When two North East golf clubs felt that aspects of their operations risked veering off the 'fairway' and 'into the rough', they decided to introduce some new players to their game and talk to business students at Northumbria University.
The two clubs are located in very different areas of our region but both have particularly scenic settings. Allendale Golf Club’s nine-hole course in Northumberland is situated among the hills in an area of outstanding natural beauty, while Whitley Bay Golf Club’s 18-hole course in Tyne and Wear enjoys stunning views of the coast and countryside. Each had very different reasons for seeking support from the University’s business students.
For Whitley Bay Golf Club, with over 800 active members, the question was mainly about how to make better use of the facilities to generate additional income, without compromising the positive experience of the club’s loyal players.
In contrast, Allendale Golf Club has a much smaller membership of just 128 and with many of them older, there were concerns over how to both maintain and increase membership levels going forward. The club is kept open mainly by the hard work of volunteers and many facilities, such as the bar in the club house, are not fully utilised due to a shortage of employed staff to run them.
Both called on the support of Northumbria University’s Business Clinic on the advice of friends and acquaintances who’d had good experiences with the initiative. The Business Clinic at Newcastle Business School is an education scheme whereby a group of students form a ‘consultancy firm’ to provide free advice for clients. Students are asked to analyse the problem they are presented with, consider possible solutions and provide a detailed report and full presentation of their recommendations.
Two teams of business students chose to tee-up for the challenge. Each group thoroughly researched their respective courses, the facilities and current and potential usage, considering a range of options to suit each club.
Colin Wraith, Chairman of Allendale Golf Club, was impressed with their work. He said: “They were excellent, their work provided a great refresher for us when looking at different areas where we could potentially develop the club. Their report was very helpful, particularly the review of possible community initiatives and we’ll be sharing their findings with the general committee. Overall, I have to say they were extremely professional, the work was of a fantastic quality and the whole experience has been great.”
Keith Williamson, a Director at Whitley Bay Golf Club, is in agreement. He said: “The students were very easy to work with and had clearly thought about the problem we posed to them before we met for the first time. The research they provided was thorough and very relevant and it was great to get a fresh look at our club from four non-golfers, as this provided a level of insight we would not have been able to get internally.”
Both Colin and Keith would recommend the Business Clinic service to other organisations facing challenges or looking for a new direction. Since the Business Clinic launched, over 600 students supervised by University staff have advised over 145 organisations on a wide range of business problems. The total value of the students’ pro bono expertise has been estimated by the client organisations to exceed £700,000.
Nigel Coates, Director of the Business Clinic for Northumbria University, says: “We have found that the Business Clinic is not only a great experience for our students, but a huge opportunity for organisations of all kinds, large and small, local and national, to get the kind of comprehensive advice they might otherwise be unable to access.
“The feedback we’ve had is extremely positive across the broad range of organisations we have worked with recently and we’re looking forward to supporting more businesses in the years to come. We’d encourage any firms considering getting involved to get in touch.”
The Business Clinic’s consultancy services are available to all types of businesses from SMEs and multinationals through to not-for-profit organisations. If you feel the students may be able to help your business and would like to find out more, you can get in touch by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Business Clinic is part of Northumbria University’s award-winning Business School; recognised as Business School of the Year in 2015 and more recently, the first North East Business School to win the Small Business Charter for services to SMEs.