21 Feb

Perspectives from the Other Side

Seven Key Takeaways From CMAA World Conference 2017

Though every year’s CMAA World Conference is special in its own way, the 90th one in Orlando certainly didn’t disappoint! A lot of general managers spoke this year, lending many of these talks an operations-centric viewpoint that was invaluable for managers in attendance.

As I’ve mentioned in my past columns, it’s vital to share the knowledge we learned – with those that attended Conference and even those that missed out. After all, even if you attended Conference, there are only so many places you can be at once – and there were numerous education sessions to choose from. I attended sixteen education sessions during conference – not counting the sessions my fellow Chambers teammates attended!

Here are the key takeaways that I walked away with this year. Bear in mind that this is by no means comprehensive list of themes and subjects. This is simply what I and other members of the Chambers team observed as we made our way through this exciting week!

Focus on Multi-Generational Appeal

Discussing the importance of multi-generational appeal at private clubs was a prevalent theme throughout various education sessions. Whether club design or internal culture was on the mind, the different needs of various generations were a hot topic this year in both membership and staffing topics. With the release of CMAA and The Club Foundation (CF)’s research on Millennial Club Membership last November, plenty of new insights were brought to the table. In fact, there was even a panel discussion led by Sarah Bal that offered unique observations about the importance multi-generational needs. The theme of appealing to multiple generations seemed to pop up everywhere, ranging from sessions about club facilities to club finance. We’ve noticed the growing increasing importance of multi-generational appeal in our own work, but it’s a dynamic trend that’s constantly evolving.


Utilize New Media

This conversation about multi-generational appeal even extended into the realm of private club marketing. Tucker Thompson’s talk on using the power of video to attract club members was incredibly useful for those trying to stay ahead of the curve. Using his expertise in both the broadcast and private club industries, he recommended specific ways that clubs could create short yet powerful videos to promote memberships on their websites and beyond. George Stavros also spoke on the importance of considering your club’s mobile presence – or lack thereof – in a future that’s increasingly revolving around our smartphones. Other talks examined the use of social media and digital storytelling in the industry as well. One thing is for certain: It’s a whole new world out there when it comes to club marketing!


Intertwine Club Design with Today’s Social Trends

Chambers CEO Rick Snellinger
Chambers CEO and President Rick Snellinger

Renovating and revamping private club facilities is always on the minds of club managers – especially in today’s fast-paced market where new trends and amenities are on the rise. It’s not surprising that many of Conference’s educational sessions discussed the importance of facilities and how to best invest in your club’s future. Our very own Rick Snellinger, President and CEO of Chambers, spoke about the various social trends that private clubs must adapt to and how designing facilities around these trends can increase ROI (and as we like to say, “ROE” – return on experience). He also guided attendees through the process of finding quality interior designers and architects for private clubs, a useful skill to have in the “I have a friend-of-a-friend” world of club design. Kevin Caldabaugh and Stephen Tharrett of Club Spa and Fitness Association, Inc. (CSFA) also placed emphasis on the blossoming wellness trends that are making their way into the private club industry – and how managers could leverage this knowledge to create a better fitness experience at their clubs. All in all, it seems that today’s private club designers are taking a thoughtful, future-oriented approach to their work – and encouraging club managers to do the same.


Rethink Club Finances

Of course, creating new facilities that reflect social trends is all fine and good – if you have the funds to spare. To balance out discussions of capital spending, many attendees could pair these sessions with some of the many financial speakers that peppered the conference schedule. One that I found particularly interesting was Creative Golf Marketing‘s Steve Graves’ session “Stop the Ridiculous Practice of Food and Beverage Minimums at Your Club!” This straight-to-the-point talk offered creative ways that clubs could better utilize their ancillary fees and free up more funds for capital improvements. “Financial Habits of Top-Performing Club Managers” – a session led by Phil Newman RSM and Henry DeLozier – offered great insight on how to manage club finances in a smart, proactive way. Other highlights included club tax tips from Mitchell Stump and a discussion about the importance of having a financially knowledgeable staff with Paul Butler. Overall, the key takeaway from these talks revolved around approaching club finances in innovative ways and thinking creatively about how to best use these funds.


Empower Staff

Cameron Herold, Conference Keynote Speaker

Creating a culture of innovation that empowers staff was on everyone’s mind at Conference. One of the talks that best embodied these ideas was with keynote speaker Cameron Herold, business growth guru and TED Talk speaker. I’ve heard him speak before when I attended CSCM’s Annual Conference in Vancouver and I can say that he certainly didn’t disappoint at Conference. A consistently powerful speaker, he discussed how building a “culture of dreams” among staff was the best way to grow an organization and ensure loyalty among employees, pointing to some of the world’s most coveted workplaces as inspiration. Herold wasn’t the only one mentioning big companies outside of the club industry. Creating innovative, inclusionary staff cultures modeled after young and hip companies like Google, Lego, and Starbucks was all the rage at World Conference 2017. Andy Stangenberg and Kris Reynolds were only a few of the many speakers espousing the importance of empowering staff for improving performance and retention.


Unlock Your Potential

Coming into your own and tapping into your full potential was the talk of the town at Conference. This theme was fitting for the over 350 hospitality students that attended Conference this year, but it was also useful for even the most seasoned of club industry professionals. Two keynote speakers dove headlong into this topic during different days of Conference, including Sheila Johnson – who we could safely call an authority on “being everything you can be.” This remarkable woman isn’t just the founder and CEO of Salamander Hotels, but is also an exceptional violinist, serves as a board member for several organizations, and is the only African-American woman to own three pro sports teams. Her inspiring talk centered around throwing away self-limitation and how to accomplish anything you set your mind to. Ben Saunders also provided unique insight into this topic as a motivational speaker, repeat TED speaker, and the first person to walk round-trip from the edge of Antarctica to the South Pole in the steps of the famous Captain Scott. His observations about ideas of the self and bridging the gap between idea and action left attendees with the perfect takeaway when Conference ended.


Forge Authentic Relationships

Club Foundation Run
The Club Foundation’s Run With the Presidents

Much like Kevin MacDonald and I discussed in the last Perspectives, Conference isn’t just about education – it’s about tapping into your own resources and the resources of those around you. 90th World Conference offered ample opportunities for developing connections. The Young Professionals Mixer, CF Marathon, Taste of Orlando networking event, and CF’s Casino Night were only some of the many chances attendees were given to develop authentic relationships with their peers. These opportunities for networking – or netgiving as I like to call it – are absolutely invaluable. After all, you never know who you’re going to meet — and what may happen when you put your heads together.

Speaking of relationships, it was great to see old friends and make some new ones at Conference this year. We really appreciated everyone that stopped to talk to us, from the passing “hellos” to the long conversations and catch-up sessions. I’m already looking forward to next year!

Congratulations to outgoing CMAA President Jill Philmon CCM, CCE for such a great year, as well as incoming President Bob James CCM, CCE, CHE for bringing us into 2017. We look forward to what lies ahead of us! Let’s not forget to thank the CMAA Team led by CEO Jeff Morgan, Senior Vice President Kim Pasquale, Senior Vice President Dr. Jason Koeningsfled, Senior Vice President Seth Gregg, and the rest of the CMAA team both at Conference and at headquarters for another great experience. Speaking as a CMAA member starting my 30th year, I’ve attended over 20 annual conferences and have never once been disappointed. I think I can speak for all CMAA members when I say that we appreciate all of their efforts.

Learn anything that will help you or your club in the long-term? Email me about it or share in the comments below!

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