1. The practice of sound governance is the single most important controllable factor that will determine the level of success within your club.
  2. Importance of Benchmarking - a SMART club is a club where every decision made is backed by FACT.
  3. Member Experience - Bringing your Best to the Table, so your Members Feel Like VIPs


It was my pleasure and privilege to represent CMASA and attend the Club Management Association of America’s recent 2019 World Conference and Club Business Expo held in Nashville, TN, with Peet de Wet - our deserving 2018 Club Manager of the Year award recipient. Thank you once again to Jonas Software for their generous sponsorship of this award. Both Peet and I were blown away by the sheer scale of this conference; from the number of attendees - just under 3000 delegates, to the size of Music City Center (below left), where the conference was held, and the energetic vibe that was felt all down BROADWAY street.

One could not deny that we were in the COUNTRY MUSIC capital of the world.

It is truly amazing to witness the extent, culture, commitment and dedication to education & training that exists within the American club industry.

It is a given that if you wish to progress and develop yourself and your club, one recognises the value received from continuous learning & development, through attendance of specific education and training that is offered to them.

My hope is that we can reach this level of commitment and participation within our club community soon, and that clubs will quickly see the importance and value that continuous development will afford to them and their staff and increase their training budgets for their staff.

The Conference returned to Nashville after 26 years and offered club management professionals the opportunity to take part in more than 70 education sessions, peer networking events and preview the latest products and services available in the industry at the Club Business Expo.

Peet de Wet - 2018 CMASA Club Manager of the Year

I am so grateful to CMASA and JONAS Software for the wonderful opportunity to attend the World Conference & Club Expo in Nashville. The quality of the business sessions and educational presentations were world class and will assist me with my future career path and personal growth as Club Executive. The two-day Club Business Expo featured over 250 companies and the exhibition showcased every product and service a club management professional would need.

My club, Steenberg Golf Club will definitely benefit and capitalize from my exposure to the latest trends in the club industry.

Some highlights for me were how leaders in the industry embrace educational programmes and their continuous focus to improve staff retention and increased morale. Ultimately it will keep members satisfied and loyal to the club.

I encourage all our CMASA Club Executives to attend the next or future CMAA World Conference – it will be the best investment you will ever make to be a leader in the industry.

I have the utmost gratitude for our CMASA GM – Janyne Marais, who served as our brand ambassador during her presentation at the Global Leadership Networking Luncheon, the Global Symposium and various other international business and networking events.

Hopefully this report can bring our experience to life, and ignite a fire and passion within our members, in the short-term, to see value, benefit and growth in participating in our own local education and training programmes, and long-term, to set budget aside to develop your staff and for you as your club leader, to attend and experience a CMAA world conference sometime in the near future.

Day One: Sunday, February 24
After registering and bumping into familiar faces and re-igniting friendships developed from my attendance at previous conferences, we made our selection from 20 possible sessions of education. These sessions included The Relationship Factor: Secret Networking Strategies to Maximize Influence, Build Consensus and Create Engagement in Business and in Life; Performance Management: Adapting to a Changing Workforce, Cross-Pollination of Your Club’s Departments for Better Revenue Generation, Driving Profit in Food & Beverage, and IT Strategic Planning, and many more.

I attended the three sessions listed below, and have added my key takeaways from each:

  • The Relationship Factor – Relationships are the foundation for success in business and in life. One needs to build credibility through ongoing education, acquiring this either through business experience or by attendance of ongoing education. Relationship drivers are TRUST – VALUE – CONTRIBUTION.
    Communication determines the quality of the relationship a) Ask better questions b) Be a good listener.
    Subscribe to Harvard Business Review – Michael Hughes recommended that if we do not already subscribe to this review, we should do so as he has already seen benefit in ideas that have been successfully implemented in clubs.

  • Wake Up! The many faces of fraud at your club. How some of your employees are steeling you blind!
    Blaine Burgess from the Country Club of Little Rock highlighted the importance for GM’s to reconcile bank statements every 6 months; ensure segregation of duties is taking place; access to fuel on the property – are staff taking advantage; Cell phones used by staff to commit theft – don’t allow cell phones to be used during working hours.

  • Stop Coaching and Start Mentoring – this session was brilliant, and we will be sharing Robert’s insights on the value of mentoring with our MID learners at our upcoming MID workshops in May. A brief Excerpt is below:
    Understand the difference between purpose and passion.
    My advice to you is that you ALSO find purpose in what you are doing. I am in this business because I want to make a difference in the lives of the people I serve and the people I lead.
    That’s my purpose and no amount of hard work, stress, criticism or politics will change that. That’s why I get up the morning and look forward to coming to the club. What’s your purpose?
    If you are struggling to answer this question – ask yourself “who is it that you want to help?”

Day Two: Monday, February 25
The morning started with Opening Business Session where attendees heard from candidates for the CMAA Board of directors and CEO Jeff Morgan, FASAE, CAE, who addressed key CMAA developments in the State of the Association Address. Next, the 2018 CCMs (Certified Club Managers) were acknowledged and the inaugural class of 2019 CMAA Fellows were announced.

Once again, an extremely proud moment for us South African’s as our Honorary Member Michael Leemhuis, CCM, CCE, PGA Professional, was one of the chosen nine.

CMAA Fellows program is a recognition of the active thought leaders in our community with a mission to continue support of CMAA, the profession, and future CMAA Fellows initiatives.

Well done Mike - we are very proud of you and we appreciate all that you do for our club industry.

Then it was GAME DAY with featured speakers Kirk Herbstreit, Emmy-Award Winning Analyst joining Cooper Manning, host of the show “The Manning Hour” for Fox Sports, and Principal and Senior Managing Director of Investor Relations for AJ Capital Partners. He was one of the nation’s top wide receivers, signing with Ole Miss out of high school before a spinal stenosis diagnosis ended his playing career.

Even though we did not know much about the College football scene, the banter between these two popular personalities was highly entertaining and provided for a wonderful start and set the tone for an excellent conference.

Global Luncheon – thank you to Global Golf Advisors who sponsored this global networking event which allowed the global community to come together and meet each other at the start of the week. 17 countries were represented, 18 if we include the US managers and several CMAA Board members, Jeff Morgan and a few other key stakeholders.

I was asked to present a brief overview of CMASA’s accomplishments on what our association has achieved educationally in 2018 (highlighting BMI’s, Conferences, local programming and other initiatives in 2018).

Education continued day two with sixteen additional concurrent sessions including Simple Numbers for Business Segment Management, Small Footprint, Large Impact: Maximizing Your Boutique Fitness Center, Beyond Customer Service: Gracious Hospitality, and Taking Action on Membership Retention.

The afternoon’s general education session featured a 21-year veteran of the United States Air Force, Colonel Nicole Malachowski (USAF, Ret.).

She wanted to fly military jets from the moment she saw them at her first air show when she was five years old.

She achieved that goal – and then some. A leader, a combat veteran, the first woman pilot on the Thunderbirds Air Demonstration Squadron, an instructor, a White House Fellow, and an inductee into the Women in Aviation International Pioneer Hall of Fame, Nicole’s Air Force career exceeded her wildest dreams.


Nicole’s words resonated and inspired me deeply with her experiences as a member and leader of exceptional teams. How necessary it is as a pilot to have the headwinds to get you up into the sky, so that you can experience ‘blue skies and tail winds’.

Other powerful insights she shared and elaborated on when we are experiencing our own headwinds are to; cultivate your new perspective; embrace your new level of compassion; yield to overcome and show resilience to have resurgence.

Day Three: Tuesday, February 26
Time to visit the Club Business Expo. Approximately 250 club-industry specific vendors shared their latest products, services, and resources. I was interested in finding out more about two specific service offerings:
Club Resource Centre (CRC) – a platform developed by CMAA, it offers a simple and cost-effective way for clubs to train their employees. A variety of specific club related training is offered for all staff from F&B, Events, Marketing, Customer Service to Management. Annual survey reports are also made available.
ClubInsights – launched at the Club Expo, they focus on providing research and strategic planning assistance to clubs to enable them to harness the power of strategic intelligence to drive success.
Both services fall into CMASA’s objectives and we are currently engaged with local partners to bring these offerings to our member clubs. Watch this space…

In the early afternoon, the Career Opportunities & Mentoring Showcase took place. This job fair and networking forum allows GM’s and HR Managers to connect with hospitality industry students and potential future team members for their clubs.
Approximately 300 students from top hospitality programs around the country attended this event. Fabulous way to find talent!

More educational sessions available on several topics including Creating and Maintaining a Thorough F&B Curriculum, Team Building for 2020 and Beyond, and Point-Counterpoint: The Committee Adventure. I attended the presentation on DO I HAVE TO MAKE THAT PRESENTATION? Presented by Kevin Fish and Bill Sanderson.

Only spiders and snakes generate more fear in humans than the thought of public speaking! Kevin and Bill were amazing in providing a template and formula to conquer our fears when giving a presentation, whether it’s to our colleagues, to our members, our board, or in an official capacity at a function away from the club

The magic formula being – A+P+P.
A = Audience. Start with your audience, first time every time, without exception. Who are they?
P = Purpose. What do they want to hear? State your purpose to the audience. Show how it will benefit the audience.
P = Points. Decide on the points you want to make. Limit it to three points, no more than five. Deliver your purpose.

I’m hoping we can bring Kevin Fish out from Europe to deliver this interactive, fun and highly effective presentation at our annual conference in August. Watch this space…

The Networking Event took place on Tuesday evening at the historic Ryman Auditorium, with Jake Owen (a popular American country music singer). Predrinks and delicious food stations where offered prior to the main event at three popular bars on Broadway avenue – also known as ‘the strip’. Jason Aldean’s, Luke Bryan and Tequila! It was a very entertaining and eventful evening.

Day Four: Wednesday, February 27
Education sessions began at 8:00 a.m. with 90-minute educational sessions including Active Threat: Preparedness, Response, & Recovery, Seven Most Frequent HR Mistakes and How to Avoid Them, and Industry Insights.

Our GLOBAL LEADERSHIP SYMPOSIUM took place mid-morning from 10:45 for two hours, bringing together all the global attendees from Europe, China, New Zealand, Australia and Canada, for a powerful two-hour interactive presentation on ‘The Challenge of Change - How to build sustainable success’. Presented by Phil Kiester from VCC -The Country Club of Virginia, and John Schultz from Carmel Country Club. After giving us a brief overview of their club facilities and operations, which were amazing to see, they took turns in sharing their experiences of having to implement change at different clubs, at different times and with different teams, during their careers.

Many powerful insights were gained from this session for all involved, covering board dynamics and relations, member experience, employee culture and more. I recommend you download this presentation - CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD

During the afternoon, attendees could choose from fifteen, one-hour educational sessions including Financial Fundamentals, The Power of Video and How to Use It, A New Strategy for Human Resources Management, The Fine Art of Cultivating Connections: One Member at a Time, and Why ‘Me Too’ means ‘You Too’

I had the opportunity to browse the IDEA FAIR (think the science fair of great club operations ideas). There were more than 200 entries submitted by club managers from all over the country. Below are just a few of the winning ideas from certain categories. My favourites were the‘Stainless Steel Straws’ and ‘When Disaster Strikes’ as these are two very simple initiatives for clubs to implement and keep their members informed.

Many more have been posted on our Facebook page, and members will find huge value in looking through these and identifying which ones will work well for their own clubs.

Day Five: Thursday, February 28
It was another full day of education and opportunities, kicking off at 8:00 a.m. The day kicked off with five concurrent sessions including Advanced Crisis Communications and Media Relations for Private Clubs, Club Law Boot Camp, and Building a World-Class Golf Operation.

During the middle of the day, ten, 90-minute sessions were offered including Rejuvenation and Innovation in Clubs, Transform Your Culture, Ten Best Governance Practices, and Make Sure Your Website Isn’t Working Against You. I attended the Ten Best Governance Practices session, and members attending our GOVERNANCE WORKSHOPS next week, will receive the important messages and guidance that came from this session. The session gave structure to how clubs should be set up to ensure best practice and governance. It covered board/committee roles and responsibilities, strategic plan, constitution, legal compliance, importance of benchmarking for fact-based decision making and more. This presentation gave guidance to GM’s in re-assessing their roles and responsibilities between the Board/Committees and themselves, in their own clubs.
Another powerful presentation

The day ended at 3:30 p.m. with the Closing Business Session, spotlighting “The Pied Piper of Potential” and “Superwoman Undercover” Sarah Robb O’Hagan. Sarah is an executive, activist, entrepreneur, and now the founder and CEO of Extreme Living - a company designed to help individuals, teams, and organizations play to their highest potential. She is the former CEO of Flywheel Sports, the former president of luxury health club Equinox, the former global president of Gatorade, a former GM and marketing director at Nike, and a former marketing director at the Virgin Group. She is a rare blend of fierce businesswoman, cheer leading Mom, passionate women’s advocate, and high-energy innovator.

The Sessions I Attended of Note:

  • Advanced Crisis Communications and Media Relations for Clubs
  • Stop Coaching and Start Mentoring
  • Become a SMART CLUB - the value of benchmarking
  • Time Management Workshop

To access the presentations of the sessions I attended, they are available on our website, in the Members Only section - CLICK HERE.
Note – members will need to register on the website to gain access to these resources.