"Leading & Managing" with Cary Cozby from Wichita CC

May 16, 2011

Cary Cozby became the Head Golf Professional at the Wichita Country Club in 2000, only the fifth Professional since 1923. Before coming to Wichita, he was an assistant golf professional at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa (1995-2000) and Oak Tree Golf Club in Edmond, Oklahoma (1993-1995). In 2005 he added the responsibilities of CEO for the club. In the South Central Section, Cary is the recipient of the 2002, 2007, 2010 Merchandiser of the Year, 2003, 2009, and 2010 Golf Professional of the Year, 2003, 2004, 2005 Horton Smith Award, 2009 Bill Strausbaugh Award, and the 2002 National PGA Merchandiser of the Year Award. He is also the recipient of the 2002 and 2010 PING GOlf Regional Club Fitter of the Year Award and his golf shop has been ranked in Golf World Business 100 Best Golf Shops from 2003-2007 and 2009-2011. Recognition certainly is nice, but hearing Cary's perspective is very indicative of just how he has become so successful.

When you hear the word "leader", what comes to mind first?

A leader in my mind has vision and can look at the world from a bigger picture than most. A leader has the best interest of all others, knows where he wants to go and keeps his focus and those around him with their eye on the prize. A leader communicates the goal and WHY we are doing something vs. HOW to do something. A monkey can learn how to do something, a leader will get people to follow when they understand the 'why'. Everyone wants to be a part of the winning team. The leader aspires to be great and understands that it is a bottom up process and not a top-down process. The leader is conscious of the needs and ambitions of those around him and genuinely cares about their well-being. In the end, he knows he will win if he does. A manager is the person worrying about the bottom right-hand corner of the P&L.

What in your mind are the differences between leading and managing as they relate to our jobs as golf professionals? How do you balance them and do you favor one over the other?

The two are worlds apart. There is a big difference between leading people and managing them. Obviously I think the leader is the most effective and when your operation runs at the highest level, the financial side of things seem to take care of themselves. I have a controller at the Club that keeps me apprised of the financials and I have her prepare me the analytics I like to look at on a weekly basis. Other than that, I worry about our member's experience at the Club

In your opinion, are requirements of assistant professionals more managerial, and do we become more of a leader when we become HP?

You can absolutely be a leader as an assistant. For example, in how you view the operation and how you deal with members and the staff under you. Yes, you have to be responsible for hourly employees and payroll but you can lead them and get them to buy into something bigger than just clocking in and out. However, there can only be one true leader of the operation and that needs to be the HP. You can show your maturity by always supporting the HP, even when you disagree. I did not always agree with my mentor but it was his operation and I was there to learn from him and take care of the members. I just made notes on how I would do it if it was my operation. We are all melting pots of our experiences, both good and bad.

With regards to leadership & management, what are the overarching principles that you want your staff to embrace and take with them as they move on in their career?

It is important for them to understand the entire club, period. If they get that and are driven to deliver a great experience to every member, then they will be the leader of the club and the club will "cinch their wagon" to them. It won't be anything managerial to them. Hopefully our professionals leave here with a 360 degree viewpoint of the entire club.

How do you give your staff opportunities to be leaders and how do you give your staff opportunities to be managers? Any formalized training process? Do you rotate responsibilities amongst your assistants?

They're expected to conduct themselves as head professionals in every aspect. We do not have a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd assistant professional, although the ranking does take care of itself based on how they perform and how the members relate to the assistants. The training from me is in not so much in the HOW we operate but much, much more on WHY we operate the way we do. Achieving the big picture goals through the small details. And it is daily, they rotate amongst the managing of the Open-to-buy and managing the Outside Service Staff, but everyone is held accountable for everything. This keeps us sharp! The last line of their job description is "anything not mentioned above"

The assistants manage the Outside Service Staff and our Junior Golf Program, although I am involved with both. You can see the transformation of (most) of our assistants over time and how they begin to notice the small details that make an operation great. I know when we are getting it when they are trying to stay two steps ahead of me. That was always my goal working for Dave Bryan at Southern Hills. I tried to anticipate what he was thinking, seeing, and handle it before he asked. Our current staff is excellent at this. If we have five people trying to conduct themselves like a head professional and their goal is to have my job, we are going to deliver a tremendous experience to our membership...which is the goal!

Can you touch on the staff-library you established at WCC and what you hope to achieve through it?

The library is comprised of mostly service and leadership books, none of which deal with the golf industry/club business but they all relate if you are paying attention. Which I assume they are if they check a book out of our library. The goal is to keep momentum up amongst the staff and keep the creative juices flowing. We need everyone here to be engaged in the experience and this simply supports that ground up philosophy.

How can assistant professionals become better leaders and how can we become better managers?

Find out who does it the best and learn from them, there is no magic formula.

With respect to leadership, can you think back to your previous bosses and current mentors and tell us what they did/do that set them apart? What did/do you learn from them?

Dave Bryan at Southern Hills was a great leader and made it clear what the expectations were. He also had a great ability to solve problems, it was tremendous. He would focus in on whatever the issue was and come up with the perfect solution and in a manner that calmed all parties. Brent Goodger at Oak Tree Golf Club had this way of making everyone that walked through the door feel welcome and comfortable. My father, Jerry, at Hillcrest C.C. in Bartlesville, Oklahoma was as detailed a professional as you can be and didn’t care who you were, he treated everyone like a king or queen. He worked relentlessly at wearing all the hats, a great example...pretty good father too! There are numerous others I consider mentors and try to learn from every place I visit; including hotels, restaurants, etc.