By BILL PIECUCH
For The Vista
There’s something fishy going on in Fairfield Glade — and it’s really cool(er).
If you have attended a Sunday evening fish fry at Lake St. George recently, something might look fishy. They’re a little silly, but the happy fish made from plywood which holds the condiments and paper towel rolls are surely making dinner attendees smile.
Shift the scene to the popular Monday evening Mirror Lake Blast. With music filling the festive summer air, one would probably take notice that their favorite condiment is easy to spot because of a new red cooler tub which displays and keeps everything cold and fresh.
How are the two connected?
Both items were made from scrap using innovation and ingenuity.
Both were fashioned by local Fairfield Glade residents.
Both are a result of Fairfield Glade Club management quietly and effectively using innovation – finding faster, cheaper and better ways to delight customers and residents.
Importantly, this is achieved while keeping service at a high quality level. As employee efficiencies begin to mount, so does the potential of long-term savings.
Here are other recent costs saving examples:
•The Oil Recovery Heating System at the Glade garage has a two year payback based on savings from not using propane for heating in the winter. The recovery system recycles all used oil from the garage and golf course maintenance shops rather than pay for vendors to haul it away.
• When purchasing new (sometimes used) vehicles, rather than dispose of the older vehicle, management explores vehicle usage for golf courses to get additional life from the replaced vehicle.
• Metal from old building such as gutters, older air condition compressor housings, excess metal roofing and miscellaneous scrap metal or aluminum is recycled and the savings returned to operational budgets.
There is a difference between embracing innovation and using the agony of “slash and burn” to boost cash flow. Keeping operating costs within budgets is a critical part of doing business. They also provide a wealth of opportunities for hefty savings.
So, where to start building an employee culture of savings and service?
The beginning of culture change probably began July 2011. That’s the date Bob Weber was named General Manager. In addition to having a proven track record and a bundle of community experience, his ability to manage financial, marketing, strategic and planning issues are well documented.
But quietly changing and effectively managing culture change might be his greatest challenge.
Part of the challenge is changing employee focus. Customer service, product knowledge, safety and innovation are stressed at every meeting.
Employees are empowered to share their intimate knowledge of services they provide each day.
By calling attention to their strengths and tactfully suggesting another method, Weber is slowly building a new, positive culture of pride in their job performance, community and amenities.
To help reinforce quality efforts, Weber and his staff have founded “Fairfield Glade University,” a single, eight hour day workshop for each employee.
An innovation mindset can arise from an operational challenge. It can also be fun and quick. The condiment “fish holder” originated because James Ivankovich, Director of Food and Beverage, and his team noticed the condiment table was awkward for customers at the first fish fry and could dampen a festive activity.
By creating 30 condiment holders overnight from scrap plywood he saved over $1,000 by enlisting employee Larry Pickett and his brother, Roger, to create, cut and paint each holder.
Chef Jerry at Legends knew that his heating element for a buffet piece at Legends had given up the ghost after 15 years of service. It was ready for the scrap pile when he thought, “What if we converted the heating unit to a cooler for outdoor activities?”
Once more, the Pickett brothers stepped in and rolled up their sleeves.
First, they gutted and removed the entire heating apparatuses. Then they replaced all insulation and repainted the entire unit to an eye-blinking bright red.
Ivankovich estimated a new condiment cooling unit would have probably cost around $7,000.
Cost of the transformation? “In the hundreds,” he said. Bottom line is a cool savings of about $6,000.
Fairfield Glade managers and employees alike are energized to seek cost-saving opportunities hiding in broad daylight, waiting for a new approach.
And the best news is that there are enormous hidden costs buried in status quo processes.
Innovative thinking can be the key to uncovering and removing them.
“It is truly a work in process,” Weber noted, “and it is on-going.”