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Under Jill’s leadership, Ballantyne Country Club is in the midst of a master planning phase for what is likely to be a significant transformation of its 15-year-old clubhouse. With visions of specialty retail, flex office space, daycare and other resort-like amenities, Jill is clearly a visionary within the ranks, ready to challenge established norms.
“Tradition is important,” says Philmon, “but you can’t hang your existence on it.” We talked with Jill recently about her vision for the Club of the Future.
CR: You’ve already begun the planning process for transforming Ballantyne into a club ready to take on the next generation (or three). Broadly, how would you describe your vision for the club?
JP: Certainly multigenerational, a city club within a country club, more resort-like, and, finally, a “home away from home.” That has never been more important than it will be in the future.
CR: What sorts of amenities are you considering?
JP: We’re looking at services that will generate additional revenues by creating greater value and serving a greater variety of needs for our members. Office space and services for home-based businesses, including a modular office area, FedEx delivery and copying services; full meeting facilities for company events; in-club shopping — a Dean & Deluca-like place where you can get a great deal on wine, appetizers, and prepared dinners. (Ballantyne already sells fresh seafood and meats to members at its Butcher Block, as well as wine.) We’re also looking at the possibility of providing real daycare services for members.
CR: What’s the driver behind some of the bigger ideas you’re pursuing?
JP: We have to constantly strive to be relevant. That means looking far beyond just our members’ needs right now.
CR: What do you see as the greatest impediments clubs face in realizing this potential?
JP: Leadership has to be open minded. And yes, they might have to be willing to reconsider their tax status from a 501(c)7 so they can shift their revenue models. Frankly, I see too many clubs avoiding change and using their taxes status as an excuse.
CR: Will environmental sustainability be important for the club of the future?
JP: The club of the future has to be green. Or we won’t be here.
CR: You came into the club world as a second career, I understand. What draws you to it?
JP: There are so many opportunities! Clubs are always changing, always moving. I love the diversity of the work we do every day. And that it’s always been and will always be a business built on relationships.
CR: How important are those relationships in recruiting new members?
JP: Immeasurably. The sizzle and the show and tell gets them in the door and excited. The people and creating a place that feels like they belong — that’s what turns them into members.
CR: What’s changing about the business?
JP: Clubs used to be more about “eliteness.” That’s still there — there’s something really nice about being able to say you’re a member at a nice club. But now it’s more about finding a place that has something every member of the family can enjoy.
CR: How have you been able to break through traditional confines to be able to consider some of your more radical ideas?
JP: I have the most wonderful board. Open minded, no personal agendas, really committed to looking at what we want to be in 20 years. They realize the club of the future is very different from where it is now.
CR: What advice do you offer a club considering change?
JP: Service will always be the top priority of any club. I look at more amenities as, simply, more service. And everything I can do to keep them there means they’re not spending their money elsewhere.
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