30 Jul

Perspectives from the Other Side

Planning (Should Be) More than Bricks and Mortar

I’ve talked here about the finding the right planning partner for your club, relationship-building and even tried to dispel some of the misconceptions I hear about what it means to engage a club planner. To finish up this series on finding and leveraging a great planner, let’s talk about one more aspect of how you should be thinking — and taking advantage of — this relationship. It’s not (just) about blueprints and mood boards. Before even the first thought is given to physical spaces and outcomes, a professional planner is going to be much more interested in getting to understand (and could even help define) the strategic drivers guiding decisions about your club. Chambers starts by taking a pretty holistic view of the whole club, asking some key questions to start:

  • How well is your club working today? What’s working, what’s not? Are you working around challenges within the club? Those could be physical obstacles, programming shortcomings, cultural or financial issues.
  • Are you providing programming that satisfies the needs and wants of your members? Have you asked them lately? Have you looked at what other clubs are doing? Are you just getting by with the same old stuff or do you work to be creative, introducing new opportunities for members? Are they going elsewhere for activities they can’t find at the club?
  • Do your members get a good “return on experience” (ROE) for their money?  How do they perceive the value of their investment? Are you continually enhancing that perception? What have you done for them lately?
  • Do your members trust your board and you as the manager? Is there transparency in your dealings? If you’re not living up to your members’ expectations now, then trying to get their buy-in for a major new project that’s going to cost them more is going to be an uphill battle. There is nothing worse for a club manager than to stand before the members, promoting big changes and expansions, and have someone in the audience stand up and say, “Hey, I can’t even get a good burger here now.”

Your planning partner can’t magically fix all your problems. But it can go a long way toward providing an objective and impartial evaluation of how your club is operating, where improvements in operations need to be made and in deciphering the members’ needs and wants. Before you think about the bricks, mortar and drapery. I’ve always extolled: we’re not competing for our members’ money, we’re competing for a far more precious and non-renewable resource — their discretionary time. If you want them to think of your club first as a place to spend that time, you must maximize the perceived value of their membership. Find a partner you trust — one who’ll strengthen your club strategically as well as physically. That holistic look is a much surer path to long-term success and viability. And to a long, healthy relationship with your members.

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