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June 2020

A Sense of Urgency

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Communications Key to Kemper Crisis Management

By Steve Eubanks

The key to successful multiple-course management has always been precise and intense communication – making sure the sun never sets on a problem that hasn’t been discussed, and that all policy decisions are aired from top to bottom.

For managers with properties in multiple markets from coast to coast, time changes, consumer preferences, agronomy, logistics and state laws and regulations only add to the need for open and ongoing dialogues.

Numbers are a big part of that communication. Capturing accurate, real-time data culls the vagaries from most discussions. But regular, agenda-driven conversations remain a must. That axiom is magnified multiple times during a crisis.  

“During a moment like this, ongoing communication is absolutely vital,” KemperSports CEO Steve Skinner said of the company’s rapid response to the ever-evolving coronavirus crisis. “As a foundation, all of our properties have been sharing our company-wide enhanced health and safety policies with their members and guests via their websites, email and more. From there, each property is sharing tailored information based on the particular situation in their city, county and state to communicate any changes in operating hours and food-and-beverage operations. While these messages may vary based on the location and situation, the underlying sentiment is the same – communication must be frequent as we navigate such a fluid situation.”

Kemper manages 125 golf courses, from Streamsong in Florida to Bandon Dunes in Oregon, Buenaventura in Southern California to Mink Meadows Golf Club in Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts. As the outbreak of coronavirus spread, slowly in some areas and at an alarming geometric rate in others, Skinner’s team decentralized many decisions. Policy and operational changes that might have required weeks and a number of corporate meetings are now made in minutes with a great deal of autonomy given to the individual operators. That has to be the case as states, counties and municipalities change their edicts and ordinances. But constant communication is imperative for that kind of decentralization to work. 

“This is an incredibly fluid situation, so our corporate leadership team and the leadership teams at each property are meeting daily,” Skinner said. “We are constantly monitoring for updates and adapting our approach as needed in the best interest of our guests and staff.  We are following the guidelines established by the CDC for preventing the spread of the virus, and all of our facilities have implemented additional sanitation measures to mitigate risk and reduce the spread of germs. We are also following state-by-state protocols and in certain states, we have moved our food-and-beverage operations to take-out and “grab and go” offerings in the states where dine-in is prohibited.”

Rules in New York, where the outbreak was most severe, and California, where gatherings were all but outlawed, are different from those in West Point, Mississippi and Williamsburg, Virginia. But Kemper stayed and continues to stay on top of things through vigilant, disciplined and ongoing communications. 

“We’re receiving positive feedback from golfers across the country who are relieved to hear that many of our properties are open and that, with the right precautions, golf can be a safe activity during this time,” Skinner said. “It enables people to get outside and safely exercise in the fresh air, while following recommendations for social distancing.

“Obviously and as always, the health and safety of our staff and guests is our highest priority.”

 

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