Traveling Without Leaving Home

Man Working From Home Having Online Group Videoconference On Laptop
Man Working From Home Having Online Group Videoconference On Laptop

The past couple of months has been a major lifestyle adjustment for the McMahon team of road warriors. We’ve gone from a diet of daily air travel and nights in hotels to sleeping in our own beds, eating dinner at home and walking to the home office. Although stay at home orders have been keeping us in St. Louis, the magic of Zoom and other amazing technology has allowed us to virtually travel the country and meet with literally thousands of club leaders during the Great Cessation. 

Following a period of research and interviews, we developed a series of webinars on planning in times of uncertainty, reopening and reconnecting with your members and staff and protecting your club’s safe place status. Here are some takeaways from our sessions:

Be Strategic: It is essential that during the crisis, club leaders do not take short term actions that damage their brand long term. A lot of mistakes were made during the Great Recession. The clubs that cut initiation fees and eliminated services struggled while those that recognized they operate a luxury brand thrived. It is easy to get sucked into the habit of promoting membership on price instead of value. Top clubs recognize membership is about community, not an activity and they focus on value over price.  

Safe Place Status: When economic activity returns, clubs will be one of the first place members will go because of your safe and trusted place status. Protect it at all costs. Wherever you are operating, be extremely vigilant. If you are in doubt that you can do it safely, defer and if there is a problem, fix it immediately at all costs. 

Refresh and Reset: Understand the real drivers of your member experience as you develop what will be an irregular operating model for 2020. Focus on quality, consistency, and value even during limited operations. 

Enforce the Rules: It will be a privilege to operate this year, so don’t let violators ruin it for everyone else. Communicate expectations to members and constantly remind them of the need to comply with your safety protocols. Enforce all rules all the time.  

Financial Planning: The next six months will feature a member-focused operation without large events and associated revenue. Budget accordingly and be transparent with the membership as soon as you know the impacts. 

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About Frank Vain

Mr. Vain provides consulting and planning services to private clubs throughout North America. Through use of specialized services including membership surveys, strategic planning, operational analysis and facility long range planning, Frank assists club in developing individualized strategies for their unique situations. 

Mr. Vain joined McMahon Group in 1988 and has more than forty years of experience in the management and development of hospitality properties including country clubs, city athletic and dining clubs and residential communities. Frank is Past President of The Country Club of St. Albans, a 36-hole country club located in Missouri, and he is a former partner in Concord Sports Club, a 1,700 member family athletic club in St. Louis. Frank was elected to the Board of the National Club Association in 2011 and served as Chairman in 2019-20. 

Mr. Vain is a native of Philadelphia and graduate of Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He is a featured speaker at the annual Club Managers Association of America World Conference, National Club Association National and Regional Conferences, Major Golf Associations and a regional chapter meeting of club managers and leaders. 

Frank is a regular contributor to industry leading publications like Club Management, Club Director and BoardRoom. He was named the Gary Player Club Educator of the Year for 2012 and 2015 and received the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2021 by BoardRoom. He is also a co-author of McMahon’s Club Trends, a recognized industry benchmark on the trends and issues affecting private clubs. 

More articles by Frank Vain
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