CCM Q&A: Jerry Kilby CCM

Jerry Kilby CCM is the former General Manager of Nad Al Sheba in Dubai and was also CEO of the Club Managers Association of Europe. His current post is the Club Manager of Bramley Golf Club, near Guildford in Surrey, an 18-hole private members golf club that is over 100 years old with a parkland golf course with stunning views across the rolling Surrey Hills.

Here Jerry tells us his key learnings from the World Conference in the USA and why developing strong networks of fellow club managers worldwide is important. 

Can you tell us a bit about how you first became involved in the club industry?

I had been working in golf event management, both for the PGA in the UK and also for my own business, Kanda Golf, and was invited to apply for the job of General Manager of Nad Al Sheba Club, Dubai.  I was interviewed and was offered the role, which I accepted readily, as the chance to work in the exciting city of Dubai does not come around very often.  I started there in October 2000, and in my second year there, I heard from friends in the UK that the CMAE had just been formed, so I decided to join, and was member number 89, so joined in the early days of the association.   

You have just attended your 11th CMAA World Conference in San Francisco. Were there any particular sessions that stood out for you and what were the key learning outcomes you took away from the conference? 

My first World Conference was 2005 (New Orleans) and have only missed three years since then.  San Francisco was excellent, with perhaps the most relevant education content I have seen for some years.  I attended 17 different sessions over the five days, and I think that perhaps 14 of these had content relevant to me and my club role in the UK today.  The key learning outcomes that I was able to bring back with me include the importance of having a strategic plan; that preparing for disasters like fire and flooding is absolutely essential and I learnt a great tip for identifying members who may be at risk of leaving your club – amongst many others.  

Why do you think it is important to establish those international networks with other Club Managers, not only across Europe but worldwide? 

You can always benefit from learning from others, and conversations over a coffee or dinner with other club managers from all over the world occasionally gives you some gems of information and great ideas to take home with you.  You also never know when you may need to reach out to these managers for help or advice, or they may contact you for something they need – everyone is so helpful and willing to help each other, the club management industry is a very friendly global family.  For example, I have just been able to find positions in clubs in the USA, Spain and Australia for three young student members of my club, who were looking for work experience, and all of this was made possible through the network of club managers I have met through the World Conference.  This year, I must have collected close to 50 new business cards from new contacts I met – from 10 different countries. 

You have been General Manager of two very different golf clubs – Nad Al Sheba Club in Dubai and now Bramley Golf Club in Surrey. Can you highlight any fundamental differences between the golf industry in the Middle East and the UK, and are there any similarities?   

There are many differences between these two clubs, the first in Dubai was a proprietary club and Bramley is a member-owned club, and Bramley is very much smaller, both in the physical sense, the turnover and number of employees. The similarities are challenges with membership acquisition and retention; motivation and management of the team to provide the best possible customer service and constantly ensuring the golf course is in the best possible condition it can be with the resources you have available to you. The weather conditions are a bit different – from 50 degrees in the summer heat of Dubai to -11 degrees, snow and ice in the British winter! 

Can you quantify what having the CCM designation means to you, both professionally and personally? 

As many readers may recall, former CMAE President John Duncan CCM asked me if I would take on the task of the association’s CEO in January 2007, after I had finished my role in Dubai and returned to the UK. One of the key objectives that I was set was to find a way to enable the CMAE to offer the CCM certification programme to club managers throughout Europe and with the kind and generous support of the late Joe Perdue, Dr Jason Koenigsfeld and Jim Singerling and many others at the CMAA and many fellow CMAE members here in Europe, Joe Perdue invigilated the first CCM exam in London in October 2008. As I truly believed that club management needed an internationally-recognised qualification, to enable dedicated and talented club managers to differentiate themselves from others, I took the exam myself as one of eleven CMAE members. Eight of us passed that day, and I am therefore honoured to be one of this pioneering group. This is the only professional qualification that I have been able to secure in my career to date, and I am very proud of this achievement. To see a group of Spanish, Italian and Swiss club managers collect their CCM certificates on stage at the World Conference at couple of weeks ago was particularly pleasing, as many people have worked tirelessly to make this happen throughout Europe. I look forward to seeing many more CCM’s in Europe in the coming years.