A Club Culture Analysis – What is it?

A few months ago, I introduced the concept of a club culture analysis in my blog post from July. I’ve been asked what’s entailed and how it can help a private club plan for the future. In a nutshell, there are five (5) specific areas of focus in evaluating club culture:

  1. Atmosphere
    • Formal
    • Casual
  2. Membership
    • Owners
    • Customers
  3. Club Usage
    • Family
    • Business
    • Sports
    • Social
  4. Type of Club
    • Primary
    • Secondary
    • Destination
    • Residential
    • Resort
  5. Level of Activity
    • # of Golf Rounds
    • Dining (Capacity, Hours, Utilization)
    • Sports (Racquets, Swimming, Fitness, etc.)

Focusing on these five areas, a Club Culture Profile is an immersive and rigorous look at key elements of a club’s culture for the purpose of developing a better understanding of that club’s economic potential. It’s imperative in assessing membership attrition risk and member alignment on club priorities, utilization and long-term stability. Utilizing a mix of qualitative depth interviews and survey research with current, former and prospective members, the Club Culture Profile will yield a comprehensive assessment of member sustainability and the attractiveness of the club relative to its competitive set both in the present and future. Summary measures from both supply/demand analysis and consumer research can be compared to a normative database to help evaluate critical issues and points of differentiation.

Among the most useful ways a club culture analysis can be used is not only responding to the needs and desires of the current membership, but also taking a look forward at the club’s future generational evolution. What will the membership look like in 5, 10 or 20 years? What changes might sustain or enhance a club’s allure as membership evolves? How can the club plan accordingly?

(Present & future) member perceptions of the club’s physical assets and characteristics change over time along with the attitudes of the cost/value relationship and the atmosphere and motivations for joining. Many clubs strive to preserve traditions that are contrary to their long-term best interests. Planning for the future with an understanding of the club’s present and future culture is essential for long term stability and success.

Historically, clubs have often relied on comparison to those clubs considered “peer clubs” in making planning decisions rather than projecting how their own existing and future members might react to those plans. While reinvestment in club facilities is necessary, how funds are invested, fiscal responsibility and the impact on the club’s future are sometimes overlooked in favor of either leadership overspending to leave a legacy or underspending to keep dues artificially low. Each risks the club’s stability and future. I’ve seen clubs fail both ways.

Identifying and understanding a club’s culture objectively and realistically can be a real asset to future planning and provide valuable insight in the decision-making process.