on the road with moff

Join Clubs Queensland and see the world. Well parts of Queensland anyway. Who would have thought?

My role as Operations Specialist means that I get to work with clubs that may need assistance in operational areas, as well as strategic planning.  What I am witnessing in my travels and conversations is that club managers who have omitted the strategic planning stage of their club’s operating processes, will eventually need help in the operational areas of their club. 
At this point it might pay to clarify the difference between strategic planning and operational issues. According to that fountain of all knowledge, Wikipedia, strategic planning is defined as -
“Strategic planning determines where an organization is going over the next year or more, how it's going to get there and how it'll know if it got there or not. The focus of a strategic plan is usually on the entire organization, while the focus of a business plan is usually on a particular product, service or program.”
Strategic planning is all about looking towards the horizon, at time lengths of 12 months to 20 years. It really is a bit of crystal ball gazing in the longer term, but very relevant up to 5 years. For a definition of operational or business planning, the all knowing ‘University of Wikipedia’ suggests -
“A business plan is a formal statement of business goals, reasons they are attainable, and plans for reaching them. It may also contain background information about the organization or team attempting to reach those goals.”
So while a strategic plan could be likened to a world atlas, the operational or business plan is more the Refedex (showing my age) or street map. The strategic plan determines where the club eventually wants to be while the operational plan determines how to get there. From the conversations I have had at some of the clubs I have visited, it is apparent that there is not a plan outlining where they want to be and how they are going to get there. There is no focus, no goals, and no ambitions to aspire to. Consequently, trading decisions are made on the run and the operating of the clubs with no plan eventually becomes a case of survival and not expansion. The lack of planning is becoming more evident as our industry continues to struggle with poor trading conditions. Many clubs I have had contact with are not reaching last year’s trading figures let alone attaining anywhere near budget.
The slowdown is predominately in the regional mining areas where construction has turned to maintenance, which is nowhere near as labour intensive. Increasingly, however, I am visiting and communicating with clubs in South East Queensland that are experiencing profoundly hard times.
And things may not be about to get any easier. At the risk of ruining my reputation and looking like a nerd, I recently attended a Westpac Bank Economic briefing and actually learned something. Just to show that I didn’t fall asleep, I’ve reproduced for you below a slide that grabbed my attention – with thanks to Westpac bank. The information should be viewed knowing that the economist said that wages growth is very flat. We now know that wages growth is not keeping up with inflation.
“Although these figures are over 12 months old, we hope that there has been an improvement in Australia’s household debt. Australia’s debt is relatively good compared to other nations. However it’s our household debt that is alarming. It is well above other nations. Now think about record low interest rates, low wages growth (debt serviceability) and potential for interest rate rises (not great but will eventually happen) and we have a potential squeeze on household disposable income. And our industry depends on the disposable income.
Is it possible that this squeeze has begun as households start to bring debt down while interest rates are low in anticipation of higher rates down the track? So the one word of advice that I have to offer is - PLAN. Plan where you want your club to be and plan how you are going to get there as a team, as an organisation, as a community club.  Planning will give your board or committee a sense of direction and help the club remain on a profitable path. Think what could happen if interest rates do start to rise and households have even less disposable income. Plan for that possibility.
I’m not the greatest fan of soccer. 
In fact, I reckon some international soccer players would have a great career in Hollywood and win numerous Oscars for their performances. Maybe even an Olympic gold for diving. But I do like the soccer fan club crowd participation with probably the most famous being the Liverpool rendition of  ‘You’ll never walk alone’.
There are many clubs struggling at the moment, and during quiet times boards and committees feel the pressure from members for results. This pressure is then passed onto staff and before long tensions start to rise.
It really is amazing how clubs generally trade in sync with the economy, meaning that clubs collectively will have good and bad times. That is occurring at the moment. The downturn is statewide and boards, committees and management should be aware that they are not alone in their plight. 
As clubs start to examine their trading results more closely, benchmarking is becoming increasingly requested. Clubs want to know how they are performing in relation to the industry and also to learn if other clubs are experiencing the same downturns.  
Believe me, they are! See you on the road.