By Henry DeLozier
What is it that makes some people committed to serving others’ needs?
For Philip Newman, the winner of BoardRoom’s Award of Dedication, it is as simple as lending a hand to people who deserve his support.
“I think when you meet a group of people that by and large have charged themselves to make members happy by creating life experiences and memories for them and their families to treasure, it’s hard not to try and help them succeed.”
And maybe it’s just the Irish in him. A native of Northern Ireland, Phil emphasizes his commitment to club managers at the professional and personal level. He cites his dedication to club managers in the dedication they share with one another.
“I worked on audits of many different types of companies in a wide variety of industries early in my career,” Phil explained. “When I got to work with private clubs, I quickly realized how many different businesses, and business disciplines, were under one roof, and yet here was one lady or guy, charged with handling it all.
“Their willingness to help each other out, share information and best practices was a beacon for me and so different to the closed shops I’d encountered with other industries. Anything I could do to help these managers out, I tried to do, and still try.”
Then, again, there is that Irish determination at work as well.
“Phil always challenges the status quo by using his commonsense approach, and is willing to discuss the tough subjects such as governance in the club environment,” says Jim Butler, general manager at Grey Oaks Country Club in Naples, Florida.
“Phil has been an advocate for financial education in our industry, and has devoted a tremendous amount of time to the improvement of management and board leadership. Phil has made me a more effective club manager because of his active participation.”
The lessons Phil has so steadfastly taught club managers come down to a handful of important guides for every club manager:
1. Understanding the power of data for making decisions
2. Recognizing the value and insight of effective club accountants and CFOs
3. Educating your board and staff in a proactive and consistent manner
4. Keeping aware of internal controls to minimize the risks of fraudulent activities, and
5. Applying standards of best management practices consistently.
Bobby Crifasi, the general manager at New Orleans Country Club, notes “Phil has pretty much seen it all – the material he covers in his education sessions is hands-on and spot-on. There is probably not much in the accounting and auditing world of clubs and non-profits that he has not seen.”
Noting Phil’s mastery of fraud, internal controls and Form 990 reporting, Crifasi added “both not too exciting subjects but ones he has an ability to outline and assist every club manager in strengthening their understanding and the importance of each.”
Board education and training have proven extremely useful to Jeff Hartigan, general manager at The Oaks Club in Osprey, Florida.
“Never stop educating your board and proactively provide board members with industry publications and resources and attend seminars together when possible. We all have areas to improve upon,” Hartigan learned.
Hartigan observes that it was Philip Newman who taught him to “constantly benchmark your club’s financial performance and share that information with your board and then create measurable KPIs, which are tied to bonuses for you and your management staff to improve on lower ranked areas.”
Newman says it differently. “You must find someone that you trust to help you with the financial side of the club business. Whether that’s your controller, the CPA you use, or another manager with a strong financial background – you must have that firepower in your corner these days.
“The Great Recession highlighted that need and it isn’t going to dissipate – it’s only going to get greater. We can’t preach about running a club like a business if we don’t understand the language of business,” Newman intoned.
“It took me a few years, but I realized that I had to find a way to help managers understand the real-world impacts on their jobs of changes in the financial landscape. I try to remove the veil of fear or misunderstanding that can sometimes hover over the financial management side of club management and show managers how financial reports, tools and understanding can be their friend and often the most powerful tool they have in a boardroom.”
The many club managers who are his friends and clients say it more simply when they say, “He helps me be my best.”
So, the Award of Dedication is a sum of caring for others, helping them to learn and grow, and knowing your business. That is why Philip Newman is the recipient of such a significant award from BoardRoom magazine. BR