The ultimate job security golf course superintendents can have – in good or bad economies – is when their golfers have the luxury of feeling unadulterated pride in the maintenance quality of their golf courses – whether the course operating formats be municipal, daily fee, or private.
Of course and unfortunately, bad economies do everything possible to minimize the opportunity players will have to grow pride in their golf courses by rationing the financial resources and manpower needed to deliver quality maintenance.
Does this suggest that the concept of course pride will be denied golfers for the foreseeable future? Not unless golf course superintendents give up on this concept first themselves.
For example: just like pride in a person’s dress can be maintained wearing less expensive clothes; just like pride in a chef’s meal can be maintained with access to fewer and less expensive foods; just like pride in a newly constructed house can be maintained independent of the cost of furniture and fixtures installed therein and so on . . .
. . . so too can golf course superintendents sustain their own and their players’ pride in the golf courses they maintain within an environment of diminishing resources.
The problem here is that when superintendents commit to the concept of budget cutting, too often they will at the same time, either consciously or sub-consciously, back off their “commitments to course wide excellence.” And, accordingly, pride goes fleeting and jobs are put in jeopardy.
Golf course superintendents can rectify this shortcoming:
1. By remembering to re-enforce their commitments to excellence when budget cutting.
2. By realizing that “commitments to excellence” can be maintained at virtually every level of project/program funding.
3. By understanding that form and style matter when maintaining a golf course as exemplified, in part, by orderly maintenance facilities, professional crew dress and communicating professionally; i.e., image always matters.
The order of the day for superintendents is to be “crisp” and “smart” with everything they and their crews do throughout the maintenance program. By so doing, proud golfers will respect their person and defend their jobs.
To increase job security in today’s economy, superintendents should put the welfare of their employers first by managing their maintenance programs aggressively to get fiscally conservative results; i.e., to find that compromise point (that will likely change from year-to-year) between declining course economics and maintaining the quality of the golf course.
In today’s economy, superintendents should place themselves in the shoes of their employers because this might be the only chance they will have to acquire the prerequisite vision needed to meet the demands of the day and to enhance their job security.
Furthermore, to protect their jobs should political, economic and/or weather related circumstances change during the season – superintendents should also manage their maintenance programs defensively by locking their employers into the following two initiatives:
1. Annually Updated Job Descriptions
Accordingly, superintendents should take the initiative:
a. To work with employers to ensure that there is a mutually agreed to annually updated “definitive” job description in play prior to each season that will clearly delineate responsibilities and hold both employee and employer accountable for their actions.
b. To schedule annual post-season face-to-face evaluation meetings with employers (where minutes would be taken) to identify the “good” and “bad” elements of the previous season for the record and to stop unfounded rumors from circulating throughout the campus.
An annually updated definitive job description is the best “insurance policy” superintendents can have to save their jobs.
2. Annually Updated Multi-Year Plans Of Action
Again, accordingly, superintendents should take the initiative to complement their yearly budget drafts with annually updated multi-year (with one, three and five year projections) fiscally oriented plans of action.
The primary advantages to be gained by complementing a budget with a fiscally oriented plan of action are that the latter embellishes the value of budget data: by breaking down the numbers into their more readily understood components; by providing graphic/visual support for data as needed; and – most importantly – by introducing a “time line” across the spending spectrum.
Managing solely aggressively will produce both benefits and problems for the superintendent; similarly, managing strictly defensively will do the same. Only by committing to the two management styles together will the dual set of benefits accrue to the superintendent while – at the same time – the dual set of potential problems will be negated.
Athletes with an ambition to excel in “seasonally defined” sports soon learn that the best/only time to develop their skill sets is during the off-season.
I can assure you that the likes of Michael Jordon, Larry Byrd and LeBron James have put in a minimum of ten hours of off-season practice time for every one hour of in-season game play and practice during their formative years. Similar situations are found in other sports.
The fundamental reason why off-season dedication is essential to athletic success is because it is only there that athletes can further develop and fine-tune their skill sets through experimentation and trial and error; i.e., when the pressure is off and practice times are unlimited.
Mistakes become learning experiences during the off-season – while mistakes put athletes on the bench during the season. Accordingly, athletes who do not commit to off-season development tend to play less aggressively and, therefore, do/can not play to win – but only to survive.
Exactly the same can be said for golf course superintendents who traditionally look to their off-seasons (or non-peak seasons in the South) as an opportunity to relax and make up time from the past rather than to dedicate themselves to professional and personal growth between seasons.
It is only through a dedicated off-season work ethic that golf course superintendents will be able to fully develop the skill sets the Good Lord gave them to excel in life and at their work.
The opportunities for superintendents to grow themselves between seasons abound; for example:
- Restore/re-energize self and family ties; vacation with children when possible.
- Socialize as a family beyond the immediate circle of industry friends/associates.
- Experiment/develop a new personal hobby.
- Read to self-educate and to facilitate the writing of publishable articles.
- Look for local short-term teaching opportunities.
- Commit to community service.
- Develop/update a career web site and a second web site for player/member communications.
- Prepare/update superintendent’s and key crew members’ job descriptions.
- Re-draft/submit a five-year plan of action each year to keep abreast of a changing economy.
- Look for creative ways to tighten department’s annual operating budget.
- Self-develop in-house video programs to enhance crew job, safety and self-growth performance.
- Analyze data, review crew performance and clarify/re-write SOPs as needed
- Commit to the on-going development of a second career opportunity.
. . . and so on.