Understanding Club Culture – Breaking Through the Clutter



I like clubs and managers who do “good” a little differently. They stick out in my memory, leap to the surface, make me smile, force their way into conversation when I’m talking “club.”

In an ever more competitive business, filled with ever more competent managers and clubs, these oddball characters have broken through The Clutter of Competents.

I love ‘em.
So do the members.

Oddball is as oddball does. We’ve all met oddball managers who do “good” a little differently. One that I know dresses like a funeral director, laughs easily and often and has “Director of Fun” on his business card. He sports a full beard in an industry devoid of facial hair.

And the members love him, pay him a bundle, and pray he never leaves. Another runs a prestigious southern club country club, bicycles to work in the morning and leads the club’s spinning class in the afternoon.

And the members love him, pay him a bundle, and pray he never leaves. These are oddball characters who do what they do really, really well. They’ve broken through the “Clutter of Competents”. You’ll remember them if you meet them. They’re different. And they’re winners.

Oddball is as oddball does. We’ve all met oddball clubs who do “good” a little differently. One historic, tradition driven city club I know, a club considered by all to be a truly private “retreat for the elite,” is deeply engaged in the local community and runs four youth centers in the inner city.

Hanging in its oak paneled dining room are contemporary paintings that leap at you with energy and adventure—oddball stuff if you’re a traditional city club. Another prestigious city club I’ve recently visited decided to swim against the tide, buck the trend toward casual dress and go “more formal” throughout the clubhouse—something we, in the family club business, consider deeply oddball.

I remember with fondness a high octane country club that hosts front page big time golf tournaments and entertains the players in a magnificent one-of-a-kind clubhouse right out of the Arabian Nights—something most contemporary club architects would consider oddball. In a world filled with “competents” these Competents With Character stand out. You’ll remember them if you visit. They’re different. And they’re winners.

These managers and clubs have broken through the “Clutter of Competents”. They do what they do really well, and they do it with a bit of oddball. The managers are secure. The waiting lists are long. The Staff, members and fellow managers take note and respond—Three cheers!!!

Break on through……..and three cheers for those who do!!!

The Clutter of Competents

There are lots of clubs and managers “out there” who do what they do really well. The clubhouse is clean, the food is decent and the bills get paid on time. They’re a long way from oddball, but they’re certainly competent. Call them The Competents.

There was a time not so long ago when competence was enough. The Competents stood head and shoulders above the competition because the competition was still in its infancy.
But times have changed. The Clutter of Competents is with us.

CMAA, higher education, Board Room Magazine and The National Club Association have made competence “ground zero.” Everyone expects the food to be good, the finances to be solid, the clubhouse to be maintained, the litigation settled, the legislation understood, the insurance renewed, and the grass to grow. Routine stuff.

Which has created a “Clutter of Competents” in the marketplace. The incompetent managers and clubs have been crushed by the Competents. The defeated have become car salesmen and their clubs have been purchased by developers, turned into housing, paved over for parking. The Competents now dominate the landscape.
And with that an opportunity has arisen. In the land of The Competents, the Competent Oddball is king.

The Competent Oddball becomes Competent by being “really good” at the basics. Then they become Oddballs by doing what they do a little differently. With a bit of flair. With a little humor. With some qwirky stuff thrown in to flavor the soup. Oddball Competents. Competence combined with oddball make for a powerful combo. Time to do Oddball.

Principles of Oddball

Do it well. Do it differently. Do it oddball. And remember the Rules of Oddball. Oddball is remembered. In a world of “the same” those who do “good” differently will be remembered.
Oddballs Know that Competence is Job One: Oddballs know the business of clubs. They’re competent. Oddballs without competence get fired. Clubs without competence become shopping centers.

Oddball isn’t for everybody. Some people and some clubs simply aren’t made to “do oddball.” Accept the fact and do “you” well. Let the others get the glory and bank the big bucks.
You can’t be the oddball you’re not. When it comes to Oddball, you can’t imitate your way to success. Wearing another’s Oddball Jacket will get you into hot water fast. Find your inner oddball and be true to yourself.

Oddball is risky—same is safe. Everyone has different risk parameters. If you need the job to pay the mortgage, fund alimony payments or post bond for your brother in law, you’ve got different “risk parameters” than the character who earns seven figures, lives off his inheritance, drives a Yugo and banks the rest. If keeping your job is Job One, best to keep your Oddball Factor low.

Oddballs build a Goodwill Bank Account—First!!! It’s easier to do oddball if members love you and the club is booming. Prove that you’re good, show them the love, build the goodwill bank account. Time then to “do oddball.”

Lots of Little Oddballs does an Oddball Make. Oddballs hit singles. Home runs are “high risk.” Oddballs build the Oddball Culture one step at a time.

Everybody has Oddball Closets. Members need oddball whether they admit it or not. Captains of industry will ride the mechanical bull. Mammas will do musical chairs. Open the closet and let the Oddball out.

Oddball needs Facilitation and Debrief. Want to generate oddball ideas? Tap into your club’s collective intelligence. Talk lots to committees and staff. Ask questions. Provoke controversy. Oddballs know how to energize conversation and get people talking Oddball.

Oddballs need fans in high places. Oddballs need a safety net before doing oddball. They need support from some “big guns”—the President, or the Board or the House Committee. Oddballs need to smother oddball if the safety net is missing.
Oddball don’t imitate their way to excellence. Oddballs have imagination. They think up new ideas that are uniquely their own. Imitation does not an Oddball make. Oddballs invent the stuff that others steal.

Oddball push the envelope, cross the line and get bruised. No pain, no gain. Oddballs try new ideas knowing that most new ideas fail. New ideas generate controversy. Oddballs discover “the line they shouldn’t have crossed” by crossing it on a regular basis. They collect data points, redefine “the line” and lick their wounds.

Oddball Laugh Lots—win or lose. Oddballs laugh lots. “We do it differently and well—ho ho!!!” “We really flopped with that idea—ho ho!!!” “We got spanked by the bridge players for that…ha ha!!!” Laughing makes the whole Oddball Adventure worthwhile.

Time to Do Oddball

The Competents are out there waiting to take your job and steal your members. It’s dog eat dog. Oddball is a cudgel you can use to beat back the competition.

Do “club” good. Do it differently. Break on through the “Clutter of Competents.” They’ll remember you.

And enjoy the journey——————————–


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