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Carl T. Seibert  COO / State Secretary

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Carl's Corner

Now That We are Out of the Water Its Time to Fix Ourselves 1

Winter 2015

I am often surprised at the turnover we continue to have in our Lodges in the office of Exalted Ruler and Lodge Secretary. Arguably the two most important leadership positions in a Lodge, far too many are quitting in the middle of the year and oftentimes for reasons not related to health, work or family. For many years, this question was asked of Exalted Rulers at the state annual officer training seminar: How many of you are here because you think you are doing your Lodge a favor? In recent years we have had to stop asking that question because too many Exalted Rulers were responding in the affirmative. In an earlier article I wrote about the game being played in many of our Lodges where one faction takes over the Lodge and their detractors sit patiently on the sidelines awaiting the next elections. They then bring legions of members in to sway the vote and overthrow the sitting administration. This game goes back and forth, year after year, and then we wonder why the Lodge never moves forward. It is hoped that by members simply recognizing the game and how it is played that a strategy can be implemented to prevent this from happening this year!

I am not certain this is enough, however, and wonder if the members in Florida would be willing to support a change to the statutes that would require a member to attend the nominating meeting in February in order to be able to vote in the election meeting. Even this might not be enough, but, as unbearable as our members seem to find attending our meetings, if we require them to attend two to be able to perpetrate their game on the Lodge, this just might be enough to thwart them! Heck, I would even suggest that the Lodge plan to hold initiation on nomination night, the long form of course, and do everything you can to inflict maximum discomfort upon those who attend to simply disrupt!

It is very difficult to be an Exalted Ruler in our Lodges today! Most see the job as the thankless task of keeping the Lodge solvent while operating failing restaurant and bar operations. It’s a wonder that anyone would want to even take the job with that type of job description! It is easily understood why they consider themselves to be doing the Lodge a favor when they become ER! Gone are the days that officers are afforded progression through the chairs. This advancement not only provided training in Elk traditions but also in working with others and understanding Lodge finances, and it allowed them to develop a little pride. Just last year, one-third of the Exalted Rulers in Florida had been members five years or less. It was the same percentage for Lodge Secretaries! Too often we see Exalted Rulers and Secretaries who lack the management and leadership skills to effectively do the job. Devoid of those skills, they regress to managing through fear and intimidation, aka the “my way or the highway” form of management. One can only imagine how volunteers react in these types of environments! The only ones who benefit from this are the Moose, the Legion, the VFW, etc. as they get our members!

I used to think that the best group of people to target for membership in our Lodges was teachers. They could do our bulletin boards, run our children’s programs, do after-school tutoring, etc. No longer do I think this way! If we are to survive we better get out there and start recruiting accountants and CPAs and small-business owners. We need to get them on board now! Then, once we get them involved in our operations, we will have to do possibly the hardest thing for most of us to do and that is we will need to listen to them! What might have worked 20-30 years ago in the workplace and Lodge no longer works. Businesses rely on up-to-the-second data from computers. Margins and profitability are based on fractions of a cent, not dollars. It has become painfully obvious to me that we are not going to part with our bars and restaurants! So, the only thing left to do is to commit to running them right or suffer the demise of the entire Lodge!

The facts speak for themselves. There are currently 99 Lodges in Florida. At present, seven of our Lodges are working with our state Business Practices Committee addressing such items as high cost of sales, failing club operations, declining finances, embezzlement, and setup and training for QuickBooks. Twenty of our Lodges are being overseen by special representatives of the Grand Lodge, meaning the Lodge has had to relinquish the control of their finances to a Lodge outsider for the best interest of the Lodge. For the year ending March 31, 2014, and with 84 of our 99 Lodges reporting, total Lodge profitability was -$231,303 or -$2,754 per Lodge. Drilling down further we see that Lodge operations produced a loss of -$33,089 or -$394 per Lodge; bar operations produced a loss of -$4,624 or -$55 per Lodge; and kitchen operations produced a loss of -$193,590 or -$2,305 per Lodge. There were only 12 Lodges that turned a profit in all three of the areas: Ocala, Inverness, Largo, Live Oak, Marathon, Cocoa, Arcadia, Crestview, Winter Park, Boca Raton, Cocoa Beach and Brandon. Of these 12, four do not have kitchen operations, so for the other eight, 32% of their profit came from their kitchen, 28% from the bar and 40% from the Lodge operations.

I am sure that any of these 12 Lodges would be more than happy to share with you how they do it. Give one or more a call and ask them for assistance. Can you afford not to?

There are 22 other Lodges that were profitable overall but not in all three areas. Of those 22, 20 have kitchen operations but only three are profitable. All 22 have bar operations but only 10 produced a profit. All but three produced a profit in their Lodge operations. Overall, with these 22, only 7% of their profit came from the bar; 93% came from Lodge operations and that was used to subsidize the loss from the kitchen operations.

Sadly, 60% of the Lodges reporting produced an operational loss for the year. Sixty-eight percent of the loss was from Lodge operations, 9% was from bar operations and 23% was from kitchen operations. Only 12 of 44 Lodges reported a profit from kitchen operations. Only 17 of 49 reported a profit from bar operations, and only 10 of 50 reported a profit from Lodge operations.

So what does all this mean you ask? First and foremost there are only a handful of Lodges in this state (maybe 11 or 12) that have any business operating a kitchen. Second, it tells me that only about 20% of our Lodges are able to profitably operate a bar operation. Finally, this data tells me that if you were unprofitable for the year you are definitely working off of borrowed funds or prior years’ savings and you might want to divide your savings by your losses to determine how many more years of viability you have left before you are forced to shut the doors!  

For the majority of us, our Lodges were in existence even before we were. For all of us, the order was in existence before us. We need to stop viewing our Elks Lodges as an entity here today to please us and us alone. We owe it to those who came before us to ensure that those who come after us have the same opportunity we did to participate in a Lodge and be a part of this great fraternal and social organization. Every member in this state should insist on and participate in a project to ensure the long-term existence and success of their Lodge. With few, if any, exceptions, every Lodge in this state has facility needs, be they renovation, down-sizing, maintenance, etc. We need every Lodge in this state to invest in a vision of perpetuity and provide the capital and manpower to get this done. There is way too much at stake here to leave it to another generation or think that if we ignore it the situation will go away! We need leadership and, more importantly, support for that leadership. If we elect those who will continue the same old ways, with no experience and with no skills, those “my way or the highway” people, you might as well go ahead and shut it down. If we elect people with business acumen and people skills and people who are motivators and real leaders, then we might just have a shot at a future. Supportive members, PERs and PDDs could shore up a leader who might not know what a DDGER is. Does attending every VP visit in the district really make this leader a better Exalted Ruler? As I see it, many of our Lodges are in need of a major infusion of leadership and business know-how. Can we afford NOT to do this? We need leaders who won’t run our Lodge as a dictatorship but who will share the work, both the tasks and the rewards. The operation of a Lodge is simply too complex for just a couple of people to manage. We need leaders who will educate and train others. We need leaders who will operate the Lodge for the benefit of every member and not just a chosen few. Granted, not everyone is cut out to be a leader but that’s okay! Leaders need followers. When led properly our members will accept most any task given to them. The pride they will feel when given a task, given clear-cut goals and objectives, and then given the freedom to get the job done, will bring them back again and again. Before long the Lodge will be reaping the benefits of participation with pride. Just think what this will do for our membership growth prospects!

Our officer training this year is March 6-8 in Orlando. It is not perfect, but it’s a far cry from no training at all, and no one yet has told us it was a total waste of their time. In electing your leaders this year, require that they attend at least this one thing. Please don’t require them to personally foot the bill to attend. Hold a fundraiser or two in the Lodge to raise the necessary funds to send all of your key people to the training. This event is operated as a break-even activity for the FSEA; no profit is made from it and we exhaust every effort to see that the training is informative and useful. Even if your officers attended last year, this training is invaluable and is constantly evolving. There is much to gain from attending. If your leaders are unwilling to devote this one weekend to spending it with their peers, are they really worth electing? Get a commitment before they are elected! If they are not just doing the Lodge a favor, they will do whatever it takes to attend!

This is for another column, but I want to share a thought I have had for some time that I believe will go a long way into getting new members to become immediately active in the Lodge. It goes back to my fraternity days and was a very effective means for instilling pride in a new class of initiates. Each new pledge class was required to select leaders and then perform a project for the betterment of the fraternity. It could be a fundraiser to purchase an item for the house or a renovation or upkeep project in the house. It didn’t matter what it was. It taught us to work together, it brought us closer together, and the fraternity benefited from a need being met! Why couldn’t we do this? We would probably need to initiate several members at a time to make this effective, but the night they are initiated they could meet, select their leader(s), decide on a project, and begin work on making it happen! Do you think this would instill a little pride in a new member and maybe give them an immediate sense of purpose? Let me know if any of you implement this idea and let me know how it works!

Take pride in your Lodge! Commit to the future of your Lodge! Prepare a road map for this future, and elect leaders this year who will lead much-needed change, who will commit to producing a profit in the Lodge, and who will start you back on a road to recovery! Until we fix ourselves we have nothing to offer others!

Let me know what you think! E-mail me at

Carl Seibert


Carl Seibert, COO
State Secretary
Florida State Elks Association




# Jack Collins 2015-01-29 10:21
Carl, as usual, I agree with everything you said. There are too many topics to comment on. In short, I think we are recruiting the wrong people, and not retaining the good members. I stopped by my Legion Post the other day, which I am a member, and the Cdr & Adjutant (ER/Sec) were telling me their problems. They were describing my Lodge! The Cdr there was on his 6th yr because nobody else will do it. Making candidates committ (in writing) to do volunteer work after elected, (or be suspended) has been mentioned before, and I agree with that idea.
We need quality, not quantity, when it comes to new members. Lack of Leadership & vision is what I perceive in Elkdom. We cannot continue to stand by and do nothing. If Lodges cannot fill officer positions and/or continue to lose money, perhaps they need to close down, and not be allowed to continue, just so the "number of Lodges" looks good. Just my 2 cents. We continue to project an image of drinking and partying. That needs to stop.
# Member Submission 2015-02-04 07:54
Hi Carl,
For what it's worth, Marathon has done better because of our volunteers. We do pay our bartenders, but everything the kitchen puts out is cooked by volunteers, and nothing is "walking out the door" from either place. The re-build of our interior was all done primarily by another group of volunteers, so we were able to turn the $4.000. we raised into the same job we were given a $30.000.00 bid for. I noticed that a lot of lodges hired out their kitchens, which would definitely be easier, but we just could not afford it.
The attitude of the Lodge Membership is very positive, I believe primarily because they are proud of what we've accomplished. I'm still spending 30+ hours a week at the Lodge, but hopefully that can be reduced next year.
Carol Reed, ER
Marathon 2139
# Member Submission 2015-02-04 07:57
Keep up the great work. I'm sure you will get some heat for discussing certain subjects. The membership needs to hear and think about these important issues.
Bill Henderson, PER
Miami #948
# Member Submission 2015-02-04 08:02
Your message has "hit the nail on the head". It speaks of participation and involvement on the part of the new member!! The ER should, prior to Initiation of a candidate, review the application to determine which of the Grand Lodge, FSEA, or Lodge Committee projects would best serve the candidate and our Order. The ER should also ensure the sponsor and the selected project chairperson are present at the Initiation meeting. And, most importantly, the ER should announce the new member appointment to the respective committee at that meeting!!
The sponsor and the committee chairperson should be introducing the new member to all attending members. The committee chairperson should be familiarizing the new member as to the project objectives and purposes.
Again, thank you Carl for speaking to an issue that needs to be addressed. I hope my recommendation moves your strong observations along.
Larry Bowdren, PDDGER
# Member Submission 2015-02-04 08:06
You write the best articles. I have to say that you are describing the (named withheld) Lodge. We are stuck in a battle of old versus the new. Last year we were profitable, this year we have a loss every week. I wish everyone would take to heart your message. One hundred members left this year and went to other lodges. Thank you again for your insight.
Name withheld
# Member Submission 2015-02-04 08:07
Read your comments and could not help but question why you did not report on how the successful clubs managed the bar profitably? How profitable kitchens did it. How did the profitable clubs function? What were the best demonstrated practices ?
Also, while it's nice to pontificate about the future, most members want a fun club now. How does a club do that ?
Jack McAllister
Venice Nokomis
# Member Submission 2015-02-04 08:14
Hi Carl,
I want to tell you how much I enjoy your article. It is probably one of the main reasons I read the state news. All of what you have been saying is so true. Another problem is the older members. Most lodges seem to have an average age of 72 or older and seem to think that " Elks beget Elks", or most new members will be the same age. These older members seem to have a hard time relating to younger prospective members such as the 55 - 60 group you referred to a while back as a great pool. I could go on and on. But I feel like I would be beating a dead horse. As you say, if there is no change, failure is eminent.
Thanks for the opportunity to give feedback. I wish you luck, and most of all, success.
Bill Marnie, PER
# Member Submission 2015-02-04 13:46
I want to let you know that I really enjoyed your recent article. Very informative with appropriate admonishments and helpful suggestions. I think we need to hear more of the same type of dialog more frequently. Keep up the good work!
Brett Swigert
# Member Submission 2015-02-08 08:03
I read your message. Right on target with the finances. Port Charlotte was just forced to sell their Lodge due to extreme losses in the kitchen over a long time. Could you send me a copy of your message and would it be OK to reprint it for our members. The membership can not understand why we had to sell the Lodge.
Peter Vaphiades, Secretary, PDDGER
Port Charlotte Elks #2153
# Member Submission 2015-02-08 08:10
Your article in Florida Elks News is one that I always look forward to and read. That's because you have something to say. I especially enjoyed your latest article on lodge finances. I was surprised that so many lodges are operating in the red, especially the bars.
I don't believe lodge finances will improve much unless the membership is more aware of revenue and expenses and especially how the money is being spent. If we want member involvement as volunteers, they should be made aware of what that volunteer effort does for the lodge both financially and fraternally. One thing members have a hard time understanding is the overhead charged to the kitchen and bar. Many think if they do an event and spend $800 on food and take in $1,000 in sales that they have made $200 profit. But they do not know that overhead is 35% of sales. Yet it is true that every additional dollar earned reduces the overhead rate as a percent of sales.
Bob Gamble
Green Cove Springs #1892
# Member Submission 2015-02-08 08:13
Just wanted to let you know I overheard two different people at our lodge last night commenting on what a good article you had in the FSEA paper.
Brett Davis
# Mike Borsos 2015-02-09 15:50
The ER being in charge of everything is old school. With a Board of Directors, whose chairman is NOT the ER(of course the ER is a member of that board), the ER can focus on getting the membership involved in committees. Developing and encouraging committees will get more members involved, making the Lodge healthier. Our Board is also in charge of the Lounge, so the ER does not have that responsibility either. It is extremely important that Board makes the ER's job as easy as possible, that way the Lodge is successful!
# Member Submission 2015-02-13 18:45
Dear Brother Seibert:
I’m writing you again to ask permission to use an article of yours. I am very impressed with your Now That We are Out of the Water, It’s Time to Fix Ourselves article in the Winter 2014-15 Edition of the Florida Elks News.

Your article is right on target about a lot of the problems the Elks are having right now. I haven’t decided yet whether to use your article in total or to quote portions of it in several different articles. I particularly like your paragraphs on the bar, restaurant, and Lodge operations profitability of different Florida Lodges.

Again, I’m am impressed with your writing; are you a professional writer in your day job? Thank you for all you do for FSEA and the Elks.
Roger Monger, PER, Editor, Old Dominion Elk.
# Member Submission 2015-02-13 18:47
I am the Leading Knight at the San Diego Lodge #168 and been a member for almost 8 years; my Father (Frank Pires) is a member of the Ft Myers Lodge. I have been nominated for ER these past two weeks of nominations one more week to go. My dad told me about your article and forwarded it to me. I liked it and you hit all points across the board. I appreciate your article and this will help me and my committee’s build their business plan for the new Elk Year and continue on for many years to come.
Thanks again, hopefully I can get a chance to meet you in the upcoming Grand Lodge Convention.
Have a great weekend.
Matt Pires
# Gary Breakfield 2015-02-14 17:28
Great article!
# James (Jim) Lamb 2015-02-27 18:16
I think that it was such a great article that I put the complete article in the 2 Lodges Bulletin. It was right on target but I think you missed at least 1 lodge that is making a profit
Jim Lamb PDD.
# John Dill PDD 2015-04-17 12:24
Our lodge was one of the mentioned lodges and I'll be the first to tell you it's a struggle. Every day it's a fight to be sure we are on the right track. Our BoD works hard, our HC works hard and our Club Manager is exceptional in her efforts to keep costs down. We have cut our operating hours and if we are really slow on a certain night we close and go home. We source a lot of our produce and meat locally staying away from conglomerates like Chaney Brothers, etc. and that has proven to be very effective. By our BoD, HC , ER, Club Manager & Secretary all working as a team we have an incredible checks and balance system going and it has proven to be a success. We may not make the list next year but it damn sure won't be from a lack of trying!!!

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