Arnaldo Cocuzza CCM has held several management positions at clubs across Italy and was General Manager at Golf Club Milano, one of the oldest and most prestigious clubs in Italy for 5 years, before landing the job as Director of Club Operations at Charlotte Country Club in the USA in 2016.
Here Arnaldo explains how important the CCM designation was in his move to the US, how golf can learn something from baseball and gives his views on the club management industry in Italy.
1. How did you get into Club Management?
A family friend talked to me about a golf course that was under construction in my hometown. They were looking for an assistant club secretary and the moment I went there to visit it was love at first sight! A few months later I was attending a course for club secretary making this job option becoming my first and only profession.
2. What prompted you to get involved with CMAE?
It was ten years ago, I was involved in the AITG (the Italian association of club managers) at that time as a board member. I was also coordinating the first education course for Club Managers in Italy – “master in golf management”. I thought that the next step in my career required an international connection. The education and network I had in my Italy wasn’t enough anymore. So I found in the CMAE the Association that could fit my needs. I had the opportunity to meet Jerry Kilby CCM and John McCormack CCM and I immediately realized that those visionary managers were doing something very exciting and extremely valuable!
3. Achieving your CCM status, given that you took the exam in a foreign language to yourself, is a tremendous achievement. Other than the satisfaction of attaining this status how else have you benefited from the process?
Since I joined CMAE one of my goals was the certification. I perceived that the value of this recognition could have different professional advantages. With the exclusion of what I have learnt and put into practice (which is huge), what recently resulted the most valuable for me was the consideration of CCM status during the US working visa petition process. The CCM certification is one of the most rewarding professional achievements!
4. How does Club Management compare in the USA to Italy?
When I was preparing for the CCM test I have had the opportunity to read and study the book “Contemporary Club Management” written by the most knowledgeable academic individual I met in the industry: Mr. Joe Perdue. In this great book (which I suggest to all club managers) you find the ideal best practice for clubs and, at that time, I could see those standards distant from my real day to day operations.
In the USA, at the Charlotte Country Club, I put into practice what is written in that book each and every day. Of course the size of the industry make a difference but to me, this is mostly due to the clear understanding of management/operational role (managers and staff) separated from the strategic duties (president and board). No doubt that this means more accountability on managers with very few micromanagement opportunities.
Talking about operations I am enjoying the side of F&B. Here in USA it is so relevant in terms of service quality, members retention, and size of revenues. It makes an incredible difference to run directly F&B and it is difficult to believe that in Italy almost every club decide to outsource it. (note: I had the chance to highlight this opportunity two years ago in a presentation delivered during a MDP Level One).
5. What are your reflections as your time as President of CMAE?
CMAE Presidency was a great time during which I have learnt so much about leadership and international relationship. It has been a wonderful journey thanks to the association staff, the education policy board and the main board. Of course, I could do something more and better if I review my two years term now, but the European club industry is facing what in a larger scale Europe is experiencing. I know how challenging it can be to fulfill all the affiliated organizations’ expectations, from Scotland to Italy.
What I consider big steps forward into the future for the managers’ development is:
- To be the only managers association (outside America) to be able to deliver MDP courses and two exclusive, world wide recognized, professional certifications: CMDip and CCM.
- To turn into an “umbrella organization” of Club Managers that doesn’t compete with the Regional or National organizations but helping them in delivering the best practice to their club managers.
- To have a Director of education which coordinate and deliver the extremely valuable curriculum developed by the CMAA and our Education Policy board.
- To deliver the MDP courses with professional teachers recognized inside and outside our industry.
6. You are passionate about baseball. Are there any lessons that golf or other sports can learn from how baseball is run in the USA?
Yes! The “club culture” is a value of some MLB Teams that I always compare with the best Country Clubs. If we would able to build a Vision and Mission of our club, in the long term, being consistent with it we would create an identity of the club: a club culture. The baseball teams with a strong “club culture” may change some players or the manager but are able to replicate, year after year, great performance because vision, mission and governance are there to guide new players, staff and fans.
Exactly the same happens in Clubs with a clear understanding of roles and governance. They thrive and are successful regardless of the changes.
7. How do you see the Italian Club Management industry developing over the next 10 years?
This is a very hard exercise to do for me. Forecast something like this in a country where clubs are struggling is very complicated. Government (locals and national), Sports unions, Golf Federation and Clubs are NOT helping the professional development of managers. No resources available for managers while a huge amount of money is allocated for professional sports events. So I wonder who is going to manage in the future the potential return of those events such as the Ryder Cup. If Italy is not sustaining now the growth of Italian club managers who is going to run those clubs (hopefully full of golfers) in ten years time? Education and international networking is critically important for managers. I hope my country will follow the example of the European countries like Scotland, England and France who economically sustain the education expenses of managers.
I wish that my colleagues would have a bright future, especially those who are investing time and personal resources in attending the MDP courses.