Making Sense of it All: How Club Executives Get the Information They Need - and How They Put It to Use

David Higgins
By David Higgins

Now that the Christmas decorations have adorned department stores for the past several weeks, it’s safe to say that the holidays are almost here. For many of you, that means your Club’s fiscal year is coming to an end. Between preparing budgets and forecasts for 2019, and examining your Club’s performance in 2018, you might feel mired in Excel as you stare at spreadsheets and struggle to make sense of it all.

If you are a club executive, this might not be anything new for you. After all, the staff at your club probably regard you as the ultimate source of the truth. Serving as the ‘ultimate source of the truth’ probably isn’t found in your job description, but there is no ignoring that people ask this of you. Here are some ways club executives can go beyond being the gatekeepers of important information, and introduce a comprehensive approach to club management. 

1. They avoid data silos

Before we get started, ask yourself the following questions: do you have the information you need at your fingertips? Can you easily pull up data that can shape insights - such as member spending, reservation history, event revenue - or do you have to spend hours compiling this information?

There’s a reason we ask this question. It’s because, anymore, club managers are striving to become more data-driven. By having accurate data on what members like, when they frequent the club, and so on, their teams can better deliver an exceptional member experience.

But if this goals seems hard to achieve, you aren’t alone. You might remember the days when clubs’ reliance on pen and paper to track member reservations gave way to using specialized, ‘best of breed’ software solutions for things like tee times, websites, and member management. In turn, this approach created silos where member data lives in different software modules, and manual manipulation of spreadsheets in Excel is the only way to find coherency in this data.

Increasingly, though, club executives are demanding a single platform for their club’s operations. Think of the difference between having one platform for your website, reservations, member management, mobile app - the list could go on - and using multiple software solutions. Not only is it easier for your staff to maintain, but member data will also be contained in one place. Those tee times your members made throughout the season? Not only did they flow directly into your Point of Sale after the member made them (no more manual entry by staff), they also can be reported on easily in your back-office software.

The key point here is that club executives realize that they can’t afford to operate in silos any longer. They can’t afford to make their staff piece together data to form a coherent picture.

We hear constantly from General Managers and Controllers who want more than just a unified solution to manage their club - they want one that actually provides a single version of the truth. What else could you do if you had member data right in front of you? Is there more to be gain than just eliminating exports to Excel?

2. They confidently make informed decisions (while also delighting their members in the process)

At this point, we should tip our hand: a lot of what we’re going to talk about here ties back to reporting within in a single platform solution. That’s because we think reports are vital both to club operations and delivering an exceptional member experience (while you’re here, you should check out this great blog post on the subject.) If you cannot easily pull up data on member history or club performance, you are essentially operating in the dark.

But what does this reporting look like in practice? Let’s talk about how some club executives we work with use reporting to inform their decision making process. Take F&B operations, for instance. Imagine being able to run a report on which of your menu items generate the most revenue, and in which locations at the Club. Armed with this information, you might then tailor your F&B menu to reflect what you members are purchasing. Along with being able to meet member expectations, these reports also help executives to be more informed when it comes time to place orders with vendors.

Moreover, given that most clubs depend on the discretionary income of their members, knowing which menu items are popular can give your team a big leg up in the competition for your members’ income and time. Whether it’s something like re-doing a menu to feature popular items, or marketing to members based on their preferences and spending history, we find that leading club executives see a direct link between data and delivering exceptional member service.

3. They want their staff to be proactive, not reactive

How else can you and your staff save time, get better insights, and delight members? Through introducing aspects of automation into your club management. Automation can be a touchy subject with some people - but relax, we’re not talking about putting robots in your reception area.

Rather, we are referring to yet another reporting trend that we’ve seen club executives adopt: automating their reporting. An interesting trend we’ve seen among some GM’s and Controllers we work is that they regularly send automated reports to club stakeholders regarding Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Take, for instance, the Controller who told us about the Gross Margins report she arranged to be sent automatically to her club’s Head Golf Pro each morning. Given that pro shops operate on tight margins - and, like the club itself, depend on discretionary income - regular access to KPIs can help pro shops remain as a revenue stream for a Club.

If we return to one of our earlier themes - that you need to have information at your disposal - consider whether your staff is empowered to be proactive and forward-looking. Does your staff have to wait until someone on the accounting team finds time to run a report and email it? With numerous competitors going after their members’ time and discretionary income, we find that many club executives want their staff to stay ahead of the curve. Put another way - they want to be proactive, not reactive.

We’ve thrown a lot at you in this blog post, so let’s get down to most important takeaways: if you’re plagued by data silos, it’s possible to get out from under them. Not only that, by adopting the single platform solution that many clubs are moving towards, you can gain a wealth of information about your members. Armed with this information, you can elevate your member service. Efficient operations, better insights, and top-notch member service - and it all can be within reach.