I am very unimpressed with business club One Alfred Place. On Friday they axed a number of members, including a very good friend of mine. They did so by sending the following email:
I am contacting you alongside other members who have shown a rather
high frequency of club visits during their time with us.
One Alfred Place is a business ‘club’ but we feel that some members
are treating it more like a serviced office and unfortunately our
business model simply cannot support this level of usage.
It is with regret that we are unable to renew your membership at this
time but as the renewal date has passed, we are more than happy to
offer a further month in order to allow you time to find somewhere
more suitable for your needs.
We thank you for your support during the last two years and wish you
great success in the future.
One Alfred Place
The new CEO, Sharon Brittan then explained this action to The Independent in what is clearly an attempt to spin it and get positive PR for the club:
She’s wasting no time in making changes to the business, including axing club members she doesn’t rate.
“I think the club is a fantastic concept but the delivery needed some amendments,” explains the bouncy Brittan when I call. “But you’ve got to be brave and bold, luv. And you’ve got to make sure that if they are not the right people then they aren’t there.” Quite so.
As you might imagine, my friend wasn’t overly impressed by this.
She is a very talented and successful young female entrepreneur whose company has a bold and innovative approach to business. She is highly intelligent, incredibly driven and a fascinating individual. She is also fabulous company and very inspiring. Her company works as a partner with huge international brands. Clearly they rate her. Any private members club would be very fortunate to have her as a member. Moreover, she was a loyal ambassador of the club, recommending it to friends and clients. She doesn’t expect such unprofessional treatment from a ‘business club.’
She joined One Alfred Place as a founding member. Using the Wayback Machine, we can see what she bought into:
‘Welcome to One Alfred Place – a new kind of club that combines the best of a private members’ club with your own London office. It offers all the business services, work space, meeting places and communications that you need. Unlimited use: as many days as you wish. Drop in to catch up on emails, or stay all day.’
When it first launched I had lunch with the then CEO and was pitched the club as an alternative to having an office. Clearly they have now changed their policy.
So having done so the question is how should a business club communicate that fact, in a fittingly “business-like” manner, with its club members? Especially those, like my friend, who had been long-term members, networked with many of the existing members and more importantly spent generously, frequently and often? Perhaps start by announcing the change in policy? Maybe offer their high usage members a new and more expensive level of membership?
At a very minimum you’d expect a business club to show respect for their members who have invested time and money in supporting the club. What you wouldn’t expect is for the CEO to publicly insult them in a bid to get PR. Unfortunately that is what Sharon Brittan went on to do in this article which appeared in the Independent this weekend. This will be very worrying for members as it shows that she’s prepared to publicly name, in a negative manner, club members to the papers. If she is capable of that shocking behaviour how can any remaining member trust her? Steve Tappin is a very well-regarded professional and author of The Secrets of CEO’S.
So, might the eviction list include my old friend and OAP member Steve Tappin, the headhunter-turned-executive-coach that Boots boss Andy Hornby is considering hiring?
“Absolutely,” confirms Brittan. “He’s on the list.” Ta-ta to Tappin, then.
This type of behaving is very concerning and potentially damaging to any member who she deems unworthy.
I’m appalled at how my friend was treated but I’m also appalled as someone who runs a networking club. I know many people who also run networking clubs in London, and I’d imagine that they would find this appalling too. I also know many business reporters and I’m certain that they won’t be impressed by a business club treating entrepreneurs and business people in this way.
With regard to One Alfred Place I know people on their committee who will be very embarrassed to have their reputations associated with such unprofessional behaviour. I know people who host regular events there who wouldn’t want to be seen to promote a club that treats members like this. I also know many of their members. This will be of concern to all. How on earth can Sharron Britten think that this is a good idea?
I hope that by highlighting this that the club committee and their investors will consider the implications of their CEO’s behaviour. I also hope that this acts as a warning to other members of Old Alfred Place of what the current regime is capable of.
I look forward to Sharron Britten making a public statement on her behaviour. Failing that, her next ‘brave and bold’ move.