Monday, April 11, 2016

Domino’s, Ebay, and your Pro Shop

Have you tried the new (well, it’s really not that new now) Domino’s Pizza Tracker app?  Place your order…and the application shows you in temperature gauge fashion where your pizza is step by step until completion.  Really fascinating that the company put so much time and thought into a $7-12 item.
Ebay is another remarkable application.  Individuals sell items to other individuals…and without fail, whether the item is a $5 book or a $50 Hines Ward jersey, tracking information is provided within 24 hours of paying for the selection.
I ordered shoes via the New Balance brick and mortar store a month ago…same thing, but in person.  “Sir, it is showing in stock and we can have it here by Friday.  Should I order it for you”?
Shockingly…I don’t have a ‘membership’ to any of these businesses.
What is the process for ordering at your club, step-by-step?
If sounds like, “we’ll get it ordered and call you when it comes in”, and then your staff is harassed by the member for weeks until the order arrives – That is on you, not your ‘annoying’ member.
$5 pizzas, $10 books, a part for my broken dishwasher all come with adequate arrival information.  It’s not 1975 anymore.  This is blocking and tackling.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Always have an invitation fee

Initiation fees are the ‘temperature’ of your club.  Have one, and potential members will likely view you as viable and healthy.  The absence of an initiation fee is a beacon to the transient bargain shopper.
In short, you should always have an initiation fee (!) – even if you have to concede in another area.
You could creatively defray some of the costs with:
  • Cart passes or cart usage included for so many months.
  • Guest passes.
  • Food credit.
  • Locker usage for 12 months.
  • Lessons.
…just be cautious when nixing it completely.
The appearance of struggling to survive doesn’t say, “great club, amazing service, exceptional experience, or wow”, it says, “please come, we are dying”.

Wow Moment of 2015

It had been a year since I had ventured down to Chattanooga to play the Seth Raynor gem, Lookout Mountain Golf Club.  Built in 1925, Lookout turned out to be Raynor’s last design (he died at 51 years old), and was, at the time the third most expensive golf course ever built in the United States.  Mr. Raynor, an associate of C.B. MacDonald, built several of America’s best clubs:  Fishers Island, Shoreacres, Yeamans Hall, Camargo, and Yale.
To say the least, it is an honor just to set foot on the property.  October is a magical time to be on top of the mountain.  My wife had never visited Lookout, but seemed curious after surprising me with a framing of the original reprint of Mr. Raynor’s course map, which now sits proudly in my office.
Having visited several times over the years, both as a guest with a good friend, and more recently with a Golf Club Atlas group, I became friends with the Head Golf Professional, Adam Campbell.
As Golf Professionals go, Mr. Campbell is as friendly and cordial as any you will ever meet, with a genuine handshake to match.  Mr. Campbell gets ‘it’, as does his staff.  Fast-forward to last fall…I had ‘threatened’ to visit several times with my wife to ‘sell’ her on becoming a National Member.  Literally in four attempts, we had four absolute rain-outs. The last time we tried to set-up a visit Mr. Campbell offered, “…just come down, I don’t care what day it is.  I want your wife to see the club.  I’m afraid if you call ahead, bad weather will follow“…so we did.
On a near perfect fall day, with the leaves colored in shades of burnt orange, we finally made it down.  With only a few cars in the parking lot and no one expecting us (except Mr. Campbell who I had emailed on the way), we walked into the pro shop to find the Shop Manager, Miles Stephens.  Miles, who I had only met three other times in THREE YEARS, hesitated for about 4 seconds (which must have felt to him like 14 seconds) before saying, “Welcome…Mr. Sponcia”.
I said, “Miles, great to see you…and thanks for remembering me“!
He said, “It is a great day for golf, so glad you came down“.
Dale Carnegie said, “…a person’s name is the most beautiful word in the English language“.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve visited the same clubs as a guest multiple times throughout the years, seeing the same staff, and virtually none remember my name.
This simple act says more about the individual than almost anything they can do – and should be a model for all clubs to follow.
If you are reading this now, you may be thinking, “Mr. Campbell probably alerted Miles that we were coming”…but Mr. Campbell was preparing for an event later in the day and had not checked his email all morning.  When I saw him after making the turn, he was just as excited that my wife and I came down to visit as Miles was.
In a time where (it seems) customer service is at an all-time low, it is refreshing to know there are folks like Mr. Campbell and Mr. Stephens who exemplify the word – Professional.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Easy money, no impact

One of the most underutilized, yet most profitable membership categories (it seems) few clubs focus on, is National memberships.
While any club pro worth his weight in Pro V’s can get his member on 95% of the Private clubs in the United States, some members want more lasting happiness than just a day of belt-notching.
For many, it’s the thought of still being connected to their home club despite moving several hundred miles away. For others, a National membership represents a second club that they can call home for a quick weekend trip, an additional member-guest tournament, or if the course is of a certain pedigree (Ross, Raynor, Tillinghast, etc.), a source of great pride for he and his friends to enjoy on occasion.
Three mistakes clubs make in what should be an easy sell are:
1.  Pricing the membership too high: When it comes to pricing, most clubs want to protect their current, full members. Doing so usually means pricing the National/out of town membership category at roughly 1/2 of their full membership price per month. At $200 (for example), even with no food minimums or add-ons, many potential members who only see themselves coming a few times per year will balk. On paper, it appears to the local members that the National membership is a giveaway…until they do the math and think through the actual impact these folks will have on the tee sheet.
  • National members almost never travel alone, so having one member usually means selling 2-7 guest fees each time they visit.
  • In addition to the extra guest fees, most National members and their guests will want a shirt or sweater to take with them. Many also eat at the club, which is another source of income.
  • Since many have to drive 2+ hours, they can’t tee off at 8 am, and frankly, few want to feel like they are taking a local members ‘normal’ slot, so they are usually open to teeing off a little later in the morning.
  • Clubs never factor in the gas, food, and lodging National members incur on the few times they come to town. While (again) on paper, the membership can look cheap, in reality, a day at the club typically costs upwards of $300-500 for the individual. A $2,400 membership suddenly becomes $4,000 even if they only come a few times per year.
2.  Allowing too much access already: No one wants to become a member of a club that they can access with ease. People will pay for exclusivity (or the perception of it).
3.  They spend little to no effort marketing the membership: I’ve never seen a single Facebook or Twitter post focused on attaining National members, have you? Does your club keep track of guests that visit from out of town? Wouldn’t they be a logical choice to be your next National member?
The most unique (and genius) National Membership plan I’ve ever seen lives at the Blackthorn Club in Jonesborough, TN. (Currently) For $1,000 per year, the member ‘banks’ his initial fee. Each time he visits and uses the club (food, carts, guest fees), the fee is reduced per incident, until the initial fee is depleted. For an additional $500, the account is ‘re-charged’ until December 31.
The best way to get started is simple – create an almost give-away plan. Market it until you reach your target member number or sales volume. Raise as needed. Supply and demand will tell you everything you need to know.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Copy the Clubs with a waiting list

As my kids have grown older, I find myself saying more and more, “I’m not your friend, I’m your Dad”.
With less formal dining and less formality in general at clubs, it’s still oddly disturbing that Golf Business magazine had to write this tip.  
One thing is for certain; I’ve never seen a club with a waiting list worry about this.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Genius idea #11

…It’s so weird, I check into a hotel and always find complimentary coffee close to the front desk.
The Jiffy Lube where I get my oil changed?  Same thing.
Nearly every office I visit at my day job (Sales and Consulting) offers me coffee when I arrive?
I understand why public golf facilities don’t do this…but have never understood why 0.00% of the Private ones I’ve visited don’t have a couple of pump-up coffee dispensers in the Pro Shop?
Be different.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Taking advantage of a captive audience

I love working downtown.  
The people, the atmosphere, the palpable authenticity of local mom & pop restaurants going up against the Goliath-themed chains.  
One thing I can't stand trying out a new place, only to be 'gouged' by short-sighted owners trying to take advantage of a captive audience;  their new customer.
This very thing happened last week as I paid for my lunch with a customer and noticed a $2.95 charge for iced tea on my bill.  Plain old Lipton?  Yes, but I think the menu did say, 'freshly steeped each day', but $2.95?  Deliberate decisions like this make me never want to come back despite an otherwise good experience.  
In the fight to gain and retain members, clubs do things like this more times than not it seems.  Beer, for instance, at my old club after service charge was $4.53 per bottle!  Buy a six-pack - $27.18.  And no, this wasn't the triple-filtered stuff made with hops imported from some 'sustainable' farm in the mid-west.  This was good ole' Coors that you could buy at six convenience stores on the way to the course...and not surprisingly, that is what many did (you don't want to know what a beer with three adjectives cost - trust me).
Unlike the number of restaurant choices on a given street, to some degree,  members do have a choice.  If you've ever interviewed a resigning member, chances are it wasn't one thing that made them decide to leave, it was death by 1,000 cuts.   Sensible pricing shouldn't even be an issue.  
"But our F & B typically loses _____________ per year, we have to make it up somewhere".
If this is the reality at your club, chances are there are a lot more burgers and chicken sandwiches being eaten on the way to the club, than at the club. Ditto that for 'smuggling' that inevitably goes on when your club throws common sense out the window.  
One thing everyone talks about, outside of the otherwordly conditions, manners, and civility a day at the Masters tournament provides, is the  indelible impression the Augusta food and beverage pricing leaves.  Contrast this with the NFL, NBA, and MLB who often charge three to four times what Augusta asks of their patrons.
In the club world, be Augusta.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Your course is too long...for Women

Amateur women have gotten a bad rap for many years when compared with their male counterparts. The biggest complaint men will lodge against females, among other things, is slow play, but is the assessment fair?
For the most part, no.
While many courses have at the very least: ‘championship/back’ tees, ‘white/member’ tees, and senior (mens) tees, women usually have just one choice ~ and frankly, it’s probably too long.
The ‘average’ amateur female swings somewhere in the neighborhood of 65-75 miles per hour compared to the 85-95 miles per hour swinging male. Imagine the daunting feeling of rarely reaching a par 4 or par 5 in regulation? This is the reality for many women who are forced to play 5,300 + yard courses, that may seem short to the eye, but play brutally long.
Here are a few thoughts to consider (assuming a swing speed of 70 mph):
A 330 yard, par 4 = 180 Driver + 150 (perfectly struck) 3 wood for a female. This equates to a 425 yard, par 4 (Driver + 3 wood) for the average 90 mph swinging male.
The only problem? Hardly any course has their ‘white’ tee players teeing off from this distance for a par 4, with most averaging 350-390 yards. So what does the ‘average’ club do? Put their white tee male off a an ‘equitable’ 380 yard tee box vs. their 330 yard female. (Stay with me here) What does the average male play into a 380 yard hole? Driver + 6 or 7 iron. Fair? Hardly. What should the proper equitable distance be for the corresponding female? 295 yards.
Let’s try a par 5 now. For most white tee male players, 500 yards is a fairly average length three-shotter (Driver + 3 wood + SW). The corresponding female tees are usually around 440 yards for the same length hole (Driver + 3 wood + 7 iron!). Where should the tee box be placed in fairness if you were trying to replicate the same shot values? 410 yards. Assuming you are a male reader, would you like to trade places?
It gets worse when you consider most women amateurs don’t have the height or spin to hold greens when compared to men with the same iron in their hands. In truth, females should probably hit their approach shots with 1-2 clubs less to be fair…but I don’t know a single female that would ask for that kind difference. So they suffer, or more tragically, quit the game in frustration. Wouldn’t you if hitting 3-4 greens in regulation was the best you could physically do?  Imagine adding 14 extra shots to every round or rarely having a chance for a birdie?
What does this translate into distance-wise per the correct tee box for the average female? About 5,000 yards (which really should be the maximum) or 20% less than the ‘white’ tee box assuming a par 72.
The following would be a good guide to work from for future female tee box builds:
Par 5: 370-410 yards
Par 4: 250-290 yards
Par 3: 90-130 yards
This would place most courses in an optimal, 4,700-5,000 yard range depending on terrain.

"One formula has a golfer estimate the average distance that his or her 5-iron shot will travel — an honest average, not the ultimate 5-iron — and then multiply that number by 36. If golfers were realistic, that would put most in the 5,300 to 6,300-yard range".  - Bill Pennington

Golf industry leaders need to look in the mirror, especially when so many are bemoaning the lack of players in the game. If more courses were retro-fitted to the preceding recommendations, I firmly believe more women would stay in the game, play at a quicker, more enjoyable pace, and furthermore, would not be made to feel inferior because of the unfair demands the majority of golf courses place upon them.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

99 out of 100...

99 out of 100 members prefer the taste of freshly made soup simmering over the stove for hours vs. the canned, microwave variety.

Ten things

  1. It's always Mr. or Mrs. until they tell you different.
  2. If you make eye contact, always speak.  Always.
  3. Never take a compliment without giving a sincere one back.
  4. Say something positive each time you interact.
  5. Ask, don't tell.
  6. Anticipate, don't react.
  7. Listen without trying to justify or defend.  
  8. Work on the problem as a we.
  9. Every member of your staff should carry a small notepad in their back pocket.  Whenever a member lodges a complaint, makes a request, or gives a compliment, they should be trained to write it down immediately while in the presence of the member.  Get everyone in the habit of doing this and following up quickly. Membership happiness will certainly increase. 
  10. Buy 12 thank you cards for each staff member that interacts regularly with the membership, with the goal to write one note of thanks per month.