It has been stated that the three most powerful words in life are “I love you”. Although that may be factually true, I believe the three most powerful words in the private club industry may very well be “We Need You!”
For many years, private clubs enjoyed consistent membership growth without much effort on behalf of the membership. There were ALWAYS more people joining clubs than were leaving clubs. Unfortunately, members of private clubs became very good at doing NOTHING while their club rosters continued to grow. Waiting lists were very prevalent and the industry enjoyed the notoriety of success and admiration. Private club members became quite ingrained and enthralled in the “doing nothing while achieving success” strategy of the early years of the private club industry. Gosh, those were the good ole’ days!
Tragically, today I am witnessing way too many private club members thinking of their relationship with their club as simply a “consumer of a commercial business”. As members, they have the expectation of only participating in the commercial side (playing golf, tennis, swimming or dining) of their private Club with no personal connection. They want someone else to do the “heavy lifting” when it comes to keeping their membership strong and vibrant – “It is not my job!”
Private club members are “stake holders” of their private club organization. They should NOT think of themselves as consumers but as shareholders. Heck, Costco does a better job of maintaining “raving fans” of their organization than many private clubs do! And, Costco has been able to command an entrance fee to join their “club”. What a revelation!
It is critical that Club’s begin to change the “culture” of entitlement, without responsibility. Educating Members on the unique business model that private clubs live by is the first step. Many Members may not truly understand the differences between commercial or public business entities versus that of a private club business entity. While core operational business practices may be similar, the way these two different businesses grow, evolve and ultimately thrive are based on two entirely different marketing and business platforms.
There are very few things in life that don’t require a significant amount of effort to achieve success. Success does not come easily. Typically, personal responsibility is the key component to achieving success in any particular endeavor. That could not be truer than when it comes to the private club of today. It is the personal responsibility of all private club members to make sure their club maintains a healthy and financially successful position.
One of the biggest responsibilities you may have at your club today is re-educating/training your members on a continual basis about the importance of their involvement in membership recruitment. Clubs often recognize the new members; “Welcome to the club” and that is a good thing. Clubs should also be sharing a little more gratitude and acknowledgement toward the member who recruited the new member.
I encourage you to use the message of “We Need You” to help provide a long-term and financially successful future through membership referral. The crisis of higher than normal membership attrition is not going to be solved through “quick fix” solutions such as mass mailings, ads in the newspaper or, simply, slashing initiation fees to entice new member prospects. It will only be solved through the devotion of its membership base to step up and give back to the Club that has given them so much over the years!
Members of private clubs have benefited greatly over the years by their relationship with their private club. Your private club has provided them, and their families, experiences that have significantly enriched their lives! Right now, your club needs them to reciprocate and provide the efforts to maintain a strong and vibrant membership, which will maintain the long-term success of your Club.
Please, let your members know how they have benefited over the years with their membership at the Club, how their Club experiences have enriched their lives with family and friends. You will need to stress over and over that “We need you” to maintain a strong and vibrant membership, which will maintain the long-term success of your Club.