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In the “State of the Industry” keynote at the annual Private Club Marketing Association (PCMA) conference September 15-18, PCMA founder Rick Coyne passionately addressed a group of more than 250 club marketers and spoke about the need for change in the club industry. In these dynamic and evolving times, he went on to say, “A changing landscape requires a changing perspective.” In other words, to compete today, clubs need to innovate.

Real Change Starts With Bold Leadership

In an industry where there are more followers than leaders, and decision-making complexities that extend beyond revolving committees and boards, going from ordinary to extraordinary as a private club is no simple task. So, when the PCMA conference provided the opportunity to have an “up close and personal” view of a club that is on the forefront of innovation, many of us grabbed the chance to tour Medinah Country Club.

It goes without saying that Medinah is known for its world-class golf and has been the home to several major championships and events including the 2012 Ryder Cup and the upcoming BMW Classic, but this historic club offers so much more than golf.

From organic gardens that host farm-to-table meals featuring produce farmed on the property to a branded traveling food truck and an organic chicken coop, there is no question that Robert Sereci, the bold leader of Medinah Country Club, has raised the bar for club leadership.

In his three years as general manager, he has created a vision, garnered “buy-in” from club leadership, and implemented non-traditional ideas that have created dynamic opportunities to build community and culture.

Sereci is doing what many clubs strive to do. He is honoring the storied traditions of Medinah while introducing new services and amenities that connect to a younger demographic considering membership. The club's management has worked tirelessly to balance the needs of the long-time club member seeking a tranquil atmosphere while fostering an environment of family-centered experiences for a new generation of members.

Medinah Adapts to Key Challenges Facing the Private Club Industry (and What Other’s Can Learn)

  • Foster Relationships: Building community is what Medinah and Robert Sereci are all about. He believes “the reason people join a club is they want to belong to a community of individuals with similar beliefs and interests,” and creating unique food experiences is primal to relationship building at Medinah.

    Developing a farm-to-table program is just one example of innovation representing a healthy lifestyle and emphasis on ‘getting back to the basics’ when "people had a more intimate relationship with their food, from growing, to harvesting, savoring and celebrating food as part of each day,” Sereci explains.

    Robert’s vision is that all members feel like they are part of a community where they have shared experiences and countless ways to get to know each other both on and off the course. You don’t need a food truck and an organic garden to build community, you need a mindset.

  • Attract a New Generation of Members: Today, Medinah is enriching member experiences by adding new amenities like platform tennis and expanded tennis facilities, a re-energized skeet and trap shooting range, and a state-of-the-art indoor golf learning center.

    The club has been rewarded with a youth movement in membership growth, as they’re successfully appealing to a younger demographic. Prior to these club enhancements, the average age of the Medinah member was 60 years old compared to today’s average of 50. Like most private clubs, young families will be the legacy. With families balancing busy schedules with a finite availability of recreational hours and resources, Medinah recognizes that younger families use the club differently.

    By creating a year-round destination including winter activities like sledding, cross-country skiing, and ice skating, Medinah is increasing year-round club use and bolstering member recruitment in the process. Since attracting a younger demographic is on the minds of most club leaders today, the question remains, what are you investing in at your club to walk the talk?

Conclusion

Robert Sereci arrived at Medinah in the spring of 2015 with a vision for where he wanted to take the club. I am sure he would be the first to tell you that straddling tradition and change is no easy task. In his interview on the Crushing Club Marketing podcast, Sereci offers this advice, “Don’t let your ego get in the way, start with some small wins to earn trust and make sure your Board gets on board with your ideas or they won’t happen.” In this dynamic and evolving times, smart clubs will follow Sereci's bold roadmap into a brighter future.

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