Dear members,

In conversations with past presidents and longtime members, I’m often greeted with the notion that the club has “always been this way”. It could be easy to believe that the only thing that ever changes at the club is the pace at which things stay the same. 

But we know better.   

In the past six months alone, we’ve introduced All Nippon Airways Catering as our primary food & beverage vendor and BOS Partners as the new operators of Masukomi, our fabled sushi bar. Two months ago, we hired a general manager who is quickly putting the club on track toward financial sustainability. This includes a fiscal 2024 budget, pending general membership approval, that projects the first cash surplus for the club in many years.

These milestones, while not revolutionary, were achieved by valuing swift action over protracted deliberation and by embracing calculated risks over static caution. Such a mindset is equally critical in our approach to digital transformation.

Failing fast has become a cliché for a reason. The technologies that can benefit the club are themselves operating on these same principles. What works today might be inadequate tomorrow.

One example would be setting up an online reservation system. I will spare you the details, but believe me when I say there are dozens of ways in which we can do this.

Our initial attempt to use for events and Pen & Quill reservations failed. All was ready to go, but we pulled the plug because the app was too restaurant focused, and we wanted something that would help us bring event reservations online in the same environment. The net investment of club money in the experiments was zero. The whole exercise was over and done with in a month. We’ve moved on and have taken on a Square account that will allow us to simplify credit card payments at the club and more easily use QR codes in promotions and within the club itself. This too may not work out. But here again, the cash investment is zero, so far, and the time has also been kept to a minimum.

A much clearer win has been the addition of free Microsoft 365 applications for staff. As a public benefit corporation, the club qualifies for lots of free software. But here, the process was quite slow and fitful. Thanks to the dogged persistence and diligence of Toshiko Kawanami, the club’s innovation officer, we were at last able to secure a very valuable package of free Microsoft 365 applications for staff. These resources, which include some free access to Microsoft’s Azure cloud service, mean the club can significantly reduce operating costs and make collaboration between staff and among committee members much simpler, faster, and more reliable. 

Here too, though, there may be some failures. Not all Microsoft products will be ideal for the club. We have also obtained access to Google’s free services for nonprofits. We may end up using that as well as the club’s operating backbone. Either way, our goal is to move quickly, based on the idea that trial and error – or iteration as they like to say in IT circles – is the only realistic path. 

As long as we focus on failing fast and not over-committing resources, we can be confident that success will be the final result.

Dave McCombs
President, FCCJ