Characteristics of Successful Clubs

Does your club have a “flight plan”?

Is it specific to YOUR club’s unique characteristics and challenges and not forced into someone else’s idea of a prototype club?

When a pilot develops a flight plan, he/she considers many factors that are unique to that flight. The airplane being used, the load being carried, fuel requirements and weather conditions are all considerations that vary from flight to flight. Clubs are no different, except there are typically MORE variables, ranging from the location and quality/condition of the facilities to the age and other demographic of the membership. Is the membership busy or passive? Can the club comfortably handle 250 members or 550?

The successful clubs I’ve observed have several things in common:

  1. They maintain and upgrade their facilities.
  2. The have strong leadership.
  3. They have strong management.
  4. There is a mutual respect between leadership and management, and management is encouraged to “speak up” and the club benefits from their expertise.
  5. They move forward and aren’t afraid to change in order to improve.

Each of these items can come in different forms. At clubs with each of these elements, there is usually a strong sense of member pride and these clubs survive in tough times and thrive in good times. The formula for success is different at each club. Some clubs may require facility upgrades or enhancements while others may need better membership development and some simply need better management or a different direction. There is no “blueprint” formula that is right for every club.

Since club leadership often determines the direction of the club, and can be a highly charged poltical environment, many clubs suffer (and sometimes fail) from poor leadership or lack of leadership. The skills necessary for an effective board may be different from one club to the next. For instance, simply because one member may be a lawyer or an insurance broker doesn’t mean they can effectively solve the club’s legal issues or develop the best insurance program. After all, what personal injury lawyer truly knows his/her way around a tax assessment appeal case?

I’ve seen board member profile charts that seem to assume that certain backgrounds can be interchangable and replacable simply by profession. Certainly, in some cases board members with specific skills are needed, but there are lots of doctors who serve very effectively with no professional expertise involved. Before developing profiles of the ideal board, it is prudent to to first develop a list of the club’s challenges and then match the board to the task at hand. With the exception of good team building skills, the board’s makeup can vary over time.

That same board needs to be able and willing to hire capable management and encourage them to speak up. Too many boards hire “yes” men and end up never taking advantage of their professional skills and expertise, not to mention stifling them along the way, resulting in chronic instability in the key management positions.

We strongly advocate that clubs seek not only professional assistance in these decisions, but most importantly, independent help. We (or any other consulting firm) will ever know your club as well as you do, but we come to the process with no emotional attachment to the club, only the desire and knowledge to help the club succeed. We aren’t afraid to ask the tough questions and report the tough answers.