[former] time honored tradition of making decisions ‘on the fly’ and without having much data other than the last few members they spoke to before walking into the boardroom.
I was inspired by the professionalism of the new GM/COO at the club and how thoughtful and prepared he was to share his thoughts and recommendations, even when knowing that at least a few of the board members held contrary perspectives…. at least until they heard his considered and pragmatic recommendations.
Finally, I was inspired when I got back to the office where I found a note from a student at this year’s CMAA World Conference, following up (as she promised she would) to let me know the results of her internship interviews and what she decided. She expounded on her excitement to have been given a chance to work with one of the top managers in the country, who is known for his sincere mentorship and record of supporting committed young and aspiring hospitality students. It was a great ‘connection’ of an impressive aspiring leader in the club industry with a GREAT and highly motivating current leader.
An inspiring day, indeed! I hope you have a good dose of inspiration in your day as well!
– Kurt Kuebler
Kurt D. Kuebler
Kurt D. Kuebler, CCM, is a Partner of Kopplin & Kuebler, LLC, The Most Trusted Names in Private Club Executive Placement.
The Food is the Focus, But Communication is the Key
How do you ensure consistent, innovative, high quality and cutting edge practices in your culinary program? Take a page out of the Detroit Athletic Club’s (DAC) book and make sure to communicate the club mission, vision, and core values to all of your front line employees.
The DAC, which celebrated its 126th anniversary last year, is a 13-time winner of Metropolitan Detroit’s 101 Best & Brightest Companies to Work For, and also has earned Michigan Quality Council’s Quality Leadership Award.
Executive Chef Kevin Brennan leads an impressive team of 40 culinarians and 28 stewards, including five certified executive chefs who provide DAC’s members their dining experience with an $8.5 million food and beverage operation.
So how does such a large operation communicate club vision, mission and values so that it permeates through all levels of the kitchen staff?
“The food is the focus.” That’s the fundamental concept, says Brennan, and focus they do using communication, consistency and critical club measurement tools to ensure success.
The hallmark of the DAC’s approach to food quality is its service guarantee system. Each of the five culinary departments has its own distinct statement of purpose and list of service guarantees that relate to the DAC’s vision, mission and core values. The guarantees are designed to ensure consistent performance at all staffing levels, with new or long time employees.
The DAC has a club-wide focus on learning and internal certifications specific to each department, and culinary is no different. This consistent performance process (CPP) drives the club’s performance excellence process (PEP), which helps ensure constant improvement and successful delivery of the service guarantees to members of the club.
So how do you relay and reinforce this information from the managers to the front line employees?
The human resources department conducts a formal orientation, and after being immersed in the club’s culture, new hires are now ready for the culinary department’s training. Each new employee follows a detailed training plan that includes property knowledge as well as a full range of standards and procedures necessary to be successful in the job.
To reinforce the importance of their professional commitment, each employee receives a special card with DAC’s vision statement, mission statement and core values along with their department’s specific statement of purpose and service guarantees.
This information is truly as important as any communications effort you might normally expect in a kitchen like the DAC’s. Other regular communication touch points center on new menu items (during training sessions), recipe cards and recipe books with pictures; communicating and reviewing BEO’s prior to and during events; writing detailed post-event reports by kitchen and FOH staff (actually they have some great templates that they would be happy to share), and end of day recaps.
DAC ensures its service guarantees remain in the forefront of the kitchen staff’s minds through mandatory monthly performance excellence process (PEP) meetings.
The meetings start by reminding employees of the value the club puts on them through its workplace philosophy of “safe, respected and needed.” Then the team reviews the month’s CPP measures and develops corrective actions for issues that might have occurred.
Sometimes the team is re-certified to make sure all members are trained and understand things like club attendance policies, as well as a review of both positive and negative issues.
The chef provides “big picture” information, including financial details, about what is happening at the club, all designed to give the team a feeling of accomplishment, contribution, and buy-in as well as showing them how their work contributes to the club’s bottom line.
Does your club have a mission statement, vision statement and core values? If so, how well and how often are they communicated to your team – from the department heads to line staff?
Can your communications effort benefit by translating the club’s mission statement into departmental statements of purpose and a list of department-specific service guarantees?
Consider tasking your department heads with that effort by gathering input and buy-in from their teams to come up with their own departmental service guarantees. These steps will help to ensure that the mission, vision, and values of the club are translated, related, and lived by every single member of the team.
– Lisa Carroll
Lisa Carroll is a Search Executive at Kopplin & Kuebler, LLC, recruiting GMs, AGMs, Executive Chefs, and CFOs. She is also a faculty member of CMAA’s Business Management Institute I (BMI I) at Georgia State University.
Ask Nan: The Revival of Common Sense
Everywhere I look it appears that Common Sense (capitalized here for its importance) has taken a big hit these days, be it in the political, economic, moral, or even job search arena. There was a time in my hospitality career that we were conscientious about how we communicated; we were “Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.” That means we did everything we could think of to put our best foot forward out of respect for our employer, our guests, and ourselves.
I hailed from the exemplary Common Sense training of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company and carried those hospitality standards with me throughout my career and to this day at Kopplin & Kuebler. So it dismays me when candidates apply for positions and submit the same cover letter with the same grammatical and punctuation errors only having changed the name of the club. Then they wonder why they are not taken seriously for a position. Let me apply a little Common Sense. . . never miss an opportunity to make an exemplary first impression!
Following instructions seems to not apply, as well. There is a reason we ask for the candidate’s credentials in certain formats and to be named as such: Last Name, First Name Resume; Last Name, First Name Cover Letter. With thousands of resumes to download, what better way to identify them? A funny side note – we used the example of: Doe, John Resume & Doe, John Cover Letter a while back, and you can’t believe how many John Doe resumes we received. Again, apply a little Common Sense.
Being “less than truthful” on your resume about your education credentials still seems to be one of the top issues that disqualify candidates. If you attended college but didn’t receive your degree, make sure that is explained. We verify degrees, period. There is no reason to misrepresent the facts when you can simply and honestly explain to the search executive why you didn’t attend college or finish your degree.
Another area of communication that should be regarded in the “professional first impression pitfalls” arena is that of text messaging, emailing, and posting/commenting on social media. Put on your “professional hospitality hat” and respond or post professionally. Don’t attach goofy photos of yourself to your email. A hurried and unprofessional response by a candidate to a potential employer has unfortunately resulted in the offer of employment being rescinded. Common Sense would tell you that you have to be professional in all of your communications; personal and professional.
There is one other Common Sense idea that should apply to all candidates when considering applying for opportunities. Make sure you have discussed the “pros and cons” of a career move with your family before you even begin. It is not fair to clubs to go through the whole search process in selecting their final candidates, only to have a candidate decide their family is not on board.
Applying a little Common Sense can go a long way in advancing your job search with Kopplin & Kuebler.
– Nan Fisher
Nan has worked with Dick Kopplin for over 14 years. She is the Administrative Manager at Kopplin & Kuebler. E-mail your“Ask Nan” questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Trees and Their Affect on Golf Course Architecture and Maintenance
At just about any golf course in the world, golfers are apt to choose up sides when the talk turns to trees. A veritable Mason-Dixon line is drawn, with tree lovers on one side and so called tree haters on the other. Tree lovers is an accurate characterization of the those that will defend all trees’ rights to exist on the golf course regardless of the trees’ negative impact on golf strategy and agronomics. On the other hand, there are those that are called many things but that are oft times referred to as the tree haters, who think that trees shouldn’t ever interfere with golf strategy and agronomics. Both camps must understand that trees affect turf quality and golf strategy along with aesthetics and vistas.
I guess that you could put me somewhere smack in the middle of the tree debate and as anyone that has ever read my blog or spoken with me knows, I never straddle the fence. But let me get back to the issue here, pragmatic tree lover is how I choose to think of myself. As a child, I owned every record for climbing highest in the trees in my neighborhood, even if no one else realized it was a competition. And then later on, I spent quite a bit of time climbing and trimming trees at Aronimink Golf Club in the off-season when I had breaks from school.
To me, the wholesale removal of trees on golf courses that would naturally revert to forest seems irrational and aesthetically mistaken. And on the other hand, filling up every void of a golf course with trees is just as irrational. What is called for is an intelligent plan that evaluates where and how trees should be utilized on the golf course that will improve or not negatively impact turf quality while protecting or even enhancing the design’s strategic options.
I started playing golf at eight years old and working at golf courses at fourteen years old and that’s what I have done for the last forty years. This has led me to understand, all too well, the issues of trees on golf courses. Trust me, if you worked at Aronimink and Rolling Green in the 1970s and 80s you learned what shade meant to grass, especially the greens.
Both courses have since had renovations that greatly reduced the negative impact of shade on the greens but also corrected silly tree plantings that adversely affected the strategic options and the playability of the golf course. Having spent a few years working at both courses, I have opinions about the restor/renov-ations and might have done some things differently. But these were large projects that significantly improved these great golf courses from a design and agronomic perspective.
The vast majority of golfers’ opinions about specific trees will be based entirely on how a particular tree affects their game. If they end up behind a tree too often, it’s a “bad” tree. If someone else in his or her regular foursome ends up behind the tree too often, it’s a “good” tree. As humans, we are really very predictable in our opinions. Most Superintendents see trees as a scourge and the enemy of fine turfs everywhere. Again, count me in the middle. I like trees but dislike that they cause shade problems on turf and the loss of strategic options on courses.
Shade’s Effects on Turf and Greens
Greens typically have the potential to be the most highly stressed turfs on any course. Anyone that can remember biology in grade school probably remembers that plants use sunlight through a process of photosynthesis to produce energy. We really don’t need to discuss this; it simply is a fact. Grasses that we use on golf courses will do better with full sun. Bentgrass greens need morning sun to get started in the mornings. When bentgrass doesn’t have morning sun, it will invariably struggle. Bermuda greens will need even more sun, more is better. Turf 101 is over, you can learn about this in many places.
Trees planted or growing on the east and south side of greens are a problem. Add the Sun Seeker app to your phone so that you can follow the sun’s arc for any day of the year while you are standing on your greens. Green committee members will better understand the amount of shade that is impacting turf quality by using this app.
Reality sometimes interferes with the perfect agronomic conditions for greens. So, when trees must be planted as screens on the east or south side of a green, consider the sun’s arc along with the distance from the green. And mature tree height must also be considered. Think about choosing lower growing varieties that will not cause problems.
If larger plants are needed immediately, use a “planned obsolescence” technique: plant the “wrong” trees in the “right” sizes and then under-plant them with those lower growing species or varieties which are usually available only in smaller sizes. In ten or fifteen years, it will be necessary to cut down the “wrong” trees, as they are getting too large. By then, the proper trees will have gained size and be ready to give decades of good service, providing screening without negatively impacting turf.
Trees’ Impact on Design’s Strategic Options
Well, now we have opened Pandora’s Box. Trees on the golf course can and do wreak havoc over the intended golf strategies. An excerpt from my essay on golf course architecture:
“Trees on golf courses can cause Civil War type divides in clubs. People just don’t understand tree planting/removal strategies. First of all, grass needs sunlight and air movement. That being settled, we can move on to design issues. For that matter let’s go backwards and start with the latest craze of buzz cutting golf course popularized at Oakmont. Members can, I suppose, do whatever they want to their course, but a site that is surrounded by and if left fallow would become treed should probably have some trees on it.
“So let’s look at reasonable tree plantings that can create a sense of forests but accommodate and perhaps enhance golf and the golf experience. Linear tree plantings are never, ever good, period end of story. I suppose that there is one exception and that would be on those old golf courses that are just so tight that without trees they might not accommodate modern golf.
“What is good is the use of clusters of trees that give a sense of forest but are positioned to achieve strategic and aesthetic goals. We don’t need to talk about the aesthetic goals of tree planting. We all know how pretty trees can be in a landscape and how they can help frame a golf hole and steer a golf shot.
“Just watch a player going through their pre-shot routine when there are a lot of trees or a big bunker on one side of a hole as they are wiggling and waggling you will see that inevitable shift of stance away from the visual hazard of the trees or bunker. Just as bunkers can be strategic and directional and saving and penal, so can trees. The tree can steer your shot. It can knock an errant shot down and keep it in play. Or it can be a hazard when you are behind it.
“So how do we plant, or for that matter, remove trees to better golf? First let’s agree that, when possible, clusters of trees are always better than rows of trees. Let’s also agree that tree plantings and hazards that are penal can be placed in positions so that the better golfers may be more affected than lesser golfers.
“For instance, a tree planting at 275 off of the regular tee on the left side of the fairway is going to affect more good golfers strategically than a tree planting 250 yards off of the regular tee on the right side of the fairway. So the distance of the planting from the regular tee is critical, and the side of the planting to anyone that has ever seen me play golf is obvious as well. But what if we have a cluster of trees at 200 yards from the regular tee on the right side of a hole and there is OB on the right side of the hole. Have we helped the average golfer and done nothing that would typically affect the better golfer?
“And by the way, every green doesn’t have to have trees in back of it to give depth perception, it’s just so predictable and cliché. Part of the game and challenge of golf is being able to adjust to different situations. When every green is framed and backed by trees, there is a sameness and an overt redundancy to the course.”
That brief excerpt gives you just a little taste of a very different way of thinking about existing trees as well as planning for future trees in golf course design.
As stewards of the golf course, it is incumbent upon us to review how time, tree growth, and misguided tree plantings have caused negative changes to our golf courses from both a design and grass quality/agronomic standpoint. The first step is to identify that there is an issue. Then call in someone with the technical skill to develop a plan to “correct” the issues and provide direction and guidance for future tree needs.
Armen Suny is a search executive with Kopplin & Kuebler. In the last 25 years, Suny has provided superintendent searches in 13 states and Canada. He was the superintendent at Cherry Hills Country Club for the “1985 PGA Championship” and went on to host six PGA Tour events at Castle Pines. He was the general manager at Shadow Creek for Steve Wynn. Suny was the assistant superintendent at Merion Golf Club for the 1981 US Open and an intern at Aronimink Golf Club for the 1977 US Amateur. Armen can be reached at (303) 570-2741 or via email at email@example.com.
Suny’s education is in turfgrass management from Penn State. His experiences include: Golf course design (Sagebrush Golf and Sporting Club, No. 1 new golf course in Canada, 2009 with Rod Whitman and Richard Zokol,) PGA Tour tournament director, and golf course residential project workouts.
Crossing the Line from Indifference to Indulgence
So you want to be successful in club management? You want to be a well-respected leader in the hospitality sector? You’re looking for a way to elevate yourself from “average and predictable” to “indulgent and exceptional?” I suggest focusing on what so few of your peers are: finding ways to differentiate yourself in whatever it is you are doing.
There’s a reason Baskin Robbins aggressively marketed “31 flavors” in the 70’s. Vanilla is fine on occasion, but variety is the spice of life. When search committees are busy wading through a stream of conservative conformity, the odd proactive opportunist stands out like a salted caramel chocolate sundae, laced with truffle oil sautéed espresso beans, topped with hand whipped heavy sweet cream, next to a scoop of strawberry in a cup! Now I’m not professing you ditch the pressed white shirt and standard red, blue, or yellow tie for one of those euro sport suits with a skinny tie over a pastel shirt and white socks. I am however suggesting you start communicating “old school” when it comes time to thank your suitors for taking the time to get to know you.
You got it. No generic text or email, “Thanks for having me and I really think I’m your solution,” that you send immediately as you confuse the value of speed over substance. Do you really want someone leading your organization that is more focused on pace than product?
Try putting the same thoughtful and sincere approach into your thank you letters as you do your cover letters. Yes, I mean a real proper thank you in an individually addressed envelope for each of the search committee members placed into an overnight envelope with your actual signature (in blue ink by the way) sent to the club immediately. Imagine the reaction the committee members will have when the receptionist notifies them that an overnight envelope arrived from one of the candidates for them. Instant differentiation!
Now you’re probably thinking this could be a great deal of extra effort. A unique letter for each committee member? You bet! If there are six committee members, personalize each to a certain degree so if (and they will) they compare notes it doesn’t look like you took the easy way out and mass produced them. They will see the care you put into the letters, and that translates directly into the passion you have for their club and ultimately being their candidate of choice.
Many of you are thinking, “Will a great thank you letter really get me the gig?” The answer is no. If you are not the most qualified or the best fit, a letter won’t totally alter an outcome. But many times in this business we operate on thin margins, and the separation between candidates is minimal. In that case, those letters will absolutely tip the scales. The key is to outthink and outperform the competition to differentiate yourself from them in the eyes of the decision makers. At the very least it will make club leaders think twice about your candidacy, and it will be you on their minds, not your competition.
Believe it or not, many never acknowledge the interview with any form of thank you. Some may send an e-mail to the club President or committee Chair. Occasionally, one may actually send a scanned letter to the committee, but rarely does anyone do what I prescribed above. I guess it all comes down to how badly you want it, and if you truly are different than the others.
My parents always said that life is simple and a little “please” and “thank you” goes a long way in this world. Maybe you should heed their advice and start differentiating yourself before you become the simple cup of ice cream next to that super-fresh sundae!
Greg DeRosa is a Search Executive at Kopplin & Kuebler, LLC, The Most Trusted Names in Private Club Executive Placement (www.kkandw.com).