Wow! Memberships are selling like pancakes at a Saturday Kiwanis fundraiser and golf rounds are higher than in the past 17 years. Member’s participation is skyrocketing, and more government funding may yet be on the way. All of this on the heels of the worst pandemic most of us can remember.
You’ve not only weathered the storm, you’ve done better this year than in the past few years. Finally, clubs are on their way to recovery and prosperity. But is it sustainable?
As Aristotle once said, “Learning is an ornament in prosperity, a refuge in adversity, and a provision in old age.” Interpretations may differ, but I believe what Aristotle meant was learning from our experiences provides us the ability to rejoice in prosperity, react in adversity and use our learnings to keep from making the same mistakes over again.
Private clubs, like all businesses go through life cycles of high growth, slow growth, maturity and decline. In fact, prior to Covid, golf and hence clubs, were in the third such life cycle of the past 100 years. Does this significant growth period signal the beginning of the 4th lifecycle? Clearly, we are in high growth, but we’ve been here before. Most recently at the National Golf Foundation’s Palm Springs Summit in 1988, it was predicted, and later proved accurate, that the industry would need to build one golf course a day to simply keep up with the impending demand. In 2003 we began to see a slow but steady decline signaling the latter stages of a life cycle.
Has the Covid pandemic begun lifecycle number 4? Certainly, current growth would seem to indicate it has. If it is a new life cycle, it is an amazing opportunity to drive hard toward leadership in your marketplace, accelerating plans to expand, exercising creative ways to engage your members, creating opportunities to listen and learn more about what members need and want. Simply, this is an opportunity to take your Club to a higher level.
But some might ask, why bother? Things are already better. Why do anything more?
Very clearly, “learning is an ornament in prosperity”, a red badge of courage vividly indicating visionary leaders accelerate in times of prosperity leading their clubs to greater levels of success remaining well above the tide as things inevitably cycle back in times of stress and as the lifecycle goes to maturity and decline. (As they seem to have done nearly four times in the last 100 years)
Even if the Post Covid period is not the dawn of the next lifecycle, the industry has been handed a gift, one that may or may not be long term. Why would we not take advantage of the strength of the current demand and build dominion and strength, making the bond of membership stronger, building greater value and sustainability as guardian to the next potential downfall?
Clubs accelerated creative thinking during the pandemic, which could very well explain the current windfall of membership, rounds and usage. Members sought the safe-haven and the social interaction of their club. Potential members lost their ability to travel with the family and looked for outlets closer to home. Regardless of the reasons for the boom or the reaction of our communities, this is the time of opportunity. It is a time to act decisively and with strategic intent. The earlier you respond the greater your opportunity to dominate in your specific marketplace.
Success will be defined not only on the number of members, cash flow or revenue windfalls. It will be defined by the member experience, the loyalty and commitment you build and the organic growth and brand that is created in the process.
Getting there can be as easy as communicating with your members, listening and acting upon what you hear, improving with each occurrence. While master planning is always necessary don’t overlook the simplicity of doing programs and low-cost amenities that create greater social interaction, camaraderie and activities, especially for those that do not golf. Strategic planning, identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats is a constant process that should be the basis of every decision made in the club. If capital formation opportunities permit, look at the kinds of master planning activities that will guide the capital planning over the next five or more years. Be careful of too much debt and excessive assessments. Engage your members and be transparent.
Success in the future will rely on a club’s ability to see trends clearly. Knowing what trends are affecting members and their needs is fundamental, especially if you can stay ahead of them and be the visionaries. Your team, including key department heads, line staff and volunteer leadership must see clearly what lies ahead and be onboard to resolutely respond before a crisis occurs.
Taking the right steps in times of prosperity will also provide you “refuge in adversity” as your diligence in times of prosperity allow you to ride above the competition as crisis may strike again.
But this is not the time to try and lay this all on your staff. Be diligent of the systems and processes that are available to you to rise above the competition, create loyal ambassadors well ahead of the curve. I’d like to help. If you are interested in seeing what others don’t, we just may have something you’d like to learn more about.
Give me a call at 214 679 8496.
“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Winston S. Churchill