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Employment Contracts Part 2: Selling The Idea of a Contract

Greg Wojick, CGCS


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.

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.


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