Interview With Kevin Lorimer, General Manager of The County Club, Guildford
What services does The County Club, Guildford offer to existing members?
One service that The County Club provides is an area that is tranquil and away from the stresses of everyday life. Our role is to create a quiet and comfortable atmosphere, the staff and the members all know each other, and all members are greeted warmly upon arriving at the Club.
They all know the chef, whilst most members are very happy to eat per the menu; there are a few members who like something a little different. Before members even have to ask, Ivan our chef knows who they are and what they want. And this all boils down to a close relationship between members and staff and providing a personal service you can't get elsewhere.
What duties do you have the General Manager of The County Club, Guildford and your staff have to fulfill?
Like any good business this is all about teamwork, there are only 5 of us and none of us have a problem doing each other's jobs.
Ivan the chef will quite happily go into the bar and serve the members drinks if it's busy, and April our wonderful house keeper who opens The County Club every morning at 8 will look after a small conferences of people if need be, providing drinks and looking after their needs.
Again it's back to this personal touch, teamwork and making sure that everybody enjoys their day at the club. That goes for both members and staff.
I'm a great believer in the staff having fun together whilst being able to do their job professionally. We all work together to serve the members, whether the bar is busy and we're all in there or the same goes for the restaurant, itâ€™s just a case of working together.
Yes, as general manager I do more than just that and so does Alis, other duties of ours include dealing with all of The County Clubâ€™s paperwork and other aspects of the day to day running.
It's a fabulous job, there's a queue of people waiting to work here if someone was to leave here. We have a lot of links into Guildford for people who, I personally know would snap at the chance to work at The County Club full time. This is because there aren't many businesses where your role involves actually de-stressing the operation. So many businesses are about stress and about profit and about the bottom line. Now all of those factors matter but they're not key in relation to how The County Club is run.
The members are all shareholders, so they all have an interest in the club. And that's really nice, they appreciate change and they appreciate what we do. For example all of the new plants we've got in the restaurant that came in January. We try to invest back in the club, such as putting a computer into the Alice room for members who would like to come in and do a bit of work during the day.
It's just adding small services to please our members. We often have members who will come into the office at lunch and ask if we can send an email for them as their PA's off sick, and we do that, we look after their needs and they'e so grateful but it's just what we do, it's part of our job to make sure they're happy, an it's a nice job to have.
What benefits can The County Club provide to someone who is interested in becoming a member?
The members who get the best out of the club are the ones who spend the most time here. So we have members who come in every day for lunch, and they come in every day because they know the dining room, they know Alis and they know they can sit and talk business or social without being disrupted. This is a great networking environment.
The County Club is in essence a social club, however things have moved on and we have members who come in on their own and meet other members to have lunch. For this we have a table in the dining room that'll seat about 12, members come in as individuals and don't sit at a table for 1 but instead join this table and all of a sudden you're chatting with people you've never met before and from there the incredibly effective networking side to The County Club is seen.
In order to become a member you have to be proposed and second proposed by another member. There's already a sense of trust within the club that this person you're talking to who you've only just met must be a good person because how else would they be in the club?
There are plenty of older members who only use the club socially, and that's really a throwback from the times when we all went off for lunch at 1 oâ€™clock, drank a bottle of wine and had a 2-course lunch quite happily. As we know those days are behind us and it's a tougher world, but we still have that era in the club and they still use it as a social place and will come and have lunch once a week with their friends.
Do you believe from your experience of being the General Manager here that The County Club is a great place to network?
Yes I do, and I think the networking options here are tremendously good.
I believe the LinkedIn networking group available to members will reap benefits in time.
Don't forget we have meeting rooms upstairs and our members use them because again, they know they're coming into a place where they'll be looked after, they know the meeting rooms are ready to go and they know who will be looking after them. They're able to talk confidentially about business they can trust we will quietly serve the coffee and leave, making sure we don't disturb the conversation. It's really important that they have that trust.
What makes The County Club unique?
It's unique firstly because it's the only one in Guildford. Clubs of this nature are few and far between. The County Club has been going since 1892 and in those days it was very popular to sell the freehold and go on to what is called peppercorn rent. However over those 100 years a lot of these clubs suffered, peppercorn rent seized to exist and these clubs went bust. The County Club has by very good stewardship of board and has retained its freehold.
So we own the freehold, we own the car park outside, which is contracted parking. We have the meeting rooms upstairs and we have the income from the shops. And this makes for a very strong business model as we have so many income streams, and of course we also have the membership income.
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