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The Fatal Mistake Of Hiring The Tennis Pro A Member Recommends

empty tennis court

That Hire Is Always Going To Be the Member’s Pro

It happens every time. The Director of Tennis hands in his resignation and the General Manager, before the ink dries on the resignation letter, has a mailbox full of emails from members. The emails all implore the same sentiment: “Hire this guy, he’s great. He’d be great here at our club.”

Please don’t misunderstand the sentiment. It’s fantastic that members want to add to the department, or bring in someone they value to a club. It shows they care about the program and the club. However, in most cases, the members don’t know what a Director of Tennis does, day to day. That’s a good thing. It means the Director had been doing a great job: wonderful front-person with members by day, administrator and businessperson by night.

As industry consultants, we read the same book at each club. Hiring a tennis director or head pro has the same chapters and table of contents. The emails to the individual in charge of hiring comprise Chapter Two, after the politics of and the questions over the resignation fill Chapter One. Chapter Two is the only place where members include management as they talk about “our club.” What’s ironic is that it’s always going to be their club, the members’ club. And, if you hire their guy, he’s always going to be their pro.

The Members’ Sentiment Is Right.
Hiring That Professional Is Wrong

Time and again, we see it happen in the industry. And down the road, hiring a pro who initially came from a members’ reference can create issues. Word of mouth along with professional and personal references play a big part during any hiring process. But they should be kept in context.

The hiring process comes in three forms. One we term: “the closed account.” This is the toughest form for the General Manager to endure. The chairperson of the tennis committee rules. They want a particular pro. They’ve been planning this coup d’etat for years. They will not listen to anyone or anything else. Handpicked… It was always going to be this pro. Often, the club will cover this up. The club manager will go through a process, taking in resumes. He or she might even post a recruitment advertisement, to cover his or her backside and the club’s reputation as a fair and equal employer. But the writing is on the wall. The pro is already hired. De facto.

Oftentimes, this is where other Directors of Tennis get their say. These other Directors are asked by the chair of the tennis or search committee or the member pushing hard for their candidate to write and call, unsolicited. There’s a planned lobbying effort on behalf of the “anointed” candidate. The club manager will receive a call from a past Director for whom the “de facto” candidate has worked with a follow-up call from that Director’s general manager. It handcuffs the hiring club manager. And the process is closed.

This is so unfortunate. The hiring of a Director of Tennis, Fitness or Head Professional is an opportunity to educate members, and sometimes, club managers, as to the industry and the position. Most members don’t know about liability on tennis courts or realize the amount of mentoring assistant professionals require. They don’t realize that more than 50 percent of a Director’s work day is spent, or should be spent, in administrative tasks. Laying out a strong job description and going through the pros and cons of the former Director is a process worth its weight in gold. It helps to outline and structure the goals and objectives of membership in accord with management requirements.

Instead, with a member having their pro hired, the pro is always that member’s pro. If club management or another member has a legitimate issue or grievance, or another staff member feels differently about a methodology, the Director will rely on the member who hired him or her and lasso that member into any significant discussion.

Beware the Hire from Within

The second form of hiring is from within the club or facility. The Director leaves and the member sentiment is: “We need to hire from within. Tradition. Our club knows Tony, the Head Pro. He’s put his years in as number two. Let’s move him up. It’s the right thing to do.”

Again, the opportunity to educate by working through a full national search is lost. The department continues on and members have little, if any, idea of what a modern-day program may or should look like. They’ve had the same Director for, say, 20 years and now they are moving up his right-hand person to continue the same, banal programming for another 20. If the outgoing director were named John, the new pro being pushed up is always going to be “John’s guy” or girl as the case may be. It’s usually not a healthy or long-term tour of duty upon ascension. The denouement written a few years later is a quiet, but quick termination.

Here’s why. There’s always a group, perhaps small, but often not too small, of members who never liked the outgoing Director. And now they feel the following: “We are hiring his number two. When will our club ever learn.” They feel stuck with the same team and remnants of the former Director, even though the Director they didn’t like is gone. They don’t truly see a change in course of the program or the club. Of course, members feeling this will not make their voice known to fellow members, but they won’t be welcoming to the number two as the new Director. And they’ll let that sentiment be known when he or she becomes top dog. Eventually, the members of this group win over other members as the memory of their beloved and retired Director fades. And the new guy is quietly banished, because the hire was out of respect to the outgoing Director and not based on the qualities of his former head pro.

Cream Rises to the Top

The final option is the national search. “We will get hundreds of unqualified candidates.” We hear this all the time. We respond: “And you’ll get a handful of excellent choices.”

It’s not just the candidates, including those candidates recommended by a member, that need to go through the process. It’s the club and its members that need the process just as much. The interviews, the projects created for candidates to complete – such as drawing up a comprehensive lesson plan for a junior program – all help the club grow and mature as it goes through a transitional period.

Candidates with varying backgrounds both on and off the court possessing different business and administrative experience come to “lay out” their wares in front of members who have rarely or never conducted a search for this role. Members are truly unaware of what a Director of Tennis or Fitness does most of the day. “Aren’t they just the front-of-house at the tennis courts or in the gym?” We hide our smile as we begin to help outline the job description from budgeting for and retaining staff, from planning resurfacing to estimating liability and workers’ compensation insurance, from ordering and investing in inventory to approving new logo artwork.

Through this process, the cream rises to the top. Based on not just one call from a former boss, but on six to eight references from colleagues for whom the candidate worked and from others who were mentored by the candidate, the cream rises to the top. As interviews across zoom and skype help to create a fluid list of top candidates and a careful review by non-biased eyes look at verified experience, the cream rises to the top.

Don’t Be Bamboozled

The above experiences come in various shapes and sizes. A Head Pro advises the hiring of a friend for an Assistant Pro role. Again, that new hire will always be the Head Pro’s pro.

And it occurs right on down the line. Club managers and Directors are besieged yet again when a Head Pro leaves. Members know that getting their choice in at number two could lead to number one, with the hiring from within a stoic tradition at many institutions.

This November U.S. voters will have the choice to elect an incumbent or a former insider. We as voters have that right. Club members want that right too with their department heads. This year might see a lack of debate and discussion given the effects of Covid-19. The national search has already been truncated. A Senator from Vermont was shortchanged. We might not be fully educated as to the incumbent and the challenger, who we all view as the previous guys’ guy. Similar to what happens when hiring a Director of Tennis or Fitness isn’t it? But we have no excuse after Covid-19 not to go through the process, educate ourselves, and find the right candidate as the cream rises to the top.

Ed Shanaphy is President of BeyondTheBaselines.com, a subsidiary of SBW Associates, Inc, which is the country’s leading consultancy for country clubs. BeyondTheBaselines.com specializes in hiring and retaining tennis and fitness staff and management of club tennis and fitness departments on a permanent and temporary basis.

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Liquidity, Availability, and Flexibility – Clubs’ Needs For Reopening and Restructuring

board room accountant meeting

By Ed Shanaphy
B.A. Duke University, M.A. The London School of Economics
President BeyondTheBaselines.com – SBW Associates, Inc

These are unprecedented times, but they will come to an end. Whether this summer, or in early 2021, Covid-19 will finally subside and we as an industry across the nation must be ready. Club managers, owners, and boards of governors should have a short-term and long-range plan for reopening. Reopening requires liquidity, availability and flexibility.

Prior to opening, as a club manager or owner, you have a single opportunity to restructure the tennis and fitness departments. All bets are off as you return and bring staff back to work. Most clubs and businesses are predicting a revenue drop of approximately 30 percent over the next 18 to 24 months and preparations for the change that Covid-19 will bring to bear on the country club and the tennis and fitness industries must be weighed in appropriately before any plans are finalized.

Liquidity

Liquidity is essential. The access to cash and funding is a necessity, whether you are a facility employing a director or “farm out” your tennis or fitness department to a director running a business within your club structure. Many clubs are unable to apply for Small Business Association funding, whether excluded as a 501(c)7 social club or simply red tape. But if by chance your club or facility was successful in its application for SBA loans or grants, that is a great help to retain staff and cover payroll costs during these weeks and months that clubs are not operational.

If you were not able to get through the paperwork for government funding, there are other avenues to liquidity. There are emergency disaster loans from most states. If your club or facility has a long association with a bank, you can often receive bank funding at a low percentage rate using club assets as collateral. Finally, if your facility or club has an excellent credit rating or Dun & Bradstreet report, it should not prove too difficult to gain some more liquidity if required to restart from industry financiers. What we must take away from this as club managers, governing bodies and advisors is that the term “savings for a rainy day” must be now essential business management as we move forward and budget accordingly.

Most clubs run at a fixed cost, whether they are open or closed. Staying closed longer puts more money in the club’s coffers, but members might become impatient and ask for partial or pro-rated refunds of membership dues. It’s a delicate balancing act for any club manager and board of governors.

Depending on refunds to members or clients, clubs remaining closed longer may and should have access to savings and funding bigger than any contractor working within the framework of the club. We have encountered many clubs guaranteeing the independent contractors running their tennis and fitness departments funding for costs incurred, such as overheads, retail purchases for golf, tennis and fitness shops, and payroll. These loans from the clubs in most cases will be paid back over the next season of full service.

As we move forward through this crisis, there is a possibility of assessing a membership for a planned project which could help instill cash into a club as the revenue streams come recover. This could be a somewhat riskier method in that it relies on timing of the recovery and a strong economy coming back to fore in 2021 and beyond.

However you find cash, it’s imperative that the club or facility has enough to remain a viable concern and to be flexible when reopening, something we will look at below.

Availability

One of the top three desires and wants of any membership is availability of staff and management to members. The CoronaVirus era hasn’t changed that. In this era, in-person communication is not truly possible, so communication is left to substitute for availability. Communication should be planned, positive and productive. Communications with staff should be daily, especially with department heads who are planning the minutiae of reopening their departments.

Communication with stakeholders, whether clients or members, should be relevant and frequent. Both the club manager and the department heads should be reaching out often to members or stakeholders. Outlining the plan to reopen, the new regulations that will be in effect at the club, and the overall, continuing finances of the club should be part of weekly updates.

Zoom or Skype meetings with stakeholders should be held at least twice a month, if not more often as the facility moves through the CoronaVirus era and looks to reopen in the coming weeks and months. Newsletters via email, communications via text and letters and cards through the old-fashioned “snail mail” can play a part as people are stuck at home. These communications should focus on how you are looking to safe-guard the facility, the members, players and staff members, along with protecting the stakeholders value.

Both club managers and department heads should be at their home desks with the phone nearby. It’s reassuring for members and staff to know that you are on the other end of the line or email message. And, even though you might not hear from them, they’ll realize and understand that you are there providing a service. It creates value for you, for the club, for the program and club staff.

Positive communication with staff is essential in these times to keep morale high and to lead staff thoughtfully and effectively through a crisis such as Covid-19. Questions to be prepared for are numerous and your plans for restructuring your club’s staff must be solid with a mind to possible future changes given the fluid situation. But we believe in numbers – studying the numbers and reports over the past 12 to 18 months should help you decide how to move forward looking at a possible reduction in revenues up to a possible 30 percentage points in the coming 12 to 18 months.

Flexibility

As a club manager or governor, this is the opportunity you have been waiting for. This is the chance to make that professional who is not at the top of your list a part-time or seasonal employee, saving you 401k matching payments, healthcare and other benefit costs. This is your chance to move up that instructor who has been grinding for you with the 10 and under tennis players on the back courts to a more senior position and to create more club revenues by renegotiating that individual’s contract while at the same time lifting that instructor’s pay scale. Everything can be done and restructured under the “guise” of Covid-19

With all that is said about keeping jobs, we all know what is coming after this unexpected cessation of trade: Restructuring. And for those governing boards, general managers and club managers, this is, however you look at it, your chance to weed the wheat from the chaff.

As we all look forward to a new trading opportunity after being shutdown through lockdowns, the realization that a club could possibly save more money closed than as a going concern came as a surprise to many. With or without member refunds, driving down the costs of personnel, letting those instructors go who are on higher salaries or stipends, and perhaps looking at cross-training some positions, is all something each and every club and facility should not just be planning, but doing.

Payroll Folder
Liquidity will retain instructors

In the short term, any club or facility must maintain its staff. Do remember, in addition, that there is basically a stoppage of all legal immigration through at least June 23rd, which means that any H-1B visas and foreign temporary workers are not going to be here through the summer season. Summer will be affected for those seasonal clubs, but this too is a chance to restructure looking toward Summer 2021. Being flexible with staff is key.

With those foreign, temporary workers requiring replacement, the PPP loan or EIDL and Small Business Administration grants, can be used as a short-term method to keep the department or facility in line and ready. The upward revenue curve following the height of the crisis will be slow and proportional, and in line with CDC guidelines. This extended, slow rebuild is a club’s opportunity to effectively restructure. This period should give us some clues as to the long term cash flow and revenues over the next 12 to 18 months. We outline below some ideas that should be discussed as reopening starts to occur.

  • Restructuring Staff
    • Flow Charts – this is your chance to reset reporting structures. Ensure, for example, that the holdover pro who has remained outside of management and supervision for the last 10 years shall now report to the new Director of Junior Development. And enforce that new structure upon opening.
    • Reporting structures should be updated and formulated to new needs. Weekly reports should be required from all instructors and directors to club management detailing new membership drives, communication with non-active members, new and possible revenue streams and conflicts between staff and members. These reports should follow the organizational flow chart: i.e. junior instructors report to Junior Director who in turn reports to Director of Tennis who then reports to the General Manager.
    • Seasonal Positioning and pushing year-round staff members to a seasonal contract could be highly useful. Not sure where and when CoronaVirus will leave us, and where there are seasonal differences in revenue streams, it’s essential we look at those revenue curves weekly in terms of staffing. Shortening the season for the summer might save clubs over-paying for staff when members might not be present due to local rentals being curtailed. It’s also an opportunity to make year-round staff seasonal aimed at the peaks of member usage, saving on 401k and healthcare costs.

  • Restructuring 1099 Contractors
    • We have long been advocating a revision in straight hourly rates for 1099 instructors. As we work with clubs, we look to create incentives for your instructors.
      • Rentals versus Hourly Rates: With fixed income from club departments becoming essential in recovery, why not charge fixed rentals (as do corporate gyms with their personal trainers who are 1099 contractors) and split that rental revenue between the club (75% and the Director 25%). Once the rental is reached, 100% of revenues could go to the 1099 instructor. This model creates massive incentive for instructors to teach both private sessions and groups as well as club-based programs. But more importantly, it guarantees a fixed revenue from all instructors to the club.
    • Create incentives for directors and instructors favoring group and clinic teaching over private lessons on the courts or sessions on the gym floor. This will help rebuild the group teaching ethos as we are forced to social distance. But more importantly, it will grow revenue for the club immediately upon reopening. Remember, private lessons and sessions conducted by junior staff don’t really add to club or director revenues in a major way.

  • Cuts to compensation and reduction of staff
    • We all know that staff will not look exactly the same as we come out of the pandemic work stoppage. This is not a time to worry about personal relationships with staff. Staff are looking to safeguard their career and might make a move before your plan is initiated. A staff member, who may have been at the club for a very long period, might be forced to have a salary reduction in order to retain his or her position. Given that we will see an estimated 30% drop to most, if not all club and facility revenue streams, cutting salaries and related costs are essential. Perhaps set goals for these long-serving staff members in order to regain their salary over a two to three-year period to show that the club values their work. At the same time, communicate that many staff are being forced to accept a pay cut or have fewer scheduled hours as we rebuild slowly.

Moving Forward

This is a time to make wise business and economic decisions. Study past revenue streams and pro-rate those streams accordingly as we rebuild. Budget conservatively and study the economic comeback locally and nationally as the virus is not uniformly affecting the nation. Use this opportunity to shed non productive staff while creating incentives for valued staff. No one is expecting staff to look exactly the same after the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression. Use that belief to bring back your club with better staff, leaner departments, and a higher value to member services.

Ed Shanaphy is President of BeyondTheBaselines.com, a subsidiary of SBW Associates, Inc. He served for 17 years as Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Haysbridge (UK) Ltd, a marketing and advertising international conglomerate, operating in 16 countries with offices in Dublin, Ireland and Sydney, Australia with head offices in London, England. BeyondTheBaselines.com is a US-based consultancy which aims to bring additional resources to governing bodies and general managers and has some of the most elite country clubs in the nation as clients.

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After Covid-19, Should Guaranteed Teaching Revenues Be Extended After First Year?

Payroll Calculator

One of the methods used to attract a great Director of Fitness or Tennis is to guarantee a certain amount of on-court or on-floor teaching revenue during the first year. It shows that the employer is truly behind the hire and understanding of the ebb and flow of teaching revenue streams. But, given these times and the fact that Covid-19 might rear its ugly head again and again, is it a possibility to have annual guarantees after the first year? Let’s have a look.

When a long-time department head leaves or is asked to leave the position, it is always an up-ending event for staff, membership and club management. The search for a replacement is usually rife with politics. If the director had left unwillingly, there are always those members who feel the outgoing director was treated unfairly and band together to create a group to better make their voices heard against the powers-that-be.

To push through this transition time, often, a club or facility will guarantee a certain figure for on-court or on-floor revenues for the incoming director. With members perhaps not happy how the previous director was treated, staff leaving without a leader or a department, and club administration helpless against this void, an incoming Director has to tread lightly and understand the forces within which he or she will be working.It’s a time of transition for staff, members and club administration.

Ladies team players will be asking the new Director of Tennis to look at their games and move them up to a new team. Yoga class participants will want a different instructor and ask to have the current teacher replaced for one of their own liking. Directors of Tennis and Fitness starting a new role are ambushed from the first day they set foot on property. Clubs and facilities, realizing this, will average yearly revenue streams from the previous director and guarantee those to incoming directors. Guaranteed revenues can replace lost revenues stemming from spiteful members or hanging resentment, which can quickly deflate teaching revenues.

Because of factors such as these, it can take years for a newly hired director to “build a book.” Building a book is a combination of three variables: Trust with a client base, instructional knowledge, and time. With this in mind, many facilities, knowing that the first year, or perhaps two to three years in extreme cases of member strife, guarantee teaching revenues to a new hire. We have seen figures ranging from $25,000 to over $100,000 in guaranteed instruction per season or even higher if a year-round position.

Empty Time Sheet
With time sheets now empty, would it have been smarter to guarantee on-court and on-floor revenues for Directors of Tennis and Fitness?

To describe how the guarantee works is simple: Whatever the director doesn’t receive in either his or her own personal instruction and garnered from percentages from assistant instructors is “made up” to a certain value by the club or facility. For example, if a guarantee of $100,000 is made to the new hire, if that new hire teaches $60,000 and garners $20,000 from retained percentages from assistants, the club would be on the hook for the final $20,000 to complete the $100,000 contractual guarantee.

We have long advised candidates, when receiving a guarantee, to negotiate a longer term guarantee. We advise to taper it down over three to five years. For example, if a new Director is offered $100,000 of guaranteed instructional revenue for a summer position by a club in the first year, we advise that over five years, a guarantee should be offered but tapered down, say, 20% each year. Therefore, the fifth and final year would have $20,000 guaranteed to the Director. By the fifth year, often, the salary or stipend which has been raised each year through negotiation, can more or less replace the guarantee once the club or facility knows the value and worth of the new director.

A guarantee can work well for both parties of a new contract. A new director realizes the club or facility understands the undulations of revenue streams and is more attracted to an offer that caters to these factors. The facility can attract better candidates while at the same time use the stipend or salary as a replacement for the guaranteed revenue as trust is built between the director, the board and administration, and the members.

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Is Your Front Desk Manager Your Next Director of Tennis & Fitness?

One of the biggest questions asked  of a Director of Tennis or Fitness during the interview process is one of Staff Development. “How do you develop your staff?” Or, “Have any of your staff members gone on to be a Director anywhere?”

These are all great questions and there is no definitive right or wrong answer. But imagine if an answer was: “Yes, my front desk manager.”

Although you always want to see staff advancing to bigger and better jobs. Perhaps that is why search committees and recruitment firms ask these questions time and time again. How well as a Director have you trained and educated your staff?

What we believe is necessary is to first figure out a departmental flow chart and then look at hiring and retaining staff for those positions that you have created as part of your managerial role.

What’s not as commonly heard but sometimes asked: “Is Your Director of Tennis a Former Teaching Professional?” This was asked just recently at the USPTA World Conference, and if one thinks about it, it’s not an insane question. More and more clubs are limiting the Director’s role on the court or in the gym. Most contracts maximize the Director’s hours at 20 per week. But there is a school of thought that the time on the court should be “zilch” and that the Director’s role as an administrator is far too important to spend time teaching one member an hour during a private lesson. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that future Directors of Tennis or Fitness might come out of your front desk management team.

Front Desk Manager and Staff

Your front desk manager and staff are your bedrock. We at beyondthebaselines.com believe that if a club doesn’t see the need for a strong front desk manager who is both organized and decisive, yet understanding of both employees and member’s needs, then the club will not experience the “Best-In-Class” service levels that members so desire.

Your front desk shouldn’t be a burden – it should save you time as a Director. The first face that a member sees when on property, or the first voice they hear when they make a call, the front desk manager and staff are just important a role as the Head Professional or Pilates Instructor or Junior Director. But most Director’s leave the role of the Front Desk Manager largely untrained. We believe that it should be the position that receives the most training and should be involved in almost every management meeting between pros and Directors.

With a strong and highly trained front desk, a Director frees up time. With members’ requests being answered by a knowledgeable front desk rather than being passed through for a response from the Director, the Director is then able to direct his or her time elsewhere where it may be more fruitful or creative. The front desk creates productivity in other departmental roles. Developing and retaining front desk staff and understanding that member’s may have an enhanced overall experience is one step closer to being a well-rounded Director.

Bookings and Understanding Staff Strengths

When a member calls in and asks for a lesson, which professional would be best for that lesson? If the front desk is trained to ask a couple of questions as to playing levels, the demographic of the students, if juniors or young adults, and what the member might be looking for in terms of a lesson, it is then easier to place that lesson with the appropriate professional. How many times we have seen a booking for a toddler get placed with the Director of Tennis when not requested. Probably not the best use of a Director’s time, nor is it the best money spent for the member family. That toddler would get just as much out of a lesson with a junior instructor at perhaps half the cost. The front desk has cost the member additional funds and the Director precious time.

Registration Software and Court Usage

Court reservation and private lesson or session booking software varies from club to club. And it’s not only the Director who should be up-to-speed with the minutiae of this software – even more so, the front desk should be trained in the software so members can easily get their bookings at the times they want. Most reporting for short-term and long-range planning comes from the data of these bookings and the bookings should be concise and categorized correctly, something we see missed when we go in and look at clubs’ software solutions, reporting methods and mistaken data entry.

Billing Procedures and Understanding Professional Fees

The front desk should be in charge of all billing procedures and understand each instructors various schedule of fees if not uniform. All queries for billing should be answered, in the first case, by the front desk. With in-depth knowledge and a smart Director, a well-oiled front desk can save money for members while adding to an instructor and Director’s take-home. Supposing the front desk up-sells a three and me to a member who only takes private lessons? That staff member has just saved the member approximately 50 percent of, say, a weekly lesson fee while adding to the instructor’s take home pay by maybe 60%. And, that staff member has increased member participation!

Training the front desk in terms of retail sales, length of skirts, whether the brands run smaller or bigger than usual, and knowing the location and various brands of demo racquets will all add to a Director’s revenues in various streams.

And finally, the front desk team is your marketing staff – even more than the instructors in the gym or on the courts. If managed and included in weekly management meetings, the front desk staff can market new programming or bring new members to old standby clinics.

 

Doubles Anyone?

Why should it be the Director’s role to find new members for regular, established doubles games. The front desk, even more than the Director, sees each and every member every single time they come on property. If through an encompassing management style the Director educates the front desk staff as to levels of play, the front desk staff can easily arrange games or find substitutes for established games. Or, even, suggest a pro to play in. This saves time not only for the member but also but the Director.

The front desk: Saving time, raising revenues, and adding to the member experience – sounds like your front desk manager could be your next Director of Tennis.

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Greed: Is it Real or Envisioned? Finding the Balance as a Director Between Time On and Off the Court or Gym Floor.

Finding the Right Avenues To Revenues

Directors of Tennis and Fitness for years have played a delicate balancing act. From a director’s viewpoint, time on the tennis court or gym floor is servicing the requested needs of a member or group of members. From the club’s objective, time on the court or floor could be time away from the majority of membership. How does a director of tennis or fitness maintain the right mix?

The Ease In Which Avarice Rears Its Ugly Head

How often I hear from a fellow director: “There might not be much teaching at this new club… I think I will ask for a healthy stipend.” I’ve also heard the following: “The easiest part of this job is when I am on the court.” Finally, I’ve heard too many times to count from membership: “He’s always on the court. How much does he need to make?”

There is no perfect ideal when it comes to balancing instruction with servicing members. However, there are several factors which both the director and the board or committee should be aware of.

Member Perceptions

This is perhaps the most important aspect governing the value of non-teaching revenues. One has to listen to the members, the committee, and the board. “She spends way too much time on the court (or floor if a director of fitness) – how much is she making again?” We’ve heard this sentiment countless times during consultations with members at clubs in describing their department heads in the gym or on the courts. Within this sentiment, there are two possible viewpoints. One is that a member might believe that the director is being greedy, taking all those hours on the court or in the gym on the floor instructing. The other simply being that a director is just making too much money. Both views are not positives.

Many clubs we have worked with here at BeyondTheBaselines.com regulate the number of hours a director can be on the tennis court or gym floor. We believe this to be a highly valuable objective for all involved. Within a contract, this objective creates a goal within an overall club philosophy. That said, the initial balance of a stipend or salary must be seen to be fair by both the director and the club from the outset. Limitations can range from simple limits by hours taught per week within a contract. Industry standard usually is an allowance for 25 hours on court or floor. Clubs can limit instructors and directors in other ways, but by hour teaching on the court or floor is the industry standard.

Unseen Revenue Limitations

However, planned or not, there are hidden limitations put on directors that oftentimes clubs, committees and boards do not realize. Having only one court available weekday mornings for teaching out of, say, nine courts is an enormous limitation of revenues and is seen as such by a Tennis Director. At a summer club, numerous weekend events occuring on Saturday and Sunday mornings almost every weekend is an enormous limitation to revenues for instructors and, in turn, the director. In the gym, on the other hand, too many personal trainers with clients at peak times can cause upset and issues across gym members. A wise fitness director might limit those bookings during peak hours to keep members happy – again a revenue limitation that goes unnoticed by members. These limitations of revenues must be acknowleged in open communication between the director and the club so as to help plan stipend or salary requirements to maintain excellent staff on a yearly basis.

Real Revenues And High Expectations

Retaining good staff starts during the hiring process. Job decriptions or expectations of a contractor must be plainly laid out prior to work commencement. We’ve heard this far too many times: “We can’t get our pros to help out with weekend tournaments.” Our initial question is if that is in their job description or has been discussed with them as part of their work load. If a contractor to the club, are they paid for their time or simply expected to be there? Answers vary but the most commom from membership is this: “The pros should be out there and get to know the members. This is how they will get private lessons.” This sentiment is not usually correct. Tournament players, usually the better players at facilities, rarely take boatloads of lessons. Pros don’t see tournaments or round robins and instructors don’t see spa days as the avenues to revenues. Directors need to be compensated, and contractors paid, to manage events.

Concierging

Concierging is perhaps the most important aspect of a Director’s job. Ensuring the membership is happy when they leave the courts or the gym is essential to improving the program and job approval and member retention. However, this is usually seen as the least significant task by most Directors. Yet, a happy member goes a long way and is almost a sure avenue to revenue in the long run, as that personal touch is usually rewarded by membership.

By concierging, we mean going that extra personal mile. For example, and one of the leaders in this ideal is Frenchman’s Creek in Palm Beach Gardens, FL, in which a daily news sheet is handed out to employees and contractors. This provides information concerning particular members along with a schedule of all events, membership happenings, and more. Each employee and contractor has the tools to concierge and answer that question about that evening’s lobster buffet. If one doesn’t know the answer, find out! Don’t let that member get away.

Membership and members – both are needy and desire servicing, if only for the fact that they believe it is due to them in many instances. This is a fact of the club and leisure industry and cannot be forgotten by a Director – or the membership will quickly forget the Director.

Administration Time

Both Directors and Clubs misunderstand and misallocate both time and funds to administration. The membership, in most cases that we’ve studied, does not know, nor do they usually care to know, about the back-end of running a tennis or fitness business, something which a thriving department really is – a business within a business. But when a three month summer realizes an average revenue of $400,000, there’s heaps of administration for the Director ranging from member billing, shop inventory, and wages, all the way to calls to members and staff – and that time needs to be understood and compensated for.

More and more clubs do realize this, and again, a limitation of hours on the court or floor is often aimed at the need for administration time. However, that limitation needs to paid for in terms of a salary or stipend to ensure the Director feels valued and compensated and is ready to renew at contract time.

Is The End of Hourly Revenues for Directors Approaching?

This administration time and work is coming under more scrutiny as well, by both member-owned clubs and corporate clubs. As a sidebar, one of the most interesting developments we have seen over the past few years is that corporate clubs are offering share of ownership and benefits to the Director and substituting this for on-court or on-floor revenues. We’ve noted that a larger and larger perentage of Directors of Fitness are a non-instructional post. Both corporate and equity owned clubs are looking at their Director of Fitness (and Spa in many instances) as a non-teaching post, and offering a larger salary, better benefits and perhaps a bonus structure for meeting certain criteria. On the tennis side, we are noting that more often Directors are not being directly compensated per hour for on-court revenues. Their positions are being structured by certain criteria and compensated across various methods, not just via salary and hourly rate on court.

Conclusion

One may ask, and often we are asked, what’s the right stipend or salary for my director? There are so many variables it’s tough to come up with a number. But in starting a discussion with any director and club, we look at total department revenues. Is there a viable “on-floor” and “on-court” revenue stream? Are there limitations put upon the director as to how many hours they can teach and how many events, as these take time and facilities away from teaching, they are being asked to manage. Then again, how are the assistants revenues split between the assistant, director and club? Does the director, as per industry standards, receive a portion of the prize fund to incentivize him or her to run tournaments or special gym days?

When we do have to put a finger on a sum and to start discussions, as consultants, we usually look at 15% of total department revenues as a good basis to begin negotations over a salary or stipend. So, for example, if a department creates a revenue of $400,000, a starting basis point could be a stipend of $60,000. This is simply a rough starting point and needs to be viewed within a context of the club and the experience level of the professional running the tennis or fitness department.

Ed Shanaphy has served as Head Professional at Greenwich Country Club (Greenwich, CT) and Quail Valley Golf Club (Vero Beach, FL). More recently he has been Senior Instructor at the famed Jupiter Island Club (Hobe Sound, FL) and has served on numerous club and charity boards. He is presently Director of Tennis at Sippican Tennis Club in Marion, MA and President of BeyondTheBaselines.com, a leading industry consultancy.

 

 

 

 

 

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Open, Honest and Timely Communication For New Hires

new job ahead roadsign

new job ahead roadsign
Timely communication for new hires is imperative.

Just recently an esteemed colleague of mine has had to choose between two seasonal jobs. At this time of year, this is a regular occurence for us professionals who service club members in the Northern part of the USA and then head South to warmer climes for the winter months. We follow the sun – and we follow our members.

My colleague has been calling me daily, frustrated that he hasn’t received anything in writing from either club involved. This, unfortunately, is far too often the case. With this particular example, one of the Directors of Tennis is of the age when nothing had to be written and a handshake was all that was needed to agree to an 8-month placement. The opposing Director of Tennis is brand new in the position, and is hesitant to push for more information with a General Manager who is revered by her membership at one of the more elite clubs in America. He lacks any real information in regard to the new club.

I cringe when I hear some of the stories behind new placements and hires and the lack of information or formality.

I looked back at my original offer to work away from my home when I had a few opportunities ahead of me almost a decade ago. The Director who made the offer of the job I took is a businessman – he owns three companies in fact and his email to me was succint and to the point and I have edited the initial letter to show themes of the offer:

Stipend for a 10 week Period
         Who pays the salary. What duties are required as part of the stipend.
         Base hour rate per hour
                  Noted average hours of 40-50 hours a week and how busy it is for those 10 weeks
                  Noted Bonus is based on a percentage of gross clinic revenue when it is paid and what the average has been over the past three to five years.
Clinics names, hours guaranteed of clinics, and if able to add clinics
Housing type, cost to the professional, and if cable/internet is covered.
General outline of the summer
                  Clinics vs lessons by week and how many members expected to take lessons/clinics.

But what was most interesting in the letter for this particular job, which I ended up taking and loving for many years, was that the Director discussed how he treated past employees fairly and honorably, and as he checked my references, he offered references as an employee. He mentioned the costs that the club sustained on my behalf and broke down why the Club clawed back some of those costs from my on-court revenues.

Timely communication is important too. Once you, as a Director, have decided upon a candidate, getting these details to your candidate after you’ve offered the job initially or with the initial offer, is an integral part of hiring. Offers need to be made in full with as much information as soon as possible to the candidate.

So, in summary, open, honest, and timely communication with a possible new hire is just simply irreplaceable and honorable. We should all take note that whether our new fitness or tennis instructor is an employee or a 1099 independent contractor, they are putting their livelihoods in our hands as Directors for at least a few months, if not for a few years or more. Something to keep in mind as you work toward a new hire.

Ed Shanaphy is President of BeyondTheBaselines.com and has been a Director of Tennis for over 10 years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Top 5 Reasons Directors Of Tennis Are Terminated

It happens every year. The summer comes to an end, and so does the job of the Director of Tennis. Data seems to suggest that there is a higher turnover among tennis Directors than Fitness directors. And by turnover, we mean termination – not moving on to a better job. What are the reasons behind such a large number of terminations? Our experience at Beyond The Baselines can help decipher the reasoning. Below, we list in order, the reasons we have found in our work with clubs and facilities for termination in our work across the nation.

5. Change of Board Members

It’s a regular occurrence. Most country clubs have a revolving door when it comes to appointing board or committee members that oversee the Director of Tennis. Terms on the board or committee usually range from 2 to 4 years. A board or committee that hired one professional disappears and the make-up of the committee changes significantly in the first two to three years of the new hire taking place.

Boards tend to have factions. An outspoken or opinionated board member lures other members to his or her viewpoint over a couple of meetings or a year. And there you go. The one board member that didn’t like the new hire from the outset (in many cases the applicant they had supported for the hire was not chosen) has two or three members now in support.

It’s crucial that boards or committees have a remit that helps continuity. Numerous yearly nominations often hurt continuity and create an unstable work environment for all employees. Boards or committees that have terms too long can stalemate a club or facility. In our experience, a governing body that sees no more than 20% of its members drop off each year is about right. That would mean, a committee of 12 would see 2  positions rotate each year.  We will write more about board and committee representation in our next issue, but it is a top reason why Directors of Tennis are terminated.

4. Financial – Can our Director really make that much?

How many times have you heard these two questions: “How much does the tennis pro make?” or “Since we can’t see how much the pro makes and she doesn’t share that info, she must be taking us to the cleaners.” These questions often come from a club treasurer or non-active member who sees the yearly budget and wolf whistles when he or she sees the cost of the tennis operation. The thought process is: “How can someone who just hits fuzzy yellow balls make so much money?”

There are so many sides to this issue. If the professional is an employee, then it’s clear to the board how much “take-home” pay the professional is in fact taking home. However, if the professional is an independent contractor there are two different avenues which bring angst to members and boards. If the independent contractor is doing all the billing directly, the membership really has no idea how much the professional is making. If the facility is billing the members and acting as an agent for the professional, often the facility just sees the revenues and not the costs associated with such revenues, such as assistant pros stipends and percentage of lessos, balls, supplies, travel and abode, insurances and liabilities.

As a Director stays at a position and does a good job and participation grows, so do revenues. As the years progress, the professional has to add to the program to ensure that the revenues match the additional programming and members can see improvements. But sometimes, adding programming can be injurious to a career. Transparency across revenues as well as costs with the club or facility helps to alleviate any issues down the road.

3. Creature Comforts – Getting Too Close To The Membership

This is a very common reason and we see it at various levels in the tennis and fitness industries. Examples abound, but here are a few.

Your Director of Tennis has golf privileges after 3pm on weekdays. Far too often, these privileges are exploited and he is playing golf with members two days a week or more. We have seen situations where the Director of Fitness keeps an hour open on her book for a particular member every day of the week and often it goes unfilled. We call this the “regular” factor which other members despise. Finally, there is the far-too-often misdeed of ruining a member’s connubial bliss, sometimes through deed, but much more prevalent, simply through rumor or assumption.

All of these can be almost always avoided. Professionalism at the highest standard is expected of a Director and that should never wary based on dealings with particular members or groups of members.

2. Misunderstanging 1099 Contracted Labor

We have found, over the years, that Club Governoers, HOA boards, tennis committees, and more often than not, fellow Directors of Tennis, misunderstand independent contractor status. The rules governing a 1099 worker versus an employee are truly staggering and are not always revered as closely or legally as they should be.

Independent contractors set their own schedules. This one fact creates friction with both governing bodies and fellow Directors. A recent court case at one of the exclusive HOA’s on the exclusive island of Palm Beach, saw a long-term Director of Tennis being sued and forced to resign over work habits of an independent contractor. Contractors often cross-over between their work outside the club, and there can be cases of restraint of trade along with simple misunderstandings of how an independent contractor can instruct within a club or facility environment.

Communications with your independent contractors is a necessity. Poor communications will lead to disagreements between the Director and the Club and the instructor. The contractor will go find work elswhere. The Director will be the scape goat as the governing boards have to be seen as addressing the situation.

And, Number 1…
Ladies Teams and Tournament Management

At a recent USPTA conference, fomer WTA player and now USPTA Officer Trish Faulkner, mentioned a staggering figure: Almost 7 out of 10 Director of Tennis are terminated in large part due to mishandling ladies teams.  We would add to this tournament management and, with that addition, it’s by far the most common reason for termination of a Director.

In discussing this with professionals ranging from elite country clubs to racquet clubs in the Northeast which host USTA indoor women’s teams, it appears that a Director’s success must start from the outset. A planned, written team manifest seems to deter issues across ladies teams. This document must address pairings, captaincy, rankings and placements from the beginning of a season, if not from when the Director takes the helm at the club or facility on day one. Ladies Teams are a business and the Director must remember this throughout his tenure.

One of our esteemed colleagues put it best very bluntly: “The last thing you want to do as a Director is put yourself directly in opposition to a team member on a woman’s team or a member who feels they should have the easier road to the final in the club champs.”  There are several ways to avoid these two dangerous, and almost fatal, scenarios. At clubs that are member-owned, it really is essential that the Director of Tennis cede the desire to make team decisions to a member-accepted captain. Create a tournament committee for each draw requiring seedings and placements. In this way, the Director can offer advice, help and support – rather than making poor, ill-advised decisions that will be held against him for the rest of his tenure.

Ed Shanaphy, USPTA, is former Managing Director of Haysbridge (UK) Ltd, a global advertising and marketing firm with offices in London, Dublin and Sydney.  He is presently President of Beyondthebaselines.com and a Director of Tennis.

beyondthebaselines@gmail.com – 508.538.1288

 

 

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Retaining Your 1099 Independent Contractors

I’m always asked how I retain such good professionals over several years, especially when they are independent contractors. It’s not easy – keeping 1099 workers at your facility is a tough task. But it’s possible and as the saying goes: paying your instructors handsomely for hours on the tennis court or gym floor speaks volumes.

So, with independent contractors (and you can do this with employees too) I create an inventive program for each professional, based on their strengths and weaknesses. It’s a pinpoint method of keeping staff happy and therefore keeping them coming back year after year. A returning staff ensures continuity with the membership as well as a better return on investment. If your professionals are strong and come back year after year, their lesson books get more and more filled as they are trusted by the membership and loyal to the club or facility.

Incentivization Programs

Incentivize them to “hang” around. We all know that independent contractors set their own schedules and are not on “the clock”. They can come and go as they desire. But I like to have them hanging around, especially if they have three or four years under their belts and the membership trusts them. I create an incentive to keep them around. Commissions on racquet and clothing sales. If you have a busy shop, they can help and earn a bit while even off the court. Why not pass on a 3% commission on all racquet and clothing sales and build that into your pricing at the beginning of the year. They have a sliding scale based on the number of racquets they string – the more they string, the higher the rate goes, say, every 5 to 10 racquets.

Use Tournament Fees To Cover Lost Teaching Hours

Round robins and mixers, along with tournaments, are a great way for new pros and contractors to meet members, assess levels of play or fitness, and become part of the fabric of the club. Too often, independent contractors see tournaments or mixers as a barrier to their success: They take up too much court time away from teaching and they just take up a weekend where members who are playing in a tournament could be taking a lesson or two. That could be how your independent professional sees it. But tournament fees (also known at some clubs as prize fees) should be aimed at serving those losses due to lack of court time. The industry standard is that the Director takes 40% of tournament fees/prize fees. Those fees should be distributed, in part, to contractors who are running say the other side of the round robin, or can even be offered as a replacement for lost revenue due to a lack of courts. Either way, I would rather have the professional be on club property and helping to run a tournament or supporting the program than at another club and finding work elsewhere.

When negotiating your own Director’s contract, look at how you could work with yearly prize fees. I find these easier to administer. A prize fee is fixed for a whole year – say $100 per member household – and that allows all family members to sign up for each and every tournament. The more the household plays, the more this cost is dissipated in their minds across each tournament. This is a vital additional income and if the Director takes a 40% cut leaving 60% for the club and prizes, it can prove very lucrative and easy to pass on to cover lost revenues for your pros. I always advocate a yearly fee rather than a nickel and dime approach where the club charges per tournament. I feel this dissuades members from playing, thinking that each time there is an additional cost to play.

To take this further, why not add an incentive to your pros in growing club championship or member-guest draws? If you budget this into your tournament prize fee revenue, you can offer your pros additional income per member they sign up or if, say, the draw reaches 32 or 64. Communicate your goals and reward the work. I have, in the past, given bonuses to pros who have brought a guest to the club and in time that guest has joined as a member – set that up in your initial contract with your club as Director. Most clubs that I know want new members!

Private Instruction Sliding Scale

I’ve always cringed when a Director told me that my hourly rate will be, say, $45 per hour on court across all clinics and lessons. That is such a door-closer for me to a new job. It’s just not interesting to most instructors.

Let’s say, for arguments sake and ease of math, that an hour private lesson with one of your contractors is charged out to the member at $100. Industry standard is that 10% of that fee is either a commission, if an employee on court, or a court rental fee if an independent contractor. Remember, that independent contractors cannot receive a percentage deducted from their full rate by federal law and continue safely as an independent contractor. So, after the commission or court rental, the $90 then goes back to the Director. Usually, depending on your instructor’s experience, the cut between Director and instructor hovers around 50%. So, say, the instructor receives $45 per hour and the Director received $45 for that one lesson. Now, let’s look at how to incentivize your instructor. Say you go out at $110 for a semi-private, two-person lesson. Now a 50-50 cut would be $50/$50. Both Director and instructor make more if you incentivize your instructor. If your instructor does a three and me, which would go out at $120, that would be $108 back to the shop and a $54/$54 split. All too often, Directors take all the additional revenues, leaving the instructor at the original $45/hour cut. But, if you offered more for three and me lessons, you’ll have more members taking lessons as it costs a single member only $40 compared to $100 and yet they are still receiving personal instruction. More participation on court means happier members, an energized program, and more hours for your pros on court.

There are other ways of incentivizing your 1099 workers with “Playing In With The Pros” special rates and discounts. But starting with the private lessons and adding revenue and passing those additional revenues is an enormous and positive factor affecting your contracted professionals.

Bonus Structure For Clinic and Tournament Programming

Adult and junior clinic programming is by far the most profitable part of any tennis and fitness departments. With classes, revenues are higher with costs of instructions being lower. Again, you can energize your instructors through creating a bonus, or “profit-sharing” structure within your programming.

If your instructor is out there getting additional people on court, give that instructor a share of the profit. They will be on the phone drumming up business. You can either have a “fee” per person added to the clinic through the phone or email or text marketing completed by the instructor, or you can have a simple formula where each additional court or group of spin bikes is a set fee to the lead instructor of that clinic. For established clubs, this is harder as classes are usually already known, but for a new Director, this is a great help to get members out on the courts with one-to-one personal marketing.

Conclusions

To summarize the above, think outside the box. Within a tennis or fitness department -and whether it be employees or independent contractors – there are so many ways to enrich your staff’s tie at work and to allow them to feel to be a part of a club or facility and membership. The world is your oyster and each year you can try different approaches within your fee and payroll structure.

By Ed Shanaphy, USPTA Director of Tennis and President of Beyond The Baselines, a consultancy aimed at assisting boards and committees to bringing “Best-In-Class” programming to their clubs and facilities.

 

 

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Continuing Education For Your Fitness and Tennis Professional Staff

The gym and tennis court can be a microcosm of life. Issues that we see in life are dealt with by making firm decisions. To be your personal best in the gym, one must be disciplined and make a clear decision to “stay the course” and improve. Same holds true on the tennis court. And same holds true for the professionals in the gym and on the court.

As a professional in the gym or on the court, these environments can become claustrophobic and lonely. A professional can find themselves almost hermit-like at a club or facility. The fitness center or tennis court fencing can be a cave where a professional hides every day from the real world… the horizon… and expansion through education.

Slowly, clubs and facilities are moving toward the idea of offering continuing education funds within departmental budgets. This has been a long time coming. Most contracts throughout the tennis and fitness industry do not cover the costs for employees or contractors to further education in their respective fields. Sometimes, the Director of Tennis or Fitness does have a line item in the budget for departmental continuing education, but far too often does this line item go back year after year used only for the Director or even completely untouched as budgetary constraints get tighter and tighter.

But continuing education really should be a requirement, if only to expose your facility’s professionals to new ideas, programming, and possible new hires.

In terms of fitness, we have found that Sara Kooperman is a leader in continuing education. Back when we were just starting Beyond The Baselines, a local personal trainer mentioned that SCWfit.com was a great source for fitness education. We looked and we liked. We’ve recommended their personal trainer certification for those new to the industry along with their Mania, a conference that tours the nation with fitness industry experts sharing their knowledge and experience, and sometimes selling the newest fad.

TRX TrainingTRX was just such a fad about a dozen years ago when it first arrived on the scene at SCW’s Mania… but now it’s a household and gym staple. We’ve worked closely with TRX (https://www.trxtraining.com) to enrich the country club fitness industry with their suspension training. TRX offers its own certification and education programming as well, rich in programming ideas.

Michele Krause, creator and owner of Cardio Tennis (http://www.cardiotennis.com), brought TRX on to the Cardio Tennis scene years ago and we have recommended that TRX be a part of this cross pollination at several clubs. It brings the fitness center to the tennis court and we’ve seen tennis players hit the gym for the first time after such a class on the court. We’ve added a fitness pro to tennis clinics across many clubs and found that this cross-fertilization is a fantastic way to boost club revenues. Michele is a leading proponent of continuing education and tours the globe providing teaching and instructional experience in tennis and fitness.

Tennis has so much in the way of further education for its professionals. From the United States Professional Tennis Association (https://uspta.com) and the Professional Tennis Registry (https://www.ptrtennis.org) through to the USTA, there are thousands of ways to gain credits while expanding a professional’s links within the industry. Just a simple “Drill Share” session on a court at one of the annual conferences can lead to a major change for a club’s membership on the courts the next summer.

For decades, industry professionals have been on both sides of the continuing education argument. Some say that the cost to them personally to belong to the National Academy of Sports Medicine or other such certifying association and to carry their insurance and to attend continuing education events is just too much for them to bear. We’ve heard it on the tennis side too: The cost of the USPTA or PTR (which provides liability insurance with its yearly dues) and then the cost of the conference just adds up to too much. Recently, the USPTA, like many of the fitness organizations, has added a continuing education requirement in order to retain professional certification from them. The moans from professionals across the industry were heard, but after the initial storm, it appears that the requirement has been met by the vast majority of their professionals. And there are strong reasons to maintain this requirement.

Jason Gilbert, who is USTA Florida’s Director of Competitive Tennis, also works with the USPTA on furthering the education of those professionals new to the industry with the Under 30 Initiative and liaises closely with the USPTA. He cites the number of young pros who leave the industry too soon and believes, rightly, that the lack of support and education after certification is a leading cause. The pros are hollowed out and lonely teaching hour after hour “caged” on a court and don’t find the support or education needed to “stay the course.”

As a community, it is our belief at Beyond The Baselines to help educate boards and committees so that they believe that continuing education of their professionals should not only be a requirement, but a favorable development for their staff at every level in the gym and on the court. If that education helps to expand programming and participation at the club or facility, it’s a valuable and inexpensive method of adding both member satisfaction and club revenue.

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Exempt versus Non-Exempt Tennis Professionals – The FLSA On The Courts

Our leisure industry, and golf and tennis particulary, is lumped dangerously in with every other industry and falls under federal legislation just like any other business in the USA.

Just as there are rules governing the independent contractor and whether the IRS will see an independent contractor as a club employee and fall under the tax umbrella, so are there also stipulations governing exempt vs non-exempt employees. These regulations only come into effect if your tennis professional is an employee of the club. Oftentimes, clubs and home owner associations make the error in creating an independent contractor position to avoid these pitfalls within the employment legislation.

To try and make complicated legislation simple for the purpose of this article, an exempt employee is not due overtime pay. A non-exempt employee is due overtime pay when over 40 hours in one week or holiday pay comes into effect. The legislation falls under the Fair Labor Standards Act and the act itself defines an exempt employee as such:

  1. The employee must be guaranteed a salary that equates to no less than $455
    per week.
  2.  The employee’s primary duty must consist of managing the business or a
    customarily recognized department; and
  3. The employee must customarily and regularly direct the work of two or more
    other employees;
  4. The employee must have authority to hire or fire employees, or the employee’s
    recommendations as to hiring, firing, or promotion of employees must be
    given particular weight.

As you can see these points can be hazy given the position of a Director of Tennis, Head Tennis Professional or an Assistant Tennis Pro. An IRS fact sheet that can help any understanding of any exemption is located here: IRS Exempt Employee Fact Sheet

Almost on an annual basis, we hear of cases where tennis professionals have sued the club at which they work under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Each case is an employee by employee investigation as each case has its own characteristics and merits its own investigation.

Some of the points that have been raised previously by disgruntled tennis employees are as follows:

  • Time that is spent with members or players before and after lessons count toward hourly pay. These hours are often claimed by employees and have stood up in court as the employee is working with members on club property and providing a “concierge” service.
  • Less than 50% of time is spent managing other employees and programming. Most of the time of a head pro or assistant pro is spent on the court and therefore it is impossible for that employee to spend over 50% on managerial duties. In fact, any exempt employee must manage and be responsible for the hiring and firing of at least two full-time employees.
  • A club has docked the assistant pro for missing an afternoon. This is an immediate hint to any examiner that the employee is in fact non-exempt. Docking pay is looked badly on by examiners and should not be part of an exempt employees package.

Examples abound. And there are many ways in which a club can get itself caught in the web of legislation and defending itself during a state payroll or IRS audit. An exempt employee is one who has several classifications and because of those administrative and professional classifications, can fall foul of the federal law. Tennis and golf professionals along with fitness trainers, and even caddies, often fall within the cracks of this legislation, both at the federal and state levels and clubs end up paying overtime in back pay in court.

Before any club or human resources department draws up a contract, the club and its governing bodies should fully understand the FLSA legislation and the background in the case law.