A recent member interaction reminded the Union Club of Cleveland’s Lawrence McFadden, CMC, GM/COO, insights are often embedded in the most unexpected requests.
I recently had a rather unique interaction with a member that led to an unexpected learning opportunity. Here was the exchange:
Member: Lawrence, do you think you can do something about the pigeon that just crapped on my jacket?
Me: Please allow us to look into this matter.
The neighborhood surrounding The Union Club of Cleveland is lined with sidewalks, high-rise buildings, and a parameter of trash receptacles. Progressive Field, Quicken Loans Arena, First Energy Stadium and the Wolstein Center are just blocks away from our front door. There’s also an emerging population of food trucks and roaming enclaves of homeless residents in nearby vacant parking lots.
There is also open green space to the north. This is where pigeons gather for gossip as the space offers tremendous nesting value and trees for roosting. What pigeon wouldn’t want to be there?
After we evaluated the member’s “crime scene of unwelcome pigeon remnants,” our ground crews decided to adjust their cleaning schedule and procedures to minimize the chance of this happening again. I followed up with the member, as a response is our standard operating procedure. I confirmed our plans and offered to have his garment professionally cleaned.
The Union Club’s clubhouse has been in this location for over one hundred years. We have numerous balconies and ledges where pigeons can perch. Every ten years or so our local neighborhood pigeon gang picks a different ledge to perch upon. The ledge where the unfortunate “crap on the jacket” incident went down is located directly over the entrance of the club. So, to prevent further incidents here, we decided to install netting that would discourage any and all pigeon loitering.
This was truly a monumental and exceptional general manager-level decision if I do say so myself. I saved our members who use to the front entrance of the club from whatever might fall from the sky. (I was so proud of my quick decision-making ability in handling pigeon eradication that I added this as a skill to my CV under, “special talents.”)
What I didn’t expect was what would happen at the less frequently used east entrance of the club. Weeks went by and the doormat by the east entrance grew increasingly more soiled. We clean it daily, but the droppings persisted.
My engineer offered to do a pigeon lineup. He even included a search of security cameras, but grainy details derailed the objective.
Another month passed and I found myself sitting in a committee meeting near the author of the original text. “Lawrence,” he said. “Were you able to solve the pigeon problem? I noticed some new droppings on the mat.”
I was stunned into a rare moment of speechlessness. The inflection in his voice was a real tone of task. It came with honesty, passion and sincere concern for action. I gathered my wits and five seconds later I responded with, “Allow me to find the solution. It might be tricky.”
The member’s comment caught me flatfooted. I was grasping in all seriousness for a solution.
As any passionate hospitality professional would agree, happy people define success and successful problem resolution always builds trusted loyalty.
My quest for answers to our pigeon problem brought the voice of one of my mentors into my head.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” he said. “Share with the team your ‘A ha!’ moment of this session.”
This simple statement reminded me that a consistent solution was never going to be possible. Clarity had finally arrived.
This member is so confident in his club that he believes we can solve a universal pigeon problem. His faith in us is so deep that nothing is out of the realm of possibilities for the staff here at the Union Club.
With this new enlightenment, we relaxed and decided on a far more reasonable solution.
The following week, I invited the member to lunch. We discussed his views and agreed that a solution might not be in either of our control. We agreed on a more peaceful solution. Pigeons will continue to fly the friendly skies and the doormats at the Union Club will continue to be checked daily. We will all hope that our members’ timing when walking through our doors is less perfect than it was in the past when the original incident occurred.
In closing, remember to work within your circle of influence. Everything deserves our attention, but a solution is not always possible.