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August 2022

The Treadmill is Shifting – What Deserves Most Focus?


By Jay Karen, CEO, NGCOA

Up until COVID struck, while the industry was in what I call our “industry recession,” in my roadshow presentations, I used to show an image of a runner on a treadmill set at a steep incline. The metaphor was that running a golf course is like running uphill, and our job at NGCOA was to get you fit to handle the incline. Because NGCOA cannot control the economy or the environment (the incline level), the best we could do was to prepare you to handle it. If you’re an athlete who can handle the incline, you surely will be able to handle the treadmill if it ever flattens again!

Well, the treadmill didn’t flatten. It quickly moved past flat to a steep decline position, but the problem is that you can’t control the speed! You have to keep running – and have you ever run downhill, fast? It can be a bit scary, and you feel like you could lose control.

The high-demand environment of 2020, 2021 and into 2022 dramatically changed our industry. Golf became good and cool again. Tee sheets filled up fast with new golfers and existing golfers playing more. Rates were on the rise. Private clubs waiting lists became a thing again. Simulators and range enhancements started sprouting. Long-awaited capital projects got some attention. And costs continue to rise. Inflation is casting a shadow on the economy. People tell you the new customer wants something different. Your staff are telling you they are overworked and underpaid. You are probably working more hours than ever before. You can’t even find staff to fill positions that used to be in high demand.

Running a golf business requires you to pay attention to everything. Or at least you try to, right? But you can’t give everything equal attention. You must prioritize. For years we told you to prioritize your revenue and pricing. Prioritize taking control of your customer database and their engagement with you (not with third parties). Prioritize the customer experience.

At this moment in our industry, I believe it becomes paramount for owners and operators to focus on the people who work for us. The only way to handle the fast pace, the strong demand, the tough hours and the problem solving is to have a dedicated, loyal and happy team of people. We cannot take for granted the importance of a dedicated team, and we must listen to what their needs are, because they are likely different from what needs were twenty years ago. For golf to be seen as an amazing place to work, an evolution in our workplaces will be required.

Expect a lot more out of NGCOA on this topic, because nothing is more important. Everything in your operation will suffer if you don’t take good care of your people. And success will be achievable for the marathon in front of you only if you take care of your people. Because when that treadmill starts moving back to a serious incline – and you have to believe it will – you will want your best people with you.

More to come on this.  Get ready!


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