Step right out onto a terrace of The Westin Riverwalk Hotel and immediately enjoy a sun-drenched view of the famed San Antonio Riverwalk. This made an ideal backdrop for the HFTP 2022 Club Summit that took place earlier this week, where more than 100 club professionals and 13 club vendors converged for two days of advanced industry education, networking and engagement.
A single club executive is often relied upon to wear many hats — accounting, systems management, IT administration, human resources, member services, even F&B management (you name it). So, it was imperative for the conference to cover a wide range of topics that touched on the myriad tasks a club professional may be called upon to handle. The question that seemed most top-of-mind: with club executives stretched so thin in their daily responsibilities, how can technology be leveraged to make their jobs easier (and less stressful)?
In the conference’s kick-off session, “Club Accounting Automation,” a panel sought to answer that very question. The remarkable thing about assembling a panel of practicing club professionals is that they can share their own experiences with implementing technology at their club, the challenges they faced, and the questions they wish they had asked during the process. Here are some of the tips they gave to the audience on what to consider during the tech implementation process:
Always request a LIVE demo of the product, rather than relying on the slideshow pitch decks. A live demo allows you to walk through the interface and see how the new system will interact with your club’s current management system. The more demos, the better. You may not fully know what you want at first. An initial demo will help you narrow down what is important to you, and follow-up demos will help you confirm that the system can do what you need it to do.
Consider all departments when deciding which functions to automate. What type of automation will provide the most value/efficiency for the cost/time spent? Should that automation take place in your own department, or another? Look at the possibilities presented by automation from all different angles.
What is most convenient isn’t always best. There are downsides to automation. You could end up juggling several online dashboards or cloud systems that may not integrate well or communicate with each other. Other challenges include managing a laundry list of passwords and adding more logins, which can be a headache. You could end up working harder in the long run. Make sure that the automation makes sense. Does the new system work well with your current club management system?
Plus, your staff needs to have proper training and support. Technology is often only as good as the people using it. What training is offered for staff? Is it virtual, classroom-style, or one-on-one? Does the training end right after product launch, or is continuous training offered?
Ask the solution provider for references. Events like the Club Summit are always a good reminder that there are so many club professionals out there who are going (or have already gone) through many of the same things you are. Clubs that have already implemented a certain technology are a great resource to identify pain points and see how it is working out before you make a final decision that could wind up costing a great deal in terms of money, time and resources.
Many more takeaways came out of this session, so hopefully you were one of the attendees able to join in-person for the discussion.
"Improve Member Services with a Little Help from Technology" (session sponsored by Alliance HCM) opened a world of possibilities regarding technology. While the club industry may be decades away from some of the most awe-inspiring innovations that are just emerging (think Web 3.0), there are many cool new robotics that are already within reach for the clubs who can spare the capital spending — everything from automated golf caddies, beverage service robots or drone delivery systems, cart tracking platforms, automated lawn care and golf ball retrieving robots, automated chemical sprayers and more.
One especially important point this session made sure to remind everyone of: clubs should always prioritize data privacy protections. With great technology comes great responsibility to protect your members, and cybercrime is on a meteoric rise. You can move your forms online to streamline membership applications, but a new emerging, "man-in-the-middle" threat is called "form jacking," where bad online actors embed themselves in your data forms and intercept the data that your members are keying in. New threats are emerging all the time, and it can be hard to keep up. It is critical to keep all your systems protected. This session also pointed out that 95 percent of cyber breaches are caused by human error, so it underscores the value of constantly training your staff to remain vigilant and aware of all the potential threats out there. (Get started on improving your cybersecurity plan with HFTP's resource, Comprehensive Practices in Club Cybersecurity.)
A third session, "Club Software: Time to Be Heard," tied these conversations together as a large, round-table-style discussion that got tons of input from attendees on what they want from their club technology vendors. This dialogue gave clubs a collective voice on what they want and need, culminating in a comprehensive list that will be shared with solution providers. Be sure to check back on HFTP Connect soon for another blog post focusing on this session and what came out of it.
See You at the Next HFTP Club Summit in 2023
The HFTP Club Summit reframes age-old challenges that have plagued the club industry for years, offering fresh solutions and best practices based on current market conditions. Each new speaker brings something unique to the table based on their own experiences, so you will always have something new to learn (including lessons that others had to learn the hard way, so you don't have to). Not to mention, there are so many networking opportunities available with 100 or more like-minded club professionals — from Hawaii to New York and Minnesota to Texas — that you can learn from. Be sure to attend the next HFTP Club Summit in 2023 for new, refreshed content — if there is anything that the recent pandemic has taught us, you never know what the next year will bring....