Before he gets stuck into the mountain of paperwork that awaits in his office, General Manager Kok Min Yee starts his day with a quick tour of the Tanah Merah Country Club’s facilities.
Though he disavows the notion that he is a morning person, the start of each workday sees him take in the Singapore club’s two golf courses, clubhouses and other facilities. But one of the most important parts of the morning tour is talking to his team and keeping up with what’s happening around the Club.
Min Yee places a high value on the perspectives of his team and believes that a good leader needs to take on the insights of others. “There are always a lot of things that you do not know,” he says. “Realising that is part of our journey to learn, grow and expand. I find that when you have humility, you tend to understand your staff better, and this contributes to a better working relationship with your team.”
This air of communication, understanding and responsiveness that surrounds Min Yee’s relationship with his team has also been part of the Club’s relationship with its members since it opened in 1984. A country club’s success, after all, depends largely on its hospitality, and the estimated 80,000 golfers in Singapore expect the best service.
“Our philosophy for the Club is to be member-focused,” says Min Yee. “Member satisfaction is important to us and part of that is fulfilled by continually rejuvenating our facilities and our services.
This year, we have plans to renovate our Garden course. We have two 18-holes here and we have already engaged famous golf course architect Robert Trent Jones II [son of renowned golf course designer Robert Trent Jones] to redesign the course. We’re planning to start work as early as the first quarter of this year.”
“The key is being interested inand understanding of our members’ needs.”
One of the biggest sources of inspiration for Min Yee is seeing his leadership contribute to reaching new members. He’s passionate about ensuring members are not just satisfied with their membership, but proud of it.
While part of the means to this end is the creation of exciting new developments, Min Yee believes running a high-class club requires a deep connection with the members.
“The key is being interested in and understanding of our members’ needs,” he explains.
“Some of our staff – our ‘service champions’ – not only remember the member’s name and membership number, they even know the person, who their guests are, and who they prefer as a playing partner.
I continually hear from members that they feel like our staff take a personal interest in them, and that they’re getting a great service. That’s something we encourage.”
To further enable staff to take such an active part in members’ Club experiences, Min Yee has implemented a project of digitisation, integrating a new club management system.
It’s the first time the Club’s systems have been updated for some time, representing a major leap forward in infrastructure and capabilities.
With the rollout planned for the second quarter this year, some of the initial areas of improvement will focus on kitchen management and online ordering, taking much of the stress out of worker duties. Min Yee hopes it will improve efficiency, allowing staff to complete tasks quickly and smoothly.
“Mistakes can impact productivity, so we’re trying to minimise that by leveraging our technological capabilities,” he says. “A lot of this will handle our staff’s needs.
Once that’s settled, we’ll be moving into a more exciting area, with a members’ portal, for example. Members have been asking for services to be provided to them through mobile apps and such.
That will be the icing on the cake of the new club management system. It will provide us with an opportunity to reach out to our members better, understand their needs, and provide them the convenience they expect.”
As important as digitisation is, training is an equally crucial element in ensuring all member expectations have been fulfilled. The Club maintains a standardised training system organisation-wide, guided by performance appraisals and balanced scorecards that adhere closely to our vision and mission statement.
Given that the Club is a modern organisation, these are continually evolving and are updated as necessary, helping keep the staff themselves up to date.
“Of course, on-the-job training is a critical part of our business,” adds Min Yee. “We’re fortunate to have several service champions among our front-liners. Through mentoring and on-the-job training, new staff can learn the culture that our service champions have been providing.”
Maintaining a strong, highly competent team is essential, especially in Singapore where finding labour is an issue for all sectors. In fact, this is especially true of the service industry, which depends on person-to-person interaction.
To achieve this, Min Yee has the team examine their internal operations, re-engineer jobs and duties, and improve staff productivity.
The Club also employs the services of an external training company to ingrain service standards across the board. This supplier, like the provider of the Club’s new management system, represents an important part of the Club’s success.
These relationships provide benefits well beyond the basic definition of a client-supplier exchange, and thus the Club works hard to maintain them.
“We, as a club, work closely with our suppliers and vendors,” Min Yee says. “To that end, we find it’s important to collaborate with them, so they provide us with the best materials. Sometimes our suppliers offer us great ideas in terms of solutions, so we try to engage them as closely as possible.”