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Unlocking the Hidden Truth: What Executive Recruiters Keep Under Wraps in the World of Private Clubs

In the exclusive realm of private Clubs, there is an intriguing undercurrent that only those deeply entrenched in the industry truly know and comprehend.

Hello once again to all our Club-Fans and Appreci-onados! Here we are again with an honest and insightful behind-the-scenes look at private Club executive recruiting. Private Clubs operate in a world where the whispers of a potential change echo louder than you might think, even though they are seldom acknowledged by the executive recruiters themselves. Did you know that approximately 40% of senior hires wash out within their first 18 months? That’s according to recent studies reported by the Harvard Business Review and Heidrick & Struggles. And, due to the nature of their operations, the failure rate may even be higher in Clubs. This is despite the growing engagement of professional search firms by well-meaning Boards. The study defines an executive’s failure as having not met the organizational goals and expectations which were defined and agreed upon hire. After the honeymoon period, overall disappointment has often been felt in the lack of deliverables and loss of confidence in future performance. As one would expect, new hires “give it their all” at the start so how could things really improve? The massive direct and indirect costs of these statistics certainly gives one pause.

Why Such a Challenge?

Across almost all lines of industry, it is difficult to entice a senior manager who is perfectly content in their position to give more than a passing glance at a new job listing. The value of familiarity, job security, and deep knowledge of the territory they currently occupy tends to hold them firmly in place. And yet, when we peel back the layers, we discover myriad untold stories – the hidden considerations, hesitations, and complexities that private Club executive recruiters face, but prefer to keep to themselves. Imagine abandoning all that is familiar and facing the prospect of changing Clubs. Two main factors come into the forefront when considering a major move. It’s not just the thrill of a new opportunity recognized by the right-side brain, but it’s a decision fraught with potential pitfalls the left-side cannot ignore:

  1. The heavy psychological and economic impacts of relocation.

  2. The disruption to valuable seniority and associated benefits built over years.

  3. The inevitable burden of an increased workload, hours, and stress affecting personal lifestyle.

  4. The uncertain path to success in a fresh role which may present hidden risks.

  5. The navigation of new political landscapes and avoidance of hidden traps and disappointments.

  6. The challenge of winning over legacy employees who are resistant to change (and you!).

  7. The pressure of meeting sometimes unreasonable expectations from boards and members in that crucial first year.

  8. The inevitable loss of cherished relationships with staff, members, and others on your current team.

  9. The possibility that your credentials could be forever marred by a ‘bad’ move if things do not work out as planned — potentially leaving you in unfamiliar surroundings without a job.

For established professionals with the competence and drive to excel, there simply may not be enough allure at a new Club to leave their comfort zone. However, a significant salary boost or, in some cases, dissatisfaction with their current Club may serve as a catalyst to investigate a move. Even if curiosity about a new opportunity sparks interest, many still hesitate to take a closer peek beyond the curtain. This is exactly where a recruiter can make a difference. Those who are embedded in their position understand the risks involved – the precarious “toast” they might become if their current Club catches wind of their exploration. In the close-knit world of Clubs, secrets are elusive, and their revelation can lead to unforeseen consequences, even jeopardizing their present position. So, let’s explore some realities in the world of executive recruiting at private Clubs, where the unspoken truths are not so evident to the Boards who must turn to a recruiter in their time of need.

#1 – Recruiters Beg for Qualified Candidates

One of the deadly traps of the Information Age in which we live is the pure overload of communication and data processed on the electronic job-circuit.

  1. In the not too distant past, high-quality candidates submitted portfolios in leather-bound jackets complete with a portrait and formal credentials. It was fairly easy to cull the good and bad.

  2. Today, everyone knows that resumes are fed into a software program which parses the data and provides key-word matching to the position. Yes, the playing field is more level, but the probability of recognizing a truly outstanding candidate has been diminished.

  3. The Tik-Tok generation knows all too well the codes which land their applications near the top of the pile with little effort.

  4. As new job openings are spread across the internet at viral speed, the response rate is equally strong. Inboxes are filled with messages from every walk of life with little or no relation to the listed qualifications.

  5. Intermixed in this quagmire may be your hidden gem — never to be found. It makes the old days of paper resumes actually look pretty good.

So while we share a new and incredible volume of information, there is an equal net-loss of good knowledge about the candidates. At CCA, we recognize the widespread posting of positions is a requirement, but our reliance on this resource as the sole recruitment tool is truly limited. One of the upsides, however, is the ability to reach corollary markets such as resort/hotel professionals. Those backgrounds rarely match higher-level positions but may prove fruitful in mid-level areas. Clubs who attempt their own search soon learn about the daunting amount of work required to manage a digital gateway. Only after the floodgates open does it become evident that boots-on-the-ground knowledge still reins as king in the Club recruitment arena.

#2 – The Glossy Job Listing is for the Club, Not the Candidate

Potential candidates are not so impressed with glossy pictures, videos, flip-books, flyovers, and other marketing gems in the initial job listing. But it does provide a point of pride for those involved at the Club and makes them feel included in the search process. This is an important and valid point. Having the Club review the Job Description and Specifications is an integral part of the search process and provides a meaningful resource – especially during the interviews and after the hire. But this should not be confused as being the primary resource for the search. As we know from our introduction, a brochure is quite unlikely to provide enough motivation for a high-target candidate to respond. Most of these documents are too long and detailed to be utilized as a marketing tool. The repetitiveness in descriptions and requirements among all the listings is eye-glazing. Many look like unreadable contracts more than career opportunities. A simple and well-thought “precise and concise” communication is ideal at the outset. In this way, the most important attributes of the search can be more easily identified, emphasized, and understood. More descriptive and formal documentation can logically follow as the search phase continues.

#3 – Doom Loop Clubs

Just as some candidates and recruiters consistently rotate through multiple properties, there are certain Clubs which have suffered an inordinate level of turnover and turmoil. While it is never easy to place blame in any situation, industry insiders are well aware that the risk of moving to any of these operations is probably a zero-sum gain. As the perception of a Club’s stability weakens, the less qualified the candidate pool becomes in each ensuing search round. Many times this leads to a revolving-door of management as the unfortunate cycle continues to spiral downward. Even if the Club recognizes this weakness and then truly desires to do all things right, it may still require special magic to repair. For those affected Clubs, industry insiders may already know about the departure of other key staff (raided by neighboring Clubs during the turnover?), lack of continuity in operations during the last transition, diminishing trust in Club leadership, stakeholder dissatisfaction, and potential economic stress from all of the above. Any new candidate would certainly have their hands full on the operational-side without even considering the political fallout and reputational repair efforts ahead. A multi-year rebuilding plan may be in store especially if other key management positions need to be filled. This is exactly where CCA is especially qualified as new plans and pathways are identified. If a Club does not know (and agree) on where it is going, then any road will get you there. Despite the massive downside outlined here, recruiters have relatively little skin in the game and are happy to rinse/repeat. The responsibility for the final candidate selection is regularly transferred to the Search Committee. This provides some insulation to the recruiter, who may only offer to conduct another search if things do not work out. By that time, though, the Club is probably eager to look elsewhere. In contrast, CCA remains engaged and ensures your Club and executive stay on track.

What Lies Ahead?

It is abundantly clear that what transpires behind the scenes is a far cry from the glossy job listings and polished images that grace your inbox.

  1. The digital age has muddied the traditional pathways to filling roles in senior management, although there are tremendous upsides as well — especially in opening new markets for fresh candidates who were previously difficult to reach.

  2. For those Clubs who have embarked on the journey to find their ideal candidate independently, they’ve likely discovered the Herculean effort required to navigate a digital quagmire.

  3. Balancing the signal-to-noise ratio in the electronic candidate pool may be well worth the effort for some positions, but filling your key roles is fraught with much peril.

  4. At CCA, we initiate a comprehensive review of your operations and culture before even approaching the market. We understand the tremendous risk your Club faces during a transition.

  5. By the time a CCA candidate is presented, all the parties are well informed and we have already completed our due diligence for you. After all, that’s our job.

CCA knows that we shoulder the main responsibility of bridging the knowledge-gap between clubs and candidates which can never be ensconced in a job listing flyer. To provide this service, we meet with your team and measure your performance before we begin recruiting. We understand every detailed facet of your operation and can assess how a candidate stacks up. Missing this critical step is one of the reasons so many others are part of the 40%. Clubs and Boards should take a close look at their recruiting strategy instead of just making an easy decision. CCA creates a partnership with you instead of acting as just an outsourced service. Make sure you understand the challenges and considerations executive recruiters face, and consider engaging CCA to give you the attention needed to navigate this complex terrain. For those potential future candidates, don’t underestimate the value of CCA’s inside knowledge and the insights we have gained after researching our client’s needs. If we reach out to you, be assured we are paving a smooth road ahead for you to explore your options and make informed decisions. Stay tuned for more revelations, insights, and discussions that will empower you to make educated choices in the exclusive world of private Clubs! Contact David Shaw at Club Consulting Associates for more answers. And remember to stay Club-Tastic! and 561-621-0620 Exploring Cornerstones of Private Club Management: Does Your Club Have Sound ‘Principles’? Everyone Talks About “Fundamentals” – But What Does That Really Mean to a Private Club? The Club Paid for an Executive Search: It Didn’t Work Out, Now What?


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