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When it Comes to Systems and Processes, We Reap What We Sow

systems and processes

As an industry veteran for over two decades now, I have seen that paying attention to the little details in everything you do can make the biggest difference.

The trick is to do this without bogging down the process. Our industry is changing so fast that you can’t always take the time to make sure everything is perfect before moving forward.

That is where systems come into play. You need to have systems for every area of your operation that are written down, communicated up and down the ladder, and followed regularly. If you waiver on this structure, you set yourself up for a greater chance of failure somewhere along the line. Rules which are not followed regularly are not rules, they are suggestions. If you go around the rule a lot, change the rule. Same with systems – systems which are not followed are worthless.

Take for example how our industry focused everything on membership sales in the 1990s. As a matter of fact, it would have been very hard for you to find a general manager at any club without a strong background in sales.

Back then, it was all about sales. Our industry cared little about retention and attrition because there was little competition and plenty of potential members to go through. Because of its importance, systems were put into place for this sales process. All details were laid out on how many phone calls had to be done each day, scripts for the calls, how to handle a tour, how to follow up on a tour, etc.

The problem was that when sales were not met, everything went out the window. You often heard, “Do whatever deal you can do to get that membership.” Some clubs still operate this way. At that time, membership sales was the only system most clubs had, and it was only followed when things were working. When sales were not being met, it changed to “Let’s make a deal.”

What happens next? Back then, a lot of these memberships turned into bad debt accounts or only stayed a very short time, proving to be worthless. A lot of effort was put into the short sale with little return. This is a very narrow approach to business success, and if the system would have been complete and a little thought would have been put into the entire process, most would have seen that this approach was short sighted and would not last.

All areas of your business need complete systems to be put into place so that your team can operate your model the way you want it to be done in almost all scenarios. Most companies still have the sales process systemized along with the hiring process, accounting process, and processes in other departments such as fitness, front desk, cafes, maintenance, housekeeping, etc.

One area I feel needs a little more attention for most clubs are systems for safety and security. It is not the most exciting part of our businesses, but it is very important, especially when the time comes to put it into action. This effort can prevent injuries, club downtime, and even save money on staffing, insurance rates and legal fees. Once again, a little attention to details can go a long way.

In this safety and security system, you need to focus on prevention along with safeguards that all employees need to be aware of and adhere to, in addition to the process to correct when something occurs.

All departments will have their guidelines, but don’t forget about the entire club. At our club, our MODs do rounds throughout the entire club (inside and out) every two hours to ensure all is safe, secure and staffed properly (the 3 S’s). This is just an extra step because department managers and supervisors are watching their areas at all times.

The MODs then document that these rounds were complete on the MOD Rounds Sheet, along with any issues and how they were corrected and/or handled. Sometimes an additional form is filled out for the incidents that occur such as an injury, crime, etc. They also check all AEDs and first aid kits to make sure they are in operational mode and ready to use.

All of this is documented and any issues are handled. This sheet, when completed, then goes to the assistant GM or GM daily. Make your insurance company is aware of this system and keep all documentation on file in case of insurance claims and/or litigation. These rounds sheets are proof of your dedication to the “3 S’s” and they prove to be a good tool to make sure all areas function properly each day.

As emergencies come up, your team must know what to do quickly. Train, rehearse and continuously communicate all updates. Your team should have emergency numbers (such as 911, key manager contacts, utility company numbers — plus you should have short names or codes for certain emergencies, such as “Code Blue” for a medical emergency or “Code Red” for a physical threat.

These codes can then be communicated to your whole team and to members by way of radios and overhead announcements. Some of these are universal codes (Code Blue) and when members who are emergency responders hear the announcement, they may be able to assist.

In addition to what to do as an entire club, each department should have their script on what to do for their area. All departments should also have their evacuation process (what area of the club they are responsible for and how to complete) and the evacuation gathering point (where all employees gather after an emergency so that all can be accounted for) or who to notify and how if they are not able to gather at the location (such as during a Code Red in our case).

So analyze your operations, set up systems in all areas, and when the time comes to act quickly, you should be a lot better off following a system instead of winging it. This is a continuous operation, but when done in this fashion, everyone benefits — your members, your employees, and your club.


Larry Conner is the President/GM of Stone Creek Club & Spa. For more information he can be reached at larryc@stonecreekclubandspa.com.


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