Beryl Acres looks back on a changing world
Retiring CMASA general manager Beryl Acres reflects on the industry.
Beryl Acres has retired after 20 years as general manager of the Club Managers Association of South Africa (CMASA). She reflects on the state of the industry today.
I WOULD LIKE TO THINK CLUB MANAGEMENT HAS BECOME MORE PROFESSIONAL.
During my time the focus was on continuing education, either through newsletters or formal courses. We were the first country outside the United States to produce the first internationally recognised Certified Club Manager (CCM) designations, based on a syllabus provided by the Club Managers Association of America. These courses are now available in China, the UK, Europe, Colombia and soon Australia and New Zealand. Three of our managers, Steven Thielke, Michael Leemhuis and Ann Robbie, have gone on to top jobs in Asia, the US, and the UK respectively.
HISTORICALLY THE POSITION OF A CLUB MANAGER
or secretary was often given to a retired club member who treated the job as a hobby rather than a career. CMASA has made huge inroads into creating careers for individu- als who entered the industry. Twenty years ago clubs still had waiting lists for membership and the facilities offered to members were never as “grand” as they are today. Clubs did not compete for business as they do today and the job of a club manager did not require the skills necessary in today’s climate.
THERE IS STILL CAMARADERIE BETWEEN CLUBS,
but like anything in life the camaraderie is different. Here’s an example: “Have you heard that Club X is closing down?” In years gone by the response would have been “what can we do to help them in this difficult time?” Today, the response would be “how many of their members can we get?” I often found it interesting when attending a meeting of managers how everyone would say how well they were doing, but meanwhile back at the ranch.
MANAGERS OFTEN FEEL INSECURE ABOUT THEIR JOBS
as they serve at the behest of the membership and committee. When times are good they are hailed as outstanding employees, but that can change rapidly and they soon find themselves updating their CV.
CLUB MANAGEMENT IS A STRESSFUL CAREER
and the hours are extremely unsociable, both in terms of friends and family. A club manager is required to be a “jack of all trades.” Due to financial constraints most clubs are unable to employ an assistant manager, which leaves the manager working long hours and weekend work. My experience indicates that managers who have done their duty working long hours are looking to move to a position with regular hours and no weekend work. I do see this as a deterrent to obtaining top candidates. One has to strike a balance in your life – the job cannot be to the detriment of family and health.
PGA CLUB PRO OF THE YEAR JEFF CLAUSE AT ST FRANCIS LINKS
is an exception to the rule of PGA pro- fessionals going into club management. He is a great allrounder and talented marketer. Golf clubs are looking for business skills to run the multi-million rand business of which they are the custodians.
WE HAVE BEEN EXPECTING CLOSURES AMONG GOLF CLUBS
for at least the last seven years but almost nothing so far. If international statistics are anything to go by, I do think something has got to give in the current economy. The golf industry is facing challenging times with electricity, assessment rates, lease costs and water, to mention just a few. Members are feeling the pinch and have choices to make. Mergers and closures will always be a sensitive and emotive decision. Members have a passion for their clubs and a sense of
belonging no matter whether it is a large or small club. Few members would welcome change from their comfort zone to something new. It is just not the nature of the beast.
TO BE SUCCESSFUL AND PROFITABLE,
golf clubs need to look after members and give them value-added benefits so they get the sense of belonging. Clubs should be a haven for the membership in these turbulent times. Clubs should offer some sort of family activities. If not, the children will grow up not having a sense of the culture of belonging to a club. And where will the next generation of members come from? Happy and motivated staff will attract members who will want to spend more time at the club. What prescribed tonic works as well as arriving at your club and being greeted by a staff member with a smile and welcome jibe?
THERE IS TALK in the
market that some clubs obtain more revenue from visitors than members and believe this is the future. I am not sure this is the solution, as a club is so much more than a sports field where you can participate in your favourite sport. The cultures of the individuals who are members are an integral part of the experience.
I DON’T BELIEVE GOLF CLUBS TODAY ARE OVERSTAFFED COMPARED TO YESTERDAY.
Clubs today have improved their offerings to their members and guests and therefore may have employed more staff. The industry is labour intensive and labour is not a cheap line item. Clubs are always searching for cost savings and this often results in job losses. Clubs need to be cautious in maintaining good corporate governance which includes separation of duties. Often in small clubs this disappears, leading to poor management practices and often fraud or mismanagement or nepotism.
I DON’T BELIEVE YOU CAN DIFFERENTIATE THE OFFERINGS OF A “SMALL CLUB” VERSUS A “LARGE CLUB.”
Is this differentiation based on the number of members, number of rounds, money in the bank? Clubs need to decide who they are – a Mercedes Benz or a Fiat Uno – then provide the best they are able to do within the resources they have, always bearing in mind the needs and wants of their membership.
A GOLF CLUB MANAGER SHOULD HAVE A WORKING KNOWLEDGE OF GOLF.
We include a golf component in the CCM course to assist with this. It is important that a manager understands his customer’s mindset, because otherwise it could be awkward for a golf club manager. Once again it is about balance – play golf whenever possible or undertake the office administration? Most managers play little golf. I managed to bluff my way through – sometimes not so well – as I have never played golf and know little about the intricacies of the game. Having said that, as CMASA represents all types of clubs I would have had to take up some rather different pastimes – skateboarding, motorcycling, croquet and deep sea diving.
I COULD WRITE A NOVEL ON THE CHARACTERS I HAVE ENCOUNTERED IN THE INDUSTRY
and suffice to say this comment would be the first line of the novel. The industry provides extraordinary individuals in all shapes and forms and I often perceive it as a microcosm of the times we live in. As the saying goes, “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”
“Golf clubs need to look after members to be successful and profitable.”
Beryl Acres at CCJ Auckland Park, home to CMASA’s office.