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Systems for Success – Part One

By James Cronk


By James Cronk, Principle, CRONK GROUP INC.

Part One – Why Systems are so important in the Club Industry!

It is not easy being a successful club manager! Whether you are one year into a management job or one year away from retirement, being a manager in the golf or club industry is no easy task. The reasons are many. First, we work in an industry that already includes many barriers, and these barriers can restrict our ability to grow our business. The perception (which is often correct) is that golf is only for the elite. The fact is that golf takes time and today’s consumer is facing a ‘time crunch’. The reality is that golf is hard, and in today’s age of immediate gratification as a result of technology, having the patience to learn a sport such as golf seems almost impossible for many. These barriers, and others, mean that consumers can have a tough time choosing golf as their hobby of choice. Second, we work in a business that is more complicated than rocket science. We need to know everything from how to grow grass to how to grow a database. Third, and likely the most challenging, is that our business is all about people. How to hire the right ones, get rid of the wrong ones, motivate the lazy ones and congratulate the best ones! We can longer motivate employees to do what I say ‘or else’. Kids today, and those of you with teenagers will agree, need to understand the ‘why’ before they will ‘do’. Lastly, and most importantly, the reason why being a manager in the golf industry is so difficult is because golf is ‘un-definable’! That’s right – we work in a business where we are unable to define what we sell and what makes it great. If we stood on the first tee of any golf club in the world, and asked the first ten golfers why they played the game, we would likely get ten different answers. The game is great because it provides so many different benefits, from quality time with customers or family, to self-improvement, to a brisk walk in a beautiful setting. It is different for each of us and that is what makes managing the experience so challenging.

As a manager, whether you manage one department with one staff or a premier club with more than one hundred staff, your success will be determined by how you manage these and the many other challenges facing this exciting industry.

So, how can we be more successful?

By learning from others and implementing SYSTEMS FOR SUCCESS!

Just like great athletes, or industry leaders, or innovative companies, we need a system to follow so that we can improve each and every day. If we wanted to improve our handicap, we would need to follow some type of a plan, a process and a practice routine. Success doesn’t simply come from hard work, but from hard work that has a purpose. In most of the successful clubs around the world, the music that you hear when you walk in the clubhouse, the type of soap that is used in the locker room, the language used by the staff when communicating with the members and guests… all of these touch points are part of a carefully orchestrated experience. In addition, the service isn’t excellent simply because Mr. Manager is a great guy, and the members aren’t satisfied just because Mrs. Manager is great at shaking hands and kissing babies. Great leaders implement systems and tools to create a structured yet positive work environment that allows his or her team to flourish. The more employees know what is expected of them, and the more tools they have to do their jobs, the more consistent the experience will be for the guests.

Just like a golf swing, there is no doubt that there are many, many different paths to success – which is why Jim Furyk can also win golf tournaments – but in the world of club management however, when you look at the best clubs in the world, it’s more than likely that they spend a great deal of time and effort focused on four key systems for success.


First, and most important, is confirming what is our goal? How do we define our success? Is our goal to create member satisfaction, sell real estate, book more hotel room nights, increase land value or simply to make more money. A different answer should produce a different plan. We all define success is different ways, and it’s critical that as managers, and as a business, that we have clear and measurable terms of success.

More importantly, we need to identify what separates our club from our competitor across town. What is unique about our club that makes it special? A well-known course designer? A big clubhouse with a grand ballroom? Many clubs have that, but what is our Unique Selling Proposition and better yet, does every staff member know how to answer that question? If they are in an elevator and someone says, where do you work – do they say at a club that welcomes families? Or at a club that provides the highest level of service in the region? Or at a club that protects the environment? Or do they simply not know what to say… so instead they say “at a club that doesn’t pay me enough”.

Albert Einstein once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. If you want your club or your business to get more golfers, happier members and make more money, then our plan needs to include doing things differently then we have done in the past.


Once we have a plan, and we have defined our success, we then need to ensure that we have the right people in place that will give us the best opportunity for success. So often the best person for hiring new staff is another front-line employee. Just because someone is a great manager of people doesn’t guarantee that they are a great evaluator of people. Our business is all about relationships, and in the people business we want to hire for attitude and then train for aptitude. We want passionate people who care about our goals and our success (and also our members and their guests), and if needed, we can then teach them the skills required to do the job.  In addition to having the right people, we also need to make sure we have the right tools. Our processes, our training systems, our communication, our minimum service standards and our policies and procedures must all be clearly defined.

No matter how great our plan is, if we have the wrong people using the wrong tools, it is unlikely that we will ever achieve our goals.


But if we have a good plan and we have hired the right people and given them the right tools, we now have given ourselves a chance to deliver success. As stated, all great clubs have beautiful clubhouses and manicured grass, but it’s truly the connection that we make with people that will ensure that our club stands apart from our competition. To deliver service excellence we need each and every one of our employees to be committed to our goals and to understand how they play a key part in the process. Everyone on the team has a role to play, and the better they play their position, the better the team will do. If you are the coach, it’s also important to recognize that people today are not simply motivated by money. In years past, a manager would tell an employee to jump and they would say “How high”?  With most young people of today, if you ask them to jump they want to know “why they are jumping”. A great manager is someone that allows each employee to be the best at what they are good at. It’s not about fixing peoples weaknesses, but instead, it’s about fostering their talents.  Ultimately, to deliver success, we need powered on people all going in the same direction.


The golf industry is truly a unique one. It attracts all types of people for all types of reasons. Each visit to our club can include dining, special events, exercise, competition and, of course, social interaction. How we measure what we do is a critical tool that is necessary for improvement. We can’t fix something if we don’t know that it is broken. There is a great saying “what can’t be measured can’t be managed’, and many clubs do a great job measuring revenues and expenses and other key performance indicators. However, the best clubs measure everything possible, such as member satisfaction, employee satisfaction, total revenue per round of golf, cost of maintenance per acre and many, many other factors. In our business, with so many different facets, there is no shortage of things that we need to measure to best understand where we are and where we want to go. The more we can measure, the better we can manage!


Success is never guaranteed, and in our very challenging industry, when this great game of golf can sometimes be ‘un-definable’, success can be a floating target that is constantly just out of reach. That said, we can improve our chances for success if we implement systems, tools and processes that will create clarity, consistency and most importantly, a commitment to excellence from all of us.

JAMES CRONK – Principle, Cronk Group

James Cronk is a highly regarded speaker and consultant and his work takes him around the globe, helping clubs and organizations improve their people, their products and their profits. His clients include private, resort and daily fee clubs of all sizes and also national and international organizations such as NGCOA, CMAA, CSCM, EGCOA, PGA and GOLF 2020. For more information visit www.cronkgroup.com.

To learn more visit WWW.CRONKGROUP.COM or email us at james@cronkgroup.com




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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