Business Not-So-Casual

By | October 1st, 2006

 As has been the case in pretty much every issue we’ve produced since coming on the scene last year, several stories in this month’s issue highlight an interesting contrast that can be found at a lot of club and resort properties these days.

At the same time that much of the stuffiness is being taken out of the business as it becomes more casual and family-oriented (see “No Jacket Required,” pg. 24), there’s a strong movement to button down operations and have club and resort managers bring more business discipline and acumen to their areas of responsibility (see “Buy the Numbers,” pg. 12, and “Much More Than Turfgrass,” pg. 48, in addition to our cover story on Congressional Country Club, pg. 14).

To me, these two trends aren’t at odds at all, and in fact have a clear connection: both represent changes that properties must make to respond to the competitive forces now at play in today’s club and resort market.

But some managers, particularly in private settings, still seem uptight about showing their business sides, even as they’re being encouraged to do so and their working environments are becoming more relaxed.

For example, I now regularly read dozens of different clubs’ newsletters. But rarely do I see any with articles that include in-depth, cogent reports related to the business of the club. Most of the “commentaries” from GMs and department heads avoid hard facts, or frank discussions about how members can help the club meet its financial goals, or even any horn-tooting about notable successes. Instead, everything is kept on a very benign and superficial level.

I’ve also been on properties when managers (and not just GMs) have been stopped by a member with a specific business-related question. Instead of seizing the opportunity to really show what they know, these managers generally seem uncomfortable-and I don’t get the sense that it’s just because I’m there.

Much of this, I think, may be rooted in many managers’ traditional hospitality and service training, where it was stressed that it’s unseemly to do more than exchange pleasantries in club environments, especially when the emphasis is supposed to be on getting away from business. Many managers have been taught to save the heavy stuff for private dealings with Board members or owners, or those boring cover letters for the year-end financial statements.

But as Tommy Witt points out so well in this issue’s “Super to Super” interview, what he learned in school only scratched the surface of what he’s now expected to know and do in his job.

And another clear trend that I’ve noticed, while talking to members of clubs, is how often this comment is now made: “Yeah, [the old manager] was a great [guy/gal], but absolutely clueless about how to run this place.”

So where job security and advancement is concerned, it appears it might not be a bad idea for managers to get a little less shy and private, and a little more casual, about getting down to business.

Joe Barks

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