Where It All Began and Where It’s Going!

Back in my days at Edgartown Yacht Club, circa 2012.

People often ask me how I got involved in this business after running a successful global advertising and marketing firm based in London for twenty years. It’s a great story and I hope you have a couple of minutes to read about it.

When I returned to my native America after 19 years abroad, I changed careers. I found my leave of absence had caused me to lose those business contacts I may have had in the States. When I had left back in 1991 I had been teaching tennis in the summers and then had been an editor for a New York-based magazine. I knew I could always write.

I wasn’t sure about teaching tennis so that was the challenge and I returned to the courts as a teaching professional in 2007 After spending five years as Head Professional at Quail Valley Golf Club in Vero Beach, Florida, I was recruited by Edgartown Yacht Club on Martha’s Vineyard for their summer season and that started the ball rolling. After the summer, I had to interview for a new role in the fall and that’s when the idea of management consultancy for private members club was born.

Always a pleasure doing business with middle school friends. Shep Murray and I reconnecting at Vineyard Vines’ corporate offices in Stamford, CT.

I was bewildered with questions at interviews. I was amazed with the fact that search committees and boards didn’t view a golf or tennis department as a going business concern. Boards and committees were more inclined to worry about how good a golfer or tennis player their director was. Teaching was secondary. And tertiary or non-existent were any of my top three business requirements from when I ran a multi-national conglomerate: Communication, Accessibility and Consistency. The only consistency they were worried about was in their hire finding the green from the fairway or on the tennis court. And, that’s the last place a director of golf or tennis should be.

Why did club members and current club governance not prioritize hiring a business professional for directors of golf and tennis, or as executive chef? I asked this more and more. The more time I spent at Edgartown – five summers in all – the more I realized my director was a businessperson, not a tennis professional.

In New York City working with Martha Vineyard’s East Chop Tennis Club’s board and balancing their budget with a new hire.

Two winters later I found myself working at Jupiter Island Club in Hobe Sound, Florida. I stayed there for five winters, leaving at the end of my tenure as Head Professional. The club is so seasonal and there were so many empty and unused hours in the middle of the day outside of holiday periods, I found myself yearning for more mindful work. Aside from the fact that the club was not using my potential to the full, I was bored and frustrated. And, from that frustration was born BeyondTheBaselines.com – a management consultancy aimed at club management to help club managers, department heads and staff to better serve membership and realize that they are indeed in the hospitality business, not truly the sports business.

We at Beyond The Baselines have helped countless club managers, department heads, and head professionals. As we grew, we had more and more communication with the club governors, board, and trustees. And with that added communication, I realized that I may have failed. I had failed to serve the niche I had outlined for myself from my initial vision for BeyondTheBaselines.com.

BeyondTheBaselines.com is successful and truly a magnificent consultancy for club management with interim management and management of club departments on a short-term or long-term basis at its core. We were working with club managers across the country and managing clubs either in full or at departmental level. But I had failed to address my first goal: To help club governors, boards and trustees view the club as a business.

management consultant at US Open at The Country Club, Brookline, MA
My daughter and I at The Country Club, Brookline, MA at the final day when Fitzie hit that sand shot on the 18th!

Club managers, I found, did see the club as a business and would battle with boards and trustees over business costs in connection with long-term costs, membership revenue, service levels and more. Members looked at their club as an escape from business, not worried about capital expenses, mentoring employees and hiring business-minded managers and department heads. But you can never truly escape. As my father, who was in the music industry, once told me, there are three things in life you can never avoid: death, taxes and royalties. It’s the same for members and clubs.

From this recurring need for governors to realize they are running a business and the ultimate failure to address my initial vision, I formed The Institute of Club Directors. We needed to work, in addition to Beyond The Baselines, solely at the governance level. Aimed simply at those equity club members involved in short-term and long-term club governance and strategies, The Institute of Club Directors is a forum, a town hall, and a meeting place for board members, governors, and consultants. I hope you enjoy it and use it to its full potential. And, please know, I’m just an email away at management@instituteofclubdirectors.com

Thanks for reading!
Ed Shanaphy