“This is a time when it’s important to remember that the club industry has a backbone. There will be opportunities to come out of this.”
To borrow from the Farmers Insurance slogan, Ted Gillary and Jeff McFadden know a thing or two because they’ve seen a thing or two. In their case, what they’ve seen in their club-management careers, which have been marked by not just turning around, but saving from near-extinction, two historic city clubs (the Detroit Athletic Club for Gillary, and The Union League of Philadelphia for McFadden), make them especially qualified to provide proper perspective on just what the club industry now faces in responding to, and striving to recover from, the coronavirus pandemic.
Neither of them is sugar-coating how perilous this latest challenge will be. As Gillary says in our profile of him, he’s anticipating the same sort of fallout that we’ve seen from past threats (9/11, the Great Recession), with clubs that have been complacent about pursuing continuous improvement now being in a “crapshoot” at best.
And when participating in a National Club Association (NCA) webinar on the pandemic, McFadden revealed that he expected the Union League, which was preparing to open its second golf course this year, to lose as much in the first two months of the coronavirus outbreak than many clubs make in two years.
But in addition to seeing and knowing a thing or two, both of these managers have also done plenty to prove that they are managers who’ve been able to achieve success, no matter what’s been thrown their way. And they have faith that many of their colleagues share the same ability to push through this latest thicket and find brighter skies on the other side.
“Clubs are tenaciously survival-prone and resilient,” Gillary told me. “And unlike hotels or restaurants, there are emotional ties to clubs among members, as well as management and staff, that create much more engagement in working to save what’s at stake.”
McFadden echoed the same sentiments during the NCA webinar. “This is a time when it’s important to remember that the club industry has a backbone,” he said. “There will be opportunities to come out of this for those who don’t waste the crisis in how they respond.”
That approach, both Gillary and McFadden stressed, means thinking as much, even while dealing with immediate concerns and the short-term pain, about how to be ready to reopen in preparation for what McFadden predicted will be “extremely robust business,” as the club industry once again follows the axiom that while it’s among the hospitality segments that suffer most quickly in a crisis, it’s also the one that comes back the soonest, and with a vengeance.
We’re also taking that approach in how we’re covering the situation and providing content to try to help you steer through its challenges. While we have included daily updates of coronavirus-related developments in our e-newsletter, and have created special COVID-19 resource pages on our website, we’re also continuing our coverage of ideas and accomplishments that clubs have planned and implemented and that will serve them well—and be instructive for others—once business does begin to return.
And through it all, we’re accentuating the positive and highlighting the examples that once again make the club industry stand out as especially strong, innovative and buoyant. That’s our way of not wasting the crisis, either.