The New Urgency of Strategic Planning

GGA Partners Continues Thought Leadership Series with Four New Whitepapers

‘The New Urgency of Strategic Planning’ Now Available for Download

TORONTO (June 10, 2020) – GGA Partners – international consulting firm and trusted advisor to many of the world’s most successful golf courses, private clubs, resorts, and residential communities – will continue its thought leadership series with the publication of four new whitepapers to help leaders of golf, club, and leisure businesses make better-informed decisions regarding key planning and marketing challenges.  The whitepapers focus on strategic planning, branding, governance, and innovation.

Let’s Face It, Times Are Changing

That may be the understatement of the year.

Between rapidly advancing technology, economic uncertainty, transforming demographic and lifestyle stressors, and a digitally-connected global community, the environment for club and leisure-related businesses is more competitive than ever.

The business landscape is shifting and management stances are evolving, yet the principles of competition endure: one’s gain is another’s loss and the strongest will come out on top.

Knowledge is a tremendous source of strength and GGA Partners is developing authoritative reports on the industry’s most pressing issues and constructing advanced problem-solving guides for the road ahead.

The New Urgency of Strategic Planning

The strategic planning whitepaper, which can now be downloaded from the GGA Partners website, focuses on a misconception regarding the strategic planning process, according to Henry DeLozier, who along with GGA partners Steve Johnston, Rob Hill, Derek Johnston, and Michael Gregory authored the paper.

“Because of its traditional long-range horizons, many club leaders don’t prioritize strategic planning,” DeLozier said. “With conditions inside and outside the club environment changing as quickly as they are, there’s a new urgency to strategic planning.”

In addition, the whitepaper argues for a shorter planning cycle, ranging anywhere from 12 to 24 months, and a closer connection between strategy and execution.

“Businesses that are directly affected by shifts in the economy and consumer preferences should consider shorter planning cycles,” Johnston said.  “Think about it: Would a five-year strategic plan created in 2015 successfully guide your business today?”

Today’s most successful clubs look at their strategic plan as a blueprint for action, Hill added. “They don’t put their plans on a shelf to gather dust. They’re implementing their plans, adjusting as needed and executing their vision for the club.”

For club managers not familiar with the strategic planning process, the whitepaper explains five key steps in developing a plan and draws on examples from inside and outside the private club business.

In addition to strategic planning, other whitepapers in the series focused on branding, governance, and innovation will be published through the third quarter of 2020.  Discover more about the cross-section of high-impact topics GGA Partners is studying at ggapartners.com.

Click here to download the whitepaper

 

About GGA Partners

GGA Partners™ is an international consulting firm and trusted advisor to many of the world’s most successful golf courses, private clubs, resorts, and residential communities.  We are dedicated to helping owners, asset managers, club and community leaders, investors and real estate developers tackle challenges, achieve objectives, and maximize asset performance.

Established in 1992 as the KPMG Golf Industry Practice, our global team of experienced professionals leverage in-depth business intelligence and proprietary global data to deliver impactful strategic solutions and lasting success. For more information, visit ggapartners.com.

Media Contact:

Bennett DeLozier
GGA Partners
602-614-2100
bennett.delozier@ggapartners.com

Millennials & Golf’s Value Proposition

GGA Partners and Nextgengolf Release Findings from Annual Research Study on Millennial Golf Community

Over 1,600 millennial golfers share habits, attitudes, and preferences about golf

TORONTO (June 10, 2020) – In an ongoing research collaboration, Nextgengolf and GGA Partners have released their annual study on the millennial golf community.

Nextgengolf is a growth-of-the-game subsidiary of the PGA of America.  GGA Partners serves as an international consulting firm and trusted advisor to many of the world’s most successful golf courses, private clubs, resorts, and residential communities. Together, their report suggests ways golf facilities can adapt and develop their offerings to meet the needs of the next generation of members and customers.

“Not every millennial is the same, but it’s often communicated that way,” said Nextgengolf Director of Operations Matt Weinberger. “In our continuous work with the millennial audience and now Generation Z, we see tremendous opportunity for golf facilities to deliver value to young people, while operating their businesses successfully. The key is understanding how golf businesses mesh with millennial lifestyles.”

Featuring valuable insights about millennial golfers, the challenges they face, and opportunities for facilities to help support the long-term sustainability of the game, the research reveals three overarching observations:

1. The lifestyles of millennial golfers have changed the way they approach, experience and enjoy the game of golf.

Leading fast and casual lives, the millennial concept of “golf lifestyle” is evolving to allow for more flexibility, greater efficiency, a unification of multiple social activities into a single experience, and experimentation with the way the next wave of customers and members engage with the game.

2. Socialization and relationships are important for millennial recruitment and retention.

Millennials typically start playing golf as a result of encouragement from a family member. They primarily continue to play because of their own friendships, using golf as a platform for shared activity and a chance to connect. Family is a huge factor for millennials and will increase in significance, especially as it relates to private club membership.

3. Cost is a major concern for millennials and the biggest barrier for them to play golf.

This is partially due to lifestyle evolution and primarily as a result of funding capability.  The good news is that millennials show strong interest to join private clubs under the “right” fee structure – traditional club membership offerings and conventional fee structures are less appealing to millennials than previous generations.

“When it comes to private club membership, costs continue to be barriers for millennials but there’s a bigger picture at play,” observed GGA Partner Michael Gregory. “While price is important, the best performing clubs are focused on creating an experience that enhances millennials’ lifestyles and develops a sense of emotional connection and belonging.  An experience that also enhances the lifestyles of their family strengthens this connection, elevates the value proposition, and paves the way for greater price elasticity.”

Focused exclusively on an audience of active, avid millennial golfers with prior golf interest and experience in tournaments or golf events, the 2020 study brings forward survey findings from more than 1,650 millennial golfers and builds upon research annually conducted since 2017. To date, more than 5,200 survey responses have been analyzed during the four-year research study.

Details on these findings and more are illustrated throughout the full report, titled “Millennials & Golf’s Value Proposition” and available on the GGA Partners and PGA of America websites.

Click here to see the findings and download the report

 

About GGA Partners

GGA Partners™ is an international consulting firm and trusted advisor to many of the world’s most successful golf courses, private clubs, resorts, and residential communities. We are dedicated to helping owners, asset managers, club and community leaders, investors and real estate developers tackle challenges, achieve objectives, and maximize asset performance.

Established in 1992 as the KPMG Golf Industry Practice, our global team of experienced professionals leverage in-depth business intelligence and proprietary global data to deliver impactful strategic solutions and lasting success. For more information, visit ggapartners.com.

About Nextgengolf

Nextgengolf is an inclusive organization with the mission to provide golfing opportunities, keep golfers in the game, and make the game of golf more relevant for high school students, college students, and young adults. Through our NHSGA, NCCGA and City Tour products, we cater to golfers 15-40 years old by proactively keeping golfers engaged through events and bringing new players into the game. In 2019, Nextgengolf was acquired by the PGA of America. For more information, visit nextgengolf.org.

About PGA of America

The PGA of America is one of the world’s largest sports organizations, with nearly 29,000 professionals who daily work to grow interest and participation in the game of golf. For more information about the PGA of America, visit PGA.org, follow @PGAofAmerica on Twitter and find us on Facebook.

 

Contact

Michael Gregory
GGA Partners
416-524-0083
michael.gregory@ggapartners.com

Michael Abramowitz
PGA of America
561-389-4647
mabramowitz@pgahq.com

Running Toward Change

This article continues a series of communications from GGA Partners to help private club leaders address challenges confronting their businesses and their employees because of the global health crisis. Today, Henry DeLozier suggests that change on a massive scale is no longer something that should surprise us.

Technology’s tools give clubs a way to prepare for the new normal.

We’re hearing a lot these days about the “new normal” and how the coronavirus has forever changed the ways we work, shop, travel and interact.

But wasn’t it not long ago that we were talking about another new normal? Remember the new normal that followed the financial crisis of 2007-2008, which led to a global recession? That pivot from the previously abnormal to a new normal ushered in more stringent guidelines for financial institutions and in a much larger sense ushered out the sense of trust we had in many other institutions and the people who ran them.

And although the term was not yet in vogue, didn’t the seismic shift from analog to digital – the tipping point came in 2002, when the world began storing more information in digital than in analog format – qualify as a new normal?

All of which led some creative soul to design a bumper sticker that said it all: Change Happens. (You may remember it with a synonym for change.) The most adaptable among us learn to deal with change; the most successful turn it into a competitive advantage. How do they do it?

Don’t be surprised – be prepared.

When he first heard Bob Dylan’s 1965 anthem “Like a Rolling Stone,” Bruce Springsteen said, “[It] sounded like somebody’d kicked open the door to your mind.” With that song, Dylan changed how artists thought about making music. Major change often seems to arrive suddenly – with the speed of a stone rolling down a steep hill – and without warning. Its capriciousness makes us anxious. But if we know it’s coming, we shouldn’t be surprised. We should be prepared.

An embrace of the tools that technology now affords us is an important key to our preparation.

Derek Johnston, a partner in our firm, says although club leaders could not have anticipated the pandemic, they could have been better prepared.

“Many clubs were ill-prepared to quickly analyze the potential impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, to run initial scenarios, to easily gather more information, to test their hypotheses with their membership and, ultimately, set a course of action,” he says.

That is not to say that clubs have responded poorly. On the contrary, club leaders have performed in truly admirable fashion. Many clubs just had to work much harder than those that had already implemented data analytics processes and plug-and-play dashboarding tools, like MetricsFirst or continuous member feedback tools like MemberInsight.

“Some club leaders still question the need to bother with data analytics tools and programs. This misunderstanding is simply misguided,” Johnston says, adding that the term “analytics” seems to intimidate some and conjure visions of data overload and complexity. Another fallacy, Johnston says. “Data analytics, when executed properly, is intended to actually simplify information and present insights in very crisp, clean, and easy to understand ways.”

Ginni Rometty, executive chair of IBM, told Fortune magazine editor Alan Murray, “There is no doubt this [coronavirus] will speed up everyone’s transition to be a digital business.” She identified four areas of impending change: 1) the movement to the cloud; 2) the move toward automation; 3) the overhaul of supply chains, and 4) the movement toward new ways of doing work. Each force will happen in accelerated fashion, she predicts.

Rometty is not alone in her assessment. Almost two out of three respondents to a recent Fortune survey of Fortune 500 CEOs expect technological transformation to accelerate. Doug Merritt, CEO at Splunk, a big-data platform, pointed out two important observations: 1) a rapid digital transformation and 2) the elevated importance of gathering and interrogating data.

Top-performing clubs will similarly leverage the pandemic to implement advanced methods for executing work and providing services. Retooling such routine practices as monthly billings, guest policy tracking, and point-of-sale transactions will happen quickly. Likewise, separating work from jobs will trend even more in the wake of the pandemic.

“Clubs that are actively maintaining both real-time operating dashboards and strategic dashboards, combined with a proper financial model, are taking preemptive steps toward dealing with change,” Johnston says. “When it happens – and we know it will – they will experience far less conflict amongst their management team and their board. Ultimately, their preparation will enable better decisions, faster.”

The Change Study: Implementing Change (UK/IE Report)

The second of three survey reports in the GGA Partners change research initiative, these survey findings focus on “Implementing Change” at clubs throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland. To discuss these findings and learn more about the research initiative, contact Rob Hill Partner, EMEA. 

The Management of Change in Golf and Private Clubs

As the global economy hurtles forward in complex and surprising ways, private clubs must adapt to survive. The wider world of golf is also facing dilemmas, as its market shrinks. But while innovation and disruption are the key elements driving broad economic change, private clubs cling to tradition and honour-established customs.

What is the best approach to reconciling these divergent tendencies? How can clubs preserve their identities while adapting to a changing world? How can club leaders drive the change that is needed for their clubs to thrive in the future? Where do private clubs fit within golf’s shifting cultural and financial environment?

Managers and members who are planning and navigating a path forward for their clubs need reliable data to make informed decisions. And while GGA Partners has provided reliable and actionable insights to clubs since its founding, we believe that club leaders need more than data. They need an ally to illuminate the issues. They covet a reliable voice to provide unbiased guidance based on evidence rather than anecdote.

The Change Study

That is why GGA initiated this research project to help us all understand the landscape for change in the golf, private club and leisure industries. We want to quantify the extent and character of the appetite for change and determine how barriers to change impede implementation. We want to identify any common characteristics present in effective change management, along with ascertaining the best methods for cementing innovations and measuring change over time.

The aim of this research is to provide club and business leaders with the insights and tools they need to successfully navigate the changes which we believe all clubs and organizations are sure to face in the months and years ahead.

Key Insights from the Implementing Change Study

A summary of the key findings in this second report, of three, include:

Landscape for Implementing Change

  • Club Members are shown to exhibit the lowest tolerance of change amongst stakeholders with 84% of respondents believing members show moderate, little, or NO tolerance for change.
  • Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, 74% of clubs were in the midst of implementing new processes, products, services and/or policies requiring organisation-wide change.
  • The majority of clubs are currently implementing changes to their governance model or practices (62%), in capital planning capabilities (52%) and in technological enhancements (51%).
  • According to almost three-in-four (71%) club leaders, the management of change is Very or Extremely Influential on its overall success.

Characteristics of clubs that successfully manage the implementation of change

  • 84% of respondents agree that leaders should rely on evidence / intelligence to inform planning for change projects.
  • 83% of respondents agree that a club’s / organisation’s leadership must demonstrate true ownership and commitment to making change happen.
  • 78% of respondents agree that stakeholders must be kept informed throughout implementation on progress and impact.
  • 78% of respondents agree leaders should clearly communicate change-related projects and their intended outcomes with all appropriate stakeholders before implementation commences.
  • The Manager is the principal influence on effective change management. The most influential communication channels flow from the Board to the Manager, and on down the chain of command from Manager to Staff.

Measuring the Impact of Change

  • Fewer than half of club leaders (44%) ‘usually’ or ‘always’ use metrics to measure the impact of change.
  • For club leaders who are inclined to consistently apply metrics in measuring the impact of their change initiatives, there is a strong reliance on membership response (75%) and on the improvements to performance (71%) that result.

Coping with the COVID-19 Crisis

  • Overall, club leaders represent themselves to be reasonably satisfied with their organisation’s response to the COVID-19 Health Crisis (average rating 7.7 out of 10). 40% rate themselves as ‘highly satisfied’ (9-10).
  • The majority of club leaders (65%) have found member communication the most challenging aspect of leadership through the crisis.
  • By May 1st 2020, 91% of clubs throughout the UK and Ireland have applied to use the temporary wage subsidy schemes delivered by the respective governments, allowing them to put staff on furlough with the government covering between 70 and 80 percent of regular pay.
  • 8% of clubs classify their current cash position as Critical. A further 29% classify theirs as Concerning.

Subscribe to access the full Implementing Change report.

The Change Study: Preparedness (UK/IE Report)

The first of three survey reports in the GGA Partners change research initiative, these survey findings focus on what we refer to as the “Preparedness for Change” at clubs throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland. To discuss these findings and learn more about the research initiative, contact Rob Hill Partner, EMEA. 

The Management of Change in Golf and Private Clubs

As the global economy hurtles forward in complex and surprising ways, private clubs must adapt to survive. The wider world of golf is also facing dilemmas, as its market shrinks. But while innovation and disruption are the key elements driving broad economic change, private clubs cling to tradition and honour-established customs.

What is the best approach to reconciling these divergent tendencies? How can clubs preserve their identities while adapting to a changing world? How can club leaders drive the change that is needed for their clubs to thrive in the future? Where do private clubs fit within golf’s shifting cultural and financial environment?

Managers and members who are planning and navigating a path forward for their clubs need reliable data to make informed decisions. And while GGA Partners has provided reliable and actionable insights to clubs since its founding, we believe that club leaders need more than data. They need an ally to illuminate the issues. They covet a reliable voice to provide unbiased guidance based on evidence rather than anecdote.

The Change Study

That is why GGA initiated this research project to help us all understand the landscape for change in the golf, private club and leisure industries. We want to quantify the extent and character of the appetite for change and determine how barriers to change impede implementation. We want to identify any common characteristics present in effective change management, along with ascertaining the best methods for cementing innovations and measuring change over time.

The aim of this research is to provide club and business leaders with the insights and tools they need to successfully navigate the changes which we believe all clubs and organizations are sure to face in the months and years ahead.

Key Insights from the Preparedness Study

A summary of the key findings in this first report, of three, include:

Change Landscape

  • Half (50%) of clubs have witnessed significant or dramatic change between 2015 – 2020. The most common ‘types’ of change are structural, cultural and process related.
  • Technology and Communication have experienced the most significant change over the past five years. Nearly one-in-five clubs indicated ‘dramatic/radical’ change in Governance.

Change Preparedness in Clubs

  • One-in-three (34%) club leaders believe their club is very/extremely effective at handling change.  Clubs who recently went through dramatic change were more likely to consider ‘change management’ a top business priority.
  • Clubs that empower their General Manager to be the primary influencer of change (rather than Board/Committee) are generally more prepared, proactive and effective at handling change.
  • Just 13% of clubs consider their club’s change management capability as Leading.
  • Clubs are disinclined to be proactive in planning for change (hindered by fiscal and cultural conservatism), and most likely to be inspired to urgency by financial imperatives.

Overcoming Barriers to Change

  • Leveraging data to provide evidence, then communicating the need for change, are necessary methods to overcome barriers.
  • Financial metrics and member feedback (through a member survey) are the two key areas of data / intelligence that are relied upon to inform decision making.

Change Forecast

  • Clubs are not changing quickly enough in order to thrive in the future – 65% of club leaders indicate a need for ‘significant’ or ‘dramatic/radical’ change over the next five-years.
  • The top areas of change expected over the next five years are culture and financial. 85% of respondents believe they will require at least ‘moderate’ change to their facility/amenity profile.

Coping with the COVID-19 Crisis

  • Clubs with a greater reliance on data/intelligence to inform their decision-making indicate a stronger preparedness in dealing with the COVID-19 crisis.
  • The expected impact of the crisis on clubs will be dominated by: (1) Strain on financial capabilities and membership levels causing deferment of capital investment; (2) Cash flow management and restructuring of the cost model, balance sheet and an ‘emergency reserve’; and (3) Reduction of staff and a leaner operation to focus on ‘essential’ services.

Subscribe to access the full Change Study Preparedness report.

Millennials and the Value Proposition at Your Facility

A First-Look at 2020 Millennial Golf Industry Research Findings

In ongoing research collaboration with Millennial golfer organization Nextgengolf, GGA recently updated its study of the habits, attitudes, and preferences of Millennial golfers.  The 2020 study brings forward survey findings from over 1,600 Millennial golfers and builds upon research conducted in 2017, 2018, and 2019.

A preview of this year’s research findings was unveiled in a presentation delivered at the 2020 PGA Merchandise Show by GGA Partner Henry DeLozier and Director, Nextgengolf Operations, Matt Weinberger.

Titled “Millennials and the Value Proposition at Your Facility”, the session introduced key insights and observations from the latest research and supplemented these findings using personal anecdotes shared by participating Millennial golfers.  The session explored what these findings mean for golf facilities and highlighted several tactics some facilities have implemented to enhance their value proposition to Millennial golfers.

Over the next few weeks, be on the lookout for a full, in-depth report of findings.

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Research Overview

In many clubs today, the long-held expectations and perceptions of existing, ageing members are at odds with the entirely different needs and expectations of a new wave of younger, more casual members.  The challenge for clubs?  To create an environment which not only appeals to the new wave, but where members of all types can coexist.

Research findings highlight how golf clubs can adapt and develop their offerings to meet the needs of the next generation of members and customers.  The goal is to provide valuable insights about Millennial golfers, the challenges they face, and the opportunities for clubs to help support the long-term sustainability of the game and the industry as a whole.

Background

As the leading entity for team-based golf in the United States, Nextgengolf connects Millennials to golf and supports the success of their game while GGA specializes in solution engineering and problem solving for golf-related businesses.  A fusion of GGA’s 28-year history of private club research and Nextgengolf’s connection to young golfers afforded the unique opportunity to study a highly valuable Millennial audience.

The survey sample focused exclusively on a sample audience of active, avid Millennial golfers with prior golf interest and experience in tournaments or golf events.  To date, more than 5,200 survey responses have been analyzed during the four-year research study.

Thank you to the Club Management Association of America (CMAA) for the support that makes this research possible.

Turning Insights Into Action

GGA Insights exists to support you as a club leader, offering you solutions, tools, and tactics today that can help you improve your work life tomorrow.  But putting change into practice can be a challenging endeavor. GGA Director, George Pinches, offers a road map for translating genuine insights and data into meaningful boardroom action.

Most private clubs are like cruise ships; they do change direction, but very slowly. They are often steeped in tradition, and while this is a powerful asset, it can also hold clubs back.

In reality, clubs need agility if they are to respond and adapt to the fast-evolving demands of changing markets, new technology and generations of new members.

But don’t lose hope; with more data available to us than ever, there is reason for optimism.

Data can clarify the changes that need to be made, shape the direction of travel, and safeguard clubs from the obstacles and pitfalls they may otherwise run into.

But the truth is, before data can be put into such effective practice, many clubs and boards require a cultural shift to recognize the value of it.

Commitment first

When my GGA colleague, Fred Laughlin, first introduced the Club Governance Model, he stressed the importance of obtaining a board commitment before undertaking transition.

This is because research demonstrates it usually takes three administrations for significant changes to be fully adopted by a club board.

In order to move away from what we typically see – decisions based on anecdotal evidence rather than genuine insights and hard facts – this is the process to follow: commitment first, then change follows.

For you, obtaining commitment from your board and committees means convincing them that the use of data-driven decision making is mutually beneficial.

Once your board members start asking “What are the facts? Do you have comparable data or industry benchmarks to support this recommendation?”, then your club will be on track to a brighter future based on genuine insights.

Shifting the dial

It’s clear that clubs can no longer rely on decisions based on institutional memory and personal opinion. But how do you (in practical terms) achieve such long-lasting change?

When it comes to shifting the culture, timing is key.

One of the best opportunities to start a culture shift is at the beginning of a new tenure. This tends to be a ‘honeymoon period’ for the new GM or COO, when support and expectations are running high.

Take the opportunity to assess the culture and seek ways to introduce change: commitment first, change to follow. If your board has an annual board retreat, this can be an opportune time to take action.

Beyond that, I’d recommend focusing on these three key areas to encourage a sustainable culture shift towards a data-driven future:

  1. Board recruitment and development – The nominating committee can add “an aptitude or understanding of data-driven decision making” to the list of attributes when recruiting nominees for the board. The GM/COO can use the same criteria when filling senior management positions.
  2. Board policy – Alterations to the Board Policy Manual (BPM) can ensure that the decision-making policy stipulates the required data, back-up information, and consultation necessary to support a recommendation. Proponents, be they committee or management, soon learn what is expected by the board before considering an initiative or making a decision.
  3. Education – Club industry resources that extol the virtues of data-driven decision making can be shared during board and committee orientation to support the culture shift away from anecdotal to fact-based practices.

Finding ‘your’ way

Process and structure will help, but a true shift in culture can only be achieved through intelligent and thoughtful execution. In some cases, this means finding the unique tactics which work best for you and your Board.

‘Shifting culture’ will not appear in many job descriptions of club leaders. But, for a lot of clubs it should be at the very top. It holds the key to disrupting what can be a perennial cycle of decisions based on what those in power ‘think’ is right.

My advice: think long-term (beyond 5 years), actively gain the buy-in and commitment of board members, and put a structure and process in place to ensure data and intelligence are at the heart of how your Club operates.

Stop Thinking ‘Retention’, Start Thinking ‘Relationship’

Retention is something of a time-selective phrase in club management.

Its definition has, arguably, become too closely rooted in taking action (usually) at the time of membership renewals to ensure as many existing members continue their membership as possible.

While that is a plausible (and at times necessary) position to take, the side effect is that it can begin to build a perception among members that you only care about them when it is in the club’s financial interest to do so.

So how can you go about changing that?

By facilitating meaningful relationships. From the moment they join, for the life of their membership.

The relationships your club cultivates for and with members are essential in developing and maintaining relevance – a key factor in positioning your club to achieve high levels of member satisfaction, retention, and recruitment.

Create the Social Links

Your priority in the early stages should be to integrate the new member into the social fabric of the club.

It’s easy to slip into thinking a member’s perception of the club’s value to them will revolve around the golf course or particular amenities and services you provide. But these tend not to be key factors in deciding whether to stay or leave, especially if they can experience them elsewhere.

What really sets your club apart is the existing membership base: the internal club networks and friendship groups that have established over time. This is the one thing that no other club can imitate. The more you can nurture and facilitate these inclusive and accessible networks, the stronger the emotional connection you can begin to create between new members and the club.

With that in mind, here are some useful ways to help facilitate the kinds of relationships that will instill loyalty and exceed the expectations of new members:

  • Invite them along to new member events (where they can get to know other new members).
  • Identify other like-minded members or members of a similar age to engage or play a round of golf with the new member.
  • Encourage or create opportunities for their family members to engage with the club at an early stage, through new member events, social events or simply by inviting them along to experience the club.

Develop the Connection to Expectations

Fast-forward the clock. These new members are no longer new members and have settled into life at the club. Hopefully, by this stage, they will have established meaningful relationships with fellow members and will be enjoying all aspects of membership.

Now is not the time to become complacent.

As Michael Gregory, GGA Director of Private Club Services, points out, “If you’re not exceeding the expectations of a member, then they are an ‘at risk’ member.”

But how do you keep exceeding expectations? Here’s some thoughts to consider:

  • Assess their satisfaction through a general member survey, or even through a dedicated survey for those of a similar member profile.
  • Identify areas of improvement through the survey and act on them. There is nothing worse than providing a forum by way of a survey but not following through on what your members are telling you.
  • Monitor individual engagement with the club, and look out for any profound changes of usage and utilization. Where there are changes, take the time to understand these and go the extra mile where it’s appropriate to do so.

Deepen the Sense of Belonging

Once members notch up 10 years or more, it’s safe to assume the club has become an integral part of their social life and, hopefully, their family’s too. They have likely forged a number of friendships, become attached to internal networks, and continue to enjoy the services offered by the club.

In this case it would likely take a significant event or set of circumstances to cause their departure.

However, as with any member, this should not reduce how attentive you are towards to this group. This is a group that will likely engage most with the club and have a greater sense of belonging, but also carry a greater influence – and this can be positive and negative.

So how do you manage this group effectively?

  • Have them play an active role in welcoming new members to the club. This will continue to enrich their relationship with the club, bestow a sense of trust in them, and retain a feeling of freshness.
  • Make them feel special. Organize specific events or social opportunities such as father / son or mother / daughter competitions, themed nights or games nights geared towards enhancing the emotional connection they have with the club.
  • Give them a voice – at this point in their member lifecycle they have a wealth of experience to draw from. Ignoring their suggestions can result in the emergence of vocal minorities, so give them every opportunity to serve on committees/boards and take an active role in the programming at the Club.

Retention is something managers focus on when renewals come around; relationships are something they develop year-round. If you can switch your focus to building and developing the relationships your members have with and at your club, you can continually exceed their expectations and create a sense of belonging that they will find difficult to live without.

 

This article was authored by GGA Manager Ben Hopkinson

Looking Outside the Boardroom

Board members are an important source of experience and knowledge. But when making strategic decisions on the future direction of the club, that expertise can easily be hampered by a lack of access to valuable data and actionable information.

GGA’s Bennett DeLozier explains how to connect your board with the critical insights they need from outside the boardroom.

Scenario: you’re a manager, it’s sunny, you’re in a board meeting, fluorescent lights buzz overhead.  The group is brainstorming capital improvement projects ahead of next season.  The topics of budget, capital reserves, assessments, competitor offerings, and attracting new members swirl around the room.

Someone claims that what members “really want” are new amenities, another counters that new amenity supporters are mostly younger members in restricted categories, a third comments on the price of dues for this group.  Opinions begin to diverge on membership pricing, someone mentions member satisfaction, people start using the word ‘should’, and a healthy, productive conversation turns to conjecture.

In this situation, a common reference point can bring everyone back on task. You’re confident you probably have data points on all of these topics somewhere in your office or in your inbox.  You’re scrolling, scrolling.  Before long, the meeting adjourns with decisions on hold, and you leave with a list of research tasks and staff projects to tackle in advance of the next one.

Board Members Need Information

While this scenario may be an overdramatization, it’s not terribly uncommon.  This is what happens when intelligent, capable people face important decisions without actionable information.  It deters strategic thinking and is taxing for the manager and staff.

Board members are usually smart, business-oriented people and they expect to have empirical discussions just as they have done in their own line of work.  Their job is to strategize, and a strategy is only as good as the information which informs it.

The most effective club managers gather, consolidate and deliver a war chest of information to the boardroom in order to facilitate better, easier, and quicker decisions.

The Right Kind of Data

A word of caution: not all data is good data and managers are wise to beware the data ‘dump’.  So, what does the right kind of data look like?

  • Data that is current. In a perfect world, the provision is real-time data and predictive analytics.  Data should be updated as frequently as possible and be on-hand for timely, relevant insight before annual planning exercises and performance monitoring activities take place.  In some markets, data that is 12 months old is out of date.
  • Data that comes from multiple sources. A combination of internal club data and external market data are required to be informed at both a micro and macro level.  Data from the club’s management and point-of-sale systems or reports from department heads alone doesn’t cut it.
  • Data that is useable. In presentations and speaking engagements we’ll often joke about the graveyard for strategic plans: in a three-ring binder on your credenza collecting dust.  Cheeky, but true.  Data should be readily available and accessible in a digestible manner.  Having to look for it, go get it, wait for it, or set-aside-15-minutes-for-everyone-to-skim it usually means your data isn’t seaworthy.
  • Data that works for you. Transferring the right kind of data to your board requires you to have a framework for gathering, analyzing, and succinctly documenting all the research and information that is Your data framework should not create more work for you. In other words, you need technology to gather, centralize, and process that information into synthesized insights.

What kind of information do boards want?

They want consolidated internal data to inform them about the club’s financial and operational performance, as well as member satisfaction, habits, preferences, and attitudes.  They want external data which informs them about competitive offerings, prevailing market trends, industry standards, and helps them contextualize the club’s performance relative to others.

Most importantly, they want to know about progress – where the club is now relative to where it needs to be or where members want it to be.

Why don’t boards have this type of information?

Simple. Because their manager hasn’t given it to them.  Usually the manager hasn’t given it to them for really good reasons: they don’t have the time, resources, money, or – in some cases – the culture to support data-driven decision-making.

To be clear, managers should not be expected to have the ability to answer every question which comes their way.  However, they should be expected to successfully guide the process of strategic decision-making at their club.  Here are six tips to make you more efficient and effective at connecting your board with critical insights:

  1. Survey members on satisfaction every year, if not more regularly. Be deliberate and selective with attitudinal surveys, capital improvement surveys, and club votes, but be adamant about doing a satisfaction survey every year.
  2. Know your market inside and out, literally. Knowing your internal market means helping your board know the club’s performance and members.  Knowing your external market means keeping your board apprised of competitors, industry standards, trends, and best practices.
  3. Maintain a constant grasp on the state of your club’s operational and financial data. Being able to reference, provide, or recite details about the club’s finances and operating performance is one of the most effective ways to enhance your command presence in the boardroom.
  4. Keep your data organized and ready to go on short notice. Get yourself in a position where you’re prepared to deliver an informed response to any questions which come your way or threaten to derail a productive discussion.
  5. Report on performance metrics before you’re asked. Be proactive about regularly updating your board on current status, changes, and evolutions within the club.  As the saying goes, they don’t know what they don’t know.
  6. Build upon your data and monitor how it changes over time. This will provide your board with a sense of progress and will serve as a powerful cache of information when it comes time for your annual performance evaluation.

The Dreaded C-Word

Let’s face it: soliciting independent, expert advice can sometimes be felt as an admission of inadequacy. However, the power of a third-party evaluation is something that can benefit almost any business – when selected carefully.

GGA’s EMEA Partner Rob Hill looks at the challenges and the benefits of employing an external consultant, how to select the right one, and what value a club should expect to gain from the relationship.

For many of us there’s an inherent discomfort in asking for help or support. It can often feel like an admission of being incapable of fulfilling particular aspects of your role.

But the truth is, an external vantage point can deliver an alternative assessment and different solutions to a club’s challenges – something that can be very difficult to accomplish from within.

If it’s a choice between sitting in silence (while your business plateaus) or seeking help, the latter is the only option.

A fresh perspective

Enter the consultant. The individual who is touted to have the answers to your questions, the vision you need to realize your club’s long-term sustainable future, the source of support and guidance you have been craving.

While this should be the function of the consultant, the delivery often falls short. And this is why distrust of consultants is not uncommon.

For some club leaders or board members this distrust is only a perception, for others it stems from direct experience of having achieved disappointing results with the support of consultants in the past.

Whatever the reason, skepticism looms large.

Demystifying the truth

So how do you go about finding the right consultant? How do you peel back the image to reveal their genuine credentials and potential fit to work with you?

Their previous work is a good place to start.

Ask for a broad assortment of references, testimonials and examples of work previously executed at other clubs, preferably those of a similar profile and standing. This will help you to establish a clear picture of whether they could be a valuable source of guidance.

Supplement this with online research. Websites, LinkedIn, social media and web searches are all effective channels to help you learn more about your prospective partner and ensure you have carried out your due diligence before entering into an agreement.

Reminding yourself why

Now that you have assessed a number of candidates, it can be useful to take a step back and remind yourself of the reasons behind seeking help and what additional value you are hoping a consultant can bring to your club.

While each club has its own unique set of challenges, the following is a broad set of attributes a prospective consultant should bring to the table:

  • Knowledge of a wealth of best practices and tactical advantages that can benefit club leaders (who typically have limited exposure to current trends in club strategy, leadership and operations).
  • An impartial perspective and the ability to generate new ideas you may not have already considered for your club.
  • The ability to translate often complex problems and proposed solutions in clear-cut, actionable detail.

Making the first move

Once all parties agree and the decision to employ a consultant is made, club leaders should begin by producing a clearly stated brief for what is needed and what the club is looking to achieve.

Typically, it will be up to the club manager to connect with and fully inform the candidates of the circumstances as well as the needs and expectations of the club. This will allow the consultants to develop an appropriate, tailored and effective proposal from which you can select the best candidate.

Extracting value

The key role of a consultant is to help you achieve those results that you are less likely to accomplish without the outside help, and these should be clearly laid out as the foundation and benchmark of the relationship from the outset.

What other ways should club leaders generally benefit from the relationship?

  • Provision of simple, practical guidance often derived from complex information and detail. Theory is inadequate to a club leader’s needs.
  • A clear roadmap indicating how long the consultant will need to be involved, a definition of the right goals and milestones for progress, and an outline of the specific results that will equate to a successful project outcome.
  • The ability to lean on an independent and objective source of guidance to protect the best business interests of the club.

So, while turning to an outsider can present an internal challenge, and must always be undertaken with a careful and strategic approach. Working with the right strategy consultant can pave a path for growth and success for your club that you might otherwise not achieve without that clear, focused outside perspective.

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