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In the club business, I’d say we’ve all learned a lot in the last decade as a variety of influences have permanently — and positively — changed how we approach club change and evolution. The economy forced our hands in some ways, sure. But that was just one driver. And while we certainly don’t want to go through that again, we can’t dispute that clubs are smarter, more efficient and, most important, more strategic about their decision-making than ever before.
I’m excited to be taking on the role of Vice President of Chambers’ Master Planning group. I’ve dedicated the last 10+ years exclusively to club planning and financial modeling, learning more with each club we work with about the benefits of “connecting the dots.” That is, club decisions aren’t (or shouldn’t be!) made in isolation, but as part of an encompassing club narrative that considers — in this order — club mission, strategy, member experience and financial implications in every decision it makes. And clubs are connecting a whole lot of other ‘dots,’ too, as they get smarter and, frankly, better. It’s an exciting time to be in this business.
Let’s connect some of those ‘dots’:
Strategy First. It sounds fundamental but we can tell you, this is an increasingly new development — clubs understanding the need, first, to have a strategic plan to guide their decision-making, and then turning to them before they make short- or long-term decisions. That approach keeps clubs on track for the long haul, as it connects mission and purpose with tactical outcomes.
Member Experience. You could think of it as a “what’s in it for me (the member)?” approach. At the end of the day, every consideration comes back to how it enhances the individual member experience. That’s a pretty obvious connection to make when you’re talking about facilities improvements or service additions. But it goes deeper. Consider, for instance, the financial implications of deferred — and ultimately more costly — maintenance. Deferring maintenance can not only negatively affect members’ direct experiences and perceptions of the club, but they may also be saddled with paying the higher costs associated with finally addressing now-escalated problems.
Looking Beyond the Club Walls. So many dots, so little time… At first, it was amenities: members were asking for the quality and comfort in their clubs they were seeing at the hotels and resorts they visited around the world. Nicer locker rooms, restrooms, pool areas. That was just the beginning. Societal shifts (not to be confused with “trends,” which tend to be short-term and fleeting) are now driving club change, as clubs have not only the imperative but the opportunity to provide experiences and amenities that address changed member needs across a wide spectrum — everything from more contemporary and luxurious surroundings to more casual, varied and exciting dining; from less time-consuming golf outings to more sporting options; from more variety for more members (young, old, families, couples, individuals) to more places to work and plug in.
It’s a Business. It’s very often a not-for-profit business, but it’s still a business. Clubs have gotten much more savvy about treating it as such. In fact, CMAA has worked tirelessly to provide the proper training and guidance from both sides of the aisle — that is, turning GMs into CEOs and COOs (even if the titles haven’t always changed), with the knowledge and expertise to run very sophisticated, multifaceted operations. And boards and membership at large are more often understanding the importance of hiring well then stepping back to let club executives run the business like a business.
And Businesses Are Brands. Which brings us back to member experience. Understanding the connectivity of everything within a club to the overall member experience — which is, at its essence, the club’s “brand” — is what makes for successful clubs. Clubs that deliver consistently year after year, even as they evolve, grow and improve, understand the fundamentals of connecting all the dots.
Like I said, it’s a great time to be working in this industry. Exciting, evolving, smart, creative. And, more than anything, about the people in it more than the buildings that shelter them.
I look forward to working with you. Let’s keep in touch.