Launch, Learn and Adjust

Launch Learn Adjust

“Launch, Learn and Adjust” – this may sound like the new slogan for a NASA or SpaceX initiative. But in fact, these are the words of Jim MacPhee, VP of Operations for the most magical place on Earth – Disney World. When asked about the infamous theme park’s anticipated reopening amidst the ongoing public health crisis, Mr. MacPhee responded that the company would “launch, learn and adjust”. Disney World theme parks began their reopening process on Saturday, July 11th, with the intention to have all parks up and running by Wednesday, July 15th. This major reopening initiative is all during record high confirmed COVID cases in the Sunshine state. As of Sunday, July 12th, there has been a record-high confirmed 500,000 new cases of the virus, with Florida second in the nation for new cases.


Why would Disney decide to open during one of the most “dangerous” periods in Orange County, as it relates to COVID?  The answer is simple and unsurprising: they need to stay in business, (revenue). According to the Wall Street Journal, Disney World has been losing an estimated $20 – $30 million a day since its closure.  Further, the company employs over 75,000 cast members, which helps drive the economic train of central Florida.

“We want to provide our guests a safe haven, a place that has a sense of normalcy, where everyone can walk away with a smile on their face,” Mr. MacPhee explained of the reopening. Starting to sound familiar?

“With all that is going on, we will take any amount of normalcy and amount of joy that we can get. Since it is Disney, we know that they have taken every precaution times three,” according to one guest who spent the day at a pre-opening. “This is the first time we have left the house and felt safe.”

According to a friend of mine who works for Disney, there have been over 3,000 Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s) created prior to reopening.

“No matter how terrible things seem outside the gates, here is a place where everything is OK: people are nice, the windows all sparkle, there are stuffed animals to cuddle, the speedway cars never run out of gas,” another guest said.

Do not get me wrong: Disney is not the end all. After all, why can Goofy, supposedly a dog, talk, but Pluto cannot? But, I can attest that they certainly have hospitality figured out. If you watch or read any news clip about the closely watched reopening, it will be effective because the company has complete buy-in from all 75,000 cast members. Everyone has reached a consensus and operates under an understanding of what needs to be done for all of them to retain employment and generate profits, but more importantly: provide the magic.

Now, take a step back and insert your club’s name in place of Disney World! The same thing should hold true. Your club is better than Disney World, not just because there are no long lines to get in, but because you anticipate needs, exceed expectations, and offer unparalleled hospitality. You know your members by name, they feel special when they come through the entrance, and most importantly during this uncertain time, you are providing a haven, a sanctuary, a sense of normalcy.

Over the last 4 months, the McMahon Group has spoken with clubs all over the country, each with a different experience with COVID 19. For some, it has been and still is daunting, for others, there has been low impact. The common theme has been: provide a safe place for employees, members, and guests. Do not give up on that. Be vigilant. We at McMahon are here to help in any way we can. Whether it is a sample SOP that we have gathered or just a piece of advice, we are here for you. Do not get caught in the COVID malaise. Launch, Learn and Adjust. (And of course, wear a mask.)

– Christian Coulter

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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 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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