The Challenge of Standalone Club Operations

My wife is a high school English teacher and I get to hear her periodic horror stories from the world of public education. Several years ago, growing interested in her comments on the state of our schools, I picked up a book called Crash Course by Chris Whittle. Whittle made his money in magazine publishing and with Channel One, the news program provided to public schools. He then turned his attention to public education and founded Edison Schools, a for-profit education management organization that would hopefully bring a solution to some of our worst-performing schools. While Edison Schools has not been as successful as originally envisioned, I found his review of public education insightful and full of interesting ideas.

In his book he discussed the challenges facing small town and rural school districts with limited resources and few economies of scale. As I read his critique, I was amazed that so many of the points he made about these school districts applied just as much to standalone club operations. For me it was a moment of epiphany. Throughout much of my career I worked in independent hotels or clubs with no more resources than our lean management staff could muster among ourselves. In job after job, we had to create personnel and accounting policies and procedures, job descriptions, training manuals, employee handbooks, and other materials to support our operations.

What made it so difficult was that we, the management staff, were up to our necks in operations and daily crises. Some of the operations were 24/7 and finding the time to develop organizational material was a nearly impossible challenge. Yet, if we ever wanted to stop reacting to problems, we needed to organize the operation for efficiency and consistency, while spending more time planning and thinking strategically.

Over the past thirty years, the hotel industry has successfully consolidated into chain operations and management companies, but the greater part of the club industry has not, and probably never will, due to the individual ownership of clubs by members and the reluctance of many to hire management companies. This leaves the industry full of standalone operations with limited resources and benefits of scale.

In response to these challenges Club Resources International, a portal website serving club industry managers at all levels of the operations, has recently been launched. On this site you’ll find a variety of resources from White Papers; Best Practices; Job Descriptions; Standards, Policies, and Procedures; Training Manuals and materials; programs to improve the understanding and efficiency of operations such as Tools to Beat Budget and Operations Benchmarking; as well as links to other industry resources.

The vision of this website is to grow into a one-stop resource for the materials that managers need, but don’t have the time to develop. Since so many of club operations are similar, there’s no sense in reinventing the wheel. Simply register for free on the site, download the desired material, and customize it to your own needs.

Lastly, we actively encourage other voices and points of view. Just as there are clubs with varying combinations of amenities, there are also  a number of ways to organize and operate a club. All quality submissions will be posted with appropriate attribution to individual author and organization. Harnessing the collective power and intellect of club managers worldwide makes more sense than each of us trying to go it alone!

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf


These blogs comment on and discuss the club industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers, those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking club managers throughout the country and around the world.

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