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Advice and Resources for Private Club Management and Board Members

Private Club Governance and Shifting Sands

There is a lot of discussion these days about managing Clubs more like “businesses”.  Management training and access to better data resources are great, but doesn’t it start at the top?  It’s our contention that many Clubs could improve the nominating process, Director and Officer succession planning, term limitations, by-laws, and Board orientations and training (including long-term financial planning).

These areas have been refined over many years in the corporate world.  In the “business” setting, recruiting and vetting Board candidates is a rigorous process, succession planning is essential and carefully considered, term limitations are either non-existent or aligned with interests of the entity, contested elections are very rare occurrences, by-laws are reviewed and amended routinely, and strong Board orientation programs and training are the norm.  Boards are purpose-built.

In the “business” setting, and in the best run Clubs, Boards focus on the long-term strategy and the financial sustainability of the entity.  Long term is typically 3, 5, 10 or more years out.  That’s considerably longer than what is commonly seen in the world of Private Clubs.  In addition, corporate Board members know better than to involve themselves in current operations.  That’s not always the case in Private Clubs.

Oftentimes Club Boards apply too much focus on the near term.  This leads to shifting sands under the feet of management, inconsistent adherence to strategic and business plans, and differing approaches to Club finances.   Clubs, regardless of current condition, should set a course and only modify the long-term approach when material facts and circumstances change, not simply because there’s a new administration in charge.  Effective nominations, succession planning and on-going Board training are the keys to consistent focus on long-term strategy and goals.

Clubs managers have a very difficult time managing for long term success when plans and priorities are changed frequently.  Perhaps that contributes to high-turnover rates among General Managers.  Consistent implementation of long terms plans would certainly help them succeed in satisfying Boards and members. 

Consistency.  Doesn’t it start at the top?


Club Board Professionals is a strategic financial consulting and training firm.  The Principals, Dave Duval and Joe Abely, assist clubs achieve excellence in three areas: governance, financial sustainability and membership satisfaction. Contact us for a complimentary initial assessment of your club.

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