Club Members Perspective – 2024

Launched in 2020 to provide club industry operators insights into club members’ changing preferences and desires, this installment of the Club Members Perspective goes beyond current habits and preferences to examine the underlying reasons behind members’ behaviors.

This year’s survey results show:

Members find emotional connection value over all other types of value, including the often-discussed cost-benefit. 

Members are motivated by the desire to access amenities and services, followed by having the right culture. 

Generationally, younger members place higher importance on most club areas, as they plan to use the facilities more than their seasoned counterparts. 

While members agree that the social environment is critical, a desire for non-traditional usage of the club is not universal.  

Members’ concerns mirror those of managers – there is a growing concern related to the lack of people to work in clubs. 

While members plan on staying longer, this increased member ‘stickiness’ could be a challenge moving forward.  

Read now

About GGA Partners
GGA Partners™ is an international consulting firm and leading advisor to many of the world’s most successful golf courses, private clubs, resorts, and residential communities.  We work with 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. GGA Partners has offices in Toronto, Ontario, West Palm Beach, Florida, Phoenix, Arizona and Dublin, Ireland.

GGA Partners is proud to be a long-standing CMAA Business Partner.

For further information, contact:

Dr. Eric Brey, Ph.D.
Director
GGA Partners
t: 715.505.7716
e: eric.brey@ggapartners.com

A Club Leader’s Perspective [2023]

A Club Leader’s Perspective: Emerging Trends & Opportunities for 2023 

Latest research produced in collaboration with the Club Management Association of America examines  pressing needs in club management.

In brief:

  • Industry survey of over 230 club leaders across the US highlights the perspective of club leaders on the current challenges facing the industry.
  • A Club Leader’s Perspective explores the state of the industry from the perspective of those in club leadership roles, and what influences their decisions.
  • Club leaders weighed-in on emerging trends and challenges across five primary areas:
    • Industry outlook 
    • Access and utilization
    • Membership experience insights
    • Capital and finance
    • Inflationary impacts on service

We’ve surveyed club leaders regularly since the start of the pandemic, including in-depth looks at challenges, sentiments and opportunities over the past two years. During this time, many clubs faced an global health crisis, supply chain interruptions, labor challenges and escalated membership levels. In 2023, optimism regarding the economic outlook of the industry remains high despite looming recessionary impacts.

Access the full report for further insights.

Read now

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. GGA Partners has offices in Toronto, Ontario; Phoenix, Arizona; Bluffton, South Carolina; and Dublin, Ireland. For more information, please visit ggapartners.com.

GGA Partners is proud to be a long-standing CMAA Business Partner.

About CMAA

Founded in 1927, the Club Management Association of America (CMAA) is the largest professional association for managers of membership clubs with 6,800 members throughout the US and internationally. Our members contribute to the success of more than 2,500 country, golf, athletic, city, faculty, military, town, and yacht clubs. The objectives of the Association are to promote relationships between club management professionals and other similar professions; to encourage the education and advancement of members; and to provide the resources needed for efficient and successful club operations. Under the covenants of professionalism, education, leadership, and community, CMAA continues to extend its reach as the leader in the club management practice. CMAA is headquartered in Alexandria, VA, with 42 professional chapters and more than 40 student chapters and colonies. Learn more at cmaa.org.

For further information, contact:

Samar Abdourahman
Manager, Marketing and Communications
GGA Partners
t: 416-333-5008
e: samar.abdourahman@ggapartners.com

A Club Leader’s Perspective [2022]

A Club Leader’s Perspective: Emerging Trends & Challenges 

Latest research produced in collaboration with the Club Management Association of America examines the perspectives of private clubs and what trends are motivating their decisions.

In brief:

  • Industry survey of over 200 club leaders across North America highlights the perspective of club leaders on the current challenges facing the industry.
  • A Club Leader’s Perspective explores the state of the industry from the perspective of those in club leadership roles, and what influences their decisions.
  • Club leaders weighed-in on emerging trends and challenges across five primary areas:
    • Industry outlook within the post-Covid-19 ecosystem
    • Human resources and workforce demands
    • Membership experience and programming
    • Capital planning and long-range improvement strategies, and budgeting and forecasting
    • Inflationary impacts on service

We’ve taken the pulse of club leaders regularly since the start of the pandemic, including in-depth looks at challenges and sentiments in 2021. Over the past two years, many clubs were forced to adapt to evolving public health regulations, supply chain shortages, labor challenges and sky-rocketing membership levels. Despite these challenges, club leaders are largely positive about 2022. 

Access the full report for further insights.

Read now

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. GGA Partners has offices in Toronto, Ontario; Phoenix, Arizona; Bluffton, South Carolina; and Dublin, Ireland. For more information, please visit ggapartners.com.

GGA Partners is proud to be a long-standing CMAA Business Partner.

About CMAA

Founded in 1927, the Club Management Association of America (CMAA) is the largest professional association for managers of membership clubs with 6,800 members throughout the US and internationally. Our members contribute to the success of more than 2,500 country, golf, athletic, city, faculty, military, town, and yacht clubs. The objectives of the Association are to promote relationships between club management professionals and other similar professions; to encourage the education and advancement of members; and to provide the resources needed for efficient and successful club operations. Under the covenants of professionalism, education, leadership, and community, CMAA continues to extend its reach as the leader in the club management practice. CMAA is headquartered in Alexandria, VA, with 42 professional chapters and more than 40 student chapters and colonies. Learn more at cmaa.org.

For further information, contact:

Samar Abdourahman
Manager, Marketing and Communications
GGA Partners
t: 416-333-5008
e: samar.abdourahman@ggapartners.com

Know Your NPS to Build Brand Loyalty & Member Referrals

In our work with clients across the globe, our research reveals that member referrals are the most important means of generating a steady stream of new prospects, which is probably not surprising.  After all, the cost is nominal and you can be assured that members are going to invite prospects with a shared passion for the lifestyle provided by your club.

The most effective method to gain member referrals is to ask for them. But before you do, it is critical to understand your NPS – or Net Promoter Score – to determine the response you will receive.

NPS is an extremely valuable market research metric that is widely used across industries and can be leveraged to measure customer perceptions of a brand and estimate future growth, as evidenced by the potential for repurchase or referral to other consumers.

NPS Is Not the Same as Member Satisfaction

Member NPS is not the same as your members’ overall satisfaction with their club experience.  NPS asks about the likelihood of recommending or referring the club to others while overall satisfaction asks about contentment with their experience.

In short, NPS is future-looking and overall satisfaction is backward-facing.

NPS Is Simple to Implement

NPS, originally a proprietary instrument used by Bain & Company, is now used by two-thirds of the Fortune 1000 companies as a basic measurement of customer sentiment.

The popularity and broad use of NPS is often attributed to its simplicity and transparency of use.  It is a survey question which asks, “How likely are you to recommend [brand, product, service, company, or organization] to a friend or associate?” The question is designed to provide responses which are easy to interpret and track over time in trend analysis.

NPS generates valuable customer insights and is typically used and interpreted as an indicator of customer loyalty.  This information is invaluable for business and community leaders who are responsible for measuring and managing revenue retention, customer retention, new business growth, or overall consumer satisfaction.

Despite the ubiquity of NPS among leading companies in major industries, the adoption and consistent application of this metric within the club industry remains limited.

A recent GGA Partners research survey of more than 500 club leaders (A Club Leader’s Perspective: Emerging Trends & Challenges) found that just 14% of clubs track member NPS in their surveys.  Among clubs that employ this metric, the average NPS is +64.  Additional feedback from the survey found that one-third of clubs reported an increase in their NPS during the pandemic, a positive statistic for future member growth.

Calculating Your NPS

The NPS question is asked on a scale ranging from 0 to 10, with 0 representing “Not at all likely” and 10 representing “Extremely likely”.  Based on the number selected, respondents are subdivided into one of three categories: those with ratings of 9 or 10 are classified as “Promoters”, those with ratings of 7 or 8 are marked as “Passives”, and those with ratings of 6 or less are categorized as “Detractors”.

The actual “score” is calculated by subtracting the portion of detractors from the portion of promoters without factoring in the portion of passives.  True NPS is always shown as an integer and not a percentage and, with the net score falling within a scale ranging from -100 to +100, it is possible to have a negative NPS.

Keys To Developing & Tracking Your NPS

1. Keep the NPS question consistent – Avoid altering the question (“How likely are you to recommend [your club] to a friend or associate?”) or the answer range (from 0 = “Not at all likely” to 10 = “Extremely likely”) as it will impact the validity and reliability of the data.

2. Ask for NPS alongside a handful of supporting questions – NPS is most valuable when supported by other overarching questions which generate datapoints on overall satisfaction, perceived value-for-money, and demographic questions (to stratify responses and dive deep into feedback by membership subsets).

3. Keep it brief – A survey with these three questions (NPS, overall satisfaction, value-for-money) and four or five demographic questions should take about 3-4 minutes for respondents to complete. Shorter is better for these types of surveys.

4. Measure NPS routinely – At a minimum, your NPS metrics should be tracked and updated annually to identify changes in the sentiments of your members. Whether they are rising or falling, understanding the factors impacting changes in your trend line will provide valuable insight into areas where the club is excelling as well as areas that need improvement.

If your club aims to be truly attentive to overall satisfaction, member loyalty, member and customer retention, or using member referrals to support membership growth, leaders of the club should be monitoring NPS as a matter of routine.  If this acronym isn’t surfacing in boardroom discussions, it should be.

While no one can predict the future, a clear understanding of your NPS will provide a data-driven indication of members’ loyalty to your club’s brand and the success you will have when asking your members for referrals.

A Club Leader’s Perspective: Emerging Trends & Challenges

GGA Partners Releases A Club Leader’s Perspective on Emerging Trends & Challenges Research Report

More than 500 club leaders weigh-in on trends, challenges, and pressing needs in club management emerging in the wake of the global health crisis. Now available for download.

TORONTO, Ontario (June 15, 2021) – GGA Partners, an international consulting firm and trusted advisor to many of the world’s most successful golf courses, private clubs, resorts, and residential communities, has released the results of an industry-wide research survey of more than 500 club leaders.  

The 2021 A Club Leader’s Perspective: Emerging Trends & Challenges report is a collaboration between GGA Partners and the Club Management Association of America. Researchers and analysts from both firms partnered in the development and analysis of the findings.

The research, which serves as a contemporary update on pressing needs in club management, takes a look at emerging trends and challenges from the perspective of those in club leadership roles, capturing insight from 515 club leaders, the majority of whom serve as general managers, COOs, and CEOs of private clubs in North America.

A Club Leader's Perspective: Emerging Trends & Challenges

Club leaders weighed-in on emerging trends and challenges across five primary areas: 1) industry outlooks and the ripple effects of COVID-19, 2) human resources and workforce demands, 3) the membership experience, value proposition, and programming, 4) capital planning and long-range improvement strategies, and 5) financial position, budgeting, and forecasting.

“Even before the pandemic, significant change was underway across the private club landscape,” explained Derek Johnston, a partner in the firm. “The crisis has not only accelerated these nascent changes but also introduced new obstacles and challenges for clubs to overcome. The findings of this report will be a useful reference tool for club leaders as they navigate an uncharted path forward and reset for growth beyond the coronavirus pandemic.”

This latest report is a continuation of the GGA Partners Perspective research initiative, a series of surveys the firm deployed in the spring of 2020 which dive into the attitudes, preferences, and industry outlooks of distinct club industry cohorts. The prior installment, A Member’s Perspective: The Shifting Private Club Landscape, featured findings from a global survey of more than 6,300 private club members on their attitudes toward the club industry during the pandemic and how they expect clubs to respond.

To view the research results and key insights found in A Club Leader’s Perspective: Emerging Trends & Challenges, click on the link below.

Download the report here

 

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. GGA Partners has offices in Toronto, Ontario; Phoenix, Arizona; Bluffton, South Carolina; and Dublin, Ireland. For more information, please visit ggapartners.com.

About CMAA

Founded in 1927, the Club Management Association of America (CMAA) is the largest professional association for managers of membership clubs with 6,800 members throughout the US and internationally. Our members contribute to the success of more than 2,500 country, golf, athletic, city, faculty, military, town, and yacht clubs. The objectives of the Association are to promote relationships between club management professionals and other similar professions; to encourage the education and advancement of members; and to provide the resources needed for efficient and successful club operations. Under the covenants of professionalism, education, leadership, and community, CMAA continues to extend its reach as the leader in the club management practice. CMAA is headquartered in Alexandria, VA, with 42 professional chapters and more than 40 student chapters and colonies. Learn more at cmaa.org.

GGA Partners is proud to be a long-standing CMAA Business Partner.

 

Media Contact

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

Mid-Year Predictions for the Second Half of 2021

At the start of the new year and in the spirit of planning, the thought leaders at GGA Partners sat down to predict what we believed to be coming throughout the year and shared our 2021 Predictions on the Shape of the Next Normal. Now, halfway through 2021 with the spring season in the books and summer underway, we reconvened GGA leaders for a mid-year check-in on predictions for the latter half of the year.

1. Ensuring fair and equitable access to amenities remains top of mind, especially on the golf course

A trending topic throughout the industry is golf’s demand surge and how long it will sustain, much has been written on this point and those who are closely watching rounds played metrics anticipate a clearer reading by the end of the summer.

Stephen Johnston, GGA’s founding partner, expects that private clubs will see the surge continue to elevate rounds played by members which will likely increase issues relating to compaction of tee traffic and accessibility.  He predicts the benchmark regarding average number of rounds per member to be higher by approximately 10% following the pandemic and also increased golf course utilization by members’ spouses and family members.  Both factors will create a greater demand for tee times at private clubs.

Johnston believes some clubs may need to consider permitting round play by fivesomes instead of foursomes, potentially catalyzing logistical challenges such as a greater need for single-rider power carts in order to maintain speed of play at the same rate as foursomes with all players using power carts. For club managers and course operators, this entails an increased need for current and detailed evaluation of the benefits of membership and the relationship between playing privileges and the practical ability to book a tee time and get on-course.

2. Effective demand management is key and will shift from agile, flexible approaches to new operating standards as demand stabilizes

During the pandemic and throughout 2020, many golf, club, and leisure businesses recognized the increased need to more accurately and routinely measure the utilization of amenities, adapting operations management to react quickly to change.

Craig Johnston, head of GGA’s transaction advisory practice, anticipates an evolution in this one-day-at-a-time, agile monitoring approach into a new and more formalized standard of operating procedures.  “At the start of 2021, we said we would see clubs provide flexibility and experiment with various operational changes,” he explained.  “With the pandemic feeling like it’s steadily moving toward the rear-view mirror, members will be expecting clubs to begin instituting the ‘new normal’ operations and the data compiled by clubs in the first half of the year will be critical to deciding on the new normal.”

Johnston believes that membership demand will continue to be strong through the second half of the year and that it is likely utilization will reduce marginally as members begin travelling again for work and social obligations.  Even with a marginal reduction in utilization, demand for private club services will remain strong and will continue to put pressure on capacity and access in most clubs.

Senior Partner Henry DeLozier encourages club and facility operators to embrace short-term continuations of high demand while keeping an eye on the future and the non-zero probability of a demand shift in the coming years.  “Clubs must create pathways to sustain demand while navigating utilization volume.  It is unwise to place hard or irreversible limitations on capacity while clubs are at historic maximums for demand and usage,” cautioned DeLozier. “Clubs will do well to establish a clear understanding of demand and utilization to enable innovative programs which serve to fill periods of low demand in the future.”

3. Ongoing uncertainty about the pandemic’s long-term impact on club finances will increase the review and reevaluation of club financial projections to ensure sustained budget flexibility

While data regarding utilization, participation, and engagement throughout the summer months continues to be captured and consolidated, business leaders should not delay their financial planning and instead get to work on reevaluating finances and updating their future forecasts.

“Now is the time to review, evaluate, and reset club debt levels,” emphasized Henry DeLozier. “Clubs need to recast financial projections based upon elevated joining/initiation fees arising from high demand.”

In support of alacrity in financial planning, DeLozier notes that labor shortages spurred by the pandemic will increase payroll-related costs at a material level. He also predicts that comprehensive risk review is needed at most clubs to evaluate possible impacts arising from cyber-crime and/or declining club revenues during 2022.

Beyond internal shake-ups in utilization or operations, club leaders should be anticipating external impacts that could impact their financial plans.  A hypothetical example raised by DeLozier is if the U.S. economy were to become more inflationary.  In such a circumstance he believes clubs would see an increase in the costs of labor and supplies which would necessitate increases in member dues and fees, a deceleration of new-member enrollments as consumer confidence dips, and a slight slow-down in housing demand.

Right now, uncertainty remains with respect to the virus as well as the resulting economic impact from the pandemic. From a financial standpoint, clubs will do well to advance their forward planning while retaining budget elasticity.  “It will be imperative for clubs and boards to build flexibility into their budgets and agility into their operations,” added Craig Johnston.

4. Existing governance practices, policies, and procedures will be revisited, refurbished, and reinvigorated

A litany of new ways of operating and governing the club arose as a result of the pandemic, some of which suggest an efficacy that can be sustained in a post-pandemic environment.  Essential to assimilating these adaptions into new standards of procedure is a review of existing governance practices and the documentation which supports them.

“At a time when boards can measure the full range of financial performance metrics, updating club governing documents is a primary board responsibility,” noted Henry DeLozier.  “Board room succession planning must be formalized to prepare clubs for the inevitable downturn from record high utilization.”

In considering the nearly overnight adoption of technology tools to enable remote meetings and board-level deliberations, partner Michael Gregory noted a substantial increase in the use of technology tools that go beyond virtual Zoom meetings.  “The pandemic has allowed clubs to test online voting,” he explained.  “For many clubs, once things return to normal, their bylaws won’t allow for the continued execution of online voting unless they make changes.”

“We have seen the adoption and implementation of online voting to be a huge success for the clubs who have tried it for the first time,” said Gregory. “Members love it, it’s easy, it’s convenient, it leads to higher participation from the membership, and many clubs are in the process of changing their governing documents to allow for online voting as a result.”  The challenges and opportunities of employing online voting are detailed in our piece on taking club elections digital, which features a downloadable resource that can be shared among club boards.

5. In human resources, expect to see deeper reevaluations of compensation structures and employee value propositions

Weighing in from across the pond, Rob Hill, partner and managing director of GGA’s EMEA office in Dublin, predicts that club leaders will face bigger challenges in human resources throughout the remainder of 2021.

The first of three particular items he called out is a reevaluation of compensation.  “Making decisions about employee pay is among the biggest challenges facing club leaders in the wake of the coronavirus shutdown,” stated Hill. “As they begin compensation planning for the rest of the year and into 2022, these leaders not only have to consider pay levels, but also the suitability of their mission and operating model to thrive in a post-pandemic world.”

Citing his recent experiences in the European market, Hill shared that club leaders are challenged with finding new ways to operate smarter and more efficiently, while also looking for innovative ways to implement sturdy, low-cost solutions that their employees will love.  Which leads to his second point, that there will be a renewed emphasis on what employees love and how clubs, as employers, can provide an enhanced value proposition for their employees.

“As employees get back to work onsite, employers are finding that what their people value from the employment relationship has changed,” Hill explained.  “Where pay has been viewed as largely transactional in the past, clubs may need to provide new types of benefits, especially programs that provide more flexibility, financial security, and empowerment to retain and motivate their people.”

Lastly, there is likely to be considerable movement of talent over the coming year brought on by employees’ new work-life ambitions and financial imperatives, said Hill, “As demand for their skills and experience grows, the very best talent will seek out employers that demonstrate they view employees not as costs but as assets and reflect this in their approach to compensation.”

Recalling our start-of-year prediction that the movement of people and relocation of companies will reshape markets, partner Craig Johnston added, “The relocation of people continues to be a prominent trend and one that is likely to continue in the second half of the year.”  For club employers, it’s not just the changing physical locations which impact the cost and supply of labor, but also the expectations of employees as they seek out competitive new roles and work experiences.

6. The repurposing and reimagining of club facilities, amenities, and member-use areas will continue

The pandemic pushed to the fore the need for clubs to adapt their facilities to match changes in the ways members use and enjoy their clubs.  A combination of practical evolutions for health and safety and circumstantial evolutions drawn from widespread ability for members to work remotely created increased desire for clubs to offer more casual outdoor dining options and spaces to enable members to conduct work while at the club.

Partner Stephen Johnston believes these sentiments will continue to near-term facility improvements at clubs.  “With more flexibility in the workplace and members working from home periodically, there will be a need at the club for members to do work or take calls before their tee time or their lunch date,” he said.  “It has been evident for some time that members generally prefer to enjoy outdoor dining and since, throughout the pandemic, it has become apparent that guests draw greater comfort in outdoor experiences, I see a greater demand for outside patio and food and beverage service.”

As society begins to reopen and communities begin to stabilize, time can only tell precisely how clubs will continue to evolve their operations, whether that be scaling back pandemic-relevant operations or doubling-down on new services and efficiencies.  Evident in our work with clients are significant efforts to reorganize club leaders, reevaluate operations, and retool plans for a successful future in the new normal.  Here are a few highlights of efforts clubs are making for the next normal:

 

  • Reinvigoration of governance processes and engagement of leaders to ensure alignment between boards and club strategic plans.
  • Renewed surveying of members to keep a pulse on how sentiments have changed from pre-pandemic, during pandemic, and currently as communities stabilize.
  • Enhanced adoption and application of electronic voting as clubs reevaluate membership structures, governing documents, and operating policies amidst “displaced” members.
  • Reconfiguring of budgets, capital plans, and long-range financial models.
  • Refinement and advancement of membership marketing strategies, tactics, and materials.
  • Tightening relationships between facility planning, capital improvements, and member communications campaigns.

Four HR Questions Club Boards Should Be Asking

When was the last time your club audited its human resources? Alignment between a club’s strategy and its employee offering is essential in order to enhance the overall club lifestyle, culture, and experience for members and staff.

To determine whether it’s time to reexamine culture, Partner Derek Johnston lays out 4 questions private club boards should be asking. 


Among the most reverberant takeaways from the coronavirus pandemic is the importance of people to businesses. Global business leaders and executives at leading corporations have indicated that the shift toward talent as the most important source of corporate value has continued. The pandemic also seems to be leading an increasing number of talent-forward companies to take an “employees first” approach.

But this is nothing new for large-scale global businesses. Indeed, the third week of August marked the one-year anniversary of the influential Business Roundtable’s statement on corporate purpose – which puts employees, customers, their communities, and the environment on a par with shareholders.

“Human resources” is trending

It’s also nothing new for club businesses. Our continuous research on club industry trends has shown human resource management and labor challenges to be a persisting trend, one which club managers have reported to be rising in importance – before the coronavirus.

In 2019, human resources was ranked the 6th most-impactful private club trend (out of 27) in a global survey of club managers. And, in a separate Canadian club industry survey, it was identified as both a key risk and primary hurdle to modernizing club management while topping the list of areas which managers say are under-supported from an education standpoint.

The early-pandemic question as to whether COVID-19 impacts would accelerate the business community’s move to stakeholder capitalism, or slow it down as companies focus on short-term financial pressures, seems to have answered itself.

For clubs, the people-related challenges previously reported by managers have exacerbated, with topics like employee willingness to work, labor anxiety, staff recruitment and turnover emerging as key strategic questions which club leaders are currently wrestling.

Widespread COVID-19 impacts like club closures, layoffs, and furloughs certainly haven’t helped ease concerns. With significant changes afoot in staffing, retention, human resource availability, and operational adaptations, clubs are presented with a unique opportunity right now – the chance to reevaluate and perhaps reset their culture.

Got culture?

In clubs, culture IS governance. Sound governance is a strategic imperative primarily because it enables, supports, and nurtures effective strategy. And, as the Peter Drucker saying goes, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

This is extremely important for club leaders.

It’s important because it means that no matter how strong a club’s strategic plan is, its efficacy will be held back by team members, staff, and employees if they don’t share the proper culture.

When the breaks are going against the business, as they are for some right now, the people implementing the club’s plan are the ones that make all the difference. While strategy defines direction and focus, culture is the habitat in which strategy lives or dies.

Now is the perfect time to reexamine your club’s culture to ensure staff square rightly with the club’s strategy. In other words, to ensure that your people are the best fit for accomplishing the club’s goals and objectives. Someone who was right for a specific role pre-pandemic may not be right for the same role now. Your business has changed, and some people may need to change too, either themselves or their roles.

How can club leaders reexamine culture?

The first place to start is by understanding what you’re currently doing for employees. Club leaders require a comprehensive understanding of the club’s current approach to human resource management so that they can determine the alignment of people and culture with the club’s goals.

When was the last time the club audited its human resources approach, policies, procedures, and performance? Ensuring alignment between the club’s strategy and its employee offering is essential in order to enhance the overall club lifestyle, culture, and experience for members and staff.

To help you get started, here are four HR questions private club boards should be asking:

1. How does our current organizational structure sit relative to best practice and what recent COVID-related changes should we make permanent or revisit?

Review your club’s current organizational structure, including both employees and contract workers, against best practice structures at comparable clubs locally, nationally, and globally. This review should focus special attention on the roles and responsibilities of human resources within the organizational structure with the goal of highlighting key gaps or divergences from best practice. Often times in clubs, an overly flat organizational structure tends to create ‘siloes’ that breed inefficiencies and bloat staffing levels.

2. Are we both efficient and competitive in the compensation and benefits afforded to employees?

Complete a comprehensive benchmarking exercise which compares compensation and benefit levels of all key staff and for the club as a whole to comparable clubs and other businesses with whom you compete for talent. The focus of this exercise should go beyond salary and hourly wages, factoring in relevant club financial and operating data, benefits packages, member and employee feedback scores, and other market-related information.

The goal is to identify current and accurate reference points for evaluating current compensation and benefits against best practice. There is a high degree of likelihood that there are opportunities in your current compensation and benefits structure to better align incentives and shift compensation to top talent, which tends to support increased productivity and reduced head count.

3. Are our personnel positioned to help us achieve the club’s goals and objectives? Are we helping them achieve theirs?

Assess your club’s performance tracking and review processes. The goal here is to analyze current performance evaluation processes and procedures to ensure alignment with the club’s overarching goals. This requires the board and executive committee to have a focused, clear, and comprehensive understanding of the club’s mission, vision, core values, and objectives.

For maximum benefit, to both member and employee satisfaction, it is incredibly important that performance is measurable and incentivized. The trick is determining the right way to track and measure performance and tie it to the right incentive.

4. Are our staff equipped with the tools they need to succeed? Are they empowered to do so?

Evaluate your club’s current recruiting, onboarding, training, and ongoing relational efforts. This will likely require management meetings and staff interviews to learn about the current approach and unearth any ideas or recommendations your team may have to suggest.


The success of every private club is dependent on the quality of their staff. Recruiting the best talent, integrating them into the envisioned culture, training them for success, ensuring their satisfaction, and ultimately retaining them is an important goal. The outcome from which tends to have a positive financial impact on the club and on the member experience.

After all, an investment in people is an investment in culture and clubs will benefit from this investment.

Members Worried About Their Club’s Financial Health; Say Their Return Contingent on Safe Conditions

Members Worried About Their Club’s Financial Health;
Say Their Return Contingent on Safe Conditions

TORONTO (August 11, 2020) – Private club members are worried about their club’s financial well-being in the aftermath of the global pandemic, and only 27% expect operations to revert to the way they were before the challenges imposed by the coronavirus.  But most say they will retain their membership if their club holds the line on dues increases, maintains the quality of its facilities, and makes returning to the club safe for themselves and their families.

Those were among the findings of a survey of private golf club members conducted by GGA Partners, an international consulting firm and advisor to many of the world’s most successful golf courses, private clubs, resorts and residential communities.  The study was conducted among members of U.S. and Canadian private clubs with survey participants averaging 12 years of club membership.

Survey respondents were not optimistic about their club’s financial position with 71% saying they expect a decline in the financial health of their club. Fifty percent cited current economic conditions and 42% said a drop in member spending would lead to the decline, which 20% predicted would be “significant.”

In response to downward financial pressures, members expect their clubs to adapt operationally rather than financially by scaling back high-touch areas of operations to simultaneously reduce operating costs and lower the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Rather than increasing revenue through dues or membership growth, almost three-quarters of members would prefer their club make near-term, operational changes – including reducing dining operations (61%) and administrative expenses.

Despite the multiple ways their lives have been affected by the pandemic, roughly four in five members report either an increase in importance or no change in the club’s importance in their lives. Friendships, the quality of amenities and recreational activities were cited as factors driving the club’s importance. Twenty-one percent say the club’s importance has diminished because of the pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has not negatively impacted the relevance of the club in the lives of most private club members.  If anything, its importance has been reinforced,” said Henry DeLozier, a partner in the Toronto-based firm.  “Together these results suggest that the importance and relevance of their club experience are strengthened during emotionally challenging times.”

When asked how they would (or have) approached returning to their club in the wake of the coronavirus, 39% said they would (or have) returned without any restrictions imposed by the club.  However, 61% said their return was contingent on certain conditions: 50% said they would return if social distancing was maintained and government guidelines enforced; 11% were more hesitant, saying they would not return until the club had been operational “without issues” for a trial period or until rigorous virus testing capabilities were implemented or a vaccine were available.

Members said they also would consider leaving their clubs if dues increases exceeded typical annual hikes (50%) and the club’s facilities deteriorated (41%).

“The good news for club operators is that scaling back operations, reducing services and limiting access to amenities and activities – essential maneuvers to safely and responsibly navigate a virus-plagued social environment – are unlikely to cause significant membership attrition,” DeLozier said.

 

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, please visit ggapartners.com.

 

Contact

Henry DeLozier
Partner, GGA Partners
602-739-0488
henry.delozier@ggapartners.com

Rob Hill
Partner, GGA Partners
+353 86 68 12 744
rob.hill@ggapartners.com

Winter is Coming…

Amidst the euphoria of clubs reopening, EMEA Partner Rob Hill encourages club leaders to look beyond 2020 and plan now to do all they can to maintain those gains, because starting this winter, 2021 is going to bring a whole new challenge.

Numerous UK golfing bodies, clubs and media are understandably enjoying the moment – citing a considerable spike in membership interest and lauding the industry’s resurrection as reason for celebration.

Amidst the euphoria, club leaders would do well to look beyond 2020 and plan now to do all they can to maintain those gains, because starting this winter, 2021 is going to bring a whole new challenge.

The Bank of England has warned that the UK faces its deepest recession since 1709 and the OECD forecasts that the UK will suffer the worst recession in the developed world.

Thus far, the true state of the UK labour market has been disguised by wage subsidies covering 9.1m jobs – a scheme coming to an end in October this year.

GGA Partners Research (A Member’s Perspective, 2020) signals that 43% of private club members expect their disposable income will decline over the next 12 months, while 58% believe their overall consumer spending will also decline.

This new economic environment will first focus its wrath on the 8% of clubs in the UK and Ireland that classify their current cash position as ‘Critical’. It will swiftly sweep through the further 29% that classify theirs as ‘Concerning’.

As far as the COVID effect on member attitudes to returning to use their club, 11% of members signal that they are hesitant, would not return until the Club had been operational ‘without issues’ for a trial period, until rigorous virus testing capabilities or even a vaccine is available. This is particularly applicable to the 70’s+ age group (A Member’s Perspective, 2020), leading to a likely detrimental impact on this demographic’s perceived value for money and relevance.

A study carried out by the English Golf Union as it then was in 2008, identified in the first year of that recession, almost 1/2 of all clubs experienced a decline in membership numbers with “the most significant decrease in the 22-44 age group” – a reflection of the age group that gets hit hardest in an employment downtown. It’s reasonable to assume this trend will be repeated.

By all means enjoy re-opening, celebrate the new demand and interest in the game and membership, and the first profitable quarter for f&b departments in recent memory! But remember what you’re experiencing now isn’t the new normal. That’s coming this winter and it is the responsibility of club leaders to prepare their organisations for the next cycle NOW.

This means addressing any governance weaknesses that may hinder nimble and difficult decision-making. Following proven guiding principles to protect the club’s overall financial health. Protecting the condition of club assets and exploring opportunities for investing in enhancements which will broaden relevance and appeal. Investing in people and their education to deliver efficient and outstanding member and visitor experiences. Investing in a membership retention plan with an emphasis on value, NPS, socialisation, and safety, and investing in an appropriate brand management strategy so that values are communicated effectively to both internal and external audiences.

If you have an interest in reading insights from my colleagues and research from our extraordinary team at GGA Partners, I encourage you to go to ggapartners.com/insights where you can also sign up to receive releases of interest.

A Member’s Perspective: The Shifting Private Club Landscape

New GGA Partners Research Report Highlights Private Club Members’ Perspective on COVID-19 Impact

More than 6,300 private club members share their attitudes toward the club industry in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and how they expect clubs to respond. Now available for download.

TORONTO, Ontario – GGA Partners – international consulting firm and trusted advisor to many of the world’s most successful golf courses, private clubs, resorts, and residential communities – has released the results of a global research survey of more than 6,300 private club members across six countries on four continents.

The research, which incorporates clubs in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia and China, measures the attitudes and preferences of private club members on club operations and finance in the wake of the COVID-19 global health crisis.

“The coronavirus pandemic has shifted the private club landscape in many ways and these research findings offer insight into the near-future ripple effects with which club leaders must reckon,” explained Derek Johnston, a Partner in the firm. “As an industry advisor for trends shaping private club strategy, our team at GGA Partners is doing all that we can to help club leaders navigate the crisis and strengthen their understanding of how to react and adapt in order to meet the morphing needs and expectations of members.”

Overall results are encouraging; members feel highly positive about the crisis-management performance of their clubs and indicate that the importance of “the Club” in their lives has not been negatively impacted by the pandemic, but rather reinforced.

“In terms of correlation, the more effectively clubs have performed during the COVID-19 pandemic, the more important they became in the lives of members,” stated Ben Hopkinson, Director Client Success and Sales at GGA Partners.  “Together, these results suggest that, for members, the importance and relevance of their club experience is strengthened during emotionally challenging times.”

However, despite the enduring importance of the club in their lives, members’ high-level economic outlook over the next 12 months is more somber: 43% expect their disposable income to decrease and 58% believe their overall consumer spending will as well.  Perhaps most disheartening is members’ outlook on how their club’s financial position will change: 71% envisage a decline, with 20% characterizing the anticipated decline as ‘significant’.

In response to anticipated downward financial pressures, members expect their clubs to adapt operationally by scaling back certain high-touch areas of operations to simultaneously reduce club operating costs and the risk of COVID-19 transmission.  The extent of operational changes is predicted to be moderate in nature – only 12% of participants envision changes characterized as ‘significant’ or ‘drastic’.

The majority of private club members indicate their understanding of the need for operational adaptions to reduce costs, showing stronger support for changes which reduce service offerings and availability than those which increase their cost to belong.

The good news for club operators is the implication that operational scale-backs, service reductions, and restricted/limited access to amenities and activities – essential maneuvers to safely and responsibly navigate a virus-ridden social environment – are unlikely to cause significant membership attrition.  The tough news is that increasing dues beyond the norm – or allowing the value and quality of club amenities to diminish – just might push members away in the short-term.

According to Patrick DeLozier, Director at GGA Partners, constant evolutions in the COVID-19 pandemic place enhanced pressure on the planning capabilities of club leaders.  “It’s really a day-to-day for managers,” he said. “The stop-and-start reality of new case development and safety protocols requires club managers to have up-to-date information and the support of very sound research and data to work through challenges with the club’s board of directors.”

This means that club leaders need to have a plan for what they’re going to do next as the situation evolves quickly and unexpectedly. “The need for data-driven analysis, diligent financial monitoring, and a prepared communications strategy is more prevalent than ever,” DeLozier clarified.  “To sustain forward-thinking, club leaders need to have a ‘Plan C’ for the ‘Plan A’.  Pandemic-related changes are so rapid that, if you can’t adapt quickly, you’re well behind the eight ball.”

These results and more are detailed in a report titled A Member’s Perspective: The Shifting Private Club Landscape, now available for download.

Click here to download the report and see the findings

 

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, please visit ggapartners.com.

 

Contact

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

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