Tennis Industry magazine

 

Spreading the Word: Facility Manager’s Manual

Communication to both employees and members is the key to a successful business.

By Rod Heckelman

Communication is the glue that holds your facility together. The larger the facility, the more important and potentially complicated the lines of communication. There is nothing more frustrating to a member than to have one of your front-desk staff say, “I don’t know anything about that,” when asked about a program or clinic.

When someone calls the club and has a question about an event or class, can your staff answer every question? Is it possible for them to answer every question?

Realistically, there are limitations on the information a front-desk person can obtain and retain, but that does not mean they cannot answer every question. What’s wrong with, “Let me look into that to make sure I have the right information, and I’ll get back to you within a few minutes.” With this reply, the member feels that they received the proper service and know they will have the answers they need quickly.

Have the Right Information

How can you make sure this employee will be able to retrieve that information? Let’s start by reviewing how you disperse the bulk of your information.

Newsletters: With most facilities, this begins with a monthly newsletter. The information for the newsletter is put together a few weeks ahead of time and is usually produced from what you have gathered from your staff.

Establish a monthly timeline to make sure this information gets to you on time so that you’re able to send it back to the source and confirm the data. Make sure you have a second, maybe even a third, person proof your work, to protect yourself from errors or misinformation.

In-House Staff Letters: After the newsletter, the next form of communication should be an in-house staff letter. This is produced to help create more insight to the club newsletter.

Since you want the members to read the newsletter, you have to make sure that the information is clear and simplified. They are not likely to read drawn-out stories or reports that are general and wordy. The staff newsletter can be used to fill in the blanks. Besides adding more details about club events, the staff newsletter can provide a bridge for your departments to exchange information.

Fliers: The last form of publication would be fliers. Fliers are not just for informing your membership, they are also great for announcing special events and situations that are occurring at the club. Just remember, too many fliers and they become a blur. Post them in a common location that will become habit for your employees or your members to review. Disperse the fliers and posters in special areas only for special events.

Electronic Communications

Email and voice mail are effective, but do have their limits. For instance, you shouldn’t depend on them being received or sent with complete reliability. Both systems are subject to failure or down time for various reasons.

Make a point when using email or voice mail to ask for verification that the message has been received. If you use email as a means of announcing a special event or notifying either your staff or membership about an event, don’t overdo it. Too much and it can end up becoming too commonplace and eventually ineffective. Email is a great way to establish weekly or monthly updates to your departments or to any special group.

If you have the ability to send voice mail to a group, this is also a good method of announcing a special event or information you would like to get out quickly. Once again, email and voice mail are most effective if they are used regularly by the employees.

Keep a Daily Log

For many facilities, there is still a need for written memos. Having a daily log at the front desk is a necessity. Any and all information gets recorded in that log. This allows every employee starting their shift to catch up on what’s been happening.

It also helps to have every new shift start a few minutes earlier so that they will have time to talk directly to the person who is leaving. As much as many employees want to clock out and get out of there, they need to realize the importance of person-to-person communication. The daily log helps and the personal contact closes the deal.

You will find that you may need several daily logs, one for each department. This is especially true with the maintenance department and the cleaning people. How often have you seen something that needs to be addressed and were unable to take care of? That’s when you need a maintenance log so that every task can be addressed as quickly as possible.

Depending on the size of your facility, your ability to immediately reach your maintenance crew will also be enhanced with the addition of a good radio or phone system. Too many emergencies come up in facilities that need attention right away, and with many large facilities, the people you need can be hard to find.

Understand the Message

Good communication is an art form. It starts with the message, but is only complete if the recipient understands the message. Too often, your complete understanding of a topic may have you abbreviating the information. It may be clear as a bell to you, but it can be confusing to others who do not have the experience.

The reason this is such a concern is that many employees may say they understand a message when they really don’t, but they’re afraid to have you think they don’t understand. Good managers needs to stay on top of this issue. Without being too inquisitive, try to get into the habit of verifying information with your employees to make sure you are on the same wavelength.

To help make sure your message is understood and eventually executed, avoid clustering a bunch of information on top of an initial request. For instance, one of your employees wants to point out a particular problem, and while he is going over this you begin to point out several more issues you would like to have addressed. Stick to the topic; don’t cloud up the issues. Not only will you likely confuse the employee, but he may be reluctant to bring anything to your attention again.

Instead, note to yourself what other things you want done, then tell the employee that when he’s done with his project, you want to review other issues with him. Then schedule that in a more organized and prepared manner.

Another important aspect of good communication is making sure you have the facts. In a club, members and employees interact constantly. Facts can often be lost as information meanders through the club. Although you may want to keep any rumors from being part of your operation, in a club atmosphere it is unavoidable.

For that reason, research every piece of information you receive. Live by this rule: If you didn’t hear it from the source, then it’s not fact.

The reverse will also be true. As a manager, you will be quoted frequently. Many people will quote people in authority so that their statements have more weight. For this reason, when it comes to important subjects, keep a record of what you said.

Learn to listen first, then respond second, when anyone comes to you with a problem or a request. Get all of the facts.

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About the Author

Rod Heckelman  is the general manager and tennis pro at the Mount Tam Racquet Club in Marin County, Calif., where he has been for the last 31 years. His career in the industry started in 1967 at the famed John Gardiner’s Tennis Ranch. In 1970, when Gardiner opened his resort on Camelback Mountain in Scottsdale, Ariz., Heckelman, at age 20, became one of the youngest head pros in the country. He created the “Facility Manager’s Manual” based on his years of experience in the tennis business.

 

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