The speed of the leader is the speed of the gang.
Mary Kay Ash
Recently a friend of mine told me they had been invited to be a “prospect” for a local motorcycle club. This was the same club another friend had left last year.
Another friend had been invited to join another motorcycle club and then had the offer withdrawn.
Some others in a third club were starting to encounter the issues that many of us had experienced in the past.
It made me think about all the clubs and associations I knew, and that big or small all of these clubs had the same anatomy – and that this could be easily classified into distinct common categories.
Now I am not talking about the back patch or “brotherhood” bike clubs which are few and far between and have a distinct vetting procedure, only allowing those in to join who meet and demonstate their criteria and have been approved by the membership as a whole. These are a distinctly different breed to what this article is about.
This article attempts to explode the structure of the club whose only membership criteria is that the applicant has the ability and desire to pay the modest annual subscription, (and possibly owns a specific brand of bike in the case of an owners group club).
As I thought about all the clubs I knew, including a club an ex had been a member of, which limited it’s membership to 20, another whose self styled moniker was “alcoholics with a biking problem”, that there was only one that I knew well enough that seemed to buck the trend – this is a Harley club but is not local – otherwise I would join it in a shot.
So I name no specific clubs or individuals and you may disagree with the article but this is my interpretation of the anatomy of a motorcycle club – which probably works for other clubs too – as it plays of the frailties of human nature rather than being biking specific.
At the very top.
The President or Director.
Usually voted in – if it isn’t the groups founder.
They will generally fall into one of the following two types:
Peter “Idi” Amin
Peter has no responsibility in his life except for the remote at home – he desires power but once he has it the club becomes his own personal fiefdom.
Normally will surround himself with sycophants and will ignore anything that he isn’t interested in. Even if a majority of the club would enjoy and contribute to an event – if he isn’t interested in it he will never support it.
Arrogant, ignorant he will take no responsibility for a clubs demise or for any loss of members due to his inept leadership. The only reason he got the job in the first place was because he had a big mouth and other idiots chose to listen to him.
Will probably have a big President badge and God forbid if he ever was to leave would have big Ex Presidents patch as well.
Johnny is the perfect President. He/she is doing it for all the right reasons. They have no thirst for power – they probably are used to making decisions in their business lives and are the perfect leader. They want to make the club a better place and see it thrive. They are a rare breed but they do exist.
The biggest club in my region has one as does the most successful club I know – which is located in the North West – and hasn’t changed for years – mainly because if it isn’t broken you don’t need to fix it.
OK he isn’t quite normal
Of course this is
But any Director is dependent on a vibrant committee as the job of running a club, however small, is too big for one person.
Two types of people join committees. After all it can be a thankless task. You get no remuneration, it takes up a lot of time to do it properly and if you falter there are plenty of idiots ready to pillory you.
The Power mad status grabbing morons
These are mini Peter “Idi” Amins. Once on the committee they think they are better than everyone else – even better than some other members of the committee. On the basis that no committee position is ever contested – because it is such a thankless task – they have not been voted in they have just volunteered.
I remember once having a conversation with an Activities Officer about an event several of us thought would be easy to organise and manage, would be well patronised and would be financially profitable – raising significant funds for charity. The response was “I haven’t got time to do that. You know I don’t get paid for this”.
My response was “YES THAT IS WHY IT IS AN HONORARY POSITION”.
As Jethro Tull sang from the appropriately titled “Thick as a brick”
“My words but a whisper, you’re deafness a shout”
The only way to deal with people like this is to stand up and volunteer and replace them, but most realise it is a thankless task and don’t, which is a shame.
Ah thank God for these. They do it because they want to make their club more successful, happier, full of activities. This is no ego trip for them, it is altruism at it’s purest form.
Alas, usually, these people are new to a group and their enthusiasm can easily wane if the leadership is wrong, if the committee has some of the above types, and if the membership has vocal Parasites as described below. In such a case they end up giving up.
Frankly unless they are doing it for the wrong reasons, ANYONE who wants to be a Committee member should be encouraged to. There are plenty of irrelevant positions already in use that can be assigned, such as Safety Officer, and Historian but there are plenty more that can be created to keep everyone happy, Diversity Officer, Beverage Consultant, and Detailing Officer are three I thought of in 30 seconds.
The more doers a club has the better it will be so every person should be encouraged. All the bollocks that is often talked about such as waiting for the AGM is in fact bollocks. As I said earlier positions are never contested and the more the merrier. My instant recipe for success.
Tombola Captain and Deputy Tombola Captain – see it’s easy to find a position just difficult to fill.
As far as members are concerned they fall into three broad categories.
These join a club because they think it gives them an edge. They are frankly a complete waste of time and effort. You may see them once a year at the AGM but they support and attend nothing. All the club gets out of it is a membership fee.
Back in 2004 the European Harley rally was held in St Tropez. I had been in the local HOG Chapter for a year and had been to every meeting and every event so I knew most people by sight if not to talk too. Along with a good collection of others we travelled in separate groups to the event. At the time Nige Collis was on the Committee and he organised a group photo towards the end of the rally. We all duly turned up to find a bunch of people whom I had never seen, nor had any of my co-riders. All had Chapter patches and the photos were duly taken. Then we suggested going off to the beach bar which is in the complex where the event occurs, and is actually on the sand. You get a drink, turn 180 degrees and there is the Med, St Tropez. It is a magical sight. But no – the invisibles wanted to drink in an Irish bar offsite. So off they trundled, never to be seen again. Total waste of time. If you join you should contribute – which brings me to the next type
“I’ve paid my fees, now entertain me” and if you don’t or if you do something I don’t agree with I’ll bitch and complain but NEVER will I stand up and contribute.
These people are a pain in the ass and are best avoided. Any club of any size has some of these. They forget the golden rule – it may be called a club but it is really a co-operative and each member is 1/n th where n is the number of club members.
These are the takers I despise.
The Ordinary Member
Hoorah – the lifeblood. Decent people, some may not have the confidence or skillset to take on a Committee role but they are enthusiastic supporters of the group and regularly attend most if not all the club’s events, helping out if asked and in it for all the right reasons. If most fall into this category then the club has a future.
I get life members, even if life membership is available by purchasing a number of years annual membership in advance.
What I don’t get is why you would have a patch bigger than your number plate stitched onto your back advertising the point?
It’s not a recognition of long service, you are not the wise old sage of the club who newbies can go to to ask about remapping or exhausts – you just paid up front.
I just think it is a little absurd – I mean would you have a patch the size of Rutland on your jacket that said “42 inch LCD TV” or “Hot Tub owner” “Vindaloo Eater” . Advertise your status by all means – have pride in the club you are a member of, but surely a little patch is all that is needed – somewhere discrete. To me it just says “Knob” in big letters.
How do you determine if a club/the Director/the committee is successful?
I have given this a lot of thought and I believe I have come up with the formula that defines success.
It isn’t total numbers of members as some clubs may only have a dozen members, others may have up to 350 (local experience – some may be even bigger)
Nor is it the number of rides/events they put on or the amount of money the raise for charity or how much they grow in size year on year.
This is my definition of a successful motorcycle club.
After the annual renewal of membership you take the number of members who did not renew.
That is a finite number – eliminate those that have either died, sold their bike or moved away.
The resultant number is the total sum of people who decided that it wasn’t worth renewing.
Remember renewal fees are usually less than a tank of petrol so pretty modest when compared to the cheapest football season ticket.
So not renewing must mean they were dissatisfied with the club for whatever reason – lack of events, internal politics, hostilities, cliques – whatever.
The bigger the number the less successful the Director has been.
Here is a real sobering fact. The local Harley Owners Group club had at it’s peak a membership of circa 350. It stayed reasonably static for several years. However every year 60 members on average did not renew and were replaced with 60 new members.
On average every 6 years the entire membership had given up on the club.
Size, new members, amount raised for Charity, rides etc would put it at no. 1 in the local area but this was a club that ultimately failed.
Today it is a very different story as new leadership and a new committee breathes new life into it.
These are my opinions, they are full of my own prejudices and cock-eyed views of the world. If you are offended by them , sorry I don’t mean to deliberately offend. I don’t hold them out to be anymore right than anyone else’s.
Next up will be the blog about “6 go mad to St Tropez (along with a dozen or so others)”.