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About this blog

Matt Leverich (and guests) from Playbooks for Golf blogs on tips and techniques for using technology to advance your operation and career.

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Gift Your Career This Holiday Season...

For a large part of the country, we are entering the so-called “off-season” in golf. This means you might actually get some time away from the course. Add to that, now through early January is when many people slow down, work less, and spend more time with family and friends for the holidays. Which is great, but it’s also a prime opportunity to get your career materials up to date. Once early January comes, you’ll be focusing on plans for the new season, attending seminars and conferences, and Spring will be here before you know it. While it’s easy to just relax and let these next couple months pass by, now is the time to get motivated and get your materials up to date. I’ve said it before many times to those that know or work with me, you have no idea when your dream opportunity is going to present itself. You have to be ready, today. To that end, here is a quick checklist to help with getting materials up to date: Is your resume ready for today's trends? Obviously, your resume should be up to date with the latest information about your current position. But it should also reflect the latest trends in both what clubs are looking for, and overall technology trends. This means a couple things.  You should really consider how your resume is formatted so that it displays well on mobile devices. The vast majority of hiring people now view your resume the first time from their phones. Proper formatting for phones can be a big “jump off the page” moment for your resume to them. I recently wrote about a solution I have developed for this issue here > Think about the hundreds of resumes a club may receive for a superintendent position. A wall of bullet points is not the best way to stand out and garner a closer look. Consider more unique layout options, ditch responsibilities bullets for “skills and achievements” sections, and keep the resume shorter than you think it should be... trust me.  I have written about resume techniques quite a bit on this blog. Check earlier posts for details on some of those points.  Do you have a career website that helps? Let’s face it, the golf course maintenance industry is graded heavily through subjectivity. Every golfer views conditions differently based on their skills, expectations, and price and pride of membership. How you show them your skills is key to their interest in you.  A website for your career allows you to showcase your very best conditions in an environment you can control. It really is a must-have to increase your chances for attaining interviews on a consistent basis. Plus it can be updated easily as your career advances and is even useful as a marketing tool to your current members if tweaked properly.  But be careful, a poorly built website with DIY design can work against you, making your career look less that professional or how you run an operation. Money spent here is a sound investment in your career that will pay off year after year.  Is your portfolio interview-ready? If you are granted an interview, a huge majority of clubs will then ask you to send them your portfolio, either digitally via a website or PDF, or in print. If you have a website, obviously that is great. A supplemental PDF version of your website serving as a portfolio document is a nice touch though. For one, you can send both your URL and a PDF file they can distribute as the want. Then, you can delivery hard-copies of your portfolio at the interview. It’s a formula that works.  That portfolio file should again be professional looking, and match the look of your resume and website. It shouldn’t be a theme from PowerPoint or Word. It should take the best of the website, and expand your thoughts on agronomics, course presentation, communications, leadership, etc. Things like that, you wouldn’t want displayed for the entire internet to see (read: rip off), so they are great for an offline document like a portfolio.  Is your content hitting the target? If you have a website and portfolio, you need to ensure that whatever is in them actually gets your career highlighted in the proper way to the target market. Guess what – the target market is golfers, not turf guys. They don’t care to see 30 pictures of the drainage installation process. All they see is dirt. Golfers want to see the results of a project, the conditions/design/setup they will play after the project is complete.  The best content you can use are before and after images. They show exactly the changes in the course and conditions, and how you brought about that transformation. When they are laid out in a professional manner, they are critical to golfers understanding your ability to bring about change, which is honestly a driving force behind a lot of open positions.  After images are fairly easy to obtain, before images are a different story. Very few actually have them. So here’s a good tip: go out today and take pictures of the course. Now you’ll have “before” pictures in case any projects or conditions improvements come along in the near future.  Also be sure that your content is telling the right “side” of the story. Golfers don’t want to hear about drill and fill, graden, tine sizes, etc. You are better served mentioning that you use the latest in agronomic practices to deliver a course that is “insert what you want golfers to think” here. They again want to know the results of the practices and not the process, especially at the initial application. They may ask specifics later on.  There are many subtleties to content strategy; take time to consistently review it for the best angle.  Do you have a network outside of turf? I don’t want to spend a ton of time on this, as I have written about it twice on this blog - the original idea is here > Many opportunities for new positions are found not through job boards or superintendent networking. They are found through connections outside your peers. You should have a strong network with golf pros, GMs, chefs, and most importantly, golfers at other clubs. The above link provides some strategies for this goal. Make time now to plan a path to achieve this for next year.  Answering yes to all of these means you are ready for that next great opportunity, today. If not, work to get things updated and ask for help to move things along in a professional manner. People like me are available to become your partner for career success.  Reward your career this holiday season... and it may very well benefit your entire family. 

Matt Leverich

Matt Leverich

Adjusting Turf Resumes for the Mobile Age

I don’t have to tell any of you that smartphones have changed how we work each day, especially from out on the course. From chem/fert apps like Coverage, to Twitter and labor software, there have been vast improvements to the daily operation because of mobile devices. It doesn’t just stop with our side of the industry. Any hiring person at a club or firm is now extremely likely to view your resume the first time from their phone while on the move. What does that mean? You had better be sure it looks good from a phone. There’s not currently a perfect solution for this without a personal website, but we at Playbooks are currently developing such a platform for resumes for those who don’t want a full website. In the meantime, here are some key tips to at least make your resume a little better for mobile:    Save Your Resume as a PDF I’ve said it before that sending your resume as a Word file is a terrible idea. Computers have different versions of Word and read the formatting differently every time. Margins, tabs, etc. can and will show up wrong, resulting in a resume that looks shoddily put together. This holds true for phones too. A Word file opened from iOS or Android mail apps will reformat the text and the tabs, especially for bulleted files like resumes, resulting in jumbled and hard to read text. Saving the file as a PDF ensures all formatting remains how you intended it. You can do this from most new versions of Word or through an online conversion tool.   No Columns, Big Text, and Watch Your Width Since most people will be looking at their phone screen vertically, you want to avoid things like multiple columns that won’t read well. Columns are great for desktop websites and printed materials but do not translate well to phones. Get rid of them if you have them. Following this thought more, you have to be careful on how wide your resume is. While you can’t format your resume file completely for phones, keeping the content width under 5 inches would be a good compromise. You should also be sure that the font size is plenty big. Anything less than around 11pt is near impossible to read on phones. This leads to the next important tip…   Avoid the Wall of Text Resume The mobile age has made attention spans shorter than ever. Your lengthy resume with dozens of bullet statements that are more like paragraphs just does not translate well anymore when you usually only have seconds for the hiring person to review your resume. Try to keep text at less than 3 lines before a space, 2 lines is better. Keep your bullets to 4 or less for each job you list. In fact, abandoning actual bullet points or hyphens is a good idea as they create formatting issues on phones anyway. Just list them as sentences without an indention or character to begin. Don’t be afraid to use white space to help create separation between sections and jobs. It is well-known in the design world that white space works fantastic. Too much content causes a “glaze-over” effect.   Create Links for Contact Information Since we use phones with fingers and not a mouse, it’s not easy to copy an email or phone number. Make sure that your phone number and email are formatted properly to be one-click actions on phones. This can be done from Word quite easily. Also, be sure to make the contact information available at both the top and bottom of the resume so there isn’t a need to scroll all the way back up on a phone.   Test From Your Phone A final tip is to send your email to yourself and open it on your phone. If you have a hard time reading it, so will the hiring person. Check the contact links as well. Doing all these tips should result in an improved resume for the mobile age, yet not ideal.   A Look at a Better Way As I mentioned at the beginning, there’s not a perfect solution without having a website that is responsive for any device. And even then, you still have to attached your resume as a file to the email when applying. Which means they might bypass the web link to your PDF file that isn’t formatted for phone very well. As part of my service to clients, I have developed a way to create a resume that responds to device size so the resume reformats best for the screen, plus it can be attached as a file, solving both problems we covered and exponentially increasing your odds of a closer look. Here is an example of a fully formatted resume for phones, showing the last bit of content and the contact info, along with an anchor to take them back to the top for easy access. It also shows as a normal width file when opened from desktop. I can do this coding manually for a certain amount of people but it still takes time so there are limits to the service obviously. We are working on creating an automated process for this so anyone can do it themselves from a webapp we create. More on this in the future, but if you are interested in the manual aspect be sure to let me know as hiring season is nearly upon us in the golf industry. Best of luck on your next job opportunity.

Matt Leverich

Matt Leverich

10 Years Serving You: How Playbooks Helps

2018 marks Playbooks for Golf’s 10th year in business, and it has been my busiest year yet. Through those years, we have morphed from a basic map company to a full-fledged software and website provider. I would like to personally thank all superintendents who we have served over these first 10 years, I am grateful every day that I can be a small part of your operation and this industry. It’s a tough job being a superintendent and I’m glad to assist where needed. While serving you, the consistent feedback I get is that I don’t do enough to help get the word out about everything that we can do to help other superintendents. They just don’t know all Playbooks offers. While I don’t normally post purely commercial things on this blog, I thought with our 10-year anniversary I would try to explain exactly how and what we do to assist your operation, and hopefully save you time and money. That way if any readers didn’t know, now they do.  COVERAGE SYSTEM This is a chemical and fertilizer software solution that actually makes it easy to plan and track. While there are many options on the market, and DIY spreadsheets, you won’t find a more turn-key, limited-effort solution with world-class support.  You can begin using the application log in under 30 seconds and over 95% of the products you use are typically already loaded and ready. Inventory, Cost, EIQ, GDD, AI, Nutrients, etc. -- it just does it all automatically, no work on your end besides filling out your normal log.  I personally support users 7 days a week at all hours. Most users see significant saving in labor in this area, and you should see a reduction in costs if inventory/cost/planning are used. The system is also compatible with third-party labor software like ASB TaskTracker, and governmental agency requirements. EZPINS This is a newer solution I developed in partnership with ezLocator founder, Jon Schultz. It allows you to move hole locations through use of the software, and provide either a daily pin sheet or mobile app with that data to members. As you can guess from the name, it is extremely easy to setup and use. Nearly every customer comments on how awesome it is to have and wishes they knew of it sooner.  This setup is guaranteed to save you labor on course set daily, it takes the guesswork out and it’s like you are setting the course each day yourself. I developed a process to gather all information required without ever visiting your course, which means it is highly affordable and we can usually get you up and running within several days if desired.  As a golfer, I only wish more courses had it installed for less hole location issues and knowing exactly where the flag was when I played. Golfers love it, supers love it. IRRIGATION AS-BUILTS We still do mapping, and the majority of it is for irrigation. We have taken old treasure maps and converted them, while others we have made a lot easier to view on the course. Like ezPins, we never have to visit the course to do the work which means it’s a fraction of the cost of GPS. You can hand-draw or digitally notate any changes you want and send back to us for updates. Over time, we are significantly cheaper than whatever you are doing now for irrigation mapping and updates.  Our maps are compatible with Toro and RainBird central control systems, plus you get easy to use digital copies for phones and tablets. We still do hard-copy laminated Playbooks of hole-by-hole irrigation as well – sometimes old-school is still the way to go when you are out trying to water on the course.  OTHER MAPS While these aren’t created as frequently, we still get orders for them from repeat clients, and would like others to know in case you are in need for a special situation.  Yardage – Send us the data or we can come gather it. We create hole by hole diagrams with all cap yardages for use in replacing them or for actual yardage books. Can order caps for you as well. GPS – We can travel anywhere for on-site GPS of new irrigation, drainage, new features, etc.  Routing Map – Full rendering of your property with each hole easily identified. Golf shop can use it and it can also be used on club website. Great for new employees too.  Base Maps / Notepads – Simple digital renderings of each hole with square footages for communication with staff and club officials. All data is gathers remotely so extremely affordable.  CAREER MATERIALS I am sure all of you know about this as I cover career materials in great detail on this blog. Cover letters, resumes, websites, print portfolios, interview reports and more. If you are not finding the time to do them on your own or want a professional look, I can help. I do limit the number of clients I take on each year though as it is quite time-consuming and try to be as affordable as possible. CLUB PROFILESThese are websites that highlight your turf operation in an effort to attract interns and assistants. It’s a very effective way to stand out from other clubs and really showcase your operation. They also create a very professional image of your operation to club officials and members. Any more to find talent you need to be doing more than just posting an ad, and this is a must-have tool for finding the right people.  ASSOCIATION / BUSINESS WEBSITES We are a full-fledged website development company. With in-house design and programmers, we can build nearly any website needed. In particular, we have started assisting local GCSA associations with their websites. Not only do we rebuild them, we also manage the content for them so those who volunteer their time on the boards can save time and have a great online presence, making members happy with easy to use features for event signups and more. And new to the market this year:COURSE CONDITIONS This is a brand-new platform that we have spent years developing, and I think it is going to be big for your operations. It is an app platform that allows you to communicate directly with golfers. Your patrons aren’t on Twitter for the most part, and they rarely read blogs. Those are great for communicating with peers, but fall well short in member communications. Course Conditions is an app golfers can download for free, and you populate the content with our easy CMS website. It is extremely simple for you and golfers will be informed in a professional format. Conditions works seamlessly with clubhouse/F&B apps too, which are steadily on the rise of implementation.  You can send Push Notifications at any time to all app users to engage with them and generate traffic to your latest updates in the app. It is one central solution for communication, and will make your work life so much easier, guaranteed.  While we announced this platform in 2017, we are finally coming out of our beta testing and development period and are beginning to get the word out about our live version this summer. We have special pricing for early adopters that will be lower than retail for as long as you use the platform. ------- In summary, I hope that if you are in need of any help in these areas you now know of a partner you can turn to for help.  Thanks once again to all who support Playbooks for Golf, and who read this blog. TurfNet has been a great partner for us and I appreciate the opportunity to share information on this blog through TurfNet.  The next blog post will return to offering the latest tips and tricks on careers and technology. 

Employment Contracts, Part 3: What to Include in the Contract

Guest Post by Greg Wojick In the first two parts of this series, we have reviewed the obstacles to contracts and how you can sell the idea to your club. This final part will provide you with a detailed roadmap on what should be included in the actual contract. When you get the go-ahead on the contract, your next step is to be sure that it covers all the bases. Here's a basic checklist based on industry standards along with lessons learned and a few cautionary tales from superintendents--and club members themselves--who have been through the process, or have chosen not to. The contract should define: Your responsibilities/performance parameters. Be sure to spell out your duties in detail. "Contracts offer peace of mind to both sides by setting expectation levels," says one superintendent. Peter McCormick of TurfNet cautions, however, that establishing performance parameters can be tricky. "Out on the golf course, performance in terms of playability and aesthetics becomes very personal, subjective, and not easily quantifiable. The only way to reduce subjectivity," he continued, "is if there is a document of agreed-upon maintenance standards in place. This should be separate from (but appended to) an employment contract so it can be revised as needed and agreed. The document of maintenance standards can also serve as the basis of a job description, which can be either integral or appended to an employment contract," he added. One club member I spoke to cited what he perceived to be a serious drawback to detailing duties and expectations: "By 'binding' both the club and the superintendent to specific roles and responsibilities, a contract limits everyone's flexibility," he said. "This may pose a problem down the road if the club decides it doesn't like the contract terms or wants to terminate it early. That can't happen without the superintendent agreeing to new terms to the contract." Moral of this story: Carefully review the responsibilities and performance parameters you agree to put in writing. The chain of command. "It's good to have something in writing that identifies not only what is expected of the employee, but also who, specifically, the superintendent is responsible to," said another survey participant, explaining, "The club's governance changes over time. Board members come and go, and at some clubs, general managers come and go even faster. It's important that new personnel understand the chain of command." Rule of thumb: The fewer people you report to, the better. Best case is only one! The length of your contract. It's always best to lobby for a multi-year contract or, better, one that automatically renews at the end of each year. Without a definitive end point, it seems both parties are less apt to think about making changes. As one superintendent with a short-term contract lamented:"I had a contract at a previous club, and it didn't seem to work in my favor. It always felt like a ticking clock that eventually would stop, prompting the club to take something away from me. When I started, for example, I had full family medical benefits provided by the club. When my second contract was up, they took that opportunity to force me to contribute to my benefits package," he continued. "And the small raise they gave me barely covered the new expense. If I had no contract, it wouldn't have given them a definitive time to make this move on me." Salary and performance reviews. Note what your compensation is, when it is payable (weekly, biweekly, or monthly), and when you can expect to be evaluated for a raise. More than half the survey respondents receive annual performance evaluations. Be sure to define a performance review schedule in your contract. "With a contract, you're assured some sort of financial growth," said one survey participant, adding what he perceived as a downside: "But along with that assurance is the pressure to live up to -- or exceed -- expectations, year after year." For most of the superintendents I surveyed, having a contract that offered financial security seemed to far outweigh any performance concerns. One of the most favorable stories I heard relating to contracts and compensation came from Peter McCormick. He shared a conversation he had once had with a superintendent who had worked for 10 years or so without a contract at a club that had not lived up to verbal promises of future salary advancement made when he was hired. Peter explained: "The superintendent looked around casually as jobs came up but was happy where he was, even though underpaid relative to others in the area. He had a frank conversation with his green chairman, who went to the board on the superintendent's behalf. The end result was a 10-year contract with a significant salary increase and retirement contributions," continued Peter. "Relieved of anxiety about his future and the feeling that he wasn't being properly compensated, he was able to move forward reenergized and with a renewed focus and sense of purpose." Good for both him and the club. This is another example of how contracts can work in everyones favor! Bonus compensation. You might consider building in a bonus for such things as becoming certified or maintaining your certification, meeting or exceeding your budget goals, managing a major enhancement project, hosting tournaments, bringing in new members, or any other practice you feel goes above and beyond your everyday job function. One survey respondent noted receiving a bonus for seeing the club's new irrigation system installation through to completion, on time and on budget. "The club gave me $25,000 and my assistant $5,000," he said. "They recognized that successfully managing a project of that size required many extra hours and superior organizational skills." Professional memberships and educational seminars. Don't hesitate to push for funding and time off to attend both professional and educational industry events. Explain how maintaining professional affiliations and attending local, regional, and national conferences, field days, and seminars are essential to staying abreast of industry trends and practices. Insurance. Define your medical, dental, life, and disability insurance coverage. This assures coverage for the length of your contract. As one club member noted, "If the contract promises the superintendent health benefits, you can't decide to stop paying for those benefits as a way to save money. The only way to change the terms of the contract is to renegotiate them." A perfect example of why a contract is worth pursuing. Retirement contributions. It's a good idea to include in your contract regular contributions to a 401K or other retirement vehicle. Vacation.
On average, superintendents receive two to four weeks of paid vacation annually. Some reported receiving significantly more time, particularly during the winter months for a majority of superintendents in the country. Be sure to specify not only the amount of vacation time you want, but also when you would like to take it. If you want a weekend off in the summer with your family and can agree on that arrangement, put it in writing. Housing/housing allowance. Include maintenance, utilities, taxes, assessments, and related upkeep. Meals. Provide for a meal allowance. At least one meal a day is standard during the months of a facility's restaurant operation. A number of the supers surveyed are allowed any number of meals, as long as theyre on the job. Vehicle allowance. Many clubs provide a vehicle or an allowance to purchase one. Be sure to specify whether gas, insurance, and maintenance costs are included, as well as how often the vehicle will be replaced. Facility privileges.
Note any and all club privileges you, your family, and guests might be entitled to. If you're entitled to use the pool, golf, or play tennis, note this, along with any fees that you are exempt from paying as an employee using the facility. Severance.
Surprisingly, a number of superintendents surveyed did not have a severance package and longed for a reasonable separation agreement. Others were hoping to improve the package they currently have. Most who commented on their package understandably wanted their severance pay to grow along with their tenure. "My severance is three months salary," noted one superintendent who would like to negotiate for more. "I have been here for eight years and would like one month for every year of service, not to exceed 12 months," he said. There are a number of ways to handle severance. Among the most common is to pay all the annual salary that would have been earned from the actual date of termination and/or, as this superintendent noted, one month's pay for each year of service. Conditions of contract termination. It's important to spell out how, when, and why your contract -- or your employment -- can be terminated. One super surveyed stressed giving careful thought to the timing of a termination: "I would strongly encourage any superintendent who has club housing and a family in the town's school system to build in a termination notification on or before June 30. This way," he said, "you have two full months to find new housing and a new school system for your children. This was a big issue for me, and the club did agree to the new notification clause." Indemnification.
Including this type of clause in your contract will protect you from claims, lawsuits, fines, etc., that you might incur as an employee of the facility. One superintendent surveyed felt it was more important to have some way to protect himself against "the bad decisions the club ends up making." While still another commented that, no matter what protection this or any of the other contract clauses might offer, his club would always have the upper hand: "If it came to a dispute between the club and me, their 200 attorneys would squish me like a bug," he said. "Basically, my contract is a piece of paper that says my benefits in writing." Keep in mind, as with any legally binding document, you should always have an attorney look at it -- and preferably one who knows the profession -- to ensure you're properly protected and that the contract complies with federal and state laws. "Contracts are worthwhile only if the language is properly written, and the only way to do that is to have a lawyer look at it," concurred one of the survey participants who, like many of the respondents, made sure to seek legal counsel. Final Thoughts If you're among the many superintendents seriously thinking of pursuing an employment agreement, remember that you should first be sure your track record qualifies you for a binding contract and then be fair about what youre asking for. If you shoot for the moon, you're likely to turn off an otherwise receptive group. If lobbying for a contract seems like more trouble than it's worth, keep in mind that once you've reached a mutually acceptable agreement with your employer, you can go to work every day confident about your job and undistracted by issues that may cause you to question your future employment. In the work world, there are few feelings better than that. Sections of this blog post were originally created by Greg in a survey for the MetGCSA. That content is courtesy of the MetGCSA.

Employment Contracts Part 2: Selling The Idea of a Contract

Guest post by Greg Wojick In the first part of this series posted last month, we covered the obstacles that contracts can encounter. So just how do you go about selling the idea of an employment contract to your green committee and board? As the other industry experts and superintendents I spoke to will agree: Its all in how you market yourself and the mutually beneficial rewards of having a contract. To start: Approach the idea of a contract when the course is at its best. If you have been employed at your club for a number of years, remind them of any and all of your noteworthy accomplishments, from money-saving measures and agronomic improvements to personal accomplishments, such as achieving certification. Then go on to explain that a contract is useful in: Defining expectations. If your employer defines in a contract exactly whats expected of you, you will spend less time second-guessing your employer's goals and more time accomplishing them. No guesswork; greater efficiency. Protecting the club's most important asset, the golf course. The last thing a club wants is to jeopardize the quality of course conditions by losing a superintendent in the throes of the season or just before a major club event. A contract can guard against inopportune resignations. One club member I spoke to pointed to this very reason for offering a superintendent a written contract. "The contract can lock the employee into a specific term (for example, two years)," he said, "or require the employee to give the club enough notice to find a suitable replacement (for example, 90 days notice). While a club can't force someone to keep working for them, an employee is likely to comply with the agreements terms if there is a penalty within the contract for not doing so," he noted. Ensuring consistency. Procedures and expectations for ongoing and future projects can be easily specified in a contract. This leads not only to better planning, but also the added assurance that long-term projects can be carried out as defined even if the committee heading up a project changes. Making compensation predictable. Employment contracts define compensation and benefits, leaving little open to interpretation or negotiation more than once a year. Building trust. Clubs entrust the care and management of the golf course to you. You want to trust the club to treat you fairly and equitably. A contract lays the groundwork for that trust by defining everyones responsibilities: your responsibilities to the club and the clubs responsibilities to you. As Peter McCormick of TurfNet confirmed, "everyone works better in an environment that provides assurances. Contracts minimize question marks and gray areas," he said, "and avoid issues of trust. Both parties know what to expect so they can get on with business without having to look over anyone's shoulder internally -- which is energy misspent." Be aware, however, of the harsh reality that many clubs are going to be looking after their interests more than yours. In fact, according to one club member I spoke to, "The club can view an employment contract as a tool to maintain tighter control over an employee. If the contract specifies standards for the employee's performance (a detailed job description) and grounds for termination," he noted, "a club may have an easier time terminating an employee who doesn't live up to the club's standards." A perfect reason to have a lawyer review your contract before signing on the dotted line! What should I include in a contract? When you get the go-ahead on the contract, your next step is to be sure that it covers all the bases. In the final part of this series, we will outline each aspect of what to include in the contract with pros and cons to each. Sections of this blog post were originally created by Greg in a survey for the MetGCSA. That content is courtesy of the MetGCSA.

Employment Contracts Part 1: Discovering The Obstacles to a Contract

Guest Post by Greg Wojick   I've been in the industry more than 35 years as both a golf course superintendent and now a principal in Playbooks for Golf, and in that time, I've seen many changes -- in equipment, technology, management techniques, and in the education and agronomic expertise required to do an increasingly demanding job. Despite these advances, few superintendents throughout the country are acknowledged as professionals worthy of an employment contract.   According to the GCSAA Compensation & Benefits Report completed by superintendent members in recent years, only 20 percent of the over 3,000 who responded have a written employment contract. That statistic doesn't seem very encouraging.    So why are employment contracts still more the exception than the rule among golf course superintendents?   PROBLEM #1: The most apparent, long-standing problem I see is that laypeople, i.e., green committee and board members, still don't fully understand what it is that superintendents do, much less comprehend the level of skill and the breadth and depth of knowledge required to manage a golf course operation.   We all have read or heard about the fantastic new contracts that pro athletes/managers/coaches obtain (most always through the negotiation by their agents and/or lawyers). Why? Because in professional sports, owners and boards almost always "get" what the coaches and athletes actually do. Many were former coaches or athletes themselves. What's more, the quality of the work of these new hires can be easily judged by wins and losses and statistics. In other words, there is little mystery to what people in the sports arena do. You can say the same about the golf facility's general manager. Members pretty much understand what's involved. General managers are considered key players in the golf facility's profitability, while the superintendent's essential role in the club's viability often goes unrecognized. Confirming this great divide in understanding, one industry executive noted, "The club member's general viewpoint about superintendents is that they are analogous to a head engineer. The GM is regarded as more of a CEO. Although these characterizations are changing," he said, "its still the 'CEOs' who get the written employment agreements." In fact, about 75 percent of general managers countrywide are awarded employment contracts according to many in that industry segment.   In the modern-day golf world, many green committee and board members will attempt to grasp what a superintendent does -- and often erroneously believe they know the job better than the superintendent -- as they Google everything from "effectiveness of calcium nitrate" to "growing Bermuda grass in my region."   Unfortunately, even with this drilling for knowledge, a true understanding of the concerns, challenges, and constraints of the job eludes even the most well-intentioned committee member. We have studied this subject thoroughly at Playbooks, and have begun a new software platform that should create a much better environment to combat this critical issue by combining the best features of Twitter, blogs and native apps to let the superintendent control their message from one central location and ensure golfers actually receive it. Its called Conditions App and is fully launching this spring.    Expanding this problem: Then, when it comes to hiring, those entrusted with the super's hire typically just use their intuition or thoughts from grillroom friends to rate and reward or terminate. More and more superintendents find themselves being told the club has decided to go in a different direction. There are no assurances of employment beyond today particularly when no contract is in place.   I spoke several years ago with Peter McCormick, TurfNet founder, about this very issue and he pointed to "employment instability" as the single biggest threat to the golf course superintendent as a career -- and as an industry.   "Underlying 'employment instability' is the flux of personnel over time on the employer side, particularly at private clubs," McCormick explained. "The people who hire a superintendent and are privy to the conversations at the interviews and resultant agreements and expectations -- whether they are a general manager, club official, committee, or board member -- very often aren't around five or ten years down the road. Unless those discussions and agreements are memorialized in a document agreed to by all parties -- in effect, a contract -- it all becomes hearsay over time. And hearsay can lead to potential misunderstanding, disagreement and rancor," he cautioned. PROBLEM #2: I found that many supers don't have a contract simply because they don't ask for one. Some fear a club's rejection. Others told me they're happy to operate without a contract. One superintendent who spoke to me anonymously, like the others I surveyed, was among the many who just didn't think to ask for an employment agreement: "The members who hired me are smart. If they really wanted me to have a contract, they would have offered it to me before I agreed to take the position," he said.   Unfortunately, in today's highly competitive job market, many newly hired superintendents are so pleased that theyve been selected from the throngs of other applicants, that lobbying for a contract barely crosses their minds.   It's understandable, then, that most new hires will quickly agree to a reasonable offer without any negotiation, but many are also overly optimistic about their future with their club. They assume they will always be held in high esteem because, of course, they will always keep the course in top condition and will never make a mistake worthy of their dismissal. "Everyone loved me at the interviews," said the same super, believing his honeymoon period would never end. Equally optimistic, another superintendent told me: "I feel if I continue to work hard and communicate effectively, I will be able to overcome any tenuous situations that may arise. In other words," he added, "if I get dismissed, it will be my fault."   Despite the club's seeming upper hand during the interview process, there's actually no better time to ask for a contract than at the time of hiring. It shouldn't jeopardize your situation, but rather enhance it by establishing you as a competent professional who, like other industry professionals, expects more than just a handshake when agreeing to accept the job.   AN OBSTACLE CAN BECOME A SOLUTION: A contract offers superintendents what I call "failure avoidance". It spells out exactly what the employer expects of you and what you can expect of the employer. It basically stipulates the employment agreement and terms of employment. It also protects the superintendent from termination at the whim of an employer, indicating the process in which separation or termination could occur.   Unfortunately, some employers will perceive this as a reason to steer clear of contracts. As one club member admitted, "Employment contracts bring with them an obligation to deal fairly with the employee. In legal terms, this is called the 'covenant of good faith and fair dealing'. If the club ends up treating an employee in a way that a judge or jury finds unfair," he continued, "the club may be legally responsible not only for violating the contract, but also for breaching their duty to act in good faith."    In my opinion, this is all the more reason to lobby for a contract. It can protect both superintendent and employer, which offers an overall talking point for superintendents planning to approach their club about securing an employment contract.   ROADMAP TO A CONTRACT So just how do you go about selling the idea of an employment contract to your green committee and board? As the other industry experts and superintendents I spoke to will agree: It's all in how you market yourself and the mutually beneficial rewards of having a contract.   In Part 2 of this exploration (check back next month), we will lay out a detailed road-map for a well-written and attainable employment contract.     Sections of this blog were originally created by Greg in a survey for the MetGCSA. That content is courtesy of the MetGCSA.    

Winter Career and Technology Checklist

For many of you winter is the only time you are able to really spend much time in the office. So, I thought I would include a few things we've covered at different times over the last several years that you can take action on now... when you actually have some time for it. By doing these tasks, you'll quickly be on the road to advancing your career and technology skills for the next challenge your career faces.  Acquire Photography of Your Course If you haven't had any images taken of your great course conditions, now is the time to schedule it for 2018. This above article outlines why professional photography is a MUST for your career. I cant stress this enough, such a critical component to outstanding career materials to showcase. Create a Course-Set Strategy Consider this as a New Year's resolution or simply as a gift to yourself and your staff: create a set of SOPs (standard operating procedures) for course set up.  This document of procedures can be distributed to your green chairman and his committee, to the golf staff and caddie group if you have a caddie program.  Network with Beyond Your Peers  This can't be repeated enough -- you need to get out of your comfort zone and network with those outside of turf. Golfers, GMs, even accountants and realtors. Anything you can do to create a more diverse network helps your odds of cashing in on a connection at another club who may be hiring. Talking to superintendents is great, but for finding a head GCS role there is way more value in various club members, GMs, golf pros and the like.    Just in my last article I highlighted the need to be knowledgeable in golf, which is related to this topic. Its worth revisiting if you missed it:    Add Technology to Your Operation I dont have a specific article to link to here, but the last several years advances in industry software have really made it easy to save time, labor and money in your operation. The cost of the software is usually easily offset by your time savings. Plus many club controllers/CFOs are leading the charge to include more analytics in your operation. I am getting more calls from them weekly so best to be ahead of the curve here.    There are many leading options for various functions of your operation. Some of the ones I have experience with and can recommend are Playbooks Coverage System, ASB TaskTracker, TurfCloud, ezPins, POGO, and of course the updated Toro and RainBird irrigation suites.    Promote Yourself and Your Value at your Current Club A career website is rarely used at one's current club, but it should be! Most golfers or members at your club have no idea what you have done, where you have worked or even that you went to college for this most-demanding industry position. Instead of leaving them in the dark about you, a better strategy is to actively educate them on your career and what you have done at the club and other clubs. In addition, I have been working on a new platform that serves to promote you much easier with golfers, called Conditions App. Youll be hearing more on this in 2018 as it releases fully from Beta.    Add TurfNet on your device as an App As much as I think that people know about saving websites as apps to their Android or iOS devices, the more I am wrong about it. At least half of the demos I provide for Coverage System, one of the club staff doesn't know how to do this. So this is a very good article to check out because TurfNet works very well on your device and makes it easier to stay up to date on the industry. Plus, once you know the process for TurfNet, it can work for any other website as well.      Create a Letterhead for Your Career With a little help from a designer, you can easily create a powerful document that can serve as letterhead, cover letter and even a customized notecard for hand-written notes. And yes, that is still a lost art that is totally underutilized. Check out my article on that here.     Job Application Basics It you are venturing out in the job market on your own, be sure to utilize these strategies and tips included in the article. I didnt include anything on building a career website. Which you should. But that is an ongoing series and too many to list here. If you need help getting started on one, Im happy to offer some guidelines.    Best of luck in 2018 and thanks for reading!!  

Matt Leverich

Matt Leverich

Golf Knowledge is a Required Skill Today

With each passing year, the golf industry is changing. Gone are the days of new course construction and crazy numbers of rounds. However, at the top clubs most of you are aspiring to work at, something different has happened these clubs are transforming their course through large-scale master planning, and at a very high rate.    In order to maximize your value to these clubs, it is imperative to be knowledgeable in the game of golf, its history, architecture and network. You need to be able to speak on these aspects of a potential renovation plan and how your insight during a project can help make it a better end-product.   This is especially important during the application and interview process. Including a section on golf knowledge is required material, in my opinion. Not only does it let the club know you can lead them through a difficult project, it also shows them you are passionate about golf just like they are. Understanding how golf architecture and strategy work can allow you to offer insight into how a particular feature or project will affect maintenance. So be sure to mention these things in all materials, and certainly speak on it in your interview.    There are many ways to gain this knowledge, here are just a few suggestions:    Build Your Library of Golf Books.  This is the easiest way to begin your studies. There are lots of books out there about all aspects of golf. One of the basics is The Anatomy of a Golf Course by Tom Doak. It's good to understand classic vs. modern and how that can play into a possible renovation objective. There are also interesting reads about specific architects, like Discovering Donald Ross by Brad Klein.    Become a Master of the Rules of Golf. As a superintendent, it is extremely helpful to know the rules of golf inside and out. Only then can you see how course conditions can relate to rulings and setup of the course, possibly avoiding member complaints and issues. The USGA has a great resource they call Rules Hub that can help you get started easily:    Network with Golfers, and Play Golf.  You don't have to be good at golf to be knowledgeable. Expand your network outside of peers into golfers to enhance your ability to speak to customers. It really is enlightening to spend time with those who aren't employed in golf but instead are passionate about the game. I wrote an extensive article on how you can do this a few years back, it is a good first step with some tips. Follow Industry Professionals.  Social media has allowed you all to share operations with one another. Be sure to include architects, golfers, club finance experts and more in who you follow. Read periodicals like GolfWeek, Golf Digest, Golf Inc., Club Management, etc. Dont get stuck just listening to fellow turfgrass guys. Challenge yourself with perspectives outside of your own.   Understand the Rating System.  Most golfers don't understand rankings of courses. It's a complicated process and certainly subjective at times so it's a great asset to possess some understanding of how it works. Brad Klein at GolfWeek offers quite a bit of insight into the process through various presentations throughout the year. Be sure to listen in on him if you get the chance. My partner at Playbooks, Greg Wojick, rated courses for years at GolfWeek and wrote an extensive piece on his experience with rating courses for the MetGCSA. I think it should be required reading for this topic of ratings, and it is available here.   Read Online Forums.  The main architecture site is Golf Club Atlas. While it can be frustrating if not outright painful to read at times from our perspective, it does offer a look from the other side. I'm not advocating or promoting some of the things said there, just that you should read it now and then for rounding out your education in this area. There are other sites as well that tie into following professionals, like Geoff Shackleford, but also allow comments from readers/golfers where you can again gain insight from their opinions.  In business, it's generally good advice to know your customer and market thoroughly. As a superintendent, you would be smart to know everything about what your customers are buying -- golf. Youll be a more rounded professional and it may be the small difference that helps you land your dream job.

Matt Leverich

Matt Leverich

Making your resume do more...

We have covered various resume topics throughout my time here at TurfNet. This time around I'd like to look at a somewhat different angle. Usually I recommend that you have a professionally built website and portfolio to complement your resume. But for this blog, let's consider how you can use just a resume, nothing else, and still garner attention from employers.  It's not ideal, but if you are in a jam and haven't had your materials built, here are five things that are critical to include if you are only applying with a resume:    1. Add a Headline or Header Image.  This goes along with my article last month about sending the application email properly so your "brand" is noticed and stands out among the competition. If I were only using a resume (no website or portfolio), I would add this same header image to the very top of my resume. As a reminder, you should hire out this header image to a professional because its too critical to DIY it.  Using a headline at the top of the resume is a great tool as well. Instead of just listing "Qualifications" as your first section, consider using something like: "Turfgrass Excellence with Financial Efficiency". Also consider adjusting your job titles to be more compelling like a headline. Instead of listing Golf Course Superintendent, switch it up to "Superintendent - Course Conditions Expert".    2. Put Your Most Important Information at the Top.  Reading a PDF resume is no different than reading a website or newspaper. The stuff at the top gets the first look and most attention. Don't waste it on an Objective or your Education, they aren't nearly as important. Instead use it for 4 or 5 key statements about you and your career that differentiate you from the competition. These shouldn't be complex sentences, just short and to the point using as many action words as you can. By keeping this short, you can then list your current work experience towards the top of the page as well.    3. Ditch All the General Bullet Points.  You do not need to list your job responsibilities. All of your competition have the same ones; total waste of valuable space on a resume. Instead, only include bullet points in your experience that actually differentiate you from that competition. What have you done better than peers? Have you saved the club money? Gained memberships? These are far more critical than responsibilities and you don't want them lost in a wall of text from too many bullet points.  4. Keep Your Experience Recent. I know, it seems counter-intuitive to cut content if you are only applying with a resume. But a lengthy resume just creates reader fatigue in this initial part of the application. You have time during the interview process to go into more detail. This listing of every single work history on the resume is not going to make a positive difference in getting a closer look.    So, limit listing your experience for the last 10-15 years, or the 2-3 best clubs if you have been at the same place a while. There's no rule you have to list dates of employment so it doesn't have to fill in every date in time. Just list your time at the club like this: "3 Years of Tenure".    5. Consider an Online Supplement.  If you just can't possibly cut your content enough to keep the resume around one page, you can link to something online. This article is focusing on not having a website, so a possible solution to this is having an expanded resume saved on your Google Drive or Dropbox. It's easily sharable and viewable on any device from one link. Simply add some text like "Deep Dive into My Career" or "Expanded Career Highlights" and link out to your file. Then if someone really does want to see more information at this stage, they can.    These tips are essential if you don't have a website yet (you should in our industry). While it's nowhere near as effective as a website, it's better than nothing and should really help in your application. Good luck! 

Matt Leverich

Matt Leverich

The application email, & using a header image

This post is a quick and easy, yet very effective use of your application email for making an impact in your job application right at the start. First off, there are a two things you should know about sending your application email: You should state your sincere interest in the club or company and mention why their organization is worthy of your interest. It almost always serves you well to flatter with a statement about them, instead of solely focusing on you. This is a great way to start off the application process.
  The content of your email should be very short, and your cover letter should never be included in the text of the email body. Why? Because your email will get forwarded to others and the text will get lost in the email chain for users down the line and make it more difficult for them to read it. You want to make it simple for them. Having the cover letter as its own file is perfect for this. It also allows the hiring person to download your documents and collate them into a report or folders much easier.  With those out of the way, here is a way to consistently get attention to your application email right away: EMBED A HEADER IMAGE AT THE END OF THE EMAIL   This serves to showcase your brand right away, and hopefully a very professional look. You can hire a designer to do this for minimal cost. If you already have a website or portfolio, it's as simple as taking a screen capture of the home page with your name and image there.    The benefit of using this image is to have your email jump off the screen. Instead of only seeing text and links to websites or PDF files (never send Word docs, as they can be altered!), they see a visually pleasing picture of the golf course with your name typeset with it.   When I build career materials, I always use the same header layout (same font, title, style, image) across all platforms (resume, letter, website, portfolio) to create a unified brand for your career. So this same look is simply carried on to the header image for this email. I would not recommend using this image tip unless you have someone design it for you who knows what they are doing, otherwise it can have the opposite result and actually hurt your chances.    There are a few things to know to ensure it looks right:  Use an email client like Mac Mail or Outlook, or a provider like MailChimp online. These clients can embed images directly in the body of the email through use of hidden HTML coding, just by uploading the image after a line of text in the email body. If you go to Gmail from a browser and try it, the image will not be embedded, it will just show as a small attachment. To embed the image, type out all the text of your email. Then under your name, leave a couple of blank lines and when the cursor is in that position, select the Attachment option and upload the header image. Then upload your application materials after the image so the user must scroll past it to get to them. This scroll is their initial look at your brand and sets up what is to come in your materials.  That's it! It even works for opening email on phones, and while the image isn't as big, it's still highly impactful on mobile where a lot of email is opened initially.  Here is a mockup I put together to show how it can look.   This is the entire email zoomed out:      This is the normal view when scrolling:      This is from a phone:     

Matt Leverich

Matt Leverich

Website Series: Writing Your Bio

One of the things you should always try to include in a career website or portfolio is a biography. It can help the hiring person get to know you quickly and hit on some points of interest for them to add your application to the yes pile at the initial stages of the process.    The problem is that a biography can get out of hand in a hurry and actually work as a disservice to your application if done wrong. To this end, here are a few tips to the beginnings of a well-crafted bio.    1. Shorter is better than longer. Its a good rule of thumb to keep a bio to no more than 5 or 6 paragraphs. Any more and its a wall of text most people wont spend time to read. I dont mean 6 huge paragraphs either, 2-4 sentences in each paragraph is the goal.    2. Limit your work history. Going into detail about every single place you have worked is not a good idea, it just becomes regurgitation of your resume. Instead, briefly mention your overall work history and focus on 1 or 2 major accomplishments at work. These should be things that a hiring person would want to hear, not a turfhead. Things like: saved money, increased rounds, improved conditions. The results, not the actual process.    3. Include your passion for golf. While your passion might truly be for turf, the hiring person and members are focused on golf. Let them know you understand the game, its architecture and work to provide an experience first and foremost. Also, very few hiring people know the names of other superintendents (sad but true in most cases), so dont bother mentioning you had this mentor or that mentor superintendent. However, most in the club world know architects and golf pros. If you have a good relationship or history with one, definitely mention it. This will help facilitate your commitment to golf in addition to turf.  4. Keep personal details to a minimum. Sometimes a club is looking for a very specific candidate at the onset of a search (whether its legal or not). This can evolve if they see an interesting option come to light. Because of this, you want to be careful not to overexpose yourself personally at the beginning where this bio will be in the process. Generally mentioning that you are happily married, have kids, etc. is a positive if mentioned briefly, however including hobbies, other passions, etc. can work against you in my experience.    5. Focus more on recent work. Its natural to want to talk about college, interning at a big-time course and your first big Assistants position and what you did at them. However, as I mentioned earlier, content should be limited in length so you are better focusing on things youve done recently. A brief mention of where you went to college is certainly important, but just mention it and why you got into the business and move on to other things.    In general, the main idea for the bio is to be an expanded me section from your cover letter, dumping the bits about a specific club you are applying to and focusing on what in your career makes you the ideal candidate. Following these tips will start you on the path to a well-written bio that works to augment your application instead of limit it.    This ties in with a previous article about how you should be creating professional career materials. Check it out here.

Matt Leverich

Matt Leverich

Golf Course Communications: Same Ol' Challenge, New Solutions

By Greg Wojick Greenkeeper /green-keep-er/ noun: Someone who solves myriad problems average golfers didn't know they had in a way they don't understand. See also Wizard, Magician. It has always been difficult for me to accept the fact that most golfers don't understand even a small fraction of what happens behind the scenes in golf course maintenance. Maybe, much like magicians whose acts continue to mystify their audiences, the work of the golf course superintendent is just too much to fully grasp. Attempting to bridge the gap between the knowledge of the professional turf practitioner and the lack of knowledge of the golfer is far from easy! In fact, it's probably one of the greatest challenges facing golf course superintendents today.  After all, the job of the superintendent is complex. It spans numerous fields of knowledge well beyond greenkeeping. Most superintendents know volumes about fertilizers, increasingly sophisticated grooming equipment, sprayers, and irrigation systems, turf pests and diseases and the herbicides and pesticides that prevent and control them. Like a doctor, they have to be able to diagnose -- and treat -- the inevitable problems that arise affecting turf health -- while keeping a watchful eye on the environment. At the same time, they're expected to have the acumen of corporate execs, who are accomplished schmoozers, public speakers, and skilled at managing sizable staffs and equally sizable operating budgets.  Few golfers understand -- and sometimes superintendents themselves forget -- the vast scope of knowledge the job requires. And many, by nature, are falling short in the interpersonal -- or schmoozing -- aspect of the job. Who, after all, has time for it in the thick of the season when the greater concerns of turf health and ball roll weigh on their minds 24/7, right? Wrong! Though the average golfer will never fully understand, or frankly want to understand, the intricacies of turf management, it's still important to rub shoulders with the regulars and club officials who have at least a casual interest in better understanding maintenance practices. They may want to understand why greens may be fast or slow or why carts are being restricted to paths only. They may be a bit confused when they're scolded for not raking sand in bunkers or replacing divots, not fixing ball marks on greens, riding carts inappropriately, or not corralling the divots at the practice range tee.  There are a few insanely interested golfers who want to Google what causes certain turf diseases or grain on greens -- all the more reason to make it a point to communicate with the golfers at your club or course. I'm sure you've all seen how a little knowledge can be dangerous and result in some troublesome misunderstandings.  Communicating Made Easier Fortunately, whether we actually rub shoulders with members or communicate through the club's publication or website or through social media, there are numerous ways to keep those who are interested apprised of what we do and the impact it may have on their game. New on the block are apps that first allowed a club's general manager to alert members of clubhouse activities and menu changes  Now similar apps are available that allow golf course superintendents to alert golfers to myriad golf course developments, from areas under construction to aeration dates. Daily, I read with enthusiasm, interest, and many times humor, the tweets, the blogs, the newsletter articles and the website efforts of superintendents. Thanks to these internet options, communications efforts have slowly been increasing. Kudos to the supers who dare to take the time and give the effort to educate and communicate.   All in all, the efforts to demystify the details of maintenance are worth it. Done well, these communications will keep members and golfers happily informed and even earn you the recognition and respect that will peg you as a valued contributor to your club or facility. For those communicating and those who haven't fully taken the leap, here are a few tips that may help you feel more confident in your communications: 1. Are you communicating to the right audience? It may be more fun to tweet out to your superintendent buddies, but make sure that, in whatever you share through social media, you put your best foot forward.  Pretend you're a new golfer at your facility who's waking up eager to play golf.  He or she is thinking: Is the course wet today? Is it open? Are the greens fast, soft? Is there any construction activity I should be aware of? Are there any outings? Will pesticides be applied today? Are carts restricted? Is the practice tee turf available for practice?  Using your tweets, blogs, etc., to communicate useful information to the right audience will go a long way toward bridging the knowledge gap. Golfers don't really care that one of your workers didn't show up again today. Work toward using your communications to enlighten the VIP list at your club: the GM and professional staff; the green committee members and the chairman; the club president or the owner; the caddie master or starter; the key restaurant personnel and even the caddies. All these people are likely to come into contact with golfers and can serve as messengers of your updates and information. The more people able to offer accurate, detailed information on your behalf, the better. 2. Are you using the latest available communication tools?  How does a super get the chance to go beyond the routine issues on the golf course and explain the more complex issues that face the course? How does one explain the many types of bunker liners and bunker sands for instance? Using blogs, photos, and pointing to research articles are always good options, provided those research articles can be easily digested by the layman.  For those who would like some of the work done for them, our new app (Conditions) contains a library of informative, easy-to-read articles that help explain many of the complex challenges we all face on the golf course in a format that members are now used to via an app.  With the job of golf course superintendent getting increasingly complex and demanding, online communication options seem the way to go. But keep in mind, it should never totally replace the in-person communication. Developing personal relationships is, and always will be, a key aspect of the job.  3. Are you taking enough time each day to communicate?  Communicating, no doubt, requires time and effort. And sometimes, you may wonder if it's really paying off. But I can assure you, providing regular course updates, particularly during times of extreme heat stress or disease outbreaks, can only serve you well. Members will appreciate having the ability to understand what is going on at their golf course and will feel more confident in your ability as a turfgrass manager. Just as important, it will eliminate the need to speculate about what is happening on the course. Future success for superintendents is tied to the success that they have when it comes to communicating with those not-in-the-know. And today, the superintendent has more tools available than ever to do it! After nearly 30 years as a golf course superintendent and consultant, Greg Wojick co-founded Playbooks for Golf in 2008.

Greg Wojick, CGCS

Greg Wojick, CGCS

Five Must-Do Tech Tips for Today's Superintendent

From time to time, we delve into the greater world of technology in this blog. There is an enormous amount of tech and platforms available out there; I certainly don't pretend to have an understanding of even a small percentage of what's available today. But I do know what seems to work best, and easiest, for most of us in our industry and in my daily experience working for many of you and what the knowledge level tends to be.    That said, here are five things you totally should be doing in 2017. If this is old news to you, congrats! You're in good company in the industry.    1. DUMP INTERNET EXPLORER IMMEDIATELY  Microsoft has discontinued Internet Explorer in favor of a new browser called Edge. It's not great either in my opinion. But Internet Explorer (IE) is now obsolete. In fact, it doesn't even work with many newer websites and can cause security issues as well. There is no reason that any of you should continue use; the very few people who have a legitimate reason to keep it has to do with dated software outside of our industry, and it should only be used to visit that particular software.    While there are various browsers to switch to, the best choice is Google Chrome. It is what most new websites and applications base standards on due to its webkit build structure (Safari on Mac does as well). It's a simple download, and the trick is to make sure to make it your default browser, so all links load in it instead of IE. Here's a link to doing just that:    2. CLEAR YOUR BROWSING HISTORY AT LEAST WEEKLY You're now on Chrome, awesome! You also need to upkeep on your browsing history. Websites and online applications constantly archive and track your history. They add cookies, store old pages, app data and much more. It can slow down your experience and also create issues with security in many instances, not to mention create functionality issues over time with web applications (I have experience here with our software). Be sure to clear your browsing data weekly, at a minimum; I do it every day. It will improve your online performance and protect you from threats.    Here is a guide on clearing browsing data in Chrome.   3. UPLOAD ALL YOUR CRITICAL DOCUMENTS TO THE CLOUD This seems like old news but still needs to be covered. You're out in the field most of your day. Why not have access to all your critical documents at any time, anywhere. Services like Dropbox and Google Drive make this a breeze. You can organize files and folders in a multitude of ways and make sharing them very simple. There are numerous guides on these with a quick search for full details. I use Google Drive myself and it is great for keeping shared documents synced up and accessible anywhere.   4. ORGANIZE YOUR DAY WITH TECH I have covered this topic in detail before because it is so critical to running a well-organized operation. I do this with two concepts daily: Wunderlist and Inbox Zero. Wunderlist is an excellent piece of software that you can create various lists, tasks file reminders and so much more. I would have needed an assistant long ago without it. Inbox Zero is a concept (not an actual product) where you always clear out your email inbox by responding to emails at set times and creating action lists from those emails through a service like Wunderlist. Again, this is a wonderful way to be professional and organized, and honestly stand out from the crowd when it comes to communication.    In addition, there are tons of new tech products specific to the industry you can add to your operation daily that can streamline things: chemical/fertilizer software, labor boards and tracking, hole locations, moisture meters, GPS sprayers, on and on. I'm happy to cover any questions you have on these products, just reach out if you need guidance.    5. GET YOUR CAREER ONLINE Sending a resume just isn't enough anymore. With the ability to display your work through imagery available through websites and online portfolios, there's no reason not to do it. You used to be ahead of the curve and stand out if you had a website, now you are behind if you don't. And there are ways to restrict access if you are worried about your current club so there's no reason not to be prepared for your next opportunity.    Be careful putting your career online through social media though, it can cause more harm than good if not done properly. For a complete rundown on this, checkout a previous post here.   Meeting these 5 simple guidelines will make you a well-organized and tech-capable superintendent in today's marketplace. Again if you need any assistance or have questions feel free to let me know, happy to help.

Matt Leverich

Matt Leverich

Presentation Tips: How to Engage Your Audience

Guest Post by Greg Wojick   Our industry has always been about so much more than growing grass. Eventually everyone has an issue arise, either agronomic or elsewhere in the operation. My belief is that whenever you're in trouble -- and even before you are in trouble -- you better be able to communicate well.   I'm usually impressed with superintendents' technical competence and professional conduct. If only that were all you needed for success! The reality is that a major part of your success as a superintendent is having the ability to present yourself and your ideas clearly and effectively before your Green Committee or general membership.   Unlike the casual conversations you have with your colleagues, crew, and golfing membership, presenting to a group requires thought and preparation. It's your opportunity to enhance your image as a confident, knowledgeable, and likable professional and to win favor on a proposal or idea that might not otherwise be taken seriously.   You'll find a lot written about the mechanics of composing and delivering a presentation. I want to talk, instead, about another aspect of presenting that I feel is equally important to a presenter's success -- and that is how your thoughts are divided among several things and which one is critical to your success. I see presenters who give most of their attention to themselves. They are visibly self-conscious, their gestures are not natural, and they worry more about the technique of their presentation than the results.   Other presenters concentrate mostly on their messages. They try to produce perfect sentences and end up stumbling over their words. They search for the perfect word and end up saying "uh". They look at and talk to their visuals to a fault.    The best presenters give the highest percentage of their attention to their audience. They connect or make contact with their audience by first taking the time to know their audience and then tailoring their presentations to their needs and concerns. Let's face it, even the most pertinent, hard-hitting information can fall on deaf ears if you fail to connect or make contact with your audience.   So how do you engage? You make contact and connection with your eyes, your voice, your gestures, and your body language. This means you must look at the audience -- not at your notes, sound sincere and committed as you speak, use gestures to emphasize your words, and appear confident and secure with your stance and posture. Practice these skills until they become natural and you appear to be just "having a conversation with the audience." The more prepared you are and confident you feel about your presentation, the better you'll be able to respond to unplanned situations.   Practice your speech out loud -- even record it to help you spot areas that sound strange or unnatural, it's easy with phones now. But don't practice gestures and facial expressions in front of a mirror. If you rehearse too many gestures, that's exactly how they'll look. Rehearsed. Let them come naturally to you.   Get yourself prepared and comfortable so that you pay only minimal attention to yourself. Rehearse adequately so that you are thinking about the delivery of your message and not the message. When you can spend less time thinking about yourself and your message, you'll have more time to focus on what's most important in the room -- and to your success: the audience.

Greg Wojick, CGCS

Greg Wojick, CGCS

Tech Tip: Online Password Management Solution

This topic isn't specific to the turfgrass industry but we are all adding more and more technology into our daily operations, which typically means new logins and passwords for various software or websites. Add to that your personal accounts for bills, family activities and more, and it can get frustrating to remember all of them. As of today, I have over 50 logins!  When it comes to daily organization, I have written in the past about my use of Wunderlist, a free app for making lists and a lot more. I honestly couldn't function without it and would have had to hire an assistant long ago. If you missed that blog post, you can check it out here.  Why am I talking about Wunderlist when this article is about passwords? For years, I kept a list in Wunderlist of all my usernames and passwords. I used to use Apple Keychain as well, but keeping them in Wunderlist was easier for me as I have it open constantly every day, and Keychain didn't work for my PC or phone. Wunderlist was a simple solution, but not very secure and I still had to reference the list every time I needed to login plus keep it updated manually.  So, recently I stumbled upon a great series from a tech blog I follow, 9to5Mac, and software called 1Password.It has really made my online password management a breeze and has made it extremely secure. The premise is pretty simple - login with one password and it works for all of your other ones. You can add all secure information too, like bank accounts, alarm codes, etc. and it works on any operating system or device. You'll quickly see how amazing it is to just have the one password that works for everything, and their encryption is extremely well done. They even have a feature called Watchtower that alerts if a site has been hacked and can reset your password for you with their Strong Password Generator. There are options to add it for your whole family as well which is very convenient.  That's it. Seems silly to me I didn't know about it until now but it has worked so great for me I wanted to pass it along to you as well since this blog covers technology now and then. You can check out full details on it at https://1password.com/.  Note: Just in case you don't know - its not a good option to just have your browser save your logins/passwords on websites because it's not that secure, and more importantly, you should be clearing out your browsing history and cache frequently for a faster experience and for security purposes. 

Matt Leverich

Matt Leverich

Critical checklist for your online presence...

The very first article I wrote for TurfNet back in 2013 covered the many potential dangers of an online presence. I'm sure most of you have forgotten it and it's only gotten more important in the years since as social media continues its rise in our daily lives. As 2017 starts, now is the time make sure your online presence is working for you in a completely positive way. Here are some key things to consider: Ensure your security settings in Facebook are heavily restricted. Great info on this at https://www.wired.com/2013/08/facebook-privacy-settings/
  Lock your Twitter account down so only those who you approve can follow you and the tweets aren't public. I can't stress this enough for job opportunities, it really is a major factor I have dealt with in the industry.
  Be very careful what you post. The world of golf has a certain view of how one should behave and, like it or not, compliance leads to better future opportunities. And while it may be fun to commiserate with peers about member antics or turf-care difficulties, it is probably not a good idea for success long term.
  Have your maintenance blog hosted on the private members' website. This ensures only members can view it and you can freely communicate about issues on the course without worrying about other clubs seeing it. This gets very critical if and when you decide to apply at another club. The committee will scour your information for any sign of distress, trust me. Even if your blog shows you communicated an issue very well, it still has them thinking that you are not Mr. Perfect candidate who never has issues. If you don't have an option for a private blog, make sure the public one is clean of any bad course conditions or issues and send those out through email blasts instead, which will reach more members anyways.
  Do promote your career website or online portfolio with your membership. This is one area where you can work to push your online presence because it has been carefully crafted to make you look your best. A large percentage of your membership really doesn't know much about you and your career at the vast majority of clubs. Why not get ahead of any future issues by creating a more professional image of yourself and educating members on your extensive background and education? Once you have your career materials complete, leave a small notecard with a link to them at the front desk, send an email with a link to all members, include in a blog post and many other ways as well to show members your career background. Using these five tips will ensure that when it's time for your next career opportunity, you'll be ready and protected from potential online harm.

Matt Leverich

Matt Leverich

The Course Set Paradox...

by Greg Wojick, Playbooks for Golf   Many golf course workers can now be thankful that setting up the course is over for the season (not so for the sun belt guys and gals). Course set-up is that recurring job that golfers can easily understand but it can also become a tedious chore for the worker routinely assigned to this hugely important duty. Day after day this set of chores is expected to be done with perfection lest the superintendent will hear about it. If a violation with course set-up is consequential enough and not detected in time by a staff member, (i.e. hole location on a slight slope) golfers may never forget it!   Lets take a look at just some of the detail of a comprehensive daily course set routine: Clean and set up tee markers (for all sets of tees) Fill divots with seed/soil from previous day Fill divot boxes Empty broken tee containers Pick up any trash on course, around buildings Set up the practice area tee/position locations Check club cleaning units/towels Check practice area signage Check practice ball supply Check on course restroom facilities Set hole locations on the practice green(s) Check the ball washer fluid and towels (if you have them) at each location Clean and reposition benches on tees, at the practice area too Check ropes, stakes, scatter mechanisms Clean plaques on tees, in the fairways Check and reposition signage Decide on where to position hole locations on each green Repair a few ball marks Check bunker rake placement Empty garbage receptacles Check on divot containers for caddies, in divot-concentrated areas of fairways, in golf carts Making note of and communicating weeping sprinklers or sprinkler heads stuck on Repairing damage from overnight animal burrowing   Golfers will comment with some degree of authority about most all of the items on this list of daily chores (most often hole location) and many have specific thoughts about how the work should be done.  As an example, many golfers feel that the tee marker locations should deliver variability but also end up with an overall yardage about the same as what the scorecard indicates.  Additionally, golfers typically want each par three hole to play at different yardages so that the same club (i.e. 7-iron) is not used for each of the par three holes.  This requires that tee marker location combined with hole location be in the correct synchrony.  Seems easy enough but just try explaining that to the recruit who you hope is competent enough to handle the course set duties.     Well-trained assistant superintendents oftentimes get the course set assignments but because of the increasing demands on assistants (spraying, fertilizing, watering, etc) I have seen staff other than assistants performing course set on most all of the courses I visit. More specifically I have noticed that many of the workers are foreign language speaking who may or may not have command of the English language, which adds to the challenges of perfect daily set up.   Have you ever been notified about a ball washer that is dry or a rope that is drooping?  Has a worker ever inadvertently left tee markers in the same place or forgot to change a hole location?  How about the cart arrow sign pointing in the wrong direction or the Snickers bar wrapper blowing across a fairway?  Criticism is sure to follow these mis-deeds much sooner than would a fertilizer spill or a spray skip.   The myriad golfer gadgets that are now commonplace with golfers should give us a strong clue in the quest for daily course set perfection.  Golfers love their gadgets!  Yardage plaques can now easily be checked by golfers range finders (and caddies).  Other yardage markers like the 150, 100, etc can be critiqued with accuracy.  Smart phones can actually detect the slope on greens and also can have daily hole locations pre-set on an app (our own ezPins system does this) that golfers can see before and during their round of golf.  With all the complexity that overall course presentation entails, specific course set up remains the most often criticized part of what the golfer can confidently discuss with turf pros. Superintendents should never minimize course set.  Similar to setting up a restaurant for fine dining, the slightest indication that something is 'off' can start a downward spiral of course comments. I know a few supers that will set the course themselves each day to avoid issues.  I know one superintendent who sprays a small dot on the tees and greens each morning to help his staff with the decisions about where to place markers or holes.  Everyone has their own procedures for course set and most don't let the uninitiated ever perform the task without proper guidance and experience.  I have found that the weary and glazed-over worker who is asked, because of his/her sense of doing things well, day after day to set the course eventually learns to avoid risk.  This risk avoidance becomes manifested with hole locations in similar spots time after time.  It also shows up with tee marker locations in the middle of each tee.  Ironically, by trying to avoid risk of criticism, the worker creates a noticeable sameness to the course set up.  Sameness of set-up leads to criticism.  There is the paradox!   Consider this as a New Year's resolution or simply as a holiday gift to yourself and your staff: create a set of SOPs (standard operating procedures) for course set up.  This document of procedures can be distributed to your green chairman and his committee, to the golf staff and caddie group if you have a caddie program.  In the SOPs detail, the reasoning as to how the hole locations are selected and how each worker is trained with the responsibility of setting pins. This doc should be clear and approved by the chairman and committee.  Additionally, an automated computer system for selecting hole locations is a very realistic, affordable solution to hole location nightmares, with more courses opting for this all the time. I can provide more details on how this works great for all parties involved -- green committees, pros and superintendents -- from direct experience at clubs I have consulted at in the past year. Just contact me directly if interested.    Perfection in course set up rarely happens each and every day throughout the entire year, but when the occasional mishap occurs, communication with respect to procedures can go a long way towards understanding.  And maybe with this extra effort more workers can be properly and confidently trained to set the course.

Greg Wojick, CGCS

Greg Wojick, CGCS

Tech tip: Image headers in Word for a professional look

I would estimate that close to 100% of superintendents have and use Microsoft Word for creating various documents for use around your clubs, and personally as well. While there are limitations to the software, one thing that works great is how it handles headers. There is a little bit of process to it, but in the end you can have a very nicely designed document that you can then edit on your own.    Let's say that you have had TurfNet design a header for your blog and you'd like to use it on some documents as well. Or you had someone design a custom look for you. As part of my career services we create a custom header for resumes anyways and we include it in the Word file for the base cover letter in this manner. Yet another option would be that you want to have your club logo with your name in large text at the top of any notes to the membership on course conditions, articles, green speed, etc. These are all easily set up as headers in Word.    I've created a stock header image for myself to use as an example in this tutorial. Here's how it works:    1. Hire someone or find a designer friend to create a professional header image. This will allow you to have the best look that reflects your professional career properly. The image can be various sizes, but if you want it to be really easy, have them set up the image as an 8.5 x 11 file in jpg or png file types, at a minimum of 150 dpi.      2. In Word, click on the Insert tab and select the Header section. Then select Edit Header.      3. Select the Picture section in the new set of sections available at the top. This will open a dialog box for you to find the file you want to include. Navigate to where the header image is located on your computer or drive.      4. Once the picture is inserted, it must be sized properly. Click on the very bottom right of the top sections where there is a small arrow in the Size box.      5. In the Size tab, click on Absolute and enter 11 for the height and 8.5 for the width.      6. Click on the Text Wrapping tab and select the box for Behind Text.      7. Click on the Position tab and select Alignment: Left and related to: Page from the drop down menus in the Horizontal section. Do the same for the Vertical options as well. Exit from this dialog box.      8. The head has now been sized properly. Click on the Design tab at the very top right of the menu list. Then select the Close Header and Footer option.      9. Now you can adjust the margins for the text areas. In my example I have lined up the text with the edges of the header layout for a unified look. You can alter the margins by moving your arrow over the rulers on the top and left of the document where the gray and white meet.      10. Save out the file. As you can see in my example, the header image shows up as faded out or semi-transparent. This is how Word handles it. The header will display properly (not faded out) when you export the file to a PDF. I covered the importance of exporting to PDF in my last blog.     That's it. You now have a professional look for any document you wish to create. 

Matt Leverich

Matt Leverich

Export your career documents to PDF...

I have covered this topic very briefly before in a larger article about cover letters, but it's worthwhile to include this as its own feature in our goal of providing excellent and easy to read career materials.  Portable Document Format (PDF) preserves document formatting and enables file sharing. When the PDF format file is viewed online or printed, it retains the content and format that you intended.    Out of all the career files I view each year, over 50% are still sent in a non-PDF format, usually in a Word file  (.doc) format. The message here is pretty simple:   ALWAYS CONVERT ANY FILE TO PDF BEFORE YOU SEND IT.    Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, etc. do some funny things to text margins depending upon the version and computer. Especially if you are using tables, I can't tell you how many times I have tried to view a resume in .doc format and I can only view the first page of a tabled resume; everything else is missing. And with mobile devices so prominent, it gets even more complicated to ensure your file retains its original formatting.   Each version of Word seems to have it's own variation of save/print commands, but generally speaking you can export to PDF from Word using File/Save & Send/Create PDF File/Save As/ change "Format" from .doc to .pdf File/Print then Save as PDF from the small PDF dropdown at lower left Export/XPS Document or use a free online converter if your computer cannot export to PDF.    Microsoft has instructions for creating PDFs from each Office application and version here.   By converting your document to PDF, you are certain that your margins, text formatting and overall page are laid out the way you want, and that all pages will show up no matter what computer or device is used for viewing. The hiring person will appreciate the format and while it's a small thing, it can only help to give you a better chance at success. 

Matt Leverich

Matt Leverich

Rethinking the Superintendent Search

Guest post by Greg Wojick, Playbooks for Golf -- I recently visited the CMAA (Club Managers Association of America) website. One of the first things I noticed was that more than two dozen executive search firms were listed.   I looked further, scanning many of the search firm sites. I saw that there were numerous searches for general managers, most often referred to as COOs and occasionally CEOs. I also saw searches for assistant general managers, executive chefs, directors of food and beverage, golf professionals and golf shop staff, marketing positions, and human resource positions. Though all the jobs listed were for golf club personnel, searches for golf course superintendents were conspicuously absent. None of these websites listed searches for a superintendent!    That prompted a visit to the GCSAA website. Not one executive search firm was listed there.  I even went so far as to track down executive search sites that specialize in golf course superintendent hires, and no active searches were listed. Hmmm.     Debate on Super Searches It appears that clubs are willing to pay thousands of dollars to enlist professional help to hire key individuals at their clubs, but the golf course superintendent isn't among them.    I find this particularly interesting since, from what I understand, a survey revealed that golf course conditioning is considered to be the most important aspect in the business of golf course management. Golf Course Architect Robert Trent Jones, who is clearly well versed in all that goes into cultivating a healthy and well-groomed golf course, was quoted as saying,  I don't have a definitive answer for why most clubs haven't recognized the importance of enlisting the help of a search firm to hire their golf course superintendent. I do know, however, that increasingly general managers, working together with search committees, have taken on the duties of hiring the superintendent. The merits of this practice, in my mind, are debatable. The golf course, as we know, is one of the club's most essential and valuable assets. What is a golf club, after all, without its golf course? What's more, the skills and knowhow required to successfully manage a golf course operation don't come easily. It's a science that requires years of study and experience to master. Superintendents must be diagnosticians, capable of recognizing myriad turf diseases and insect infestations, while pinpointing just-the-right remedy from a dizzying array of pesticide and insecticide options. But this is just a piece of the whole. Superintendents, at the same time, are required to manage sizable budgets with great care and precision, communicate effectively with club staff and green committee members, and inspire peak performance from their staff members, seven days a weekparticularly from early spring through late fall. This is a sizable and highly specialized job.   Tips for the Candidate Clubs conducting their own searches for superintendent can't possibly know the nuances of the profession, but I've witnessed times when they've taken a fact or two out of context to project that they have a grasp on what it is that superintendents do. Not only does this fail to adequately vet a candidate, but it makes it challenging for the person being interviewed.   Aside from recommending that clubs consider passing the search for superintendent on to a qualified search firm, I'd like to offer a word to the wise to those interviewing for a superintendent's position, particularly assistants seeking to climb the ladder.   First, keep in mind that search firms with expertise in the turfgrass management industry understand the complexities of the job of golf course superintendent, and they are highly qualified to evaluate job candidates' ability to manage a particular golf course operation. They understand what's involved in topdressing, the use of moisture meters, and the life cycle of the annual bluegrass weevil. By contrast, those who are familiar with golf but not deeply involved in the turf world, may have heard these terms, but won't fully grasp them. It's essential, therefore, that you practice describing your qualifications in layman's terms. In other words, keep it simple.  Also be sure to communicate your experience and expertise with professionally done career tools. Portfolios and digital websites are essential to ensure that proper communication actually takes place.    When I take time to ponder why clubs rarely enlist a search firm for hiring a golf course superintendent, I have to wonder whether the industry goal of elevating the status of the profession may actually be falling short. And when I watch the GCSAA TV spots that encourage golfers to thank their superintendent, I can't help but feel that thanks may just not be enough.   SIDEBAR Take It From the CMAA Also on the CMAA website was an idea that I thought might work for the golf course industry. There's a list of 223 individual CMAA members who are available for Interim Management Service (IMS). The IMS is designed to assist clubs that are in need of immediate temporary management assistance.   In the turfgrass management industry, an IMS doesn't exist. But maybe its time has come. I would bet that superintendents would put their names on a list to help out a club in need. There seems to always be a pool of supers who are in between jobs and would be pleased to fill in temporarily.   Perhaps local chapters could initiate this list and advertise it to area clubs. Just a thought. After nearly 30 years as a golf course superintendent and consultant, Greg Wojick co-founded Playbooks for Golf in 2008.

Greg Wojick, CGCS

Greg Wojick, CGCS

Prepare in advance for unanticipated job openings...

As with any season in the golf industry, inevitable job losses have come in 2016. While it is an understandably hard time for those on the losing end, others see it as a possible bright new future for their career. And this event can happen at any time; even your dream job can open up unexpectedly. You should always have your career materials ready to go, just in case. It's too risky to not be ready when so few of these superintendent positions open up.  Recent activity brought this old issue to the forefront for me. I received a multitude of requests for career work to meet a very tight application deadline. I accepted all I could and had to turn the rest down. Although I offered to work on the projects after the deadline so these professionals are ready for the next big one, very few were interested. This is not the way to operate... waiting until an opening appears and then frantically putting your life's work together.    This is a call-to-action, a chance to be proactive with your career. Don't wait until it's too late!    In 2014, I wrote a comprehensive post on things you can do to prepare now. I encourage you to read it and begin work today.     And also remember that it is critical to create a professional image, not a DIY, spare-time one, as laid out in this earlier post.   If you are in the job market at all -- and realistically speaking, just about everyone might be some day -- do yourself a favor and have your career materials current and ready in advance.

Matt Leverich

Matt Leverich

Beyond turf, tap into golfers' wants and needs...

One of the biggest traps you can fall into in our industry is focusing too much on turf. Instead, you should spend extra time learning as much as you can about what golfers care about and want to discuss. Outreach to your customers is something that is truly lacking in the golf maintenance world. Many of the problems that arise for a superintendent stem from communication, or a lack of it, with golfers.

The best way to create better outreach to golfers is through first learning what the most passionate of them think. To better understand their frame of mind can lead to improved dialog and education with them on course conditions and what is involved, versus their impressions of conditions.

To this end, Greg Wojick (my business partner at Playbooks), has compiled a very extensive article on "A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Course Ranking System. Greg is a Golfweek rater and former superintendent. His look into all rating systems and what passionate golfers like raters think is a great educational opportunity for those of you not fully familiar with rankings and how it's done.

I invite you to read the complete article here (lengthy but very worthwhile and educational).

As I am sure most of you know, even if your course will never be ranked, some of your most passionate members like to discuss architecture, rankings, pretty much anything to do with comparing courses. The more you know about the process or things from the golfer's perspective the better off you will be in communicating with them. They may even begin to consider you one of "them", which is a good thing for your long-term success in this industry.


(Greg Wojick's article was originally published in the MetGCSA's Tee to Green newsletter, content courtesy of the MetGCSA.)
 

Matt Leverich

Matt Leverich

DIY job application basics...

Over the course of the last several years I have covered different aspects of creating good career materials. From tips on resumes to hiring professionals to create your personal brand through websites and portfolios, we have covered a lot of material. And I intend to cover much more in the future.

However, I've never compiled any kind of resource to some basics on job applications - your cover letter, resume and references. So, here are some links to what I consider the baseline must-haves on these documents for your use and reference: Best Tips for Resumes Creating a Great Cover Letter Guidelines for Professional References

Each one of these articles will give you an excellent opportunity to execute your career advancement and goals, and it is handy to have them compiled together right here. Of course you can (and should) do much more to stand out by hiring a professional and building a website and portfolio. But at the very least following these guidelines is a good first step. Best of luck on your next application. On a related note, I have seen an increase in the number of you who have gotten back to hand-written thank you notes for applications and just use in general. It's great to see and I try to include a reminder post once a year on it. Never underestimate the value of this seldom used tool. In today's world this simple act resonates more than almost anything in creating an impression on the recipient. I have put together custom cards for several of you already and hope to get many more requests going forward because I truly believe in this effort and hope it catches on much more. For my full layout of this idea, check it out here.

Matt Leverich

Matt Leverich

Keeping Pace With the Age of Technology - Guest post by Greg Wojick

Several weeks ago, I had lunch with the vice president of Arccos Golf, a startup company that has developed technology intended to help golfers improve their games. The system they came up with allows the golfer to use the data created by each swing of the golf club (sensors are attached to the club) to identify weaknesses and strengths -- among many other useful data points -- like quantifying the percentage of time that your approach shots miss the greens to the right or to the left of the flagstick.  I found Arccos's concept intriguing, so the company gave me a demo set that I could put to the test on the golf course. I was assured that the device was not difficult to use, particularly for the young and tech savvy -- i.e., the Millennials -- who were quicker to pick it up than the Boomers or even Gen Xers! During the course of this conversation, I also learned that this older crowd made use of just a portion of the new system's capabilities and, in the end, were more likely than their younger counterparts to give up on using the gadget altogether due to frustration or distrust. The Millennials, on the other hand, are more likely to utilize the entire system almost immediately, AND quickly adapt to the regular updates and free software enhancements. Hmmmm. As one of the users from the Boomer generation, I can't say I found the system difficult, though if I did some soul-searching, I guess I could say that I, too, would gravitate toward using the device's more basic and essential functions. In today's technology-based society, its almost a curse having been born in what I call the BT (Before Technology) Era. With kids virtually leaving the womb with a cell phone in their hands, navigating technological devices becomes second nature to them, just as a second language or a sport like skiing is when learned at an early age. I do have techno-envy when I watch my 19-year-old son and my 23-year-old daughter quickly and more easily navigate their electronic gadget of choice. It's not that I can't accomplish the same things; it's just that it takes effort. It is far from second nature. Okay, so I'll probably never be a techno-savant, but I refuse to throw up my hands and give up on keeping up when it comes to new strategies and tools that can benefit me, personally and professionally. If you have been in turf management for 20 to 50 years, you undoubtedly have wisdom, insight, and value to add. Just keep in mind that technology gives you new means to keep demonstrating and applying that value. Don't get down on yourself because you failed to learn the latest software or app. Just make it a point to master it, and then watch your productivity grow. Why not start today by making technology your friend, and bear these pointers in mind: Practice yields proficiency. A family friend was a textile designer for more than 30 years. When her craft first started going digital, she felt lost and obsolete. Then she realized she was best off learning by doing. She began to welcome assignments that required new software skills, and in addition to taking courses to retrain, she hired a kid she found to coach her through the job. Last I checked, she still calls on him. It;s how she stays current. Pick your kids' or a young staff member's brain. In the book Overcoming the Digital Divide by Shelly Palmer (President of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, NY, and the digital living guru from CNN, Fox Television, NBC Universal and satellite radio), I read that the two groups with most tech smarts are typically those under age 25 and those over 45. The latter are often parents who have their own onsite techie to school them: the 16-year-old playing Xbox in the family room. Find daily blogs that sift through tech stories and talk about only the things you should focus on. That adds up to a five-minute read that keeps you up-to-date and in the know. Go into a Verizon or Apple store and don't just grab latest device with the most press. Tell a sales associate what you do for a living and ask the person to show you the smartphone, tablet, or device that is right for you. Always ask for device demos that focus on the specific functions, tips, and tricks that can boost your personal productivity. Take it one step further and sign up for the workshops that Apple and others typically offer to help you master relevant programs. Winter is the perfect time! Though older is wiser on so many fronts, ignoring technology and its increasing role in the turf profession is a certain pathway to obsolescence. Everyone should anticipate and embrace the inevitable technological advances. Like Arccos Golf has introduced it's golf club sensors to enhance golfers' experience on the course, we at Playbooks for Golf recognize the importance of introducing, and continually improving on, technological devices like the Coverage System that will streamline and simplify various aspects of superintendents' jobs. Slowly but surely, technological advances are taking hold in the industry, particularly among the Millennials streaming into the industry. So come on, Boomers and GenXers, you smart, mature people. Make the same commitment to staying technologically up-to-date. Every day there's at least one twenty-something techno geek suggesting you just move over and let him take over. Ignore him. Pull out your smartphone and stand firm!

Greg Wojick, CGCS

Greg Wojick, CGCS

Organize with technology...

A new year is upon us, and I thought it would be a good time to review some things in tech that we can start out fresh with at the beginning of this year. The key with using technology in your job is to not let it overtake you and keep you from managing the course properly. With a few of these suggestions you should be able to harness the power of tech without many of the side-effects.

Wunderlist
The first step for most people to get organized is to start making lists. This solution could be software called Wunderlist, which I have talked about before. I have tested out quite a few different products for this and Wunderlist seems to be the easiest and most useful option for the purpose we are discussing. It was also awarded the App of the Year from Apple in the past.

By using it for all of your task planning, you can limit the time that other technologies can take away: Set reminders and due dates for tech tasks like checking Twitter and don't look at it until the reminder is sent to you. Share specific lists with your Assistants, particularly research on new tech and products--they are typically interested in these things and may do some work for you in their off-time in these important areas. Create sub-tasks and notes on tech-related tasks that can offer you reminders on how to use software, devices, etc. that are readily available from any device. Set and edit the list schedule no more than once per day and don't open up the software otherwise. Then let the reminders and due dates alert you to what and when you should be working on the tasks. This limits your use of this technology and allows you to focus on the course while knowing your tasks will be sent to you much like having your own secretary. Add files to lists and tasks to store research, club documents and more in a central location that can be shared with other staff members. Inbox Zero
This is another idea I covered last year and implemented for my work life. I cannot understate how truly awesome this idea has been for me. I think it can offer huge value to superintendents because of the nature of your position and all the directions email can pull you. The general idea behind it is quite obvious: maintain your email inbox with ZERO mail all the time. It also calls for timed, structured protocol in composing reply email. This can be achieved by utilizing several components, folders, actions, etc. After using this principle for going on 2 years now, I still have zero mail in my inbox as I am typing this and it feels so great! Check out the full tutorial I wrote on it here.

Turf industry tech products
Every year there are more and more products that are capable of saving you time and/or money through using technology specific to our industry. Many of these products are created by supporters of TurfNet too and this is the time of year to take a look at them. A few I have experience with or directly worked on include:

Labor Management: ASB Task Tracker. This was developed by a golf pro and superintendent to provide you with a digital jobs board and also track where your labor is used. If you are interested in either one of those components, Task Tracker is a very good solution currently.

Water Management: There are a lot of different technologies out now to help with this important area. Several components you may be aware of are: Moisture meters (Spectrum TDR or Stevens POGO are both good options) Energy Snapshot for Golf (architect Andy Staples has created this process to improve efficiency in water operations and other utilities) As-Built mapping (with new central control programs for Toro and Rain Bird it's key to have accurate mapping for the system and can be done without expensive on-site GPS these days) OnGolf (this is more comprehensive than water management but offers a lot of analytical data for tracking irrigation, meters, stimp, weather and more) Chemical/Fertilizer Management: Coverage System. I worked to develop this system with superintendents to create something that was extremely easy to use and offered turn-key solutions for managing your application programs. There are a lot of way to plan and track your programs on your own, but Coverage System makes it really easy and convenient.

Course Setup Management: ezLocator / ezPins. I have seen first-hand how it can save so much time and aggravation for superintendents in regards to hole locations. I recently worked with them to develop a more affordable option called ezPins. This should bring these great time saving features to a lot more of you.

There are many other options out there too. I am only writing about ones that I have direct experience working with so I can confirm they are simple to use and will save you time and/or money.

GIS 2016
I hope to see many of you at GIS, please stop by booth #4816 and say hello. I'm happy to assist in getting you set up with technology and answer any questions you may have about Wunderlist, Inbox Zero, Careers, software and more.

Matt Leverich

Matt Leverich

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