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The Epic [Strategy] Fail

This article first appeared in the March 2019 issue of BoardRoom Magazine

Research shows that 60-90% of strategic plans fail. Developing a strategic plan takes discipline, brutal honesty, and requires foresight with trends, the economy, and society. Consider, for example:

Club #1, 2008: built a ‘formal dining room’ significantly larger than its casual dining in a new clubhouse even though club trends and their consultant advised against it. The dining room is now closed except for private events while the casual dining space is overwhelmed.

Club #2, 2012: invited only one woman to be on the strategic committee for an upcoming renovation plan. In 2015, club had to make ‘adjustments’ to the renovated space to accommodate young families and women’s needs to remain competitive.

Club #3, any year: club decides to expand its food and beverage offerings and triple seating capacity but do not expand kitchen facilities. Members remain displeased with the slowness of service and lack of consistency.

Before the committee becomes tactical it must be disciplined, honest, and have the forethought to make good decisions for your club by doing some homework.

Needs Analysis

Understand current and future membership needs. Use surveys, focus groups, club trends, and market studies. Identify ‘hot button’ issues – topics tend to be divisive or sensitive.

Financial Analysis

Complete a financial analysis to identify behavioral and transactional trends. With the rapidly changing membership needs and new club types popping up, doing a deep dive by membership type, length of membership, gender, age, children, employment status, zip code, etc. Members typically use the club along predictable lines based on certain factors and the deep dive will show you how the club is being used and provide tools for attracting the target market of prospective members.

Operational Analysis

Conduct an operational analysis to inform leadership if the club has the organizational structure, service culture, management skills, employees, equipment, IT systems, and operational procedures in place to effectively execute a strategic plan. Without this, the plan is largely doomed once it reaches the implementation phase.


Perform an inventory of the physical plant and determine capital needs in rank and order of priority and importance.

A realistic timeline of three (3) to six (6) months is necessary to achieve these items. Once the information has been collected, you will be ready to work out your plan. Throughout the process it is critical to communicate the process and progress to membership. This effort helps maintain realistic delivery expectations among the membership. Periodic updates provide transparency and keep members engaged and informed, thus avoiding opportunities for rumor and mixed messages.

There are myriad reasons plans fail so club leaders must be diligent to achieve implementation success. Here are a few of the top offenders to a club’s strategic success:

Unrealistic goals.

You can’t say, “I want it to be better, faster, shinier, more consistent, and innovative” but then fail to invest in development or people to achieve the results you want.

Failure to embrace the times.

Yes, those trends ARE going to affect your club at some point. The decisions you make today will create your club of tomorrow.

Having the wrong people involved.

It’s important to hear a diverse set of opinions and needs when making future plans, so the committee should well represent the target market for prospective members as much as the existing membership.

Unwillingness or inability to change.

The outdated beliefs, thoughts, and strategies are likely why you feel the need to update your plan to begin with. Don’t revert back to your comfort zone. Be realistic about available resources, the need for membership buy-in, and the investment necessary to make any wholesale changes.

Wrong Structure or People.

Having the wrong organizational structure or the wrong people in leadership positions. Management must be willing to make tough decisions, be advocates for the plan, and champion the cause.

Lack of accountability and follow-through.

Have ongoing meetings to keep your plan on track and moving forward.


Whitney Reid Pennell, president of the RCS Hospitality Group (formerly Reid Consulting Services) is a celebrated management consultant, educator and speaker. RCS, the creators of the Food and Beverage Boot Camp™, specialize in operations consulting, strategic planning, food and beverage management, and training programs.

For more information, phone (623) 322-0773; or visit the RCS website at

#RCSU #customerservice #strategiessummit #details #BoardRoomMagazine #change #staffmanagement #financial #operations #needsanalysis #operationalanalysis #goals #inventory

Whitney Reid Pennell
 Founder & President

Whitney Reid Pennell is the founder and president of the award-winning RCS Hospitality Group (formerly Reid Consulting Services). She is a published author and widely praised seminar leader, with over 20 years of club operations management and consulting experience. 

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