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Provisions: Twist My Arm. Please.

There is a classic joke that goes something like this: A man walks into a doctor’s office and says, “Doc, it hurts when I do this…” and proceeds to extend his arm and bend it at the elbow. The doctor replies, “Well, stop doing that!”

This advice could be considered kind of silly. The man needs to be able to bend his arm at the elbow. After all, that’s the whole idea behind humans being equipped with elbows in the first place.

What really needs to happen is for the health professional to properly examine the patient, determine the true cause of the condition—because a good doctor will always seek to treat the illness itself, not just the symptoms--and provide a diagnosis and remedy: medication, surgery, physical therapy, or maybe a combination of approaches. Then, hopefully, the man would follow the doctor’s orders and once again be able to bend his arm without pain.

Seems logical, right? The patient had a problem and sought professional help and guidance to solve it. So it would be odd if the man was prescribed, say, medication and physical therapy together--but only took his meds for a day or two and didn’t follow up with PT. More than likely his pain and immobility issues would return. His investment of time and money for this consultation would have been for nothing.

When life presents us with a problem or challenge we tend to seek out those with expertise to rectify the situation; a professional who provides a plan of action that will yield a sustained benefit. We enter into a partnership with those who have first-hand knowledge and experience of our particular predicament and know how best to proceed.

Private Clubs on occasion may require the services of a competent and effective consultant to provide an objective, well-informed perspective on challenges a Club may be experiencing. A consultant can recognize symptoms and diagnose the root cause, and then present an action plan and strategy that when implemented will be in the Club’s best interest. Together, clubs and consultants enter into an alliance with a mutual understanding of concerns, expectations, responsibilities, and criteria for success.

For example, Club food and beverage may be in need of a professional consulting partner to address a variety of potential pain points present in the operation: ticket times, member dissatisfaction, food and labor costs, turnover, and the like. Consultants, as knowledgeable and objective outsiders, can recognize and address both the symptoms (member dissatisfaction, turnover) and the root cause (weak service culture, poor morale).

It is easy to fall into the trap of treating just the symptoms, because often that is easier and less painful than drilling down to the root cause. But in order to bring about true and lasting change, two things must happen: the root cause must be uncovered, and the Club must be deeply committed to the treatment plan.

When Clubs make this decision to invest in a consulting partner, they have the best intentions to bring about positive change. Yet in some instances, even after the time and expense of training, mentoring, and coaching, these efforts are sidelined.

Without a doubt, change is difficult and durable change requires daily effort. However, humans tend to be creatures of habit—an evolutionary skill we’ve developed that in theory allows us to be more efficient, but can also be our downfall: studies show that most New Year’s resolutions are abandoned by mid-February, and generally people revert to the behavior that inspired the resolution to begin with. Training, coaching, strategic plans, and other prescribed ‘treatments’ will go only so far as the desire and commitment to sustain a lasting, successful outcome.

Clubs that have a post-training follow up plan have a better chance of ongoing meaningful improvement. Touch points with five, ten, thirty, sixty, and ninety day post-training reviews of specific training and newly implemented procedures can help the Club stay the course.

The adage “…you can give a starving man a fish and he will eat for a day or you can teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime...” contains a few caveats. The man has to: want to eat, get up early enough to catch the fish when they’re biting, and bring along the appropriate fishing tackle to get the job done.


Chef Mary Howley is the culinary consultant to the RCS Hospitality Group and a former Executive Chef of her own catering company, several country clubs, and fine dining restaurants. She studied throughout Europe and honed her skills on the East Coast working with a myriad of culinary styles. She had the honor to serve as research and development chef for Food Unlimited, and held the position of Pastry Chef in two James Beard Dinner Events. Contact her at or visit the RCS website at

#change #consulting #leadershipteam #advice #strategy #managementtips #competitiveadvantage

Whitney Reid Pennell
 Founder & President

Whitney Reid Pennell is the founder and president of the award-winning RCS Hospitality Group (formerly Reid Consulting Services). She is a published author and widely praised seminar leader, with over 20 years of club operations management and consulting experience. 

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