Alan Threadgold CCM spent 18 years in the insurance industry before embarking on a career in Club Management as General Manager at Bray Golf Club in Ireland. After 10 years he moved to Jonas Club Software as General Manager and has recently been promoted to Vice President of Operations. He gained his CCM in 2012, is a former President of the Irish Golf & Club Managers Association and served on the CMAE Board for two years.
Here Alan explains how he got into club management and gives an insight into technology in clubs.
You spent 18 years in the insurance industry before moving to Bray Golf Club as General Manager. How did the opportunity arise to go into club management and what transferable skills most helped you in your new career?
I was a member of the Men’s Committee in Charlesland Golf Club and worked closely with our General Manager at the time, Patrick Bradshaw CCM. I witnessed the skills that Patrick used and observed a lot of what was happening in relation to the running of the Club. At the same time the Insurance Industry was changing and I made a decision to make a career change. With a passion for golf and a belief that my management skills and experience were transferrable I decided to make the move in to club management.
My belief is that management skills are transferrable across many industries and businesses but the two main skills which helped me in my new career as a club manager were my knowledge and understanding of accounts and my inter-personal skills. As a loss adjuster you spend every day meeting new people both in a personal and business capacity and you learn how to read people, relate to them and respond to them in an appropriate manner. With the varied types of members that all clubs have this ability to empathise and to communicate with people was a major asset to me.
How has technology in clubs changed over the past decade and where do you see it heading in the future?
The biggest change I have observed over the past decade has been the introduction and expansion of online services which have tightened the relationship between the member and the club. The ability to book tee times, reserve a table for dinner, purchase tickets for an event, pay for services, etc all online means that the member feels more closely aligned with the club. Access to the club is just a click away at all times and there is not a dependency on travelling to the club or calling the club during working hours to participate in events, etc.
Going forward there are two main areas where I see a lot of emphasis in technology. The first will be the significant broadening of available analytics which will enable the GM/COO to have substantially more data immediately available to them across a wider spectrum of data sources. With this real time data to hand, more effective decisions can be made and a closer understanding of our members will be available.
Secondly the rate at which web and mobile technology will advance will far outweigh what we have seen over the last decade. Member expectations will be that their online experience will match the experience and service that they receive when they are at the club. Technologies that are being developed outside of the club industry will increasingly become a part of the integrated offering to the club as the industry becomes more and more up to date with changing technology trends and the requirements of their members.
You are the proud owner of the Certified Club Manager designation, one of 39 in Europe. What kind of an impact has this had on your career?
I am very proud of my CCM Designation and what it stands for. During my time at Bray Golf Club the designation was viewed as recognition of the professionalism, knowledge and experience that I brought to my position. In addition the Management Committee and Officers at the Club knew that to achieve the CCM Designation required a 6 year pathway, a willingness to learn, a commitment to travel to World and European Conferences to be educated, to network and to keep up to date with trends in the industry. As a club they benefited not alone from a better educated General Manager but also from the opportunity to see and hear about trends and what was coming in the industry.
In my present role as Vice-President, Operations at Jonas Club Software the designation enables me to speak with clients from a position of knowledge and experience and to be empathetic towards issues they may have or goals they are trying to achieve. It also provides me with a wonderful network of like-minded professionals with whom I can communicate and tap in to their knowledge.
What do you feel was your biggest achievement during your tenure as President of the Irish Golf & Club Managers Association?
The achievements of the IGCMA each year are down to the immense efforts of the Board Members working as a team and not the President. I was honoured to be the President and to chair a wonderful Board of committed professionals. Despite being extremely busy in their day to day roles as Club Managers they committed their time and energy to driving forward the quest for professional development in the Irish Club Industry. At the same time they provided support and networking opportunities to their colleagues around Ireland.
For a small country with a relatively small number of full-time club managers Ireland has produced many wonderful professionals over the years and should be proud of the number of CCMs they have amongst their ranks.
Your role with Jonas no doubt requires you to travel a lot. What is the most rewarding thing about travelling with your job, and the most challenging?
The most rewarding aspect has been the opportunity to visit with clubs in Europe, the Middle East, the Far East, Africa and North America and to see firstly how the clubs are run in different countries and secondly how the industry is evolving in the respective countries and markets. My experience as a Club General Manager along with my CCM Designation has enabled me to contribute in the newer evolving markets particularly in East Africa where the Club Managers Association of East Africa (CMAEA) has been formed. Also as a person who has experienced multiple world conferences and benefited from the education available I am in a position to encourage and recommend to people within the industry that they should pursue education as part of their professional development. It is a testament to the industry that the message about education is spreading rapidly across the globe and that the demand and enthusiasm to be educated is growing.
The most challenging aspect of travelling is the very high percentage of delayed flights and the long hours spent sitting around airports. However as long as you focus on the positive side of the visit and the wonderful people that you get to meet then you can come to terms with the lengthy travel time and delays.