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.