Deceptively Simple, Endlessly Complicated

This article first appeared in the March 2016 issue of BoardRoom Magazine

Arnold Palmer once said, “Golf is deceptively simple, endlessly complicated.” I would like to borrow the sentiment for service. Creating WOW service is deceptively simple, yet endlessly complicated. If it weren’t, everyone would be doing it!

The Ritz Carlton, after whom many of us in hospitality model our standards, will tell anyone how they do it. That makes it simple – it’s available to learn. However, many organizations do not have the 360-degree dedication and customer focus it takes to make this level of service a reality. This is where the endlessly complicated comes into play.

The biggest challenge is how to bring your credo to life. The first step is to realize we are in the relationship business. I see many boards of directors discounting their general manager’s skills in the relationship building area because they do not understand the time and attention it takes or the value created by building these relationships. On the flip side, I also witness many young managers not realizing the importance of ‘face time’ with members and employees.

Bringing your credo to life is more complicated that it may first appear.

Members Value What They Cannot Buy

It’s not just about the golf course, the merchandise, the fitness equipment, childcare or the food. Members value a smiling face, a friendly voice, opportunities to create memories, and great, knowledgeable service. Creating and maintaining sincere, positive relationships provide a club with a competitive edge.

Empower Employees

To provide member service one must be able to meet needs quickly, without complicated layers of involvement. Staff training to anticipate members’ needs and service recovery is critical to a club’s success. Employees must be taught how to make empowered decisions and look for ways to ‘fix it forever’ so the situation does not happen again.

Performance Management is a Must

Leadership must be actively engaged in the development of the team. If someone steps out of line with the club’s values, a serious decision must be made. If a manager becomes aware a person has been placed in the wrong position for their skill set (i.e. promoted from within to a wrong fit position), it must be confronted immediately so that the employee does not fail. Failure to correct misplacement or not address performance issues will result in disengagement and eventual turnover in the position, possibly losing a great employee.

Strong Employee Engagement

Employees value a motivating work environment. Yes, their pay is important but so is working in a special environment. One in which they feel respected, appreciated and valued as part of the overall team and club’s success. J. Willard Marriott of Marriott Hotels phrased it this way, “Take care of your people and they will take care of your customers.”

Look for Ways to Create Memories

Ultimately, we want our members to walk away with wonderful memories they will treasure and share with others. This is how we become the first place they think of for a wedding, a golf event, or a simple drink with a long lost friend. People, not things or technology or amenities, bring your credo to life.

Close Attention to the Fine Details

Focused attention to the small details will make your operation first-class.

Imagine a world where you were greeted warmly as you entered the airport, a daycare, hospital or supermarket. Everyone wants to feel welcome. Then, strive to make your members feel understood and important, while making them comfortable. Yes, it is just that simple, but the endless complications arise when we fail to remain committed and focused on creating relationships every day.

Creating memorable experiences is a strategic decision because there is a financial and management commitment to be made for the experiences that will drive membership sales and retention. For many, this could also be a paradigm shift, requiring a shift in the club’s culture. If you will be attending Golf Inc Strategies Summit, make sure to register for Whitney’s Top Rated Session at Golf Inc. Strategy Summit, The Experience Economy. She will be joined by panelists Michael Leemhuis of Leemhuis Consult, Donald Emery, President/General Manager at Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge, and Michael Gregory of Global Golf Advisors. You don’t want to miss it!

Whitney Reid Pennell, president of the RCS Hospitality Group (formerly Reid Consulting Services) is a celebrated management consultant, educator and speaker. RCS, the creators of the Food and Beverage Boot Camp™, specialize in operations consulting, strategic planning, food and beverage management, and training programs.

For more information, phone (623) 322-0773; or visit the RCS website at

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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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