The Provincial Masonic Halls Committee staged their sixth annual seminar at Preston Masonic Hall where 50 hall and group chairmen and their teams heard not only about success stories which have helped revitalise the fortunes of halls but also about innovations which could result in considerable savings in running costs – some of them quite literally.
The Provincial Halls Committee brought together five presentations which covered a diverse range of topics which are hoped will be beneficial to hall executive teams charged with the ever challenging task of managing halls. Halls Committee Coordinator Tony Hough welcomed delegates to Preston from all over West Lancashire and introduced Assistant Provincial Grand Master John Hutton, who leads the halls team, and other members of the committee, vice chairman Steve Bolton and secretary Bob Boal.
John, on behalf of Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison, who was unfortunately unable to attend the seminar, expressed the hope that everyone enjoyed the presentations and that, importantly, they got something from them which might help with the vital work which halls teams do and might help halls to greater profitability.
Tony introduced the first keynote speaker Jody Brown, a senior engineer from Gentworks Ltd, who gave his audience much to think about on the subject of waterless toilets. Jody pointed out the considerable benefits to be had by introducing this system.
Called the ‘McDonald’s Effect’ after the fast food chain which introduced them, Jody underlined how halls could benefit not only by using less water but could improve on hygiene, have fewer blockages, no floods or smells and make maintenance and cleaning easier. He gave a brief outline on the types of systems available and how existing systems could be retrofitted comparatively cheaply. In new builds, the systems cost about half as much as an old style flush toilet unit to install. John Hutton endorsed what Jody had to say as Swinton Masonic Hall has already introduced waterless toilets and enjoys benefits in savings, cleaning and servicing.
Paul Heathcote was the next presenter to take to the rostrum. Paul leads the management committee of Swinton Masonic Hall and is a Global Customer Advisor for his company Oracle. His theme was ‘Finance in the Information Age’. He detailed how Swinton brought its previously outdated data and analysis systems together using simplified modern technology to get a full picture of all business operations. The hall is now in a position to maximise on profitability and react to any ‘compelling event’ which they had not been able to do previously.
Paul went into some detail of how the new system had proved to be a beneficial management tool which covered a multiplicity of areas ranging from lodge and private function bookings to rent, wages, tills and inventory and which could be accessed from a ‘Cloud’ by any number of electronic devices by the Swinton management team. Paul, saying that halls in his view should not be in competition with each other, and recognising that expertise is expensive, offered to share the system with any other hall team who wished to avail themselves of it.
After a mid morning break Warrington Mason Andrew Young explained the advantages of advertising halls’ private function facilities and services through the medium of Facebook. He traced the effectiveness of the campaign which promotes Warrington Masonic Hall and how he discovered that by fine tuning adverts, halls can target specific markets to highlight the facilities that halls have to offer – especially weddings in Warrington’s case.
Andrew advised that for a modestly priced monthly advert there is a wealth of information available from Facebook. Warrington’s Winmarleigh House private function suite now attracts hits on their website of 3,000 per month, the majority, 98%, coming from mobile devices. Andrew emphasised that the secret of success is that hall websites should be first rate and regularly updated in the first instance as the Facebook adverts direct users directly to it. He said that pictures of professional models obtained at a small cost, were first used, then replaced by pictures of more ‘down to earth’ models, before settling on a picture of one particular ’bride’ who has become the poster girl for the Warrington website.
This has proved a winner and Warrington Masonic Hall is fast becoming the go-to place for local weddings. Andrew offered to advise other halls who are interested in promoting their private facilities from the experiences he has gained at Warrington Masonic hall.
John McIntyre the group secretary for the Warrington Group endorsed the success of their Facebook campaign, underlining that Warrington Masonic Hall was now seen as the go-to place by the local community for celebratory events and how cost effective the campaign has been.
Lesley McGee the promotions manager for the Park Club at Cleveleys Masonic Hall also echoed Andrew’s remarks as, following a presentation by Andrew at Cleveleys; she has put his recommendations into place and has similarly found a substantial rise in bookings for private functions.
Gary Taylor of David Roberts and Partners was the next speaker to take the floor to talk about new government legislation concerning workplace pensions. Gary said that the simple fact of life was that if halls employed someone they would be required to offer a private pension scheme. Gary said that by 2016/17 over 120,000 businesses including Masonic halls would be given staging dates by the Pensions Regulator to comply with the new regulations. He took the seminar through the preparations and intricacies of a variety of pension schemes which were required and cautioned that the sooner plans were put in place the simpler the process would become. He outlined various agencies which could be used as pension providers and added that his firm would be able to give advice to halls on setting up the requisite schemes.
The final presentation of the day was by David Barker, Sales Director of Carlsberg Tetley, who brought along several colleagues; accounts manager Neil Horn, independent club specialist Jonathon Yates and utilities specialist Stephen Cross who networked with the hall chairmen during the seminar.
David spoke about the Carlsberg brands and the cost savings his company could offer working together with hall chairmen in a difficult market. He said how impressed he had been with what he had heard at the seminar on the running of Masonic halls’ businesses and how it mirrored packages which Carlsberg could offer in many areas, not only in product but in cost savings in utilities and in reenergising halls. David told the seminar that Carlsberg, as the fourth largest brewer in the world, could offer practical solutions to halls which would help drive business. He said that Carlsberg would beat any deal that was currently on offer from other brewers and would make honest proposals to enable cost savings to be made by halls in a variety of areas.
Jonathon Yates was then introduced by David and he spoke about CLUBCO, an independent organisation whose mission is to work with Clubs to make them profitable and sustainable with as little or as much support as the club requires. He cited examples of working men’s clubs where his organisation had turned round their fortunes by various means and helped increase profitability and membership and offered his organisation’s assistance to Masonic halls.
John Hutton closed the seminar by thanking all of the presenters who had taken part and the hall chairmen and their teams for attending. He underlined the advantages of halls sharing what they had found to be success stories in marketing their halls and areas where profitability could be improved. For the future he asked that hall chairmen let the Provincial Masonic Halls Committee know of any topic they would like to hear discussed at their annual seminar.