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.

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