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National Town Hall For Seasonal Clubs in The Corona Era

Windsor Tennis Club

As the Corona Virus Pandemic intensifies, seasonal clubs are looking at an approaching summer with trepidation.. Club managers, club boards of governors and Directors of Tennis and Fitness are wondering if and when the club may open. Boards of Governors are looking at liability and possible waivers of liability for all members and guests in connection to the virus.

In this age of uncertainty, we believed that most of the national associations and organizations were looking at the year-round clubs and the larger players. But seasonal clubs, largely member-owned with contract labor, are a large part of the industry. Focusing on these clubs, our National Town Hall attracted over 100 industry professionals to ask to join the call.

This call with club managers, club governors, clothing and tennis suppliers, along with Directors of Tennis and Fitness, discusses issues from slow supply chains to schedule changes. Offering ideas from a soft opening event free to members to updating and adding text messaging databases through Google Voice, Ed Shanaphy from beyondthebaselines.com moderates a lively discussion through the issues facing clubs for the 2020 summer.

Communicating with both members and staff in a congenial and regular way is clearly important to these industry leaders. And helping staff and contractors through the maze that is government aid and legislation is another issue covered.

All in all, a thorough conversation from industry leaders discussing how they are dealing with their business, their staff, their members and their clubs through the Covid-19 crisis.

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Our First Podcast

The BeyondTheBaselines.com podcast is here! A weekly look at the country club and facility management. Our weekly show will bring industry experts and club management advisers to help us analyze the current state of the industry. With exclusive insights and strategies, our weekly show will help any club’s management team.

tennis balls in practice baskets
We go beyond the baselines to bring you the best consultancy for club management.

As the nation’s pre-eminent consultancy to country clubs and leisure facilities, BeyondTheBaselines.com is a leader and brings best-business practices, club and department management, and staff retention to clubs across the nation.

This week’s feature show simply introduces you to what has inspired us to grow as a management consultant and search firm. We ask what should a good Director of Tennis be doing on a daily basis. We list the three most desired qualities search committees list when conducting a national search for a Director of Tennis or Fitness.

Where is the country club, tennis and fitness industry headed? Is it growing? We ask these questions and outline how our weekly podcast will address broader questions facing our industry.

Please visit our Patreon Page for more exclusive information and special offers. And feel free to contact us at any time via email at beyondthebaselines@gmail.com

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It’s Not All About The Backhand, But The Back End

When I started in marketing and advertising at the tender age of 22 in London, England, I kept hearing the term “The Back End.” In the days which will be known as P.A. (Pre-Amazon), the “back end” referred to the fulfillment side of any direct marketing business. Taking or receiving the order, applying that order to the correct advertising outlet, picking and packing the order, slipping in additional up-sells, whether on the telephone or in the outgoing shipment, and then following up the order with great customer service… this was “the back end.” Seems simple, but I spent more than 50 percent of my time working on the back end. I’m a marketing guy – I love the print ads, the outgoing emails and catalogs, the creation of radio and television spots. I didn’t like the back end, but it took most of my time. It does for any excellent Director of Tennis or Fitness too.

How many times have I heard the expression: “You just chase fuzzy yellow balls around the court all day.” This is the viewpoint most have of tennis professionals. I wish it were that easy.

Slowly, the club world is getting smarter. They are realizing they are indeed a business that has to show profit in all divisions, whether it be tennis, fitness, golf or food and beverage. I advise all the clubs we work with to put in a limit to the number of hours a Director of Tennis or Fitness should be on the court or gym floor. Why? Because the back end takes more and more time as you produce a better and better product. Amazon changed the “Back End” to “Cascading Fulfillment” – which was that software would go through the closest warehouses to the customer and assign the pick and pack at the first warehouse that had inventory. Interesting to note that I now see Amazon with its own delivery trucks – they too are always enhancing the back end.

Order Taking

The back end starts with the order. Your marketing strategies have worked and you have a member that wants to book a clinic, a lesson, a personal training hour, or a yoga class. Great! Now make that as easy as possible. Members see different avenues to bookings. Older members like the paper signups on the wall or bulletin board. My age group (40s and 50s) seems to like computer-based software. The younger generation wants to simply text their order and let us deal with it. All are possible and offering many different ways to booking an hour or a group instruction session enhances the ordering experience. Think about this, you can still mail an order to Vineyard Vines, you can call with your order or you can email directly off the website. Three different ways to order. No one way is the best way in tennis or fitness either.

I’ve worked at clubs where all bookings had to go through the front desk. What a slow, sloggy and sloppy way to deal with members. A lot of times, the front desk is too busy to take 100 percent of the bookings in a meaningful way. They are not sure of the intent of the member given they probably only have a few seconds to deal with the booking. Lighten that front desk staff’s load and let members order online or by text. Let the professionals, either on the court or on the floor, have access to the books and use their phones right on the floor or court. When you go to an AT&T store, the advisor walks around with you and books your order right on an IPAD. We should be doing the same at country clubs whether it’s for a tennis lesson, a Pilates class, or even a food order in the restaurant.

Perhaps the best opportunity to upsell another session is right after that member has enjoyed the session and wants more. In fact, if your trainers or pros are independent contractors, they really have to control their own books 100 percent of the time. So they should have access to the booking software system at all times, from anywhere. Yes from anywhere, because a member may text that pro while the pro is at dinner asking for a lesson the next day. Don’t miss that revenue stream.

Software

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Software is only as good as the people using it. Ensure that all staff understand the club’s booking and billing software thoroughly. There is no longer a position known as just a “teaching pro”. All teaching pros and fitness instructors are actually club ambassadors, always looking to enhance the member experience. Most teaching pros are independent contractors, and under that status, have to indeed complete their own billing at all times. If the Club does the billing for the pro or fitness instructor, the classification of that worker just became an employee.

Software can be progressive. If the database in your tennis software is up to date with cell phones, why not download that member database to a google voice account and add texting as one of your communication streams. We advise to confirm every lesson, every clinic and every tournament via text. Great way to limit any questions later on about billing.

Reserving courts was often a rush to the phone at 7am the day before where a member of staff was taking the calls on one line. With software, 16 courts can be booked within 30 seconds and members can see the courts being populated as they put in their own reservation. How truly transparent is that? No one can complain they didn’t have an opportunity or were a victim of favoritism by the front desk staff. It is, in fact, “Cascading Fulfillment” which seeks the next available stock item – in this case, a tennis court. If you have your software right and you know which professionals are available, you can cascade fulfill your instructors as well! “Joe is not available for a lesson, but Joanne is if that would work for you…”

Upsells and Customer Service

In the marketing industry, this is when we have the customer on the phone line and say: Would you like a second item and receive free shipping and handling? Why don’t we do more of this in the tennis and fitness industry? Why not, after a clinic try this: “Did you like your clinic? Well book the next three clinics for 20% off right now on court.” Or, would you like to combine a healthy lunch at the Clubhouse with your personal training session today? The revenue streams and combinations are endless – but we seem content to sit back and let the members come to us. This isn’t helping the member and it isn’t helping the bottom line, either.

Excellent customer service comes with follow-ups. Follow up emails to the member perhaps outlining the exercises they completed during their personal training session that day, or reviewing the grip change you made halfway through the tennis lesson on their volley. Reinforcement creates progression and change, and it’s not an easy battle to get a western grip volley to a continental grip! But during this follow-up process, you’ll be amazed at how many bookings you might take during a follow up phone call or email.

Thank your member for taking the clinic or the lesson and then thank them again at the end of the year or season. Take the time to introduce them to the new staff and watch the bookings come in. It’s all about the back end. No matter how well you can hit a ball or how fast you can run a mile, you’ll find that the back end brings in more revenue than any other factor within a club’s department.

Ed Shanaphy is Director of Tennis at Sippican Tennis Club in Marion, MA and a USPTA teaching professional who constantly realizes that his marketing is better than his backhand. He is President of SBW Associates, a leading consulting service in the country club industry.

 

 

 

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A Community Cup – Enriching The Community and Marketing To New Members

Tennis has changed. From the lawns of Wimbledon in the early 1900s and prior to the “Open” Era, through to the advent of the “Open” to the present day, tennis, as with many other sports, has been brought into the 21st Century with professionals representing the sport at the highest levels. It wasn’t always like this. The “grass roots” – no pun intended – still remain in many areas, both nationally and internationally. By grass roots, we mean the country club tennis programs where member participation is strong and those members follow the US Open and other ATP events.  They love Federer… Nadal… they talk about the semi-finals and how Halep came through. But largely, these club programs have not much to do with tennis as a professional sport, or even tennis for the masses.

The professionals-to-be come more from the middle class and attend academies such as IMG, Saddlebrook, Rick Macci and others. The process of gaining and improving a UTR ranking is a full-time job and is not a part of the country club experience. So, we need to realize there is a divide between competitive and professional tennis and the country club.

At the country club level, pressures are being put on staff and programming for member use.  A constant re-evaluation of member services and club usage is required. Behind all this is the need for clubs to consistently find new and active members. It’s all well and good to have a large and diverse membership, but members who are not actively supporting the club are not profitable to the club, nor do they really add to the sustainability of the club. Dues alone are just not enough to sustain a club facility. The members have to be active or the club will struggle.

The Legacy Error – Costing Country Clubs Financially

A few decades ago, clubs, which had always thrived on tradition and legacy, in general made legacies extremely inviting. Due to a national trend, country club membership began to wane. The accepting of children of long-time family members at a reduced “legacy” initiation rate or at lower annual dues in reality has come back to haunt club coffers in the 21st Century. A large percentage of dues-paying members came in at a lower rate, and much like Social Security, the funds are now running low, making it hard to maintain the club finances.

Because of these issues, the drive for new memberships to maintain member-service levels and the facility is crucial and constant.

One of the best ways of attracting new members is by “showing off “the club or facility, but how can we do this? How can we bring potential, active members in large numbers to the club and let them see the club without looking like we are “selling” the club, to both the perspective members and the current members who might not be all that supportive of new memberships and change?

A Community or Charity Cup

Quail Valley Golf Club in Vero Beach, Florida might be the best example of such an idea creating an environment for new membership applications, while creating an atmosphere of giving to the less privileged in the community. The Charity Cup, as Kevin Given and Steve Mulvey called it back almost 19 years ago, has grown into a club-wide tournament which garners close to $800,000 per year in charitable giving. We hear members across the country bemoan that they can’t get a member-guest tournament to last more than an extended morning. Imagine a three-day tennis tournament just like those old Member-Guest days, a two-day golf tournament, charity fast walk and run, a “cook-a-thon” from the best local chefs, a duplicate bridge competition, a Saturday night gala at the main clubhouse…. the list goes on, expanded greatly from the first year in which it was just a small golf tournament.

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What really gives The Charity Cup its austere feeling is that the diverse charities selected by the Quail Valley Charities Committee are all represented in so many ways on tournament days. From throngs of volunteers from each of the numerous children’s and local charities earmarked for funding, to the notice boards laced with supporters and charitable organizations alike, The Charity Cup is an inclusive event. The week-long celebration of giving literally puts Quail Valley on the cover of every “culture” insert and at the top of many web-page blogs, if not the front page of Vero Beach Magazine and all the local papers.

Quail Valley also realizes the importance of non-member play over the weekend. A majority of the golf and tennis pairings have at least one non-member playing and the tournament is viewed as the Member-Guest to play in the area. Pairings of non-members are also allowed so it is truly an Open tournament, simply using the club facility – opening the club to the public is attractive to non members.

What better way is there to “show off” a club to perspective members? The club, and its members, not only giving back financially to the community, but also producing the services at a greatly reduced cost. It proves that the club possesses the breadth and knowledge to host such an imposing, community-wide event. Reaching out to the community adds a wonderful perspective to both members and non-members alike.

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Off Peak Hours: How To Make Them More Inviting and Attractive

We all know about crunch time. At university it’s the 24 hours before that final exam. In business, it’s making sure that presentation is glistening and vibrant the night before meeting that new business acquisition possibility. In fitness, it’s your personal training hours between 7 and 10am. And in tennis, it’s the crunch on courts from 8am to about 10 or 10.30am on weekdays.

Crunch time is basically the same everywhere – those morning hours where each demographic of member wants to play. The older generation that gets up early might start it off with a 7 or 7.30am doubles game that has been in existence for the past 20 years. Next to arrive are the working parents at 7.30 or 8am who want to get a game and some exercise in before heading to the office for the morning. Young family parents usually arrive around 8.30 after dropping the kids off at camp or school and participate in a clinic or have their game. If you’re going to run out of courts, it’s going to be in these weekday morning hours. How do we motivate members to play at other times?

There are numerous methods in which to push member play to off-peak hours. We will investigate smaller methods and ideas before we look at a bigger, club-wide picture later in the article.

Waive Guest Fees For Off-Peak Play

This is a fantastic, quick way to kill two birds with one stone. Members get irritated seeing non-members playing at peak times. Countless times I’ve had members ask me how many times a certain guest has played in a month or across a summer or year. Invariably, this is asked when the guest is playing at a peak time. When I was Director of Tennis in the Palm Beach county the biggest complaint I received was that the women’s teams played by league rule at 10am. Members would come up and say: “Mr. Pro, half of each court are non-members and we can’t get a court at 10!” This is something to keep in mind in looking at guest fees. Remember that team or leauge play does not add guest fee revenue to the club and members dislike that, especially if at peak times.

That being said, if you waive guest fees after 10.30 or 11am, this certainly pushes non-member play to later hours in the morning, which not only increases off-peak play, but also reduces the number of non-members playing during peak times thereby reducing member complaints.

Discount Private Lessons at Off-Peak Times

I have always been an advocate of early bird lesson discounts. Most teaching professionals advocate early morning hours to get two or three hours in before the “regular” rush. We usually advise offering 15 to 20 percent off lessons taken at 6am or 7am. This also alleviates the private lesson crunch professionals get for lessons at 9 through 11am – hours which are inevitably booked. If a teaching professional can teach non-stop from 6 to 12 noon, he or she already has 6 hours under their belts by the middle of the day.

You can take this even further. If you have a over-subscribed clinic (cardio in many cases at 8am) why not discount a 7am cardio clinic a few dollars and see if you can alleviate some of the pressure by not only adding a second class but one at an off-peak time.

For indoor courts, moving just one clinic or one game 60 minutes later in the morning to 11am or to 2pm before school lets out and junior clinics start is a massive help, not only to court usage, but to defraying heating and lighting costs. Having play throughout the day adds revenue to an indoor facility while defraying costs across more hours of play.

row of empty tennis courts
Having empty courts at an indoor facility is not cost-effective.

On A Bigger Scale – Membership

My fellow director Christophe Delavaut, who is creating one of the leading tennis clubs at The Boulevard in Vero Beach FL, brought up with me the idea of non-team memberships for off-peak hours. Oftentimes, leauge play is at those peak hours and men and women simply join a club to play on a team. However, if you offer non-team packages, you can make these packages for off-peak hours only without leauge play. Or, you can offer league play but open play at only off-peak times. There are many ways you can affect court usage through different membership types.

One of my favorite methods of increasing off-peak usage is by scheduling practices or open play in conjunction with lunch.  If you schedule a team practice for your ladies at 9am, you are fighting for courts at which you and your team of pros would almost certainly have privates. In many cases team practices are mandatory or pre-charged. Why make them at peak times? If you schedule a team practice at 10.30 to finish at 12 noon, you have made an enormous difference to court usage freeing up 2 to 4 courts from 9 to 10.30am. And, the food and beverage director will thank you as many tennis team members will invariably filter over to lunch at that time of day following practice.

Be A “Club” Team Player

You can make your general manager even happier by combining incentives across club departments or working schedules with the Directors of Golf and Fitness.

For example, why not offer a discount on the club lunch menu for all court reservations made between 11 and 12.30 on weekdays? In this way, you incentivize members to play at an off-peak time while at the same time pushing them toward using another club department. If you have facilities such as a pool or lake, why not offer free guest passes for non-member tennis play after 11am so that the guest can use the pool or lake after their tennis game, again usually adding to the food and beverage department’s revenue.

You can work with the Director of Golf as well. Usually practice facilities, which can vary between a driving range, putting green or chipping areas, are not prone to such crunch times as a limited number of tennis courts. Why not offer a weekly dual clinic – golf from 9.15 to 10.15am with tennis following from 10.30 to 11.30am? Or create a TRX/Cardio Tennis Clinicio to start in a TRX studio at 10am for 45 minutes and moves to the tennis courts at 10.45 for cardio tennis? Using two club facilities in one clinic also cross-polinates club department usage.

Here at BeyondTheBaselines.com we have many other ideas as to how to build play and member usage during off-peak times. The above is just a smattering of incentives and programming possibilities to enhance your member experience and create more play on the courts and usage of the club as a whole throughout the day.

 

Ed Shanaphy is Director of Tennis at Sippican Tennis Club in Marion, MA and President of BeyondTheBaselines.com. Ed has been a finalist in the Ernst & Young’s Entreprenuer of the Year for Europe.

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Fitness Classes & Tennis Clinics: Do They Help or Hurt Personal Training or Private Lessons?

This age old question rears its head everytime a Director of Fitness creates a new group class or a Director of Tennis adds a new clinic. Group teaching is a big revenue earner for the director and the club, but it really doesn’t mean much to the instructor. An incentive program can help boost revenues for the actual instructor, but that is a separate issue.

Either way, usually the group instructor hopes that a clinic or fitness class will garner more hours for their lesson books… but do classes and clinics necessarily do that? How can we ensure, as Directors, that our staff’s lesson books are full and that your team members gain clients from group teaching?

As a fitness or tennis program establishes itself at a club, the ethos of instruction and learning should grow. There are several ways to create a “teaching environment.”  Group fitness classes and tennis clinics through to personal training sessions in the gym and private lessons on the courts should all add to the ethos of teaching at the club.  Viewership is important. Teaching courts and personal training should be done in high traffic areas and instructors need to realize that they are always “selling” and “marketing” themselves in a positive way.

Directors who have been at fitness facilities for many years have grown revenues in the gym. This comes from exemplary knowledge and teaching, both in group and private situations with an educated team of instructors. The same holds true on the courts – good directors who have established a teaching arena at the club, usually have their assistants’ books rather solidly booked.

At beyondthebaselines.com we have worked with directors of tennis and fitness who have been at their respective clubs for lengthy periods of time. Some clubs, after years retaining a long-term director, feature an instructional ethos as outlined above. Members are happy to call for personal training or a private tennis lesson or just hitting sessions or sign up for the latest TRX class. Whether a seasonal or year round club, this is a membership’s state of mind. This is part of the “culture” of the club. However, we have visited and consulted for clubs where this is not the case and yet they have had a director at the helm for years.

Why Are Some Clubs Teaching Clubs?

Why are these clubs not as vibrant in terms of teaching? Is it a case of members not being able to afford private instruction? But why are group fitness classes not well attended or clinics lacking volumes on the courts if at a lower cost to members?

We tend to believe it is not financial. Members will open their wallets if they feel they are getting quality instruction and service.  Service being at least 50 percent of the reason they are happy to subscribe. When the service levels are lacking, we find that lessons and sessions are not booked as much and classes are all not as well attended.

Classes and clinics are an opportunity to show your talents and those talents of your assistants. It is also a chance for members to sample the level of servicing or, as we call it in the industry concierging. 

With service levels at a good level, most decent instructors on the team should have a relatively filled lesson planner. But, there are those Directors that hog all the hours. We’ve seen it time and time again – and it’s one of the biggest shortcomings of a good Director. It’s a shortcoming because it’s shortsighted. We look at sharing the wealth which increases overall wealth over the long haul. Therefore, the director should be promoting time with his or her staff rather than taking privates.

Mornings are always a crunch time in the gym and on the courts. Rather than have a dissatisfied member taking a private at 3pm with the only time a director might have an open hour, a director should hand the dissatisfied member to an assistant at 10am if that is the time first asked for. If a great program, there is absolutely no way a director can placate all the times needed by members – grow the private lesson ethos through passing off and having your assistants show their talents to attract other members.

full teaching professional lesson scheduleSpeaking of crunch times, mornings are always the busiest. So why have the same instructor stuck teaching that same class on that Tuesday at 9am every week? Rotate instructors and let the members meet various staff members, which increases member awareness of all your team members. And allow that group instructor to teach a private at 9am – people on the gym floor will see that instructor doing privates. If that instructor had been labelled a group instructor – no longer. Now he or she is a personal trainer too! The director just doubled the personal trainer’s role.

By rotating instructors from class to class, instruction never gets stale and members don’t get bored. You will never dash their expectations either by having a regular instructor not there – they are used to a rotation. Just ensure each instructor is a valued asset to the team and is of the same expertise and experience. And group instruction should add to your privates.

Ed Shanaphy is currently Director of Tennis at Sippican Tennis Club in Marion, MA and has taught at Jupiter Island Club in Hobe Sound, FL, Greenwich Country Club and Round Hill Country Club in Greenwich, CT and Edgartown Yacht Club on Martha’s Vineyard.

 

 

 

 

 

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Board of Ed: The Board Itself Might Be In Need of Education

The politics surrounding governing boards at clubs and homeowner associations are infamous. The tasks facing governing bodies at Clubs or Home Owner Associations are far too numerous to list here, but one of them often is to oversee a tennis or fitness department. In investigating the inherent politics of Boards, we will separate the country club board from the HOA board as there are extreme differences between the two Within the county club sphere, we shall separate even further between an equity or member-owned country club and a non-equity club. That said, all three Boards in question must understand the intricacies involved in the hiring of staff and the supervising of tennis and fitness facilities.

Home Owner and Condominium Associations and their Boards

Home owner or condo association boards are a hotbed of politics and biases. We’ve seen this at every community with which we have worked. From parking to paving, from decor to dandelions, condo boards can find issues to discuss for days. In all honesty, it’s almost imperative that a consultancy such as ours is brought in to work through the inherent biases and misguided owner motivations to find a result that most owners can stomach financially, but that will also allow a tennis or fitness facility to thrive and maintain “best-in-class” service levels within the community.

poster of a home owner getting caught in a trap by the HOA
Don’t get caught up in the politics of a home owners’ association board.

In most instances, HOA or POA membership is a requirement of living within the community, which is the essential difference from a country club or membership facility in which membership is voluntary. This difference must be taken into consideration when making any decision by the Board and its agents. Condo fees or HOA fees are set by the board or, in some instances the managing agent, and reflect the costs of living within the community. Again, there are differences in regard to types of communities as well. A gated community, such as Ibis or Mirasol in Palm Beach County, Florida or communities created by developer Toll Brothers are geared from the outset as a gated community offering a “country club” lifestyle. Those initial home buyers are fully aware of the lifestyle in to which they are buying. Older condominium associations or gated communities may not have had this club environment in their initial offerings to owners and any additional costs for leisure facilities can be met with indifference or even hostility.

The relationship with property management is essential and often there are long-term issues between property management and owners and members of the board. This is where an advisory consultancy can come in extremely handy to mediate and cut through the politics to the necessary needs of tennis and fitness management!

What we have noted though, for many years, is that any tennis or fitness programming at an HOA adds to property prices. Owners have to be consistently reminded of this fact as any tennis or fitness programming grows. Buyers are much more aware of offerings and have mentioned to us in surveys that they are inclined to purchase upon seeing an “active” community with events and leisure facilities. The small funds required in advance per household to run a “best-in-class” tennis or fitness program are clearly worth the profitability gained in property value after the sale. In the long run, an HOA is far better off having a tennis and/or fitness ingredient than not having one at all.

Equity Country Club Boards of Directors and Governors

The layers of country club boards, we believe from our experience, is almost always excessive. Board of Governors, Tennis and Fitness committees and their chairpersons, Trustees, and the rest of the club officers (or flag officers at Yacht Clubs) all have various sentiments and biases toward club operations. With country clubs, where there is golf offered, the number of committees grows even more numerous: Greens and Golf committees often have the ear of the General Manager far before the tennis or fitness committees.

Country Club Management Flow Chart
Country Club Management Flow Chart

Due to a cost and revenue basis, golf clubs, and even at times yacht clubs and beach and swim clubs, often overlook tennis as a revenue generator. These clubs more often than not focus more widely on golf (or yachting) and its offerings at the club level. Tennis as the “second fiddle” usually requires more persuasion for budgetary items such as maintenance, upgrades, housing and salaries or stipends for staff professionals. Pushing these items through at committee level, then board level and finally through at management level, takes commitment not usually found within a tennis committee.

It is imperative that a tennis or fitness department fund itself at the appropriate level in order to maintain a service level equal to that of the rest of the club’s offerings. Frequently, this does not happen.  We’ve seen this across the nation from country clubs to beach and swim clubs and yacht clubs.

Most boards will break down the tennis or fitness department within a budgetary constraint that does not allow these departments to show a profit. Time and time again we have heard from Directors of Tennis and Fitness that the club has earmarked an annual loss for their department, and therefore, are loathe to spend more on these departments which are “losing” money.

There are many ways to allocate membership dues and initiation fees across various departments and once this is done appropriately, we often have shown the club officers that tennis and fitness are indeed profitable. Usually, initiation fees are budgeted for capital expenses, and a prudent Board would look at percentages across club departments when allocating new membership fees. It’s imperative that a matrix which considers club usage by hour and member is used to create this percentage basis. Also, experience shows us that tennis or fitness can “drive” members to high profit areas of the club, such as food and beverage. A tennis event ending with a luncheon must be taken into account when looking at the tennis department’s profitability. We literally can affix a number to such events: ” The salon day special brought 42 ladies to the restaurant for lunch” Some of that food and beverage profit should be allocated to the fitness department at month end.

Non Equity Clubs

Firstly, it’s imperative that we note there are major differences between equity (member-owned and usually a 501C non-profit organization)and non-equity clubs which are usually corporations. It’s interesting to note that non-equity clubs tend to be more receptive to staffing professionals and creating the right work environment and benefit packages for their employees and staff. Overall, non equity clubs understand better the need for quality instruction and management in their tennis and fitness departments as they see the profit related from these departments. Again, there are fewer committees and, in some cases, just a Managing Director rather than a Board of Governors who is clearly focused on making a profit and keeping a healthy club and bank account.

A recent general manager once said to me: “It’s much easier for a member to leave a non-equity club, in that they are leaving a company in which they do not own stock.” It’s also easier for a member to leave a non-equity club and turn to their own gated community club (usually member-owned) as well if the member is looking to make cuts in their payables. So, non-equity clubs are forced to focus even more on member retention. Because of this, many non-equity clubs treat their members better than equity clubs. However, members still have an innate stigma about leaving a club in which they own a stake in and maintain a membership at an equity club longer on average than a non-equity club. With an equity-owned club, members are in fact shareholders in their club, whereas, they feel less connected to a non-equity club which is a corportation for profit.

Summary

In conclusion, each and every club has inherent biases and outward motivations. With various departments competing for budgetary requirements along with membership usage, all Board of Directors are inherently flawed, and in many ways, clearly ill-educated in regard to tennis and fitness management. Club Managers are often too removed to deal with the daily managment and budget items. Tennis and Fitness Committees have different objectives than the Directors of Tennis and Fitness who are running the program. Educating all of the above groups is part of the Director’s task and often times, the Director does not have enough time off the gym floor or off the teaching courts and excellent programming and best business practices are never achieved nor measured.

Ed Shanaphy has served as Managing Director to three global advertising and marketing firms and was a finalist in the Ernst and Young (UK) Entrepreneur Of The Year Award. He is now President of BeyondTheBaselines.com, a consultancy aimed at advising country clubs and homeowner associations in marketing and profitability.