Who would have imagined it?
by Mike Bryan, UCR Director
Whenever I hear someone talking about the growth and success of an organization from its early, humble beginnings, I try to picture how it might have got off the ground. I imagine it starting with an idea, not necessarily a very clear one, but enough for the originator to inspire a few other people and get going. We’ve all heard original drivers of successful ventures saying, “I had no idea that my conversation in a bar with a few friends 30 years ago would have led to the size, scope, success etc. of today’s organization.” That’s not just modesty, but the truth, because we really don’t know what will happen and we’re often just happy to let things take their own course, as in “we’ll see where it takes us”. Well, for UCR it’s taken us to over 2,100 primary members plus the family/friend members, which makes about 3,400 in total. Now this is a number that has crept up on us and one that is continuing to increase, with no end in sight, as sales of new Porsches keep growing and more Porsche drivers join our club.
How to answer the difficult questions
All credit to the past and current volunteers who have built UCR into what it is today – one of the largest and most successful clubs within the PCA’s family of 140 regional clubs. Experience tells us, though, that when things are running smoothly, it’s not the time to sit back and relax, but to look ahead, plan for future challenges and look for new ways to improve the membership experience. We’re faced with questions like, “How will we cope with further growth? How are our members’ needs changing? What external factors could present new challenges?” Of course, there’s no simple answer to such questions, so there’s a risk they could remain unanswered. No chance of that, though, with Walter Murray as our President. It didn’t take Walter long to propose a committee to focus on the big picture issues and develop a vision for the future to not only address the areas requiring attention, but include all areas of UCR activity. So for several months I had the privilege of working with Mario Marrello, Brent Muir, Arthur Quinlan and Andy Wright as the Vision For The Future Committee. I want to recognize them for the tremendous energy and commitment they brought to our task, particularly after working all day at their real jobs and then driving through snow and rush hour traffic to our meetings. We started by defining the benefits that we hoped a vision for the future would deliver:
– Resolve, or at least, create processes for resolving issues that need to be addressed.
– Help anticipate change.
– Identify priority areas and make proposals on their future direction.
– Provide clarity, direction and common purpose throughout UCR management.
Next we broke down the totality of UCR activities into homogeneous areas of activity:
- Social Events
- Community Relations
- Member Services
- Driver Education
- External Relations
We then applied a simple process for discussing each area, asking:
– Where are we now?
– How did we get there?
– Where are we going (if we continue with no change)?
– Where should we be going?
– How will we get there?
Let me share some highlights from our conclusions and proposals for each area:
1. Social Events
These include Monthly Socials, Autocross, Fun Runs, Rallies and Targa, Concours d’Elegance, Annual Banquet, Tech Sessions and Open House, all of which contain the common thread of being with other people…and their Porsches. We recognized the need to create a more predictable pattern for Monthly Socials and establishing a speaker program designed to inform and entertain on auto-related topics. We should also consider holding socials outside GTA in the western, eastern and northern sectors of our region. What became crystal clear was that success of all social events was dependent on the volunteers running them.
2. Community Relations
This is about our interaction with the external community. We proposed a vision to replace our past reactive approach with a proactive one based on the leveraging of UCR’s special assets, i.e. Porsche cars, access to tracks and members keen to give their time to worthy causes. The plan would be based on giving back to the community in unique ways, not with donations from club funds, but with our time, energy and enthusiasm, e.g. hosting a day at the track with rides for disabled people, running safe driving programs for teens, providing vehicles and volunteers to support community charitable events, etc. A volunteer should be found to take the lead on developing a strategy and an annual plan for board approval.
Driver Education and Provinz are by far the largest income and expense generators for UCR. As Provinz has evolved into a high-quality publication, the portion of membership dues rebated by PCA to UCR for its funding has effectively shrunk by over 20 percent as the exchange rate has moved close to par. Also, with no increase in membership dues for at least ten years, there have been no inflationary adjustments to the rebate. We supported the recent formula designed to make Provinz self-supporting and proposed ways to ensure the same for all UCR events. This will leave the Driver Education program with more flexibility to manage any future challenges with track costs.
After defining the tasks, skills and roles for the Communications Team members in 2012, there is now scope to refine the roles of Provinz, the UCR website, email blasts and social media. Another means of communication with members is through the events themselves and our committee recommended greater exploitation of such opportunities to gather on-site and post-event feedback.
5. Member Services
We recognized the diverse interests and levels of interest among UCR members. UCR management should keep seeking member feedback and be prepared to act on the responses, creating new events and modifying existing ones in line with their needs. We reviewed the geographic spread of our members and recommended assessing the demand for events outside the GTA. This may lead to the running of more events in the western, northern and eastern sectors and to increasing capacity for current events that are sometimes over-subscribed. That, of course, means that more volunteers will be needed to plan and organize a greater number of club events.
6. Driver Education
Driver Education is a vital component of UCR activity in terms of member participation and net income. It may face new challenges as Mosport’s new management develops its strategy, so it will be important to establish good relations and be aware of decisions that could affect UCR’s DE program.
The popularity of DE is leading to some capacity issues and the main constraining factor is the number of instructors required. Recognition, rotation, and succession planning will be vital to maintain a strong instructor team.
Our committee recommended that a plan be developed for coping with capacity issues, cost changes and contingencies for any major changes in access to Mosport. This is already in hand under the capable direction of Track Chair, Dave Osborne.
The success of UCR is entirely dependent on the quality and commitment of it volunteers. New ways were proposed to increase the pool and develop succession planning. It will be important to match skills and experience to volunteer roles, so that volunteers are more likely to enjoy their role and bring new ideas.
We also recommended some changes in UCR governance to better reflect what needs to be managed and to seek the appropriate skills and experience. The nomination and election processes should reflect the importance of getting the right balance between continuity, stability and new blood.
8. External Relations
We proposed that a volunteer team work on enhancing relationships with advertisers and sponsors. We should keep building our relations with Porsche Cars Canada and its dealers since there are clear benefits to all parties.
The Vision For The Future Committee report has been accepted by the UCR board. Before the dust can even begin to gather on it, we are discussing one of the eight subject areas at each monthly board meeting. In some cases the discussion leads to immediate action, while other topics are referred to new work groups for further development. What I can tell you with confidence is that each small step taken will result in a stronger UCR, better equipped to meet your needs and ready to face the challenges ahead.
If you’d like to take a look at the full Vision For The Future Committee, just go to www.pcaucr.org. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me, any other committee member or any board member.