Clubbing business with leisure and community work
Dubai, March 2, 2014
By R Sushil Nair
The Capital Club, a prestigious private business and social club located within the Dubai International Financial Centre, is a hub of activities to its over 1,500 members. Contemporary, spacious and stylish, the club strives to re-invent and improve the member and guest experience by providing elegant lounges, a variety of dining options, private meeting and conference rooms and a variety of special events and business forums.
Behind all this glamour and networking lies a humane face of the club, which supports many charities and foundations in the UAE and is also committed to major environmental issues, says club's general manager Emma Cullen in an interview with TradeArabia.
Q: What are the salient features of the Capital Club that makes it a premium destination for businessmen and others?
Since its opening the Capital Club has been central to the greater Dubai business community and is located in the heart of DIFC. Services specific to business are: an upscale environment for formal, business or casual dining, natural networking opportunities with leaders of the community, both a company and individual member roster available through the 'Members Only' portal; complimentary associate club privileges at over 200 prestigious clubs worldwide enabling Members to stay in some of the world’s most talked about club’s and run business meetings within their facilities.
The club runs a first-class monthly events programme that includes a one- of-a-kind business event platform, in-depth interviews with leaders in the business community and regular monthly networking events, consisting of celebrity chef dinners and informative breakfasts. In addition to this, there is also an aspect of 'club within a club', such as Book Club, Car Club and Backgammon Club.
This of course helps to build that feeling of community and friendship between members that you just don’t find outside of a club network.We also offer business services and a range of partnerships which help source preferred rates and special experiences for members whether it's golf, a restaurant booking or an upscale transfer service.
Q: What exclusive facilities do you offer to members and what are your main activities?
The club has 40,000 sq ft of space, over four floors. We have four dining outlets, a boutique fitness centre, four well-appointed bedrooms for members and guests, 13 meeting rooms, with video and audio conferencing facilities and a terrace with magnificent views of the Burj Khalifa and Emirates Towers. We also have a well appointed Cigar Humidor... this means that there is something to suit each and every type of business meeting or corporate gathering that a member would need.
The club aims to make the business events topical. Each event must provide the following to our members: The attendees must learn something; must connect with new members and the event must create value. These are the club’s guiding principles as set forth by the Events Committee.
We have a busy and diverse calendar to suit our members' needs, typically every week has something planned with some weeks a blend of both social and business events. Some events will be for members only; some are for member and guests. What is typical is that members always get preferred pricing on event attendance.
Q: Is it a members-only club? What is the criterion for membership? How many members do you have?
Currently the club has around 1,500 members and an additional number of spouse memberships. Membership is “by invitation only” in the tradition of fine private clubs. The Governors of the Club led the process in the early stages, assisted by the shareholders. Members also have the privilege of proposing suitable colleagues, friends, family members and business associates for membership.
Members’ nominees must be approved by the membership committee. The committee’s task is to help the roster of club members grow steadily and advise and assist the management and board of directors so that the balance and quality of members is always maintained. They are supported in this important task by our director of membership and membership managers.
While nine out of ten companies or individuals who join the Capital Club will do so by invitation, we also accept applications. These are then considered by the committee after careful screening by the membership department, when references have been taken up and applications are proposedand seconded by existing members.
Q: What are your major achievements during the last year and what are your plans for the new year, especially with regard to providing networking opportunities for your members and holding of events?
The club is teaming up with some interesting partners this year to further enhance the current membership offering. We plan to rejuvenate certain areas of the club, including the food concepts. Ours is a great platform to invite Chef’s local and celebrity as we are a neutral territory and members really enjoy this mechanism for socialising."
Given the successful Expo 2020 announcement, 2014 will be special as we focus on business and enable opportunities for members to exchange ideas and engage with each other. We like to think we are like a physical LinkedIn. Particular emphasis will be placed on fostering the SME segment through breakfast events.
Q: Environment in hospitality is a big issue at present, mainly in the region. What are the things you have done to cut carbon footprint? Any unique steps in this direction?
The club has worked with a number of SMEs to improve its environmental footprint. Most recently we took an energy audit with Smart4Power to ascertain areas we can further reduce our energy output. Additionally, mid last year we introduced the option of filtered water with the Liquid of Life filtration system to reduce bottled water usage. We think these steps are unique and support the SME segment.
We also work on trying to get as much ‘local’ produce as we can whilst still balancing supply and cost factors. Chef Cyrille visits the fish market each Thursday morning.
Q: With Dubai set to host the Expo 2020, do you see a rush for membership? What are your plans for expansion?
We have seen increased enquiry for membership since the Expo 2020 announcement. We continue to observe a conservative nature to spending habits compared to pre-global financial crisis. We are working at the moment on adding additional meeting space and refreshing some areas of the Club to help with the increased visitation.
Q: The region is witnessing a sudden increase in the number of businesswomen. Do you have any facilities/ programmes tailored to their needs?
This month, we will be particularly focusing on women in business as we celebrate International Women’s day on March 8. We have coaching events and an event showcasing three great women in philanthropy who are based in the region. 'The Imposter Syndrome' with BBC producer, writer and trainer Lea Sellers on 10th will kick off the event, followed by “Women in Philanthropy” on 18th with ShabanaBasij-Rasikh, the founder of Sola Afghanistan, Dr Nada Hamade, the head of Gulf Partnerships, Oxfam and Nadine Arton representing The Amal Project.
Q: How many such clubs do you have in the region and do you allow members of other Capital Clubs to use your Dubai facilities?
Signature Clubs International, the developer and owner of the Capital Club brand in the region has also opened its clubs in Bahrain and Nairobi. Further clubs are under development in Karachi and Lagos with many others in the pipeline. Members of one Capital Club enjoy reciprocal club benefits at the other Capital Clubs in the SCI network and an additional 250 clubs globally.
Q: What does your club do to encourage members to take up community/charity initiatives?
We select a ‘Charity of Choice’ each year. In 2013, it was Pink Caravan part of the Friend’s of Cancer Patients initiatve and we are just in the final stages of finalising the appointment of our new charity, which we are super excited about. It’s a great opportunity for the club to showcase events that revolve around wider community initiatives outside of the business realm.
Additionally, we collect donations as part of the Club Events held for Members; these are broad and include dinners with celebrity chefs, our grand six year anniversary party and other topical events, she added.
Q: How long you have been with the club and what is your vision for the club going forward?
In the role of General Manager I have been with the club for over a year. I was also a spouse member from the inception of the club, which has enabled me to see it from a member’s perspective. The vision we work towards as a team is to deliver the intangible qualities of a fine business club that the community aspire to be a part of.
Creating an environment that enriches member’s lives through personal, social and business interactions and for all members and employees to have pride in being part of what we work hard to deliver.
How do we achieve this? With an experienced, passionate, diversified and hardworking team! The key to success is to care and to go the extra mile. The club is always striving to re-invent and improve the member & guest experience as well as ourselves.
I believe that as the club is a stand alone we can create our place by bringing an experience with a twist, a uniqueness of experience that large hotels are unable to achieve. This vision drives the whole team in one direction as well our events and service ethos.
Club life is addictive and so very different from the usual hospitality-based organizations; it’s a cliché but we really are a home away from home to many of our members. The team enjoys listening to and spending time with the members, hearing about their day and of course providing the ability to assist them in their business and social goals. We are creating memorable experiences that come from the heart.