By Dave White
“My goal is to help private clubs by creating a better board that is well informed, well educated and represented.”
That’s the objective of Gordon Welch who is taking over the reins as president of the Association of Private Club Directors, the parent association of BoardRoom magazine.
“Through information, education and representation we will help produce a better run club and improve the communication between the board and the general manager,” Welch explained.
John Fornaro, CEO of APCD and publisher of BoardRoom magazine, in making the announcement said, “Gordon’s focus is on membership and education of club boards of directors…not the clubs themselves, but the directors who are representing the members. We welcome him aboard.
“There is certainly a need for board members’ orientation of their roles and responsibilities, and this will happen through BoardRoom Institute, the online board orientation program. It’s one of APCD’s products.
“Through this educational process, boards will be more prepared for their fiduciary responsibilities, long term planning and their other responsibilities as board members. And the objective is working collaboratively with the club’s paid management…collaborative governance is our goal.”
APCD is the association for private club boards, Welch intoned.
“As such, APCD provides information, education and support so that boards can better govern their club regardless of the size, location or structure. Our goal is to give the general manager and the club the best possible outcome through education of the board of directors,” Welch explained.
“We want to reduce the number of lawsuits in our industry. We want boards to focus on a club’s future…its long term sustainability and leave the day to day operations to the paid management. Too many boards are trying to micromanage the club and its management team.
“And we know we can have an effect in increasing the average tenure of a GM/COO and their staff through the education and knowledge of roles and responsibilities as well as boundaries,” he added.
Welch comes to APCD with a sparkling resume…including 16 years as a private club general manager, two years as CMAA’s director of education and another six years as senior vice president of CMAA.
“Serving the membership of CMAA for eight years was fantastic – a dream come true.
“But my passion to better educate boards comes from many years of working with boards and also serving as a board member.
“A board’s institutional memory is only as good as the last board, and we often make little use of that knowledge and information. If that board has no training or specific education regarding their position and history of the board, it will flounder. I’ve seen it happen. At that point the board starts making changes that, for example, often affect the integrity of the golf course and there’s often overspending.
“A tool such as APCD and its educational programs gives the board guidelines to help better serve the not only the board but also the membership, therefore assuring a better future for the club.
“During my 16 years as a GM/COO I have seen quality boards and loved serving the membership of these clubs while assuring growth and sustainability in a club.
Unfortunately, I’ve also seen directionally challenged boards, and also served at a club where the board had no backbone. As challenging as it was, I was forced to have a board member removed from a club because the board president would not act on behalf of the club. In that case, I wouldn’t allow the club to be sued for sexual harassment and had to make a difficult decision.
“Still, I’ve had thousands of positive experiences, watching members’ children grow up, being a part of their parents’ lives, and watching clubs grow and prosper.”
Welch was elected to CMAA’s National Board of Directors in 1996 and shortly thereafter joined CMAA as director of education. He was a CCM, CHE and member of the Honor Society.
“One of the annual discussions during that time focused how to help board members be more aware of their roles and how to reduce the fear of general managers being replaced every three years. That’s why APCD is a perfect fit for me.
“I understand all sides of this equation and have served in all of these capacities. I want to assure general managers that I understand their roles and am there to help. I want the board to know there is a better way to govern the club…that it can be done collaboratively and effectively.
Board training for APCD will be done through BoardRoom Institutes’ online training program.
“Our training at APCD is the best, most effective, trackable education on the planet. The BoardRoom Institutes’ training center touches on many club issues,” Welch expressed.
“It ranges from something as simple as the types of clubs and ownership and club structure and governance to the role of the president (and all of the executive committee and chairs), to fiduciary responsibility and strategic planning.
“We have the best in the business training your board and the best part – you don’t have to fly someone in, pay them to schmooze you for a day and leave with their big fat check! As a member benefit the BoardRoom Institute is included for all of your board members and committee chairs!
“As club leaders you want to make sure your board members are doing their homework and through the dashboard of the institute you can track who has logged in and completed their work and who hasn’t. It’s a great tool for any president or GM,” Welch added.
In Welch’s opinion, general managers will benefit as well.
“The GM benefits through proper understanding of the roles and the training APCD provides. The GM will be able to go through the same education as the board members so there is no misconception of what we provide. We are not out to trick anyone or upset anyone. We are here to give proper education.
“Our education tells board members about their roles and responsibilities, and that what they do doesn’t include micromanagement. In fact, we tell the board members that daily operations are the responsibility of the GM/COO and their staff. I would never suggest a board needs to be involved unless there are inconsistencies. Even with a discrepancy the board should stay out and have a professional review of the issues and make an educated decision,” Welch opined.
“From my own experience, the ability to work with a knowledgeable and well-informed board is priceless. A professional, mutual respect is the basis of a well-run organization. There is no bigger liability than an unqualified, disrespectful and underprepared board member. If you give us a chance, we will change that for your club.”
What does Welch see as today’s issues?
“Today’s issues are changing with generations. While we still see timeless issues of food and beverage or service, we see a greater challenge with young employees. There are high expectations and no dedication with many of today’s college grads and part of the private club is based on dedication and discrimination, “Welch explained.
“Other issues are as basic as, ‘What is my job as a board member?’ What do I do as a committee chair? How do we deal with board conflict?
“We continue to see clubs file for protection through our bankruptcy courts. We see golf continuing to drop off and we see clubs prostituting themselves to get dues income.
“In the coming months we will see the effects of world oil prices, the new world economy and a change of US Presidents having an influence on our cities and states.
“Clubs must hold true to themselves. Be who you are and what you know and what you are known for. Plan for or make policies on LGBT issues, equality in the boardroom and member conflict because they are coming to your club, if they’re not there already. It will happen in our industry.
“I do see a turn-around for clubs. As the GenXers age they will want some form of privacy for their families. It may be on a smaller scale, but the privacy issues will win out, “ Welch added.
“However, I think the pain that APCD does remove, and the problem, APCD can solve is trust. We must remove the lack of trust between the board and the general manager, staff and club members.
“This we can solve through the BoardRoom Institute. One of the new modules is going to be around better communication and trust,” Welch expressed.
“Club leaders need to understand that making staff feel safe on a deep level is a first priority, and I don’t mean sit down with the team and have a nice chat. That doesn’t build the type of trust that your club needs to be an effective high-performing club.
“In a recent Harvard Business Review a research study showed trust between leaders and their people is absolutely necessary in order for safety (trust) to exist and, ultimately create that high-performing team. Trust is formed by in-depth conversations backed-up by positive actions. Doing more than you promise is a highly effective tool.
“This,” Welch injected, “leads me to another module I want to produce…the annual transfer of power and expectations.
When there’s a transfer of power (a new president coming on stream), the past president is sent out to pasture to do nothing, and these people have so much knowledge. The past president goes from knowing everything and daily contact with most everyone to nothing.
“We need to address this because taking advantage of the past president’s knowledge can be a huge benefit to a club and GM. I also think ethics and equality in the boardroom are often issues we need to address.
“We can’t play Doctor Phil, but I do think we can have an impact on the longevity of the GM through discussion, education and development of trust. Some GM’s are gun-shy and just don’t have trust. With the board members and general managers trusting in each other, we can get there, “ Welch added.
Gordon Welch can be reached by phone at: (918) 914-9050 or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org