Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Fitness Club or Successful Restaurant?

Is your Toastmasters club like a Fitness club or a Successful Restaurant?

Let me explain what I mean....
I was reading a recent blog article by Jonathon Fields where he talked about various business models and how they impacted the quality and the character of the business.

The business model for your average mainstream gym revolves around automated monthly billing. ... New members sign up, often pay an up front fee, then agree to have their credit cards hit every month in advance. Depending on the contract, they may also agree to a minimum commitment (classically, a year) or a simple monthly payment structure. To end the monthly billing, a member must (a) wait until their commitment, if any, has run, then (b) send notice of termination by the precise channels laid out in the contract.

The alleged beauty of this model is that it shifts the burden of reselling and re-earning the membership fee away from the club and, instead, places the burden of termination on the member. Put another way, instead of the club having to resell members every month, the billing only stops when the member proactively says, “no more.”

Sounds like a killer business model, right?

But, here’s where it gets a bit ugly.

This same model also fosters:
* Widespread lack of innovation,
* Declining emphasis on remarkability and delight
* Exceptionally poor differentiation that requires non-stop aggressive marketing
* Uninspired, disengaged staff working for unsatisfactory pay, and
* A 40% annual drop-out that keeps the sales burden exceptionally high

As Toastmasters approaches our next dues renewal period (in March), we should think about whether or not our club has become complacent and boring to our members.

Are the members getting what they want?
The "Moments of Truth" module from Toastmasters Intl. is available for free download (click here) and it addresses this important question. It is also part of the Successful Club Series which is one of the requirements for your Advanced Communicator - Silver (ALS)or Advanced Leader - Bronze (ALB) awards.

Jonathan Field's article goes on to part 2 and part 3 (not yet published) where I'm sure he will give his ideas for a better business model, but I think there is another alternative to the recurring payment / Fitness club analogy that could relate to Toastmasters... the Successful Restaurant.

What makes a Successful Restaurant?
There are a number of keys but, in my humble opinion, the top 3 are the "dining experience", the food and their visibility & reputation in the community. The dining experience includes the environment of the restaurant, the service by your waiter and many more things that either delight or annoy the patrons. What is the "Toastmasters Experience" in your club? Are guests greeted and introduced to Toastmasters? Are your meetings upbeat and enjoyable?

The other part of a successful restaurant is the food. For other businesses, this is their "product". What do you think is the product for Toastmasters? Many might guess the Speeches and manuals but Heath Suddleson, the TM Intl. Director who visited District 53 back in January, offered another answer ... Evaluations. Heath's thinking is that you could do a million speeches but without good evaluations, the odds are you would not get better... or certainly not as quickly as you would with good evaluations.

How good are the evaluations given in your club?
When was the last time that someone presented the TM Successful Club Series module, "Evaluate to Motivate", for the new people in your club? Do you hold your club's evaluators to a high standard so that they encourage speakers while still offering constructive ideas for improvement? (In many ways, I've found that "constructive criticism" is an oxymoron... at least the way I've seen it delivered by some people.)

What if there was a great restaurant that nobody knew existed?
Finally, restaurants that want to be successful must get the word out. They must market their product and help encourage "word of mouth" marketing. Toastmasters clubs are the same way. Who has not had the experience of mentioning Toastmasters in conversations at work or home and having someone say, "What's Toastmasters?". Unfortunately, Toastmasters is one of the best kept secrets in personal development ... and for your club to be successful, that needs to change !

Help is available...
District 53 has numerous resources available to aid in the marketing of your club. There are the membership building ideas from Heath Suddleson which can be requested from any Area Governor and will probably be posted on the district website in the near future.
Your club could have an open house and invite past winners of contests to speak or even a District officer (I know that I would love to speak at your club's open house if we can fit it on my schedule.)

In the end, it is up to you.

Do you want your club to be like a fitness club which loses members at renewal time or a successful restaurant where more and more people come to enjoy themselves in a great environment?

The choice is yours !

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