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Communication, Communication, Communication

Baileys Beach Club Chit

From Phone Books to Contacts and Club Chits. Communication Is Vital.

Baileys Beach Club Chit
Bailey’s Beach Newport Club Chit

We’ve asked each and every club and home owner association with which we have worked what would be their number one criterion for a new Director of Tennis or Fitness. It wasn’t that they were once ranked top 500 on the ATP Tour or that they competed at Crossfit Nationals. It was simply: communication, communication, communication.

Not to sound like a real estate agent emphasizing location, but it’s so true. In this day and age where we spend more time looking at our phones than speaking to other humans, it’s essential that we communicate through each medium presented to us. This holds true in the world of tennis and fitness.

 

Tradition versus Modernity

As I continue to work in the industry after a career in marketing and advertising, I realize that the speed of communication changes really from generation to generation. In my grandparents’ day, we had to wait for the Telegram, the fastest mode of communication. Then along came my parents’ generation and the telephone. I can still vividly see the cream colored, wall-mounted, long spiral-cabled phone in my childhood home in the early 70s. And we used to call the exchanges by letters rather numbers – my grandmother lived in Scarsdale, NY so it was SC3 (723 in today’s world). I grew up in South Salem, SO3 (763) and so on. Along came my adulthood and email where we had our Blackberrys logged into our our AOL (remember how it was capitalized?) account. But today, it’s text or IM (we need instant in everything from our coffee to messaging). So quick that my daughter calls it snapchat – oh, that’s the application? Oh, ok.

Phone Book White Pages

So as a boy, I flipped through what was known as the White Pages. I don’t think my daughter, who turns 11 in a few weeks, has ever heard that expression. “Dad, were there yellow pages?” Yes there were for commercial phone listings and pink pages for government and official listings. Now we just have “Contacts” in the grasp of our hands. How clutch is that? No pun intended!

One of my board members asks at the annual budget meeting about the cost and need of the yearly “Club Handbook”. It’s a private club tradition. A printed, bound club handbook with each member’s address, phone, email, place of work and the club’s by-laws written in the early decades of the past century. Every club has one. Years ago, one of the clubs where I served as Head Pro disbanded this and put it all on the protected member-only accessed website. What a great idea. Print it out at home if you’d like, or just type in and search for the member. My grandmother would opt for the printout, my daughter for the search bar.

Long gone are the days where the pro would call a home and leave a message to play in a doubles game hoping to hear back by the end of the day. Now, by sharing a text database with membership, members themselves put out a text say to 8 players and get a court of 4 back in a matter of minutes. Long gone are the Men’s and Ladies Days – they just exist in a different world: textual rather than virtual. In fact, Duxbury Yacht Club simply disbanded their formal Men’s and Ladies’ Days and left it to the members to text each other and updated the “sub” list with a text database update! No more bulletin board substitute lists that never get read because by the time you are the club it’s too late to get a substitute.

We stress the importance of the front desk having a fully up-to-date text database on either Google Voice or some other platform in order to communicate with each and every member instantly. No worrying if the member received the voicemail – it’s a text! Breaking down that database by level of player, whether they participate in clinics, or if they have children to whom you can market junior events – this is all helpful. Does it matter if they take clinics? Sure, how are you going to fill that last minute spot in the 9am clinic? With a text banged out to 27 members who love that clinic at 8.34am that same morning! You can do this for Pilates and Yoga classes too, although those members might be doing deep-breathing exercises before they type in their now 6-digit security code on their iPhone.

You can post on Twitter and on Instagram openings in clinics, or new programming ideas and events. Maybe a few people will stop their scrolling to see what their best-friend did last night, look and sign up. On Twitter, you can actually link usually right to your signup software. Tougher to do on Instagram. But Facebook allows direct links too.  Many private, elite, member-owned clubs frown on social media. I say, just control your viewership. Easy to do on most social media platforms. By the way, those old, printed club handbooks have a lot of information lying around people’s homes who may no longer be members if we are talking about viewership and confidential information.

The strength of your database is the foundation to your customer and member service. A weak database most likely means poor service. A wonderfully clean and efficient database means better billing, more on-court sales, filled yoga classes, and simply put, better member service. If you’re still using paper chits and not printing member receipts from a POS system, your behind the times in member services.

Don’t Forget To Dot your I’s and Cross Your T’s: Formal Writing

Strunk and White

My copy of Strunk and White is never far from my desk. I know, those two names show my age. I just looked – first published in 1959. But, like a classic book, there is still the opportunity for formal writing. A thank you email or, even, a posted letter to thank a member for attending a special event or the summer’s signature event, like a member-guest is always welcomed. Or, a thank you for a gratuity card receipt from an employee or a thank you for a contribution to the staff Christmas fund. A welcome letter at the beginning of the season or a new year is always suggested. And how often does your Director reach out with a letter, either emailed or posted, to all the new members feeling a bit “out-in-the-cold” after the rosé of the initial cocktail party fades? These touches bring members to your facility and growth to club revenues.

However you communicate, keep it professional, informative, to the point and often. Only two times has someone told me I email too often. Countless are the times I’ve heard: “If I had only known…”

 

Ed Shanaphy once wrote for a well-known magazine with offices in Murray Hill on 35th Street in Manhattan at which he learned that criteria is the plural to criterion.  He now muses on the country club industry while consulting for clubs and home-owner associations. His copy of The Elements of Style is so well-thumbed and brittle, MOMA is considering putting it in a glass case.

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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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Staff Communication Leads To Member Retention

Members we are told are a family. We grow up with the membership and as we stay at a club longer and longer, we become part of that family as we watch the juniors grow into legacy memberships. That’s partly true, but it’s important to keep a fine line between service to the membership and becoming too ingratiated and familiar with the members.

This being said, we often get waylaid by the minutae of a department – the day-to-day banality of billing or inventory.  The day to day business of running a tennis or fitness department can become mind-boggling at times, but it is important that we continue to see through the weeds to our final destination or goal:  a happy membership which participates and funds the club or facility at growing levevls.

Maintaining transparency with the members goes a long way in keeping and retaining key staff. Staff stays motivated for a Director who is in touch with his or her membership and sees the relationship between members and staff as rewarding for both sides.

Communication is often the key. Solid and timely communication, ranging in everything from a text database for quick memos about court conditions, upcoming lessons or sudden changes, to email newsletters well-crafted and organized. Add to the above possible “thank you” cards to a member for doing something special. And what do most directors misunderstand? That these communications should not only come from themselves, but from all their staff. Make staff part of your communcations team, and relationships between members and colleagues will flourish.

  1. Email – Emails are more formal and leave room for marketing and promotional content to be detailed and clear. Email can also be used to aid in the set up to an event or item on the schedule.
  2. Text – Texts are fantastic for short bursts directly to the person or people involved. Examples like a change in lesson time or a booking in the spa is best by text to the member’s cell number.
  3. Twitter, Instagram and Facebook – Social media is the newest form of communication that clubs are using. Twitter can be quite personal – tweet a member directly. But we believe that social media is a more general method to sell and promote the club as a whole rather than a department or an event.

What we should understand best is to make such communication using the appropriate technology and aim at making it as personal as we can given the type of media.

Tennis and fitness departments lead to member/member communication as well as member/staff communications at clubs. This all adds to the relationships which are the mainstay of any club. Through personal communications and events, tennis and fitness departments can really add reason for members to retain their membership status.

beyondthebaselines@gmail.com – 508.538.1288