By Kathryn Van Druff
In just about any business with a hint of hospitality, the mood and behavior of the employees project a direct impression onto customers and passersby. Bringing employees into the corporate culture of a business makes them a part of the whole—a piece of the puzzle that makes the company what it is today. At miniature golf courses and go-kart facilities, employee turnover tends to be a common concern. Thankfully, a number of techniques can be successful in improving employee retention and loyalty.
Par-King Skill Golf in Lincolnshire, Ill., is home to two 18-hole miniature golf courses. When hiring new employees for an outdoor family attraction, General Manager George C. Boznos finds great importance in hiring people with outgoing, upbeat personalities paired with good common sense. He said he can typically trust his staff to do problem-solving on their own, delivering a very positive experience for his clients.
“I don’t view my employees as “employees,” I view them as part of a team,” said Boznos. “Once the mentality of working together as a team is established, pride in the business and creating a great customer atmosphere will naturally occur.”
The idea for Par-King Skill Golf was born with the founder’s original course, 4G Fairways, (George’s Gorgeous Golfing Garden, 1951) in Morton Grove, Ill. In the 1960’s, a magazine branded it “Mini Golf’s Taj Mahal.” The current location, Par-King Skill Golf, doubled in size with its own flavor of imaginative design when it opened in 1977.
“A ‘longtime employee’ for us is three to five seasons,” said Boznos. “Considering our staff will typically range in age from 16-22, keeping their interest can be challenging. If you’re lucky, there will be one or two hires each season who want to be more involved in the business, i.e. developing customer relationships, arranging and managing events, monitoring inventory, etc. If possible, it’s best to give them those responsibilities – let them learn and grow on the job because it’s what they need… the payback will be gaining someone who believes in and supports your business.”
In business for 55 years, the Waltz Golf Farm complex in Limerick, Pa., includes two miniature golf courses, a Par 3, a grass tee driving range, a stall tee driving range, a nine-stall batting cage, a gemstone panning attraction, and concessions. Waltz Golf Farm began as a dream brought to life by Raymond G. “Sandy” Waltz. He opened the business in 1964 with the hopes of building a championship course one day. He shared ownership with his sons William Waltz and Raymond M. Waltz as well as William’s wife Bobbie and Raymond’s son Raymond D.
With both Waltz Golf and Turtle Creek Golf Course being family owned and operated, the family finds it to be an ongoing challenge to help non-family employees to care about the business as much as those with a family connection. Waltz Golf Farm employs a wide mix of ages, from young students working their first jobs to moms and dads looking to pick up a few part-time hours, and even retirees who are happy to be working at a golf course.
The late William Waltz used to say it was important to hire “the person who thinks outside of the box.” The director of golf to this day continues to look for the “extra mile” person. As a family business, Waltz Golf Farm encourages employees to make decisions on resolving situations on their own, often with refunds and complimentary items to appease a customer’s negative experience. The result is that staff members feel as though they are a part of the business and they can take ownership of their jobs as they care about what happens on a daily basis.
“Our employees are the backbone of our operation,” said Co-owner Bobbie Waltz. “Waltz Golf Farm is a family place and people are looking to have fun. We put a premium on a positive outlook and a friendly demeanor so folks feel welcome the moment they come through the door.”
At Octane Raceway in Scottsdale, Ariz., management looks to hire folks who are outgoing and good communicators with a passion for racing. Within its 75,000-square-foot footprint, Octane Raceway brings together quite the variety of activities for customers, including Kart racing, mini bowling, 25 arcade games, Velocity VR, which just launched in 2017, and the Pit Crew Challenge, which is a five-person teambuilding activity featuring a NASCAR vehicle. On a new employee’s first day, they get to try everything.
“The first day is all about having fun,” said Octane’s General Manager JP Mullan. “We give them a game card that has enough points required to play every game and win a prize.”
Mullan says the fun and games continue, where the company integrates gamification into the tracking of employees’ performance. Octane then rewards top-performing employees with a perk from the company’s vast toolkit of prizes—pro cash $5-$10 to buy lunch or use for an extra race, a free VR attraction in the arcade, and even gift cards issued through partnerships with local restaurants and venues.
“One of the first things we do is accept recommendations from staff,” Mullan said. “We do incentives for friends, family, and customers. We’d say, ‘Hey, do you know anybody that would be a good fit?’—they know the people best. Whether a customer, family member, or a friend they’re going to school with, when they do that, it tells me a whole lot more. We are creating a good family-like environment, and people are more likely to stick around. They’re not going to recommend someone who’s not authentic. If the person stays for 90 days, they [the referrer] get a $100 bonus.”