November 30, 2021

Town Hall with the Governance, Signature Service & HR/Compensation Committees

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 30, 2021, 6:00 PM

The November 30 Town Hall featured presentations from the Governance, Signature Service and HR/Compensation Committees. Governance Chair, Mr. Tim Brown, spoke to the process for amending bylaws and shared important dates for 2022 including a Special General Meeting on March 21, 2022, and the Annual General Meeting on June 13, 2022. Club Vice President, Ms. Michelle Guy, updated members on availability for Christmas and New Year’s Eve events, closure dates for the holidays (December 24, 2021, through January 9, 2022) and events to look forward to in the new year. HR/Compensation Chair, Ms. Nancy Laughton, reviewed the recruitment process for hiring a new General Manager.

Missed the November 30 Town Hall? Watch the full video here…


The following is a list of questions from members submitted prior to and posed on the evening of the Town Hall with answers provided by the Board and management.

Q: Is the Club able to recruit a new General Manager from outside of Canada?
A: Yes, through a global search firm that the HR/Compensation Committee will be working with.

Q: Should we have expected our current GM and the role of a new GM to have curated a successor as part of their job description? It’s often a talent of an excellent CEO.
A: Yes, and Mr. Ireland has done just that. Whether it’s for the GM role or any other role in the Club, Philip has done an amazing job at building succession plans which have been communicated to the HR/Compensation Committee and the executive.

Q: Why is the Club spending money to find a new GM during our lean times? Why are we not saving the dollars for critical repairs and hiring from within? I would hate to see the new GM undo everything Mr. Ireland worked hard to implement over the past 20 years.
A: The HR/Compensation Committee is leading the search for a new GM using a recruiting firm to help ensure the following:

– A search firm with expertise in filling a role like this will have knowledge of the industry, global connections and access to a pool of talent appropriate for the position.
– The firm will be accountable to the Club to perform the best job possible.
– The firm will provide credibility to the process and to the outcome
– The firm will have a strategy in place on how to perform a successful search.
– The firm will ensure they understand the right fit of candidates that the Club is looking for.
– The firm will perform the necessary due diligence regarding background and reference checks.
– The firm will ensure the success of the candidate. For example, the Club will only pay fees if the new individual completes their probationary period.
– Utilising the firm and its processes will save the Club time and money in the long run.

Ultimately, it’s about following a strategic process and executing a worldwide search for this role. We are one of the top clubs in the world and we need to be aware of the talent that exists globally. We understand that there’s a war on talent and that the labour market is tight in the hospitality industry, but this doesn’t take away from the fact that we should conduct a wide search. The Board views this as an investment. The General Manager prior to Phillip was with us for 25 years. Phillip has been our GM for almost 20 years. We hope that the next General Manager will have the same longevity and tenure. To invest up front and follow the process will ensure that we continue the tradition of hiring the best managers for this club in the long term. 

Regarding critical repairs, the Club has a Capital Improvement Fund to address these. The next Town Hall is January 18, 2022 where the Long-Range Planning Committee and the Finance Committee will present a plan, including investment of capital improvement fees in the short and long term. 

The GM reports to the Board so there won’t be autonomy for a new GM to undo the work that Phillip and the team have done. Part of the recruitment criteria is ensuring that the core values of the new GM are aligned with that of the Club. The new GM must understand the importance of tradition and also staying relevant to bring the Club into the future. And ultimately, they will be guided by the Board and the related expenditures within the capital infrastructure that the Board approves.

Q: In keeping with the conventions of good governance, the Board has only one employee who reports to it, namely, the General Manager. By extension, the Board need only deal with the employment and succession of that one employee. The handling of that duty by this Board has been amateurish and short-sighted, and has culminated in the very disappointing and unceremonious departure of Philip Ireland.
Now, given the lack of a defined successor and a job search in a tight market, how is the Board planning for contingencies if a successor cannot be found in the short term?

A: The Board has been discussing Philip’s contract for two years now. They knew that there would be an end to his term and were negotiating and having conversations at a Board level with Philip directly for that timeframe. This Board is dedicated to finding a replacement and following the proper recruitment process.

There have been a number of events and gestures honouring Mr. Ireland including the member Mix & Mingle on November 24, 2021 and the Past Presidents Dinner on November 26, 2021. As a parting gift, the Board approved unanimously an honorary membership for Philip. The Board is creating a plan for an interim GM in the short term.

Q: Is there an opportunity for that interim GM to be awarded the long term GM position given a varying range of success criteria?
A: The Board will designate one person to be the interim GM and that one person will answer to the Board President. If that internal candidate who is selected as the interim GM chooses to put his or her name forward for the permanent position, they will absolutely be considered.

Q: As an employer, I know that to attract the right type of people these days, compensation is extremely important. Has there been or will there be research to see what is required for compensation for a new person to assume the role of General Manager? With a worldwide search, we’re competing against a variety of other places. It’s going to be critical as living in Vancouver is incredibly expensive and this could be prohibitive for potential candidates. Also, will the salary be negotiable?
A: The HR/Compensation committee has done its due diligence regarding a competitive compensation package and the Board has approved a range for a base salary. Aside from the base compensation, the bonus, the benefits, the focus on health, balance, and well being are all part of that package. The intent is to take this approved compensation package and bring it to the chosen executive recruitment consultant to validate that the Board is on the right track considering the cost of living in Vancouver. If a salary negotiation is necessary, this will be taken to the Board for final approval.

Q: I’m assuming that as we go through the executive search, we’ll have a shortlist and that those people will be managers, general managers or assistant general managers. Is there a plan to ‘secret shop’ each candidate in their current role and send someone to vet them? This might incur extra expenses but it seems reasonable under the circumstances.
A: It’s certainly been part of the Board’s discussion about how we will choose the right person. What kind of background checks are we going to do? Are we going to survey the team members that they currently work with and for? What are the experiences of the members, if it’s a membership based club? We have over 320 reciprocal club agreements and the connections resulting from those relationships give us important insight into candidates that might come to us from those clubs or areas of the world. 

As far as traveling to research our candidates, this will be added to our conversations. With the level of expertise of the HR/Compensation committee in HR, executive recruitment and consulting, members can rest assured that we’re going to have the right slate of people at the end of the day, whether they be internal or external candidates. 

Q: I have noticed it is often hard to get a lunch reservation due to COVID.  What is the Grill capacity right now?
A: The Grill capacity is between 70 and 80 depending on the size of the parties. Management is working on a strategy to expand capacity in the new year.  Hopefully, in the Spring of 2022, we will be able to open the Captain’s Bar for lunch if staffing permits.

Q: Can we get rid of the cheap frozen oven fries and back to proper fries?
A: New fries have recently been added to the à la carte menu and they have been very well received.

Q: I would really enjoy the opportunity to support the Club by ordering take-out meals. I realise that our club is not set up for this, but since I can’t attend in person, I feel it would be the least I could do. Could the Club have a few meals designed for take-out or have an area not covered by our liquor licence?
A:  We do offer a number of items on our à la carte menu that the Chef has designed to be transportable for take-out. Members are welcome to contact Chef Matthew Taylor for details. There are a few locations in the Club where we could set up a dining space for members if they would like to dine outside of an area covered by our liquor licence, however, members and guests would still require to be fully vaccinated. Please reach out to the Concierge or to senior management directly and they will be happy to assist with these requests.

Q: I appreciate the dedication of both the Board and the staff in maintaining such a wonderful experience at the Club. I am also pleased to see an increase of younger members joining the Club. I have been disappointed on a couple of occasions, when entertaining friends at dinner, that other diners have become very drunk, loud and disruptive. When I asked, the staff always worked to mitigate the issue; however, I don’t think the staff should have to become ‘bouncers’ of those who are members.
A: We are sorry to hear that you’ve had this experience and thank you for bringing this to the Board and management’s attention. Please let staff know if a situation like this arises and management will handle it gracefully.

If a member wishes to file a formal complaint, this comes directly to the Board. All formal complaints are dealt with on an individual basis. We ask that members, regardless of age, be aware that other members and their guests are sharing the same space. 

Q: Will the Board consider implementing a disciplinary bylaw to diminish such behaviour?
A: Bylaw section 9.3 which coincides with section 70.1 of the Society’s Act addresses this. This would be described as “member unbecoming” and can result in a written notice, a fine and all the way up to expulsion. The Governance Committee is currently reviewing the bylaws to clarify infractions and resulting disciplinary actions.

Q: I see that establishments are starting to get rid of the plexiglass shields around bars and service areas. When can we expect the Gold Bar to reopen? 
A: The Gold Bar will reopen January 10, 2022, with the exciting introduction of our new bar manager.

Q: It seems the Club is getting busier but the menu in The Grill is still rather limited. When can we expect to return to a full menu? 
A: Considering the current uncertainties with suppliers and limited staffing, Chef Matthew Taylor is focused on the quality of menu items rather than quantity. The menu is being updated regularly based on availability of product from suppliers and our Chef will increase the number of items offered when he is confident in doing so.

Q: Personally, I think the opt-in strategy regarding the Staff Holiday Fund is a big mistake. Real estate prices and the equity markets have boomed and many members are better off than before COVID. It is a shame that we have not had a better uptake.
A: The Board and management have had numerous conversations around what is the right thing to do. It’s important that we understand that COVID has not only impacted our staff, but that it has also impacted our members. For members who haven’t been negatively impacted and have the opportunity to give to the staff, we hope that they donate and recognize all of the effort that our staff go through to make their experience world class. This year, contributions are opt-in because the Board listened to our members through membership surveys, direct conversations and emails, and heard that not everyone has recovered financially. We want to remain sensitive to that.

Q: I am very disappointed that there has not been much uptake in the opt-in option for the Staff Holiday Fund. I think the staff that has suffered so much for our Club and needs our complete support. I suggest we immediately go to the ‘opt-out’ option. Our members can easily afford the staff fund contribution.
A: Members’ concern for the staff’s wellbeing is much appreciated. Those who are in a position to contribute to the Staff Holiday Fund are encouraged to do so. The Board recognizes that members have also been financially impacted by COVID and therefore have chosen to offer contributions on an opt-in basis this year.

Q: This is not a question but a comment. I am very impressed with all of the hard work this evening. You are all working very well for my club. Thanks to you all.
A: Many thanks for your recognition of the Board’s dedication.

Q: As an employer, I’ve hired a lot of top talent and it’s a very expensive process. Hiring executive search firms and going through the process is costly. I was wondering whether that’s budgeted in the 2022 budget?
A: Mr. Ireland’s departure wasn’t anticipated and so the budget has been revised to include the executive search and Phillips retirement package. This will be a part of the financial package that members will see at the AGM. Even with these added costs the Club is performing extremely well against budget.

Q: I assume that since the last election, the Board has directed management to implement several cost saving measures. Can you give us an indication as to when we can expect to see the removal of the special assessment fee?
A: The special assessment was estimated to remain in place for an agreed upon term of three years and this will be evaluated at the end of each year. Members can expect a financial update in June at the AGM including the Board’s recommendation to maintain or end the special assessment.

Q: What has been done as far as cost savings measures? I haven’t noticed a difference with holiday decorations, fresh cut flowers, marketing and professional photography. How much is that costing us, given that we are still in a recovery phase? We all want a pleasant environment but at the end of the day, we need to take care of our debt first.
A: The fact that members are not noticing a difference is due to The Vancouver Club team and their hard work. Our number one cost outside of the building itself is labour and we’ve dramatically reduced labour.

Director of Finance and HR, Helen Worth, is constantly negotiating costs, payment terms, and the list goes on. 

As far as marketing, the Board does have serious conversations regarding the fireplaces being on, candles lit and having fresh flowers on display, etc.. Every time someone walks into the Club, whether it be for a wedding or a tour with our membership team, this Club has to be presented at its very best. The same Christmas decorations are used each year and refreshed with a few rentals or new items to keep costs low, while maintaining a festive ambiance. We have built a relationship with a local photographer who gives us an extremely competitive rate and this allows us to regularly capture content to share on our website and social media to attract new members, grow awareness and build our reputation.

Many staff volunteered their time for Philip’s retirement events to keep costs down. Sponsors donated food, wine, flowers and linens. 

Every step that can be taken to reduce expenses are being taken. Costs are constantly being measured and debated at every Board meeting. The budget that was approved at the AGM last year presented a loss of $2.2 million and actual results are better than budgeted year to date, which speaks to the management and the incredible work that they’re doing.

Q: Can the HR/Compensation Committee please advise what the likely expected costs will be associated with potential hiring of an executive search firm? Since multiple members hold senior positions within some of these search firms locally, will any attempt be made to negotiate an arrangement with these firms in order to reduce the cash exposure associated with hiring such a firm given that their fees could exceed $100 000?
A: Absolutely, the HR/Compensation Committee will negotiate. Generally, an executive search firm charges between 18%-33% of the first year’s base salary and expected bonus. It is very unlikely that we will be paying at the higher end. The unsolicited proposal that has already been received was considerably less than expected.   We will certainly consider hiring a local firm, including a local firm that a member is associated with, in addition to other global firms. We will surely tap into the decades of HR and recruitment experience on the committee to negotiate fees.

Q: Will any bylaw changes be introduced to ensure a reduction in club expenses in relation to its annual budget? If yes, when can we expect to see those bylaws for review?
A: The focus of the Governance Committee so far has been to establish its mandate and review the Board’s discipline process. Discussions on finance and operations are expected and members will see those details included with the notice of the March 21, 2022 Special General Meeting which will be sent out on March 7, 2022.

Q: I’m curious to know we’re at compared to levels of staffing prior to COVID. What is the plan to bring staffing levels up and how will the Club deal with compensation to attract people back as there’s a lot of competition in the hospitality sector. 
A: Prior to COVID, the Club’s staffing levels ranged from 130 to 150. When COVID hit, we went down to 19 employees. We are starting to slowly build back up and we are now approx. 90 employees. Members are not experiencing the impact of these lower staffing levels because those 90 individuals are doing the work of 150, yet another reason to show support through the Staff Holiday Fund.

To attract top talent we offer competitive compensation, work-life balance, health benefits and the opportunity for career growth at a world class private club. The Board and management work diligently to ensure that this is a safe, secure and respectful environment. 

At the Past Presidents Dinner the Zhi Hang Huang Scholarship Fund was announced in support of the continued education of our long term staff. This is a demonstration of our investment in our Vancouver Club team and their future.

As announced at the last Town Hall, we were recognized with a Platinum Club of the World Award for the third year in a row. The Club is committed to maintaining this high standard and to do this, we need to attract those at the top of their field. 

Our compensation package is constantly under review by Helen Worth and now the HR/Compensation Committee.

Q: I’d like to thank the Board for the updates and also for their transparency. Down the road, can we get more information about the survey? The feedback we got from the survey was good but I didn’t feel that some of the concerns that the members raised were really addressed. I think we need to revisit the survey and make it open to the members because the members need to know the outcome and what the Club is going to take action on. The reason my wife and I joined the Club is because of its standards. We look at other clubs in Vancouver and we are members of other clubs as well, but this is a standard we believe that we want to be part of. I really would like to thank the Board and the staff for what they have done during COVID and especially the staff for the treatment that we get here. And I really would like to go back and see the same pre-pandemic standards across the board, including the cut flowers. 
A: Thank you for your appreciation. The Board always works to ensure that our strategic direction is followed and that we are adhering to the approved budget. With the diversity of opinions within membership, it’s very important to the Board that everyone is heard and that the Board communicates effectively back to members. As decisions are being made, the Board and management are referring to the results and comments from the survey. Also, in response to the feedback that members were not able to voice their thoughts and concerns to the Board directly, a dedicated Board email is being set up and will be active very soon. Please watch for an e-blast with more information.

Q: Has the Club reached out to our former employee, Daniel?
A: The Club has reached out to Daniel. He was invited to Mr. Ireland’s Past Presidents Dinner but unfortunately was not able to travel to Vancouver due the flooding in BC.