Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Culture

Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends - Walt Disney

The culture of a golf facility is the quality that arises from a concern for service, protocol, and atmosphere. Creating The Culture takes vision, passion and total commitment. It is the sum of attitude, education, enthusiasm and language that distinguishes one facility from another and that is precisely why it is worth the effort.

There are many unique competitive differentiators in the golf industry. Buyers worry about green grass only distribution. They produce private label product in an effort to build their own brand and make their selection of goods exclusive. Clubs move to “Mill River” and modifications of same to produce pricing structures to inspire customer and member loyalty but the hardest and most meaningful competitive advantage for golf facilities to duplicate is to create an organization that consists of highly engaged associates who are totally focused on the customer. All definitions of culture point out the development of the intellect and the resulting enlightenment from training and education. Hopefully this manual will help to educate and inspire you and your staff to become such an excellent organization and rise above your peers.

Everyone has been to clubs where the atmosphere was decidedly negative. The staff walk around with a scowl and members spend an inordinate amount of time venting. It’s hard to determine in such an atmosphere what came first, the grumpy members or frustrated staff but placing the blame wouldn’t make the culture any more pleasant.

It seems in this case that a Leader with a totally rejuvenated outlook or a new Leader is needed. More to the point, someone needs to stand back a little and reevaluate the culture because once the course is built, the business plan and marketing put in place, the superintendent hired and the fertilizer and sand purchased the two variables that most shop owners/managers and/or head pros control are the merchandising and the culture.

Or consider the course where players arrive anticipating a pleasant, enjoyable round of golf with friends to encounter staff telling them at the bag drop where they can and can’t park, at the counter they only take coupons on Tuesdays and don’t take American Express. The starter hands them a list of do’s and don’ts and the marshal stops by a number of times to inform them how they are doing with time. Of course everyone is just doing their job and none of these individual incidents is necessarily a problem, but cumulatively the rules and the attitude with which they are delivered has the group convinced by the turn that they won’t be hanging around after the round, they won’t be buying anything in the shop to remind them of the experience. In fact, next month when they take a day off for golf they are going back to that course that had the water in the cooler on the cart and everyone including the maintenance staff wanted to know if they were enjoying the day and was there anything they could do for them – the “country club for a day” atmosphere.

Conversely, I had the pleasure a few years ago of being part of the team that opened a high-end club in North Carolina. My position on the team was two-fold. I was there to quarterback the opening of the shop and my other role was that of head cheerleader at the training session. We had the luxury of three full days to indoctrinate the staff about the culture the Leader envisioned and everyone’s role in its execution because we were able to organize it two weeks before the Grand Opening.

We invited the Footjoy and Zero Restriction reps to give product knowledge seminars about their products and they were both outstanding; going through all the features, benefits and buzzwords needed to intelligently talk to people about footwear and outerwear both as apparel and equipment. The question and answer afterwards was more of a discussion with the staff about how to fit people, how to sell the tough customers, how their respective companies were thrilled to be working with them and how unique this session was in what in both cases were long careers.

I spoke about shirts and the appropriate product knowledge involved with the different brands and fabrications. Since it was October, I finished up the session with a football analogy. We had just had three days of training camp, obviously opening day was coming right up and if everyone played their position the way we had been describing it we would win the members and their guests as fans. We could think of ourselves as going to the playoffs if, in a few months, people were talking about the warm, friendly atmosphere at the great new Tom Fazio golf course - they were. We could consider ourselves as getting to the Super Bowl if and when we were nationally recognized as a place you need to play - they have been.

This was a fulfilling opportunity for me but one that can be duplicated anywhere there is a Leader with a desire to take their level of service up a few notches, to raise the bar for their staff and create as a result a more meaningful culture.

Customers/members need to plan a day of golf anticipating an environment that appreciates their business and where there is camaraderie with the staff as well as their foursome. They need to feel it is fun to hang out a bit at the 19th hole and by the end of the day they want a memento from the shop that will remind them of the experience and tell others that see them wearing the logo what a great place they thought it was to spend a day. They need to be made more than satisfied and they need to view your facility and its culture as their provider of choice.

This may seem obvious and a “goes without saying” description that everyone in the industry agrees is the experience they provide, however the execution does not always follow the hype. As Tony Robbins points out often and in many different ways “There are no decisions really made until there is action.” When it comes to making it a reality, enthusiasm tends to give way to confusion.

In Summary – Culture is a work in progress:

• Management must make the decision to proactively create customer loyalty and to measure the success of these efforts by the customer’s feedback.

• Management needs to institute an orientation program that involves more than a tour of the facility and a primer on keying a sale. It needs to indoctrinate, as soon as an employee is hired, the facility’s principles of customer service and its vision for the future.

• Management needs to establish policies that are customer-friendly and do away with any rigid guidelines.

• Management needs to educate and empower employees to make their facility and culture the best in the area.

• Management needs to institute the “ten foot rule” that all golf staff within ten feet of a customer will look them in the eye, greet them and ask if they need any assistance.

More specific actions:

Establish at the season’s first staff meeting that this season’s primary goal is to be perceived by everyone who plays here as the most customer friendly place to play.

Provide every player a 4x6 preprinted index card that thanks them for spending the day and asks for feedback on their experience.

Have weekly staff meetings and ask at each what was the most customer friendly thing that happened since last week’s meeting.

Set bi-annual evaluations with each staff member to discuss their contribution to the culture.

Make the “ten foot rule” second nature by mentioning it often. It is a practice now employed by almost every industry.

Challenge all employees on a regular basis to submit ideas for service efforts successfully employed elsewhere and not necessarily by other golf facilities.

This is the first chapter of “The Winning Golf Culture” which has been well received by all who have purchased it and made required staff reading at many facilities. The rest of the table of contents is as follows:

Table of Contents

The Culture

The Leader

The WOW Factor

The Intimacy Factor

Salesmanship is Service
a. Pre-servicing
b. Shop Salesmanship
c. Follow Up

Hire to the Culture

The Result

Blog Entries
a. Pump up the staff for the new season
b. Gentlemen’s (and Ladies’) Night
c. The Nordstrom Touch
d. Phil Owenby on “Cutting Edge Service”