#4: Why Attending My Regional GCMA Meeting Is High Priority
I’m in my 14th year as a Full member of the Golf Club Managers’ Association. I have been a member of the Wales region (formerly South Wales) for the same length of time and I have been a member of the South West region for nearly 3 years now. I can safely say that the regional meetings I have attended and the network of peers I have built up as a consequence of attending them has been the single biggest force for good in my 14 year career to date as a Golf Club Manager.
With my opening words in mind, it has always mystified me when Managers from some Clubs, particularly the bigger, more busy ones, do not attend regional meetings. “What…” I ask myself, “could be a higher priority than what we get from these meetings?” Following a recent meeting of the Wales region I took the time to reflect upon my relationship with the GCMA and particularly my regional meetings.
I will always remember the call. I was a 27 year old General Manager who had just joined the industry from the outside. The classic Golf Club induction of “here are your keys, this is your desk, good luck” was still fresh in the memory and I received a call from Colin Duffield, manager of one of my most local rival Clubs. He welcomed me to the industry and invited me to their next meeting.
I nervously went along, not knowing what to expect and was given a great welcome. The format of the morning meeting was a presentation on what should be included in our Club insurance policies and some tips on things that maybe weren’t quite so important from an industry expert. This preceded an Open Forum discussion from the 20 or so Managers in attendance. I sat silent, for once, writing copious notes and taking in the dozens of what I considered nuggets of information that were flying around the room. I left that meeting with mixed emotions – I had found somewhere where I could find out more about this crazy job I had just started, but I also realised just how much I didn’t know!
3 weeks later I was at Ashburnham Golf Club taking part in a golf event – the annual GCMA Wales vs England match. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was a day that would shape the next 10 years of my career….
I was partnered with a fellow Manager names Ian Church who had revolutionised the concept of attracting visitor golfers to Clubs in his role as a Club Manager. I am sure I must have annoyed him by the end of the day, so frequent were my questions regarding what he had done and how he had achieved it. I had identified the need to increase visitor income as a priority in my own role so learning from a guy who had increased visitor income at his Club by 300% was an opportunity I wasn’t willing to let pass. I even drove back to Ashburnham a month later and spent the day shadowing him and discussing his policies and working practices.
Before I left Wales to cross the Severn Bridge for my job in 2017 I had spent the previous 11 years or so driving green fee income at the Clubs at which I had worked in South Wales. The vast majority of those success’ I can trace back to those two days with Ian back in 2007. If you’re reading this Ian, thank you again!
As I have moved along my Golf Club Management journey I have been fortunate enough to have been in the room when several new initiatives in the Golf Industry have been presented. Back when Clubs all had 5 or 6 departmental paper diaries that MIGHT be synchronised once a week at a staff meeting we were introduced to the BRS booking system. I went on to install this in two golf Clubs, offering online competition and visitor bookings for the first time to each Club. Later on I discovered the Intelligentgolf system through a regional meeting and, having seen the advances this system offered it has been my pleasure to install this in two Clubs aswell.
In one regional meeting I came away enthused having been introduced to Europest for my Pest Control and Washroom Solutoins, Movo Insurance for Club Insurance and Capricorn Cleaning for our Clubhouse Cleaning Contract. Having contacted just these 3 companies my Club at the time saved over £3,000 a year just for switching to them.
Case Studies & Best Practice
With South Wales having struggled more than most in terms of Club Membership and Golf Club Financing during my time in that region, case studies of those who have enjoyed success at their Clubs and sharing the ideas that have brought them said success has been a huge benefit of attending regional meetings.
I make no apology for having pilfered many of the ideas that have brought success to others over the years that I would never even have heard had I not been in the room…..
One Club had dropped their joining fee for 30 days and taken in 80 members (back when South Wales Clubs had joining fees). I heard the case study, asked some questions and tweaked how I would do this myself back at my own Club – basically I maintained the need for individual interviews which said Club had not done – and we enjoyed similar success, which transformed the Club’s finances in 30 days.
Another time an attendee explained in an open forum how they had used e-mail to increase their visitor income. I took that away, tweaked it a bit using my previous career as the GM of a Bingo Club where offers such as these were common, and rolled out something similar. At the end of that year we had increased green fee income by £25,000 without accepting a single extra society golf day.
I could write for hours just on the ideas and success’ other GCMA regional members have shared with me that have gone on to benefit me and the Club I work for, but that wold be over baking the cake so to speak. However, this heading alone makes the relatively small time and financial sacrifice to any Club more than worthwhile.
I recently played a singles knockout match against the Secretary of a small Club in the Welsh valleys who didn’t even have one paid greenkeeper and were running their bar themselves. I was awash with questions about how their Club members were making this work – it was an amazing insight and real food for thought for those of us who have never faced such challenges.
Network & Support
Saving the biggest and best benefit of active participation in my GCMA’s regional meetings for last, I can say with complete confidence that without the network of fellow Golf Club Managers that I now have I would not have survived so long in what can be, at times, a pretty lonely job where praise can be rare and criticism all but the norm.
It is amazing to be able to be in a position that, no matter what the scenario, no matter what the problem, there is always a Manager in a Club who has been through the same thing before you. When I had problems with golf balls hitting a neighbouring property.. “Speak to Newport Golf Club, they’ve had that problem…” or I recall when reviewing two different accountancy packages “Speak to Pennard, they just changed from X to Y….”
I spent 18 months chasing one young manager to come to regional meetings in Wales. I finally got him along, and simply by attending, he met someone who was a stand in manager at a Club and from talking to him he applied for and got a job that he was delighted to get. Though not ideal for his current Club, for the GCMA member’s career simply turning up that day has had a monumentally positive effect on his career.
In more modern days there are even a couple of WhatsApp groups I am a member of with other Managers where on a frequent basis someone will as a question regarding what each of us does for any given matter, so we all answer but also get the benefit of seeing everyone else’s answers here as well.
Having said all of this, the help and support that I have myself received from my fellow GCMA members at a time in my career when I was going through the sort of thing within my Club that I am sad to say is all to common in the industry for Managers it was my fellow GCMA members who supported me and frankly got me through the toughest year of my life. I could never name them all, but there were some of my network who were always making the call to me at a time when I didn’t feel like talking, would listen and support me throughout.
Without the people and the support I describe, I quite simply would not still be in the Golf industry today. This was all possible because of the relationships I have built over the years almost exclusively at GCMA regional meetings.
I hope that the sort of nonsense that I needed supporting through is something we can make a thing of the past in UK Golf. However, I sincerely doubt this is going to be the case anytime soon. While this is true I hope I am in a position to support others within my network in the future.
To attend every single GCMA Region meeting will cost you and your Club what? 5 days? 6 Days out of 365 per year? A bit of mileage and the odd participation fee?
We all run marketing campaigns where we assess our return on investment. The ROI for attending regional GCMA events in my career to date has been monumental.
Those managers who say they are too busy frequently or say they aren’t interested, having fully committed to these events myself and reaped the rewards, baffle me. This is not meant as a criticism. I just genuinely don’t understand how when considering our own growth and how to best serve the interests of our Clubs and our members, attending these meetings aren’t extremely high at the top of the list of priorities. They certainly sit extremely high on mine!
I hope to see some of those reading this at future meetings. You really won’t regret it!!
Gareth Morgan, BA (hons)