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Constitutionally challenged to move forward

POSTED ON August 9, 2018 @ 7:48 am

As an operational consultant my first point of review is always to look at the structure of a club. I need to fully understand the core items that make a club tick before making any recommendations for potential changes to its operation. It’s very important for all clubs to have guiding principles that keep it on track over their years of existence, change of Boards and management and to keep the true essence of what they represent as a group.

The constitution lies at the heart of all clubs and stands as a fairly permanent fixture in many ways but it is not always fully understood by all its members on what it’s true purpose really is.

Unfortunately it also can lie smack in the way of some clubs being able to adapt to ever changing market conditions and to make the necessary operational changes to improve the club’s long-term sustainability.

What is a constitution?

A constitution is a basic set of rules for the daily running of a club or group. All good organisations have a written constitution setting out members’ rights and liabilities.  It details for the members and others the name, objects, methods of management and other conditions under which the club or group operates and generally the reasons for their existence. It also regulates the relationship between members by setting out the basis for working with other co-members.

The constitution is a document establishing the organisation and setting out the purposes for which it has come together and all of the rules under which it proposes to operate. It must reflect the way in which the entire organisation actually works.

Tough to impart change

A constitution is a document that is not easily amended, and fairly so, shouldn’t be. Changes to the constitution are usually required to be debated and voted upon at an annual general meeting or a special general meeting. This can be a very long process and one that needs to be driven by the Board. You need a strong Board with clear strategic direction to push for constitutional change. As many Boards tend to change every year, progress may be stunted from making changes that would potentially help future Boards and managers and ultimately the Club as a whole.

What happens though then when a club wants/needs to adapt to market changes and may not be afforded the luxury of time in going through the process of making a constitutional amendment? Do they just give up and let the next Board worry about it? In many instances yes, but hopefully not always the case, and Boards and Management see the true value in seeing these changes through to an eventual acceptance.

I know of one club that wanted to offer a new membership category which would open them up to a certain local demographic that would bring in heaps of new members. The idea-to-concept took close to two years to get approved! Not a very effective process when the market is changing all the time and being slow to change can make it easy to miss the good opportunities when they actually appear. At least they stayed the course and eventually got the amendment through.

In any constitution there are certain matters which are common and which should always be included for the protection of members. I.e. The constitution should define the rights and duties of individual members and those of the members of the committee, who are elected to run the organisation on a day-to-day basis.

I believe the document should also have some “flexibility” written into key areas or clauses in the document so the operation can adapt more quickly to market opportunities. I.e. A clause can be put in that gives the Board some powers to provide new products and services to the market without having to go through the process of amending the constitution. It may a simple as allowing short term offers available to new members that the Board can approve as they see appropriate. This would still keep the main key parts of the document intact and members protected but also will allow the management to do what they need to do in the best interest of the Club.

The market continues to be challenging and ever changing. As an operator having flexibility and additional options available without a huge process to get approval would be very handy in improving the performance of a facility.

In closing, I recommend that Clubs review their constitution if they haven’t recently and see if any parts are not relevant any more or if there can be some flexible clauses written in that will allow managers and Boards to react to the market influences in a much quicker fashion. This can still be done along with keeping control mechanisms in place that will keep decisions true to the core values of the Club. If you spend time now amending and it will benefit you for the long term.

Do you need help at your facility? Click here to contact Mike Orloff

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