If you are a manager or ice maker, you resumed your tasks at full tilt after a 2-week holiday break
- emails/phone, check;
- accounting and bill payments, √;
- mechanical, √;
- electrical, check; programs, √;
- rentals, check; bathrooms, √;
- snow clearing, √;
- site drainage, √; and,
- supplies, √.
If you are a four-sheet or smaller club, the management of the facility and programs lies with a volunteer board. If that is the case, add to that checklist all the contracts with food, drink, ice-making, and building maintenance.
Half into the season, what could possibly go astray from the first half of the season?
Things change during the curling season, but your challenge is to create a sense of seamlessness in revenues, expenses and membership retention. There is always the opportunity to trade a problem for an opportunity. Following are the problems from which you can embrace opportunities.
Membership revenues are depleting while costs increase
Problem: Most clubs accumulate their membership fees by September. The challenge is to appropriate the funds over the active curling season, so that end of year scrimping and saving is not necessary. Management challenges and revenue losses ensue.
Opportunity: Best clubs incentivize members to pay in the spring before the season. This approach assures the board of the number of members in the coming year. If numbers are lower than the previous year, then a board can apply marketing tactics prior to the start of leagues in September. Naysayer boards will aver that they could not possibly ask for fees in Spring or they would lose members. My argument is that by waiting for fees, budgeting for the following year is compromised. Some clubs offer their members payment plans. Ensure that you monetize those plans by charging a premium (more than the cost of savings accounts). And get the member to sign a contract for the future payments. You cannot run a business on verbal promises to pay. You have increasing Hydro costs to pay.
Snowbirds and other leavers
Problem: Attrition during the season has various implications. Organizing season-long leagues is challenging. Also, if snowbirds have to pay a full season of fees, will they be less inclined to return?
Opportunity: Change leagues to acknowledge the dynamic of members’ vacation trends. For this you must know your membership demographics. Winter attrition is more likely in the 60+ age group. Most clubs’ schedules accommodate a break for two to three weeks around the end of December. Some, as in Toronto, Ottawa and Hamilton, shut down leagues for the annual regional Championship.
How do you recover lost usage? If your mechanical equipment is powerful enough, expand your season so that snowbirds get September to play, or April when they return. Special events can intervene for seniors in the times that the snowbirds are away. CHANGE YOUR LEAGUE FORMATS! Create different leagues: 2 leagues, one before/after the Holiday break; eliminate post-holiday leagues; establish week-long leagues; alternate weeks of open league, then mixed doubles league; _________ (you add)
Problem: Speaking of mechanical equipment, with the cold ensuing in January, more problems can arise: revenue losses and member attrition.
Opportunity: You may not see mechanical failure as opportunistic, but it red-flags the need for capital savings by the club. Reiterating a previous Club Corner article, in 30 years, a typical six-sheet facility will need $3.5 replacement value. Assuming 600 members, the annual capital fund fee should be: $195 in 2014 dollars. Your club needs an emergency plan.
Teams affected by health problems
Problem: Injuries occur in curling. Brad Gushue’s face plant in December 2015 shows no one is immune. Seniors are more prone to illness than youth. So many of my peers are having joints replaced, or like Wayne Middaugh, titanium implants. If one team member is out, how do you supplant? One way is to default the team. This becomes a revenue issue and league management complication.
Opportunity: Create a new members or Rookie League. This will be the resource for filling in gaps created by mid-season attrition. It is also part of your succession planning. Yes, establish a SUCCESSION PLAN. How often have you invited new members to join the team with the ogre skip, only to have that new member leave mid-season.
Competitive vs Recreation Players involved in playdowns
Problem: This is a Canada-wide phenomenon. Would-be competitive players prepare for and participate in provincial play down events. They occasionally leave a void in their league teams. The recreation players in the league are less sympathetic as their team falls from A to B levels. They become frustrated (or perhaps jealous) and leave in frustration. Revenues lost!
Opportunity: Engage your competitive players early in the season to provide advanced instruction. This can be done as a first week curling camp and/or weekly instruction led by a certified instructor that you hire. The win-win is that the currently competitive players feel pride of ability for having been asked. The recreation players get the instruction for which they have been pining.
Weather prevents play on any given day
Problem: It snows in Canada. Most Canadian curlers drive to the club. Leagues inevitably become interrupted by snow days, yet leagues are tightly programmed. Make up games become a stressor for players. Bar revenues are impacted, but more importantly, members become disgruntled.
Opportunity: Build in flexibility to league play. If a draw is five weeks, allow six weeks. If, during the draw time, there is no interruption, then install a fun night. Have each team invite a player from the Rookie League that you created above. The rookies will be honoured and the league players will be flattered to see someone in the club is struggling more than they are. The fun night events will be pre-planned, ready to be implemented at a moment’s notice.
This leaves you with tasks for next year:
- Start your Business Plan for 2016-17 NOW
- Establish an Emergency Plan
- Be Creative with your Leagues
- Encourage your Rookies and New Members