A note from the Wentworth Club’s CEO, Julian Small

The initial steps of growth:

The CMAE had the pleasure of talking to Wentworth club’s CEO, Julian Small, where we asked the question, why is the Wentworth Club generating so much profit at a time of difficulty. His answer is simply effective…

Innovative, ingenuitive, cost effective. These are descriptive words that all new schemes, products and other revenue generating ideas need to be in order to create profit and customer engagement successfully. Through this financial difficulty the industry as a whole is facing, multiple ideas and examples of best practice has been highlighted to mimic however one area that has been neglected is that of effective communication, both internally and externally.

The CMAE had the pleasure of talking to Wentworth’s CEO, Julian Small, where we asked the question, why is the Wentworth Club generating so much profit at a time of difficulty. His answer is simply effective communication and a shared vision of the clubs direction with all stakeholders. As he explained to the association, it is essential that all stakeholders and managers at a club share the same vision of the clubs direction so they can work together more effectively, thinking on the same line to achieve objectives set. Through this shared vision, it is imperative to communicate your actions and intended future plans of the club to the members and customers, to then let them know of changes but most importantly, gather their response to potential future changes and edit these changes where necessary.

Julian Small stated:

“It is absolutely essential that the club’s management and ownership are in agreement on the future vision of the club. In my time as Chief Executive we have had a change of ownership and during that period it was important that we established  clarity of vision, so that we could effectively communicate to our members, general public and our employees the direction that business was moving in.”

When asked about what advice he could give to other club managers and owners when stakeholders do not see eye to eye on the direction of the club, he commented;

“To resolve the matter it is important to have open communication where all parties are listening. If you are unable to agree on the vision for the club that flaw will totally undermine the business. Ultimately the owner, who is taking the risk, has the right to decide and the management can of course move on to postures new.”

Although it comes to no surprise to the majority of those in the golfing industry that the Wentworth club posted profit of £2.4 million last year, with a substantial amount of that revenue coming from its health club and non-golfing revenue streams, the story is deeper than that of the Wentworth’s brand, location and tournaments. Julian details that the profits posted and the expected increase in profit this year has been down to the early innovative vision that past owners and managers have shared. Julian commented:

“Our club has always been open to change and being visionary as it is part of our culture. If we go all the way back to 1926 it was the vision of George Tarrant to hold an exhibition match between the professional golfers of Great Britain and Ireland versus the professional golfers of the United States of America. This was predominately to raise awareness of the real estate opportunities surrounding the golf course. The following year the Ryder Cup was born and this event was the inspiration for it. One of our great traditions here is our willingness to evolve and therefore in 1997 when we developed our tennis facility into a Tennis and Health Club it was just another step of our journey.”

Being innovative and showcasing the benefits of the club and surrounding areas is key to a successful club owner and manager. Although it is fairly easy to think innovative and promote the surrounding areas, it is something that is deeply negated by a few club owners and managers in favour of offering and promoting discounts, further devaluing their brand image and profit margins.

Before changes are made, it is essential that appropriate consultation takes place with effective communication with the members and customers, as Julian states;

“It is critical that appropriate consultation takes place within the membership as success is based on bringing the overwhelming majority of the Club’s membership with you if your plan is evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Fundamentally if change is based on logic, not emotion, you are able to identify the real benefits of change and overcome any objections. I find a proprietary environment is far more dynamic as it is easier to have consistency in your thinking.”

“In information vacuums conspiracy theories thrive, all of which have negative outcomes for the theorist who instigates and promotes them. The rummer mill in most clubs is negative and easily energised. Therefore the most important thing to do, once you have identified the way forward, is to have a thought out communications strategy, which promotes the benefits of change, offer incentives to the existing members to support it, and with the use of things like FAQ Guides makes sure the correct factual information is being communicated. You are then able to overcome any concerns about the real issues.”