The Future Look for Kopplin Kuebler & Wallace is Now!

I think our entire KK and W team was stunned! They actually didn’t think I would be so receptive to some of the latest technology available for communicating to our clients and candidates. But I not only endorsed the new video program, I did so with enthusiasm. Even someone like me who has been in the private club business for forty five years can recognize an idea whose time has come.

Every reputable study I have seen concludes that the vast majority of people want communications that are visual rather than written. Our partnership with has provided us with the latest technology available when it comes to visual messaging.

With the simple click of a button on the KK and W website, candidates can learn about our current opportunities in a fast paced, informative medium that is professionally presented. Bye-bye paper and lengthy position descriptions. We will continue to use and expand this medium for on-going communications with our candidates, clients and the private club world.

I have seen the future and it is now! Very exciting!

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


More news you can use…

5 Critical Areas of Focus for the GM/COO Role
Membership Buying Process
Be Brilliantly Indigenous
Linking Staff Performance to the Club’s Strategic Plan
Job Search 101, The Resume
Ask Nan


5 Critical Areas of Focus for the GM/COO Role

In the past twenty years, our firm has conducted hundreds of executive level position searches.  As part of the process we strive to understand each club’s unique requirements and expectations for the role we are working on—GM/COO, Director of Golf, Golf Course Superintendent, Assistant General Manager, etc.—we survey the key stakeholders regarding their most desired competencies and leadership styles.  While priorities have changed a bit over the years, especially since the recession, the top five areas most often cited as “critical” for the GM or GM/COO role have remained constant.

Whether you are a board member or a manager, it is imperative to periodically “look in the mirror” to evaluate your skills or those of your manager in the following key areas to ensure performance is at the top of its game:

  1. Visibility and Engagement – Regardless of the size of club operations, the two key stakeholders—members and staff—want to know their GM/COO and believe that he/she knows them. It’s that simple.  Job one, in most clubs, is the creation and consistent execution of a high-quality member experience; that often comes when the ‘tone at the top’ of the staff food chain exemplifies gracious, respectful “presence” in all areas on a reasonable basis.
  2. Volunteer Leadership “Dynamics” – Fortunately, most club board members have now come to recognize the importance of effective non-profit volunteer leadership, rather than taking it for granted or making it a popularity (versus competency) contest. Today’s GM/COO’s, in almost every club, need to be the catalyst for consistent education of volunteers and monitor how their duties are performed on behalf of the greater good, not for themselves but for the constituency.  As a manager, having extraordinary skills in dealing with ever changing volunteers and, therefore, expectations, is even more critical than ever.
  3. Team Development and Retention – Having the skills and knowledge to attract and retain an outstanding “team” who clearly understand what is expected of them and who work in an environment of appreciation and support is essential.
  4. Financial Acumen – It should go without saying, but you MUST have the wherewithal to understand how the business is run and as importantly, be able to convey your thoughts to the team and the volunteer leadership so they have “trust and confidence” in what you are saying!
  5. Food and Beverage Competency – As most of us realize, the one area of every club operation that every member uses is the food and beverage program. Having the requisite skills to either know how to create and sustain an innovative, high service focused model or hiring the right people who can do so, is a MUST!  Expectations are through the roof in today’s club world for a consistently well-done food and beverage program that, in essence, creates a “Cheers-like” environment of appreciation and recognition.

These key areas sound simple, but are too often taken for granted or not reviewed and evaluated as often as may be necessary.

Take a look in your mirror and see what you think!!

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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Membership Buying Process

All you need to be a great marketer is psychic ability. What is going through your prospective member’s head? What are they thinking? Is there a process that every potential new member goes through when making a buying decision? And if so, what is it?

Dr. Philip Kotler is the S.C. Johnson & Son Distinguished Professor of International Marketing at the Northwestern University Kellogg Graduate School of Management in Chicago. He is hailed by Management Centre Europe as “the world’s foremost expert on the strategic practice of marketing.” 1

Dr. Kotler teaches us that there are 5 top stages of the consumer buying process.

  1. Problem Identification
  2. Information Search
  3. Evaluation of Alternatives
  4. Purchase Decision
  5. Post Purchase Behavior

Most consumers follow these steps unconsciously. The savvy marketer knows how to identify each step and how to leverage the best outcome based on strategic efforts at each stage tailored to the product being marketed.

Let’s break down each stage and offer strategic approaches based on the consumer being a potential club member.2

Problem Identification

“This step is also known as recognizing of unmet need. The need is a source or force of buying behavior. Buying problem arises only when there is unmet need or problem is recognized. Need or problem impels an individual to act or to buy the product.”

What is the potential member’s unmet need? Is he moving and needs a new club? Is she dissatisfied with her current club? Is a semi-retired couple happy with their current club but they’ve outgrown the age demographic there or are looking for a bigger variety of amenities? A membership marketer needs to understand what has prompted the potential member to seek membership elsewhere and address those needs with feature and benefit statements.  If you can’t meet their needs, say so.  It is far better to lose a potential member who remembers your candidness with gratitude than to enlist a member who feels you misrepresented your club’s answers to their specific needs.

Information Search

“Interested consumer will try to seek information. Now, he will read newspapers and magazines, watch television, visit showroom or dealer, contact salesman, discuss with friends and relatives, and try all the possible sources of information.”

(And now, of course, the consumer has more access to information than ever before with the world-wide-web. A couple of key words entered in Google search and here comes information overload.)

How did the prospective member find you? Are you tracking this? You should. If your club is operationally sound (including the implementation of an Ambassador Program), you should be receiving a strong amount of member referrals; but there are many methods to employ so that a potential member who is searching for you, can find you. These days, you simply must have a strong online presence.  Your website should reflect the current trends so as not to look tired.  Search engine optimization should be at the top of your list of priorities.  Keep up to date on the latest Google algorithms. Are you tracking any reviews on Yelp or Trip Advisor? Is Facebook right for you? Don’t invest in online communities that don’t reflect your brand but do be visible where your brand is reflected.  Your competition is. For some clubs, these are not sufficient, they need to advertise.  While not-for-profit clubs are limited in their ability to advertise certain messages, having an advertising presence can play well into a consistent reputation. Be strategic, be searchable, be where you can be found by your target demographic.

Evaluation of Alternatives

“In the former stage, the consumer has collected information about certain brands. Now, he undergoes evaluation of brands. He cannot buy all of them. Normally, he selects the best one, the brand that offers maximum satisfaction. Here, he evaluates competitive brands to judge which one is the best, the most attractive. Evaluation calls for evaluating various alternatives with certain choice criteria.”

Remember those features and benefits statements? This is where they re-enter the potential member’s mind. Did you address their needs? The potential members seek out the best value proposition and compares you against the other clubs that he or she may be evaluating or they may be comparing you to their old club.

While you may have provided a feature and benefit for every need and met no objection, now is the time to highlight the superlative features of what your club has to offer.

Purchase Decision

“This is the stage when the consumer prefers one, the most promising brand, out of several brands. The former stage helps consumers evaluate various brands in the choice set. The brand that offers maximum benefits or satisfaction is preferred.”

Pre-buyer’s remorse sets in. After a logical and careful search, the potential member arrives at a decision and will then second guess themselves.  Are they sure? This is a big step. Maybe they should wait a while longer. This is the time to instill confidence and reassurance. This is why so many companies offer guarantees on their products.  They know that even if their customer has chosen them, they could back out at any moment.  What is your clubs version of a guarantee? Maybe your joining fee is refundable. Maybe you provide testimonials at this point. Save something from the initial sales presentation to share with the potential member during this phase and you will convert many more prospects into members.

Post Purchase Behavior

“Obviously, level of the Consumer’s satisfaction with the product affects his subsequent behavior/action. If he is satisfied reasonably, he purchases the product again, and talks favorably to family members, friends, relatives, and co-workers.”

Now that you have a new member, have they hit the ground running? Are they making friends and on the course or do you rarely see them.  I know the best dues paying members are the ones you never see but they aren’t sending referrals.

What trends do you see in new member post purchase behavior?  Is there an area of the club underperforming? New member usage or lack thereof could put a spotlight on any operational issues. The way your new members utilize their membership today develops your brand and reputation of tomorrow.



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

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Be Brilliantly Indigenous

“Be brilliantly indigenous.” That was a quote from Arch Stokes who spoke recently to a group at Georgia State University. As a recruiter, those words truly resonated with me – both to share with the candidates that we place, as well as for learning and understanding the culture of each club that I work with.

Mr. Stokes, an attorney who specializes in the representation of hospitality and restaurant clients, described how embracing the local culture and community in which you visit or move will make or break you. I thought it was especially applicable to new GMs and other department managers who move to a new club culture, a new community, a new region of the country or even a new country. Put yourself in the shoes of the locals and embrace the community culture before you try to incorporate change that is lasting.

Less than a week after I heard Mr. Stokes speak, I traveled to Puerto Rico and met with highly-respected hotel general manager, Remus Palimaru, who works at a luxury brand hotel. He was gracious enough to offer me a tour of the property and gave me two hours of his valuable time, shared his insights, and showed me the luxurious accommodations and amenities his hotel offered.

As I toured the property, Mr. Palimaru spoke about building a culture and opening properties globally. He told me that one of the most important things that contributed to his success with the company was that, in every country he worked (in both permanent positions as well as temporary hotel opening teams), he truly embraced the local culture.

When I spoke with his employees, they all described him as being a true leader in the industry and attributed his successes to those qualities of adaptability and earning local respect while creating a culture of luxury service.

I asked him how he embraces the local culture while still building and elevating a high level of service. Here are his thoughts:

Before building a company culture, an immersion must take place in the local culture to better understand how the locals think, their values, what drives and motivates them. The last thing you want is the local staff to feel that this “outsider” is coming in to dictate what to do. You must eliminate those fears and negative thoughts.

We are guests in this new country, region or place; so there needs to be a deep respect for how they do things. The more a GM studies and understands the local culture, the easier the “marriage” between the company culture and the local one can occur.

When the company philosophy is taught – what we believe in, how we treat guests, how we operate – comparisons should be shared to show the similarities between the local culture and the company culture. Similarities should be highlighted. This is crucial to winning the local team over by showing them the bridge between what they believe in and how it aligns with what we are trying to do for our guests.

Of course, there will be vast differences and challenges of adaptation. However, if the incoming person/team has positively embraced the culture, the more challenging areas are easier to manage.

Taking over a hotel or business is an even more sensitive issue because additional effort must be spent on understanding what the previous work culture has been and how ours is different. Retaining the staff can be a tremendous challenge if you don’t do this.

The next challenge is how to teach the leaders, brought from abroad, about the local culture and how they can be successful. Companies often miss the mark on this step and automatically assume that if a leader is successful in one area, he or she will be as successful in this new environment. Finding adaptable global leaders is not as easy as one may think.

As I have worked in many countries within my tenure with the hotel brand, I have identified the phases described below:

  1. The first step is the “Honeymoon Phase.” This is the step full of excitement, thrill, meeting new people, and seeing the new place. This step is full of motivation and openness. This step usually lasts for a few months.
  2. The second step is the “Reality Phase.” This is where you start seeing how things really are. This is where you get frustrated with that bank account which you cannot open because you do not have credit in the local country. This is also where you realize that language can be a barrier. The frustrations of this step can easily spill over into the business aspect as the same is experienced there – you find out employees prefer to be off on weekends when you’re most busy, as they value family time. This step lasts another few months and can be the hardest for many new leaders.
  3. The third step is the “Adaptation Phase.” Typically, this takes place after six months. This is where you truly prove whether you can make it or not. This is where you attempt to learn the local language and where you figure out how to build relationships with the local community. This is the step where you find the formula for success. This step can be very difficult if you don’t have the right mindset and stamina.
  4. The fourth step is the “Immersion Stage.” This usually occurs after nine months to a year. This is where full immersion is achieved.

It takes stamina, adaptability and a true appreciation for the local culture and community to truly be “brilliantly indigenous.” The payoffs are huge in earning the respect of the team and building trust that will enable you to accomplish your service and success goals.

We welcome and challenge you to “be brilliantly indigenous” in your current or next club management position. It takes time, patience, and understanding, but the payoffs are invaluable.

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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Linking Staff Performance to the Club’s Strategic Plan

While a club’s strategic plan should be inspirational, looking at the big picture, it also defines and drives the operational side of the Club. For each issue there should be goals and objectives, along with strategies and tactics. Correspondingly, accountability and a timeline are part of an effective action plan. In most cases, the General Manager will have overall responsibility for all operational goals, but will need to rely on his or her entire team to accomplish them. Here it is also critical that the entire team have some degree of shared responsibility, supporting each other and not allowing departmental silos. Ford Motor Company’s strategic plan is a good example of this. They refer to it as “One Ford” – One Team, One Plan and One Goal, where every department understands all other department’s goals and objectives and supports each other in accomplishing them.

In many instances the detailed strategies and tactics are clearly operational and should be regularly measured by key metrics to clearly determine their status and whether the desired results are being accomplished. As I referred to above, the General Manager should have overall responsibility for the strategic planning goals, passing many on to his or her direct reports. They in turn should pass the appropriate ones on to direct reports in their departments, ultimately making their way to the line level support staff. Thus in a club, like Ford, we then have One Team, One Plan and One Goal.

To ensure engagement and buy-in to the process, each department manager, once clearly understanding the goals and objectives of each issue that they will be responsible for, should be given the opportunity to provide input, even offering changes to the strategies and tactics. After all, they may have an even better perspective of what is needed to accomplish the goals and are more likely to make a commitment and accept accountability for accomplishing them.

The final link to tying the plan and performance together is the performance evaluation process. Regular review of the progress and status of each goal and objective is necessary (we suggest quarterly) using key metrics and the desired timeline for accomplishing the goals as an evaluation tool. This applies to all involved, with the Board or President evaluating the General Manager, and the General Manager evaluating the Department Managers, and so forth down the line. Again, doing so on a quarterly basis can assist in keeping everyone on track and avoids surprises at the end of the year. This all ties in to my favorite saying regarding strategic planning – “The purpose of the 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.
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Job Search 101, The Resume

At Kopplin Kuebler & Wallace we see thousands of resumes every year. We see some that have us shaking our heads at how well they are done and some that just miss the mark. We’ve seen extremely qualified candidates with resumes that are not nearly as professional as we would expect them to be that do not adequately draw a picture of the candidate’s integrity, experience and skills. It may be that for some people, it’s uncomfortable to write about themselves, and it may feel to them like self-promotion. Discussing and writing about yourself accurately to help a club determine if you will be a good fit for them is what you owe yourself and the club.

Look in the Mirror

Some questions to ask yourself:

  • How much time did you spend crafting your resume?
  • Did you have assistance?
  • Did you have it critiqued?
  • Have you revised it materially in the last year?
  • Do you think that your resume is excellent?

The purpose of these questions is self-explanatory, and they are presented to make you think hard about how much time you spend on this aspect of your career. If they made you a little uncomfortable then you’ve got some work to do. Sometimes, we all need to just stop and focus on the things that are important… and this is one of those things. If you haven’t put in the time and effort to maximize the potential of your career development and that next step, that dream position, then maybe you should sit down and evaluate your career goals and strategy. At our client clubs, we help create mission statements, vision, and strategic plans and processes  to take  clubs to that next level, but we rarely see candidates use the same tools to set their careers on track. Invest time in your career!

What are Clubs Looking For?

Clubs are looking for leaders! It really is that simple. Clubs are looking for leaders with honesty and integrity first and then they’ll look at the great experiences and skills as necessary complements to that leadership. They are looking for someone that they believe can lead the club and the management team, and can provide them with that superb membership experience.

Does your resume tell the club the kind of person you are, the kind of leader you are? If your resume is noticeably silent to your leadership and character, then you’ve done yourself and a prospective new club/employer a huge injustice. You haven’t given the club the material they need to decide that they want to talk to you.

Expressing your Character and Leadership

If we are to believe what we hear and read every day, our attention spans are shorter than ever before. If that’s true, then to make an impression with your resume, you need to get the reader’s attention immediately. One of the things that gets my attention and heightened focus is when a resume starts out with some sort of personal statement. That statement can be your Core Values, a Personal Statement, or something of that ilk. What better way to let a prospective employer know who you are than to simply spell it out? Put it in writing. Clubs hire people that they can believe in, so give them a reason to believe you and be interested in you.

Remember your Audience

The biggest mistake that I see with resumes is that candidates forget to focus on what is most important to members, the club and the board. Many resumes focus on all sorts of things that your peers would find interesting. But think about this, what does a club member or a board member care about at the club? Finances, visibility, leadership, whatever you think those important factors are, that is what you should be focusing on, not what you and your peers find interesting. A little bit of homework can help you learn about and target those specific issues and relate your experiences in dealing with similar issues.

Your Employment History

List your present and prior clubs’ city and state and add a link to their websites. Not everyone will agree with me, but early work history matters. If you started out washing dishes or in the bag room, or bussing tables, or raking bunkers, or in housekeeping, it matters. It tells us that you’ve been in the industry from the bottom up. It tells us that you’ve done these jobs and understand them and can relate to your team members more directly. You don’t need to go into detail about your early experiences, but do mention them.

When describing your present club, state key performance metrics that you’ve improved. Membership satisfaction survey improvements with F&B and other amenities are significant and tell a story that go beyond just numbers. When discussing financial improvements, utilize dollars not percentages in describing gains in revenues or loss reductions. Include staff retention and training, all those things that you’ve done to help improve the club and member experience.

If you’ve been through renovations/improvements, discuss the planning, presentations and successes that you’ve had coming in on budget, on time, and the impact on membership and revenues that the project had. You can even discuss the challenges and how you’ve dealt with them.


We are seeing more portfolios these days, and one of the things that we’re beginning to see being done successfully is to have a password protected online portfolio that is shown as a link in your resume. This allows you to demonstrate significantly more of your work product and skills without cluttering up your resume or overwhelming a committee.


Save your education and certifications for the last item on your resume. Again, remember your target audience and that many of the committee members won’t know what these various acronyms and designations mean, so explain them.

Resume Accuracy

Always represent every aspect of your resume honestly. Misrepresenting employment gaps, education, and other experiences is inexcusable and will absolutely disqualify you from consideration.


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

It seems that we have been moving so fast that we forget to stop and see where we have been!  After a record search year in 2016 we are on a path to have another terrific 2017. With all of this activity, the Partners decided that maybe they could use more assistance in order to keep up the pace with their searches and all of their consulting work.

So I would like you all to welcome Patricia Sprankle to the KK&W team.  Patty was raised predominantly in South Florida but has traveled extensively and lived abroad as a result of her husband, Jim’s, career as a Golf Course Superintendent.  She and her family have lived in Tequesta, Florida since 2001 and has worked part-time as a real estate Broker and a free-lance writer, while raising her three children, now 19, 15 and 14.

She has an extensive background in communications, real estate and golf shop management.  Her writing background will prove useful in all aspects of the KK&W searches, and her familiarity with the ins and outs of the private club world provides her with a wealth of firsthand knowledge and experiences, plus she is completely at home in the country club atmosphere. Patty can be reached at: Welcome aboard Patty!

On another exciting note we have been working with  to produce short news videos describing specific search assignments and showcasing the outstanding clubs that we work with in the process.  You may have seen some of them in our recent announcements, and I have linked to a few below.  The Partners also took to the studio and filmed many frequently asked questions that clients and candidates may be interested in when considering our services.  We have a convenient link to Video FAQ’s now on our website here and we look forward to adding more Video questions in the future.

Here are several of the most recent position profiles:

Grey Oaks Country Club GM/President

Jupiter Hills Club Director of Golf

Somerset Hills Country Club GM/COO

The Village Club of Sands Point GM

Country Club of Peoria GM/COO

Moraga Country Club GM/COO

The Polo Club of Boca Raton Director of Food & Beverage

This has been an exciting endeavor and we look forward to more terrific things to come!  Here’s wishing all of you a successful summer and please let us know if we can assist in anyway.

Nan Fisher
Nan has worked with the firm for over 17 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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