[most?] clubs these days, this one would love to have about 40 more members than it does at present. Its manager recognized that it needed someone dedicated full time to the recruitment effort, beyond the traditional membership committee, which had highly variable results each year depending upon the dedication of its chairperson.
They recently hired a full time membership director and were looking to help her with an initial prospect list, as well as other thoughts to help identify prospective members to this well-established club. In this round table, focus group-like setting, we again employed the SWOT method of recognizing the member attendees’ perspectives on the club’s historical membership process, as well as its retention efforts. Being able to facilitate it to keep all discussions positive, productive and goal focused was my role.
In the end, the large number of attendees who were being asked for their input, suggestions and support were energized and the positive discussions led to a strong commitment for continued involvement and support of this ‘new normal’ world of necessary recruitment. It further focused the fact that existing members can be their own ‘best’ and ‘worst’ enemies in the recruitment and retention effort if always focused on what’s wrong rather than what’s right with the club. And, it gave the board in this case, welcome support to deal with the bad behavior exhibited by a few members, which this group identified as being a hindrance to attracting new members.
The third club where I was able to observe progressive and motivated leadership was in Michigan at Midland Country Club, a club I hadn’t visited in over twenty years. Midland is a town of about 40,000 people. My last memory of the club wasn’t a strong one, but I didn’t recall particularly good ‘curb appeal’ and wondered what I might do from a club in, arguably, the worst state economy in the country (Note: Midland, Michigan is just north of Flint, the highest unemployment rate area in the U.S.).
Now, I will preface my very positive thoughts on this most progressive and innovative of clubs by saying that it does have a strong financial supporter in the town’s biggest employer, Dow Chemical, but they couldn’t/wouldn’t be ‘benefactors’ of the club if they didn’t believe that there would be a ‘return on their investment.’
So, back to Midland Country Club… What I found when I arrived with Dick to do a board retreat was a completely new, 92,000 sq.ft. clubhouse, a completely renovated golf course and a resort pool “on steroids” under construction and being readied for grand opening next summer. Now, simply having a new facility is great, but one that large in a small town in economy devastated Michigan really had us wondering what was in the water!
Once we then got the grand tour, met with Steve Pederson, their GM/COO and the entire Board of Directors, we quickly understood the ‘how and why’ of what they had done. This is a group that clearly recognizes that they are running a business, a business that happens to be a club. Their efforts to make the Club one that would be THE centerpiece not only of the community, but of their personal lives (and that of their families) was very clear. The net result in their efforts to drill down and ensure that the amenities, programs and services being provided (which I’ll get to in a moment) are relevant to today’s member expectations was this – a ‘net’ increase in new members of nearly 330 since the project was announced and commenced. Additionally, just in the food and beverage operation where projections for increased revenues were very optimistic at a 100% increase, the actual was closer to 200% increase over the next best year! And, that was BEFORE the new banquet facility was even open; it was essentially all new ala Carte sales! The numbers will be even higher when the full array of weddings and other special events have a full year of activity!
So, what did they do with the facilities? They added child care facilities, a teen center (the typically ‘forgotten’ group in most clubs), and an INDOOR golf practice area with five hitting bays and nets (high ceilings) and a golf simulator where members can actually continue to play/practice their game when snow covers the ground (as it does in my home state from November to April most years).
Additionally, they created multiple dining areas from a ‘sports bar’ type area, to casual dining to family focused dining to loads of beautiful outdoor dining spaces with multiple views and fireplaces, all centered around an open air kitchen that served both ala carte and banquet areas directly. Additionally, after recognizing that the younger members they were going after for new members, in addition to the families already part of the club, they created what can best be described as a “Cheesecake Factory-like” menu. Its multiple glossy pages leave one with the impression that there are hundreds of choices of appetizers, entrees, desserts, etc., when, in fact (we asked) there are thirty-five items that are primary to the menu, but used in multiple variations to give one the impression of many more ingredients and choices.
The other things that really caught our attention were the fact that the club ‘flow’ had been extremely well thought out and clearly multiple functions can occur without impacting one another. Further, the interior design was more reflective of an updated style more often seen in up scale restaurants and hotels where, in their case, many of their members are used to finding in their travels.
If you ever find yourself in Midland, Michigan (granted, not many people do!), the Midland Country Club is a “must see” to recognize what leadership (both paid and volunteer) can do when strategic, visionary and collective well focused heads are bound together for a positive, common cause!
Have an outstanding holiday season!! – KK
Kurt D. Kuebler Kurt D. Kuebler, CCM, is a Partner of Kopplin & Kuebler, LLC, The Most Trusted Names in Private Club Executive Placement.
Social Media 101
I’m often asked by colleagues in the club business: “Should we consider integrating social media into our communication plan?” My answer depends on a number of factors. What is the average age of your club members? What percentage of your members actively use online social media now? What media do they use? Before you start using any online services you should know the answers to these questions. I have listed the most common questions about social media and answers below.
What is it? Social media are online communication tools used for electronic social interaction. They include a wide selection of services ranging from communication services such as blogging, microblogging, social networking, and events; collaboration services such as wikis, social bookmarking and social news. Multimedia services include video and digital image sharing and entertainment such as gaming and virtual worlds.
What are the benefits to the club? Social media provides a way of enhancing club communications by using another mode of connecting to your members (besides newsletters, the club Web site and e-mail messaging) where members may already have a presence. The benefits to the club include generating more interest and fostering communications while the member is off-site. This exposure helps to keep the club in the forefront of the members’ minds and informs them of upcoming events and happenings at the club. This, in turn, may generate more use of club facilities and corresponding increases in revenue. You may also be able to enhance communications with your internal staff through the use of social media.
What are the benefits for the member? Members stay connected to the club and other members using the service even when they are not physically at the club. Member value can be enhanced by providing useful information such as changes in playing conditions on the course, golf tips to improve their game and upcoming events that may be of interest to them.
Are club members using it? I highly recommend surveying your members to find out if they are using any social media and, if so, find out what media services they are using. You do not want to implement a social media program if a low percentage of your members are not using it regularly.
Why should the club consider it? If a high percentage of your members are not presently using social media, there really is little reason to consider it. However, keep in mind that nearly three-quarters of all new members joining clubs are under the age of 56, according to Bill McMahon of theMcMahon Group. Therefore, it may behoove you to focus on your youngest members who are likely using social media as part of their online daily diet. In addition, social networking currently accounts for 11 percent of all time spent online in the US, and women over 55 years old are the fastest growing segment of Facebook users.
What are the pitfalls? As a private club there are several possible pitfalls to embracing social media. First, you have to have a staff member who is technology-savvy and understands membership marketing and events. This person also must be able to communicate well with members and staff. The social media person needs to publish club event information as well as provide useful links. The posted information must not only be relevant but valuable to your members if you want them to continue to monitor and visit the service. If you do not have this in place, your social media project may be doomed.
Also, if you use a public social media service you may be inadvertently raising privacy issues and other legal questions. For instance, your status as a private club may be challenged in litigation when you are using public social media services. To reduce the likelihood of such an occurrence, you may want to start out with a private account or use an online service through your current club Web site provider or a third party vendor such as Clubster.com. I recommend consulting the club’s attorney on this topic.
What are other clubs using? The social media tools most popular among clubs are Facebook, Twitter and Yammer. Facebook is used by clubs to connect with members and keep them informed of upcoming events, promotions, etc. It is also used to post digital images of club events. The clubs I spoke with that are using Facebook, use a public account.
Twitter is used to notify members (in 140 characters or less) of upcoming events, reminders, course conditions, etc. “Tweets” can be sent to cell/smart phones as well as transmitted online.
Yammer is a Web-based service used to communicate with your internal staff. It provides a private site that can push communications to staff bypassing e-mail. Rather than sending club- specific e-mail to staffers’ in-boxes and risk them being lost in the clutter of other electronic communications, Yammer messages are sent to a site, are brief and are easily accessible by staff. This is also a way you can communicate with employees who do not have e-mail accounts at the club.
LinkedIn is a service best used to communicate with your colleagues and network. It is an excellent way to post discussion questions and ask for feedback. I know several managers who have used Linkedin effectively to find and/or land a new job.
Should your club venture into online social media? Do the research at your club to determine if it will be successful. If you plan to proceed, create an implementation plan that specifies what media will be used and who will create and manage it. Determine what information will be shared and how often it will be updated. Finally, put policies in place to specify how it will be used and managed, and then share these policies with all who will be contributing. Get buy-in from the board and any pertinent committees before proceeding, and then get the word out using existing channels such as e-mail, the club Web site, newsletters, etc.
Social media may enhance your current member and staff communications and generate interest in club events. Just be smart about it, and do your homework. If you have questions or want to share your social media club experience, please contact me at email@example.com. I will share your experience with other clubs through the LinkedIn group Social Media in Private Clubs which is a private group created for CMAA members to share ideas and best practices regarding social media. Speaking of social media, be sure and follow Kopplin and Kuebler on Twitter by clicking here and choosing the follow option. – LC
Lisa Carroll Lisa Carroll is Relationship Manager at Kopplin & Kuebler, LLC, The Most Trusted Names in Private Club Executive Placement(www.kkandw.com)and Owner of Carroll Quality Alliance, LLC, Promoting Quality of Business and Quality of Life through Technology and Communications Training (www.carrollquality.com). She facilitates workshops for CMAA Chapters and provides remote, webinar-based software training for Clubs and their staff.
We are always asked by candidates “What can I do to prepare for the interview?” We provide the candidates with all of the tools to be successful at the interview with information on the club, the search process, how to dress, etc. There is, however, sometimes another aspect of the interview process that gets overlooked. The candidates that are invited by a Search Committee to come to a club to interview are all, in our estimation, qualified to do the job and should consider themselves the final candidate. That being said the interview is not a ‘tire kicking’ opportunity. Candidates should have sincerely discussed their career objectives and the consequences of being selected as the final candidate with their spouse, families, etc., and be prepared for the possibility of being selected. Securing, in advance of an interview, their full support in making the transition to a new club, and most times a new location, is one of the most important aspects of the process. It’s not fair to our clients when someone ‘kicks the tires’ and hasn’t made a sincere attempt to ensure that, if selected, they have the full support of their families, surprising us and the club by suggesting that they then have to have this “family” conversation. There are other things for candidates to keep in mind as well:
- When making your travel arrangements, do so with the host club’s financial interests at heart since they will be reimbursing you, i.e., no first class airline tickets, making arrangements as much in advance as possible to take advantage of advance fares, etc.
- Be candid with your search director (Dick or Kurt) regarding any other opportunities that you are considering simultaneous with the one you’re in. Our firm doesn’t ‘own’ you during a search, but all of this work is based on ‘trust’. We need to understand other impacts on the process, which at times include a candidate’s interest in another position not being served by our firm. Knowing those situations in advance has actually been advantageous for candidates, and certainly has never caused someone to be excluded from an invitation to interview.
If you have questions about anything, just ask us! Here’s wishing you a safe and Happy Holiday season! – NF
Nan Fisher Nan has worked with Dick Kopplin for over 10 years. She is the Administrative Manager at Kopplin and Kuebler. E-mail your “Ask Nan” questions to:firstname.lastname@example.org
Have You Completed Your Security Audit?
We are all again in that “start of the new year” review mode. You may have reviewed your position descriptions, updated your insurance policies, prepared your operating budget, and looked over and spruced up the menus, but have you reviewed your security program? Chances are you may not even have one. It doesn’t take a Herculean effort, but the payoff might be beyond price. I don’t like to be the voice of doom, but putting in a little time on the front end in the security world can payoff big. The trouble is that, if you are successful, no one will know what a great job you did. A security plan is something like an insurance policy- if you spend the time in preparation now, you may get the payoff later. But the security plan is better in one way. If you do it right, you may not have that problem later. Do an audit of your property. A simple walk through and review by you, the GM, is better than nothing. A full audit by your security director or a consultant is even better. Here are the basics:
- Look at your locks. Make sure they are high quality deadbolts. Make sure you know who has keys. If you are not sure, get them re-keyed.
- Have a functioning quality alarm system, and use it. Be sure to have cellular backup on the monitoring system.
- LOOK at your exterior lighting at night. Does it cast light on the areas that a burglar would prefer to have dark?
- Check your security attitude. Are your security policies up to date? How are your information security protocols? Are you following your policies?
- Do you have a surveillance system? Remember that cameras are only good if you can actually see a usable image.
These few points are enormously simplified and are really intended to get you started thinking. Security is not overly complicated, but it takes your focus. You have to look at it like anything else at your property. Consider, review, act. Be safe! – KP
Kevin R. Peters Kevin Peters is a retired federal agent and former club manager who conducts the candidate backgrounding for Kopplin & Kuebler, LLC. He is also owner of KR Peters Security, LLC, a security consulting company primarily servicing the private club industry.
Setting You Up for Success!
As coaches for CMAA our role is to help industry professionals raise their professionalism and their security. People come to coaching calls with various goals and outcomes in mind. We often get the opportunity to work with people in transition, many of whom are getting ready for the next chapter in a career and life. If this is where you are we would suggest you give us a call at 1-866-822-3481 to use your CMAA benefit and get the support of a coach in reaching your next goal. Here are some of the things we suggest you consider if you are getting ready to interview for a new opportunity.
- There is a difference between a job and the right job.
- Show up authentically! You can act the part or be the part, be the part!
- Take a look inside and truly know what you are selling.
- Eliminate recycled beliefs and behaviors that can get in the way.
- Get past matters that are unresolved. Don’t take previous pain into the interview.
- Learn to get your needs met and show up attractively.
- Find the energy you are going to need to do the job brilliantly.
- Get clear on how you are going to live your life, and how you will do your job.
Kevin MacDonald and Shelley MacDougall
Kevin MacDonald and Shelley MacDougall are the coaches for CMAA and a coaching resource for Kopplin & Kuebler.
Strategic Planning in Private Clubs – Who Should Take Charge?
Less than ten years ago at a CMAA World Conference educational session Bill McMahon of the McMahon Group asked those in attendance how many clubs represented had a strategic plan? The answer was less than ten percent! Fortunately when that question is asked today, the answer is often more than thirty-five percent and climbing. So what are club executives coming to realize that those in the other business world have known for some time; a strategic plan has the following characteristics:
- It is a road map for the future of the club.
- It is not just a Capital Plan, but a combination of identified issues, needs, goals and objectives to help ensure the perpetuation and continued viability of the club.
- It determines who and what you are, and what purpose you serve as a club.
- It helps you understand what sets you apart from the competition.
- It helps prepare for and manage change, which is inevitable in today’s club world.
- It allows for stability and continuity in club governance.
- It provides the club management team with clear and measurable goals and objectives.
- It is about being proactive rather than reactive.
- It is one of the common denominators found in today’s top performing clubs.
In Jason Jennings’ best seller Hit the Ground Running almost every one of the top ten corporate executives chronicled highlighted the importance of a strategic plan in their company’s success. So what parallel can we draw to the private club industry? Clubs with successful, active strategic plans usually have three key players driving their plan; a President or Committee Chair, a Facilitator and their General Manager/COO! So why should the general manager play such a key role in ensuring the success of the Club’s strategic plan? Often he or she is the keeper of the plan. Remember that in most clubs a board can completely turnover in six years, and according to CMAA Past President Michael Leemhuis’s research for his MCM on Leadership, the average tenure for a private club general manager is now in excess of seven years. Also as indicated earlier in this article, the strategic plan is a road map for the club, and it provides the club management team with direction and clear and measurable goals and objectives. Thus, it is apparent that a well developed and active strategic plan will benefit both the Club and the management team, another well known fact in the corporate world. That is why most successful corporate executives take charge of their company’s strategic plan and why many of the successful clubs that we have seen have General Managers/COO’s who work closely with their Boards and Facilitator in doing the same. Unfortunately we have also seen the reverse, where a strategic plan is not properly implemented and thus the Club does not realize the true benefits because the General Manager does not “buy-in” to the plan and take a leadership role. It is important to point out that for a strategic plan to be successfully implemented in a private club, it has to be embraced by the overall membership, not just the board and management. It needs to be the Club’s plan which has been developed by the board and management with “buy-in” from the membership. Only then can it be successfully implemented with club management playing a significant leadership role. This is the model that is seen at today’s top performing clubs. – JS
John R. “Jack” Sullivan, CCM Jack is Vice President of Hamilton Harbor Yacht Club and provides consulting services to private clubs. He specializes in strategic planning and other private club operational issues.