The Club Needs A CFO (Chief Financial Officer)

Who can manage the TAC finances?

Since 2010, we’ve seen a number of fellow members working with the TAC management team to run the club. We were told that the financials were solid… before the vote to demolish the old clubhouse. Then when the financial disaster hit, the board changed it’s tune saying.. time to raise the fees for members… This was despite the member board of governors promising that there would be no increased pricing for members. (That was when 30+ members decided it was time to talk and this TAC member site, ABTAC was formed (A Better American The Club finances always seem to be easily pushed to the brink.

Invaluable Community

Tokyo American Club is a fantastic slice of the community of Americans, locals, and many other nationalities. TAC is gathering place for leaders from many industries who want to socialize, exercise, and eat. This is what pays the bills.


As the club leadership has gone extreme on the ‘safety first’ (revenue last) route, finances have suffered as people are apparently having a hard time using the club. Some members have joked that someone seemed to have confused COVID with Ebola.

Managing the club is no easy task. With COVID you’ve got a vast range of members from the ‘double-maskers’ to the ‘why must I wear a mask in the gym’ crowds that illustrates just the varying opinions and voices in the community. Wear ‘your mask between sips’ thinking in the restaurants has pushed some members to other clubs and the vast choices of restaurants around the Tokyo metropolis. Other members have just been concerned about going to public places and have avoided going out all together. The die-hard members have attempted to use the club normally… with much less service. The actions so far have apparently severely hampered the finances. (Maybe members should be asked in polls on what rules they want regarding masks, operating hours, available equipment, and club staffing of what facilities they might use?)

The Failed Loan Votes

There were two votes pushed by the former Representative Governor to get a loan that was ‘just in case’. Members rejected the loan as it was pushed as being unnecessary, and lacked any direction on who was to manage it in the Club. That brings us to the root of the problem-

As TAC is a multi-million dollar business in Azabudai, clearly member management is insufficient. Few board members have time or expertise in running this size of business. TAC, unlike other hospitality (hotel) businesses that had to work out survival plans TAC has some 3,000+ members paying monthly dues.

To avoid another financial disaster such as happened with the board of governors in 2010 and again in 2020, isn’t it time to get someone who knows how to crunch numbers managing the business? We believe so. Let’s recommend TAC allocate a finance boss that can better manage the funds of the club. TAC needs a solid CFO to make the tough decisions and report to the members! After-all, all members would like to focus on why we joined the club… socializing, exercising, and eating! 😉

4 Replies to “The Club Needs A CFO (Chief Financial Officer)”

  1. John, your last “F” should be “Friends”. Then it’s the 5 Fs.

  2. Completely agree that we need a CFO. This is a multi-million business that can’t be left to committees and pet projects. Business decisions need to be made with business facts and financial results in mind

  3. I didn’t write this post but I agree that a CFO is needed. If not then a GM with a finance background. There are other issues that should be addressed or at least looked at as well, such as allow the GM to manage the Club, ensure that the Board is doing what they’re supposed to do (oversee the GM) & reduce or eliminate the Committees. Management spends far too much time in Committee meetings instead of managing the Club. A certain pattern worked for a number of years, fair enough. But that doesn’t mean going forward the same pattern can or should work. When we do have a new GM, finding one with a financial background who can also do what John outlined would be fine (not saying that it’s the right approach but it wouldn’t be impossible to do). In sports teams that are looking to add one piece to put them over the top they often pick up a soon to be over the hill current or former all star. I don’t see why TAC couldn’t do the same. Take a retiring GM from a global hotel brand & give him/her the opportunity to do things he/she has never been able to do before due to corporate/branding guidelines. This really shouldn’t be hard to do but we are stuck in the same pattern & approach.

  4. This idea has been knocking around a few years and never gains any traction. Why? A capable CFO is expensive. Any talented professional CFO in their right mind would be crazy to take such a job due to relatively low salary and no equity incentive (remember: TAC is a non profit). And of course, the voluntary members on committees and the board would not give a CFO carte blanche as the urge to interfere is irresistible. Better to have a talented GM that assembles a capable management team that delivers value to members. Fun events, community activities, quality F&B, and service to members are the real KPI’s that keep TAC financially healthy. Our current GM has done a great job the past years in a position that is difficult to manage at best. When I announced TAC 2020 way back in 2013 the objective was to provide a guideline to keep TAC on a financial path to debt freedom when the redevelopment loan terms out in 2026. The result the past 8 years has been the best financial and member satisfaction performance in TAC’s history, but I always knew that along the way there would deviation risk. Covid has understandably caused TAC to have temporary financial issues. Ensuring focus on the core values of TAC (family, fitness, food, fun, and community) is the key to ensure the future success of the Club. The problem with debt is that it has to be paid back. With interest. TAC still has JPY 5.6 billion of redevelopment debt, with a current debt/ebitda ratio of essentially infinity. The good news is that is about half of the opening balance has been paid down and we are on the path to a positive outcome when the focus remains on the core values. That’s not in a CFO’s skill set.

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