Governance is becoming an increasingly important theme with a significant number of clubs’ boards and committees addressing this key issue and understanding how ‘getting it wrong’ can impact adversely on their individual club’s well-being.
Here we continue the discussion which began and was first published last Friday 26th April
JC: We were last discussing the key points for successful, effective and transparent corporate governance and the behaviour of some of the World’s largest multinational corporations in this respect.
EB: Sadly, it would appear that corporate malfeasance has become a global way of life and it seems that never before has the phrase ‘caveat emptor’ had such resonance for the consumer.
One of my personal treats has been the occasional visit to Patisserie Valerie for afternoon tea and the other good things that can be found there.
Alas due to a complacent board, management incompetency and poor entry controls, instead of remaining as one of my favourite treats it has become a shining example of a flourishing modern business brought low by poor governance and sloppy management.
Golf club businesses need to be alert and take note of and strive to emulate the businesses that demonstrate transparent business and governance processes.
JC: Consistency and skills’ sets have always been a concern for me.
If we look at this in the context of a golf club, the regular change of individuals composing the board can threaten the very foundations of having a consistent strategy.
We also spend a lot of time and effort finding the right people to work at the club – I wonder if we shouldn’t spend an equal amount of effort, through a skills audit or similar, to help find the ‘right’ board members with the requisite skills’ sets for the particular phase in the club’s life?
What advice would you offer to a club for it to get the right balance of people and skills on its board, as opposed to just leaving it solely to the club’s elections, which can be a bit of a lottery and more of a popularity contest that an attempt to find appropriate leaders?
EB: This is indeed an issue as many boards and committees have found themselves filled by enthusiastic and properly appointed volunteers, albeit without necessarily the right mix of skills required by the club at that particular time.
This is very often because the appointment process itself is pursued and concluded without gauging the actual competencies that will be required to lead the club forward for designated period in which the newly elected candidates will be board members.
This mismatch of skills against needs is obviously hugely inefficient.
In one recent example the newly elected Chairperson was to eventually discover that the new committee was composed of 2 human resource experts and no less than 3 accountants.
This is a somewhat frustrating scenario and one that I am sad to report is not as uncommon as it should be!
Other than fine-tuning and refining the selection processes, my other recommendation is to create a responsibility matrix for the management, committees and or the board.
This can then be displayed throughout the club’s communications’ portals with the dual benefit of enabling both the management layers to communicate with each other effectively and creating a transparent structure through which the membership will understand exactly who is responsible for what areas of activity.
JC: Point 2 can also be problematic as each board can be tempted to impose its ‘vision’ for the club, without careful attention having been paid to the status of existing initiatives and previous policies.
Successful boards, do not, as a club manager once described to me ‘rush around like a pack of hounds trying to leave their own personal scent on everything’.
In contrast they will evaluate the success and progress of previous policies objectively and in consultation with the management team, before proposing and or embarking on any changes, or the start-up of any new initiatives.
A successful board will also see these first two areas as iterative and fundamental tasks that will require both their regular attention and that of the management team every working day.
Additional safety measures, to curb possible excesses by ‘over-enthusiastic’ individuals, can include the adherence to strict protocols to ensure the continuation of previously adopted policies, or a rigorous and open policy in order to propose and then effect any changes.
One estate in South Africa, in response to its logo style and colour having been changed ‘too often’, (with the knock on effect that this has on the complete corporate ID) has set up a legacy committee to ensure continuity in terms of the style and key features of the development, all of which can fall prey to what the current manager diplomatically refers to as ‘undue interference’.
EB: A key area for me is that ideally there is a need for governance to be seen as a shared activity and not just the responsibility of someone else and, to be truly effective; this will require a full commitment from both volunteers and management.
There are additional benefits, such as the fact that as a shared activity it will be a mechanism that creates a balance of power between volunteers and management and one that will provide the essential checks and balances.
The best and most efficient clubs have boards and management working together.
Shared governance is a process of putting together lasting, effective solutions. It will help to ensure that the realities of a club’s limitations are properly tabled, considered and discussed,
Importantly it will also help to ensure that there is transparency, inclusion and participation for all concerned without decisions being made in a disconnected bubble.
JC: So I think that in summary we agree the following needs to be applied:
- The cooperation between the board and its professional management staff in order to evaluate the club’s needs, the desired goals and then decide on the best strategies and appropriate supporting budgets to achieve these goals over a given period.
- Shared guidance and oversight which will require that the board’s members understand theirs and management’s roles clearly.
- No micromanagement, but the scenario where the board will have the confidence in its management to step back and allow its professional salaried team to implement, deliver and manage the intended plans.
- Thereafter the board’s role will be to monitor the activities and offer guidance and inputs reactively in terms of management’s updates and progress reports and proactively (avoiding the well-established dangers and temptations of micro managing), as and when such interventions are called for.
EB: I agree with this summary and would just add that golf clubs’ boards and committees would do well to add two other items onto their ‘to do’ list:
- ensure that there is gender balance
- listen to a wider range of voices and commentary
In terms of the latter an attentive ear will help to ensure that the club’s business has woken up to changing norms and responded to them, thereby staying in step with the changing needs and winning the full support of the club’s members as well as potential new members.
JC: In closing; if golf does indeed want to step up to the plate (to borrow an analogy from another sporting code) in terms of governance, then perhaps we can leave the final word of this discussion for the moment to Sir Adrian Cadbury (UK, Commission Report: Corporate Governance 1992):
“Corporate governance is concerned with holding the balance between economic and social goals and between individual and communal goals. The governance framework is there to encourage the efficient use of resources and equally to require accountability for the stewardship of those resources. The aim is to align as nearly as possible the interests of individuals, corporations and society.”
Eddie Bullock’s career path has encompassed every major sector within the golf industry.
In this process he has gained considerable first-hand experience at golf’s grass face in such diverse roles such as the Captain of the PGA of GB & Ireland and as a past GM of Woburn and he is now widely recognised as an authority on emerging lifestyle trends
Eddie uses a unique blend of creativity, personal experience and contemporary proven systems to help golf clubs prepare for success, whereby increasing their golf hospitality growth, delivering memorable service levels while coaching and motivating their teams to be confident and proud in the product they sell.
Given his track record, it is not surprising, and outside of his commitments to his own management consultancy’s clients, that Eddie is also on the board of golf industry leaders such as Goodwood as the golf president, and as a non-executive director of Colt Mackenzie McNair and Royal Norwich.
Eddie Bullock, Golf Business Consultant
John Cockayne, who will be hosting the Business of Golf Discussion Series is the originator of the series’ content, has had an eclectic career in golf.
He is a Founder and Life member of the PGA of South Africa and is no stranger to working inside the ropes having held operational roles as a head professional, director of golf, club manager, coaching director and as a tournament official on the Sunshine Circuit.
John is also a very experienced event manager, has had extensive marketing experience, worked as a project consultant on three continents and has developed and run a travel agency and two tour operator businesses.
This background has resulted in his being the first point of contact for ARC’s (Association of Residential Communities) 50 plus member golf estates in the Southern Africa region.
John’s business experience in tandem with his writing skills – he has written for numerous publications and is currently the golf editor with or a contributor to Destination Golf Travel, GolfVistaSA, Estate Living magazine and GolfWeather.com – makes him perfectly placed to identify the right story and host the appropriate industry professional to help to cover the topic.
John Cockayne, CEO: The Business of Golf