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Rose Colored Glasses

When you look at situations through rose colored glasses, all the red flags just look like flags.

Life is a series of decisions that tend to accumulate into a permanent situation. Along the way we tend to encounter “red flags” that don’t seem to be that significant at the time but over time, and with calm reflection, should have actually been very easy to recognize.

A quote by Ernest Hemingway tends to support this proposition………. “How did you go bankrupt?” Two ways. “Gradually, then suddenly!”

Private clubs want members not customers. People tend to treat the car they own much differently than the car they rent. “Aspirational Members” of private clubs have staying power and have joined their club because of an innate desire to be part of a lifestyle that is special, unique, fun and fulfilling. “Circumstantial Members” of private clubs do not have staying power because they don’t see their club relationship as a lifestyle but more so as “biding time” until there is something else to do.

On the surface both members appear to look the same. But, they each come with their own red flags that, if you are paying attention, will become very evident. And, should give you some pause as to how well your club really is doing at this time.

There are currently private clubs with waiting lists for their waiting lists. How could that club ever fail with a membership position as strong as that? There are nearly 50% of all private clubs today suggesting they have waiting lists. The other 50% are seemingly in strong membership positions with close to full memberships. How could the industry possibly be in any better position than it is at this time?

There are two simple questions you need to ask yourself. How many members that joined your club in 2020 & 2021 are “aspirational versus circumstantial?” And, if you have a waiting list how many are on your list because of an aspirational desire to be an integral part of your club or a circumstantial desire to use your club to fill the void of recreational opportunity due to Covid? The waiting list question is easily answered when the prospective member has to put up a “non-refundable deposit” to be on the waiting list. Separates the wheat from the chaff!

The long July 4th holiday has just concluded. This long weekend may have been the absolute busiest that your club will ever be. You, more than likely, overheard some members suggesting that the club has too many members based on tee time and pool chair availability. You would never think these phrases were red flags, but they are!

Be aware of the fact that your “circumstantial members” were simply renting their experience from you at this time and will more than likely return their rental car at the end of this summer. Your aspirational members are here to stay and will be washing, waxing and caring for their cars for years to come. But, your aspirational members have been inconvenienced by the circumstantial member usage of the club.

Literally, no one quit private clubs in the fall of 2020 and 2021 (when the average every year for the past 50 years has been 6-8% attrition). The fact that no one quit clubs for two years is actually a “red flag” that tells you that some outside force was influencing this behavior rather than simply the desirability of your private club.

If you are a private club leader or a private club management team member you need to lift up your glasses and see if some red flags are actually more obvious than the perception of “we are full” and can continue to rest on our laurels.

Now is the time to begin to actually market your club to replace the “circumstantial members” that will be leaving you this year. A waiting list of 50 can quickly turn into 50 openings for membership. As Hemingway stated…………..“it begins gradually and then suddenly!”


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