Ten Truths All New Private Club Leaders Should Know
Read our top ten lessons learned during many years of leading our Private Clubs and working with industry experts.
We each recently completed 12 years of Board service to our clubs. Our tenures included six years as Treasurers and we concluded as Presidents. We planned the funding and were deeply involved in multi-faceted capital programs at our clubs that included replacements, improvements to existing facilities and the addition of major new amenities. Our programs each ran roughly $20 million in total. Our clubs were very successful in adding new members in turbulent times. We had the benefit of working with and learning from excellent General Managers, peers and many industry experts. When we put our heads together to start our firm, we assembled a list of lessons learned and truths; things we understand far better now than several years ago! We thought we’d share ten of them in summary form hoping they are of use to new Private Club Leaders. Contact us, we would be pleased to discuss them in greater detail in person.
1. Dues are your highest margin operating revenue source.
F&B is a critically important amenity, but it is not a profit generating endeavor. It’s critical to right-size your membership count and dues. Expect appropriate dues to increase annually. It’s unrealistic to expect otherwise. You have to grow your way out of problems for a sustainable future. You can’t continually cut costs or dine your way out of difficulties!
2. You can never have too much capital.
Create, monitor and update a Long Term Capital Plan. Align all decisions with it. Respect the integrity of capital funds and resist the temptation to use capital to bridge operating shortfalls. The appetite for capital is nearly insatiable and deferring replacements and modernization only begins a downhill slide. When considering capital fees and the use of debt or special assessments, fund a prioritized plan, not a project.
3. Communicate with the membership often; in writing and in person.
Provide information on visions, plans and results, solicit input and build credibility. You need an engaged and enthusiastic membership eager to invite in new members to thrive.
4. Membership satisfaction results from the combination of state of the art amenities and great quality and service.
An enthusiastic membership is key to attracting the next generation of members. New members are the lifeblood of any Private Club.
5. Private Clubs that reduce Initiation Fees rarely have a chance to increase them again.
Reducing Initiation Fees devalues the value proposition and deprives the Club of funds needed for capital investment. Work hard to make your fee worth it for long term sustainability!
6. Don’t cut member facing services and amenity costs.
While it may look like low-hanging fruit, it’s short-sighted. Nothing will diminish the value proposition of a Private Club like cutting back on what’s most visible and valued by the members.
7. Under the direction of the President, the Board and General Manager should develop an annual agenda.
Everyone should know what’s to be accomplished. Organize a great orientation and kick-off meeting each year. Align Board objectives and discussions with strategic matters. Align committee efforts with the goals of the Board. Don’t be afraid to hold special meetings or retreats to seek training and discuss important topics at length.
8. Succession planning for Board members and Officers is critical.
It perpetuates the best thinking of prior boards, and ensures continuity of planning, management and execution! Start today.
9. Draw and respect a bright line between roles of the Board and management.
The Board should focus on Policy, Planning and Problems. The GM and his/her team run day to day operations and focus on accomplishing annual goals.
10. Learn about best practices.
There’s great value in learning from your peers. In a plug for ourselves, we’ve developed an extensive best practice questionnaire process that we review with Private Club’s on a complimentary basis. If you are interested in learning more, sign-up on our website or give us a call. Our web address is cbpros.com.
Good luck in your new role. We hope you find it as interesting, rewarding and satisfying as we did. If you are in need of any help, review our services page and contact us.
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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