Getting smarter all the time
Royal Wootton Bassett RFC shows how using smarter integrated solutions is not only making it easier to manage the club and generate more income and profit for its bottom line, but delivering all sorts of benefits for its members as well. Charles de Haan reports.
A growing number of community rugby clubs are adopting a much more professional attitude to the complex challenges of managing their clubs, using innovative software systems to help them deliver new solutions to often old problems.
From more efficient membership administration to improved bar sales and margins, from easier ticket handling to new promotions and membership privileges, some clubs are forging ahead. One in particular, Royal Wootton Bassett RFC, is a great example of how to achieve all sorts of new benefits for its 850 + members and administrative efficiencies for the club.
Step One: get a new loyalty card driven Open Solutions EPoS system
In 2013 the club moved into a new £1.3m clubhouse. Under the direction of Alec Adams, an honorary life member whose passion and enthusiasm for his club and the game soon becomes obvious, the club also took on a new loyalty card based electronic point of sale or EPoS system from Open Solutions back in 2013.
This also came with a comprehensive membership and subscriptions software package, enabling the club to gain from benefits like e-mailing the entire membership their annual subscription invoices. This alone saved £00s each year in postal charges and envelopes alone, plus all the time to print, fold and insert some 850+ invoices the traditional way.
The new EPoS system immediately overcame the problems of running old fashioned stand alone tills. Besides inadequate reporting of bar sales, members had to remember to bring enough cash with them to any event. The new EPoS system changed all that with comprehensive sales reporting, accurate stock control and members’ loyalty cards. The cards made a huge difference; simply by putting money on to their new club cards to pay for drinks, the club immediately gained from carrying all those moneys placed on its members’ accounts with a positive cash flow value of around £6,000+.
Best of all, the club finally got the clarity it had always wanted when it came to its membership administration, as the club’s officers could see precisely who had paid their subscription and who hadn’t, allowing enquiries to be made accordingly. As Adams puts it:
“We went from no-one knowing a thing about the £50k subscriptions situation, to knowing exactly who and how many had paid, and of those who hadn’t, the various reasons why such as injuries, delayed payments or simply moving away. We now have complete control.”
Step Two: get the new fully integrated GMS and EPoS package
Then late in 2016 it was announced that First Sports International, the developers of the Game Management System commissioned by the RFU, was teaming up with Open Solutions so that their GMS could be fully integrated with the EPoS system. Realising that this could potentially deliver all sorts of new efficiencies and benefits to the club, Alec arranged for Royal Wootton Bassett RFC to become one of the clubs to pilot the newly integrated system.
“We’ve been working closely with Open Solutions and FSI to iron out any snags, and at the same time, see ways to improve things from the user’s perspective,” says Adams. “A good example of the unexpected ways in which life is made easier for everyone involved was an event we held last night, when Gloucester’s A team played Exeter Braves at our club.”
He continues: “An event like this represents a huge opportunity but also some massive operational headaches when over 1,000 people are expected to come and watch the match. Using our new GMS and EPoS system, we were able to advertise the tickets and car parking passes on our club website – because it’s also run by FSI - and take the payments straight through their Payment Gateway. This is a merchanting service that’s nearly 60% less per transaction charge than the usual high street bank’s merchanting charge which is around 3%.”
Adams continues: “Using our GMS system meant we could see everyone’s address details as part of the transaction, and so we could post them their tickets and their car park passes. That helped us manage an unusually busy car parking situation last night as passes had to be shown first to gain entry. Gloucester RFC’s people were so impressed that a relatively small amateur club like Royal Wootton Bassett RFC could handle all the sort of challenges that come with running major first class matches, they’ve agreed to consider bringing another of their major fixtures here next year.”
Making the EPoS system’s differential pricing feature work harder
The club’s Open Solutions EPoS system is rich with all sorts of income improving features. One of those is differential pricing: members can be given a percentage discount - 10% in RWBRFC’s case - on drinks’ prices, on production of their card at the point of order and purchase, while club visitors pay the full RRP. With the recent arrival of a new bar manager who’s tasked with improving things, using this particular feature has already started to boost the club’s gross sales margins, vital when every penny counts towards a more profitable bottom line.
The new business manager’s also tasked with attracting more outside events, and while in 2016 these were running at around 20% of the club’s revenues, thanks to her input and a new stand alone room hire website www.meetatbassett.co.uk that showcases the club’s function facilities, this figure’s now starting to increase - and of course every outside function guest will be paying the full RRP as well.
Innovative membership benefits, thanks to the bar cards
Operating bar cards has created some very worthwhile membership benefits. One is that members no longer need to bring cash, but another is their being able to top up online through the club’s website and GMS Payment Gateway. So now, any member going to an event can top up their card during the day and relax knowing they’ve got more than enough to enjoy another great evening at the club.
While every member automatically gets a bar card and club account now, Juniors and U18s are in a different position. The club’s dealt with this by creating a special reversed design for U18s, along with a built in alcohol ban. Parents have access to the card to enable top ups for soft drinks and snacks, while the club can demonstrate it’s helping Juniors and U18s to comply with the law.
The bar cards have also encouraged the club’s management to introduce some new incentive schemes. While team sponsors pay for the players’ team strip, the Minis have had to pay for it; but now, if the parents join and use their club card, 50% of the cost of the shirt is discounted and the money placed on their card account instead. If a senior member brings in a sponsor for the usual £200 sponsorship, £100 goes on to the member’s card as a thank you from the club. And any member who introduces a (brand) new member gets 50% of their first year’s annual subscription value placed on their card as well, providing a great way for everyone at the club to be involved in proactive membership recruitment.
More GMS/EPoS integration benefits for the club
Another innovative cross benefit of the Open Solutions and FSI partnership and its online functionality is enabling Royal Wootton Bassett RFC to achieve massive efficiencies in terms of managing and updating its otherwise complex membership database, while simultaneously giving its members exactly what they want.
Once they’ve signed in, the GMS system enables all members to input their own data to a series of questions about lifestyles as well as straightforward membership and health requirements. For the club, this immediately solves the issue of expending resource trying to manage duplicate databases. For members, they can both see and update their own details whenever they need to, setting new standards of transparency of data. With 2018 bring in new national regulations about data collection and protection by clubs as well as every other kind of organisation, a feature like this has obvious – and automated - benefits.
For the handful of RWBRFC members who are not online or not registered with GMS, they can still do things the traditional way eg. cheques by snail mail, etc., so everyone’s happy.
And the verdict…?
Adams is very pleased with his club’s increasingly sophisticated and smarter approach to its management. The club’s income growth is such that a new club manager has now been recruited, but by using the new EPoS and GMS software package from Open Solutions and FSI, much of the traditional membership administration is semi-automated, allowing more of the new manager’s time to be focused on value creation like new outside function business and marketing, and thus help to deliver an improving and sustainable bottom line.
As Alec Adams expresses it:
“With limits to what we can do in terms of the size of our membership, attracting and maximising our opportunities from outside events is increasingly important, while at the same time the RFU is understandably asking more and more of clubs in terms of data in pursuit of compliance and regulation.”
“Our new software is not only helping us handle ever more complex data input and output requirements, but also achieve all sorts of new administrative efficiencies. It’s not only giving us a comprehensive picture of every vital aspect of our club, but it’s also giving our members all sorts of new benefits and privileges. This is having a very positive impact on our bottom line, but more importantly, on our club’s ability to forge its own way ahead in an increasingly challenging business environment.”