Talking to Michael Bown, Club Growth Director
Based on an interview September 4th 2016
To meet Michael Bown, Club Growth Director (CGD) is to get excited about the future growth of Toastmaster clubs in District 21. He comes to the role with a strong track record – last year as Division A Director he brought his Division from not Distinguished at all to Select Distinguished status. He is a young man who leads with enthusiasm.
Michael’s day job is as Client Services Manager with BC Pensions Corporation where he is responsible for a staff who process a large volume of pension estimates. But being responsible for club growth in D21, he says is more than a job, it’s a job and a half.
He belongs to two clubs – Trestle Toastmasters and Nighthawks in Victoria. In addition he is chartering a new ESL club for people who might need a more relaxed environment as they struggle with English as a Second Language and who might feel intimidated by native English speakers. (Photo taken at the border between North and South Korea, 2011)
Michael started his Toastmaster journey after he had been curious about Toastmasters for a while and he finally joined a corporate club at his workplace. He went from visitor to VP Education in a couple of weeks. “And I’ve been saying ‘yes’ ever since”. He credits May Soo Tveita and George Harjani for inspiring him and mentoring him along the way.
He ran for Club Growth Director because he wanted to continue service in District 21 beyond Division Director and he saw the potential and the growth opportunities. He had enjoyed the success of coaching Nighthawks club from eight members (and looking as if it might slide down to five) up to 14 members. With pride he says “We’ve had guests every week since January.”
To convert these guests he asks them at their first meeting to present a two-minute ‘Smile Story’ at the next meeting. At that point he’s ready to close the sale. He is a strong advocate of using MeetUp. He has used it successfully to bring in guests and he’s planning to use it extensively to help struggling clubs throughout the District. (stand by for news about this upcoming initiative).
Michael has plans for many more initiatives to grow District 21. At present D21 has 150 clubs. He hopes to have 162 clubs by next June. If we can do that, he says, we can be on stage at the upcoming TI Convention in Vancouver next August. One way to add members and clubs he says, is community outreach. The Trio recently had a booth at the White Rock Farmers’ Market and they plan to be in parades and have mall booths in the near future.
To get us excited about this growth he is bringing in Peter Kossowan DTM who has started 170 clubs (yes, 170 new clubs) mainly in Alberta. Peter is so well known there that they named a club after him in Edmonton.
Michael believes that the key to club growth is a positive member experience and the key component to club quality is member strength – it’s Quantity plus Quality. We need more people in each club to give a more varied and interesting experience. Same old, same old leads to a weak meeting. We need to support all clubs to achieve excellence.
A recent successful initiative was Summer Sizzler which rewarded clubs who have had a 20% membership increase over the summer months. For struggling clubs Joe Guenette is recruiting and training club coaches to help them grow.
Michael is also planning more and greater incentives for club growth. He himself is inspired by working with other D21 leaders who really care about all D21 members and who are looking for fresh, new ideas to grow clubs.
“Clubs have to be successful for the district to be successful. I have to look out for all 150 clubs that we have as well as growing more. TI is looking for 12 more but my personal aim is to grow 15 more clubs – a 10% increase over the year. With quality meetings we can do that.