By Ed Shanaphy, CMAA
Across the nation, a plethora of industries are facing the challenge over vaccine mandates. From first responders in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles who are fighting their municipal governments to the day-laborers who work indoors for the most part as fill-ins for temp agencies, workers who are being asked to return are facing new challenges. So much so, the mainstream media are running stories focusing on “the great resignation.”
Add to this that this month the US Department of Labor issued a mask mandate for most employers with over one hundred workers. If a company employs over one hundred staff, that company is required to either enforce mask wearing or seek weekly tests on its workforce.
We are sure that this mandate will be tested in the courts, but already each state in the union is struggling with legislation to encompass or delete this requirement, depending on the state’s political tendency. Even the conservatives and liberals are confused – almost wondering if the booster shot should be injected into a right or left arms – no pun intended. All joking aside, its a question as to what might be legal in a place of leisure which is often privately owned. Equity clubs are owned by their own members almost like a cooperative. Private member clubs comprise an industry that is also a major employer across the country.
Private member clubs – from country clubs to eating clubs to fitness clubs – are not without challenges as staff either shift away from entering the work place or resign over the mandate. Older staff members are considering early retirement, as they look to the ripe old age of 67 as a bit far in the Coronavirus era. Younger members of staff are concerned about the long-term effects of a vaccine that has been so quickly developed and administered.
Without coming down on what might be right or wrong, vaccine mandates are throwing staffing probably the biggest curve ball employers have seen in decades. But, it’s not just the vaccine mandates. People have worked from home for the past eighteen months. They have enjoyed time with family, with parents, with kids. They have found the beauty of being at home. They are not rushing back to work. A vaccine mandate is not helping them to make that decision to come back to a workplace and start the commute all over again.
We have heard that given the apparent slow uptake on H1B visas and processing of visa applications along with recent announcements that the allocation of H1B visas is complete, clubs in 2021 are facing labor shortages they have never, ever seen before. For an industry that prides itself on “member services” and “best-in-class” hospitality, this is a challenge well beyond the means of a governing board and a club manager.
John Deere And Country Clubs Are Looking at 6 Percent or Higher Rises In Labor Costs
Cubs are in the same environment and paired with other competitors for staff. We as a nation have watched the John Deere workers strike and win against a firm that builds a tractor, a green tractor that is certainly an endearing symbol of our agricultural nation. As we hear of inflation fears and the possibility of an interest rate rise, clubs are having to go above and beyond in terms of pay scale to attract workers to service their membership. With a rate of inflation at 5.1% nationwide, just the cost of living is going up at an unprecedented speed. Many personnel contracts are linked to the inflation rate and this means a higher labor cost for private member clubs, from locker room attendants through to food servers, golf instructors, all the way up to club managers. With reports and sources from club managers of an annual, contractual rate rise of a staggering 6 percent or higher within personnel contracts at private clubs being offered or demanded in New England, we as an industry are sputtering in unchartered waters to retain staff members.
Not surprisingly, expenses are up as well. As gas prices rise, food items are tougher to stock on a daily basis, tennis balls are on a 6-month backlog, and range balls are being peddled on sites like craigslist. Ordering for the next season or even Spring Break means creating that purchase order months in advance. Pressures on cash flow is largely a new territory for department heads than just trying to locate that requested bottle of wine for a beloved member or a sleeve of Titleist Pro V1 balls.
We are seeing clubs act in response and with good foresight. Many are pushing initiation fees higher, but are, at the same time, allowing new members to pay them over time rather than in one lump sum. This attracts a younger member, which in turn might end up joining the club earlier than they would have planned which adds to lifetime member value. Clubs are looking at instituting “rolling admissions” to make joining more flexible throughout the year. New members are crucial at this juncture, and keeping the club’s offerings modern and up-to-date is imperative.
Ed Shanaphy is President of BeyondTheBaselines.com, a subsidiary of SBW Associates, Inc. He currently serves as Interim GM at Pretty Brook Tennis Club in Princeton, NJ through the winter as BeyondTheBaselines.com serves as executive search consultant to find a new Club Manager for Pretty Brook, a club established in 1929. Ed will serve once again as Director of Tennis at Sippican Tennis Club in Marion, MA for Summer 2022.