Have you Taken the Temperature of Your Members Lately?

Young businessman hiding behind a blank piece of paper
Young businessman hiding behind a blank piece of paper

In early February of 2020, club managers gathered in Grapevine, Texas for their annual World Conference. Life was good. There was not a single seminar on Covid 19, nor was anyone wearing a mask. Fast forward seven months, and our worlds have been flipped upside down. We’ve collectively attended hundreds of webinars on how to weather the Covid storm, we’ve conducted hundreds of virtual meetings, meetings to strategize business operations and now we prepare for the end of the summer and the next chapter in this “new normal”.

What is this “new normal” in the club world?  It is curbside dining, it is virtual yoga, it is “touchless” everything. Some have said it is the end of banquet business. There is one thing that it is not. It is not a time for complacency. The 19th century theologian William Channing wrote: “Difficulties are meant to rouse, not discourage. The human spirit is to grow strong by conflict.”

Navigating the pandemic and adapting to its ever-changing horizon, has certainly been difficult. But those who will prevail are those who continue to rise to the challenge, listen to their members and provide quality, consistency, and value. This summer, successful clubs have witnessed membership growth, and a rise in member satisfaction is a testament to their perseverance. In a recent McMahon Pulse Survey, 66% of clubs responding have seen an increase in membership, many with a waiting list since spring. Here are two contrasting quotes from responders to our survey:

“A. The pandemic has allowed our club to solidify our value to members – we never shut down, came up with creative alternatives to operating and while we’ve been cautious, we have been rational in how we’ve managed through this mess. I believe this has been our club’s finest hour and a great opportunity to overcome and create a safe haven for our members.”

“B. COVID has exposed the weakness in our business model being too reliant on outside income from Monday Golf outings and Banquets.”

I would confidently guess that the anonymous club manager who penned that first quote took the temperature of their members to then create an environment of value. On the other hand, I would assert that the club manager who wrote the second quote was more focused on the non-member. This is not the time to chase functions and banquets. This is the time to focus on the member experience and the value proposition to your members.   If your members know that they are receiving Quality, Value and Consistency, “QVC”, and in this time of Covid 19, I would add “Safety”.  If your members believe they are receiving the “QVCS”, they will happily pay for them, (dues). As a result, your club will not need to be as dependent on outside business.

The fall brings budget discussions, Thanksgiving, the holiday season, and the promise of a new year, we need to pivot and focus on the “Even if,” and not the “What if.”

Focus on: “Even if there is not a vaccine in 2020, how do I continue to provide value and a safe haven for members?”

Not: “What if there is not a vaccine in 2020, how will we ever get back to normal?”


Focus on: “Even if I cannot hold banquets and outside events, I will find a way to engage members and provide increased value of the club.”

Not: “What if I cannot do banquets or outside functions, where will the revenue come from?”


What does McMahon Think?

As one of my favorite club managers once told me, “The key to the success in any relationship is communication.” Ask your members: what has worked for them during this pandemic? What club offerings have you enjoyed, and would you like to see continue? Even if we can go back to what used to be “normal,” what has the club provided you over the past months that you have enjoyed?”

Take your member’s temperature. Survey your membership with a targeted survey – Click to Read Article Here, It is time:

Refresh and Reset: Understand the real drivers of your member experience as you develop what will be an irregular operating model for the rest of 2020 and into 2021. Focus on quality, value, consistency and safety – “QVCS”.  Clubs are a value proposition and in this uncertain time, one thing is certain…you have a unique opportunity to provide your current and future members what they need. Just ask them.

The McMahon Group is here for all your survey, strategic and facility needs – Reach out with any questions you may have.

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About Christian W. Coulter, CCM, ECM

Chris joined The McMahon Group after 35 years in private club management, spanning 2 continents and 2 islands.  Chris provides consulting services for strategic planning, membership surveys, facility improvement programs, and general consulting expertise on club needs.  In addition, Chris also provides specialty consulting in operations, buyouts, capital fundraising, facility conditions and membership.

Prior to joining The McMahon Group, Chris served as the CEO of The Westmoor Club, Nantucket – a Platinum club. Prior, Chris served 20 seasons as the General Manager of Bald Peak Colony Club, a seasonal private club on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee in the lakes region of New Hampshire.  Prior to that, he held senior management positions with St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco – the largest yacht club in the world, Boodles of London – one of the oldest and most established city clubs, and the Harvard Club of Boston – a Platinum alumni club.

Chris earned his Bachelor of Science degree from the Cornell School of Hotel Administration, earned his CCM designation in 1999, was awarded the ECM designation in 2001.   He is an active contributor and prominent leader in the industry having served on the CMAA New England Chapter Board and multiple CMAA National Committees.  Chris was selected as a CMAA Fellow in 2020.

Chris is married to his college sweetheart and best friend,  Jennifer, and together they have 3 daughters, Sarah, Hannah and Abby.  When not working, Chris enjoys the outdoors in New Hampshire and producing boutique maple syrup, as well as rooting on his beloved Red Sox and Patriots.

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