Hitting Some Nerves

By | April 26th, 2017

Joe Barks, Editor, Club & Resort Business

There have been strong reactions to the subject of a Board’s involvement (although many choose to substitute “interference”) with club management.

At the Excellence in Club Management Awards dinner that was held in February at Interlachen Country Club in Winter Park, Fla., the loudest ovation of the night didn’t go to any of the four general managers who were being honored through the annual awards that Club & Resort Business co-sponsors with the McMahon Group.

Believe it or not, the biggest roar from the room, which was filled with some 150 other top club managers, was saved for a club President. It came after Doug Green, President of the Board of Governors of The Polo Club of Boca Raton (Fla.), made this remark as part of the ceremony during which Brett Morris, The Polo Club’s General Manager and Chief Operating Officer, was given The James H. Brewer Award (see “Return Engagement”):

“The way I look at it, the Board doesn’t manage the club. The people on a Board should ensure that we hire the best, retain the best, support the best, hold them accountable—and then get the hell out of the way and let them do their job.”

The crowd’s response to Green—which included whistling and fist-pumping in addition to thunderous applause—was typical of strong reactions I’ve seen recently to the subject of a Board’s involvement (although many choose to substitute “interference”) with club management.

The observations made in this Editor’s Memo space two months ago about the recent spate of surprising and often head-scratching dismissals of top-tier general managers (“Your Loss, Not Ours,” C&RB, February 2017) also generated a lot of feedback, both from those who wanted to offer on-the-record comments and from behind the scenes. One comment posted with the online version of that editorial felt it should be “required reading for new presidents,” and another said it spoke to the problem of “letting emotion, hearsay and popular opinion rule [a] club…and no one wins that game.” The editorial also quickly gained a lot of “likes” and pass-along traction after it was posted on our Facebook and Twitter accounts, and I even got a few requests for extra hard copies that could be slipped anonymously into club presidents’ reading piles.

I don’t really see any of this, though, as signs of mounting tensions that might signal how the industry is headed for a destructive civil war. Rather, to me it reflects the increased pride club managers now have in how they, as a group, have elevated their status to the point where they can be confident that the future will bring more opportunities for all of them to demonstrate their worth and be properly valued for their efforts, even if some may still have to encounter situations where they’re deemed to be dispensable.

And in talking with people who are involved with club Boards, I find that many more of them now share Green’s view and recognize that while they may have been very successful in their own businesses, they’re also smart enough to know that doesn’t mean they can also run the clubs they belong to.

As one general manager who suffered a recent surprising dismissal, but then quickly landed on his feet as GM of another prestigious property, wrote to me: “We definitely live in a strange but wonderful world­—but at the end of the day, I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

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