The H. Chambers Company

Perspectives from the Other Side:
Why You Need Private Club Specialists and Where to Find Them


We all know that private club managers juggle a wide variety of responsibilities during their day-to-day routines. But try as we may, no one person can take on the numerous and multi-faceted responsibilities required to operate a club well. Being hesitant to ask for help is common among managers and it’s one of the many management myths that needs to be dispelled—especially when you consider staffing. All managers need a team of internal and external partners that can provide expertise in areas you might not have. As club managers, we can’t have all the answers, but it’s our responsibility to find them. Club specialists allow us to do just that.

What do I mean by “club specialists?” Here are just a few examples of different areas that can benefit from specialization:

  • Food & Beverage
  • Marketing
  • Insurance
  • Accounting
  • Recruitment
  • Strategic Planning
  • Facilities Master Planning
  • Architecture and Interior Design

There are several instances that show how beneficial building a network of club specialists can be. For example, club-specialized chefs are often well-rounded and can easily understand the challenges presented by today’s multi-generational memberships when it comes to menu pricing and design. Club marketing specialists are uniquely qualified to handle member recruitment and understand the fine balance that must be struck between member privacy and community relations. Club insurance consultants have a singular understanding of the kinds of policies clubs should be investing in. The list of examples could go on and on.

Ultimately, creating a strong team of club-specialized consultants and vendors is an essential part of providing the best member experience possible.

So what about turning to members for support? After all, many members are eager to lend a helping hand for the club they love and you may have members with expertise in an area of need. This I true and they can certainly provide insight—however, I caution you to rely on them completely. The private club industry is incredibly unique and most members simply don’t have the kind of in-depth, industry-specific knowledge that will best serve the club. It’s much like going to a doctor. You wouldn’t consult an optometrist if you’re experiencing a skin issue. Both bodies of knowledge are equally important, but one specialty may not fit your need. In many ways, the private club industry is just as specialized as medicine, and it requires a similar mindset.

In addition to the lack of specialization, doing business with members changes the dynamic of your relationship and can potentially set up political landmines for the club. While you should always be appreciative of any helping hand offered and tap into the wealth of knowledge your membership can offer, it’s in the club’s best interest to find people that fit your need rather than investing in more generalized resources.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that managers should confine themselves to the ideas circulating within the club industry. Looking to non-club industry companies for fresh ideas isn’t just a good idea—it’s a best practice. This is why CMAA’s World Conference regularly features keynote speakers from outside the private club industry—like hotelier Chip Conley who will share his thoughts and ideas regarding hospitality strategies at this year’s Conference. They offer unique insights that can provide a different perspective on various aspects of private clubs. Then, it’s up to club leaders to take those insights and use creative thinking to apply them to their club—or hire an expert who can help execute their ideas.

In fact, CMAA’s National Conference is a fantastic way to explore all of the specialized club services that the world has to offer—both in your local area and beyond. You can easily utilize the Club Business Expo as a kind of directory of specialists. As you’re exploring the Expo floor, keep in mind which companies could fulfill a current need or even a need you might have down the road. After all, it’s important to begin building these relationships far before you need help if possible. You can also utilize the many education sessions by club specialists that take place throughout Conference. This year, some club specialists providing their insights at Conference include Kathleen O’Neal of Club, Resort & Hospitality Consulting, LLC, Stephen Tharrett of ClubIntel, and Chris Kallmeyer of Golf Genius Software—just to name a few.

Even outside of Conference, you can always tap into your local CMAA Chapter or the National Club Association for guidance. It’s also important to look to your Board of Directors, who should always be your “thought partners” when it comes to solving club challenges.


Want to discuss this topic more? Send me an email.  Or if you’re headed to Conference next week, be sure to stop by Booth #1637 to chat during the upcoming Club Business Expo!

Skip Avery

Skip Avery

Currently Executive Vice President of Chambers, Skip boasts 32 years of experience in day-to-day club management and governance. He has served as President of the Club Managers Association of America (CMAA) and has managed some of the country's most prestigious private clubs as GM/COO. At Chambers, he is responsible for strategic and facilities planning, as well as providing counsel to the firm's architectural and interior design teams.
Skip Avery

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One Response to “Perspectives from the Other Side:
Why You Need Private Club Specialists and Where to Find Them

  1. Bill Wagner says:

    Very nice piece.

    Look forward to seeing you in San Francisco.

    Bill Wagner

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