The value of a good assistant

By |  October 4, 2019 0 Comments
Jared Nemitz headshot

Jared Nemitz

Data shows senior assistants are staying longer at a single course, which means they are learning more, taking on more responsibility and proving to be an integral part of an organization. But do we express that to them?

A superintendent recently posted on Facebook a picture of his assistant in an irrigation hole and a thank-you note. The assistant came in after hours to stop an irrigation leak when the superintendent couldn’t get there. It was nice to see recognition for a position that is difficult in many ways. It got me thinking about the value of a good lead assistant and how a good one can affect your operation in a positive way.

A senior assistant is your right-hand decision maker, someone who generally runs the staff, can run the course in the superintendent’s absence and deserves much of the credit for the product. The senior assistant arguably is the most essential person on the team to a superintendent.

However, the assistant in many instances is the forgotten warrior, a casualty of long hours and — in many cases — not much recognition. But today’s assistant is a vital member of the organization and superintendent team.

Nick McLennan has been my lead assistant at The Peninsula Club for five years. Our professional relationship goes back much further and has some interesting twists and turns. Nick was one of my first educational interns at The Ford Plantation eight years ago. He was a hard worker, extremely likable, listened and had an extreme passion for turfgrass. He had all the ingredients of someone you would want to bring back as your assistant after graduating from university. So, when Nick graduated from Purdue University, he came back to join the team.

His work ethic was mostly impeccable, but Nick continually was late to work. In this industry, getting up early and being on time are staples to success and are nonnegotiable. After many chances, we had to let Nick go. This story is important to me because I believed in Nick when he was an intern, and I believed in his abilities the day we had to let him go.

Shortly thereafter, I was offered the job at The Peninsula Club. Strangely, Nick was my first, extremely anxious call to come and join me. Being a first-time superintendent, I wanted someone who knew me and knew what type of facility I ran. I knew it was a risk, but one I thought worth taking.

Once Nick joined our team, he became my lead assistant and counsel. With maturity he has really grown. He’s the ideal employee and now he’d never dream of coming in late. His is a story of overcoming failure and harnessing his potential to succeed.

I want Nick to be the best he can be. The better he is, the better my life is and the more I am pushed to better myself. The only way an assistant gets better is by their boss continually challenging them and teaching everything they can. Withholding information because your No. 1 could take your job someday is a sign of a dishonest relationship.

Developing assistants takes extra time and effort by both parties. Showing them how to create budgets, manage a course project or give a presentation to a green committee shows confidence in your assistant. I want my assistant to learn and then be able to protect me from making the big mistake. If my entire team is always questioning and involved, they can help me even when I don’t know I need it.

The superintendent’s life is better off with a strong assistant. The relationship between the assistant and the superintendent makes work less stressful, more tolerable and much more fun. We have all been assistants before and know how difficult the job is. Take time to make your assistant know how valuable he/she is, and help them reach their goals. I’m sure they’re helping you reach yours.



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