By Ned Welc, CCM, CCE
Private club search committees identify candidates for top-level positions such as general manager (GM). As part of that task, they study resumes to understand candidates’ specific qualifications and achievements. Yet, through our work as private club executive search specialists, we at GSI Executive Search always advise clients that ideal candidates are more than an assemblage of work histories, skills, certifications and educational credentials. Certainly, GM candidates should possess an impressive work history and the necessary skills to perform well in such a demanding role. But private clubs evolve, and today’s search committees are evolving in the methods by which they evaluate candidates. increasingly consider candidates in a broader, more personal sense.
This evolution involves considering candidates as whole people. Professionals, absolutely. But GMs are people serving people, which, after all, is the bedrock of the private club industry. So how does that manifest itself in a candidate evaluation? Well, personality testing prior to selection of the candidate is becoming more common in our searches at GSI. Additionally, there is something beyond your resume – we call it the “Fit Factor” – that helps convince committee members you are the ideal fit for their club.
What is the Fit Factor? It’s who you are, in addition to what you are. The Fit Factor gauges the extent to which private club search committee members (and by extension, other private club members) are and will be comfortable with you. Can they easily visualize you at the club every day? Can they see you interacting with members, teaching and leading staff, nurturing a welcoming environment for guests, upholding the club’s cherished traditions, elevating the private club experience, and exuding an infectious spirit?
Skills and experience get your foot in the door. So, what are qualities that can boost your Fit Factor quotient and make you a potentially perfect fit?
Be yourself—but ideally, have a bigger-than-life personality. High-performing GMs often pass the Fit Factor test because they have the “It Factor” – i.e., they’re likeable, charming, magnetic, and genuinely warm and welcoming – all while keeping a healthy and appropriately professional distance from members.
Be a solid citizen with no behavior issues or skeletons rattling around from previous jobs. While no one is perfect, your work and personal histories should be as clean as possible.
Possess superior communication skills. You should think clearly and translate your thoughts equally clearly through all written and verbal communications with members and staff. If, for example, you’re writing a GM column for the monthly newsletter, organize your thoughts, use short, simple sentences in an active (not passive) voice, and speak directly to your audience.
Exude energy and creativity in everything you do. Bring a passion to your job every day. It rubs off on everyone—staff and members alike.
Display CEO qualities. This includes the ability to lead and delegate. It also means you must demonstrate consistent leadership skills—not just management skills.
Assume an owner’s mentality. When you think like an owner, you invest yourself in the success of everything and everyone around you. Often, we find that GMs who exhibit an owner’s mentality are the most successful professionals – and the most sought-after candidates – in their field.
Be strong in your ability to assess, plan, measure, and act in the best interests of your club and its members. Clubs are dynamic organizations and must adapt to the realities of modern life while still holding dear the assets and traditions that make them unique. Take initiative to keep your club relevant and highly desirable to members and prospective members alike.
Give positive recognition for accomplishments by your staff. Chances are, they deserve it, and they will certainly appreciate it. Recognize in words and actions that things are going well, and that the club is succeeding because of them.
Listen actively and show empathy. Yours is a people business first and foremost. Think less about correcting what you hear, and more about helping others to understand better.
Be regarded as honest, trustworthy and reliable. Your integrity should never be challenged.
Exhibit humility, an appropriate sense of humor, and confidence (but not arrogance).
Rarely use “I” in a sentence. You are in service of the club, its members and your staff. Nothing at the club can be accomplished without the contributions of others, so lose the “I”!
Continually grow. You should maintain a commitment to personal and professional development for you and your staff.
Accept the fact that you don’t know it all and have not seen everything (at least not yet). Every day is a new day, with new experiences and fresh opportunities to learn and grow. Embrace that, and you’ll find energy and enthusiasm in your daily work that rubs off on those around you.
Maintain a work/life balance that respects and accommodates the needs of the club and your loved ones. GM is a demanding and time-intensive position. Finding a balance isn’t easy—but it’s necessary, and it does everyone good in the end. In reality, members and guests respect a workaholic less than you might think. Work as hard to maintain a great family as you do at your profession. In the end, you won’t regret it.