The H. Chambers Company

Perspectives From the Other Side
3 Between-Season Goals For Club Managers

 

This summer is passing us by in a flash. And although many private clubs are still busy after Independence Day, it’s important to start preparing for the fall season as well. Northeast, Midwest, and Mid Atlantic clubs soon will see a decline in activity—particularly after Labor Day. Meanwhile, clubs in warmer climates are gearing up for their membership to return for the winter season. It’s a time of contemplation; and ultimately, a time of preparation for new challenges to come.

No matter where your club is located, the best way all managers can utilize their time between seasons is to do three things: reflect, prioritize, and maintain. What do I mean by that? Continue reading to find out.

 

Reflect
Amidst the chaos of the day-to-day, it can be difficult to pause and reflect on what the club’s next move should be. While it can be tempting to simply power through your seemingly endless to-do list, you must set aside time exclusively for reflection. Why? These moments allow you to think on a more strategic, less reactive level.

Ask yourself the important questions that will help you better understand what your next steps should be: How should the budget be structured for the upcoming season? How can we keep our members engaged with events and activities during the off-season? What can we do to make our member’s experience even better this season? The exact kinds of questions will vary depending on your region, but the important part is taking the necessary time to contemplate them.

Don’t shoulder this burden alone. Make sure you also challenge your board and your members to consider these questions as well. In order to draw the best conclusions, you’ll want to make this time of reflection a true team effort.

 

Prioritize
Whether you’re considering your strategic plan, your budget, a building assessment, an upcoming renovation project, or something entirely different, it’s important that you consider how to prioritize your club’s must-do’s, needs, and wants. Before I dive into this topic, let’s define these terms:

● Must-Do’s: Items that need to be addressed to keep the club and members safe, such as smoke alarms and roof repairs.
Needs: Items that ensure that the club operations run smoothly and efficiently. If left unaddressed, your needs won’t impact safety, but they will impact the bottom line and the member experience overall. For example, replacing windows or updating an outdated HVAC system to increase energy efficiency.
Wants: These are the wish list and dream items that will bolster the member experience but won’t necessarily impact club safety or day-to-day operations. The difference between needs and wants are going to vary for every club; but for most, items like a pool bar or to-go snack station could be considered wants.

Prioritizing must-do’s, needs, and wants is the best way any manager can spend their time – particularly when transitioning between seasons. However, it’s not a task that managers, or even boards and planning committees can do alone. Never assume that you know what your members want. Ask them what they want, whether it’s through focus groups or one-on-one interactions. Ask them what initiatives they would get excited about and support. You can always provide your membership guidance and perspective from an operations standpoint, but ultimately, the membership needs to tell you what they value in a club experience. Ask your staff, too—as they are equally important stakeholders that can bring multi-generational insights from a different and valuable perspective at your club.

After you take the time to ask members what they want, ensure that their wants are actually priorities. Just because an item falls into the “want” category doesn’t mean it should be the first thing to get pushed to the bottom of the ‘to-do’ list. While not essential to safety or core operations, providing a phenomenal member experience is what keeps members coming back to the club every year. It’s the purpose of the club’s presence in members’ lives. If you never prioritize items that will take the member experience from average to phenomenal, then you won’t be able to justify the club’s value for long.

Of course, this doesn’t change the fact that most clubs will often run into the problem of weighing must-do’s and needs against member wants. The solution to this issue? Get creative with your prioritization process. Find ways to address your members’ wants, while also keeping your club safe and efficient. When you need to fix something, try to look forward and anticipate how certain upgrades or enhancements could create a better experience while increasing efficiency. Addressing short-term and long-term needs together is the best way to address multiple types of priorities in one fell swoop.

 

Maintain
While this time between seasons is ideal for reflecting and prioritizing, you don’t want to reserve these essential tasks only for this time of year. Instead, you should incorporate a maintenance process in your daily routine and identify ways to track your club’s must-do’s, needs, and wants year-round.

Once you have invested the time and effort into mapping out your strategic plan, creating a building assessment, or building your comprehensive 13-month budget, stay on top of it. Continue to revisit these documents and incorporate new insights and new priorities into your overall strategy. This way, when you get ready to embark on new endeavors, you’ll already have a record of what you need that has been adapted to your club’s current situation.

It’s easy to forget that these are living, breathing documents that must be reevaluated and revised often to suit the shifting priorities of the membership. By staying proactive and maintaining these documents, you’ll be able to address problems and priorities in a more comprehensive, thoughtful, and cost-efficient manner.

 

Embrace the Opportunity to Look Ahead
This period of “shifting gears” can be challenging, but it’s also a time of great opportunity. I’m in the process of shifting gears as well. I’m travelling across the country to help clubs discover what their members need and want, all while preparing to help open Chambers’ new Florida office. As I take this next big step for Chambers and in my career, I’m reminding myself to take time to pause and reflect, plan ahead, and evaluate the next steps. Taking a step back gives me the opportunity to learn—whether it’s about how we can offer better services or about the many nuances that make clubs so special.

How do you utilize your time between seasons to create a better experience for your members? Comment below or email me at savery@chambersusa.com.

 

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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