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Survival of the Fittest

Delivering excellence and applying strict financial control will be key to the survival hopes of many clubs
Delivering excellence and applying strict financial control will be key to the survival hopes of many clubs

There has been a lot of speculation of late about the decline in bowling memberships and the subsequent impact on individual clubs and their chances of survival.

Its true that bowling club membership is on a sharp decline and that many clubs will suffer or close as a result of this. After speaking to many clubs across Scotland it is clear that the ones that will survive and prosper will exhibit two very clear qualities:

  1. They will exceed their members and prospective members expectations for quality.
  2. They will squeeze every last bit of value from every pound spent by applying strict cost control .

Since the green is the biggest cost centre at any bowling club and of course one of the biggest assets (we think there is a bigger one and you can read about here), without which there would be no club, we talk a lot on this site about getting the greenkeeping right. However there are many other aspects of club management where you can make changes to improve your club’s finances and future prospects.

Club Optimisation is the process of evaluating every aspect of your management processes and making small incremental changes and measuring the results. When a change brings a benefit, try tweaking it again.

Some aspects of your operation you might want to start thinking about are as follows:

Essential supplies like beer, wines and spirits, food, cleaning supplies and stationery can all be re-negotiated or sourced through new suppliers.

Essential services like electricity, telephone and gas can be switched to new suppliers for better deals.

Some less obvious items are collecting email addresses from all members to cut down on postage costs, direct debit subscription payments.

Then there are staffing issues. Its important to look at every wage or payment to ensure firstly that it is absolutely essential and secondly that it represents best value for money. Can jobs be combined to make best use of resources, e.g. bar work and cleaning.

We then come to the question of value to customers. Until now most clubs have had the luxury of not having to try too hard to retain members. It is now very different with many clubs struggling to maintain membership numbers and needing new strategies for sustained club growth and prosperity. This I would suggest requires a “business like” approach to club management, and thinking of members as customers.

This means thinking like a business in all of your management decisions for your club.

By engendering a feeling of belonging and by adding value at every opportunity, you can offer your members something they can’t get anywhere else.

Finding ways to add real value at low cost needn’t be difficult, it just requires a bit of lateral thinking in many cases. For example, some of your members will operate their own businesses, it might be possible to work with them to add special offers to the membership package. This type of arrangement can be very beneficial both to the club and the vendor.

stop getting ready and get started

Starting off your club’s recovery process with too ambitious a plan can backfire on you early.

Making big plans is also a sure way to waste a lot of time; because the plan will just never be ready to roll out to the members, public, prospective customers etc.

The pursuit of perfection in this case would be a major hurdle to progress.

At its simplest the planning process can be a short meeting to decide what the 3 biggest issues facing the club look like, followed by a session on deciding the following:

  1. What Actions do we need to take?
  2. When will we have them completed by?
  3. Who will be responsible for each Action?

When those 3 issues are dealt with, then you simply repeat the process.

For a step by step process you can follow to turn your club around go here.

Bowling Club Survival and Turnaround
Bowling Club Survival and Turnaround
In this ebook we take you through a groundbreaking, step by step blueprint to save your struggling bowling club and reveal the 7 key steps that you can start taking immediately to start making a serious go of your club. more details
Price: £9.97

Club Turnaround: A Formula for Managing Change

“There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things” Niccolo Machiavelli.

Well, the last days of the season are upon us again and it’s a good time to take stock and get a feeling for where the club is now.

Many of you are in the thick of it with Club Survival and Turnaround projects on-going and this will be a worrying time for you as the obvious income diminishes now that the green is closing for winter and the members are heading off to their indoor clubs or other winter activities.

Trying to turn a club around isn’t easy, but it can be made a whole lot easier if you understand what is going on behind the scenes.

I know it can seem a bit like herding cats at times trying to get support and consensus, but there are distinct and identifiable components to the process of organisational change and if you know what they are and how they work together, life becomes a whole lot easier.

The implementation of change in well established organisations and clubs, even “at risk” clubs is a seemingly impossible task. Well meaning members might start a project only to be shot down in flames at every step along the way. Who can blame someone for giving up when faced with this kind of inactivity?

However, if you arm yourself with a bit of insider knowledge about the change process, it’s amazing what can be achieved. Simply by understanding a little more about what’s going on beneath the surface you can adapt your project to suit the requirements of your own situation.

There are 3 main factors at play in my experience and I have Read more

Your Club Needs You!

Strong leaders emerge in times of greatest need.

I had an interesting conversation with a bowling club official last night that focussed mainly, not on the green for a change, but the club turnaround process that she hopes to take her club through starting soon.  Yesterdays post of course, emphasised the urgency of getting started on any project of this nature in the middle of the bowling season; so it was quite fortuitous that this was fresh in my mind, because she asked me a direct question which went some thing like this:

“John. If you were to lead the turnaround of my club, what would you do first and then how would the project pan out after that?”

She was looking for a step by step plan of course that she could apply to her situation.

My answer was emphatic, clear…and mercenary:

Step 1: buy my eBook: Bowling Club Survival and Turnaround; its under a tenner if you are a member of the Bowls Club Mastermind Network and it spells out in 7 easy steps what to do and exactly how to do it.

I was then slightly embarrassed when she said she already had the eBook and that she had read it cover to cover, several times and had made copious notes and was absolutely 100% convinced that it contained the answer to her club’s problems.

The trouble is that she is still having trouble getting what she called “buy in” from the rest of the committee of the club.

“They just can’t accept that decades of slippage, accompanied by the most unpredictable recession in a century, the smoking ban, the cost of living, the general reduction in interest in bowling etc etc could possibly be turned around, let alone by some eBook or other!”

BINGO! I said, that’s it! They are absolutely correct; it can’t be!

Confused looks ensued!

You see my eBook is a series of thoughts, of ideas, of recommendations of which I am convinced, but an eBook alone cannot possibly help your club to get out of its current mess and secure a bright future.

So Step 3 is to implement what you have read in the eBook and that means ACTION!

Step 2 by the way, in case you are wondering, is NOT to tell anyone that you have a new eBook by some geezer on the internet that is going to work miracles for the club!

And that is because it is the enthusiasm of a leader like you; a leader who steps up in a time of crisis, a leader armed with the correct plan and convinced that success is only a bit of blood, sweat and tears away that turns clubs around.

Bowling Club Survival and Turnaround is only the blueprint; it needs an inspired leader to drive home the value of its contents.

There is one such leader tucked away in every club I have ever visited!

Bowling Club Survival and Turnaround
Bowling Club Survival and Turnaround
In this ebook we take you through a groundbreaking, step by step blueprint to save your struggling bowling club and reveal the 7 key steps that you can start taking immediately to start making a serious go of your club. more details
Price: £9.97

Kick Start Your Club Turnaround

Those of you who are working through my Bowling Club Survival and Turnaround eBook will know that I am a stickler for working to a plan and within that “ALWAYS” working on the top 3 issues that will move us closer to our goals.

Some readers have had a bit of difficulty getting traction with their turnaround plans through one problem or another; almost exclusively linked to apathy or inertia within the club or committee, a reluctance to get moving on big change.

For those of you in this category, who feel like they are trying to push water uphill, here is a little system you can use to organise your thoughts and maybe encourage those around you to engage with the plan a little more readily. Its really just about asking 4 simple questions:

What went well last year?

You can easily apply this question to your club situation and come up with

Read more

Bowls Club Survival-Action not Words required


Last year John Woodcock, MP for Barrow-in-Furness has raised a Bill in Parliament to try to prevent bowling greens from being too easily sold off to developers.

The current planning laws say that amenity areas like bowling greens should not be zoned for building development if they are being used by a significantly sized group of people.

However, John Woodcock’s Bill aims to provide the facility to tighten these laws to make sure that all reasonable steps are taken to preserve the green; only allowing sale to developers as a last resort. This would include provision to offer greens to user groups first at market rates.

In a radio discussion about the bill there was also an interview with Read more

From the mouths of babes…the 5 whys (?)

Anyone who has young children or grand children will know the delight and discomfort of the 5 whys. 4 year olds have a knack of getting to the truth quickly, simply by repeatedly asking “why?”

Lets try it:

Why1. Why is our once thriving club struggling financially?

Ans. Because we are losing members.

Why2. Why are we losing members?

Ans. Because fewer people are taking up the game.

Why3. Why are fewer people taking up the game?

Ans. Because it has an image problem

Why4. Why does it have an image problem?

Ans. Because we insist on enforcing traditions from another era on the game.

Why5. Why do we insist on this?

Ans. Because we are nostalgic for the old days.

That sounds nice, so why (sorry that’s 6 whys!) is that a problem?

Nostalgia is the biggest known killer of innovation!

I want to start a bowls club; what steps do I need to take?

This is an encouraging question that has cropped up a few times in the searches that brought new visitors to the site.

The answer is not straightforward, but if I was to advise a group on this I would suggest the following first steps:

  1. Make it a community re-generation project and involve as many different groups as possible.
  2. Aim to revive a derelict green that is no longer in use as this will always be a better proposition than building from scratch with regard to time, cost and post construction difficulties; see here.
  3. Download the Manifesto for a Successful Bowling Club here.
  4. Consider where your income will come from and how you will keep things moving ahead positively; in other words create a project or business plan. Details here.
  5. Think about how you will encourage the local community to become involved, see here.
  6. Involve the local council to help you tap into any free resources and help there might be for community projects.

Bowls Green Performance v Tradition

Performance or Tradition?

Over the years I have come up against a lot of friction when I have proposed that a club stops top-dressing its green with sand laden top-dressing compost.

The reasons for stopping this practice are well documented on this site (recap here) so I won’t go over old ground here today.

My guess is that a lot of greens, especially in the South East of the UK will be seeing some of the performance issues related to this “tradition” coming home to roost this year. The major disruptive force in bowling green maintenance is Localised Dry Patch (LDP) and this is a perfect year for it to show up at its worst. Again, LDP is extensively discussed on the site (recap here).

Another tradition which I suppose first came about for reasons of economy Read more

Growing Bowls Club Membership

Now that most of the autumn renovation work is completed on the green and the winter green maintenance program is well underway I want to take a week away from agronomic issues and focus more clearly on how your club is doing. Of course if there are any pressing, green related issues, we can continue to discuss these through the usual channels.

So over the course of the next few days I will publish a series of articles on Bowling Club Membership Retention and Growth. These will look at the following subject areas:

  1. The Importance of Member Loyalty (today)
  2. Where are you with Member Loyalty?
  3. Understanding your Target Audience and their needs.
  4. Fulfilling audience expectations
  5. Delivering exceptional service to your members.
  6. Perpetuating your club’s vision through training.

These articles are extracts from my forthcoming eBook, titled as you might have guessed Bowling Club Membership Retention and Growth, which will be available here from 14th November 2011 onwards.  This builds upon the concepts of the “customer” or club “user” as discussed in Bowling Club Survival and Turnaround.

So to start off the week I want to take a brief look at Member Loyalty. I hope you enjoy these articles and get some positive outcomes for your club from them.

Member Loyalty

Customer loyalty is the single most important element to retain within any business relationship and readers of Bowling Club Survival and Turnaround will know that the single most effective strategy for any bowling club that’s serious about survival is to start thinking and behaving a lot more like a business.

So, as in any other business your bowling club will derive a lot of positive benefit from a well established and loyal member base.

In business and increasingly in bowling clubs, large proportions of the available budget (or other resources) are allocated to Read more