strategic planning

Take Control of Your Career (and Life) with a Personal Strategic Plan

In order to remain relevant and continue to thrive in the future, smart clubs focus on the strategic planning process to pave the way for their members’ futures and their future members. It isn’t surprising then that boards are looking for GM/COOs who have strategic planning experience.

Do you have experience creating a strategic plan for your club? If so, great! If not, take some time to create a personal strategic plan – it’s a great way to become familiar with the process and you may even accomplish some personal goals that move you ahead strategically in your career and your life! Finally, organizations create strategic plans for a greater ROI; your personal strategic plan will provide greater ROE (Return On Energy).

To create your own personal strategic plan follow the same steps as a club follows:

  • Develop a personal mission statement
  • Perform a personal SWOT analysis
  • Create a personal strategic plan

1. Develop a personal mission statement.
The central core and guiding force of a club’s strategic plan is the mission statement. A mission statement is “a statement of the purpose of a company, organization or person, its reason for existing.” In a club, a mission statement should “guide the actions of the organization, spell out its overall goal, provide a path, and guide decision-making.” If a potential decision is in alignment with the mission statement, it makes good sense to consider it further and possibly adopt it. If the board is considering a potential action that counters the mission statement the action should be scrapped.

Do you have a personal mission statement? Is it written down? Do you see it every day? Yogi Berra stated “You’ve got to be careful if you don’t know where you are going because you might not get there.”

Your personal mission statement is a written description of the person you intend to be. It is an official statement that guides you in identifying goals and providing a path. It also makes decision making easier. This written statement should be placed in a location that you will see every day – just as clubs place mission statements in the board room. If you are looking for your next career move, a great location for your mission statement is at the top of your resume (instead of an objective).

Your personal mission statement should describe where you want to go, is achievable, and should last a decade to allow time for success. The mission statement should be written in first person, present tense. For example, my personal mission statement is “I use my technical skills, facilitation experience, and interpersonal relationships to promote quality of business and quality of life.” Notice that “I” is first person, and “use” and“promote” are present tense.

This is also a good time to review your club’s mission statement to ensure that your personal mission statement and the club’s mission statement are in alignment. If they aren’t, you might want to start looking for another club “home.” My personal mission statement is in alignment with Kopplin & Kuebler’s mission statement which is “We are committed to the success of our client clubs, the professionals that we place and the industry as a whole.” My personal mission statement further supports Kopplin & Kuebler’s supporting goals which were mentioned in Dick Kopplin’s article but I will restate here:

  • We will advance the careers of our candidates
  • We will improve the well-being of our client clubs
  • We will have fun every day

There are several online references and books available to provide more information about developing your personal mission statement. I’ve listed a few book recommendations at the end of this article.

2. Perform a personal SWOT analysis.

Once you have developed your personal mission statement, the next step is to perform a personal SWOT analysis – another process that is gaining popularity in club boardrooms. Use the SWOT analysis process to identify your Strengths and Weaknesses (which are internal); and Opportunities and Threats (which are external).

There are a number of great books available and information online to help you identify your strengths including Now, Discover Your Strengths by Buckingham and Clifton. Focusing on your strengths is truly where your greatest growth potential comes from – enhancing what you already do well. It is important to know your weaknesses and address them by improving or finding others within the organization that have strengths to compensation your weaknesses, but your strengths are what set you apart.

The tool that is most commonly used for this process is the SWOT matrix shown below. Simply list the strengths that you intend to enhance, weaknesses that you plan to manage, opportunities that you should seize, and threats that you will manage or avoid.

Strengths (Internal): Personal realities that will help you achieve your goals. Weaknesses (Internal): Personal realities that will make it more difficult to achieve your goals.
Opportunities (External): Outside events, conditions, or plans that might create opportunities for your goals. Threats (External): Outside events, conditions, or plans that might threaten your goals.

After brainstorming and recruiting others who you trust to assist in this process you should have enough information about yourself and your environment to start writing a strategic plan.

3. Create a personal strategic plan. 
A personal strategic plan is an evolving document on which you list your primary goals and objectives within a specified amount of time. Think of it as your action plan. Review the SWOT analysis and focus on your most important strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats; and then create your plan. A typical format and example is shown below.

Goal Objective Action Items Time Frame
Earn CCM Pass CCM exam
    • Study


  • Take certification review course
  • Take exam


  • Now until 1/12/2014
  • 1/12-16/2014
  • 1/17/2014


Your personal strategic plan is dynamic and should be reviewed and updated on a regular basis. If you are interested in using a strategic plan worksheet, just email a request to

Earlier this year while I was conducting a GM search, I submitted a couple of AGM candidates who were interested in interviewing for their first GM position. One of the AGM candidates shared his personal strategic plan with the search committee as part of his professional portfolio and you can imagine how that documentation impressed the search committee – although he didn’t have experience at the club spearheading a strategic plan, he had created (and updated) a personal strategic plan that included both professional (career and departmental goals) and personal goals. It demonstrated that this candidate understood the importance of the strategic planning process, had some strategic planning experience, and also had a proactive nature.

Yes, the exercise of creating a personal mission statement, performing a SWOT analysis, and developing a strategic plan will be an investment of your time, but it will pay off in a return on that investment – you will have gained experience in the process and you will take charge of your career and personal growth. Consider this Will Rogers quote: “Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”

Recommended Reading (Leaders are Readers)

  • Now, Discover Your Strengths (Buckingham & Clifton)
  • 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Covey)
  • How to Find Your Mission in Life (Bolles)

Lisa Carroll
Lisa Carroll is a Search Executive at Kopplin & Kuebler, LLC, The Most Trusted Names in Private Club Executive Placement( and a faculty member of CMAA’s Business Management Institute I (BMI I) at Georgia State University.

Take Control of Your Career (and Life) with a Personal Strategic Plan2019-09-04T20:00:36+00:00

Education and the Strategic Planning Process

In keeping with Kurt’s article on education and orientations being the cornerstone to a club’s success, the same can be said for the strategic planning process in private clubs. We consider the Strategic Planning Committee to be one of the most important committees in the Club. However, we often find that while those undertaking the strategic planning process are leaders within the organization (often the Board of Directors), many of those participants do not have a good grasp of the strategic planning process as it relates to a private club. Before you begin to develop a strategic plan at your club, it is critical that everyone involved fully understands the framework of the process. Several factors play a crucial role in the plan’s success. They are:

  • Understanding the importance of the mission and vision statements.
  • Determining how to define the strategic issues impacting the Club.
  • Understanding how to react to these issues.
  • Making the time commitment necessary to meet the plan’s objectives.

The old saying “getting everyone on the same page” before you start is most applicable here. In a previous article, we also discussed who should be in charge of the plan. As noted, clubs with successful strategic plans usually have three key players driving their plan: the President or Committee Chair, a facilitator, and their General Manager/COO. By taking the lead, these individuals also accept the responsibility of ensuring that all of the participants fully understand the process before they begin. It is important to point out that for a successful plan to be implemented at a private club it has to be embraced by the overall membership, not just the Board and management.

Not to oversimplify this, but for all of the above reasons, it is important for every participant to clearly understand the process and the commitment necessary; getting “everyone on the same page” to ensure the development of a relevant strategic plan and ultimately the Club’s success. – 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.

Education and the Strategic Planning Process2014-12-22T21:16:26+00:00

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.

Strategic Planning in Private Clubs – Who Should Take Charge?2019-09-04T20:00:37+00:00


Most club executives are familiar with one of the key analysis tools for strategic planning – SWOT – which stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. This technique assists a club in determining what they do well, where they fall short and what they can do better.

It is often said about strategic planning that the purpose is not just to produce a plan, but rather to produce results!

At a recent summer conference of the Florida Chapter of CMAA, Steve Swafford, co-founder of Leadership Outfitters introduced the concept of SOAR to the attendees and how it can be applied to the club industry. SOAR is grounded in the Appreciative Inquiry process first developed at Case Western University, which is based on the assumption that organizations change based on the way they inquire. Those that look to identify problems or difficult situations will keep finding more of the same, but an organization that tries to appreciate what it does best will find and discover more and more of what is good.

The process of SOAR looks at the following:

  • Strengths – What does your club do well? In what areas do you excell?
  • Opportunities – What are the opportunities that may or may not be within your control?
  • Aspirations – What does your club aspire to be?
  • Results – What measureable results do you seek to achieve? How will we know that you have succeeded?

A key factor linked to the success of a club is their ability to attract and retain members based on what they do best. This is a positive approach building on your strengths rather than dwelling on your weaknesses. It is the Glass is Half Full, not Half Empty based on the assumption that whatever you want more of already exists in most organizations. Don’t ask what problems we have – rather what is going well and build on that.  Don’t copy others; instead focus on what you do best. The strengths will overpower the weaknesses. It allows a club to stay more positive and figure out what you want and how to get there.

Actually, the SOAR process is similar to that of SWOT in that it looks at weaknesses (internal) and threats (external) as opportunities, but it is a more simplified and positive approach to strategic planning. – 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.

SOAR – The New SWOT2014-12-22T20:47:29+00:00
Go to Top