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Joel Lander Interview, Hotelier Indonesia Magazine, April 2012


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Interview with Joel Lander
Corporate General Manager of Golf Operations at Unitech Group
Gurgaon, India

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Joel Lander Interview, Hotelier Indonesia Magazine, April 2012

  1. 1. Hospitality InvestmentWorld Indonesia 2012the world top 100Martin KublerSocial Media Part 2David KurniawanResort World ManilaHOTELIER INDONESIA 1
  2. 2. Joel Lander Corporate General Manager of Golf Operations at Unitech Group Gurgaon, India We had the opportunity to catch up a great product to our with Joel Lander, Corporate Gen- clients, and make sure the primary amenity (the eral Manager of Golf Operations at golf facilities) measure- Unitech Group in Gurgaon, India. up well to the high-end He has had significant golf & club Real Estate offering management experience in the USA which they are promot- prior to taking his unique skills to ing. Unitech, India’s second largest real My current projects estate developer. We are pleased he include: creating membership offerings spent time with our team to share for each club; rules and his thoughts with Hotelier Indone- regulations for each club, provide the tools for them to be sia: hiring and training the manage- successful. [HIC] Unitech is the second ment staff and overseeing the We are well on our way to establish- largest real estate developer in same for the support team at each ing several great clubs here in India. India. As their Corporate General property. I am also charged with IT Finally, I partner with our Head of Manager of Golf Operations, you requirements and over-all financial Events in business development are their “face of golf”. What are planning and management at each endeavors to help position our Real your professional responsibilities facility. Estate projects for sale. I am cur- with Unitech? My week is spent traveling among rently very close to closing a $40M [JL] My professional responsibilities our operational clubs, meeting with institutional sales deal – by far the here are many and varied. Gener- clients and my team – working to largest single deal in the history of ally, I am responsible for oversee- continually improve our service the company! ing design/redesign, construction/ levels to bring the most value to [HIC] Since golf is not very well reconstruction and operations of our customers. The measure of our established in India, you’ve had 9 private country clubs located success together will be how soon to adopt a vision by bringing around the country. I have a small we are able to create waiting lists many of the positive elements corporate staff that I work with, for memberships at these clubs, of successful private clubs in the as well as interacting with other and how long those lists grow to Americas and Europe to Unitech departments as the needs arise. be! Obviously, I also watch over all clubs. Can you share a couple Specifically, I am charged with the golf operations and maintenance successful efforts? strategic planning for all of our golf operations. As I see it, my job is to projects – to make sure we deliver remove the team’s obstacles and [JL] Not only is golf not very wellHOTELIER INDONESIA 32
  3. 3. established in India, but as you Golf, and fortunately, I have located Unitech’s golf operations? With would observe and might guess, a small number of young, very smart the global economic difficulties in best practices are a long way off Indian candidates that I can train recent years, are there difficulties as well. While a number of Indians to run our first few clubs as GM’s. in building a membership? have gained training elsewhere in Creating a culture of service is also India, and Unitech in specific, has a the world and have brought that very challenging, and we work hard unique spin on how to do this right. back with them to India, most are on that each day. The bottom line We have no intention of build- trained or learn their jobs from is: you must invest in your people ing pay-for-play golf facilities, or people without formal training. A (first) and your facilities (second) if converting our private facilities to challenge here is convincing any you want to attract high-net-worth that format. Unitech understands ownership group that true talent individuals to invest in your Real the high-end market very well, and and experience are required in order Estate projects. I make sure we have we are building things that cater to to produce a club that turns a profit. “the right people on the bus and the those needs, wants and desires. For- A leader is required (GM) as well as a right people in the right seats on tunately, this matches up extremely Director of Golf, a F&B Director and a the bus” (Jim Collins). I teach them well with my belief system in how Superintendent that can each train to “first seek to understand (listen clubs should be designed. and build a solid team based on to your customers and your col- best practices and understanding of leagues) and then be understood” We are building private societies the needs and requirements of the (Steven Covey). that feature the golf (and other) society, the target audience or the amenities that our clients want, and [HIC] In other countries, many environment. surrounding those amenities with of the clubs are converting to a high-quality, upscale apartment In our clubs now operating, we have public golf, pay-for-play struc- towers and villas that meet our brought expats in as a Director of ture. How does that vary fromHOTELIER INDONESIA 33
  4. 4. client’s needs. We only allow clients who purchase a home or plot in our golf societies to have the option for golf membership. Golf membership is NOT included in the purchase price of our Real Estate. This creates an amazing demand for the memberships. In our society in Sectors 96-98 in Noida, as an example, we plan to have approximately 6000 families living there when the entire project is built out. The total number of golf memberships will be limited to 800-1000; hence a waiting list will be naturally created as the project evolves. This facility will not only have a stellar golf course, but also a Jack Nicklaus Studio Academy and potentially, a multi- million dollar TaylorMade club fitting facility – the only facilities of their kind in all of India! We still continue to work on the membership offering to make sure it is the best we can offer our clients, as the initial offering has changed somewhat over the past 4 years and we need to bring it in line so all members are treated equally, and, provided a very high service level. By design, we should not only NOT have any trouble building membership, but should actually create a workable waiting list for each private club, with avail- able memberships being auctioned in a transparent manner to insure fairness. [HIC] Explain your management philosophy and whether you’ve needed to adapt your practices to gone to the best schools here, and understand very the Indian market? well what we are trying to do. We have a reputation [JL] My management philosophy is uniquely simple: as one of the highest quality builders in the country, surround yourself with the best people you can find, and I am ensuring that this perception carries over to people smarter than you are, and encourage them to our reputation for golf properties as well. Great service participate in the “process” daily. They are the ones gets noticed; having a strategic plan, goals and a road- with the most face time with your customers, and they map to achieve success also gets noticed. This is how are the ones with the “data” that you can use together we operate. to continually strive to improve each other, as well as [HIC] With significant experience in Golf Club your processes. Encourage them to use their ears 80% management in California and Texas prior to your of the time, and their mouths 20% of the time – re- position in India, how does filling vacancies around minding them that you can only learn with your mouth the clubhouse vary between India & the US? closed . [JL] India is filled with young people that want to learn I position myself at the bottom of the “corporate totem from experienced foreigners, as long as we make our pole” – I serve the staff, not the other way around. My best efforts to communicate with them. To be honest, ears are always open, and I make sure they know they in the almost 18 months I have been here under con- have a voice and a hand in how things work and in tract, I have not learned Hindi. I have however learned ideas to improve. I position my team to grow and real- a number of words that I interject in conversations to ize their true potential through positive reinforcement, put people at ease or to give them a laugh. In my view, as well as detailed examination of our failures and there are two types of folks you can hire: those with shortcomings. I also understand that some are happy experience or those that come from a good family and in certain roles, and take care never to promote to the are very eager to learn. If you occasionally find a hybrid level of incompetence . candidate (some of both attributes), you better make As for adapting to the Indian market – many of the sure they come work for you! wealthy folks we build for are educated abroad, or haveHOTELIER INDONESIA 34
  5. 5. ness, is that I always have a sense of and do well. urgency, and I want things done NOW. Owners in India must be willing to There is no room for procrastinators bring in the talent necessary from the on my team, and I definitely “walk that US, Europe or Australia to make sure walk”. Working internationally has each department and team is estab- taught me that not only is “patience a lished and trained properly. They can virtue”, but without a lot of it here, you always offer a 2-3 year contract to “ex- may go crazy. pensive expats” (as many view them) I have become a much more patient and have them mentor the next group person living and working here in In- of Indian leaders and support staff to dia than I was in the States. Things de- take over as they exit. That does not velop at a slower pace here, and it has seem to happen here, and the results honestly been quite difficult for me to are quite predictable, unfortunately. get used to the pace. I am learning to Unitech is one of the few that have work within their framework and cus- been willing to invest some significant toms, and believe it will greatly benefit capital in their golf businesses – and me in my future work and interactions will ultimately profit both financially with my fellow executives here, and and otherwise from their shrewd if/when I choose to leave and work in investments. The more Unitech lever- another part of the world. ages these investments, the more Running and planning for multiple positive results they will attain (and clubs is a dream-come-true for me – I retain!). believe it is the one true thing I’m here [HIC] Now that you have solid inter- to do – a marriage of what I do with national experience under your belt, what I love. Patience is a requirement what do you want do next? of not only running multiple proper- ties, but working in a new culture [JL] I certainly want to see these – and working with multiple depart- projects through for Unitech, and thatI don’t worry too much about experi- ments that operate differently than will take several more years. To beence, except for the key TEACHING they would in the States. I learned honest, I miss living in westernizedroles of GM, Director of Golf, F&B quickly that I cannot change them; but society, and at some point, want toDirector and Superintendent. These rather need to adapt to the way things move back to the US or to Europe orfolks must be proven in talent, skill are done here, and then subtly sug- Australia and run either a large groupand above all, the ability to TEACH – gest positive, non-fear-based reasons of clubs, or, one single amazing club.and actually extract a great deal of joy to change things that we can change It has been a very unique experiencefrom the process. The balance of the together over time. here and a wild ride to say the least – Iteam can be taught the skill sets they will be here until something presentswill require, if they are good people. [HIC] What have you learned about itself elsewhere that also appears toGood interviewing skills are the key the current state of the golf industry be a win-win – and of course the timeto hiring good people. Hiring “warm there during your time in India? is right.bodies” will not get the job done, as Observation, learning and then doingattrition is painful to any organiza- Hotelier Indonesia would like to thank something positive with that informa-tion and is always a couple of steps Joel Lander for sharing his global golf tion is what I do best. Unfortunately,backwards before you can move in a & club management experiences with the state of the golf industry in Indiapositive direction again. us. He’s a proven leader in the indus- is far behind that of more established, try, and one committed to helping[HIC] Has international experience westernized countries. Most golf educate and promote those who hebeen beneficial to you as a multi- course owners employ barely-trained works with.unit club manager? If so, will your or “trained-as-you-go” type folks intime in India add to your skill-set the key positions mentioned above,should you return to USA or another generally with a “trial by fire” mentality. Joel can be contacted at: jedward-country? Golf operations and golf maintenance and joel.lander@[JL] One of my greatest attributes, as operations are things that take a great unitechgroup.comwell as probably my biggest weak- deal of time and mentoring to learnHOTELIER INDONESIA 35