Newsletter Volume 11

Oh, What a Difference the Years Make!

Reflecting on our 20 years in the private club industry, I’m very excited as we begin our 21st year as KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE.

We have never deviated from our original three-fold mission statement: to improve the well-being of our client clubs, advance the careers of our candidates, and have fun every day. Our decision to add Tom as a partner reflects our company succession plan that allows for new thinking and generational leadership looking toward the future.

The next twenty years will be just as exciting, and it really begins with our “world class” team. Tom’s connectivity to the next generation of both members and management talent is critical for us to stay relevant in our business and it is also beneficial to our club clients as we help develop the new wave of club leaders.

We are grateful for the opportunity to serve the private club world doing what we love to do, and we are really excited about the future growth of our firm along with the private club industry.

Richard M. Kopplin
Dick Kopplin is a Partner of KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE, The Most Trusted Name in Private Club Executive Placement.

Oh, What a Difference the Years Make!2019-09-04T20:00:30+00:00

Watch, Learn, Do

You can observe a lot just by watching.” — Yogi Berra

As I’ve written about in the past, everyone in KK&W puts in a lot of air miles and gets to visit a large number of clubs each year; we get to see plenty of what is happening in today’s club world. Our ability to “observe a lot just by watching” seems to occur every week on our travels as we get to visit countless clubs, sit with numerous managers and boards of directors, and witness some pretty interesting, and oftentimes extraordinary (both positive and negative) behavior!

Recently, while at famed Baltusrol Golf Club (host site of the 2016 PGA Championship) with CMAA CEO Jeff Morgan and SVP Jason Koenigsfeld conducting a Governance/Leadership Summit for a number of managers and directors, we had the good fortune of hearing Baltusrol’s GM/COO Kevin Vitale share insights on the Club with our group. It’s an amazing environment, steeped in golf history that most assume has always been that way. What we learned from Kevin, however, was how the Club has transformed itself from 10+ years ago when locked in a “no dues increase”, “deferred maintenance”, “committee-run operation” to where it is today—-pretty close to the same number of members, but significant millions of reinvestment has occurred and operating revenues, like F & B are up nearly 200% since then!

Kevin was followed later in the day by Jeff McFadden, GM/COO of the Union League Club of Philadelphia, recognized by the Club Leaders Forum © as the top Platinum Club © in America the past two survey periods! Again, one might assume “it’s always been that way” there, but that’s FAR from the case, similar to Baltusrol. Seventeen years ago, the Union League was about a $5.0M operation, doing around $2.0M in F & B, and under the same “no dues increase”, “deferred maintenance”, “committee-run operation” mindset of Baltusrol. Jeff shared with us that the Union League is now a $52.0M operation doing over $22.0M in F & B, has purchased a nearby golf club, has established a satellite member club on the Jersey Shore, is opening another satellite members’ club in Naples, and has significant additional plans to be even more “valued” and relevant in the future! All this in an era when MANY other city clubs have failed, closed or continue to suffer from under utilization by their memberships.

So, what did we observe just by watching? It was pretty clear from listening to both Kevin and Jeff, and having seen both of their clubs in operation a number of times the past several years, that it’s all about tone at the top! Their leadership styles, relentless commitment to being relevant, candid, obsessive in championing what is best for the majority of club members and the future, and simply being the ‘leader’ we all aspire to be. Each has great humility; they know what they don’t know, show great appreciation for those who contribute to the success of the club, and are able to recognize and mentor others to their respective successes.

Now, many managers we meet have the mindset of… ”well, if we only had the money clubs like Baltusrol and Union League have, we could do that as well.” Only, Baltusrol and Union League didn’t have that funding and weren’t executing to those top levels until their leadership “owned it” and created a clearly developed plan to get there, articulated it and ultimately set the ‘tone at the top’ to deliver and live it each day.

It certainly was not a situation for either of them to simply walk in and carry on a tradition that ensured success. Each HAD to be creative, innovative and get everyone they could in alignment with the whys and wherefores of such an effort! Each had pitfalls and setbacks, but the relentless focus on the goal seems to have never been forgotten.

So… “You can observe a lot just by watching.” You can then take the lead, keep getting back up, and never settle.

We’ve got some great role models out there, they are pretty easy to observe, and they certainly do not hesitate to share if asked!

More of these profiles to come in the future. Great summer success to you all.

Kurt D. Kuebler, CCM
Kurt Kuebler is a Partner of KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE, The Most Trusted Name in Private Club Executive Placement.

Watch, Learn, Do2019-09-04T20:00:30+00:00

You Need a Little GAP in Your Life

As I’ve traveled the country visiting clubs and general managers the last two years, there are many things that have become crystal clear to me about club leaders. Of these I’ve developed a baker’s dozen, if you will. This is first in a series of future articles on my top 13 (for now) keen observations.

Tom’s Top 13

1. What a fantastic business we work in! But it is a business. The strongest of leaders in our industry know how to run their club like a well-oiled factory, while the members still feel a familial and personalized experience.

2. Ideas and feedback drive successful organizations forward, so create a culture where questioning things is not only accepted but it’s encouraged. Create an environment of trust and sharing.

3. Time is a valuable commodity for everyone. Respect the time of your members, your team and yourself.

4. Be smart about your business partnerships. Create a checklist of all the things a purveyor or service provider has to possess in order for you to do business with them. Their values, the value they bring to the organization and the synergy you bring to each other.
5. Understand the Member’s (existing and prospective) Buying Decision Process and your Club’s perceived value, quality and variety:

Stage 1 – Need recognition
Stage 2 – Information search
Stage 3 – Alternative evaluation
Stage 4 – Purchase decision
Stage 5 – Post-purchase behavior

6. Know your stuff. Your Board and team know you don’t know everything, but you must be the resident expert on our business. What you don’t know you must be able to access quickly through your network.
7. Have a Strategic Plan that provides a vision, purpose, plan and brand. Get buy in for your plan.

8. Clarify roles and responsibility. Roles and responsibilities must be memorialized for an organization to succeed.

9. Employee engagement is not optional. If they aren’t with you they are against you.

10. Teach/develop/listen to your team. You know the old saying “AGM: What happens if we train them and they leave? GM: What happens if we don’t and they stay?” If Millennials aren’t growing they’re going!

11. Be Self-Aware about yourself as a leader and your organization. “One who knows others is wise. One who knows self is enlightened.” – Lao Tzu

12. Audit your organization. Is the culture of your organization to allow people both externally and internally to question the way you do things? Never rest on your laurels.

13. Everyone outside your walls is a competitor. “Poor

[clubs] ignore their competitors; average [clubs] copy their competitors; the best [clubs] lead their competitors.” – Philip Kotler

In the first of the series, we will explore #12

Number 12: Do you GAP? No, not wear 80’s jeans and sweaters. No, not follow (GAAP) accounting principles.

Gauge All Practices. That’s a Wallace acronym, free of charge. Embrace your realities and question your perceptions. This means go out and dig. Find out what’s really working and what’s really not. Nothing can be more profound then surveying your employees or having outside experts look at your operations to see where your perception and realities are not aligned.

Is the culture of your organization to allow people both externally and internally to question the way you do things? I recently read a story about tomorrow’s companies and Millennials. I think Millennials are fairly often misrepresented. In the past, it might have been OK to tell a young worker, “just do what you’re told and wait your turn.” Millennials aren’t geared that way. They ask questions. People are taken aback by this, but I now think it’s quite healthy. While some may feel it’s insubordinate to question authority or even the status quo, but they truly want to know why. They are asking for feedback and for understanding. When the questioning is driving you crazy remember “Innovation is anything, but business as usual”. We should question everything, all the time. Examination and scrutiny lead to understanding and change where needed.

Here comes another Wallace acronym: Triple A for Audit, Assess, Advance. The more you self-audit or have outsiders audit you, the better off you will be. Assess and use the information learned and you Advance as a leader and organization.

Any of us that have started a new management position know that what you’re told during the courting process is not necessarily reflective of the true reality, either intentionally or unintentionally. Perceptions are spun to spotlight the club as a shiny operation with few challenges. The reality may be, and often is, completely different. If done intentionally, what they are saying is help us fix our problems. If done unintentionally, what they are saying is we have no idea what our problems are. In either case, a close examination followed by an assessment of the information learned can lead to ultimate success.

As a new manager you spend a tremendous amount of time learning and questioning why things are done a certain way. You adjust the sails and, as captain, right the ship and then all too often, after a couple years go by the questioning and auditing of operations, governance, processes and procedures typically slow or stop. You might be tempted to rest on your laurels believing your systems are in place and are beyond reproach. Stopping can be very dangerous. “Resting on your laurels is as dangerous as resting when you are walking in the snow. You doze off and die in your sleep.” – Ludwig Wittgenstein

Creating a culture of questioning things allows you to clearly define who you are compared to who you want to be. Clubs are famous for using the word TRADITION, and the members hold on hard to that word. A tradition is foundational. It’s part of the fabric of your club’s historical tapestry. Most confuse tradition with habitual behavior. HABITS can be good or bad and don’t necessarily reflect the club’s culture and brand. A $7.00 inclusive bridge lunch may be called a tradition by some, but I just call that a bad habit, especially if it doesn’t protect the three E’s that all clubs today must be (last Wallace-ism, I promise): Equitable, Ethical and Efficient. We preserve our heritage and our traditions, but we audit our “Habits.”

Simply put, you have to make sure you both know and practice the industry’s best practices. If you aren’t capable of doing it internally there is plenty of help out there. Look to the CMAA for help. To start, you must ensure, at a minimum, that the following areas be scrutinized and routinely audited: Governance, Strategic Planning, Food & Beverage, Branding, Communication and Employee Engagement. Secondarily, if they are cornerstones at your clubs: Agronomy and Merchandising.

I firmly believe “Gauging All Practices” leads to a better understanding of your realities, shatters your perceptions, helps you break bad habits, and will always lead to higher performance.

TomThomas B. Wallace III, CCM
Tom Wallace is a Partner of KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE, The Most Trusted Name in Private Club Executive Placement.

You Need a Little GAP in Your Life2019-09-04T20:00:30+00:00

Culinary Compensation: Put Your $$$ Where Your Mouth Is

Perhaps you’ve read the recent articles about the kitchen staffing crisis in America including: “Not Enough Cooks in the Restaurant Kitchen” (New York Times article by Julia Moskin, 10/2015) and “Where Have All the Cooks Gone” (Chicago Tribune article by Kevin Pang 8/2015), among them.

It was a recurring theme this year when I spoke with executive chefs at C&RB’s Chef to Chef Conference and the ACF conferences, as well the numerous phone calls we’ve received from executive chefs around the country. There is a growing crisis in our private club kitchens across America: a shortage of qualified kitchen personnel from line cooks to sous chefs.

With a record number of restaurants opening and other culinary employment alternatives (upscale supermarkets, catering facilities, upscale retirement and assisted living communities, and even food truck ownership, etc.), the competition for qualified kitchen labor is fierce.

Also, with the economy picking up there are more job opportunities available that pay higher rates than traditional private club kitchen wages and offer more work/life balance.

Add to this the growing Millennial workforce who is more interested in: work/life balance, knowing more about the business they work for, autonomy, as well as having been raised to believe “everyone is a winner.” ( article “4 Tips to Engage a Millennial Staff” by Megan Rowe, 11/2015).

Julia Moskin in her New York Times article wrote: “Cooks joining the profession now are more particular about the kitchens they want to work in, better equipped to move from job to job and from city to city, less willing to work long hours for low wages and more impatient to rise.

So how do private clubs attract, engage and retain qualified kitchen labor? It seems obvious to me that investing in the staff from a compensation and personal development standpoint is an important strategy. Pay your team higher wages than your competition, offer them benefits, and offer them more work/life balance. And get that word out.

What is that you say? You can’t afford it? I don’t think you can afford not to if you want to deliver the quality F&B experience that your newer, younger members demand.

Is your club known as a preferred employer in the area? If not, why not? Look into what it takes to develop community approval and make it so. Check out the employer awards that the Detroit Athletic Club has earned over the years: “Detroit’s 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For,” “Crain’s Cool Places to Work,” and “Detroit Free Press Best Places to Work For.” The DAC advertises this on their web site as well – they get the word out.

We’re not just talking about increasing compensation for line cooks and sous chefs either. Private clubs now more than ever need to “compete with the streets” to engage their members and attract them to dine at the club rather than area restaurants. Private clubs need executive chefs who bring leadership, talent, creative menus and presentation, financial expertise, compassion, empathy, mentoring and vision to their culinary programs along with a personable demeanor and a “the answer is yes” attitude towards member and guest service.

Often we are contacted by private clubs who want to “raise the bar” in their culinary programs because their newer, younger members are eating out more often at trendy area restaurants and everyone is a “foodie.” The F&B programs at private clubs are vitally important to member engagement because everybody eats. F&B and fitness are the new main attraction for the whole family – even more so than golf.

Clubs will not be able to attract talented individuals at the same compensation rate as their previous chefs. If employers want to “raise the bar” on their culinary program they need to be willing to “raise the bar” on compensation for their culinary team.

Private clubs today need to invest in their executive chefs and their culinary team. The time has come to put your money where your mouth is.

SAVE THE DATE: Save the date now for our first annual Culinary Leadership Summit February 4th and 5th (right before the Chef to Chef Conference) in Atlanta. More details coming soon!

minihead-3Lisa Carroll
Lisa Carroll is a Search Executive and Consultant at KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE, recruiting GMs and Executive Chefs. She is a faculty member of CMAA’s Business Management Institute (BMI) Club Management at Georgia State University, is a Fellow of the Culinary Institute of America, and speaks at CMAA and ACF conferences and chapter meetings around the country.

Culinary Compensation: Put Your $$$ Where Your Mouth Is2019-09-04T20:00:30+00:00

Management and Staff Goals and Your Strategic Plan

Strategic Planning is one of the most important business tools used by successful clubs in today’s ever challenging world. A strategic plan is a roadmap that guides the Board, Staff and Membership in meeting the needs of current and future members, by keeping the Club vibrant, while planning for the future. While a strategic plan is not an operational or capital plan, there are key elements found in a good plan that is driven by the Club’s mission and vision.

A hallmark of a good strategic plan is its action plan. The components of the action plan chart the following actions for each key strategic issue facing the Club:

  • the objectives of each key issue
  • the strategies and tactics necessary to accomplish the objective
  • who would be responsible for accomplishing the objective
  • the timeline for completion
  • the current status

So how does all of this relate to management and staff goals? Well in most clubs, the General Manager’s name is often found in conjunction with other club leaders, on the responsibility line for many objectives and strategies. Of course, he or she should be held accountable for that with which they have been charged. In turn, as the Club’s team leader, it is clear that he or she cannot do this alone, thus many of these goals must be passed on to the GM’s direct reports. From there, where appropriate, they should make their way down to line level staff. An example of this is when one of the objectives may be to ensure a high-level service culture in all areas of the Club. This of course must start at the top, working its way down through department heads all the way to servers, bartenders, golf, tennis and pool staff, valets, etc.

The key to making all of this work is defining clear goals and objectives for all staff members, and holding them accountable for achieving their respective goals.

When meeting with key staff at a club about to undertake the strategic planning process, I will share with them that the strategic plan should be their “best friend” – providing them with clearly defined goals and objectives. However, they should also be held accountable for achieving those goals. I then state that “I do not know about you, but I would much rather be held accountable for that which is clearly defined and does not change every year with new board leadership.”

While this may appear to be complicated – it is not. By linking the goals and objectives from a club’s strategic plan to a department head’s regular evaluation (hopefully a quarterly one) it will greatly assist in ensuring the success of the Club’s strategic plan, and that ties in to my favorite statement – “the purpose of a plan is not to produce a plan, but to produce results.”

minihead-7John R. “Jack” Sullivan, CCM
Jack has 40 years of experience managing some of the finest golf, country, and yacht clubs in the nation. Jack provides consulting services to private clubs. He specializes in strategic planning and other private club operational issues.

Management and Staff Goals and Your Strategic Plan2019-09-04T20:00:30+00:00

Job Search 101, Basic Communication

My Kopplin Kuebler & Wallace colleagues and I are often surprised that so many qualified candidates that we meet, screen, and interview, seem somewhat oblivious to some key strategies that will help insure that they’ll get a better than fair chance to be considered for that next great opportunity.

Most of the time, when it comes to looking for a new opportunity people will focus solely on the subject matter of their resume and cover letter. In this installment of Job Search 101 we’re not going to be focusing on subject matter but on all of the little things that will make sure that your subject matter and you get a chance to be reviewed.

File Names
You’ve emailed in your resume and cover letter to a club, this may be your dream job, and you’ve named your file “Resume.pdf” or “______Country Club Resume.doc.” Are you getting the idea? Clubs and executive search firms may receive well over a hundred applications for a good job. Isn’t your resume more likely to be looked at, or even not lost, if it is named: “Smith, John Resume.pdf”?

Resume Contact Information
Now you’ve named your resume properly and you’ve gotten someone’s interest and they want to talk to you but you haven’t included your cell phone number on your resume or cover letter. They might set your resume aside and go on to another one; they may even forget to come back to it. Include your cell number and name on the footer of every page of your resume and cover letter. Make it easy for someone to reach out to you!

They’re calling you and you either don’t recognize the number or you’re at work so the call goes to voicemail. That’s where the problem often begins.

The Critical Call
The most common offenses:
Having the generic message, “We’re sorry, the person at (five five five) five five five – five five five five is not available, please leave a message.” Well, that’s certainly inspiring and makes a great first impression. Personalize your message!

Another and potentially worse offense is the “message box is full” alert, this signifies that you are poor at time management.

Another offender is the message that sounds like you were in a wind tunnel or with strange background noises. Review your message before leaving it as your public phone face.

Mr. or Ms. Monotone. Smile and dial! Let potential employers know you have a pulse. If your outgoing message makes it seem as if you have no energy, need a coffee, and are at the DMV you are not going to make a positive impression.

You’ve missed the call and go to return it.

Everyone is mobile today, so call back on your cell phone so that they can simply hit redial.

If you have to call from a landline and you leave your cell number in the message, you’ve made it less likely for a quick return call.

When you leave your cell number in a voice message, try this, “Let me leave you my cell number,” and then give your cell number and then repeat it, speaking slowly. This gives people a chance to get a pen and write it down. And then let them know that you’ll be texting the number to them.

Text Concerns
Candidates often send texts and the recipient, whether it’s a club official or a search executive, has no idea who it is from and has to ask who it is. Think about that before you send a text to someone.

The person that you are texting may not have you in their contacts. The first time you text them put your name on the text message and include your Ecard.

Follow up your first cell or other call with a text including your Ecard.

Next Installment
These simple common sense strategies on communication will give you and your information a better chance of getting noticed. The next installment of Job Search 101 will focus on the subject matter of your resume, cover letter, and more of what we’ve seen successful candidates do…stay tuned!

minihead-8Armen Suny
Armen provides searches for General Managers, Golf Course Superintendents, and Golf Professionals. He is available to consult on agronomics and golf course master plans. Most of his 35 years in the industry has been spent at Top 100 facilities. He has been a General Manager, Golf Course Superintendent, Golf Course Designer, and Tournament Director. He’s overseen Major Championships, PGA Tour events and golf community workouts.

Job Search 101, Basic Communication2019-09-04T20:00:30+00:00
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