14/11/2006 - 21:00

Making connections the right call

14/11/2006 - 21:00


Upgrade your subscription to use this feature.
Making connections the right call

Secrets, as we are seeing graphically in Perth today, only have one purpose: betrayal. But, in keeping with its self-imposed policy of being a largely politics-free zone, Briefcase will not bother with Brian Burke, his silly games with ‘secret ‘phones, or his direct line into state cabinet.

It will, however, look at how secret organisations simply cannot survive in a world that has become astonishingly open thanks to modern communications such as the brilliantly clear phone taps the CCC spooks used on Brian’s bat-phone.

Mr Burke’s telephone conversations were not what set Briefcase on its search of the secret world. That was something that started at the local TAB on the morning of the Melbourne Cup. This is an annual pilgrimage for Briefcase, which is charged with placing the family bets, including two for the late (and still much loved) family dog.

What struck home was that the chaps behind the counter actually seemed to resent the flood of newcomers. Most of us, being once-a-year punters, struggle to fill in the TAB betting slips, have no idea how to put them in the machine on the counter, and frequently botch both steps in the process. Briefcase suspects that some would-be Melbourne Cup punters actually got set on the fourth race at Moe next Saturday.

From a business development perspective what happens on Melbourne Cup morning is a brilliant marketing opportunity, which becomes a tragedy.

The potential is there for the TAB to snare a crop of new customers. The problem is that most are made to feel like outsiders because they do not know the secret processes of getting a bet on, have too much else going on in their lives to be bothered finding out, and certainly don’t want to find out after such a cool reception.

It is an impossible prediction to prove (or disprove) but Briefcase reckons that not a single new regular customer is generated for the TAB from the Melbourne Cup experience. And the staff are probably thankful that they can now get back to dealing with their shrinking base of ageing mates who frequent those dingy and unhappy places.

Briefcase, in keeping with its promise about politics, makes no mention of the fact that the TAB is yet another government agency failing to deliver what people want in a modern, fast-moving world. (There will also be no mention of government hospitals, schools, water supply, police or electricity).


But, since this week’s theme is about secret organisations and secret systems, it is worth having a look at a few other organisations and businesses which alienate, rather than welcome customers.

Health clubs, which have an appalling record of financial failure (hands up anyone who remembers Laurie Potter?) are an example of how a business can become a no-growth organisation pandering to a select few fitness freaks who frown on the unfit who dare make the effort to tone up.

Briefcase knows this to be true because it has looked in the door of a few such clubs, knows there is a benefit to be gained from a little hard work, but always retreats after being made to feel guilty for not being fit enough to use a health club in the first place.

What makes the health club situation particularly naff is that it’s a fair bet that there is a vast untapped pool of the unhealthy who would sign up if they were made to feel welcome, and less guilty, from the moment they step through the front door. In fact, there’s no doubt that the unfit are the very people the health clubs should be chasing.


Keeping with the sporting theme and organisations that isolate themselves from their best marketing opportunity, there is a corker of a case study down at Cottesloe’s Sea View Golf Club.

A couple of years ago, the brains trust that runs the club took effective control of the local town council and rammed through the closure of Jarrad Street, which used to run through the centre of the course.

Given that other golf clubs around the world – St Andrews in Scotland springs to mind – have learned to live with roads and passing traffic, this was an odd, and very unpopular move with many local residents.

History aside, it is now immensely amusing to see that Sea View is desperately short of members, which is little wonder since it so successfully estranged its prime target market – people who live within walking distance.

Today, in an effort to drum up business, Sea View is waiving its $450 joining fee, plus offering two months’ free membership, plus preferential bar prices, and trying to sell itself as a “billion dollar golf course with million dollar views and with membership around $20 a week”.

Briefcase wishes Sea View well, but wonders whether the people in charge, who probably don’t live anywhere near the place, actually understand the damage done by the road closure, which made the club a foreign and secret place to its best potential market.


One more thought on organisations that desperately want members but make it hard for newcomers.

The Liberal Party, bastion of free enterprise and a place in need of friends, is a wonderful example of how to create a rich man’s private club.

Rather than reaching down to the masses (who, last time Briefcase looked, are still allowed to vote) the Libs keep reaching up into the rarefied air of big money, privilege, and snobbery.

Until the Libs learn just how on the nose they really are they have no hope of displacing the government of the day – with, or without, the help of Brian Burke and whoever else is providing him with eyes and ears in cabinet.


“The danger is not that a particular class is unfit to govern. Every class is unfit to govern.” Baron Acton


Subscription Options