The Secret to Club Success

Strategic Management

As we look to the future of the private club industry, we see two interconnected issues having the most impact on club success:

  1. How clubs are governed
  2. How clubs are managed

Without effective leadership in both areas, clubs will languish and slowly decline. The days of member waiting lists to join golf and country clubs are over, except for those few prosperous cities and world-class golf and country clubs.

Effective governance is probably the biggest challenge for continuity in club success as constant turnover in club presidents and board members is a perfect recipe for ineffective governance. How can anything meaningful get accomplished in a continual game of musical chairs at the board and committee levels? This must be fixed.

Then we get to managing clubs where clubs do not have clear strategic directions from their boards on what they want to achieve. We increasingly hear from boards that club managers don’t have the right skills when the boards themselves have not provided a clear idea of what they want the clubs to be.

The boards of successful clubs of the future must have a close and respectful working partnership with their manager/COO.

Boards need to set and approve the mission and vision for their club. The manager is then responsible for implementing and fulfilling the promise. It is necessary for boards and clubs to have a strategic direction. It is equally necessary for managers to then think and manage strategically. They must employ a strategic management process in managing their club’s day-to-day business and, more importantly, achieve their club’s overall strategic mission and vision goals.

Strategic Management Process Components

  • Set Goals: The vision and goals of the organization must be clearly stated, understood and agreed upon by governance, membership and management. The process to achieve these goals and objectives then becomes the manager’s responsibility to implement.
  • Analyze: Progress must be measurable in order to be managed. Managers must establish systems to measure accomplishments that are easily reported and logged.
  • Formulate: Once the analysis is done, the club then formulates its strategy of where the required financial resources will come from, and that the appropriate and capable staff is in place to achieve the desired goals.
  • Implement: After formulation of this strategy, the management team executes the plan following the roadmap etched by the strategic plan and process.
  • Evaluate: We’ve now come full circle. The system of measurement (analysis) is now providing progress reports and allowing for goals, strategy formulation and implementation to be readjusted and updated. All of this is focused on the club’s targeted goals as they migrate and re-evaluate year to year.

All the best member-owned private clubs are managed this way. Developing a written strategic plan for your club that articulates its mission and vision, and then turning that plan over to the club’s management team for implementation (using a strategic management process) ensures your club the greatest probability for success. There is no substitute for a true partnership of board and capable management working together to achieve club success. Remember, it all starts with having a good strategic plan to follow.

If your club does not have a current written strategic plan, contact us today to receive information on how McMahon Group can help.

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About Bill McMahon, Sr. AIA, OAA

Bill is a strategic, financial and architectural planning consultant to clubs throughout North America. He established McMahon Group in 1983 as an affiliate of the family architectural firm his grandfather founded in 1906. Over the ensuing years, the firm has expanded its club consulting services beyond clubhouse improvement planning to a full range of services for all aspects of private club challenges. To date, the firm has assisted more than 2,000 private clubs across the United States, Canada, Asia, Europe and the Caribbean. McMahon Group provides a unique approach to developing club facility projects first establishing design and financial feasibility so membership approval is achieved. Thereafter final design and construction firms are selected to build the member approved project.

Mr. McMahon is unique among club consultants in providing an integrated strategic, financial and architectural approach to solving club problems. His personal involvement with his own clubs in St. Louis (serving in the roles of president, board member and committee member) has allowed him to bring unparalleled experience to each client. Mr. McMahon’s club memberships have included Bellerive Country Club (St. Louis), Racquet Club Ladue (St. Louis), University Club of St. Louis, Spring Lake Yacht Club (Michigan) and the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania.

Mr. McMahon is a graduate of Washington University School of Architecture in St. Louis and holds architecture licenses in 44 U.S. states and in Ontario, Canada. He is a featured author in industry publications and a featured speaker at the annual conferences of the Club Managers Association of America, the Canadian Society of Club Managers, the National Club Association and the Hospitality, Financial and Technology Professionals. He serves as a visiting lecturer at continuing education sessions offered by regional CMAA chapters and at Michigan State University. Bill is a co-author of McMahon Club Trends®, the comprehensive research reports on strategic issues facing private clubs published with the National Club Association. He is also founder of the Excellence in Club Management Award.

Mr. McMahon is a member of the American Institute of Architects, and the National Club Association. He is a former president of the Missouri Council of Architects, AIA and has served on various charitable boards in the St. Louis area.

More articles by Bill McMahon, Sr. AIA, OAA
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