By Dave White
Private club success – both for board members and the club’s paid management – mainly derives from how well these two groups mesh when considering the club’s planning, daily operations and the breadth and depth of the club’s member experience. It’s known as collaborative governance.
Still there are many challenges facing boards and managers running a member-owned private club. That’s the topic of John Fornaro’s Publisher’s Perspective this issue, which also features comments from three general managers – Mike Bado, general manager, Myers Park Country Club, Charlotte, NC; Jeff McFadden, general manager/COO, The Union League of Philadelphia, and Terra S. H. Waldron, vice president/COO, The Desert Highlands Association, Scottsdale, AZ – on the challenges they face running a private club today.
A private club’s members are its customers and also its owners and employers…a strangely unique but interesting anomaly. This, of course, sets the stage for many challenges in running a member-owned private club.
The fact remains, good governance is the responsibility of a private club’s board of directors, which must take responsibility for recruiting, hiring and evaluating the performance of a club’s general manager.
“The key challenge for the general manager and the other leaders is to create a common vision that binds the members together into something that is bigger than the individual or a particular interest,” said Frank Vain, commenting in Fornaro’s treatise.
“Clubs ultimately exist to serve a community of members, but it takes work to hold the community together. Hitting the sweet spot for each of the various departments is difficult, particularly when emotions run high and often result in a change of course.”
Part of the challenge, Fornaro explains, is the “getting the right people on the boards at the right time…boards that have the complete mix of personalities, skills, talent, experience and credibility to drive their clubs to higher heights.”
As Fornaro concludes, boards can ensure a club’s success by deciding to do the right thing (setting policy), And it’s the general manager’s responsibility to decide how to do the right thing…in the spirit of collaborative governance.
And while we’re talking about boards of directors, Nancy Levenburg in her article, “Creating Family-Friendly Boards,” wonders how much boards reflect the current – or desire – composition of a club. As the country’s demographics change, so to, private clubs must change, to ensure their sustainability.
Of course, it’s not just the membership. “If the future of private clubs lies in attracting younger members, wouldn’t it make sense that they would want to have more – not fewer – younger members on the board?” Levenburg queried.
“And if referrals from current members are the number one source of new members, wouldn’t it make sense for clubs that are seeking to expand to court more younger members into leadership roles?”
The answer to both those question is a resounding ‘yes.’
Larry Hirsh, in his piece titled, “Time to Embrace the Three Ms”, also argues that “golf is not doing a good job of creating growth. Millennials, Minorities and Moms – The Three “Ms” – are under-represented and the game’s hierarchy is still focused on the age-old issues of cost, time and difficulty.
“If golf is to turn the tide and experience growth, which in turn will spur both economic success at existing facilities and new development, the game needs to embrace the Three Ms,” Hirsh maintains.
“For the Three Ms, golf and its venues have too many rules. In many cases, these rules are tied to time honored traditions. Where’s the happy medium? Hopefully, we’ll find it soon, because our game needs a shot in the arm.”
All points well made.
And our features on BoardRoom’s top presidents for 2016 continue. Included are: Paul Fulmer, President, Hamilton Club, Lancaster, PA; Janet Ginsburg, President, Alpine Country Club, Demarest, NJ; Ron Hankins, President, Myers Park Country Club, Charlotte, NC, and Steve Hokanson, Chair, Grey Oaks Country Club, Naples, FL.
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