By Lorin Anderson
As reported in our 2023 Proponent Group Operations and Compensation Survey results earlier this month, cash compensation over the past decade has increased for Proponent coaches 45 percent faster than the rate of inflation. Since 2012 member coaches have seen a 39.9 percent increase in the dollar amount of their revenues, compared to a 27.5 percent increase in inflation over that time. Our coaches should be pleased with these results, but non-cash compensation—which affects W-2 employees rather than independents—has gone the other direction.
Our survey has tracked 10 different non-cash benefits that coaches report earning. Seven of them have trended down over the past 10 years while two were virtually unchanged and one of the least-used non-cash benefits was up slightly.
The biggest loss was in health insurance coverage. The percentage of survey-takers receiving it dropped from 48 to 30 percent, in that 10-year span, including a 9 point drop since last year. Disability insurance dropped from 36 to 24 percent. It’s been a negative drift for 401(k) facility matching funds, as well. They slipped from 36 to 32 percent while just the provision of 401(k) accounts slid from 42 to 40 percent. Only 40 percent of facilities helped pay for training aids, down from 48 percent a decade ago. Club payments for PGA and/or LPGA dues slid from 51 to 46 percent while education allowances moved down two points from 41 to 39 percent.
The two non-cash benefits that remained steady were coach playing privileges at 94 percent and family playing privileges at 75 percent. Tournament entry fees paid by the facility inched up from 12 to 15 percent. Since most of our member coaches rarely compete in tournaments, these three benefits have virtually no hard costs for the facility..
Proponent Group strongly suggests that when negotiating an employee position that you specifically ask about all of the non-cash benefits listed above—especially when the cash comp offer isn’t as strong as you were hoping for. Additional non-cash benefits may include free or reduced-cost meals during work hours, an apparel allowance from the golf shop and/or equipment staff deals provided through the club’s manufacturer relationships. Many times non-cash benefits have very little hard cost to the facility compared to simply paying out a higher percentage of lesson income or a higher salary to the coach directly. This often allows for more negotiation than many coaches pursue before accepting a position.
For example, if you play in a lot of section events and the club wants you representing it in competition, but they don’t want to bump up your salary, ask if they’ll pay your section tournament entry fees instead. These could easily total $1,500 or more per year. For a variety of reasons beyond your control, the club may be much more willing to pay the entry fees than add an equivalent amount to your salary. Asking for an increase in non-cash benefits can also be a way to lessen the blow if an expected raise becomes stalled.
For some of our members with beefy non-cash benefits the value can run well over $15,000 annually so it’s worth exploring any opportunity to boost your non-cash compensation. This is especially true at a time when these benefits are generally less available for golf instructors.