Business Models for Fencing Clubs

Discussion in 'Club Corner' started by jjefferies, Aug 13, 2017.

  1. jjefferies

    jjefferies Podium

    Joined:
    Dec 16, 2005
    Messages:
    3,764
    Likes Received:
    163
    Due to issues uploading it to this forum I've followed JKormann's suggestion and put this paper on a google drive accessible to anyone on the link below.


    This paper is definitely not exhaustive as I put it together as a starting point for others comments, additions, etc. So I'm hoping the more helpful members of this forum will add to it and that others will find it useful when contemplating starting a club.
    Best regards.
    J
     
  2. jjefferies

    jjefferies Podium

    Joined:
    Dec 16, 2005
    Messages:
    3,764
    Likes Received:
    163
  3. Allen Evans

    Allen Evans Podium

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2003
    Messages:
    4,851
    Likes Received:
    906
    So what's your takeaway after writing this? What conclusions have you drawn in terms of starting or managing a fencing club? Is there a "best practices" model over all....or just one for each sort of business organization?
     
  4. jjefferies

    jjefferies Podium

    Joined:
    Dec 16, 2005
    Messages:
    3,764
    Likes Received:
    163
    I'll take a stab at this. Cole's point about the lone Maestro club being left behind in favor of a multi-coach establishment seems to me to be a desirable direction. This consolidation, IMHO, is desirable, as it says that there can be an agreed upon core curriculum that all the coaches teach from. Which can't help but be an advantage for the fencer. Further with multiple coaches, the student can be more comfortable and if there are disagreements or personality clashes less likely left with the hard choice of "my way or the highway" and the club itself can retain students more easily.

    I'm hesitant to mention names of clubs that are changing in my Division simply because I haven't heard from the principles directly and don't want to spread third hand gossip which might not be accurate. That said I understand that there are two clubs, one of which has been in existance for 25 years, which have or are in the process of merging with other clubs to combine strengths.

    One of the biggest problem in the US is egos. I'm told that most European educated coaches are used to working collaboratively from their coaching school days. This gives them something of a leg up in a multiple coach environment and lets face it having to deal with other coaches' egos is an issue. Consolidation is a known phase in most businesses and can be a positive thing unless it gets out of hand. The desire is for American fencing clubs and the sport in general to grow. Consolidation, making the clubs larger, more stable and more able to cope with economic adversities is very desirable in my view. It provides coaches with what most of us take for granted in other businesses such as vacations, medical insurance, retirement etc. It also enables the coach to do what most coaches want to do which is "coach". As i pointed out in the "Sole Proprietorship" model, the owner-coach is forced to wear many hats which can interfere with actually coaching.

    Regarding which model is preferable really depends on the situation and as noted depends to a great deal on the three major issues: control/governance, personal liability, income and taxation. Somehow the founder(s) have to reach a compromise acceptable to them. But anything short of a LLC is just down right foolish, it seems to me in this litigious society we live in.

    Anyone else care to express an opinion?
     
  5. Allen Evans

    Allen Evans Podium

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2003
    Messages:
    4,851
    Likes Received:
    906
    My take on your paper is that primarily you've written a short explanation of "business organizations" rather than a paper about "business models". The definition of "business model" that I've always understood is "how does the business make money?" *. It's not unhelpful to have written your paper, but I would love to see a bigger discussion about how clubs are actually structured to perform.

    In that regard, clubs in the US seem to use a very limited number of ways of approaching fencing as a business. I suspect (without having any data other than personal observation) that the vast majority of clubs in the US are using the Introductory Class --> Private lesson model. This can't be the only approach. I'm not even sure it's the best approach, though our current results can't be argued with.

    You correctly point out that a sole coach running a club may have to wear a number of hats, but frankly, that's not necessary. Any aspect of running a fencing club besides the actual fencing instruction can be farmed out (or automated) to a great extent. The biggest problem with a sole coach running a club (in my experience) is that for the most part, the size of the club is limited to the number of students a single coach can interact with on a frequent basis, especially if they are following the Class --> Lesson approach. This limits the size of the club and thus the maximum income available.

    I'm not sure that coaching egos are "the biggest problem" for clubs in the United States, but egos are certainly one of a number of issues clubs face. I think a bigger (if not the biggest) problem for fencing in the US is one of simply understanding that fencing has to be approached (by the coach or coaches) as a business, what that approach actually involves, and how to blend the business and coaching sides of the business so that they complement each other.

    A

    *I may be being a bit anal here, so I beg forgiveness
     
  6. Zebra

    Zebra Podium

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2013
    Messages:
    1,031
    Likes Received:
    289
    I think it also makes sense at big tournaments: send only one or two of the coaches (depending on the number of fencers) so the parents won't have to pay so much.
     
  7. Allen Evans

    Allen Evans Podium

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2003
    Messages:
    4,851
    Likes Received:
    906
    One of the things to think about is that often, coaches from the same country will be trained in the same system. So yes, they've learned to work in a cooperative environment, but they also often share basic, fundamental assumptions about training and how to approach common tactical situations. This helps remove some of the friction that might occur when coaches are sharing teaching duties.
     
  8. jjefferies

    jjefferies Podium

    Joined:
    Dec 16, 2005
    Messages:
    3,764
    Likes Received:
    163
    Yes, you are correct. But when I got into researching the question, nailing down what constitutes a model was an issue. Mathew Robinson's book (243 pages including references) just begins to scratch the surface. My five pages were intended to just say here's where you can begin to look. And I may not have adequately paraphrased his view point that there are models of the club from the outside (as seen as a legal business entity) and then from inside (management) . It is quite possible that I am guilty of focusing on what was simpler to handle in a short paper. What I was hoping for was to get the discussion started. Your observation that the common approach of beginning class -> private lesson may not be the only approach is what I am hoping to provoke. Has anyone tried any other approach? And on another subject of particular use what are the marketing ideas/approaches? What approaches have different clubs tried and what did and didn't work? That is something that I think would be very helpful.

    So this 4-5 page paper isn't an adequate answer but I'm hoping it might serve to start the discussion. At least saying here are other books and resources that can help. Another point is that by abstracting (i.e. examining procedures/activities) as a model we can more easily see how to improve.

    Another thing that I did not adequately deal with is the pitfalls of the various business models/arrangements. This is a very difficult subject as it often entails revelations of personal and institutional failures. And we have a tendency to get sidetracked into salacious gossip without understanding that we can and need to learn from failure. Don't know how to handle that.
     
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2017
  9. Allen Evans

    Allen Evans Podium

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2003
    Messages:
    4,851
    Likes Received:
    906
    I think that Sheridan Fencing uses a series of group training classes for much of their work, though I'm ignorant of the details. (check his website for his excellent blog in which an entry discusses this). I know at least one other club that is making a move from individual lessons to group drills.

    Constructing effective group drills is a challenge for most coaches, and except for Vinnie Bradfords "Taking Foil Groups to the Competitive Level" (now out of print, I believe) there are not many manuals for this sort of work. So I suspect that we won't see this happen in a lot of places until more is written about conducting group drills.

    Centering a club on group training also involves a certain amount of swimming against the tide. Individual lessons are expected by many fencers (and more than a few parents) and it sometimes takes some convincing of fencers and parents that the group drills can be useful.
     
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2017

Share This Page