Of course [the Board has] to monitor budgets and approve capital expenditures—but then they should get out of the way and enjoy the club.
Given the economic demographics of clubs, there will be a disproportionate number of type-A personalities. Most people who belong to a club have had successful careers, are in the upper tier of income earners, and are very self-confident.
Take this demographic and then multiply it by a factor of two, and you have a typical club Board. Multiply it again and you tend to have Board Presidents. This is not a bad thing in that most people who have achieved a large measure of success also have a high “EQ” score (emotional quotient) and are adept at dealing with people and managing conflict.
But that is not always the case. Occasionally, an egomaniac gets in control and that is when all hell breaks loose. They think they can manage the club better than the current manager and set out to “make their mark” on the club, which usually means ruining it. We have seen it happen more than it should, so it’s worth revisiting what a Board and its president should be doing.
When you think about it, a club is a real management challenge. A club manager has to be adept at: a) managing three to four restaurants, b) maintaining the quality of the golf course, c) proposing and managing capital expenditures, d) running a health club, tennis facility and swimming pool, e) marketing and attracting banquet business, f) running a small town (if the club is a POA), g) doing essential member marketing, and a whole host of other responsibilities.
On top of the long list of duties, managers accomplish these tasks with often untrained seasonal help, and a fair amount of turnover among more permanent employees. Couple this with rising health costs, institutional resistance to dues increases, and strains on capital budgets, and you have a very difficult job that requires a particular professional skill set.
In my negative scenario, into this complex mix comes a newly elected Board President who thinks he (or she) can run the club better. After all he (or she) has been successful in their own careers, and maybe even ran a business, so how hard can it be? Add to this the imposition of the President’s personal preferences and you get a club in decline.
In his April editorial, Club & Resort Business Editor Joe Barks commented on the remarks given by a club President about Brett Morris, General Manager and Chief Operating Officer of The Polo Club of Boca Raton (Fla.), who won The James H. Brewer Award through the Excellence in Club Management Awards, which is co-sponsored by the McMahon Group and C&RB. Doug Green spoke before Morris received the award, noting: “The way I look at it, the Board doesn’t manage the club. The people on a Board should ensure that we hire the best, retain the best, support the best, hold them accountable—and then get the hell out of the way and let them do their job.” He received a sustained, standing ovation.
Boards should use their obvious people skills (as demonstrated by their financial success) to hire the right people, and make sure the rules are adhered to. Of course they have to monitor budgets and approve capital expenditures—but then they should get out of the way and enjoy the club.