Clubs in a Full-Employment Economy

First, the good news. The booming economy means that the demographic that would join a club will have more disposable income, and membership may actually grow. Every economic indicator says it will.

William C. Donahue, Founding Publisher

Now, the challenges. First and foremost will be hiring and staffing. With an economy that has more jobs available than people to fill them, the advantage shifts to the employee. They have too many opportunities and can go elsewhere if they are not satisfied with their current job.

This means we have to keep them satisfied. And that means higher wages, a pleasant working environment, and innovation in staffing. Most clubs try to operate at close to break-even, assuming their tax status. As I have said in earlier comments, most Boards are composed of successful business people who know how to budget, control costs, and have sensible personnel policies. But in today’s economy, rigid adherence to previous budgets and a desire to “control costs” can lead to a net diminishment of the club experience.

We as an industry have to face the fact that our personnel costs will have to go up. Saving on pay “around the edges” will have a devastating effect on club management, and budgetary tricks will not work. It’s time to pay for what we want.

- Advertisement -

Most clubs agonize over the need to raise dues, and there is always emotional resistance to doing so. But if we are to be able to hire who we want, then dues have to go up. Club Boards should face the reality of today’s economy and explain to the membership why the raises are necessary.

Remember, while virtually all of our members can afford any dues increase, most will still react emotionally against them. Hard facts that are presented well will usually carry the day. If you are going to need a dues increase, do your homework and present the facts in an orderly, logical way.

While the economy means more income is available for people to join a club, it doesn’t mean they will. There are simply too many options available now to families, and the club has to be competitive. If there is one major activity that clubs should undertake, it is creating or enhancing family activities.

One major improvement could be more dynamic children’s menus. Forget the “good for you” items—they rarely, if ever, sell, and are there to satisfy the parents. The kids will still want mac- n-cheese and chicken fingers. But you can add a few fun items, special desserts, and “make your own” sundaes.

But the real reason for having effective kids’ menus is that no kids come by themselves. They bring their parents— and increasingly, their grandparents— so a four-top can quickly become a six- or eight-top. And that can add a couple of hundred dollars to the check.

Even though we are clubs, we are a business, and our business is attracting and satisfying our members across all of our activities. This is life in a full-employment economy.