Main entrance in Keen Street to Lismore and District Workers Club.
Main entrance in Keen Street to Lismore and District Workers Club. Jay Cronan

Members big winners as clubs diversify

WHEN Richard Mackney took over as president of the Lismore Workers group late last year, he knew both he and his new board had a challenge ahead of them.

The previous year the group, which includes the Workers' Club in Keen Street, the Lismore Heights Bowling Club, the Lismore Golf Club and the Workers and Sports Club at Goonellabah, had just posted a large loss.

Yet a mere 12-months later, the club posted a profit of $17,000 - a turnaround of about $400,000.

But when Mackney's board was elected, the result announced yesterday was far from guaranteed.

The timing could not have been worse for the newly elected board.

Not only had revenue for all clubs around the state taken a hit from the smoking ban, but by August the world economic crisis had struck and households began tightening their belts.

“It hasn't been an easy year with the downturn,” Mr Mackney said.

“We had to be very proactive; luckily we have a very experienced board.”

As part of the on-going integration of the four clubs under the one banner, the group has appointed new premise managers at the Heights and Sports clubs.

It has also installed up-to-date technology, with the sole purpose of allowing a member to walk into any club and enjoy the benefits of the entire group.

“It's an outlay but it's a service to our members,” Mr Mackney said.

“They can go to any of the clubs and they are totally part of the group.”

This includes entering the draw, no matter what door the member walk through.

Mr Mackney said diversifying what the club offers was also important in bringing people back to their club.

It recently opened About Time, a restaurant at the Bowling Club.

“Mums can drop their kids off at school and then come into the club for a catch-up over a coffee,” Mr Mackney said.

It has also completed numerous renovations at the Workers, including Reflections, a modern TAB and outdoor smoking areas.

It is also in the process of replacing a green and buying the land at the Sport's club, which is currently owned by Lismore council in trust.

At the Golf Club, the group is building a new storage area for the buggies.

Yet with such a large transformation across the group, Mr Mackney concedes there is the risk of alienating long-standing members and staff who don't like change.

To this end the group recently appointed a Human Resource manager to keep staff happy and focused on customer service.

To members, Mr Mackney said it was important to take them along and explain that unless changes were made, the club would not have a sustainable future.

“It all costs money, but it's an investment. We are not about making a huge profit - everything goes back to our members.”

“People often ask me what community groups I am involved with. I always answer this is my community.”

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