of how to incorporate education and buy-in from the membership.

April 2015 GM Newsletter Article by Thomas Trainor, CCM

During the first week of March, the annual meeting of the Club Manager’s Association of America (CMAA) was held in San Antonio, Texas. Each year over 2,000 managers from around the world will attend this five day event. These managers are representing Yacht Clubs, Country Clubs, City Clubs, Athletic Clubs and a whole host of other social clubs.

The focus for this annual meeting of managers is almost entirely on continuing education. During the course of the week there are over two-hundred 90 minute educational sessions being offered on a wide range of club disciplines. Many of the sessions offered are directly related to being sensitive to member satisfaction. Some of these sessions focus on membership retention, while others are focused on catering to the particular needs of a specific generation, Millennials.

The CMAA has identified nine core disciplines that all managers should be proficient in. These include Human Resources, Marketing, Financial Analysis, Athletics, Food & Beverage, Facilities, Leadership, Business Analytics, and Professional Development.  To support the CMMA mission, those educational sessions being offered over the five day conference will included at least one and sometimes more than one of these disciplines.

You may have noticed that some club managers have the acronym CCM(Certified Club Manager) after their name , this denotes this manager has demonstrated a proficiency in these core disciplines with over 350 hours of educational credits,  and has successfully passed a six hour written exam testing each of those disciplines. Once this certification has been earned it is then incumbent upon that manager to continue their education and be recertified every five years.

The requirement for this recertification process includes attending 180 hours of continuing educational sessions at both the local and national level. If you do not earn these educational credits, your CCM designation is forfeited.

This certification process is certainly used in other professional organizations. With CMAA, the goal is to ensure that, as managers, we are continuously improving upon our core skills and educating ourselves on club industry trends. The ultimate goal of CMAA, and its membership, is to educate ourselves so that we remain relevant to today’s club trends and maintain a level of excellence our membership has come to enjoy and expect.

Finally, our mission at CMAA, and at a local level, is to engage more than the General Manager in these educational opportunities being offered. We want to prepare for the next generation of club managers that will uphold and maintain the standards our members deserve.  Our national offices fully support these efforts as evidenced by the following initiative being launched:

“The CMAA Board of Directors unanimously approved and launched the 2027 Club Professional Initiative. Because the club world is constantly changing, this program is designed to ensure that the specialized competencies of club management professionals meets these changes by focusing on the necessary skills for continues success.”  These initiatives will be integrated into the curriculum beginning in 2015.

Thank you.

Lisa Carroll
Lisa Carroll is a Search Executive at Kopplin & Kuebler, LLC, recruiting GMs, AGMs, Executive Chefs, and Clubhouse Managers. She is a faculty member of CMAA’s Business Management Institute I (BMI I) at Georgia State University and speaks at CMAA conferences and chapter meetings around the country.

Educating Your Members about CMAA2019-09-04T20:00:30+00:00

Board Expectations for Strategic Planning at a Private Club

Today with most club boards understanding the reality that a private club is a business and should be run like one, the utilization of strategic planning as an important business tool has become a common practice at the majority of clubs. In fact, it is the opinion of many, that strategic planning is one of the most important duties of a private club board member. However, all too often, once a plan is developed, it may find an unfortunate home on a general manager’s, club president’s or strategic planning committee member’s shelf or computer. So what should a board’s expectations be with regard to the strategic planning process? Let’s start first with defining the purpose and key components in a club strategic plan.

  • It is a road map for the future
  • It is not just a an operational or capital plan, but a combination of identified needs, goals and objectives to help insure the perpetuation and continued viability of the Club
  • It determines who and what you are and what purpose you serve as a club, and It helps you to understand what sets you apart from the competition and establishes your “Brand”
  • It helps to prepare for and manage change (and yet deter “change” for the sake of “change” each year by new boards)
  • It provides the club management team with clear and measurable goals and objectives
  • It gets member and employee buy-in early in the process to facilitate positive (politically supportive) change
  • It lends a greater degree of confidence of long-term success and improves long-range performance (helps the club remain economically viable while at the same time attempting to become recession proof)
  • It creates a healthy disciplined methodology for decision making (laser-like)
  • It is one of the common denominators found in today’s top performing clubs

During the strategic planning process at a private club, other things to be considered include governance, board and committee structure, and membership issues. This is most often accomplished by conducting a SWOT analysis, identifying the Club’s core values, and developing a mission and vision statement. Through this process, key strategic issues are identified and agreed upon and the most important step is taken by creating an action plan.

The action plan establishes the goals and objectives for each issue, the strategies and tactics necessary to accomplish the goals, along with who will be responsible and when it will be accomplished. In my opinion, it is the action plan that is the most important part of the process, which is emphasized by my favorite saying about strategic planning – “The purpose of a plan is not to produce a plan, but to produce results.”

So how do we insure that the action plan is followed and the strategies are executed? During a conversation with a club executive from a highly regarded club who recently revised their strategic plan, he shared with me that it is now the Board’s practice to begin the board meeting one hour early each quarter to thoroughly review the progress of the action plan, thus making it a “living document.” To guarantee continuity, consider making this a policy as part of the Club’s Board Policy Manual.

Another way to make the process a living one, is to make the strategic plan the entire Club’s plan rather the Board’s and Management’s, getting buy-in from everyone. The best business world success story for this process was revealed recently by retiring Ford CEO Alan Mulally. When asked what he believed has led to Ford’s recent success, he responded with their strategic plan entitled “One Ford – one plan, one team and one goal.”

So let us incorporate all of these tactics into making your club’s strategic plan a living process rather than a plan, because remember “the purpose of a plan is not to produce a plan, but to produce results.”

John R. “Jack” Sullivan, CCM
Jack provides consulting services to private clubs. He specializes in strategic planning and other private club operational issues.

Board Expectations for Strategic Planning at a Private Club2019-09-04T20:00:30+00:00

Improving the Golf Course Superintendent’s Club/Team Culture

Some superintendents have considered themselves the “outsider” department head, both figuratively and literally. This often leads to less of a “Team Concept” and less global vision of the club. How can we better help embrace one of, or for that matter all of, the team members?

Some simple strategies can include:

  • Lunch with the general manager and other department heads on a regular basis, resulting in an informal mini-staff meeting.
  • Provide cross-departmental exposure, by periodically, having the superintendent spend a half day with each department head to better understand each role in the club and have each department head spend a half day with the superintendent.
  • Plan retreats for department heads They can be more than “feel good” exercises. Department heads can spend a day off campus and have a chance to focus on team and club issues without the on-site daily pressures.
  • Invite the superintendent to observe house, golf, etc., committee meetings. As an observer, the superintendent will better understand what other department heads are dealing with and have each department head attend a Green Committee meeting to better understand the golf course maintenance issues.

There are many more ways to help improve the department heads’ understanding of the challenges that each department has. The more each department head understands others’ departments, the more you can improve that “Team Approach” and present a more cohesive and unified team, that ultimately results in improved club operations and member satisfaction.

Armen Suny
Armen has been in the industry for 35 years, most of that time at Top 100 facilities. He has been a General Manager, Golf Course Superintendent, Golf Course Designer, and Tournament Director, and he has overseen Major Championships and PGA Tour events.

Improving the Golf Course Superintendent’s Club/Team Culture2015-05-11T17:58:27+00:00

Little Things Make Big Things Happen

In my new position as a search executive and consultant, I’ve been touring clubs for six months now and have noticed how much a club can stand out if they pay acute attention to details and practice fastidious housekeeping. And on the other hand, a club with poor housekeeping stands out like a sore thumb, literally.

Not only is it noticeable to me, but the candidates I bring to a club notice these details, too. And if they are noticing it, you can be sure it’s making an impression, good or bad, on the members and prospective members as well. Consider this scenario…

John and Mary Brown were considering joining a club, one with a reputation of providing amazing service in a setting of unparalleled amenities.  They made a list of the many choices in their area, and began with the top club on their list, which had the best reputation.  When they arrived for a visit, the security team at the gate provided no warm greeting or security check but, instead, just waved them in.  Well, it was a friendly wave, at least. They arrived at the main Clubhouse hoping to meet with the key staff that could show them around. The main doors squeaked as they entered and left their hands feeling a little sticky. Mrs. Brown went to the washroom to wash her hands and couldn’t help but notice the used hand towels overflowing the receptacles. Before they were even greeted, they had made their decision and left. The damage was done.

A first impression is not just a first thought that can be corrected later, it is a reflection that leaves a lasting image and is difficult to undo. What does your club’s reflection look like?

It’s easy to lay the foundation for a memorable member experience, and it starts with that first reflection: housekeeping, grooming, and spit and polish.  Members and guests will forgive some things, but along with bad service, poor housekeeping is not one of them.

As John Wooden, head coach of the UCLA men’s basketball team and winner of ten NCAA championships, once said, “It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”

What is attention to detail? We all think we have it, but how do you know? One of the hallmarks of a great General Manager is taking that walk… daily. Walk your property every day, or twice a day, and focus on what the members and guests see. Consider all the finer points of your operation, starting with cleanliness, and take careful notes.

Make a detailed list of those items that make up a first impression in every department. More importantly, get the buy-in and involvement from your team. Challenge them to create “first impression lists” and to inspect their areas for housekeeping perfection.  Create peer-to-peer programs where team members rotate area assignments and walk each other’s areas for inspection.  An extra set of eyes will ALWAYS catch something you didn’t. Have them bring their constructive findings to staff meetings and encourage them to take part in the details of the entire operation.

Sample Checklist of Detailed Housekeeping

  1. Arrival – The gate area must be clean and the officers in impeccable uniforms. There must be a warm greeting, eye contact, and efficient check in.
  2. Landscaping – Nothing is commented on or noticed more than weeds or dead plants. Period. All landscaping should be properly groomed at all times.
  3. Clubhouse – No dust, no scuffs on floor, no spills, stains or scratches. Windows should be so clean you don’t even notice them, just the view they provide.
  4. Restrooms and Lockers – Nothing is worse than a dirty wash area. Everything should be fully stocked, and the floor and fixtures should sparkle.
  5. Kitchen – The lights should never go out on a dirty kitchen. All grease should be cleaned, and refrigeration and storage should be neatened, organized, and labeled.
  6. Carpeting – Carpets should be vacuumed every day, either morning or night, and spotted for any stains.
  7. Administration – The admin area should be clean and organized — no clutter.
  8. Pro Shops – The retail areas should have beautiful displays, dust free counters, and clean flooring free of scuffs.
  9. Cart and bag storage – The carts should be organized, clean, and on charge whenever not in operation.
  10. Pools – The water should always be balanced and look inviting and the lounging area kept clean with fresh towels always available. The receptacle for used towels should never be overflowing.
  11. Fitness – The fitness equipment should be antiseptically clean. Attendants must be continually cleaning equipment on a rotational basis throughout the day.
  12. Aroma – Allow fresh air into the Club when possible. Use scents to enhance the atmosphere.
  13. Light bulbs – There should never be a single burned out light bulb.
  14. Cigarette Butts – While small, this kind of debris carries a large negative message.

There is no excuse for careless housekeeping. It is a facility foundation, a completely avoidable miss. Focus on the details and create outstanding first impressions, that’s how you create lasting ones.

Tom Wallace III, CCM
Tom Wallace is a Search and Consulting Executive at Kopplin & Kuebler, LLC, recruiting General Managers, Directors of Golf , and Agronomists, and advising Clubs. He has 25 years of experience in Club Management and frequently speaks at local, national, and international CMAA and Club Management educational events.

Little Things Make Big Things Happen2019-09-04T20:00:31+00:00
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