Skip links

Building Trust Through Transparent, Fact-Based Communication

It’s a story we’ve all heard hundreds of times over the past year; “2020 started like any other year, and then COVID hit…” Where the story went after that depended on your situation. For The Landings Club, the year took many twists and turns. How we responded and importantly, how we communicated our response to staff and members, was a turn that is important to understand.

At our January 2020 board meeting, we had a brief discussion about putting some plans together for this COVID thing we were starting to hear about. By early March it was clear that our business was about to be changed drastically. We quickly moved from full dining rooms to half capacity dining rooms to no dining rooms. Our wellness center was forced to close. On the flip side, we saw record numbers in golf and court sports.

By mid-May, we had found our stride and started to understand how to navigate what had become a very confusing operating environment. No one could have predicted that the most important reading every month would be the latest Governor’s Executive Order guiding us on how we could operate our business!

To say our team got “very creative” and focused on assuring our member experience would keep members engaged would be an understatement. One of the first innovations was the construction of a take-out stand in our operating building parking lot so we could serve prepared BBQ meals. A vendor calling to offer a deep discount on a ridiculous number of oysters inspired a series of “pop up” dinners where members could pick up prepared meals and either eat them outside on property or take them home. At the height of the shutdown, we were running five to six sold-out pop-up dinners a week. We even did a week of member car washes—anything to keep our staff employed and members feeling like they were still a part of the club. We added a 7,000 square foot tent at our largest clubhouse. Equipped with fans, the tent was used to host myriad club member events ranging from tribute band concerts to a “Lobster-Mania” event. A temporary cart barn was reborn as “the banquet barn” and it proved to be a popular picnic area for the members. Wellness center classes moved outside as our staff co-opted shady parts of the parking lot to get members exercising safely. Year-over-year, member engagement, which we track using a combination of golf, wellness center, and F&B usage data, was on the rise!

Intuitively we knew were we performing well. We could see that members were loving our ideas and we were growing revenues well beyond our expectations, but how were we performing relative to other clubs? We utilized the Club Benchmarking Strategic Monthly Dashboard (SMD) to measure and communicate with our members about how we were doing in near real-time. We focused on three key SMD metrics: Monthly Dues Revenue, Monthly Membership Change, and most importantly, Monthly Non-Dues Revenue change.

• Monthly Dues Revenue data helped us explain to our staff and members our relative size compared to other clubs in the industry.

• Data showing changes in Monthly Membership helped us understand that what we were seeing in terms of member intake and attrition was consistent with the industry trends.

• Monthly Non-Dues Revenue Change is where we really focused. Our club was growing non-dues revenue while our peer group, region and the industry-at-large were seeing considerable declines in non-dues revenue. That allowed us to call attention to a clear success story. We used the Club Benchmarking data to communicate those results as a way of thanking our members for their trust and support. For our staff, it was a great motivating factor and helped us thank them for their tireless efforts by showing them how their efforts were making us a true “outlier” in the industry.

• We used SMD reports like the one above with commentary added to explain our performance.

The relative importance of helping our members and the staff understand how our club was faring through the course of the pandemic shutdowns can’t possibly be understated. We built trust through transparency with our board, committees and with the general membership. On the staff side, sharing the data with the team gave us the avenue to motivate them to continue to outperform while also thanking them for a job well done during a very difficult time.

Jesse Ruben is Director of Finance/CFO at The Landings Club.