Businesses in the hospitality and food and beverage industries face many challenges. They ride the ups and downs of the economy more closely than the healthcare, government, or high-tech sectors, and average two to three times the rate of employee turnover, according to 2012 numbers from the Society for Human Resource Management.
One small business in Georgia continues to overcome these hurdles. Futren Corporation is a private-club management and operations company with around 200 employees, based in Marietta, Ga. Despite industry challenges and the 2008 recession, Futren has continued to prosper and expand. The company manages Indian Hills Country Club and The Georgian Club in Marietta, and acquired Woodland Hills Golf Course in Cartersville in February 2013. Past projects have included the Ashford Club, Brookstone Golf & Country Club, World Trade Center Atlanta, City Club of Buckhead and the 1818 Club.
Futren attributes its success and low turnover rates to numerous factors, but foremost to its commitment to be “more than fair” with its employees, treating them as people first. “We try not to just say that we care, or rely on gimmicks or cheerleading,” said Futren CEO and President Mitch Rhoden. “We want to demonstrate with our actions that we are looking out for their best interest.” Futren also stands by its corporate commitment to service through its business, and in its community.
Rhoden is a second-generation executive. His father, Jim Rhoden, purchased Indian Hills Country Club from Continental Bank in 1978. The country club lies in the heart of Indian Hills subdivision, a massive development with more than 1,600 single homes. Over the years, other projects followed, as well as the founding of the National Alliance of Private Clubs, which has 41 member-clubs in Georgia and 700 worldwide.
Here are some steps Futren takes to create a high-retention, high-performance organization:
- Values. Futren has a clear set of values that permeate its corporate culture. It believes in leading by serving- its employees, its members, and its guests. The leaders in the company are there to empower and equip their staff. Relationships matter. Rhoden, a former U.S. Marine, attributes his military service and his father’s example to the mindset.
- Training. Along with the expected new employee orientation classes and required certifications, Futren places a high value on informal training, and ongoing communication and development. Managers meet regularly, not just annually, with individual employees. Feedback is reciprocal, manager to employee, and employee to manager. Futren also provides some creative training. It sponsors a dozen of its staff to participate in Dave Ramsey’s Financial Wellness classes every year. Rhoden believes the classes result in a happier, more productive employee, which in turn benefits the company.
- Compensation. When it comes to competitive compensation, Rhoden says it can be a moving target. But Futren aims to pay people fairly; enough so that they can move past money and enjoy their work. “We don’t want compensation to be the only reason people decide to work for us. But we realize that it is an important part of whether an employee is happy and fully engaged,” he said.
- Screening and assessments. Along with the interviews and background checks many businesses rely on, Futren retains the helps of a certified psychologist, who conducts assessments on new managers and leaders, and is available to upper management as needed for counseling or mediation. The move has paid dividends as a resource for Futren’s leaders, and demonstrates its commitment to communication and collaboration.
- Community outreach. Futren is involved in a number of community outreach programs every year, demonstrating its belief that, “responsible corporations give back to the communities in which they live and work.” The volunteer work also fosters camaraderie among its employees and leaders. Examples of programs include raising money for bicycles, serving in local soup kitchens, and packing care packages for military men and women overseas. Club employees also serve on the boards of several local charitable organizations and committees.