July 12, 2018

Stan McLennan: Listen and React to Members’ Needs

Stan McLennan, the PGA Connecticut Section 2005 Merchandiser of the Year for Private Facilities, 2012 Golf Professional of the Year, and 2017 President’s Award Recipient, is the PGA Head Golf Professional and General Manager at Suffield Country Club, in Suffield, Connecticut.

Stan McLennan on the importance of listening and reacting to members’ needs:
After three decades at Suffield Country Club I have seen our club experience some ups and downs. At the turn of the millennium the club was thriving and we even underwent a major renovation in 2004. When the recession hit in 2008 our membership numbers dipped from almost 200 to just 92. Why those 92 members stayed and what they mean to the transformation we experienced over the last ten years is what this best practice is all about. As we started to recover from the recession our numbers began to increase. In 2013 our club president, Matt Ide, gave me the authority to make more important decisions on the spot without Board approval, as long as it had the club’s best interest at heart. My number one priority everyday was member-ship, attaining new ones and taking care of our existing members. The key to both was to listen when they spoke. In conversations with prospective members I listened to their needs and made decisions with the benefit of the club and our members in mind. I found that it was important to educate members, stock a good pro shop, offer clinics, and generally be there to meet members’ needs. Those needs sometimes included things that weren’t foremost on the minds, like keeping the finances of the club in check. For instance, in renegotiating fuel costs, we experienced an immediate 20% savings. Also, by being aware of electricity costs and the overall energy efficiency of our facility, vital expenses were cut, allowing the club to prosper in other areas, like marketing and member retention.

Stan McLennan on the business impact of listening and reacting to members’ needs:
The impact on our business that this approach rendered has been furtherance of this wonderful transformation. When members know that you have their best interest at heart they will reciprocate. In fact, 85-90% of our members come to me for all their needs. From apparel to equipment to instruction, gaining the respect of your members is vital to longevity in this business. Those 92 members are evidence of that. Their dedication to Suffield through our worst time helped buoy our club to arguably our best. Now, with over 200 members, including a budding youth membership, the club is vibrant and thriving again. I credit that transformation to the dedication of members, the foresight of our president, and the leadership skills that come with being a PGA professional. A business is nothing without its customers and for private clubs that means members. When someone walks in the door we listen to what they have to say. They have options, and it is vital that we present our club as the number one option in their mind. Listening to what they have to say is every bit as important as telling them what they need to hear. That thought process creates camaraderie, respect, and long-term relationships. Loyalty like that is what sustains a club through good times and bad.


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