by Dale Petrie
We know that a club manager looks after and supervises a hospitality staff across several departments. Working and communicating with department heads is a daily task, but this task has really one goal: Managing staff. But in managing staff, one is, in effect, managing members.
In reality, it’s the members that are being managed as the end goal. The club manager, through the club’s staff and department heads, manages use, service levels, member demand and membership. Through dining reservations, tee times, court reservations, and strong hires at the department head level, club managers are consistently and constantly managing member usage, member revenues, and perhaps the most valuable, a member’s time.
Covid made it easy for that management to strengthen, and the post-Covid challenge for any good manager is to maintain that member management while retaining members and adding perspective members to the rolls.
Look at what occurred just eighteen to twenty-four months ago: Tee times found their way into club life at clubs that had never dreamed of having tee times; Dining reservations had to be made poolside at summer and southern clubs which at one time had never pondered such a reality. Now, reservations are required for those tables where once members could walk in, dine and watch their little ones splash around the pool. Tennis and squash court reservations became a necessity just to have an opportunity to play as families congregated together and looked to outdoor activities to remain active.
The Art of Managing Members… Secretly
It’s truly an art of a good manager to manage members without them realizing that they are truly being managed. In this post-pandemic era, it’s the exceptional manager that can manage members in such a “hidden” method while translating that management through to every aspect of the club. A good manager or dining room captain would never want to be forced to limit the size of a member’s dinner party.
A great manager or department head avoids the need to ever have to say “No” to a member – they have long before anticipated the situation to manage a member’s needs without resorting to that negative. In a proactive way, any great manager avoids having to respond in a reactionary way
Think about this: Data and member trends can give us true, immediate management. If we know that, on average, 3 out of 4 players from the day’s first dozen tee times are going to stay for lunch and we have 20 tables on the terrace, that means that we should only reserve, say, 10 to 12 of the tables on the terrace, leaving open tables for those coming off the course. If we have a women’s league tennis match on that day, we should also realize another two tables on the terrace will be taken, leaving just 7 or 8 for reservations.
Tee times and court reservations are just but two of the tools for management of members. Another is the club calendar. Spacing and plotting events in and around regular club usage is key to managing member numbers on property and staff through a long season or year-round calendar. Managing member use wisely avoids staff burnout.
Marketing For Member Management
Even when and how a manager markets through email – with push notifications on a club app, or through social media announcements, posts, reels and stories – all this manages member usage.
Changing up a daily email briefing, or alluding to how many spots left in a clinic just a few hours prior can fill that clinic. And there’s the vice versa. A lack of advertising a popular event can allow a department head to have just the right allocation of members without having to say “you’re on the waitlist.” Sometimes, less is more when managing members.
A Final Word
It’s a deft manager who can use staff, data, marketing, reservations, software and, members themselves, to manage the member experience. Without allowing the member to realize that he or she is in fact being “pushed” or “managed” in a certain way, requires a magical foresight and a steady hand on the tiller of the club.
Dale Petrie has gained national fame as a leading contributor to the private members club industry through his work with BeyondTheBaselines.com. He is a graduate of the Universite Sorbonne in Paris and gained his Masters in Marketing from the same University’s program in Abu Dhabi. A leader in the industry, Dale observes trends long before they are accepted practices and we are honored to have him as our exclusive writer. His written series: How To Best Manage Staff and Membership can be found at InstituteOfClubDirectors.com