Newsletter Volume 13


Trusted News You Can Use

Is There a “Career Sweet Spot?
Search Committee and Executive Recruitment “101”
Who Are You?
What Chefs Want
Q-Times Set the Stage
Benchmarks for Club Security
Fitness and Tennis Combined: On-Court Benefits
Is Your Strategic Plan Current?
Practice Makes Perfect…or Better: Interview Skills
Ask Nan


Is There a “Career Sweet Spot?”

About mid-way through my club management career I met with my club president and told him that after serving as general manager for eight years, I wanted to leave the club for another opportunity. He said, “Why? I thought you would retire here.” I told him that was the problem; I already had. The team I had assembled did an outstanding job in the day to day operations, and quite frankly I needed some new challenges.

While the average tenure for a private club general manager is often a point for debate, I think the real question should be, “is there an ideal period of time to work at any private club?”

If I look at some of the executives at KK & W, the longest term of employment at one club belongs to Jack Sullivan who was at Gross Point Yacht Club for sixteen years. That was followed by Kurt Kuebler at Loxahatchee for twelve years, then Tom Wallace at Oakmont for ten years and finally my eight years at Midland Hills (I am bringing down the average for our firm).

While the average of the above four terms of employment is about eleven years, I would submit that it is not so much about length of tenure as it is about remaining productive and relevant to the club you are serving.

However, I also believe that eight to twelve years is a significant amount of time to give to any one employer, and even top performing, long tenured general managers might enjoy a change of scenery and a refreshing of their careers. Only you can determine where your “sweet spot” is, but you will probably recognize when the time is right for some new challenges.

In future articles our KK & W team will discuss in detail how to keep your career relevant and help you to stay productively engaged in your day to day leadership role. We will also discuss how to recognize the “speed bumps” that can often disrupt your career, sometimes when you least expect it. And finally, our suggestions will help you keep your “career sweet spot” for as long as you would like.

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



Search Committee and Executive Recruitment “101”

Interestingly, the simplest of things can sometimes have a derailing effect on candidates, both from our point of view and, more importantly, from a Search Committee perspective. While one might think it obvious and even sophomoric to have to point such things out, the sad reality is that there are many self-inflicted negative impressions that are made by not taking care of “101” issues, including actual disqualifying issues.

So, a few things to absolutely remember if interested in pursuing a position, regardless of whether KK & W is involved, it’s with another firm, or a club is conducting a search on their own. Consider:

  • Assume that just about every Search Committee has an English major on it!! Whether it simple spelling and grammar checks (beyond Word spell check!), formatting inconsistencies, or major gaffes where something just doesn’t make sense, great candidates can find themselves on the outside looking in if they haven’t done a good job of having multiple reviews of their presented documents to eliminate mistakes.
  • In the eyes of our Firm or a Search Committee, the assumption is made that THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT POSITION YOU HAVE APPLIED TO UP TO THIS POINT IN YOUR CAREER! If that is true (and why wouldn’t it be?), that means necessary time and care in presenting yourself — in submitted materials, preparation for an interview, understanding your strengths and motivations, etc., should occur. Too often, we or the Search Committee don’t get that impression.
  • There is a reason a search profile typically asks that you save documents in a CLEARLY defined and noted manner. Not being able or more often simply disregarding the most basic of instructions in this regard sends a message to us and to a search committee.
  • In our Firm’s case, we ask you to complete an insightful questionnaire that provides much more information than a cover letter and resume. Search Committees appreciate the discernments they obtain from these questionnaires, leading them (and us) to better understand your leadership style, your approach to certain issues, and more.
  • Having subjective, non-quantified information listed as achievements are pretty worthless. For example, it’s great to suggest that “Member satisfaction improved greatly during my tenure,” but without validation, it doesn’t mean much to us and a Search Committee. Additionally, suggesting things like, “Food sales revenue increased 50% during my tenure” for example, doesn’t mean much if there isn’t a dollar qualifier as well — that could mean it went from $100,000 to $150,000, which isn’t nearly as interesting or significant as going from $2.0M to $3.0M, but without quantification, it doesn’t tell the story it likely intended. If you can’t measure it and convey the actual measure, you likely don’t want to list it.
  • Mostly for golf professionals, while very well intended to have members write letters on one’s behalf, the best references are done by making direct contact with references. In some cases, either our Firm or the actual club one is looking to join is deluged with well-intended letter writing campaigns that usually only serve to ‘turn off’ the recipients who are inundated, sometimes without even knowing the candidates who are being represented. Again, following simple instructions, which are usually specific in what is necessary and required/desired from candidates should be what is done.
  • Thinking in advance about the “why I’m interested and how I actually ‘fit’ the desired qualifications” saves time and better presents one for a role. Applying for most every position we present simply doesn’t make sense; no one is a good fit for every role! And, while someone often says, “I can live anywhere,” being happy personally with where you are being just as important as having professional competency alignment.

These are pretty simple and obvious reminders, but hugely important ones to best manage your career and ability to stand out from the crowd.

Best of continued success in your career. You’re very welcome to contact me or anyone from KK & W to discuss these points or your career.

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

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Who Are You?

Who are you? Do you have a brand, an identity? “To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom,” Socrates tells us. If you haven’t done the work of introspection to answer that question, I recommend you do. It is truly the first day of the rest of your life when you can answer the question, “Who am I?”

What about your Club? Do you know your Club? I’m sure you have a mission statement. I’m sure you have a cursory idea, at least, of your demographics. You probably have the full details of your amenities. You should be aware of your leadership style. Most of us know those things. But how many of us really know our club’s story? The uniqueness, the traditions, the intangibles that make up who we are as a Club.

What about your operations? Is there a common and consistent thread? Are you proactive with policies in place that enhance your culture, or are you reactive, moving in whatever direction the wind or our members take us?

Over and over I see operations that aren’t uniform or tight. There is no manual of Standard Operating Procedures, there’s not an Operational Mission Statement. Time and time again I run into Club Mission Statements for positioning in the marketplace, but they say nothing authentic. Time and time again, I see websites that provide a whole list of features and sometimes even benefits (you do remember to paint pictures with benefits and not just features, right?), but rarely do I see the story of a club. Who is this club and why do I belong there? Because the club has two golf courses, friendly members, good food and is beautiful? That tells me nothing.

Today consider a different perspective. Brainstorm your story with your team. Create a list of adjectives and nouns first, being as specific as possible. Choose the top ten and insert verbs. You might just have yourself a brand description when you’re done.

Republished from BoardRoom Briefs

TomThomas B. Wallace III, CCM
Tom Wallace is a Partner of KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE, The Most Trusted Name in Private Club Executive Placement.
Co-author: Manon “Max” Passino Deboer, CAM, Director of Marketing & Membership, The Club at Mediterra

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What Chefs Want

Search committees always ask, “how long can we expect a new executive chef to stay at our club?” Club GMs and members typically want an executive chef who will work for ten years or more at their club. While there are no guarantees regarding how to keep an employee for ten years or more, there are certain steps a club can take to define the club culture and foster career growth which will help extend an executive chef’s tenure.

According to Club Benchmarking, 53% of clubs reported that their executive chef was employed five years or less in 2016, and the median number of years of employment for an executive chef in 2016 was five years.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median years with a current employer for employed wage and salary workers in the leisure and hospitality industry in January 2016 was 2.2. To break that number down further, those employed in the food services and drinking places segment was 1.8 years.

Two key factors that affect employee turnover are developing a positive and supportive club culture and preventing job stagnation. A club with a defined culture that supports its employees and promotes career growth will go far in attracting and engaging staff. Cohesive alignment must exist between the board, the management team and the staff, and the club should have a well-defined identity that is communicated through core values and mission.

According to a report in the Harvard Business Review, one of the key factors that drive turnover is “allowing workers to stagnate in their current role.” According to the article “Why Do Employees Stay? A Clear Career Path and Good Pay, for Starters” (Chamberlain, March 6, 2017), “stagnating in a role for an additional 10 months raises the odds that employees will leave the company for their next role by about one percentage point, a statistically significant effect.”

So how do you prevent job stagnation? First you need to know what motivates your executive chef. Next, offer opportunities for growth within the club. Here are seven ways clubs can prevent job stagnation by offering opportunities for growth.

  1. Support and encourage professional development for the executive chef and his or her team. This includes certifications as well as membership in a professional association such as the ACF, and travel and participation in conferences for educational and networking opportunities.
  2. Expand or rebrand dining venues. Planning and executing a new venue or expanding a current dining venue (such as adding more al fresco dining) is a great opportunity for growth. Don’t forget to expand the kitchen so that the culinary team can accommodate the expanded dining venue!
  3. Support community outreach – both local and national. Examples include showcasing the culinary team with a food booth at community charity events and food festivals; supporting culinary team members in competitions at the local, regional, national, and even international levels; and supporting the executive chef as an adjunct culinary faculty member of the local community college. Supporting an executive chef’s outreach in the community it is a win-win situation for the club. The chef and culinary team’s engagement increases; as does their growth. Also, the club receives local, regional and even national attention (depending on the event) which is great for attracting members and staff to the club. Kevin Storm, CEC, the executive chef at Bellerive Country Club told me “I have been at Bellerive for 21 years because of the support they have given me and our culinary team in community outreach at a local, regional, national and international level. That is what keeps us engaged, focused and relevant.” Kevin has served on ACF’s Culinary Team USA and is a coach of the current Junior Team USA. The club supports his ACF involvement as well as his outreach to the local culinary school and his efforts towards achieving certified master chef status which he is currently pursuing.
  4. Purchase new equipment and be supportive of new ideas. Has the executive chef asked for equipment such as an immersion circulator? How about a pizza oven? A garden and/or bee hives? The club’s support of these new ideas will go along way in keeping an executive chef and his or her team engaged at the club. Also, the kitchen equipment must be a part of capital investments. Give the team the equipment and tools they need to do their jobs effectively and efficiently.
  5. Offer increases in titles and salary/bonus potential. Just because the executive chef has reached the highest title in the kitchen doesn’t mean there isn’t still opportunity for growth. Consider promoting the executive chef to culinary director after a five-year tenure. This can include additional responsibilities and project work. If the executive chef has expressed an interest in moving to the front-of-the-house, consider a “Chef & B” role. Lawrence McFadden, CMC, the GM/COO at The Union Club in Cleveland stated recently: “titles are important. Clubs really need to look at how to attract and engage the best minds, talents and egos (a positive ego can propel an organization forward more effectively than hard work and dedication). A marketable title will attract the best in class. Our club does $2.8 million in F&B and has an executive chef, executive sous chef and chef de cuisine. Previously the positions were titled as executive chef with two sous chefs. Today, both our current sous chefs have 10+ years of experience and were sous chefs for five years prior to joining us, so an elevation in title was necessary to justify the move from their previous employer. Human Resource departments should always be challenged to secure the most marketable titles and descriptions which is no different than brand wordsmithing.”
  6. Provide opportunities for autonomy. Executive chefs should be part of the staff executive committee and they should be involved in committee meetings, finance meetings, and even board meetings. Give them the tools to do their jobs and the goals that they need to achieve and let them lead their team to accomplish those goals. Nobody likes to be micro-managed and it is a guaranteed way to drive the best leaders out of the club.
  7. Provide a labor budget that allows for the culinary team to have a balance of life. There is a severe shortage of staff and the only way to attract and keep front-line employees is to offer higher pay and less hours. Good luck finding a Millennial that is willing to work the back-breaking hours that kitchen employees worked “back in the day.” More staff is needed to offer five-day-a-week work weeks.

Executive chef Brian Beland, CMC, has experienced these growth opportunities throughout his now 13-year tenure at the Country Club of Detroit. He was originally hired as chef de cuisine and then was promoted to executive chef. The club supported the certifications he has achieved including CEC and CMC. The club also has had extensive renovations over the last few years which has led to exciting new opportunities for re-concepting dining rooms, opening new dining venues, and expanding the kitchen. The club has given him the opportunity to provide input to the board and at annual meetings. The club has even supported his full-time work as a faculty member at Schoolcraft College where he teaches and influences young talent (and can select the best and the brightest to work in his kitchens!).

It is important to keep the lines of communication open. Use “stay interviews” regularly to meet one-on-one with employees, including the executive chef, to find out what motivates each individual and learn about their short and long-term personal and professional goals. Ask them what you can do to help them attain those goals. Also, ask them what they need to do their job successfully and show them you care about and are invested in their future growth. Finally, provide the opportunities mentioned to create a culture of growth and support at your club.

Republished from BoardRoom Magazine

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.

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Q-Times Set the Stage

If it is Friday and you find yourself looking down and reading the q-time clipboard notes that were written on Tuesday, chances are good that your staff will snooze their way through your well intentioned yet repetitive monologue about new menu items, making sure to give the members the right of way in the dining room, I know everything, blah blah blah… zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. You might as well serve warm milk and put on soft music too!

Don’t miss this daily opportunity to impact your staff with the most fundamental of leadership tasks; running an effective pre-shift or q-time meeting.

The most effective food and beverage operations in the world are the ones that run dynamic q-times that motivate staff to go above and beyond, provide them with the tools to do their jobs and inspire them to provide the best hospitality possible.  If executed properly, q-times can reinvigorate a staid staff, resurface best practices that may have gone underground, and light the appropriate spark to inspire excellent service.

Here are some suggestions to running a more effective q time:

  • Don’t just talk about the bad stuff! You certainly need to address areas of service concern but be sure to include the victories as well. Celebrate staff compliments with the team.
  • Quiz the staff and reward them. You can quiz them on fun wine facts, steps of service, food trivia, club core values, upcoming events, members etc. Your goal is to keep the staff engaged.
  • Write and recite a haiku poem about service. Run a weekly contest for the best one. Okay, this one is a little (a lot) hokey, but I did it once and it was so off the wall that the staff loved it and we shared haikus for the next week! It gets the staff thinking about great service.
  • Run shift/monthly sales contests and announce updates in q-time meeting and post results in the common areas.
  • Hold pre-shifts in different areas of the club to keep them fresh. A change of environments can help them from becoming stale.
  • Invite suppliers for continuing F&B training. They are a wealth of knowledge and will keep your staff in a learning mode.

At the end of the day, you as the leadership staff must passionately recommit yourselves every day to the pursuit of communicating service excellence in q-time. Your staff will follow your lead. Be dynamic in your presentations, be sincere in your plea, be passionate about hospitality, and be truthful. Give them the “why” daily. Discuss core values and ask them what they mean.  On slow shifts, run contests. Do what you need to do to make each interaction with the staff impactful. You can change lives and it can start with a thoughtful daily q-time!

Samuel D. Lindsley
Prior to joining KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE, Sam was the Chief Operating Officer of Michael Symon Restaurants (MSR), a Cleveland restaurant company with 7 distinct concepts, 18 restaurants, and annual sales over $35 million. Sam joined the KK&W team last year, and he specializes in Food and Beverage consulting and Executive Search.

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Benchmarks for Club Security

More attention is rightfully being placed on security in private clubs.  But what are the things to consider?  Identify general areas to address in a brief summary, which then can be fleshed out in a more thorough action plan.  Here are some areas to be looking at:

  • Locks – Good security locks, properly installed.
  • Alarms – A good system with cellular backup and real-time monitoring.
  • Lighting – Especially exterior.
  • Attitude – Policies and practices that encourage use of strong security.
  • Surveillance – Video surveillance on property in appropriate areas.
  • Perimeter – Property exterior and access control.
  • Inner Perimeter – Evaluation of the hard exterior of the buildings.
  • Staff Training in Security – This blends with “Attitude” but is a critical component.
  • HR – Practices within the HR arena to be certain the foxes are not in the henhouse.

Once items of weakness are identified, an action plan must be used to target improvements with accountability attached. Plans that are not implemented have no value.

Remember, these are just a few items to start your security review practice.  Some items are costly, and some action items have no cost.  But as many club GMs have discovered to their regret, ignoring this area can end up being far more costly.

Kevin R. Peters, MA

Kevin Peters is a retired federal agent and former club manager who conducts the candidate backgrounding for KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE. He is also owner of K.R. Peters Security, LLC, a security consulting company primarily servicing the private club industry.

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Fitness and Tennis Combined: On-Court Benefits

As so many club members continue to seek time efficient ways to enjoy the social aspects of a Country Club sport as well as an efficient fitness workout, many clubs are turning to TRX (Total Body Resistance Exercise).  Imagine a cardio tennis class or Power 90 tennis class that has a court maximizing 8-12 members on it and in 90 minutes you get a great cardio workout, develop core strength and stability, increase rotation/flexibility, and improve balance. Certainly, it is a win-win for all involved. Many clubs, both private and municipal, are realizing the benefits of this quickly growing alternative to the humdrum doubles clinic that often leaves players heading to the gym after play.

The TRX system is a lightweight, portable, suspension trainer that is easily anchored to your tennis court fence. Simply divide your players and rotate time equally between tennis and fitness in 2-3-minute segments. Ensure players are hitting tennis balls in a choreographed, games-based doubles format while the others are working all the muscles required to maximize stroke mechanics. Play energizing music during this workout session while the instructors keep it fun with continuous movement. Minimize tennis instruction in this class and the results are likely to be increased participation and revenues.

The TRX system has been used by many professional tennis players as well as professional athletes from MLB, NHL, NFL, and Soccer.  So, don’t think this can’t help your 3.5 player looking to win more league matches.  Combining tennis and TRX improves on court performance and helps to reduce injuries as well.

The physical demands of tennis can take a toll on your joints if you don’t train to play. Putting some time into your off- court training program is essential but combining the two can really be fun for your membership from a social and fitness aspect.

Give it a try and add this to your tennis and fitness calendar of events.  It is likely to maximize your income while increasing your membership satisfaction as they win more matches and outlast the opponents. Of course, like anything else, make sure your staff is formally educated in cardio and TRX.

Republished from BoardRoom Briefs

Len Simard
USPTA Master Professional Len Simard handles the firm’s Racquet Sports, Fitness, and GM/COO searches as well as New Business Development.

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Is Your Strategic Plan Current?

The good news is that most clubs have adopted one of the best business tools used by successful companies – a functional strategic plan.  Listed below are the major components found in a good plan:

  • It is a road map for the future of the club.
  • It is not just a Capital Plan, but a combination of identified issues, needs, goals and objectives to help ensure the perpetuation and continued viability of the club.
  • It determines who and what you are, and what purpose you serve as a club (the importance of the mission and vision statements).
  • It helps you understand what sets you apart from the competition.
  • It helps prepare for and manage change, which is inevitable in today’s club world.
  • It allows for stability and continuity in club governance.
  • It provides the club management team with clear and measurable goals and objectives.
  • It is about being proactive rather than reactive.
  • It is one of the common denominators found in today’s top performing clubs

The biggest shortfall that we see with strategic planning in clubs is with those who spent the time, effort and money to develop a strategic plan and fail to follow-through and continuously update the plan. The one premise that is certain in today’s world is that things are constantly changing. Just look at how few clubs had pickleball courts five years ago compared to today.

What do the top performing clubs do to ensure that their strategic plan is up to date and relevant? They guarantee that the plan is a living document; one that is constantly reviewed, evaluated and updated. This includes having a dynamic action plan that Identifies the key issues, the objectives of those issues, and the strategies and tactics necessary to accomplish the objectives. It is also critical that someone be responsible and accountable for each issue.  While who is responsible and accountable may vary at each club, it is most commonly a combination of management, boards and committees.

We also find that the most successful strategic plans at a club require input, understanding and ownership by the membership, thus it becomes the Club’s plan. That goes a long way towards ensuring that the action plan is constantly reviewed and updated as needed. The best practice that we see in clubs is to do so on a quarterly basis. After all, my favorite saying in regard to strategic planning is – “The purpose of a plan is not to produce a plan, but to produce results!”

minihead-7John R. “Jack” Sullivan, CCM
Jack provides consulting services to private clubs. He specializes in strategic planning, placement and other private club operational issues.

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Practice Makes Perfect…or Better: Interview Skills

It amazes me that candidates rarely practice their interview skills in preparation for a career changing opportunity. You’ve probably spent countless hours improving your technical and leadership skills through educational seminars and certifications. But how much time have you spent in preparing for what could be the most important two hours of your career? Most candidates would answer that they practiced very little or that they did not practice at all. Consider this, we’ve had many very qualified candidates that did not get the positions they interviewed for because of poor interview skills. Practice those skills and you will have a better outcome in your interviews.

Here is what I’ve been telling candidates:

  • Invest 15 minutes a week in your career by practicing your interview skills. Video yourself answering a likely interview question.
  • Do this every week, watch yourself, your body posture, listen to yourself, your voice inflections, your clarity, your ability to answer a question succinctly.
  • Answering a question is not a five-minute monologue, and it’s not a yes or no; answer with a few sentences that directly answer the question and offer some insight into why you would be a good fit with the club.
  • After you’ve worked on your question answering skills, have someone that you trust to be honest with you critique several of your videos both for content, body language and tone. This can be painful but better during your practices than in the interview room.
  • If you get ready to interview for a new position, put together a group of people that you trust to do a mock interview. This allows you to get some “real” interview experience without having a new position in the balance.
  • Repeat and Repeat until you are confident and relaxed in an interview session.
  • Be prepared to ask questions, good questions, about the club. Do your homework, ask specific questions that “show” that you’ve researched the club.

Practice doesn’t really make perfect, but it can make you much better at interviewing and giving yourself the best chance possible to show a potential employer why you are the right fit for their club.


Armen 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.

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Ask Nan

As many of you know our colleague Jack Sullivan lost his beloved wife Darcy Mellen-Sullivan to cancer several weeks ago.  On behalf of Jack we would like to thank all of you for the many condolences that you have expressed. For a wonderful tribute to Darcy and for memorial services information please visit A Celebration of Life.

Nan Fisher
Nan has worked with the firm for over 18 years. She is the Administrative Manager supporting the team at KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE. Please feel free to contact Nan at with ideas that you would like us to address in future newsletters.

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