25 Oct

Club Governance

Who’s in Charge Here?

The Chambers Survey is distributed to club executives across the United States (CEOs, COOs, GMs). This quarter’s survey focused on club governance — a topic clearly on the minds of many. We received responses from club executives in 27 states and the District of Columbia

50% Number of respondents with Chief Operating Officer as all or part of their title (the majority of those are GM/COO)

35% Are General Managers

86%  Feel a private club’s top executive should have complete operational, financial and service oversight

46% Are, in reality, entrusted with this oversight

And 36% are empowered but find their boards frequently step in and usurp their governing role

 

And why should club executives be so entrusted?

65% Say because operational decisions should be left to a trained club management executive

12% Feel that fiscal and operational accountability are ensured with this structure

 

Lead, follow or get out of the way?

35%         Feel that the executive should lead the club’s strategic and master planning efforts

25%         Think their role should be counsel, guidance and advice

 

Responding clubs have, on average, 4-8 committees that meet on a regularly basis.

The ideal, according to our survey group:  4-5 that meet on a monthly or bimonthly basis
And these were seen as the most important:

  • House
  • Finance
  • Membership
  • Planning
  • Golf
  • Greens/Grounds

Much has been written over the last several years about the most effective governing structure for private, member-owned clubs.  Michael McCarthy, CEO of Addison Reserve in Florida and John Fernaro, Publisher of Boardroom magazine have both written strong pieces in just the last year about the need for collaborative governance and what it takes to operate a successful club — that is, one that runs like the business it is, with decisions made for the long term health of the club and not dominated by the well meaning but often ill conceived agendas of its board or member committees.

86 percent of the respondents in our recent survey of club COOs/GMs/CEOs tell us that a club’s top executive should have complete operational control and oversight — because they’re the proverbial “trained professional” and because it ensures accountability. Yet only 46% are so empowered.

We understand that McCarthy, in fact, worked to do away with most of his club’s committees and to change the governing structure. Even in this economy, Addison’s revenues are up 30%.  We’ve heard many similar tales. And could regale with our own about tragically poor planning decisions made because those governing the process simply weren’t qualified to determine the right and best course of action.

So why are so many clubs still struggling to make such a critical shift? And what will it take to get executives, boards and members on board?

We’re opening the floor.  Send us your comments and thoughts on how best to educate and transition club boards to the most effective governance structure.  Invite your board members to participate in the conversation.  Comment on this post or email us at clubroad@chambersusa.com.  We’ll share the thoughts and recommendations and tell you our perspective in the coming months.

Want to participate in our next survey? Email us your name, title and club.

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  1. Sarah Smith

    I would imagine that a good governance structure would have a single committee over every area of the country club. This is because the different areas you listed – membership, planning, and golf to name a few – seem really different from each other. However, as I do not know what I am talking about, I would suggest asking other people who know more about governance strategies. https://www.clubwiseconsulting.com/governance/

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