Tennis Industry magazine


All in the Details

With members, often it’s the little things that make the biggest difference.

By Rod Heckelman

With members, often it’s the little things that make the biggest difference.

You remodel a large portion of your club at great expense and feel very proud of your accomplishments. A number of members point out what an improvement it has made, but overall, the response is business as usual and life at the club goes on.

Then one day you replace your weighing scale in the women’s locker room, and it’s as if you had discovered a cure to a major decease. Almost overnight, the attitude of the club, especially from the women, has changed. Compliments and accolades abound, and it only took a few dollars. In the big scheme of things, you just spent a minimal amount of money, yet it had a major impact on your membership.

This is a perfect illustration of how members perceive the quality and character of their club. Often, it’s the little things that make the biggest difference. The reason is that these little things are not little things to the members. Being able to accurately measure your weight might be the most important part of a member’s day. They’ve been working out, trying for months to get in shape, and that scale is their way of measuring success or failure.

Life is full of surprises for your members. What will the traffic be like? What will the work day conjure up? What will the children bring home from school? There’s so much that your members just don’t have control over, and it can be very exasperating. When they come to the club, they don’t want that same experience — they want that scale to work the right way every day, no exceptions.

Changing Functions

If you look closely at your facility, you will notice a number of areas and functions that fall into this category. Try as you may, you will never find a way to keep many of these factors under control every day. Your best approach is to accept the fact that your club will have a number of functions that are vulnerable to change and erratic behavior. Make a list of these areas, and create an agenda that will allow the monitoring of these areas.

Here’s a list that might work for you, or at least get you started in the right direction. We might as well start with the scales. Take the time to check that they are adjusted correctly every day. Scales can get moved around during cleaning and can lose their accuracy.

Speaking of accuracy, how many clocks do you have in your club? With classes and court times, you need to keep everything synchronized. This is especially important to members because many will take off their watches when working out, playing or swimming. They become dependent on the clocks at your facility. It can be very disruptive if someone is playing on the tennis courts where the clocks are off by several minutes, and you have designated court times.

One thing that is constantly subject to member scrutiny is the room temperatures. If a yoga room is too cold or a spin cycle room too warm, you will get an earful from the members using that space. As much as you would like to lock down the thermostats, it’s not uncommon to have employees and even members try to adjust them. There’s also the possibility that the AC or heating system may have mechanical issues that need to be addressed.

Often more important than the temperature of the rooms is the temperature of the swimming pools, Jacuzzi, steam room or shower water. Any variation in the temperature of these amenities and members will take notice. Even a single degree can be detected by an experienced swimmer. Don’t take their comments lightly — the pool temperature is important to serious swimmers or those who are using the pool for rehabilitation.

Speaking of water, do you have a way to monitor the water pressure for your facility? When you are filling the pool, does the pressure drop in the showers? Members are acutely aware of this pressure, and with water conservation a concern, you need to let your members know that you are on top of it. Some will say that you should lower the water pressure in showers to save water, while others, especially those with long hair, will tell you that it is wasteful not to have good water pressure because it will take so much longer to wash the shampoo out of their hair. Whatever resolution you come to, you will want to keep things consistent and stable.

Club Ambience

Stabilizing functions at the club is always important when there are different opinions as to what is best. This will come up in the area of music, not only in the volume, but also in the type of music played. It will take some effort to find what works best for everyone, and to make sure that effort is not wasted, monitor the music daily so that the issue doesn’t come up again.

On the subject of ambience, review your lighting daily. Are the lights staying on too long? Have you adjusted the timers for seasonal time changes? This is an area that is also important for safety. A bulb that has gone out and has not been replaced for a few days can be a liability if it is located in a high traffic area. Lights burn out, and they never give you a warning when. Only a daily check will keep you abreast of this.

If your facility has different sports available to members, many of those sports use equipment that needs daily monitoring. The height of the nets on the tennis courts, the lane lines in the pool, or maybe the equipment used by some of the fitness classes, all need to be kept up to snuff so that the members are able to enjoy the sport or class on a consistent basis.

Finally, there are a number of products that you provide your members for their daily use. They count on these products being available 24/7. Are the water dispensers filled and cups available? If you provide coffee, do you also have cream, sugar and decaf handy? Are all the soap, towel and paper supplies kept filled? Are the chairs around the pool stacked properly and kept clean? Are the tennis court scorecards available for use?

There is a myriad of items that require inventory awareness and regulating, so you need to not only have a list, but look toward expanding that list as your club evolves. Creating this walkthrough list will help you remember things that you don’t want to keep hearing about. On those days when you hear nothing from the membership, you’ll know you have a handle on the details of your club.

The details may be the most important aspect of your club operation, but they essentially go unnoticed until there is a problem.

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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About the Author

Rod Heckelman  is the general manager at Mount Tam Racquet Club in Larkspur, Calif., and has been on the faculty for The Tennis Congress.



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