Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Big Picture

Craig's Crossing will return next Saturday. This interview is the last in the series - Service the Differentiator.

Gene Mattare started his career as an assistant professional at Chevy Chase Club, in Chevy Chase, Maryland under Ward Burgess in 1977. He was the head golf professional at Princess Anne Country Club in Virginia Beach, Virginia from 1981 – 1990. He then moved to Saucon Valley Country Club as the director of golf in 1991. In 2005 he assumed the additional responsibilities of general manager.

I have known Gene for approximately fifteen years but have been familiar with his reputation as the consummate PGA professional long before I had the pleasure of getting to know him. Given the nature of Gene’s position and the size of Saucon Valley there is obviously no time for fluff or foolishness in Gene’s day or on his to-do list. Fortunately he was kind enough to share some of that time and his thoughts on service and efficiency.

Gene, having responsibility for all 400 staff members at Saucon Valley is obviously a daunting task. Do you involve yourself in each new hire and what is the key ingredient you look for when adding to your team?

I am responsible for hiring all department heads, as well as each member of the golf professional staff. I look for intelligent people who are passionate about what they do. This is true for the golf course superintendent, the executive chef, the clubhouse manager - or any person on the golf staff. In addition, I try to hire truly nice people who will not upset the positive staff dynamic we have established in each department at Saucon Valley.

I’ve heard you mention an indoctrination program for new employees. What exactly is the concept and execution of this initial training?

Five years ago, our senior managers developed a Mission Statement and a set of core values that we try to impart to each new hire. Simply put it is:

“Saucon Valley Country Club will deliver an exceptional country club experience to its members and guests, each and every day. Saucon Valley Country Club recognizes that its employees are critical in accomplishing this, through the provision of superior customer-focused service by a dedicated and caring team of courteous and knowledgeable staff members.”

Each department conducts a thorough orientation for each new hire. In addition to a tour of the entire campus, the employee handbook is reviewed and distributed. The handbook contains detailed information on club policies and employee benefits.

What is your definition of “Saucon Valley Service” and how do you as coach deliver this message to the team so as to create the proper culture?

What we try to stress is teamwork, honesty, integrity and respect. We want everyone to take pride in their work and to meet and exceed member’s and guest’s expectations. We constantly preach consistent delivery of excellent product and service, courtesy and professional conduct. Our managers lead by example, as do I. An example is an annual fundraiser for a local hospital that is held at Saucon Valley. There were 750 attendees this year. This event is a formal dinner party. The clubhouse staff needed help in all areas: parking, valet service, doormen, wait staff, etc. At the weekly management meeting every department head volunteered staff to assist. Our course superintendents handled parking and valet, starters became doormen, and assistant golf professionals helped servers. It’s typical of how we do things at Saucon and the feeling of “teamwork” that we have cultivated.

What are the ongoing strategies particularly with the golf staff and in regards to the shop?

I try to involve the staff in all areas of the golf shop operation. During the season we meet formally on a weekly basis, with many impromptu meetings. I’m interested in which lines are selling (and not), as well as member and guest comments regarding the lines we carry, fit, pricing, etc. Everyone is involved, has ownership, and contributes

I have never sacrificed quality for low price. There’s an old saying: “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten”. I believe it!

Are your periodic staff meetings designed to provide a forum to discuss service as a differentiator and a culture?

I conduct weekly staff meetings with the entire management team as well as separate meetings with the golf staff. In management meetings we hear from every department: what is going on, upcoming projects, performance to budget, comments from members, HR issues, etc.

In the golf staff meeting we discuss the schedule for the week as well as any issues that might arise. I am interested in what is happening on the “floor” – what’s selling and what’s not, and why.

Open communication is extremely important in all areas of the club operation.

What is your strategy for evaluating employees and do you discuss their contribution to the service level?

Since we meet weekly, I address any issues with staff immediately. I do schedule an annual evaluation with every senior manager, as well as every member of the golf staff. We discuss past performance, strengths and positive impact on the operation, as well as areas where improvement can be made. We also discuss future plans and career goals.

Everyone refers to all the hats that head professionals need to wear but only rarely are management skills an important part of the conversation. Gene Mattare personifies in my mind how hiring, delegating, empowering and evaluating staff effectively make most goals realizable. Gene never looks rushed or flustered and I thank him for his valuable time.