Scott has been an Executive Director of Tennis with 30 years’ experience at private clubs, public facilities, and resorts.
Scott is considered an industry leader in first-class facility management, junior and adult coaching, and program design and implementation.
As CEO, Premier Tennis Consulting providing innovative and profitable solutions for clubs/facilities and professional tournaments. He has been involved in some of the largest and most prestigious facilities in the U.S. and many of the worlds’ leading professional tennis tournaments.
16 Golden Rules for Successful Staff
by Scott Mitchell
In this article, I will share with you my 15 Golden Rules for Successful staff and facilities. My intention is to share these key strategic elements that many of the most successful managers and staff implement into their culture. I have been involved in some of the largest and most prestigious facilities in the U.S. and one thing I can say is they all have their own DNA. In almost every location great customer experience is what drives success. In my current role, one area I focus on more and more is the overall experience, and not just what the pros do on the court. I like to share with coaches something many of us have heard before… Long after your members or customers leave your facility, they will not necessarily remember what you said during their lesson or the particular encounter, but they will always remember how they felt or were treated. The little things you do as a team is what makes your facility stand out.
1. Raving Fans- My focus now, as it was then, is to help professionals and facility teams make Raving Fans each time their customers come to their facility. Once you have Raving Fans of your facility, program, and coaches you also have loyal, engaged customers which drives success. This will increase your membership growth and retention, court utilization, program participation, and much more.
2. Your daily attitude is positive- Our members and staff should not be subjected to, and do not care if you are having a “bad day.” This is something that I learned many years ago and worked hard to be sure that my response to anyone’s questions of “how are you” was always a positive one. The one response, of many that drives me nuts, is “living the dream” which in turn actually gives off the perception that you are hating what you do. My recommendation is to be sure that you are aware of how your words can and will affect those that hear and be sure Your daily attitude is positive throughout your interactions with not only members but your teammates as well.
3. You will never have a second chance to make a first impression- We all have heard this expression over the years. This does not come easy for many as it is something that you may have to continuously remind yourself as you enter or exit certain areas of your facility. Your first encounter and subsequent first impression may happen anywhere and not only at the Club. I would suggest it is something that you remind yourself to smile and be engaging when you head out into public, on-court or simply out into the lobby. When you are interacting at your facility or away from it you are always representing yourself as well as the facility. You want to be sure that anyone that comes into contact with you has a great impression of you and your work. A short response or one that does not feel welcoming, no matter your location around town, can and will affect all those that are involved. So, smile, and give it your best first impression, every time.
4. You have two ears and one mouth. All successful employees use them in this proportion- When in discussions with members we tend to share information with them and on many occasions, we speak too much. We have a habit sometimes of feeling like we already know what they need. When we actually listen to what our members need, we find in many cases we were misunderstanding the questions, concerns, or suggestions. Those employees that do a great job listening to understand tend to be the most successful employees a facility has.
5. As staff we can disagree, debate, and have differing opinions about issues behind closed doors, but to members and additional staff, we are 100% supportive of one another- I am a huge believer in building a team that will fit our culture, support each other, and want to work together with the same outcomes in mind. It does not mean we won’t disagree on the path to get there, but we are professional in our discussions with each staff member and with others. When this is not followed it will kill the culture you are trying to build. I have seen it firsthand and it is a miserable experience for everyone.
6. All tasks that are assigned to you must be done to the best of your ability, in a timely fashion, or not done at all- Successful facilities, employees and teams take doing the details of their jobs very seriously. It also means when they do them, no matter the task, they do them to the absolute best of their ability. To be the best, there is no procrastinating or half-hearted efforts. You must perform at the highest level, all the time. That is what separates the good from the great.
7. All successful staff take member complaints personally! All complaints are to be addressed with direct communication within 24 hours- This is a rule that I have implemented at every location I have worked and should be immediately installed at your location as well. It also means that all communication is professional and in a positive manner with the absolute best intent on providing a solution. When I say you should take member complaints personally it DOES NOT mean to get defensive and combative. It simply means, understand the issues at hand, communicate quickly to the member so that you AND the member can work to resolve the complaint.
With regards to the 24-hour rule. Imagine you called a location at 8am but did not hear back for several hours, or maybe even days. How do you feel? Did you call back a second or third time? Did you email as well? When we are on the court teaching tennis for 6,8,10 hours per day our members or customers are not aware of how we spend our time. They simply feel they are not getting a response. Find time to communicate, in some form that you received their call and will get back to them either way with a solution, or simply to tell them you are still looking for an answer. It is not acceptable to not communicate at all. My recommendation is that if you are a coach and you get a call from a member and you are unable to call them back, have your front desk communicate that you are aware that they have called and will have time to call them back the following morning, or whenever that time is available. If it is something that the front desk can handle, then they should have the responsibility to do so. How do you know if they can handle the member concern? That is done easily by installing some simple question protocols at the front desk that allow them to quickly get to the root of the call.
8. Successful staff are honest, ethical, have a strong work ethic, and care deeply about the success of their Club- This is another area that is important to me when it comes to managing clubs. This rule does not need additional clarification other than the most successful staff and facilities follow this rule intently.
9. Successful staff must always be open to new ideas, study their competition readily, stay educated on the latest trends, and make sure that apathy, complacency or taking any task for granted does not ever occur. Yesterday’s standard of excellence is not good today- I have always felt that continuous improvement is something that drives the best companies, best facilities, and best coaches. Those that continue to do things the same way repeatedly without looking at better ways to do it, tend to fail in the long run. We should always try and improve on what we did the previous time. Either in our lesson plans, our events, or simple interactions with others.
10. Praise your fellow staff at least twice as much as you critique or criticize. Written notes of praise to staff members should be done often- As a manager this is an area that is so very important, mainly because of the time commitment. So, do not only rely on writing notes but walking around and visibly, directly communicate to your team that you recognize all the great work they are doing. It is just as important for fellow staff members to practice this daily. Negative talk, from anyone can ruin a culture. Positivity and praise need to be practiced by everyone at the facility. Now I know that a lot of times this is tough to have everyone on board and do this, but the more you build trust within the staff, the more this will become part of the culture.
11. Successful staff always realize that their position at the Club does not give them any preferential treatment that all other staff does not enjoy- Years ago I began working at a private club that was extremely successful and had climbed to one of the top 10 private clubs in the U.S. On my very first day at the club, I parked on the top level, far away from the Club as we were instructed. I was there early and as I was parking our General Manager pulled in and parked next to me. My immediate thought was ‘wonder why he is parking up here’ and so I asked. I always thought that the managers, club presidents and such had preferred parking up close to the club. He said something similar to our rule here. I quickly realized that everyone at the club was equal and the only thing that separated us was our years of service and our roles and responsibilities.
12. Rules must be followed especially as they pertain to core values or safety. You can rule with an iron fist, but you must wear a velvet glove- All successful clubs and staff have reasonable, understandable, and fairly enforced rules and regulations. Not only for their members but for the employees as well. When staff members violate a rule or core value these should be handled immediately but should always be handled professionally.
13. Successful staff answers all voice mail and e-mail prior to leaving work or starting work the next day- This rule follows the 24-hour rule as well and is a practice that I believe all staff should have as a daily routine. Find 30 minutes before or after work to go through voicemail and e-mail and respond. Even if the response is to say you received their message and as soon as you have an answer for them you will get back to them. Make time for this communication routine.
14. Written goals should be a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly part of your career- This is another routine that will help you with your success, and with your time management. As an organization, we always set strategic goals that were then cascaded down through our managers and support team. We encouraged all our team to set goals that supported the overall mission, vision, and goals of the organization. To help keep these goals at the front of your mind each day, I encourage coaches, managers, and additional staff to set daily, weekly, and monthly goals that help drive the yearly goals you have set. If you have a supervisor or are a supervisor of team members, you should implement this into your 1-1 meetings with your team. It will allow for some robust conversations as well as keep everyone rowing the boat in the same direction.
15. Love your job with a passion or seek a career path that makes you happy- These last two goals are the most important to me and I share this with every facility that I have worked alongside. My father said when you are looking for a career, find one that makes you happy and that you truly enjoy going to each and every day. If you love your job, you will make great money. If you are in search of a career because of the pay, you will be miserable throughout.
Lastly is rule 16. Be available for your family and the people you love in your life. Travel the world, take all your vacation time, be active with charitable organizations, and have a fulfilling life- I am always honest with coaches and managers that are new to our industry. In my opinion, this is the greatest industry there is. It is also very demanding with very long hours. As you grow in your career it is not only about the lessons you give on a given day. It is all the other items off the court that make successful coaches and facilities. This means long days, weekends and on many occasions missing out on some of the enjoyable times with family and friends. This can cause a strain on any relationship. To be successful it will be important to have a very balanced work/life schedule. There will be times when you feel torn on where you should be spending your time. Faith and family have always been the very most important elements in my life. Everything else will need to take a backseat or it might be time to find another job.
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