The new normal for many consumers includes eating out once every two weeks instead of every one, getting a haircut every eight weeks instead of six and turning off lights to save on electricity bills.

Lifestyle changes and drastic cutbacks in spending have had a profound impact on businesses, including layoffs, pay cuts, unpaid time off and decreased benefits. The new norm for business leaders includes an unswerving focus on key governance and customer service issues; including strengthening board communication and increasing your ability to better serve your clients, patients and members.

To understand what’s going on both inside and outside of your organization, you must begin collecting data on the needs of your internal, external and potential customers and then distill and synthesize it in a meaningful way.  Many technology tools can assist you. A recent success story describes how this is accomplished.

The Metropolitan PGA, representing 550 members of the Professional Golfer’s Association and 800 total golf professionals working and living in the NY Metropolitan area, engaged different phases of research including a combination of online surveys and one-on-one interviews to achieve valuable results, combined with strategic work and educational leadership programs to increase their ability and effectiveness to better serve their members. 

Board data collection: Since it all starts with effective governance, they collected and assessed data from one-on-one interviews with Met PGA board members to understand how well the board was functioning and representing people in their association. They wanted to learn what was viewed as the most critical board priorities for strategic planning over the coming years. They also wanted to put a criteria-based process in place to select and attract new board members to serve the organization.

Member data collection: Using a technology-driven model, they gathered information that analyzed the impact of the economy on their members’ facilities, including staffing issues, operational budgets, inventory levels and programs to increase play. They gathered information concerning financial operations and financial metrics to help members manage their businesses more effectively and develop closer member relationships.

New mission statement: A new clear, concise mission statement was developed to clarify the organization’s purpose and strengthen their focus on what matters on a daily, monthly and yearly basis. It serves to engage the leadership and staff of why they come to work each day.

Developing leadership capacity: Based on data uncovered from the research, they provided educational training seminars and a communication strategy to improve customer service and financial literacy skills.

The results: The Met PGA’s goal was to improve internal communications, board governance as well as the professional skills of their membership.  As a service organization and trade association, an important measurable goal was to provide increased value to its members.  There were a number of significant tangible benefits from the actions they took,  including a 66% increase in survey response rates, an almost 100% increase in participation in leadership program attendance, as well as a 20% increase in participation at their opening Spring Business Meeting. Engagement through participation is helping to move the organization forward in its efforts to effectively serve their membership.

A repeatable model: With the business environment in a state of stress, it is extremely important to keep in contact with your customers, suppliers and members in order to understand their changing needs. This information can help you to make highly informed decisions to improve product lines and change processes to better meet the needs of your customers and measure your business.

What the Met PGA experienced and how they took action, is transferable to any business. The customized the electronic survey they used, created a high number of responses in a very short amount of time and provided a baseline of hard data that can be compared over time. “We’re able to quantify the trends we’ve seen and discussed. This adds legitimacy to discussions, and allows our professionals to provide better service to their clubs,” said Charlie Robson, executive director.

It all comes down to a basic fundamental: know your customers and stay close to them. You will position your organization as forward thinking and smart. It’s the key to maintaining your edge through this difficult time and will put you ahead of the curve.

Stuart R. Levine is Chairman and CEO of Stuart Levine & Associates LLC, a strategic consulting and leadership development company. He is author of Cut to the Chase (Doubleday, 2007) and The Six Fundamentals of Success (Doubleday, 2004). For information about our board governance programs and assessment tools, please call 516-465-0800.