When employees arrive for work at Stone Creek Club and Spa near Covington, it’s not unusual for them to see General Manager Larry Conner picking up leaves in the parking lot or mopping up a spill in the lobby.
It’s not that the club lacks a maintenance staff. It’s that management at the upscale health and fitness center promotes a team-oriented “Disney World environment” that creates an atmosphere that is pleasurable for the club’s members and its approximately 200 employees.
The staff members at Stone Creek, the Mid-sized winner of The Times-Picayune | New Orleans Advocate’s 2020 Top Workplaces competition, say the team approach created by caring managers fosters a pleasant work environment that ultimately leads to a high standard of service for the approximately 5,500 members.
“Our philosophy has always been to take care of the team and the team will take care of everything else,” said Conner, who has worked in the local fitness and hospitality industries for 30 years. “When we do surveys of our members, it’s clear they have a great appreciation for our employees who have adopted our approach.”
Marvin Gresse, the assistant general manager, said because all employees buy into the club’s mission everyone takes it upon themselves to promote hospitality. The staff refers to the approach as the “take care principle,” which helps create an optimal experience for members, he said.
For example, when a sudden thunderstorm this spring left a several tennis players huddled under a shelter, a couple of young employees instinctively grabbed umbrellas, rushed out into the downpour and walked the players back to the safety of the main building. They did so without being told by a supervisor, Conner said.
“That wasn’t part of our training or protocol,” Conner said. “They just did it.”
Like other health clubs and hospitality businesses, Stone Creek was forced to close its doors when the coronavirus crisis struck in mid-March. It remained closed for about two months and members’ dues were suspended.
While managers worked some from home and met regularly via Zoom, the vast majority of the employees were not able to work at all. However, they continued to be paid and kept their benefits throughout the closure.
“We didn’t want our employees to go away,” Conner said. “We paid them all the way through.”
Employee Lisa Familia said staying on the payroll throughout the shutdown is an example of the way Stone Creek treats its employees, who in turn are motivated to provide the highest possible service to members.
“Stone Creek’s management team is highly principled, member’s first and (is about doing) what’s right,” she said. “If you do what is right for the majority of people concerned, everything will fall into place.”
Madalyn Bilac started working at Stone Creek four years ago, when she was a junior in high school. Now entering her senior year in college, Bilac said the experience has helped her prepare for the future.
“Through the years I have had the privilege of meeting some of the most admirable and influential people,” Bilac said. “What I love most about Stone Creek is the sense of encouragement and teamwork we all strive to achieve as a whole. I am so thankful to be a part of such an amazing team.”
Both Conner and Gresse said that managers of health clubs from around the country have visited Stone Creek to study its model of organizational leadership.
“I’ve worked at different places during my career,” Gresse said. “In the end, this place is special.”