John McCormack CCM has been the General Manager at Castle Golf Club in Ireland for nearly 15 years. He is a past President of the CMAE and was one of the first European Club Managers to gain the Certified Club Manager (CCM) in 2008.
Here John explains how education has impacted on his role as a Club Manager and at Castle Golf Club.
You are a trained accountant and this obviously helps you in your role as a club manager. What is the most important element of financial management for a new club manager to concentrate on, especially those with little knowledge of accountancy?
Focus on revenue generating ideas and on cost saving ideas. Clubs sometimes tend to be focused on costs but you need to ensure all of your revenue streams are sustainable.
– Enlist experts to assist
– Listen to all of your staff. Even the newest or most Junior Member of staff could surprise you with a cost saving or revenue generating idea.
– It may sound simple but take the time to review accounts monthly and always compare your current figures against budgets and the same period last year. You must understand the reasons for all variances so that you can take advantages of positives and address and negative trends quickly.
I would encourage all managers to take some accounting training. There are lots of ‘accounting for non-accountant type’ seminars available including on our own CMAE MDP 1.
You are a powerful advocate of training; what education has had the biggest impact on your ability to manage The Castle GC?
We are in the entertainment business and our people are key. Invest in your staff and provide them with the tools to do their job and be able to provide top class service and standards to our Members and guests.
We will expose our Staff to Customer Care training at least once a year. We will also encourage ALL staff to watch what other clubs/restaurants/hotels etc. are doing and bring back ideas for improvements to our club.
Of Course managers should expose themselves to best practice at every possible opportunity. I would encourage all managers to attend CMAE education programmes. Even if your ultimate goal is not to become a CCM there is so much that you can learn at these events that will benefit yourself, your staff and your club.
You will have had your share of successes and disappointments during your tenure at The Castle. Is there anything you would do differently in your first year, given your time again?
While of course Club Managers must be dedicated professionals they should not forget to balance their work with time for family and themselves. I would have been guilty of trying to do too much particularly in my first year. I would advise any new Manager to work out the key elements that the Club would like you to address and develop a plan. We all tend to take too much on and its difficult to deliver if you want to make an impact with your new Committee.
You have always been a keen golfer. Do you enjoy playing more, or less since becoming a club manager?
I have to be honest and say that I did fall a little out of love with the game in my early years as a golf club manager. I had this wonderful idea when I first became a golf club manager that the job would be handy and I would get to play lots of golf. How far away from reality was I !!!
Fortunately, life balance has improved with time and experience and I enjoy my golf again much more, even if my scores don’t always reflect this.
Ireland clearly suffered from the economic downturn in 2008; how was your club affected and did you have to make any alterations to your business model?
When the economic downturn hit Ireland, I strongly advised my Board to maintain our standards at as high a level as possible for as long as possible. Allied to this we agreed that we would maintain our staffing levels.
While our staff may not have had pay increases for a number of years they did not suffer pay cuts and nobody lost their job. My management team and I are extremely proud of that.
I am glad to say that our strategy worked. Our membership remained full and in fact we attracted over 100 applications for membership during each year of the recession.
I must credit CMAE and CMAA for giving me the confidence to carry out this strategy in tough times. Our association has allowed me to see the value of high standards and good service first hand. I am fortunate to know many great managers and leaders from the club industry from all around the world. These contacts have been built up over many years of attending association events worldwide. The power of the networking opportunities that our association consistently delivers cannot be underestimated.
You enjoyed great success as President of the CMAE; what makes you most proud of your involvement?
I am proud that we achieved quite a lot during my presidency and this was due to the efforts of many people working together for the good of our organisation.
We were able to secure the CCM designation for CMAE and its Members and I was delighted to be on hand to present the first European managers with their CCM certificates at the Presidents dinner during the 2008 BMI International in London.
We also worked hard to make CMAE a true pan-European organisation. During my time as president we were delighted to welcome many club managers from all around Europe as new members and the numbers participating in CMAE grew enormously. Some of these members also volunteered to serve on the CMAE Board and take a leading role in directing operations of our great association.
It is wonderful to see how our association continues to grow. Our education programmes get better year on year and I congratulate all of our Members involved in achieving this.