Thursday, November 19, 2009

What is Business Acumen and how do I Get Some?

By Michael D. Vogt, CGCS

The occupation, work, or trade in which a person is engaged

The ability to judge well; keen discernment; insight

If you possess Business Acumen you should have a keen sense of the entire business you practice.
Here’s the short list on the areas a golf course superintendent should be proficient in:

Budgeting                    Accounting
Public Relations           Agronomy
Writer                         Human Relations
Speech Presenter         Mechanics
Electrical                     Plumbing
Landscaping                Construction

The more business acumen the superintendent possesses the more valuable they are to the club’s business. Decisions made daily will have a dramatic impact not only today and tomorrow but in future years.

Consider a basic comparison: In match play golf, it’s necessary for players to know how match play is scored as well as how to play the game and change or affect the score. In business, financial literacy is the understanding of the score (financial reports) and business acumen is the understanding of how to impact your business (through the nuances of the game and strategic actions) through business decisions.

Over the past year we’ve heard the drum beat “How do we cut costs?” or “How do we increase revenue?” Management and leadership will understand and take into consideration the far reaching impact of today’s decisions and make the important connection between performance and results. Increases in performance / efficiencies will undoubtedly deliver the same or better results without significant increases and perhaps even decreases in resources.

Complex financial decisions should not be myopic. All financial cuts and expenditures for that matter will ultimately be rolled-up into the larger organization. Keen business acumen will enable departmental decision makers to understand how they are tied to the organizations ultimate goals and objectives.

The Main Players

Golf pros are hired mostly because of their ability to play golf, teach golf and cajole with the membership.

Golf superintendents are normally hired for their ability to grow and maintain fine turf in less than perfect environments, although wearing many hats the agronomic expertise is the main reason a superintendent is placed.

The general manager is the business leader at the club. Often introduced into the club business from modest beginnings (food and beverage worker) a GM is charged with the rudder of the clubs financial ship. The general manager must process in very high degree of business acumen. The GM’s ability to teach and share this needed skill to the club’s management team is critical to the sustained success of the club.

Department heads at clubs all over the world can no longer afford to make business decisions in a departmental vacuum. All of the clubs leadership and managers have to be on the same page to ensure the business operates under a shared goal.

Who Needs Business Acumen?

Tired of hearing about Southwest Airlines? Well it’s hard not to use this company as a shining example of HOW to do business.

Founded in 1971 with 38 years of profitability, the airline has been recognized for the motivated employee culture it has created from the highest level of management to the newly assigned baggage handlers on the tarmac.

Certainly there are many factors for Southwest’s success but one deliberate philosophy of management may be the foundation for this organization’s phenomenal success. Southwest involves all employees in the financial results of the company. Furthermore, Southwest trains its employees on how the read and understand these financial reports.

Southwest also stresses that no one person can make the business successful, employees and their daily activities are the companies driving force to keep costs down, saving resources in incremental ways Southwest can keep the costs of doing business low. The airline industries average for cost per seat per mile is now over 10 cents, Southwest airlines are 6.5 cents; that was close to the industry average 25 years ago!

I am definitely not advocating managing clubs like Southwest but what we can learn here is that this business acumen philosophy makes sense for the club business.

Business Acumen Bottom Line

Why shouldn’t the golf pro know how many dollars are spent on fungicide treatments on greens or the superintendent know what the food cost was last month. The clubs overall success depends on the team, not any one department of the team. Like it or not, profitability is not a word that should be banned from the club. Making a profit on golf or F&B can fund needed asset improvements and add value to the club over the long term. We’re all aware of the clubs with superior facilities in a particular market will have a better chance at member retention and recuitment.

Now more than ever clubs and more specifically managers are realizing that when members of the clubs management, professional and labor segments understand the numbers and what they mean to the overall health of the club the club’s short and long term objectives can be obtained.

With widespread understanding and the required business acumen, clubs can have educated, knowledgeable and motivated employees. With this business acumen asset, those will be the clubs that are best positioned to succeed though this private club business turmoil.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Every Action has an Equal and Opposite Reaction

By Michael D. Vogt, CGCS, Amateur Fly Fisherman

Fly fishing has always been the ultimate escape from the everyday for me. No phones, no TV, no hustle and bustle, just quiet, the river and the fish. Last weekend was the first in a long time that the rivers were at a manageable stage, due to rains this year the river levels have been too high to go fishing. Last Saturday around 4:30 am I jumped out of bed, packed up my waders and assorted fishing gear and drove to my spot on the Current River, about 2½ hours from my home.

Upon my arrival I rigged my high tech graphite rod, (a 4 weight, 6½ footer) just right for those tight quarters and light trout. Waders, boots, my lucky hat and I forged a path to a secluded spot about 3 quarters of a mile from my car.

The first cast of the day I was fortunate enough to hook into a small rainbow, about six inches of picture-book beauty, a quick 5 minute fight, non-eventful release and back to casting over gin clear Current River. That fuzzy little #20 Zebra midge was a good guess for today I thought. Not too many more casts and I struck on another picture perfect rainbow, this guy was a little bigger, no record but eight or nine inches, if it weren’t winter season, catch and release, I might have kept this one!

After a one hour lull in the action I was beginning to think the peak of fishing of the day was over until I sighted a good sized rainbow holding in a small pool about 20 feet from where I was standing in the river. The trout was just holding there, waiting for food to drift by. I moved in his direction as stealthy as I could, I was now wading in water just about waist deep. I took my shot and cast that midge just upstream from him; he took a quick look but no strike! I again casted a quick shot fifteen feet upstream, this time he took the fly and for the next fifteen minutes it was this big thick rainbow and me. He spun off about twenty yards of additional line and I worked him back to me as carefully as possible. After Mr. Big Trout was tuckered out I had him alongside of me, thirteen inches of perfect rainbow trout. I reached down and released him from his bond and carefully let him swim away. This was the best catch of the year for me; a stellar day to be sure! I reeled in the line and was making my way back to the bank to celebrate with a cold beverage. Lost my footing on a slippery rock and fell, face first into the depths of the cold Current River. I lost my lucky hat, my waders filled with water and I suddenly realized my perfect fishing day was over. Cold fifty degree water poured into my waders and soaked me to the bone.

Slogging back to my car I began to thank my lucky stars that I had the opportunity to go fishing at all; even if I lost my lucky hat. I also learned a valuable lesson, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. I had to make payment to the fish gods, I really didn’t do anything special to catch that fish, and in fact I was feeling pretty cocky after catching that Mr. Big Trout, so I guess I had it coming. So, I now am a firm believer in every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

Life lessons come to us each and every day, I guess this was just one of those days that help to keep me grounded.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Get a Handle on Your Labor

The fully functional Excel labor spreadsheet below is available to all, just email me your request. Click on the Email button at the right margin to request your copy.

Hourly Scheduler v2.8sample

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Golf Course Irrigation Audits

By Michael D. Vogt, CGCS, CGIA

Unlike an IRS audit, an irrigation audit can be very beneficial in golf course water savings, power savings, irrigation equipment longevity and result in better all-around turf conditions.

It’s impossible to see where all the water goes after it leaves the sprinkler head and to what degree distribution uniformity is achieved. A well designed and maintained watering system will deliver a uniformed amount of water throughout its irrigation pattern, thus eliminating wet and dry spots. However, even the best sprinkler / nozzle combinations fall short of perfect uniformity. Watering systems with poor uniformity must apply greater volumes of water to an area to achieve the same results as a system with good uniformity, most often resulting in a wet golf course. Sprinklers typically used on golf courses fall into three categories as identified by the Irrigation Association’s Certified Golf Irrigation Auditors manual, these are:

• 80% distribution uniformity (excellent, achievable)

• 70% distribution uniformity (good, expected)

• 55% distribution uniformity (poor)

Golf Course Irrigation System Audits

More golf courses are deciding to perform audits to discover how much and where water is being applied to the course. An irrigation audit is a thorough analysis of the operation of this complex system of water delivery on modern golf courses; a comprehensive audit covers the following:

• Water Supply          • Pumping system(s)          • Piping system     

• Pipe fittings            • Valves                            • Sprinklers

• Control system        • Management practices    • Water distribution audit

Irrigation audits are very effective in documenting irrigation system efficiencies and a well written report can be an excellent tool for communications to members, Board of Directors, committee members and owners to better understand one of the superintendent’s most important and complex tools. Members and owners seldom see the irrigation system; an audit will help them understand the significant investment, maintenance expense and operational cost of one of the largest, complex systems on the course.

Distribution Uniformity

As mentioned earlier, distribution uniformity (DU) is a critical measure of the irrigation systems ability to apply water uniformly to the turfgrass. A value of 100% represents perfectly unformed coverage of water to a predetermined area; however, perfect uniformity never occurs, even with rainfall.

For golf course irrigation audits, DU is generally calculated by identifying the volume of water that is applied to the driest 25% of the test area and dividing it by the average volume throughout the test area. This is also expressed as the Lower-Quarter Distribution Uniformity or DULQ.

DULQ is an important component of the audit and points out the areas of low efficiency in order for a plan to be formulated and begin to address irrigation system flaws, saving water, power and improving playing conditions and turf health through dryer surfaces.

DULQ is calculated though the use of catchments (collection devices), each catchment that is used in the test must have the same opening area or “throat” and must be stable enough that it can not be relocated or knocked down by operating sprinklers.

The proper placement of catchment devices is critical in conducting a water distribution audit. The catchments should be placed in a grid throughout the entire target audit area.

The System Check

Before the catchments are place for the DU test a simple system check is required, these checks include:

Sprinkler check: an activation of each sprinkler in the test zone to inspect and correct any tall grass around the sprinkler. Level and free of physical damage that needs attention.

Nozzle check: make sure proper nozzles are used. Also be certain that nozzles are not cracked broken or otherwise distorded.

Conditions Check: The audit should be conducted under normal system operating conditions. Normal irrigation run times are in the evening when wind conditions are less pronounced, as a rule audits should not be performed with wind conditions that exceed 5 mph.

Pressure Check: The water delivery system should be tested for pressure at the zone being calculated. Pressures checks should be preformed on static and with sprinkler operation and recorded. System pressure can dramatically affect DU. Proper pressures can be adjusted at the head in some cases; the manufacturer’s specifications for nozzle size should be followed.

Document: Sketch a map of the zone to be tested, use an existing drawing if available. Show all sprinklers, nozzle type, rotation arc, model number, operating pressure and pairings if wired to operate together with other sprinklers.

Lay Out the Catchments, Begin DU Test

After the above system test the actual DU catchment test can be performed. The catchment devices should be place in a grid sequence 12 to 15 feet apart.

Run sprinklers in a normal sequence that would simulate an irrigation event for the unique zone being examined. The minimum time prescribed for the DU test is 15 minutes so that the catchments can accumulate a sufficient amount of water for measuring. All sprinklers in the test zone should run for an identical period of time.

Record the volumes on the site map of each catchment and perform the calculations. DULQ can be calculated by the average volume of the lower one quarter of catchments times one hundred divided by the total average of catchments or:

DULQ = Average of Lower Quarter Catchments x 100
Average of all Catchments

• 80% distribution uniformity (excellent, achievable)

• 70% distribution uniformity (good, expected)

• 55% distribution uniformity (poor)

What Does DULQ Really Mean?

DULQ is a percentage that can be calculated into what is referred to as a Run Time Multiplier. This number factor in a given value that indicates you must run your tested portion of the irrigation system a multiple of X to get proper coverage in the driest spots.

These are the Run-Time Multiplier conversions:

Run-Time Multiplier, How is it Significant?

Run-Time Multiplier (RTM) is a calculation used to determine the number of additional minutes sprinklers must run to ensure the driest areas in the sprinkler’s coverage area receives adequate water.

Using the table above, it’s plain to see how areas with poor DU would require more water. An area with a DULQ of 68% would require 24% more water to achieve ideal coverage. Thus, a system improvement of 12 DULQ would yield a RTM of 1.14 or an overall efficiency increase of 10%. That might not seem like much, but take for example if your combine power and water use is $120,000 that would be an annual savings of $12,000. That does not include longevity on pump station run time which could easily be one addition year of service amortized over the life of the station cost, in most cases at least $10,000.

Real Life Precipitation Rate Calculation

The above catchment data can also be used to arrive at the average precipitation rate. The precipitation (PR) rate is expressed in inches per hour in the USA.

       PR=            Catchment Volume Average (in milliliters) x 3.66
             Test Run Time x Catchment Device Area (throat area in square inches)

The factor 3.66 is a constant that converts milliliters to cubic inches and run time from minutes to hours.

Once you have determined average PR, determining station run time is accomplished by multiplying a desired precipitation rate by 60 and dividing it by the PR. An example would be:

If a PR for a given area is 0.71 inches per hour, and a desired application rate is 0.2 inches per hour, the area should be programmed for 16.9 minutes.

0.2 inches per hour x 60 = 16.9 minutes

In addition to this calculation, if the area above had a Distribution Uniformity or DULQ of 64% the run-time multiplier can be used to determine the adjusted area run time.

16.9 minutes x 1.28 = 21.63 minutes

Thus, in the area audited it would require approximately 22 minutes to supply the area of turf 0.2 of an inch of water.

The Irrigation Audit Bottom Line

By auditing the irrigation system a superintendent can find additional savings in water, power, system life; an irrigation audit and a good irrigation system maintenance program always pays for itself.

Select only a Certified Golf Irrigation Auditor (CGIA); they know golf courses and the workings of a complex golf irrigation system. Also select an auditor that has no affiliation with a company that sells irrigation supplies, an auditor with no bias will insure a proper audit takes place without regard to further his or her business.

After the audit is performed map out an action plan based on recommendations from the CGIA, and let the local community know that the club is concerned with the areas water resources, concerned enough to keep water consumption to a minimum through careful management of water and additionally, the use of electric power.

The overall efficiency of the irrigation system is dependent on the golf superintendent’s devotion to protecting natural resources. The best operated and maintained irrigation system a superintendent can attain is end to that goal.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Few Words on Common Sense Risk Reduction

By Michael Vogt, CGCS

The sheer number and variety of risks involved in operating a golf course can be daunting for owners and memberships. These groups will not want to be exposed directly or indirectly to liability by management who has not taken preventative steps to head off the myriad of risks involved in operating a club or golf course. The membership and owners will want to have confidence that course management and staff actively watch-dog potential hazards, and the operation has adequate insurance coverage pertaining to all aspects of the facility's operation. Using common sense prevention can help golf course managers reduce exposure to liability from golfers, guests and the general public.

To proactively avoid risk, educate staff members and conduct regularly scheduled safety reviews. All staff members should be knowledgeable about the dangers inherent in high liability areas such as driving ranges, golf carts, bunkers, water hazards, swimming pools, spas and hot tubs, chemical and fertilizers applications and locker rooms. Enlist the help of the entire staff by reinforcing the need to be alert of weather dangers, lighting inadequacies, underperforming equipment, pool health, and potential environmental liabilities. All staff, but in particular those in food and beverage operations, need to be trained regarding the constraints of liquor liability. Implement practices such as end of day course, pool and driving range patrols. While ensuring that no member is left behind at closing, these sweeps can also serve as a built-in safety review for the next morning's opening. Develop, document and drill staff in the procedures for inclement weather shut-downs, evacuation, fire, flood and other emergency preparedness plans.

Potential liability may also be reduced by proactively reviewing and keeping in compliance with all appropriate permits, licenses and approvals. Perform frequent internal reviews of chemical application permits, errant golf ball easements for courses located in residential areas, endangered species designations, and maintenance of wetlands.

Just as important as continually reviewing risk potential within your operation, it is prudent to periodically review your carrier and their financial stability. In today's turbulent times, carriers have been impacted as well, and any instability could affect an insurer's ability to process or pay claims in a timely fashion. Speak with your agent, review company ratings, and do some research on your own to ensure that your policy is placed with a solid insurer.