Many parallels have been drawn recently between books written about the world of business and the private club industry; Hit the Ground Running, Cowboy Ethics, Raving Fans, The New Gold Standard, just to name a few. Also, clubs of all sizes and types are applying the principles found in Phil Newman and Bob Salmore’s (McGladrey) article, Private Clubs: To Be or Not To Be – A Business?.

The latest title added to the list is The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni, author of Death by Meeting and The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. The main premise presented by Lencioni is “Why organizational health trumps everything else in business.”
At Kopplin & Kuebler, our team gets to visit over 400 private clubs of all types annually. In doing so, we see both ends of the spectrum – from the top performing model clubs who are having great success, to the highly dysfunctional clubs that are really struggling.

Lencioni believes that businesses (and we believe private clubs) have two basic requirements for success: organizational intelligence and organizational health. Organizational intelligence is often the prime focus of a college curriculum and includes strategy, marketing, finance and technology.

Organizational health complements organizational intelligence and is often the differentiator found at highly successful organizations includes minimal politics, minimal confusion, high morale, high productivity and low turnover. Many of these characteristics are the same ones identified by Tom Peters nearly thirty years ago in his best seller In Search of Excellence. 
In the private club industry the basics found in the hospitality school curriculum include accounting, finance, facilities, technology, service and human resources. However, those highly successful model clubs also focus on governance, communications, community involvement, relevance, engagement and high member and employee satisfaction. It goes without saying that the factors contained in organizational intelligence at a private club such as a good strategic and business planning, a modern information and accounting system, well maintained facilities and a good staff, should be a given.
Lencioni believes that the four disciplines needed to achieve organizational health are:

  • Build a cohesive leadership team
  • Create clarity
  • Over-communicate clarity
  • Reinforce clarity

Leaders of a club team, should certainly understand the importance of having a cohesive team, and I am certain that we have all been asked many times – “Why didn’t’ you tell me about that.” Thus, emphasizing the need for clarity and over-communication.

As a consultant in the area of strategic planning, I have often seen clubs that used the organizational intelligence tool of developing a strategic plan, only to have it sit on a shelf and not be used effectively due to lack of communication of the plan to all of the constituents.

It made me smile recently while at a club management conference at a highly performing model club, when the speaker, Bill Adams from the Center for Creative Leadership, asked a staff member about the core values and basic components of the club’s strategic plan. Her response indicated that she was very informed and engaged about her club’s plan and its roadmap for the future. It was obvious that she was a skilled team member that had a clear vision of what her role was and how her club intended to continue to enjoy success.

I could go on and on about how the content in The Advantage relates to the private club industry, but I would rather encourage you to purchase the book and be that leader who will help ensure your club’s success!

John R. “Jack” Sullivan, CCM
Jack provides consulting services to private clubs. He specializes in strategic planning and other private club operational issues.