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News & Press: OTF News

Juggling Multiple Off-Season Projects

Tuesday, October 13, 2015  
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Written by Nick Janovich

Superintendent, Oglebay Resort

As fall aerification wraps up many facility managers are looking ahead to the off-season. For some operations this involves snow-removal plans or snow-tubing operations. For others it involves taking care of that long list of projects and improvements that may have been pushed to the side during the season. (For everyone, though, it should involve a December trip to Columbus for the OTF Conference & Show!) For those that have multiple projects, a systematic way of evaluating them is certainly necessary. Failing to properly evaluate and plan simply puts you one step closer to a disaster.

Evaluating projects has two specific goals. First, when organizations can only afford to do one or two projects the ones that are selected must have the greatest impact on the operation. Second, proper evaluation takes any emotion out of the decisions. Far too many times managers and stakeholders become emotionally attached to their proposed projects and fail to objectively consider the project’s impact as it compares to others. As part of your facility’s management team you should encourage honest evaluation of all projects. Everyone cringes at the mention of planning sessions but they are rather useful in encouraging conversations among all parties.

An example of projects when ranked based on discussion or emotion.
Contrary to popular belief, not all projects have to be construction or renovation events. The term can also include acquiring new equipment, purchasing new fixtures/furniture/equipment, developing a master plan, conditioning your facility for a special event, implementing a new procedure, redesigning the Pro Shop, etc. The word "project” does not always mean putting a shovel in the ground. No matter what your project is the goals remain the same: do it right, do it on time, and do it within budget. What does change among those projects, however, is the impact on the organization.

Example of the same projects with quantifiers applied.
Evaluating impact seems daunting. You may have frightening flashbacks to high school math class when you hear terms such as net present value, return on investment, return on equity, internal rate of return, or payback period. Fear not, Google has all the calculators you could possibly need. It really is as simple as plugging in numbers and clicking. A mistake often made (I’ve even seen it at my own facility) is only using one quantifier to evaluate possible projects. For example, only using payback period only tells part of the story. Likewise ROI alone is not an indicator of maximum impact. Using indicators like NPV, ROE, IRR, ROI, etc. together will begin to tell the whole story. I always encourage managers to take time to calculate several indicators for each project. Look at them as a whole and identify trends. One or two projects will always stand out as the best performers.

In an example from a past seminar, new clubhouse chairs and paint have taken priority over golf course improvements at an attendee’s facility. Sound familiar? That’s likely because someone at your facility has also made an emotional decision at some point. Example: Mr. Smith’s daughter is getting married this spring so he is advocating for the clubhouse improvements. After some quick (Google-aided) number crunching we can see trends develop to "paint” a clearer picture of the different projects’ impact. Once projects are evaluated quantitatively they take on a new rank of importance. Chairs and paint are ranked lower than a proposed irrigation project. Proper and systematic evaluation of this group of projects yields a clear top performer and leaves little room for arguments about how the club’s limited capital should be used.

As you head toward the offseason members will undoubtedly ask you to move mountains. Take the proactive approach and systematically evaluate all recommended projects. Showing that you value funds and the impact of valuable capital will set you far apart from others. People easily become emotionally attached to their ideas. Proper evaluation removes this emotion and is the start to a successful and meaningful list of projects for the off season.

Nick Janovich is a Golf Course Superintendent at Oglebay Resort in Wheeling WV. He holds a BS in Turfgrass Science from The Ohio State University and an MBA from Wheeling Jesuit University. He serves as a Trustee for OTF. Follow him on Twitter @njanovich for all things turf.

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