Are You Capable of Transformation?

March 6, 2020

This article first appeared in the Jan/Feb 2019 issue of BoardRoom Magazine

“Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.” – William Pollard

Our world has seen unprecedented disruption in many industries, including ours. In response to these disruptions, many clubs are looking at their own evolution: how to generate new membership value, unlock new opportunities, drive revenue growth, and capture untapped efficiencies. But how do we transform in today’s convenience driven, hyper networked, casual society with technology dependent employees serving a multi-generational membership base with a shrinking workforce? That is a hard question in any industry, but ours is one that has been largely steeped in tradition, etiquette, formality, and is particularly reluctant to change while demands for excellence and superior service remain. The irony in this dynamic is that change and transformation are exactly what is necessary to remain relevant and sustainable for generations to come.

Transformation today happens at dizzying speeds; what used to take several years is now expected to happen in a season or within a year. Rapid and laser focused transformation is not something many private clubs are ready to undertake, or they are simply unprepared to do.

If you are in the transformation ‘boat’, here are a few lifelines to help you get started:


You must be clear about your mission or the rest of the list doesn’t matter. Who are you? What makes you special? Why will someone choose you? Where are you heading? Why does that matter?


Without integration of strategy and operational alignment, nothing can or will change.


An efficient set of processes designed to deliver specific results and leaders who are capable of holding staff accountable for them allows consistent product and service delivery.


You can’t measure what you don’t monitor. Knowing what information to track and monitor is key in setting up your Point of Sale system, accounting reports, inventory, etc. Use this relevant data to make decisions. Private clubs have a notoriously difficult time making strategic decisions because it may not feel good (because of the owner/customer and friendship dynamic) even though the data indicates a clear direction.


We are in a well-documented labor crisis. Yet some still expect managers to work 70+ hours per week, offering an office that doubles as a coat room, then question their high turnover rates. It’s time to invest in your human capital, employees. The employees and managers are your real competitive edge. They create and deliver the member experience. Why are they still the last line of investment on your budget?


Many improvements to the member or employee experience can be leveraged through technology. However, most technology is only as good as the setup, monitoring, and maintenance of it – not just the use of it.

It is time to take a longer look at the value proposition. Yes, you must sometimes buy the revenue you want through a renovation, and many have. But what’s next? How will you remain relevant in these rapidly changing times? Leaders today must be focused on continuous improvement and evolution for a wide variety of membership needs. The club industry as a whole is evolving –there is a club for just about everything these days – car and racing enthusiasts, archery, hunting, shooting, sporting, water sports, hiking, food enthusiasts, working women, you name it, there is probably a club in existence or on the horizon.

Let’s make some resolutions for the new year:

  • Think out of the box.
  • Listen to your members.
  • Create smaller clubs within your club.
  • Use data driven change management solutions.
  • Invest in what matters to the members.
  • Become an employer of choice.
  • Solicit and keep leaders who are responsive, enthusiastic, innovative, and capable to adjust quickly to evolving times.

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