People like Jim Sturm admit they find it hard to sit back and watch things develop and not be able to directly help.
Anyone like the South Charleston, W.Va., bowling proprietor always wants to be at the forefront of whatever they do.
So it shouldn’t be a surprise that the Dunbar Bowling Center owner decided to run for United States Bowling Congress president in July. What may have caught some off-guard was that he won.
Sturm isn’t one of them.
“I spent five or six years sitting on the board watching and observing,” Sturm said. “I’ve served on a tremendous amount of committees back to the ABC (the American Bowling Congress) due to my years of involvement with the bowling proprietor side of things.
“With my contacts and experience I thought I could help USBC. About March or April people were calling me with questions that frankly I wasn’t in a position to answer. So to be able to do it, this was my chance. The timing was great because I have a great staff at my center. I had the opportunity to do this so I called (USBC Executive Director) Stu (Upson) and told him my intention.”
Just like fellow proprietor and ex-Bowling Proprietors’ Association of America President Jeff Bojé serving as USBC president from 2007-10, Sturm’s election is creating mixed feelings in the industry.
Traditionalists like longtime USBC association officials claim its more evidence the Bowling Proprietors’ Association of America is taking over their organization. They probably would have liked Darlene Baker to have served beyond the one year between Bojé and Sturm.
Others are definitely happy Sturm was elected. They like his business background and what he accomplished leading BPAA.
Sturm has been on the USBC Board of Directors since 2007 when he was BPAA president, part of 30 years serving the sport at the local, state and national levels. He was one of the people responsible for the creation of the International Bowling Campus in Arlington, Texas.
“Bringing the International Bowling Campus together, I became engrossed in what’s going on. I became involved in issues like membership,” Sturm said.
“One of the most significant things I can bring is my experience working in the bowling business since I was 13 years old, 38 years ago. It’s the only thing I’ve done.
“Because I’ve seen the goods and the bads; because of my relationships in our local association, I can do and say I can do what’s right to help the sport and help the game.”
There are those who resent Sturm, Bojé, past BPAA President Joe Schumacher, former USBC president Mike Carroll and former BPAA Executive Director John Berglund for helping prompt USBC’s move to Texas, a move that USBC has admitted led to losing more than $6.2 million in 2008-09 and 2009-10. Others commend all involved for doing what they believed was best for bowling in the long run.
“One thing that has to happen is a tremendous amount of communications with the board and the associations,” Sturm said. “We have to give them the right communications and the tasks to do what they do best. It will be a re-education. One of my goals is to get our national board more engaged in the business side.
“We are a business, a business that depends on the 24 people on the board. I’m pretty good at building consensus, make a decision and move forward. I’ve done this in business and my personal life and with BPAA. I do whatever it takes to move forward. It’s about rolling up your sleeves and getting the work done.”
Sturm brings a unique perspective to his new position. In addition to many his years of leadership, he’s a competitive bowler with numerous 300 games and some Professional Bowlers Association regional success. He’s also a graduate of the Vincennes University Bowling Lanes Management program and has a degree in business administration and marketing from West Virginia State University.
That background has helped Sturm understand past and current bowling customers. But it has also helped him understand what needs to be done to recruit future bowlers. Sturm and USBC have learned the old adage that companies and organizations can’t be everything to everybody.
“There’s been an evolution,” he said. “Generation 2, better known as the Baby Boomers, is getting up in age. Generation 3 has a completely different thought process. What are the programs they want? What are their desires? We have to understand not only our customer but today’s customer.”
As an example, Sturm noted that Baby Boomers went from communicating primarily with regular mail to paper faxes and the start of e-mail. Younger generations talk to each other by text and through their hand-held devices. They can take or leave e-mail and to them landline telephones and snail mail don’t exist.
“We’ve gone from mail with a stamp to fax to e-mail to text messaging. Each group has a way of communicating with each other,” Sturm said.
“We’re doing a lot of testing. We’ve got a lot of data information. Some has been good, some not so good. It’s best to bring out quality products with quality data and quality information, not what one person believes the data tells us. It’s what the consumer tells us.”
One thing the data is telling Sturm and other leaders is that younger people are not so driven by traditional bowling prize funds.
“People are telling us they are looking for F-U-N, not F-U-N-D,” Sturm said. “It’s not about the prize money. They want reward points and discounts on bowling balls, food and beverages.”
Another thing Sturm wants to change is the perception the USBC Board of Directors is being too secretive, a charge that began in the Bojé regime.
“I learned a long time ago you better have transparency,” he said. “You have to communicate the right way. One way to correct that is to communicate with all your constituencies, the one-time-a-year bowler, league bowlers, associations and proprietors at the local, state and national levels.”
In the end, Sturm believes USBC must get back to basics to grow its membership.
“After 31 years of decline, to fix any organization you have to operate first as a business,” Sturm said. “You have to be efficient, have the right people in the right places and have products that the consumer wants.”
NOTE: The Bowling Examiner originally wrote this story for International Bowling Industry Magazine.