Trend Six: Planning to be Tech-Savvy

Members Engaging Technology

There is an almost insatiable appetite for technology products and services in society.

Facebook, Apple, Netflix and Google are some of the largest and most powerful companies in the world; yet, their offerings are so popular they have growth rates of much smaller businesses. Once unthinkable concepts like self-driving cars, will soon be called to pick you up through your Uber app. Like a giant flywheel, the rate of change accelerates almost daily. This will increasingly develop among your members as will the expectation for a club to be technologically sophisticated. Can you imagine the reaction of NextGen members if they are asked to sign a chit when they make a purchase?

Private clubs face headwinds adopting tech solutions, with money and people at the top of the list.

They have a conservative bend which makes them slow adopters to change, and the majority are relatively small businesses with limited resources. In addition to system planning challenges, clubs also struggle on the policy front. As social institutions, their mission is to foster interaction among their members, not encourage them to stick their nose into devices. We live in a distracted world, so there is something to be said for clubs as a place of refuge from the storm. After all, membership, not Facebook, is the ultimate social network.

The key to making your club a wise adopter of technology lies in planning.

Club leaders should begin by becoming educated about the tools available to them and, over time, incorporate the ones that suit their culture. Once in place, your roadmap can lead you to all sorts of great places. Most novices expect the big changes to be in member-facing technologies; but, the real action is in the back-of-house systems, says Noel Wixsom, Founder of CCTech Partners – a club technology planning firm. The app Pacesetter, with its beacons linked to iPads, helps staff recognize members and anticipate their needs or social media management, and then mobile apps are at the member interface. A lot of the innovation is geared to help staff do their jobs more effectively.

There are a lot of ways technology can improve the membership experience without being in their face, and that’s a good thing.

Club members still like their service the old-fashioned way: prompt, courteous and in-person. That said, smart club leaders are deploying technology to make their club more connected, efficient and relevant.

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About Frank Vain


Mr. Vain provides consulting and planning services to private clubs throughout North America and Asia. Through use of specialized services including membership surveys, strategic planning, operational analysis and facility long range planning, Frank assists clubs 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 private clubs, athletic clubs, resorts and restaurants. Frank is a Past President of The Country Club of St. Albans, an 800-member, 36-hole country club located in Missouri and he is the former owner of 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 2018-19.

Mr. Vain is a native of Philadelphia and a 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 at regional chapter meetings of club managers and leaders.

He has written numerous articles that have been published in Club ManagementClub Director andBoardRoom magazines. Frank was named the Gary Player Club Educator of the Year for 2012 and 2015 by BoardRoom magazine. He is the co-author of McMahon’s Club Trends®, a recognized industry benchmark on the trends and issues affecting private clubs.

More articles by Frank Vain