In 2009, I attended a meeting for a curling club in an Ontario city. The purpose was to determine if I could help them turn the ship around. The presentation talked about income and expenses, marketing and advertising, operations and maintenance. After 20 minutes of presentation, the first response words were “I never thought of our club as a business!?” And this from a business entrepreneur! During the 2015 Fall Zone Meetings, it was those very same words that came from a small town club representative. Those words continue to haunt the halls of Ontario Curling facilities! This has got to stop!
Danny Lamoureux, of Curling Canada, has been pressing Canada’s Curling Clubs to take a business approach to running curling. Seminars are presented by Curling Canada and articles abound on www.curling.ca . Go to Curling Summits… there have been two excellent presentations in Niagara Falls (2014) and Collingwood (July 2015). At each there were experts in curling products, successful club events and business aficianados. These Summits were oversubscribed evidencing the demand for understanding the business of curling. Could not make it to the seminars? Let me take you through a Q&A:
What are the signs that you have a business?
- If you have income over $30,000, your federal government insists you charge HST.
- Your board of directors make decisions on expenses and cost of membership.
- You have audited accounts.
How do we know if our business is successful?
- Your income should exceed your expenses. Seems somewhat like a supercilious statement. But many boards are afraid to increase membership rates for fear of offending friends. The income starts to lag and then the participants become frustrated with the lack of investment in the curling property and they leave. Eventually, expenses become more than income and the curling club gets in trouble.
- Income increases annually at least at the federal stated rate of inflation. Beer should be cold but the prices not frozen. Food that cost $5 ten years ago, should now cost $10. Nor should the club sell memberships for the same as last year.
- Participants want to spend at their facility in lieu of other options. Track your income per full member player by creating an account distinct to the player. If their annual spending goes down, understand why by analyzing the data. If that is insufficient information, ask the player.
If Curling is a business, how is it a business?
“The two most important parts of curling…ice to curl on, and cold beverages” Facebook comment from Jennifer Foley Opitz of Grande Cache Curling Club. Jennifer has captured her business’s strategy in a sentence. Apparently, Grande Cache CC has both and they are ready to roll in October 2015. As long as the club maintains satisfactory membership and beer sales income, they can continue to have “ice to curl on”. Sounds simple and it can be. The business part is ensuring that income exceeds expenses. And someone, a paid manager or volunteer accountant, has to monitor the balance sheet and operating budget while referring to past successes and watching for future changes in the business environment. Changes for Grande Cache could be boom-bust cycles of coal production and sales in this one-industry town. If a rash of unemployment hits, is the club prepared for the change in disposable income by its members? Reducing the price of memberships and beer is not the answer. Creative membership alternatives, though, might be. Perhaps the members could afford a half fee for half the number of nights. A caveat could include that they will be offered that reduction if they bring in a new player to fill the other days not attending. Now you have doubled the clients and increased potential future revenues.
Where are the revenue streams in a Curling Business?
Memberships – but the culture of recreation is changing. How have you changed your services to accommodate a change in your local culture.
Liquor and Refreshment Sales – This is the second most obvious element of curling business and, fortunate or unfortunately, alcoholic consumption is what we are known for by non-curlers. What is the local price of refreshments? Match the local price. Undercutting because the members are your friends does not make you friends. You provide a value-added service not provided by a bar. Charge for it!
Food Sales – Snacks usually works for clubs. Consider renting your facility to a caterer. They know the food business and you can make a buck on your rental space.
Equipment Sales – This is another opportunity to partner with a company that needs inexpensive floor space in a sports environment.
Floor space – This is your primary revenue stream, both direct and indirect. Directly, you may have space to accommodate Food and Equipment Sales. It takes little effort and maximizes your utilization. In the off-season, you may have a clear span concrete floored hall, useful for special events or storage rental. The indirect revenues come from the attraction of curling ice. People pay memberships for the right to curl in that floor space. The icy floor space attracts patrons who spend money behind the glass. Create a map of your facility that shows the distinct areas of: ice hall; lounge; closets; offices; games rooms; change rooms. Chart how often each of the areas are used. There will be times when that floor space is not occupied. Now how do you utilize it better? Who are new users? How can the floor space be used differently? Use your imagination! Be Creative! Act like a Business Entrepreneur! Follow what Dragon Kevin O’Leary says: “How do you make me Moooneeey….”