Lessons from Alice in Wonderland

Illustration from Alice in Wonderland with the text: “’Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’ said Alice. ‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat. ‘I don’t much care where – ‘ said Alice. ‘Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ said the Cat.”
“’Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’ said Alice. ‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat. ‘I don’t much care where – ‘ said Alice. ‘Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ said the Cat.”

This refrain from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland could not be more relevant to clubs today who neither have a published, “board-approved” Mission Statement nor constructed an annual budget that is focused on a financial outcome, rather than member-experience outcome.

Clubs who have reached out to McMahon Group for assistance in improving their operational outcomes to both enhance member satisfaction and drive new member recruitment all have a common theme: their annual budgets are not aligned with their Mission.

All clubs have a Mission, regardless of whether or not it is articulated and published.

The most successful clubs have published their Mission Statement and weaved it into every aspect of their planning and day-to-day operations. These clubs have gone through a strategic process that is led by the general manager and board. This process first involves obtaining member input to identify and understand the club’s core values. Those principles guide the club’s internal conduct and are at the foundation of its existence. These core values are then inserted into the club’s Mission Statement. The Mission Statement defines the club’s purpose, what it provides, to whom and at what quality level.

The published Mission Statement, however, is only the first step.

The second step is translating that Mission Statement into a financial plan (annual budget) that provides the financial resources to actually achieve the club’s Mission. This step is essential and critical as it fully empowers management to implement and achieve the Mission. The club’s general manager is responsible to lead this process. He/She must work closely with the club’s controller/CFO to put a process together that involves all club department heads and member committees for input. This input must envision each amenity area’s member experience in financial terms to be included in the budget. This budget is reviewed and approved by the club’s finance committee, who then recommends it for approval by the board. The annual budget should define:

  • What member user fees pay for
  • What member dues pay for
  • Member operational expenses not included in user fees
  • Principal and interest payments of any club indebtedness
  • Annual capital expenditure/replacement costs
  • What capital income should be reserved

Constructing the budget should be a bottom-up process that will tell the club what dues should/need to be to successfully implement and achieve the club’s Mission. So, do not be like Alice. First determine where you are going, then create a plan on how to get there.

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About Richard Lareau

Director of Member Experience

Richard has worked in private club management since 1992. His more than 24 years of experience as a Club Manager and Chief Operating Officer, achieving the highest levels of success in Board relations and as an operations specialist has garnered him well-earned acclaim in the industry. Successful management systems in team building, food and beverage, human resources, communications, marketing, golf, fitness, aquatics, and youth programming are all in the tool bag he carries with him when visiting clubs seeking help.

He has proven success in developing and implementing strategic plans along with master facility planning, kitchen and dining room design development, and construction management.

Richard is a Certified Club Manager (CCM) and Certified Chief Executive (CCE). He is the winner of the 2009 Mel Rex Award from the Excellence in Club Management® Awards (ECM); and, was awarded Club Manager of the Year by the Texas Lone Star Chapter in 2013 for his achievements and contributions to the private club industry. Richard is an active member of Les Amis des Escoffier, Chaine des Rotisserie, The International Wine Society and a lifetime honorary member of the Catering Executives Club of America.

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