How did Ingleburn RSL Double their Membership?

NINE years ago Ingleburn RSL was in a parlous state. The club desperately needed refurbishments but poor cash flow made the need appear an impossible dream. But by taking a step by step approach with a builder prepared to make each job affordable, the club has enjoyed a remarkable turnaround.

Along the way membership has almost doubled. Former Ingleburn manager, David Marsh, lived with the process for seven of his nine years with the club and has no hesitation in saying that were it not for a committed Board and an understanding building company director, the miracle would never have happened.

Dave, who has since moved on to a role as Group CEO at St Johns Park Bowls Club, said that when he joined Ingleburn in 2005 the club was in big trouble.

“They weren’t cash flow positive and the 30-year old facilities were run down and in major need of an upgrade,” he said.

The first tentative step to arrest the decline involved two relatively minor design and construct projects, a smokers’ deck overlooking an adjacent oval and a Coffee Shop adjacent to the entry. The modern styling of this coffee shop was later to dictate the look of the refurbished club.

Merlot Constructions won those contracts, tendering against the club’s former builder.

Dave was aware of the company from his involvement in the tender process for a major refurbishment of Pennants Hills Bowling Club when he worked there, and through industry word of mouth.

“Right from the start it was obvious that Merlot would suit us as the company was happy to help us out with these smaller jobs in the realization that each of them would improve our cash flow with a view to financing further works. They were particularly cost effective with these smaller jobs.”

When Merlot was appointed in the first instance, David was aware of the company’s industry wide reputation for speed, but it wasn’t until Merlot won the next, job, refurbishing the RSL’s auditorium against a four-week deadline, that he saw this aspect for himself.

“We had to have it finished to cater to some important pre-booked functions. Quite frankly, I didn’t thing the four-week deadline was possible. Yet they managed to pull it off.”

When the smoking ban legislation hit the club, an Outdoor Gaming Area became imperative.

“It was a critical part of the business plan,” David said.

Merlot came to the party immediately, getting council approval in quick time and completing the outdoor area in just eight weeks. The company even provided a delayed payment plan to help the club out while it recovered from the downturn caused by the smoking legislation.

To the club’s relief, the outdoor gaming area was an instant success.

“It made a massive difference to us. There was a fairly substantial increase in turnover, allowing us to become competitive with venues around us that had beaten us to the punch a little bit.”

With a financial position now strengthened, the club decided to bite the bullet and undertake the long overdue renovation of the entire ground floor.

The project, which involved new TAB, main bar, kitchen, bistro, hairdresser salon, childcare room and refurbished foyer was started late in 2009, but it too had a tight deadline. It had to be completed in 16 weeks in time for the club’s biggest trading day of the year, ANZAC Day.

Dave said that by then he wasn’t phased at giving the Merlot an “impossible” time frame. “By this stage I was confident 16 weeks would be achievable, although I knew we would be cutting it fine,” he said.

But even he was surprised when the company brought the job in two weeks ahead of schedule in just 14 weeks.

David said that during this refurbishment there were a number of changes at the behest of management and the Board but nothing phased Merlot. The company bent and adapted and still kept variations to a minimum, with most being mainly for extra inclusions the client added along the way.

He said that Merlot’s experience with staging building projects within a trading environment was clearly evident as the club saw only a minimal impact on trading during the renovations.

He also made the point that quite apart from speed, work quality and the quality of Merlot’s employees, two very real plusses were the hands-on, personal involvement of the company’s Director and Merlot’s flexibility with regard payments.

“It’s very rare that the bloke who owns the business is involved in all of the processes, but Peter is and he holds a few more values than just business.
“They certainly assisted us when we were doing it hard for cash flow by letting us pay off the work in installments,” David said.

After successfully operating for twenty one years in club construction the team at Merlot Constructions are proud to share our free ebook which contains ideas that will increase your Club's revenue while showing you how to save money on your club's fitout.

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