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The true role of the Board and committees

POSTED ON April 14, 2016 @ 8:28 am

Over the past few years while conducting operational reviews for various clubs and Boards, I’ve seen a standard recurring theme with many of the traditional membership model clubs, which has gotten me thinking.

Do Boards and committees really know what their true roles should be at their club?

Golf Clubs still seem to be in a bit of transition from the days of volunteer managed (i.e. spending some time pouring beers, mowing the lawn (both to save labour costs) and Superintendent reporting directly to Captain etc.) era to the more Modern structure of a Board only focusing on setting strategic direction, quality control and Governance and letting the Manager actually run the day-to-day business. It seems that many still think that being on a Board or Committee is an operational role versus being a strategic one.

It’s understandable for some clubs, as they may not have the financial resources to employ a professional manager, but nonetheless we still must have some clarity of roles for all involved.

The GM/Secretary Manager/CEO should be the one managing daily operations (i.e. staff and contractors) and would be fully accountable to the Board for the club’s overall performance. In many cases Board Members and committee are still making operational decisions, which really are undermining the entire process. The times are really changing and the structure of clubs needs to be redefined.

When we are employed for any job or contract, the first thing we expect is a job description or scope of work document outlining what is expected of us. This practice should also be occurring at all clubs. Do Board members really know what they are signing up for as a Director of a club and what their responsibility is for governance of the club? If all of them did I think some would have a change in their mindset on how they run their facility and how they undertake their duties? Many possibly wouldn’t take on the serious responsibility that actually comes along with the role. From the reports I’ve been seeing “improved governance” will be a hot topic in the coming years

Do committee members fully understand what the primary objective is for their particular committee and do they have KPI’s to achieve? If they all did they wouldn’t be continually interrupting the Manager and administration team with silly requests!

A simple Board Orientation at the beginning of each year when new members are voted in should be mandatory, regardless if they have been on the Board previously or not. This would include training on their responsibility, how to conduct meetings, and the actual roles of the Board and Committees.

The importance of planning and communication

Once the above roles and responsibilities information is accomplished, you can only move forward with a plan of some kind. The Strategic Plan is the main one that the Board should be responsible for creating. The Club Manager is then responsible for the implementation.

Planning is the key item that needs to be clearly defined for the entire operation to ever become successful. Does the club all agree on where it wants to go? (I.e. Vision) Do you have clear KPI’s? Clubs without proper documented plans are reactive in nature and will lack the real consistency that is needed to build momentum and growth in the business.

The reporting structure and accountability processes are also vital in this planning.

With a plan fully agreed upon and clearly communicated to the entire staff and membership, the rest of the parts of the operation are easily addressed at the management level.

Strategic planning should be undertaken by the entire Board along with the General Manager and select others to achieve maximum “buy-in”. It formulates the “big picture” for the entire facility without really getting into the details of daily operations. The Strategic Plan items also need to become a stationary item for each monthly Board meeting agenda and current status put into the Minutes. There also needs to be outlined clear and measurable goals.

Operational Planning

There seems to be a lack of any real documented planning for the “operation” of many clubs, which would fall upon the responsibility of the Manager. From the Strategic Plan there needs to be an operational or business plan in place that covers all the details of the day to day business. Marketing would also be an integral part of this.

An operation of any size should have some basic planning documents in place as a way for all parties involved to understand the finer details of what is trying to be achieved each year.

These plans are then tied directly to the financial planning being done and concurrently used as a management and accountability tool for each manager and team member to follow. A full year plan should be constructed with a progress report being done as part of each monthly report to Board.

As with any business, a proper structure or foundation is required to propel it forward to becoming a sustainable entity. The first step now for clubs is to agree on the structure and roles, followed by a simple documented plan forward.  With these in place you will see some operational improvements straightaway.

Originally published October 2012 Inside Golf magazine

If in need to discuss your particular club’s requirements, feel free to drop Mike a line for a free chat.

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