8 Takeaways from the 2015 National Club Conference

Education Sessions Ranked High by Attendees

Published Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The 2015 NCA National Club Conference was NCA’s most successful national conference yet, with industry leaders from around the country convening in NCA’s home, Washington, D.C., in May to provide the latest club trends and best practices. In case you missed the event, here are some of the highlights of the education sessions.

Track 1: Strategic Issues for Private Club Governance
Building a Team-Based Organization with Transformational Leadership

Become a better leader. Listen. Learn. Inspire. As more individuals hope to find their self worth in the workplace, club managers must provide employees meaning to their work, said Dr. Randy Chittum, Program Co-Director at Georgetown University’s Institute for Transformational Leadership. The program focused on techniques and concepts club leaders can learn to inspire employees and increase the club’s potential. Transformational club leaders can see the club’s mission and purpose emerge, how systems work and break down, the strengths and talents of individuals, what the club needs and what it needs to let go of.

Strategic Decision and Decisive Leadership—The Essence of the Board’s Role

If you don’t have a strategic plan, create one. Only about one-third of North American clubs have strategic plans, said moderator Henry Delozier, Principal at Global Golf Advisors, using data from Club Benchmarking. Panelists Michael Leemhuis, President of Ocean Reef Club, and Jeff McFadden, General Manager at the Union League Club of Philadelphia, discussed how clubs with a successfully executed strategic plan engrains itself into the club’s culture and filters and organizes opinions and ideas in ways that encourage efficiency and timeliness. Focusing on more than a master plan, strategic plans encompass HR, resources, governance issues and more, and on a long-term timeframe.

Succession Planning for Club Executives

Next man (or woman) up. Regardless of the nature of a GM’s departure, whether planned or unplanned, clubs should have a plan in place to select its next manager. The panel, moderated by Dan Denehy, President of Denehy Club Thinking Partners, was comprised of Mike Bruni, past Director of Olympia Fields Country Club; Dan Farrell, Principal at GSI Executive Search; and Timothy Sullivan, past President of Congressional Country Club and The University Club of Washington, D.C. They discussed the importance of preparing for the unexpected, ensuring that the club reviews existing agreements, maintaining confidentiality in the search process and the role of senior leadership in guiding the board and committees of the club.

Track II: Club Industry Outlook and Trends for the Future
Technology Outlook at Private Clubs

The world is changing. Be ready to change with it. Panelists Bill Boothe, The Boothe Group; Michael Zisman, Club Director at Merion Golf Club; Noel Wixsom, Founder of CC Tech Partners; and Carla Waldron, Director of IT at The Country Club of Virginia, discussed the need for clubs to catch up to the rest of American businesses and update club technologies. Technology is an amenity for clubs, so clubs should consider hiring an IT person, even on a part-time basis, if they have not already. Forward-facing technologies like tablets and a secure Wi-Fi connection can boost the member experience, while other, less visible, tech tools can tell club decision makers important trends about member activities like golf tee times and online dining reservations.

 Cyber Security Concerns

 “Tuesday’s patch is Wednesday’s exploit.” Hackers want your data. With an abundance of highly sensitive member data, clubs could be big targets for hackers, said Fred Santarsiere, CTO at Cino Ltd. Hackers create new pathways everyday to break into secure systems, but often the most vulnerable avenues to data are through inadequately trained staff. Clubs should regularly update their software, educate staff, and have the infrastructure and action plans to respond to threats.

 Fitness and Wellness Trends for Clubs: Keys to Future Success

 We are becoming a more health-conscious society and many clubs are already taking advantage of that fact. Eighty percent of chronic illnesses are preventable, said Rick Ladendorf, Founder of Prevo Health Solutions, as he discussed health and wellness’ growing importance in America and what clubs should do about it. From health education classes to health care partnerships, farm fresh menus and group activities like hiking and tap-dancing, clubs have ample opportunity to satisfy members’ fixation on wellness.

Track III: Legislative, Regulatory and Legal Issues for Clubs
Legal Issues Confronting Private Clubs

Protect your club from avoidable lawsuits. Attorneys Robyn Stowell, Stinson Leonard Street; Michelle Tanzer, GrayRobinson; and Thomas Lenz, Atkinson, Andelson, Loya Ruud & Romo, identified several key areas of legal interest for the club industry, such as private status issues, liquor licenses, programing best practices, golf cart guidelines, employee handbook best practices, independent contractors, and the “ambush rule” of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). These discussions remind club leaders to review their operations and practices to avoid unnecessary litigation.

Alphabet Soup: Dealing with the Agencies of the Federal Government

The war rages on in Congress. Capitol Hill staffers Molly Conway and Christie Herman provided an insider’s look at what is being done to rein in the NLRB, Department of Labor (DOL) and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Many in Congress are poised to fight the ACA and efforts by the NLRB and DOL that challenge the club industry, though legislation passed by Congress may be subject to presidential vetoes. The 2016 presidential election will likely have a significant impact.

Legislative Update: The Changing Landscape and What you Need to Know

“We are really starting to see the effects of the ACA on our club.” Club representatives, Albert Costantini, Canoe Brook Country Club; Phil Iannelli, Wilmington Country Club; and Luke O’Boyle, Chevy Chase Club, summarized the impact the ACA has had on their clubs and how they are responding. Although each club experienced some new benefits from the legislation, the law posed more obstacles, with perhaps the most significant one still coming—record keeping and IRS reporting.


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