Newsletter Volume 4

If Clubs are an Economic Indicator…

…then we’re seeing some pretty healthy and positive signs for the future!

So far this year, we’ve traveled to more than ten countries and twenty states, and we’re seeing lots of positive things happening in clubs in nearly every one of those locales. Clubs that put significant capital projects on hold are now going full speed with those plans; we’ve toured a large number of clubhouse renovations, expansions and even ‘tear downs,’ as well as course renovations and new amenity additions. It’s exciting to see, but more importantly, it shows that club leaders and members, in many areas, have regained their confidence for the future!

Now, of those clubs where we’ve seen this sort of thing occurring, the vast majority have also seemed to recognize that the management team, led by a competent, committed and in most cases passionate and articulate executive, are the keys to ensure these projects are successfully envisioned and completed. Boards have regularly said to us that they, individually, have never been busier in both a personal and professional perspective than they are right now. Consequently, in many of these situations, they’ve appreciated the leadership skills their executive and his/her team brings to the process, and have allowed them to take a proactive, dominant lead in the project.

This sort of perspective has definitely spilled over into our search work, where we’ve never been busier (also reflective of the positive economic signs in clubs). It is rare that we walk into a board room these days to discuss a search wherein the Board isn’t interested in finding someone with the leadership qualities noted above who can, in essence, act as the CEO of the organization. While most are not yet given that title, the desire of many Boards is that we bring them candidates who have a proven history of integrity; ‘trust-building’ with the Board, Members and Staff; and who can truly take on both the authority AND responsibility to lead the organization. This includes taking hold of strategic visioning of the operation, being the ‘face’ of the Club and in some cases, having all committees reporting back to him/her. These Boards have done this without abdicating their fiduciary responsibilities; and continue to have strong evaluation, input, and clear membership representation; but have recognized that they simply don’t have the time and/or the expertise to “run” the Club, so they don’t even try.

Now, there are always a few clubs and Board members who say one thing (“we don’t want to run the operation”) and still do something else (actually try to run the operation!), but from our perspective, that historical challenge (and trait of traditionally dysfunctional clubs) is clearly starting to lessen.

So, for the future of executive leaders in the club business, the time to ask yourself the hard question is now! “I want the title. I want the responsibility. I want the authority. Am I ready to then really step up and lead if they give this all to me?”

We’re excited for the industry because we’ve seen a good number of executives step up to and respond affirmatively to each of those questions!

We encourage all of our candidates to really ‘look into the mirror’ and truly evaluate whether or not you’re performing to this level. If you are, absolutely continue doing so, as we believe it is the way of the future for top performing clubs and their leaders. If you’re not, consider where your skills need to improve, and create a clear plan to get them up to the level you need. Don’t let a difficult president or committee cause a setback. Don’t allow yourself to become ‘conditioned’ to always taking a backseat in discussions and never making your views known for fear of them not being taken seriously.

Now more than ever, clubs are looking for a true ‘partner’ to success with their executive professionals. Recognizing what it takes to meet that expectation, which isn’t simply ‘given’ to anyone these days, is what separates today and tomorrow’s successful leaders from those who are simply managers.

We’ll have more insights in our next Kopplin & Kuebler Report! All the best – KK


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

If Clubs are an Economic Indicator…2019-09-04T20:00:36+00:00

Strategic Visioneering

At a recent Florida meeting of more than 150 club management professionals, strategic planning in the club industry was discussed. It was agreed that as our economy strengthens, more clubs are considering the strategic planning process, or are dusting off their old plan and reevaluating their current strategy (even though this was just as important to do so during the downturn).

Strategic Planning is an organization’s process of defining its strategy or direction and making decisions and allocating resources to pursue this strategy including capital and people.

According to the McMahon Group, nearly fifty percent of private clubs have a strategic plan. That’s the good news. The bad news is that only half of those, or just twenty-five percent of clubs, review their plan annually.

In our view, “Model Clubs make Strategic Planning a priority and a normal part of business.”

A club’s strategic plan is the formal consideration of one’s future course. A Club’s vision is a vital part of this process. Three key questions are asked:

  • What do we do?
  • Who do we do it for?
  • How do we excel?

How we excel is often called one’s “competitive market advantage,” which we will refer to later in this article.

In a previous article, we discussed who should take charge of the plan. In that other business world where most of our members work, it is most often the CEO of the company who takes charge of the strategic plan. It is our view that in a private club, it should be a combination of the club president, the general manager, and if possible, a professional facilitator. With the average tenure of a club general manager now at seven years, his or her leadership will play a vital role in the plan’s success.

Now back to the vision: According to leadership guru Warren Bennis, “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.”

In today’s ever changing and competitive world, defining who you are and how you will excel at what you do best is a critical component to success. This applies not only to new clubs but to established, traditional ones as well. A great example in the business world that can be applied to clubs is Starbucks. In Howard Schultz’s new book Onward, he chronicled how, upon returning as CEO, he quickly discovered that for Starbucks to survive and prosper they needed to reinvent themselves and excel at what they do best. Schultz’s team reviewed their plan and determined that they needed to get back to their core business – coffee. They even took the bold step of closing all of their nearly 7,000 stores for a day to retrain their staff of baristas to brew the finest quality coffee, served in a warm and friendly manner. While this day cost the company millions, it re-established their culture and set the direction for their new vision.

A parallel to this story in the club industry is Midland Country Club in Midland, Michigan. As mentioned in a recent article in Club Management Magazine, General Manager, Steve Pederson, CCM and then Club President, Jim Fitterling, knew that MCC was aging and that other clubs in the area were failing. Things had changed in this once very prosperous area of Michigan. They also knew that there were many families with younger children in the Midland area and their vision for the MCC of the future was to bring families back and focus on a “family-centered” versus a “family-friendly” club.  They wanted to create a destination/location where families would spend twelve hours a day at the club – in effect, their “Private Resort at Home!” The proof, as chronicled in the article, was success both in terms of membership growth and club utilization.

Pederson and Fitterling had a vision, for which they gained buy-in and which was then shared by the board, committees and membership…..and it ultimately became reality!

As stated by another well-known success story from that other business world – Ralph Lauren, “A leader has the vision and conviction that a dream can be achieved. He inspires the power and energy to get it done.”

Remember – the purpose of creating a strategic plan is not to produce a plan – it is to produce RESULTS! – JS

John R. “Jack” Sullivan, CCM
Jack is Vice President of Hamilton Harbor Yacht Club and provides consulting services to private clubs. He specializes in strategic planning and other private club operational issues.

Strategic Visioneering2019-09-04T20:00:37+00:00

Do You Know Who You Hired? Really? REALLY?

You need a new controller. You advertise, interview, check a couple of employment references, and have a candidate who really impresses you. You hire them. Two months later, the spouse of a board member happens across an article on the internet about that same employee having been arrested for embezzlement two years prior. Please take a moment to savor the exquisite anticipation of that next board meeting. Has the scenario got you popping Tums®? Good. It should.

Now think about how easy it is to check on potential employees before you hire them. (And yes, it really is easy.) Every employee you hire should be checked out in some way. How extensively you should dig is directly related to the position, level, and type of responsibility of the position.

Dishwashers, cleaning crew, basic labor in the golf course, and similar positions in your club do not require the same level of checks as a controller, daycare worker, or anyone else with sensitive responsibilities. In fact, an increasing number of states are requiring specific articulation as to why a particular criminal conviction would prevent a person from getting a particular job. If the dishwasher was arrested for simple marijuana possession two years ago, does that really matter? Some states say no, and you are barred from denying them employment based on that record. Be sure to know the laws in your state. On the other hand, if a golf course maintenance worker drives equipment around all day, then a history of drinking-related offenses may certainly be relevant. I know of an incident where just such an intoxicated employee crashed a Cushman and killed himself on the job.

You should be conducting a variety of different pre-employment checks including criminal history, credit checks, degree verification, interviews with the candidate (regarding their background), certification verification, extensive reference interviews, previous employment verification (definitely different than reference interviews), open source searches, sex offender registration checks, verification of each claim on the resume, etc. Yes, it is a big list, but remember, not all of it is needed for each position.

You also have to know what you are getting. When you are searching for a “criminal record,” that can be many different things. Also, you need to search many jurisdictions. There are city, county, state, and federal records, and they are queried differently. If the candidate lives in one county and has worked in another, which county should you search? – As many as you can identify, obviously.

How do you perform these checks? Some of them are easy and can be done fairly quickly on the Internet. Some are more complicated and may require you to hire a company to perform. In the next article I will provide more detail regarding the different areas that need to be checked. For now my goal is to get you thinking about the importance of background checks. If there is one very easy thing that you can do that can pay off big dividends in the future, it is making sure that you research your job candidates before you hire them. – KP

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


Do You Know Who You Hired? Really? REALLY?2019-09-04T20:00:37+00:00

Ask Nan: “Is it Time for a Tune Up?”

With Kopplin & Kuebler it is not all about executive placement. Our commitment to the club business is to provide services to clubs that ensure a vibrant and healthy industry. Having worked with many clubs over the last couple of years that have gone through astonishing measures to stay alive and thrive, we would like to share the tried and true results with you.

Now comes the “Tune Up” part. Just like your vehicle, your Club needs to have a tune up every once in awhile to keep it running smoothly. Dick, Kurt and Niall would be happy to evaluate your current operations to make sure they are running efficiently and effectively.

“Tune Up” your Club in this economy with these successful programs:

  • Strategic Board Retreat: Half-day workshop refocusing the Board on the top five strategic objectives to enhance their club right now.
  • Team Development: Half-day workshop identifying specific strategies that assist department managers in facing the variety of challenges in the club business.
  • Board Dynamics/Model Clubs: Two-hour seminar addressing critical issues facing General Manager/COOs and their Boards in today’s club environment.

These programs can be designed to your specific needs as well. Need a “Tune Up?” Just give us a call. – NF

Nan Fisher
Nan has worked with Dick Kopplin for over 10 years. She is the Administrative Manager at Kopplin & Kuebler. E-mail your “Ask Nan” questions

Ask Nan: “Is it Time for a Tune Up?”2014-12-22T21:11:49+00:00

Effective E-Mail Communication is Good for Business!

Effective communication with staff and members is critical in the club business and e-mail message communications are no exception. Since the advent and popularity of e-mail, formal memos have become somewhat rare – perhaps even obsolete at some clubs – and e-mail messages have replaced the “Inter Office Memo.” And yet, we have historically treated e-mail messages as an informal form of communication. It is time to elevate the business e-mail message to the important status that it deserves and pay attention to the effectiveness of this simple yet crucial form of business communication.

To that end, I have listed (with a little help from my friend, Keith Cronin) some favorite e-mail composition tips.

  1. Start from the bottom and move up. When I create a new e-mail message, I typically start at the bottom by writing the message, then add any attachments, then write the subject line and finally address the message at the top. This simple routine helps prevent sending the message before I add the last point that I forgot to mention or the file that I forgot to attach. It also helps me write a more meaningful subject line.
  2. Write a more effective subject line. Think of the subject line as the headline of an article. It should be descriptive, generate interest, and provide an indication of what action is required of the recipient. Here are some subject line do’s and don’ts:
    1. Do write an entire phrase or sentence that describes either the content or the purpose of the e-mail.
    2. Do include any related action item or deadline in the subject.
    3. Do look for ways to include the function of the e-mail in the subject line.
    4. Don’t start discussing a new topic without changing the subject of the e-mail to reflect it. You know what we are talking about here – replies that go back and forth and, when a new topic is brought up in the body of the reply, the subject of the message doesn’t change. Now you have a chain of e-mails that have nothing to do with the subject. By the way, you can change the subject of an incoming e-mail in Outlook. Open the e-mail message by double-clicking it in the Inbox. Select the subject text to edit it. Type the preferred subject and then close and save the message when prompted.
    5. Don’t be overly dramatic. Don’t label an e-mail “URGENT” unless it truly is. You’ve heard about the “boy who cried wolf” haven’t you? Along these same lines, don’t mark every outgoing e-mail in Outlook as High Priority and don’t request a receipt for every e-mail message you send.
    6. Don’t be in such a hurry. Take an extra 30 seconds to review the subject to improve its chances of being opened and your chances that it will have the desired impact on the reader.
    7. Don’t skip the subject line. Don’t send an e-mail message without a subject. I often won’t read a message if there is no subject line – especially if I don’t recognize the sender’s name or e-mail address.
  3. Write the e-mail message with your reader in mind. Put yourself in their shoes and understand their perspective on the topic. You have to focus on the reader if you want to communicate with him/her effectively and elicit the appropriate action. Consider their level of understanding of the subject. Don’t use acronyms if the reader is not familiar with their meaning. Here are some important things to consider about your reader:
    1. How will they read this? Will they be reading it from a mobile device or a computer? If you think they may be using a mobile device to read the message, make sure it is short and to the point.
    2. What is their level of understanding? A junior employee might need more explanation than a seasoned manager. You may need to go into greater detail with someone who is unfamiliar with the business.
    3. What is their level of interest? If you’re dealing with a member, don’t assume they’re your biggest fan – or your biggest sympathizer. Show them that you are concerned about them, not yourself. Likewise, when writing to a busy executive/board member who doesn’t need to know every tiny detail, keep it brief, and focus on the business impact and rationale of whatever you are writing about.
    4. What is their relationship to you? If it is a board member or committee member, don’t be too familiar – be respectful and professional. If they report to you, offer them guidance and support.
    5. Who else may end up reading this message? Think of an e-mail message like a post card – anyone can potentially read. As soon as you hit the Send button it is out of your control and can be forwarded on to anyone. When in doubt, pick up the phone instead. Remember, e-mail is forever.
  4. Keep your e-mail message brief with the most important information and a call to action first. Put the most important information at the beginning of the message. Don’t “bury the lead.” If the message is long, summarize it at the top and then expand on the topics in the body of the message below. Dispense with pleasantries – if you want to wish the reader a great week, do so at the end of the message.
  5. “Chunk” your message. By “chunking” I mean rather than writing out your message in long, explanatory and wordy paragraphs, keep your paragraphs brief and use bulleted lists. Your reader is more likely to review your War and Peace-like e-mail if it is broken up into easily digestible paragraphs and bullets. When was the last time you sat down and read a 30 sentence paragraph? I didn’t think so.
  6. Use headings within the message. If you are creating a long e-mail, break it up by adding headings for each section. Organizing it in this way will make it much easier for the reader to review.
  7. Don’t cover multiple topics in one e-mail message. This will help keep your e-mail messages brief and will make it easier for you and your reader to search and retrieve e-mail messages by subject.
  8. Spellcheck your message. Outlook has a built in spelling feature. You can activate it to run every time you click the Send button or run it manually by pressing the F7 function key on the keyboard. To set the spell checker to run automatically in Outlook, select ToolsOptions and then click the Spelling tab (Office 2007 or prior version) or select FileOptionsMail, and then check the box Always check spelling before sending (Office 2010).
  9. Edit and proofread your message. Spellcheck doesn’t always discover inconsistencies and the wrong usage of a word in your message. Proofread your message to check for errors and flow, and to ensure that you have written the message as clearly and concisely as possible. Write the message as if you would say it and then reread it and remove any extraneous words. By simplifying your message you make it easier for the recipient to read and comprehend and quicker for them to respond.

Follow this list of recommendations to improve the effectiveness and clarity of your e-mail messages and share it with your club staff and board to improve communications club-wide. It may not decrease the number of e-mails you receive, but it will certainly make it easier for you and your readers to review, organize, and act upon them. – LC

Lisa Carroll
Lisa Carroll is Relationship Manager at Kopplin & Kuebler, LLC, The Most Trusted Names in Private Club Executive Placement( Owner of Carroll Quality Alliance, LLC, Promoting Quality of Business and Quality of Life through Technology and Communications Training ( She facilitates CMI workshops for CMAA Chapters and provides remote, webinar-based software training for Clubs and their staff.

Additional Source: Keith Cronin
Keith Cronin is the Executive Communications Manager for LexisNexis. He is also a friend, fellow ukulele player, published author, and the drummer for Clarence Clemons’s band until Clarence’s recent, untimely passing. For more information about Keith visit

Effective E-Mail Communication is Good for Business!2019-09-04T20:00:37+00:00
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