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Best Practices and Club Governance

We’re privileged in our firm to travel the country every year and visit probably between 175 to 200 clubs. When we see a club that we think is what we call a model club, typically they have in place what we call some best practices. One of those best practices is that they have engaged a true general manager CEO to run the operations. One of the second best practices that we see, is they have a very strong board orientation process. The third best practice that we most typically see is they have clearly defined the roles and responsibilities of their board members, of their committee members, and of their entire management team. When that happens, we like to say, “That is a model club.”

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Describe Strategic Planning

One of the things you get with Kopplin, Kuebler & Wallace is us in perpetuity. I don’t mean that in a financial way. I mean once you have hired us to do a search, not only do we hire you a great new leader but, we also will come back and support the leader. Support the board. We also have a strategic planning process that we really encourage clubs to do. Again, without a business plan, any new leader is still not going to have true success.

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How do you expect clubs to trend in the future?

Well, I think they’re really starting to look at strategic planning as the bread and butter of the business. A club that doesn’t have a business plan, that was very common many years ago, but now-a-days about 50% of the clubs, we’d like to say, at least have a strategic plan that they’re running their business on, and it’s important that they understand where they’re going to be in five years, who their members are going to be in five years, ten years and 15 years.

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Have you ever said no to a client who has presented themselves to you?

Well actually it has happened on occasion that we’ve had to talk to a client about the fact that we’re maybe not the right firm for them or that we can’t in fact conduct the type of search that they are asking us to conduct. Recently, we had a client that wanted us to do a search for a club manager. Well, knowing the size and scope of that club, and those responsibilities, we explained to that client that, that really was not the appropriate type of manager. That we really needed to hire a general manager in that environment and that’s the type of person we would search for.

After thinking about that and getting back to us, he said, “I think you’re right. I think it’s time for us to change over governance model.” Now had he not agreed to that, we would have declined that search and we have, on occasion, done that because we have to do what’s in the best interest of the client. But just as importantly, we have to recruit candidates that we think will be successful, and if we don’t think the candidate can be successful in an environment, then we’re not going to conduct the process.

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How do I know I am getting the right candidate?

Certainly that’s what you’ve got us for. I think all of the due diligence that we do, the industry references and typically we’re not more than one degree of separation from someone in the business who knows a candidate. We do full background reference checking, but we also do personality and behavioral assessments on every single finalist. We’ve probably done 2,500 plus personality and behavioral assessments [inaudible 00:00:31] we’re very good benchmarking. We’ve been fooled, but it’s pretty rare that we’re fooled in a candidate being somebody that is other than who they seem to be during the search process and the backgrounding effort. It’s pretty good alignment. Our success rate is about 96% in all the placements that we’ve put out there.

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How do you work with GM’s to make sure they’re attracting tomorrow’s members?

Well, we’d tell them to take the holistic approach. We work with them to make sure everything that their offering is top shelf. So, it’s fitness, it’s food and beverage, it’s the pool, it’s the programming for the kids. Everything has to be done well. Everything has to engage the new millennial member, and that’s important that they feel like they have some place they can come, network, and they’re comfortable that they’re in a wholesome environment for their family.

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How does Kopplin Kuebler & Wallace engage club members?

Well we just try to teach them that everybody in the family has to have something pulling them to the club, whether it’s mom and her yoga class, or dad and his golf lesson, the kids and the pool. There has to be a reason that the kids want to come to the club, the family wants to come to the club, and we see many more managers focusing on that, if they don’t see someone’s children at the club for a couple of weeks, the Membership Director will give them a call, just see how they’re doing say, “Hey, we didn’t see you last week.”

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How involved do I need to be during the process? How long does the process take?

As a client, we hope that you’re as involved as you want to be. Typically, that means we’re going to have a weekly update, check in discussion on a, obviously a regular basis to make sure that you know what we’re doing, why we’re doing what we’re doing, and so on. Certainly, I appreciate, I think everybody in our firm appreciates the responsiveness and the decision-making that a client club, typically a search tier can give us, because there are definitely mileposts that we need some decisions made on throughout the whole process.

Typically, a search for most of the various categories in which we work, will typically run eight to 12 weeks depending on the significance of the club. That’s beginning to end, beginning of the process of identifying our needs, to signing someone up. On top of that, you usually have 30 to 60 days for a candidate who’s successfully engaged to extricate themselves from wherever they are and get on board at their new assignment.

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Millennial Trends

Another trend we’re seeing finally, an up-take in golf. The millennials are starting to get back on the golf course. They’re staring to come back to the club world, and that’s great. But we have to again, keep them engaged. They want a little bit of everything. They want great food. They want fitness. They want to make sure that when they’re there, they’re meeting new people and networking.

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Millennials and Gen X are a very different generation than the Boomers…

Millennials and Gen X are a very different generation than the Boomers…What do you bring to the table to help clubs engage them?

Well, I think just getting out of the club business a few years ago, I understand how they want to be communicated with, who the most important person in the family is to communicate with, and how to do that. Social media is not something that was used ten years ago, but now we certainly see a lot more of it in the club business. We see a lot more Snapchatting, and Twitter use, Facebook. We do a lot of things to just make sure they understand what’s going on at the club.

It’s constant. You always have to be making sure they understand what’s happening at the club. We try to drive everything we can through the club website, so that there’s where they go when they have free time and free money to spend.

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