Home Posts tagged Diversity
Education Special Coverage

Grade Expectations

Michelle Schutt says that, while it may seem like Greenfield, Mass. is a long way from Twin Falls, Idaho (3,160 miles, to be exact), it’s really not.

At least when it comes to the issues and challenges facing the institutions that now comprise the top lines on her résumé — College of Southern Idaho (CSI), where she was vice president of Community and Learner Services, and Greenfield Community College (GCC), where she started just a few weeks ago as the school’s 11th president — and their overall missions.

“There are many similarities between these communities,” she explained. “There’s a high number of first-generation college students, people who are hungry for educational opportunities, definite need within the community … they are very much alike, which lends itself to the applicability of what I’ve done in the past and what I hope to do the future. I’m a big believer that education opens doors and changes family trees, and that we can all be educated.”

Schutt comes to GCC with a résumé that includes considerable work in the broad realms of student services and diversity, equity, and inclusion, and she said this will be one of the main focal points at GCC.

“If we’re going to recruit and retain students,” she told BusinessWest, “we’ve got to take into account their entire experience because often, it’s not the academic rigor or even the finances that keep them from succeeding; it’s the social-capital issues of how they’re maneuvering through life.

“COVID definitely exasperated the social needs of our students,” she went on. “But they were always there.”

Regarding diversity, she said this issue is often looked at through the lens of ethnic diversity — and that is certainly part of it. But there are many aspects to this matter, some more visible than others, and they must all be considered at institutions like GCC.

“If we’re going to recruit and retain students, we’ve got to take into account their entire experience because often, it’s not the academic rigor or even the finances that keep them from succeeding; it’s the social-capital issues of how they’re maneuvering through life.”

“It’s a little cliché, but this is a bit of an iceberg topic,” she explained. “There are the physical things that we notice about each other, and then there’s the 90% of the iceberg that’s below the water line; you really need to get to know someone before you can fully understand how they, too, are diverse.”

Schutt told BusinessWest that, after more than 20 years of work in higher-education administration — work that had taken her from St. Cloud, Minn. to Hanover, Ind., Laramie, Wyo., and then Idaho, she considered herself ready to be a college president, and began looking to apply for such positions.

This recognition didn’t come overnight, she said, and it was actually several years after the then-president of CSI asked her to consider that position before she considered herself truly qualified and ready to take the helm at a campus.

She said she looked at a few opportunities that presented themselves — there have been a number of retirements and shifts in leadership in higher education (as in other sectors) over the past few years — but soon focused her attention on GCC.

Schutt said the school — which this year celebrates its 60th anniversary — and its mission, the area it serves, the team in place, and the institution’s prospects for future growth and evolution all appealed to her.

Her immediate goals are to become acquainted with the school, its staff and faculty, as well as Greenfield and the broader area served by the college.

Looking longer-term, she said she wants to properly position GCC for a future where enrollment will be even more of a challenge than it is today, and where students’ ‘needs,’ a broad term to be sure, will only grow.

“Nationally, we’re heading for an enrollment cliff,” she said, adding that 2025 is the year when already-declining numbers are expected to reach a new and more ominous level. “We have to ensure that we’re offering what people need and what people are looking for; we have to take a look at what we’re doing in workforce and in community education and what we’re doing with credit-based courses, and align those with good outcomes.”

 

Course of Action

As noted, Schutt brings to GCC a résumé dominated by work in student services, with a focus on diversity and inclusion.

At the College of Southern Idaho, where she started in 2015, she held several positions, starting with associate vice president of Student Services, then vice president of that same department, and, starting just last year, vice president of Community and Learner Services.

“If they’re stressed about some sort of insecurity or some issue related to childcare or transportation, it’s really difficult to focus on calculus. That’s where student affairs and student services come in — to educate the entire student.”

She lists a number of accomplishments, including a sharp rise in enrollment for the 2020-21 school year; steady increases in Hispanic student enrollment, from 17.8% in 2015-16 to 26.3% in 2109-20; and improvement in the graduation rate from 20% in 2016 to 34% in 2020.

But she believes many of her most significant gains came in the realm of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Indeed, Schutt noted that, in helping CSI become a Hispanic Serving Institution (HIS), she recruited and hired bilingual staff members for each area of Student Services, spearheaded CSI’s first HIS Week, lobbied the board of trustees for gender-neutral bathrooms on campus, developed and offered a program called Parent College in both English and Spanish, established the Gay-Straight Alliance student group, and advocated for and hired the school’s first full-time veterans’ coordinator.

Prior to CSI, she served as director of Student Affairs at Penn State University’s campus in Scranton. As a member of the school’s senior administrative leadership team, she was engaged in strategic planning, policy development, and problem solving.

She said that she gravitated toward work in student services (she also teaches) because of its importance to the success of not only students but the institution in question. Summing it up, she said such work falls into the realm of student success and making sure they can get on — and stay on — a path to achieving their goals, whatever they may be.

“It’s about ensuring that their housing and food and social integration and mental health and physical health are all taken into account as it relates to their journey,” she explained, “because all of those things play a factor in their academic success.

“If they’re stressed about some sort of insecurity or some issue related to childcare or transportation, it’s really difficult to focus on calculus,” she went on. “That’s where student affairs and student services come in — to educate the entire student.”

When asked what she liked about this aspect of higher education, she said there are many rewards that come with it, especially those derived from helping students clear some of the many hurdles to success.

“I love that we’re able to help each and every student achieve their goals, and that we are looking at them as individuals, as humans, and not another person in a seat, and that we’re educating the whole person.”

“I love that we’re able to help each and every student achieve their goals, and that we are looking at them as individuals, as humans, and not another person in a seat, and that we’re educating the whole person.”

Looking to take her career in higher education to a higher plane, Schutt looked at several job opportunities, but eventually focused on the presidency at GCC because of what she considered a very solid match.

Compatibility was revealed the initial interview, conducted via Zoom, and then reinforced at a day-long, in-person session, during which she met and took questions from several constituencies, including faculty, staff, students, and other stakeholders.

“There is a shared set of values that focuses on students and recognizes the importance of community integration for a community college,” she said when asked what she came away with from that day’s experiences.

“When I came to campus, it was validating to meet people who truly care about students,” she went on. “And that was conveyed in every group that I met with; that was conveyed by the students — that they felt they were cared for. And those things are really important to me; you can’t make that up. And the end of the day, if you don’t care about students, the students know that.”

 

School of Thought

As noted, Schutt will bring a deep focus on the importance of equity, diversity, and inclusion to her new role, noting that, while she has always had an appreciation for these matters, it reached a new and much higher level through her experiences teaching English and social justice.

“I was teaching in the evening, when we had the greatest diversity of students,” she explained. “And to understand the general college-student experience was really eye-opening to me and made me a better administrator.

“That’s because, as a vice president, you see the highly successful students, or the students who were in great despair, who may not persist no matter how we helped them,” she went on. “To see the 40-year-old mom coming back to school, the 16-year-old dual-credit student, the student with limited English acquisition, the working dad … all those people coming together in one class really opened my eyes to the immense diversity in who we educate in community college.”

At CSI, Schutt said, it became a priority for the school to become a Hispanic Serving Institution, and the many steps taken to achieve that status became learning experiences on many levels. And, ultimately, they helped enable the school to better serve all its students.

“We worked really hard to make sure we were understanding the Hispanic student experience and that we were ensuring equitable outcomes and inclusionary practices,” she explained. “There were always critics who would say, ‘you’re focused on Hispanic students only.’ Well … no, we were making all our practices and policies better for all of our students.

“We worked very hard to get designation, but along the way, we also worked on broadening our understanding and awareness of all students,” she went on. “I lobbied in front of the board of trustees for more gender-neutral bathrooms and started a food bank and made sure we had a full-time veterans’ coordinator. Those are things that improve opportunities for all our students.

“When we’re taking about equity, we’re making sure that everyone has the same opportunity,” she continued. “But how they get there may look very different, and the inclusion component of it is celebrating those differences, and there’s a lot of work to be done — in the field, in society — and Greenfield isn’t any different.”

Elaborating, she said it’s one of her goals to soon have an administrator focused specifically on diversity, equity, and inclusion, a broad realm that, as she said, goes beyond ethnic diversity and to those matters below the tip of the iceberg.

“DEI here might look at educational attainment, it might look at poverty and wealth inequities, it may include LGBTQ identities — there’s diversity everywhere,” she said. “We can’t say, ‘we all look the same here in Greenfield or in the Pioneer Valley, so there is no diversity.’ Diversity is everywhere; it just may not be as obvious.”

 

Class Act

Looking ahead, Schutt said she’s looking forward to filling her calendar with meetings with local officials and members of the business community as she works to gain a broader understanding of the community served by the college.

She’s also looking forward to the fall, and a projected increase in enrollment as the school looks to fully recover from the pandemic and its many side effects, as well as the coming year, an important milestone for GCC as it celebrates 60 years of growth and change.

Mostly, though, she’s looking forward to continuing what has become, in many respects, her life’s work in student services and diversity, equity, and inclusion.

As she said, if schools like GCC are to successfully recruit and retain students, they must take into account their entire experience. And this will be the focus of her efforts.

 

George O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]

Law Special Coverage

Implementing Such an Initiative Can Provide a Number of Benefits

By Kylie Brown and Tanzania Cannon-Eckerle

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) initiatives are being discussed more than ever in conference rooms, boardrooms, human-resources departments, and administrative offices. This is exciting, and for companies implementing these initiatives, one of the benefits incurred will be the creation of internal processes and procedures that will mitigate perceptions of discrimination and harassment in the workplace.

Massachusetts law requires that businesses maintain a harassment- and discrimination-free workplace. The law states, in summary, that it is unlawful to discriminate or harass in the workplace because of race, color, religious creed, national origin, or sex.

According to the related laws, a Massachusetts company has a duty to maintain a workplace that is free of discrimination and harassment. It would be fiction to state that it is possible for a company to ensure that it maintains an idyllic workplace for everyone. There are too many unique and diverse humans, too many variables. The good thing is the law does not require a company create an idyllic retreat.

However, it does require companies to do their due diligence to create and maintain a discrimination- and harassment-free workplace, and if something does occur that might meet the definition of discrimination or harassment, a company must address the matter in a timely fashion and implement remedial measures when and where necessary. As such, companies must prepare to manage the possibility of these occurrences. It would be most beneficial if a company did not wait to implement remedial measures in response to wrongdoing or after an incident has occurred; the programs should already be in place.

DE&I initiatives provide a multitude of benefits to an organization with returns that are both ethically and financially calculable, including assisting in the creation of discrimination- and harassment-free workplaces.

It can be difficult to calculate a financial return on prevention; however, in the realm of discrimination and harassment, prevention can be calculated by the declining costs of litigation. Creating a workplace that assures that policies are created to prevent harassment and discrimination, and that procedures are implemented to enable the consistent and equitable application of policies to all employees, will cause a decline in the appearance of harassment and discrimination and will diminish legal costs to a company — and costs to the company’s reputation.

The reason why DE&I initiatives work so well in this manner is because DE&I initiatives foster equity in the application of all workplace mechanisms and thus, once firmly established, naturally create a workplace environment free of discrimination and harassment, to the extent practicable. This is because, once DE&I initiatives are firmly established, most employees will feel a sense of belonging as they will feel heard and have a sense of empathy for their colleagues which fosters a team-oriented culture and problem-solving mindset. That not only prevents lawsuits, but it will also save money in the form of retention. Furthermore, data has shown that productivity and creativity increase, as does employee wellness.

Kylie Brown

Kylie Brown

Tanzania Cannon-Eckerle

Tanzania Cannon-Eckerle

“It can be difficult to calculate a financial return on prevention; however, in the realm of discrimination and harassment, prevention can be calculated by the declining costs of litigation.”

Unfortunately, many companies have leaders who have not identified DE&I as a cost-savings measure, or many leaders don’t know where to start. This article cannot, in the limited space provided, cover the entirety of what can be discussed in the realm of DE&I. However, we seek to plant a ‘can-do’ seed of desire to create DE&I initiatives in one’s workplace as a means of creating safe and discrimination- and harassment-free workplaces, by showing that creating such a workplace just takes a plan and a commitment to execute.

This article is one of a series that seeks to assist businesses with an inside-out approach, using existing resources to set up a sound foundation to grow a robust DE&I initiative within their company, and to create a workplace that is discrimination- and harassment-free while also becoming more ethical and more financially successful. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It can be tweaked along the way.

First, we start at the beginning. Let’s demystify DE&I.

 

What Does DE&I Even Mean? And What About Belonging?

Let’s broaden the concept to DE&I and B, or belonging.

Diversity means to be composed of different elements or offer variety. In application to the workplace, this translates to different people, through race, gender, and/or sexual orientation, with different cultural, social, and economic backgrounds, bringing their thoughts and ideas to the table.

Equity is the act of giving everyone in your pool of diversity fair treatment in access, opportunity, and advancement in the workplace, through processes and procedures implemented in a consistent manner. It’s recognizing we don’t all start from the same playing field and carries an idea of fairness and neutrality. That’s the difference between equity and equality.

Inclusion means being included in or involved in material decision making in the workplace at the appropriate level, and having the freedom or enterprise-level permission to weigh in on items of import that are relevant to one’s job and actually being heard. Identification of stakeholders are important here.

Belonging is what happens when a company has a strong foundation of continued diversity, equity, and inclusion processes, protocols, habits, and other customs of practice, and having a sense of being accepted as one’s authentic self at work that is supported by equity and inclusion. The goal should be to have an engrained DE&I model that is engrained in every aspect of the company so that it becomes common practice.

 

Where to Start?

First and foremost, focusing on DE&I must be in line with the overall business mission, values, and objectives in order to be successful. Second, there must be buy-in from all levels of the organization. Identifying what it will take to get that buy-in is important and will vary depending upon the audience. Third, identify the DE&I goals and why these are the goals. This is most likely dependent on what industry your company belongs to and how your company is structured.

Fourth, create a DE&I committee and identify who should be on the committee, and provide them with defined authority to act. This will create company accountability for continuing on with the initiatives. Fifth, do gap assessment. Where is the company now? Where does the company hope to be? What needs to be accomplished get there? What are the potential obstacles? How will they be overcome?

 

Gather Data

Focus on the return on the investment (know your audience). The return on investment might look different for the frontline supervisors than it does for procurement or accounting. Analyze the upfront costs, such as change in recruitment tactics, utilizing more networking forums, and potentially creating new roles to support the new business outlook

Where can we implement DE&I initiatives? DE&I can be external, by using diverse vendors, or internal, by establishing an equitable approach to handing out assignments. Every time a new business development is discussed, whether internally or externally, it creates another opportunity to include DE&I.

Identify stakeholders and talk to them. Encourage discussion on the topic of DE&I. Discuss their opinions on issues that impact them in the workplace. Gathering employee opinions and concerns will enable the company to make positive changes that will prevent issues and increase employee engagement. Hold open-forum discussions such as town-hall listening sessions — not talking sessions, where company executives talk at employees. These are great opportunities to listen to others and allow all staff to be heard.

A review of company documentation should be conducted to find existing areas where improvements may be needed. Obtaining statistical knowledge and data of the current demographics throughout the general workplace, as well as upper-level management, will help assist you in realizing where there is a need to implement DE&I.

 

Sell It

Make DE&I identifiable in the company mission. Make it a part of the company brand if possible. Involve company leaders in the celebration of meeting goals around DE&I initiatives. It is vital to get leadership support for the success of any DE&I initiative. Sell it to all employees. Create a well-thought-out communication plan. It is important that companies are knowledgeable about the prospective initiatives so they can answer any and all questions that may arise.

The company should support its initiatives by marketing them internally and externally to the general population, which could lead to potential exposure to overall business growth and development.

 

Implement It

At the core of implementing a successful DE&I program is implementing it in a manner consistent with the company mission, vision, and strategy. Including DE&I initiatives in your business model provides business growth opportunities and positive employee relations.

Implementation can start with recruitment, attracting different people from different backgrounds in order to bring new ideas to the table. Infuse DE&I in the employee-relations program by creating policies that are developed with the input of a cross-section of stakeholders and are consistently applied in an equitable manner.

Infusing all company mechanisms with DE&I approaches will be justified by the quantifiable growth and development it produces, as well as the prevention of discrimination and harassment lawsuits — and by the sense of belonging the company’s workforce maintains.

 

Kylie Brown is an associate attorney at the Royal Law Firm who specializes in labor and employment-law, and Tanzania Cannon-Eckerle is the firm’s chief administrative and litigation officer, who specializes in business and labor and employment law with certifications in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Workplace Investigations. The Royal Law Firm is a woman-owned, women-managed corporate law firm that is certified as a women’s business enterprise with the Massachusetts Supplier Diversity Office, the National Assoc. of Minority and Women Owned Law Firms, and the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council.

Sports & Leisure

Diversity, Revenue Streams Are Key to Clubs’ Success

Attilio Cardaropoli displays one of the new four-passenger carts

Attilio Cardaropoli displays one of the new four-passenger carts at Twin Hills Country Club, one of many steps taken to make the game more enjoyable.

The golf business has never been entirely about golf. There has always been a need a diversity in the form of food and beverage, weddings and other events, and even cross-country skiing in the winter. But at a time when clubs are being challenged by declining play and rising expenses, the need to create revenue streams and put all their facilities to use has never been greater.

The ‘10-year challenge.’

That was the social-media phenomenon that started in early January and fizzled out … maybe in mid-January. You remember. Everyone was posting photos of themselves from then and now in an effort to judge who fared best over the ensuing decade.

People did it. Internet companies did it. If Twin Hills Country Club in Longmeadow did it, it would certainly have fared well against like facilities. Indeed, a decade ago, it was almost a casualty of a changing golf business and a new subdivision in a town that hadn’t seen one built in decades.

But Attilio Cardaropoli, a Twin Hills member who thought the club’s day hadn’t yet come, bought it and commenced writing a remarkable turnaround story. There were 85 members when he acquired it; now there are north of 300, and the number is holding steady. Back then, the course was tired and needed a facelift; same for the clubhouse. He’s done all that work and continues to make improvements every year inside and out, a formula that is certainly working.

“We keep making improvements — every year, we designate some area that needs some attention and improvement, and we continue to do that,” he explained. “Our members like to come in every season and see something new that’s been added on. It’s been a big factor in our success.”

But not many golf operations would have fared nearly as well with the 10-year challenge. The past decade has been a continuation of challenging times that peaked with the Great Recession and improved only slightly in the intervening years.

The story has been told many times. It’s about a falling level of interest in the game, especially among young people, families putting their time and money into avenues that don’t include the local country club, some closures among the area’s large roster of courses, and intense competition among the courses that remain for a shrinking pool of golfers.

And then, in the summer and fall of 2018, the story got even worse, as seemingly relentless rain, a lot of it coming on all-important weekends, erased days from the calendar, robbing clubs of revenue they couldn’t recover.

Dave DiRico, seen here with his son-in-law, Drew Michael

Dave DiRico, seen here with his son-in-law, Drew Michael, says both public and private courses must be diverse operations with a number of revenue streams.

“We had nine rainouts on Tuesdays, and it rained quite a few Saturdays and Sundays, too,” said Ryan Hall, head pro at Springfield’s two municipal courses, Franconia and Veterans, referring to both leagues and daily-fee golf. And with such washouts, a club loses more than greens fees — there’s also cart rentals and food and beverage.

“And people aren’t going to go out and play twice as much the next week,” said Hall, adding that this revenue is essentially lost.

As the 2019 season commences — thankfully early for the clubs able and willing to welcome players in early April or even late March — many challenges remain, said Hall and others we spoke with, but so does a high level of determination to find solutions to the current problems in the golf industry.

Some of them don’t necessarily involve golf, although they relate back to it some ways.
Indeed, diversification and securing new revenue streams are a huge component of the success formula for any club today, public or private, said those we spoke with. This means everything from the 19th hole — many clubs are redoing them and retooling menus at the same time — to more special events, from Mother’s Day brunches to cruise nights to weddings and banquets.

Meanwhile, on the golf side, the driving forces, as always, but especially in this climate, are providing value to existing customers, generating repeat business, and trying to grow the pie by attracting new players, especially when it comes to women and young people.

In some respects, Hall said, a large number of people now in their 20s, 30s, and early 40s are not involved with the game because they were not actively introduced to it and encouraged to play it. The industry seems intent on not making this same mistake with today’s young people.

Indeed, it is being more aggressive in getting them on the course through programs like the PGA Junior League, which creates teams of young people who practice together and play against teams from other area courses in an effort to introduce them and ease them into a game they can play into their 90s.

Springfield’s municipal courses have not participated in the program to date, but Hall plans to change that because of the program’s proven success in generating enthusiasm for the game.

“We just have to get golfers out there,” he explained. “We have to get these young kids to start to understand the game a little bit; it starts at the junior level, and if we can start to develop those skills a little bit and develop a love for the game at that age, we can grow the game.”

For this issue and its focus on sports and leisure, BusinessWest talked with a number of area club owners and operators and pros to gauge what the 2019 season holds. In most all respects, it holds more of what’s been seen over the past decade, which means still more grinding things out.

Course of Action

As he offered BusinessWest a quick tour of Twin Hills to highlight the latest changes and improvements, Cardaropoli stopped by the first tee. There, he asked one of the attendants to bring around one of the new four-passenger golf carts the club put into operation last year.

The majority of the club’s golfers make a point of walking, he noted with a discernable dose of pride, adding quickly that, for those who want or need a lift, the new carts have proven to be quite popular, especially with young families.

“Dad can go out with two or three kids, and they can all ride together,” he said, adding that, while this was the constituency everyone had in mind when the carts were ordered, others have taken a liking to them as well.

Ryan Hall says it’s imperative for those in the golf business to grow

Ryan Hall says it’s imperative for those in the golf business to grow the market by encouraging young people to take up the game.

“Older members are saying that this is a way they can be more sociable — they like them, too,” said Cardaropoli, adding that they are also popular with some playing in the many charitable tournaments hosted by the club, especially those where pace of play is generally slow and four people driving around in the same cart hunting down golf balls won’t slow things down any further.

In many ways, these four-passenger carts are an example of how Twin Hills, and all clubs, are reacting to changing forces around them. They’re responding with strategies to perhaps bring more people into the game and also make it more enjoyable.

And it’s all necessary because, unlike 20 years ago, as Tigermania was sweeping the country and clubs merely had to open the register and point to the first tee, now they have to work at it — and work pretty hard.

Assessing the situation, Dave DiRico, owner of DiRico’s Golf & Racquet in West Springfield, a course pro for more than 30 years, and a close observer of the region’s golf market (for obvious reasons), said the laws of supply and demand have certainly caught up with the golf industry — nationally and also locally.

In short, there’s more supply than current levels of demand would dictate. That’s great for people looking for tee times, but not for course owners facing ever-climbing expenses for everything from personnel to fertilizer and an ultra-competitive market where raising prices is essentially not an option.

All this has led to a thinning of the herd. In late 2017, Southwick Country Club was sold to a residential real-estate developer, and houses are now taking shape along the old fairways. And in Amherst, Hickory Ridge Country Club has closed and will become a solar farm.

These developments certainly benefit the courses remaining in those respective areas, said DiRico, noting that Agawam’s four public courses, Wesfield’s three, and the two remaining in Southwick all picked up some business from the closure of Southwick Country Club. Likewise, remaining courses in Amherst and neighboring Belchertown stand to benefit from Hickory Ridge’s demise.

But the market is still saturated with both public and private courses, he went on, adding that, to be successful, operations must focus on the total experience and not just 18 holes — although that’s a big part of it. And they have to put all of their facilities to work generating revenue.

This is nothing new, really — it’s always been this way — but in this environment, such diversity takes on heightened importance.

“A lot of clubs are doing functions now — weddings, showers, whatever they can book,” said DiRico. “That’s a big part of supplementing their revenue; they need to do those things.

“You need food and beverage,” he went on. “That’s a big revenue center. Years ago, many of the courses didn’t have elaborate food and beverage operations; now they’re adding them because they’re so important.”

Elaborating, he said such amenities enable clubs to book more tournaments because they can handle not only the golf but the networking, dinner, and awards presentation that come after — one-stop shopping that tournament organizers desire, and often demand.

Franconia has historically lost some events and been able to handle only the golf side of many tournaments because it didn’t have a facility on site, said Hall, adding that this will change this year with the addition of a large pavilion built late last year.

It’s a simple structure that is not enclosed, but still, it will enable tournament organizers to stage a dinner on site, rather than forcing participants to drive to the nearby Elks lodge or an area restaurant. And Hall said he can already see the impact in the number of events he’s booking this offseason.

“Having that pavilion is going to help us a great deal — we’re really growing that outside tournament business already,” he told BusinessWest. “People are excited about it, and they want to take advantage of it.”

Going for the Green

Looking back on his first 10 years of ownership at Twin Hills, Cardaropoli said a number of factors have contributed to the club’s turnaround.

He listed everything from some good fortune in the form of some private clubs moving to a semi-private format (Crestview and nearby Elmcrest, for example) and some struggles at other clubs, to strict policies at Twin Hills regarding assessments (there are none) and rate structures — the only real deals are given to long-standing members.

“A lot of clubs are doing functions now — weddings, showers, whatever they can book. That’s a big part of supplementing their revenue; they need to do those things.”

But the real keys have been continuous investments in all aspects of the property, from the course itself to the banquet rooms to other facilities.

Like the pool area, which is currently being expanded to create a larger play area for children, said Cardaropoli, who pointed out the ongoing work while offering his tour.

Meanwhile, on the course, work will start soon on the second and 11th holes — drainage, bunker work, and more — following improvements made last year to the seventh and eighth holes to enlarge the greens, reposition bunkers, and remove dozens of trees, a step taken to help improve drainage and even speed up play.

“Every year, we have a course designer come in and help us renovate the golf course, and every year we end up doing complete renovations on several holes,” he explained. “This past year, we removed 225 trees from the golf course, which makes it a lot healthier and able to dry up quicker after we have rains.”

Ongoing improvements are needed to retain members and attract new ones, he went on, adding that investments in the banquet facilities have also opened the door to additional bookings of weddings and other events, key revenue generators that help enable Twin Hills to avoid the assessments that have plagued other clubs.

And while private clubs are a breed apart in the golf industry, a focus on the customer and providing value are needed at all clubs, said DiRico, who noted, again, that the equation must involve more than just golf.

“To be more successful, clubs have to be more universal in what they provide,” he told BusinessWest. “And that’s not just for public golf, but private golf as well. The private clubs have to do a better job of keeping the families there — they have to be value-added facilities, and by that I mean that it’s not just golf anymore.”

But golf is the foundation for most of those other revenue streams, said those we spoke with, so it’s imperative to bring new players into the game. And the obvious focal point is young people, said Hall, adding that the PGA Junior League has enjoyed a great deal of success in this realm.

“You take kids and create teams — in Springfield, we could probably have one to three teams of maybe 12 kids — and you give them practice once a week, and then we set up matches against other clubs,” he explained, adding that the team format and scramble mode of play (everyone goes to where the best shot came down and plays from there) help ease people into a game that is in many ways daunting and even scary.

“You get kids who may be intimidated by golf because they don’t want to play off their own ball or be by themselves, so you play that scramble format and as a team against other kids their age,” Hall went on. “You develop their skills that way, and this is imperative to growing the game.”

Imaginative Strokes

DiRico said that, despite all the rain last year — or maybe in part because of it — he had his best year since he opened his store eight years ago.

He theorizes that people who couldn’t play focused at least some of those energies on buying new equipment and accessories for when they could play. It’s just a theory, and he listed several more solid reasons why business was so good in 2018 and the first three months of 2019.

These include everything from the store’s fitting services — no one should play clubs off the rack anymore — to the hot new drivers that everyone wants.

Whatever the reason, that side of the golf business is apparently holding its own. The rest of it? It’s as challenging as ever, as any club taking the 10-year challenge can attest.

George O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]

buy ivermectin for humans buy ivermectin online
buy generic cialis buy cialis
payday loans online same day deposit 1 hour payday loans no credit check