by Dale Petrie
This is the second article in a series of three discussing membership use and management of members is truly just as important for a club manager as management of staff.
A good manager looks after staff. A good manager manages staff months before they may even commence work. A great manager will manage membership and members even more. Managing the time and club visits of both members and staff through a well-created and thoughtful events calendar is the key ingredient.
However, far too often we see a manager, either wanting to show personal worth or looking to add value to a club or facility, creating too many events which can lead to a host of issues. Strangely enough, decisions made months prior can enable a club season to run smoothly. If planning is not done well, those decisions can create havoc, poor member service and staff burnout.
November really is a deadline for the 2024 full calendar and it’s during this month that those crucial decisions are made and inked on to the calendar.
We call it “eventing.” It’s a mind set that believes that every event adds to the club, its season and the membership experience. I think it’s in our human nature to want to be around other people. Yes, there are those that read a book and perhaps enjoy their own company, but the private members club, entertainment and restaurant businesses and those that either work or participate in these industries, I believe, tend to thrive on people’s desire to be with other people. Our country club industry is part of that desire. In fact, in almost every equity owned, private club’s mission statement on its 990 IRS form, there are words that describe this desire – to create a social, club-like environment or social club.
This desire sometimes creates a need for what we call “eventing” – the idea that more social intercourse is required and, therefore, more events, to live up to the club’s ethos. Pack the calendar full and enjoy a season of true, convivial social intercourse – you can even use the words from the Newport Reading Room’s mission statement.
The objective of the Club is to maintain a library reading room, and to promote literary and social intercourse among its members, subscribers and guests.The Newport Reading Room, Newport, RI
The famed Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach, Florida even writes that its “exempt” purpose is social interaction for its members.
Seminole Golf Club is a social club whose exempt purpose is to promote social interaction of club members by providing dining and recreational activities.Seminole Golf Club, Juno Beach, FL
Create A Calendar To Avoid Membership Burnout
There are a lot of m’s in management – many more figurative ones than the literal two: motion, motivation, mastery just to name a few. And planning a season or a year while looking at staff requirements, time, and staffing levels is crucial. A well thought out, paced and event-managed calendar can increase staff productivity. However, on the other side of that equation, is burnout, for not only staff, but membership as well.
We advise to “frontload” the calendar a bit which can be a solid way to get strong momentum into the peak part of the club’s calendar year. It will allow members to know the club is rolling and ready in terms of programming. It allows to get those events done and dusted while both your staff and members are fresh.
Seasonal Changes Can Create Member Usage Peaks
As the year progresses, ensure that you look at the “waves” of club use. These times tend to follow the school calendar. If you’re a northern club, look at July 4th weekend. This is the true kick-off for the summer months. Some might say Memorial Day is the start of summer, but we see June build into July and the first two to three weeks of July as the peak for those summer months, before families leave for their August holidays. Ensure that your events build to that peak in mid July, rather than hosting them all in July.
Too many events tires members, not just staff, and will reduce the number of members attending the events. Attrition rates will rise with a higher number of events, especially if those events are packed into two or three weeks or, say, just one month. Events can actually cause ennui, a boredom and a sense of overuse.
Pacing out staff in connection with membership changes is vital. Summer membership starting dates, or pool and fitness membership start dates, affect member usage and should be considered as the calendar is created. A tiki bar will be busy, just not when that summer membership starts in Florida, but again when the summer membership terminates, and the regular members come back to enjoy the amenity without the hubbub of the summer members.
When planning the annual calendar, it might be best to avoid events during these peaks of use as members are already at the club, not needing an event to bring them to the amenities. And, staff is already hard-pressed to keep up with member demand through schedule and demographic use changes.
Finally, there are so many moving parts to a yearly calendar and member usage, it’s well nigh impossible to predict all of the various facets while creating the calendar. But, investigating those possibilities and those school terms and calendars, can help to keep member engagement strong and healthy, avoiding overuse of the club and member burnout, which in turn will help maintain strong staffing levels and keep the pace of the year under control.
Dale Petrie is one of BeyondTheBaselines.com most loved correspondents. His views of the private members club industry are truly global as he was educated in France, lives in England but travels extensively through his native America working closely with our partner clubs.