Lots of words could describe Liz and Ron Jaworski. Competitive, enthusiastic, passionate, committed to helping others, family-oriented, motivational. But the word that comes to my mind is Perseverance.
In an industry that is plagued with negative profitability and non-existent cash flow, has seen countless golf courses closed, is not just seasonal (their six golf course clubs are all in the mid-Atlantic states of New Jersey and Pennsylvania) but subject to the whims and vagaries of weather, the Jaworski’s have grown and created a thriving company with Ron Jaworski Golf (RJG), in spite of the obstacles.
Or maybe because of them…
“When it snows in April, after a harsh winter, it’s only the 2nd Quarter and you’re already behind” says Liz. “There’s really nothing else that you can do but push ahead, ask ‘what can we do now’ and count on your team to get there and motivate their teams. The numbers to hit only get bigger.” But for Liz, the President of RJG (Ron is the CEO), the obstacles are exciting. “The challenges excite me,” she shared recently, “Really they’re just a BIG opportunity to do better!”
1) Start with a solid Playbook, a clearly defined playing field and well-understood expectations.
Liz, Ron and their team have been students of the Scaling Up philosophy and the One Page Strategic plan™ since 2012 when Liz first came to our public workshop. The strategic planning and execution management “operating system” has been a big driver for their business ever since. Back then they had three clubs and about 300 employees at the height of the season. Now they’ve grown to six clubs with over 700 employees spread out over the clubs and at their headquarters.
“Each club is different,” says Liz. “So over the years we’ve evolved the plan so that it works for us.” While all of the clubs have the fundamentals of Core Values, Core Purpose, Brand Promise and Critical Numbers that are common across the company, every GM has their own longer term plan and One Year Initiatives and Rocks. And they manage to the numbers – daily. As Ron is fond of saying, “When any employee comes in on any given day, they should know exactly where they are on the field, what the score is, and what they have to do to win.”
2) Know your Critical Seats, Fill them with ‘A’ Players and Reward Success
“You can’t beat a great General Manager when it comes to running a successful club,” says Liz. It all comes down to their leadership and abilities. (Just as a great QB is critical to a great football team. J) Liz and Ron count on the GM’s to deliver and have used Top Grading, Scorecards and assessments like the Predictive Index to ensure that they have the right people in those seats.
They also reward exemplary performance with their BHAG program, which like everything Jaworski, Liz has given her own “twist”. For RJG the Big Hairy Audacious Goal is every year – $100K over budget for each club, with a trip to a different location as the reward for the entire leadership team of the club if they hit the goal. They’ve traveled to Orlando, Vegas and New Orleans with at different theme to rally around. This year it’s Phoenix with the book: The Energy Bus as their theme. Liz and the GM’s use meetings and events throughout the year to keep people focused and motivated, but ultimately it’s up to the GM to keep his or her team on track to win.
3) Believe in your players and never stop training and coaching.
Liz herself is a born learner. And she makes the commitment to always be coaching, training and developing her team. “My job is to make everyone Think Bigger, ”she says with conviction.
“When leaders first come board they learn the system, we teach them the numbers. We’re completely Open Book, and we share our expectations of them and what they can expect from us.” And then she follows up. Weekly. “I’ll always ask, what can I walk through with you? Where do you need help? What do you not get yet?” She works to keep their focus on the Big Picture, but also recognizes the need to break things down to make the end game more achievable.
“No matter what you can’t forget that we’re in the hospitality industry,” says Liz. RJG, despite the name, isn’t just about golf. They have a solid Food and Beverage business at almost every club and events and weddings are a significant part of their revenue stream – which helps them with their industry-leading profitability numbers. And they recognize that employees need to be passionate about what they do in order to maintain the levels of customer service and satisfaction that the Jaworski’s expect.
“You have to have a true desire to work in this industry and be service-driven. Liz shares, “You have to be willing to give up your weekends or this isn’t the right job for you. I start every interview with ‘here’s who we are and what we expect’. And I give them permission to leave if it’s not the right fit.”
4) Ask, how can we make this better?
When we first worked on the OPSP™ with Liz’s team, there was a lot of debate about the Core Purpose. What are we really here to do, they asked themselves. They were clear that their passion as a leadership team wasn’t just about golf. “We want to create memorable experiences,” said Liz. “That’s what we do.” But just to be sure, she went home and spoke with Ron and came back the next day with a new insight. “It’s not just about creating memorable experiences,” she shared, “Ron wants to add ‘for all’. Everyone who comes to one of our clubs should have a memorable experience”. And so ‘Creating Memorable Experiences for All’ became their Core Purpose, driving their actions and fueling their passion.
Not a day goes by that Liz and the GM’s aren’t asking for their teams to raise the bar. “What do we need to do to do this better, to do this memorably?” they’ll ask. “How can we help, not just to drive accountability, but also great performance?” Often it’s through experimentation and trying new ideas to help improve their customers’ experience. As their son BJ Jaworski, who’s an Executive Vice President in the business is fond of saying, “You don’t have to BE right. You just have to get it right.”
5) Create a robust Business Model and put the systems in place to support great delivery.
Of course, what underlies all great Execution is the system to support consistent delivery and the discipline to stay the course. And RJG has those processes in spades. Liz and her team use the 15 / Five Engagement / Coaching tool in conjunction with Individual Scorecards and Weekly tactical meetings at each club to review results, work through issues (recalibrating as necessary) and set direction so that everyone is on the same page. She also holds Monthly Meetings with the entire leadership team that are focused on results to date as well as looking ahead to address issues proactively.
A few years ago they created extensive SOP manuals that are taught to all of their employees and updated regularly. And they have adopted the 212 degree philosophy as part of their mantra. The idea that at 211 degrees you just have hot water but add the extra degree and that water boils and creates steam that can drive a locomotive. Ask anyone on any given day in the organization what they’ve done to create that 212 Degree experience for a customer and they’ll tell you. The commitment to going above and beyond is a hallmark of the culture that she and her team have created.
With over 30 years of experience, Cheryl Beth partners with small and mid-market CEO’s and C-level executives to create more valuable and sustainable companies. She has led strategic change initiatives, provided business advisory and coaching services to hundreds of small and mid-market companies and focused on providing a return on investment to every CEO with whom she has worked. Questions about how you can scale your business? Connect with Cheryl Beth on LinkedIn and drop her a message, she’s happy to offer some guidance.