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Board of Directors’ Guide to Club Performance

Search AmericaBy Harvey M. Weiner, Managing Partner
Search America® 

I am chairman of my country club’s greens and grounds committee (AKA Green Committee). The superintendent will not follow my directions and I intend firing him. What’s the best way to do this?

A.    Don’t!   The leadership of a club must not tolerate a committee chair firing any employee. Staff works for the club, not for you personally. No committee member or chairman has any authority on his own just as no individual board member is empowered to act unilaterally. Committees are a resource to the board, not to management. The Board of Directors, (Trustees, Governors or the yacht club Flag) acting as a body, can make decisions binding on the club. They in turn assign day-to-day management authority to the club’s manager, whom they have employed for that purpose. If your club functions under the General Manager/Chief Operating Officer concept and you want the superintendent’s termination to be considered, then bring your concerns to the GM who may wish to evaluate that individual’s performance. The condition of the grounds as well as all departments of the club determines the quality of the General Manager’s performance, which ultimately should be evaluated by the club’s board of directors.

Our club has 500 members. Why can’t our food and beverage department match the sales and profits of a successful local restaurant?

A.    I can’t imagine any restaurateur limiting his market to 500 potential customers, even with their families, as a private 501(c)(7) club must. A restaurateur can set his own hours and schedule staff according to historical data and realistic projections while private clubs generally operate food and beverage departments according to the desires of their members as expressed by the board. Can you think of a more inefficient way to set hours? But that’s the right and privilege of members who don’t mind subsidizing operating losses. A certain amount of staff is required whether one or ten parties dine on a particular evening. When buffets are required (which must look fresh and replenished up to the last) the waste can be atrocious.

Responsible club leadership balances efficiency, expectation and resources. Food-on-demand carries a price.

There is only one source of money in a club and that is the club members. Money can come in the form of initiation fees, dues, fees for services (such as food and beverage, massage, golf or tennis lessons, green fees, cart fees, trail fees, etc.) or The “A word”: Assessments! One way or another you, as a member, will pay to accommodate member expectations.

Our members own no equity in the club. If they leave they get no cash back. Why should a member retain his membership under these conditions?

A.    I conducted a series of club member focus groups recently for a developer-owned club where members paid high initiation fees plus high dues and, if they resigned from the club, got no money back. The study revealed substantial bitterness toward the developer/owner of this proprietary club. Why then did members remain? Their friendships and personal relationships were tied to the club. That’s where their friends belong. This club has since undergone an equity conversion whereby members acquired the club from the developer. I coined the phrase “Friend Equity” as a result of that study— often a stronger bond than cash equity in a club.

Our manager wants to attend educational conferences at club expense. Is this a worthwhile investment?

A.    Think education is expensive? Try ignorance.

Our manager is reluctant to reprimand members and guests who flaunt club rules. Whose responsibility is this anyway?

A.     The manager’s job is to inform. The board’s job is to enforce club rules.

We have received over one hundred resumes for our club manager job listing. They can’t all be as good as their resumes make them appear, can they?

A.    We are perfect only twice in our lives:  When we’re born and when we write our own resume. Enlist the help of someone familiar with club recruiting to identify the best of the batch. 

Harvey Weiner, Managing Partner of Search America® private club management search & consulting, is an agenda-setting, trusted advisor to club leadership since 1974. 800.977.1784.  Search America®     © Search America

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