06 Jul

On the Road with Bill Ochsenhirt

“What We’re Selling is Atmosphere”

Bill Ochsenhirt of Inverness Country Club
Bill Ochsenhirt,
Inverness Country Club Owner

We understand you took an interesting career path to the club world. Can you give us some of the highlights?

I started out as a commercial fisherman, actually, turning a high school job into my first career. One year of that convinced me that I wanted to go to college. I showed up my first day wearing a tie, became an accountant and moved to Washington, D.C. Like all self-respecting accountants, I became an avid golfer and when I decided I was ready for something more entrepreneurial, I got into the club business.

Any lessons learned from the fishing business that still apply?
I’ve always been hardworking, but that was without a doubt the hardest work I’ve ever done. I would say that it put me on the straight and narrow toward an education and a career.

What’s your customer service philosophy?
In this business, the most important thing is anticipating members’ needs. What we offer isn’t unique (golf, tennis, gym, a great dining venue); what we’re selling is atmosphere. It’s our job to personalize the experience of every single member and ultimately know them well enough that we know what they want before they ask for it.

How do you find the right people to deliver on that kind of expectation?
We hire personality. Then we train, train, train.

You’ve had a pretty varied career. Is there anything else you wish you’d done?
Gone into politics. I think more people with real life experience — who’ve owned their own businesses, had to pay their employees and take care of people, and who’re judged based on results — need to get involved in the system.

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