When I meet a GM whose business card also carries the COO title, it is pretty much a lock that he or she is affiliated with a successful club.
A common theme of dialogue with club executives and personnel throughout the recently completed golf “show season” (PGA Show, Golf Industry Show, and Club Managers Association of America World Conference) centered on the state of the game and the club industry (it’s good) and the ongoing, committed focus on sound management practices for both private and public clubs (the importance of exceptional management practices applies equally, regardless of whether you are serving dues-paying members or guests).
Of course, just as all clubs are not equal in terms of size, status, and relative health, their management practices differ as well. There is, however, a common thread I have found among clubs that thrive vs. those that struggle, and it can largely be summed up in three words—or letters, to be more succinct: COO.
All clubs, in some way, shape or form, are responsible to either a formal Board of Directors or an advisory board of some kind. These boards play a critical role in the success and well-being of the club, but board makeup and scope differ greatly. The best boards focus on strategy and leave day-to-day management to others—most specifically, a General Manager who also carries the title and responsibilities of a COO (Chief Operating Officer).
When I meet a GM whose business card also carries the COO title, it is pretty much a lock that he or she is affiliated with a successful club—one that is on solid financial ground and has a thriving, engaged membership. Even if I find a GM/COO whose club is in a somewhat tenuous position in its market, our conversation makes it apparent there is a plan in place to rectify the situation. And almost invariably, those who are both GM and COO speak enthusiastically about their clubs’ present and future.
Sound governance practices are the foundation for success in any business. Endless books have been written on the subject. Unfortunately, the role for directors in the private club world is often complicated by the fact that one or more board members feel empowered to impose their will based more on their status as a member of the club than on their knowledge of what it takes to operate and manage the club successfully.
Here’s what works: The club’s BoD develops a three-to-five-year strategic plan and delegates responsibility and authority to the GM/COO for achieving stated goals, while measuring progress on a regular basis and adjusting accordingly. The GM/COO, in this structure, manages not only the club, but the continuing education of the ever-changing makeup of the committee and board members who are responsible for the ongoing commitment to the strategic plan.
Deeds matter more than titles, and to be fair, we know many successful GMs who do not carry the COO title; however, almost all of them operate in a system similar to what I describe above. If you run a successful club with a structure significantly different from this, I would sure like to hear about it—and to share the details with our audience.
Separately, it’s only early March—but spring is in the air, the Masters is right around the corner, and members will be showing up at your club in increasing numbers, as the itch to play some golf and get back outdoors gets scratched.
We hope you have another outstanding season.
QUOTE OF THE MONTH (Masters Edition)
“Golf is the closest game to the game we call life. You get bad breaks from good shots; you get good breaks from bad shots—but you have to play the ball where it lies.”