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How to hire powered on people!

By James Cronk
Grass head man

I used to have this employee who worked for me… his name was Rocket. That wasn’t his real name of course (what parent would be that cruel). Rocket was his ‘nickname’, his ‘handle’, his ‘moniker’. The reason he was called Rocket was clearly evident to anyone who met him.  If you said “Rocket, could you please go to the cart storage area and….” He would, you guessed it, take off like a rocket. In fact, the main challenge with Rocket is that you often didn’t get to finish your sentence. He would instead get to cart storage, have no idea why he was there, and then come back 15 minutes later asking “What did you want again?”.

Rocket’s inability to slow down his processing was a minor flaw in a guy that was exceptionally memorable. If you visited our golf course and you were lucky enough to have Rocket as your starter or your marshal, you were in for a great experience.

Far too often we overlook the value of an employee like Rocket. One year I was on the other side of the country at a consumer golf show promoting our facility. Our booth had this large photo of our signature hole spanning the entire booth space. We believed, like 100% of the other courses who were there trying to attract golfers, that once people saw our ‘award-winning’ and  ‘championship’ golf course they would choose us. So as I was standing in front of our awesome (and very expensive) photo, two business guys walked by. One guy said to the other, ‘Hey, I played there, I love that place”. The guy then walked up to me and said “Do you work there”, for which I replied “yes”, and he said, “Do you know Rocket? That guy is awesome. When I played there a couple of years ago he was our starter”. Then he turns to his buddy and says, “This Rocket guy is hilarious. I gotta tell you he was the best starter I have ever seen in my life. Give my regards to Rocket for me”.

You know what struck me most about that incident (besides the fact that I should have used a larger-than-life picture of Rocket instead of hole #2), was the fact the guy used the words ‘couple of years ago’, which told me that he was reflecting on a 5 minute moment with one of our employees, at a golf course 2,000 miles away from his home course, that had happened at least 16 months before.

Now that is memorable!

Rocket was what I call a powered on employee! He is what I wanted all other employees to aspire to be (except for the ‘forgetful’ part).

So how do we find the Rockets of the world?

If you are like most facilities, each spring you need to hire seasonal staff to fill all types of positions – from dishwashers to maintenance crew to assistant professionals.

If you are like most managers, then the thought of going thru the hiring process is about as enjoyable as attending a education seminar on HR best practices (get it?). But as difficult as human resources can be, and no matter what position you are hiring for, the hard lessons we learn from trail and error tells us that if we hire better people, then our daily lives, the satisfaction of our customers and our bottom line will be better off.

In my experience, and from talking with managers and owners at clubs all over the world, the hiring process usually fails due to the following three factors;

  1. A lack of good people to choose from
  2. A lack of interview preparation
  3. A lack of skill in identifying good people

So in an effort to simplify this dastardly and constantly challenging process, here are some suggestions that may help you find more powered on employees instead of fizzled out duds.


If your current staff aren’t bringing in their friends then that has to tell you something. A great work environment, fair compensation, positive leaders and extras such as a structured rewards and recognition program or golf benefits and staff meals will set you apart from working at the local plant. We need to have a ‘staff attraction plan’ just like we have a marketing plan for our customers.  Every one of your current employees should be able to answer the question “What do you like about working at ABC club?” If your current staff don’t love working at your facility, how can you expect to attract quality people? Unfortunately I often hear managers complain about the quality of their staff, but the fact is that the quality of their staff often reflects the quality of their facility as a place to work. The reason businesses are often recognized as ‘best employers’ is because they attract the best employees.


How often do we leave the hiring process to a department head or a supervisor that is not ‘skilled’ in hiring? How often do we walk into an interview with just our cell phone? How often are we hiring people for a job that doesn’t have a written job description or clear job standards? Our interview process should be organized, structured and professional. A private meeting room, their resume, a list of questions written on a piece of paper, a glass of water and most importantly, us presenting a positive experience for the interviewee. We are trying to attract the best, so we need to present ourselves like we are meeting our in-laws for the first time.  Here are some sample questions that will give you valuable information about a candidate; (1) Why do you want to work here? (2) Tell me about a time when you have successfully worked with a team? (3) If you don’t get this job what other jobs will you pursue? (4) If I asked your former boss(es) what areas you could improve on, what would they say? (5) What can you add to what we have already asked you that should make us want to hire you?


One of my favorite responses to the question “why do you want to work here” is the answer “Because I live close” (or worse ”because I want to play free golf”). The reason some stay in bad relationships is because they don’t have options, and it’s no different when it comes to finding staff. Facilities that have great staff often implement a few key strategies. First, they are always hiring. They tell everyone that every second Monday they are doing interviews between 3PM and 5PM.  Second, the only people that do the hiring are managers that have successfully hired in the past. For example, golf professionals join the superintendent to interview potential course crew employees. Most certainly the Super gets the final say, but there is nothing wrong with, and in fact it’s a greater benefit, in having managers of other departments involved in the process. Finally, courses that hire good staff are usually clear about what their facility ‘brand’ is and mostly, what type of people they need to enhance that ‘brand’.

For many clubs the hiring process goes like this. Susie quits. We ask around for names or post a job. Some strangers show up. If we like them, we hire them. If we don’t like them, we still hire them because we don’t have an option. It’s not too often that we have three great candidates for one position, and there is no doubt that your location, your marketplace and economical factors will play a significant role in hiring seasonal staff. If the local gas station in your neighborhood is paying $25 an hour, you better throw one heck of a great staff party. But even if that’s the case, make it a priority to constantly assess your current staff, improve your working environment and improve the team. Your customers, your bank and your therapist will thank you for it!


Marcus Buckingham, in his excellent book ‘First Break All the Rules’, identifies the 12 most important questions that will attract, focus and keep talented employees. If your employees answer ‘YES’ to each of these questions then congratulations, you are a powered on manager!

  1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?
  2. Do I have the equipment and materials I need to do my job?
  3. At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best everyday?
  4. In the last seven days, have I received praise for doing good work?
  5. Does my supervisor, or someone at work, care about me as a person?
  6. Is there someone at work who cares about my development?
  7. At work, do my opinions seem to count?
  8. Does the mission of my company make me feel that my job is important?
  9. Are my co-workers committed to doing good work?
  10. Do I have a best friend at work?
  11. In the last six months, has someone talked to me about my progress?
  12. This past year, have I had opportunities at work to learn and grow?


James Cronk is a golf industry leader with over 25 years experience in leading teams and accomplishing objectives through creativity, passion and fun.  His success as a manager and leader is evident in the recognitions bestowed upon himself and his teams; three times (and in two different industries) his organization and team has been recognized as one of the ‘Top Ten Employers’ in British Columbia, Canada; the readers of Golf Digest, the golf industry’s foremost authority, recognized his facility as having the ‘5th Best Customer Service in North America’.  Among his personal recognitions; ‘Top 40 Business Persons under 40’ and ‘Top 20 Most Influential People in Golf in Canada’. His company, CRONK GROUP, helps organizations achieve their goals and increase their profits by improving their systems, their service and their people! 





Download and apply these 10 ‘POWER ON’ principles and see immediate improvements in the satisfaction of your staff, your guests and your bottom line!

James Cronk

For the past twenty-five years James Cronk has been helping business owners get themselves, their people and their customers powered on. He uses a unique blend of creativity, experience and proven systems to help golf clubs achieve their goals and increase their profits by improving their systems, their service and their people!
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