By Dale Petrie, European Advisor to BeyondTheBaselines.com
This is a question that is asked of us advisors and consultants in the club and leisure industry quite regularly. When a long-serving club manager retires or changes employer, there is a void requiring almost immediate filling. A growing trend is to insert an interim manager, as the process to fill that void has recently been elongated. Governing boards are, in this age of inclusion and diversity, allowing the process to become more transparent, and therefore slower – a factor to be explored and perhaps welcomed.
Why should a club or board rush to fill that void and position quickly? The exiting of any leader is an opportunity and the process is there in a hope to make a better choice for what is hoped to be a long-serving club manager. But, there is a second factor creating lengthy searches. There is appearing an expanded and parallel exercise: Revising the leadership role to match the faster-changing needs of a club. Clubs are changing quickly. Long gone are the traditional ideas of what a club should look like – modern processes such as paying club bills via Venmo, PayPal, or even crypto, are now becoming the norm along with shortened tournament formats for all sports, especially golf and tennis while social events are gaining traction and growing in number on club calendars.
While that vacuum following the exit of the general manager and leader is usually filled with a process commencing with the appointing of a search committee as well as producing a revised job description, boards have, in the past, jumped into action as outspoken members start to communicate what they would like to see change in the role. But that quick jump is now becoming more a of a slow slog as clubs look at themselves and their offerings.
Creating A New Leadership Role While Planning The Club’s Future
According to research we have conducted, almost one in five leisure outlets, including country, tennis and golf clubs, now hire an interim manager or management firm. The exercise to find the right candidate for a revamped, leadership position is taking far too long for the club to maintain consistent member service.
As clubs grow, not only in member numbers, but also in services offered and levels of hospitality, this search and study process is consuming search committees and long-term, strategic planning committees. As it consumes the organization, the process is on average, according to our own in-house research, taking up to four to six months. With fewer candidates amid a Pandemic-affected workforce, finding the right candidate is taking more time.
As this process takes time, it’s becoming more and more commonplace to find an interim manager or management firm taking the reins. This occurrence in our leisure industry is resulting in a two-fold opportunity to the regular search exercise outlined above – it affords the opportunity to see another leader in the role before completing a search while placing an “in-house” management consultancy take the reigns of the facility with new ideas, action points and viewpoints through interim management.
Any major change to leadership allows for an opportunity for a club’s self-inspection. Bringing interim management allows for that introspection not to be rushed, while simultaneously offering another view or opinion or pathway to management, right there and present on property. “It’s almost like having a full management consultancy working from within our own GM’s office,” said the President of Pretty Brook, one of the clubs where we have recently served as Interim General Manager.
According to research we have conducted, almost one in five leisure outlets, including country, tennis and golf clubs, now hire an interim manager or management firm. Clubs are coming to the realization that interim management brings to light many of the short comings of any outgoing club manager, unrefined staffing structures, antiquated accounting procedures, and barriers to communication between staff and with membership.
In the not-too-distant future, we believe that perhaps half of clubs experiencing a change at the top of leadership will ask for interim management while gathering data and researching changes requested and required before hiring a permanent, full-time club manager. Interim management is the perfect answer for allowing that process to occur naturally and unhurried.
Dale Petrie – a graduate of the Sorbonne in Paris, France – is a European marketing executive specializing in the club and leisure industry. He is a regular contributor to the BeyondTheBaselines.com website and serves as European advisor and as marketing advisor to its holding company, SBW Associates, Inc.