The Good, the bad, and the ugly…..Club Committees / Boards!!

By: Chris Duffy CMDip - BOARD MEMBER, CMAE England July 7, 2020

Whatever type of private members club you are, whether its Golf, Tennis, Sailing, or City Club it is highly likely that your club is managed through a volunteer committee/council or Board of Directors.

The keyword here is VOLUNTEER and that means no pay, no benefits, and in many cases a lot of time…and time is often the most precious commodity.

Having just been let go from a wonderful position at a historic club in Yorkshire, where I was in many ways left hung out to dry by the Board of Directors some may expect this to turn into a bashing of Club Board’s…

To be honest, I enjoyed my 18 months at the Club and my first experience of working with various Club Committees and the Board of Directors.

I see myself as a very personable person. “I love meeting with, talking with, working with, arguing with, laughing with and building relationships with bright, interesting people and my club committee delivered on all these aspects!”

golf club committee

Building relationships is a key to understanding the soul of the club

Arriving to the Club in January 2019, I was like a deer in the headlights, members wanting to talk, get to know me, what my aims and objectives were and tell you the good and the bad of the club.

In the first 100 days, I made a conscious decision to try and avoid working to much in the office. I would try and do the paperwork in the flat and spend time around the clubhouse and course with both members and staff.

This included a lot of listening, sharing time in the members’ bar and restaurants, playing some golf, spending time with greenkeepers and learning about the staff, the members and their families, and letting them learn about me.

There is always time for the office ‘stuff’, but I believe that building relationships is a key to understanding the soul of the club. I was open and honest with how I would approach the first 100 days and the Board was fully supportive.

“I enjoy focused conversation about specific club items, but I also love great unfocused, “everything else” conversations about travel and people, sports and books, and committees and clubs deliver!”

“Creating reports, delivering research for club development, and presentations to move the club forward, Club Committees allow me the opportunity and the motivation to do that!”

Working with the Chairman, it was agreed to bring the Head of Departments to a selection of the Board Meetings. At first, I thought this was inappropriate, but after some reflection, it was a great idea.

buyer persona club committee
Who better knows the members, the club than the staff?

My ego had got in the way…. but who better knows the members, the club, and the course than the staff who work in each department on a daily basis?

The H.O. D’s brought specific knowledge and were encouraged to engage in the conversations and ideas by the Board. This increased their exposure to the issues but also accelerate their growth as professionals and gives them a deepened understanding of the Business.

One of my main objectives was to increase, retain new members, and find ways to connect them with other members. I do everything I can to get “newbies” partnered with the sub-committee or Board Members, to get them engaged in the club experience, to let them see the “club journey” from the inside.

It’s great to have long-standing members serving on the committees, but they don’t always see the club in the way ‘new or younger’ members do….fresh eyes with fresh ideas is great, and getting these members engaged into the soul of the club will likely lead to loyalty. 

understanding club committee

“Like people in any community, members love to “give back” to their community. Covid-19 has brought about many wonderful stories of clubs giving back to their communities!!

Committees give members the opportunity to give back and people stay connected to their community when they’ve “given back.”

It’s often said that Club Managers could manage a Fortune 500 company. The various range of talents required from finance to marketing, F&B to Agronomy are unique.

As GM’s, we are required to become deep generalists rather than specific specialists. Members want to listen and learn from “those who know.” Committees provide endless opportunities for GM’s to teach and facilitate.

understanding club committee 2-0000

Remember the Committee may be made up of professionals in law, accounting, media to name a few occupations but the General Manager is the paid professional in room so don’t be scared to listen to your professional’s opinion….

Committee meetings are a wonderful opportunity for generating ideas, critiquing ideas, and testing ideas before “going public” and turning sometimes flawed ideas into irreversible action.

During my 18 months, I floated various ideas in Board meetings that I thought were brilliant. I’ve never been shy to try new ideas but on a number of occasions the Board exposed the holes.

The committee forum saved my embarrassment by sinking the idea before going public.”

learning at golf club committee

Committees are the loudspeaker for promoting and selling ideas to the club membership. Every committee member knows dozens of members and those dozens know dozens more.

The ripple effect…. If I want to let the club know something’s happening, I use the committees to get the news out.”

I love to learn; I’ve never read more than over the past three years and Committees are filled with people who know an awful lot about lots of things I know nothing about.

Although I had only a short time with my club Board I reflect on the various conversations about Brexit, politics, travel, and more recently Covid-19. Committees are a think tank, a brain trust, a network of thinkers so tap into their knowledge, it’s an all-expenses-paid education.

Club Committees / Boards provide a forum for leadership. No better place to establish leadership skills than in a room filled with type “A” personalities squabbling over where to go, who to use, how to get there.

A manager will “earn their leadership stripes” one committee meeting at a time, showing they can analyze the issues, communicate their analysis, turn their analysis into action, and grow from their mistakes. Leadership needs a Platform with Purpose and committees are the place for the leader-manager to shine.