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Technology Innovation and the Future of Private Clubs: A Discussion with Industry Leaders
Member Experience Highlight: Personalized Birthday and Anniversary Messages
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Technology Innovation and the Future of Private Clubs: A Discussion with Industry Leaders
by Stephen Ready - President & CEO, VCT

Five of the club industry's leading technology CEOs met on the stage at the National Club Conference in Boca Raton, Fla., on April 29, 2013, to present their views on the future of club technology. What follows is a more in-depth presentation of their insights into what lies ahead for private clubs and the unique club technology landscape. You will hear different views and theories, on the value proposition of technology at large as well as the future impact and importance of one aspect of technology innovation versus another.

Should club technology be viewed first and foremost as a member experience "value add" for members? Or is technology in clubs really about efficiency and productivity for club management, impacting the member experience in all aspects of club operations? Where should clubs be investing their limited technology budgets, and moreover, should the IT and Marketing/Communications budgets be merged to better reflect the role technology plays in member experience and engagement? How important is social media to the technology and communications mix, and as with all new initiatives, how much of what a club invests in from a technology standpoint requires strategic planning in advance? These are all important questions, and we are just scratching the surface.

While interviews with the CEOs show clear differences of opinion on certain "micro-issues"; there is a general consensus among them on a variety of fronts. Clearly, there is simply no doubt that as we move forward as an industry, clubs must INVEST more in technology. The days of looking at technology as a line item in the budget are over. Just the opposite, technology, in all of its shapes and sizes, is an investment that requires due diligence, commitment and long-term thinking. Ask any chief marketing officer of any successful organization, who is charged with nurturing, activating and growing their customer base, where they are focusing their investments. Nine times out of 10—technology. If private clubs at large are going to prosper over the next decade, we simply can't repeat the actions of the last decade. We must fully embrace relationship-marketing practices with our members, and in order to do so, ensure we are investing in the tools, technologies and processes that will be necessary to support the effort. 

Just the same, ask the chief operating officer of any successful enterprise how they are making these types of technology decisions and you'll hear two words that are on the tip of everyone's tongues these days: strategic planning. The bottom line is that there is no right answer for every club. As our technology leaders point out in this article, the decision matrix is complex and there will be significant increases in the application of technology to club operations. Strategic planning and change management will be the difference between success and failure as new technologies and methodologies are introduced and enhanced, and will help a club align IT investments with strategic goals and objectives. It's not about one platform or another. Or for that matter, who has what features. It certainly shouldn't be about "go" or "no go" decisions with regard to mobile, social media, cloud, etc. These are all "on the table," for all clubs. Some of the answers to these questions are based on business fundamentals, while others are more cultural. In other words, it's a club-by-club issue.

Here's the main point: One of the keys to our industry's success moving forward is to embrace technology and the industry leaders committed to its continuous improvement. A number of those leaders and their firms share their views with you here in this article. Do they have all the answers? Maybe, maybe not. Is there a "magic bullet" from some unknown technology company that might be able to solve your (and all the world's) problems? No, definitely not. As an industry we must stop looking for a tool to blame, or even worse, the next great module or feature as the "solution" to all our technology challenges. Instead, we need to look to technology as a foundational tool—a supporting resource as we chart a course for change and the evolution of our club operations. And then we must take a big leap forward with how we plan, budget and prioritize these technology-related initiatives with the primary goal of enhancing the member experience.

Click here to read the full article from the Summer 2013 issue of Club Director.

Stephen Ready is President and CEO of VCT (, the leading Member Experience partner to distinguished private clubs nationwide. Stephen speaks about the future of the private club industry extensively, and provides insight, vision and best practices for long-term Member Experience Management to audiences around the world. For the past 12 years, he has helped empower VCT’s private club clients to develop and manage more personalized communications, services and benefits that continually enhance the Member Experience—for this generation and the next.

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