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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.

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.

What does our bowls club look like Now?

Having a clear picture of your club’s current standing is essential before you can even start to thnk about the future.

Without this picture of the situation as it is Now, you can’t possibly decide where you are going in the future.

The winter months are a good time to be gathering this information, deciding on a vision for the future and developing plans for getting there.

When writing this up, think in terms of of finance, popularity, future costs and income, offers in the pipeline, projects coming up, green condition and maintenance requirements, clubhouse fabric condition and maintenance and upgrading requirements, rentals, rates, subscriptions, insurances, advertising and marketing, event hosting and event planning and membership growth and retention.

Once you have this snapshot its easy to move on to planning the future. Tomorrow we will look at that more closely.

Get the eBook here

How are we going to get there?

The last two articles have looked at the Now and the Where of planning for the future.

Now that we have created a vision for the club, How will we reach our goals?

This is where you need a plan and as detailed in Bowling Club Survival and turnaround and fleshed out further in Bowling Club Membership, retention and growth I advise clubs to adopt the One Page Planning model.

This makes sure that every project required to achieve your vision of the future for your club is broken down into appropriately sized actions and that these are achievable, time-bound and identify who is responsible for their completion.

This is the fastest and surest way to success for your club.

To get started on your vision for the future download my Manifesto for a Thriving Bowling Club TODAY!.

Where are we going as a bowls club?

Gathering the information to get a clear idea of how your club us doing now is the first step in this process and we looked at that yesterday.

Now that you are armed with that snapshot, how do you develop a vision for the future that everyone can contribute to and be happy with?

Again it comes down to taking the club apart on paper and defining how each piece will look when the new vision is realised. So for example you might want to focus on the game itself and decide that there needs to be a greater effort to move towards a performance bowling green; you might want to increase membership or widen your club’s customer base to boost the club’s finances and long term success prospects.

Whatever your long term goals and vision for the club, the final part of the puzzle is to create a plan to help you achieve your goals and I look at that in more detail 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

Don’t Ignore Your Greatest Assets

Your greatest assets?
Your greatest assets?

When asked to name their club’s greatest asset, most club members will without hesitation say “the green”.

As a green maintenance company you wouldn’t expect us to put up much of an argument against that now would you?

Well, of course the green is of major importance to all clubs, but when your club starts to take a more business focused view on management as described in Read more

What are the long term benefits of your club becoming a focal point for the local community?

Quite simply, the benefits are wide and far reaching. Just being the focus of community activities will bring your club an extraordinary amount of exposure from within and out-with your local area which all leads to free advertising for the facilities, products and services you sell to not just bowling members but a wide range of other people and groups.

Generous gestures such as offering free use of your clubhouse for a multitude of uses in the winter months bring financial and publicity benefits.

Imagine if every other week your club appeared in or was mentioned in an article in the local paper detailing a local event or group’s activities and every time it happens it ends with “and thank you to the bowling club for providing their facilities and support to our event”.

The FREE bowling club success Manifesto is still available here.

Bowling Club Membership retention and growth
Bowling Club Membership retention and growth
How do you increase club membership numbers in a time of economic turmoil? How do you retain members when there is a natural decline in bowling participation? This eBook sets out a plan for transforming any bowls club into the central hub of its community. FREE download for Academy Members more details
Price: £9.97

Barriers to Club Survival and Turnaround

When thinking about turning your club’s fortunes around it is easy to get sidetracked by barriers; and even easier to think that all barriers are the same.

However, if you look closely at the barriers to starting the process of recovery, there are different varieties; on a basic level some of these barriers are “problems” and some are “constraints”.

Here are a few Problems:

  1. We don’t have any money to spend on marketing
  2. Our facilities are a bit tired looking
  3. The heating doesn’t work very well
  4. Our bar license doesn’t allow for that type of business

and here are a few Constraints:

  1. There is a lack of interest in bowling
  2. Its winter and nobody wants to know about bowling
  3. We can’t get enough junior members
  4. Our bowling membership is declining year on year

Have a look over them; you will notice that you normally can’t do much about constraints, but you can usually resolve problems.

So…stop worrying about the constraints; work around them.

Start dealing with the top 3 problems which are holding you back today. Going back to our problems above:

We don’t have any money to spend on marketing

Your target market is known to you: get out and talk to them…its FREE

Our facilities are a bit tired looking

Hold a paint and barbeque afternoon next Sunday for members

The heating doesn’t work very well

Find a local engineer (member) and do a deal…or use the warmer rooms to start with.

Our bar license doesn’t allow for that type of business

Create a new category of membership for your new target markets or re-negotiate the license.

Above all get working on something…decide what the top 3 barriers (problems) are and get working on them.

What can your club do for free for the local community?

This week I will again be looking at some club turnaround focussed issues.

I’m going to kick off with a look at what your club can do for the local community without charging!

The readers and members of this site represent the tip of a large pyramid of bowlers. By this I mean that if you are reading this you are among a minority of bowlers and parties interested in the health of the game of bowls that actively engages with others in the online environment and also that you are among the small number of people within the game that are actively looking for solutions to the difficulties the game is experiencing.

As an internet and world wide web user, you can’t have failed to notice the impact the technology has had on Read more