Over my lifetime, staff has been my kryptonite.
They have caused me great despair, incredible joy and a heart full of pride. I have fought for them, worked alongside them, nurtured them, trained them and learned from them.
In my opinion, they are the single most valuable asset of any business.
Some might argue that customers and property have an equal rate of importance, but not in my mind.
A number of businesses have survived shoddy properties and are successful and others experience a large customer turnover, but maintain profits but nobody can move forward with incompetent, inefficient, poorly-trained staff over a long-term basis.
Recently, I read of a new outlook toward course management and how to decrease staff while increasing profits and still presenting an acceptable product.
The article appeared in a publication/directory called Golf Inc. and was written by Scott Kauffman. Apparently, the Angeles National Golf Club in Sunland, Calif., has adopted a new approach to agronomics for their public golf course. They are replacing full time staff with part-timers which (they say) has reduced their budget by 20 per cent.
The theory is that a significant amount of work required to maintain a golf course is done early in the morning, making the staff requirements more at those peak times and diminishing as the day goes along.
Rather than using a large full-time contingent that has regularly scheduled responsibilities for the first five or six hours of a shift and fill in their agreed-upon total of hours with less pertinent tasks, the head superintendent hires part-time replacements, so he can deploy the large volume he needs for early morning jobs and his staff then move on to other part-time employment elsewhere.
Somehow, this doesn’t sit quite right with me.
I recognize the importance of squeezing every single penny out of a budget, but I do wonder about the cost of a cutback in loyalty.
I recall the gut-wrenching early morning hours spent on the back nine of a course I was involved in, listening to the superintendent and his assistant tell stories of how they were bullied into exhaustion by the officious club president.
They both had concerns about their future through threats of dismissal for issues they endured more from circumstance then their own doing. One of them regularly burst into tears from the fear of his prospects.
I watched as an egomaniac bully badgered two wonderful men into submission. Both eventually died died from heart attacks. I’m not saying the club president killed them, but his brutal, disdainful, micro-managing caused needless pain and anxiety to two loyal workers.
Their years of devotion and dedication under previous presidential administrations were ruthlessly tossed into the garbage. They were confused, disoriented and perplexed as to both the basis for his tirades and an acceptable solution.
He was simply intolerant of workers. I found the whole experience to be against every belief I have and very repugnant.
In my days as a head professional at various clubs, I found that if I paid average wages, but provided a clean, fair work environment and a chance to learn, my staff responded by treating our customers with dignity, respect and great service.
We did little things like arrange our shop hours so every staff person could either teach for half of the day or play golf with the members.
During the summer months, we coordinated the schedule with days off, open/close shifts and statutory holidays, so every employee enjoyed one four day mini-vacation without ever having to work without full staff coverage, all within the budget.
We held a an annual staff match play tournament, a Christmas Party at my house and arranged reciprocal, home-and-home golf days with the staff at other clubs.
On men’s night, I encouraged one of my assistants to stand before the members and give the “Tip of the Week.” We shared our thoughts, I tried to teach them and I listened when they presented ideas to me.
We were a family.
In the long run, I probably oversubscribed my staff numbers a little and I probably paid a bit more than I should have, but the loyalty I gained was priceless.
The membership treated us with respect and they included us in their lives by inviting us to their family weddings, house parties and, unfortunately, funerals. My staff and I were not looked at like a bunch of menial servants. We were a contributing part of an atmosphere enjoyed by our customers.
I never understood what the club president expected to gain by diminishing the pride of the staff through his bullying.
I think the Angeles National Golf Club will make more money, but will fail in the quality of the effort put forth in the small details which will, at some point, begin to reduce the quality of the product and eventually give rise to a reduction in profit.
I will always be thankful for the men and women I was fortunate to have as colleagues. They contributed to much happiness for me and, more importantly, for our customers.
Not everything is measured in dollars.