OnLink Founder and CEO, Walt Norley, recently interviewed McConnell Golf Chief Operating Officer, Christian Anastasiadis regarding the evolution of golf course management, and McConnell’s leadership role within the industry.
Fast Facts: McConnell Golf (McConnellGolf.com) memberships include privileges at a dozen 18- hole, private golf courses plus one nine-hole course throughout the Carolinas and Tennessee.
WN: What part of Austria are you from, and how did you get involved in Golf Course Management in the U.S.?
CA: From the beautiful city of Graz, capital of the province of Styria. I found my entry into the private club industry via my hospitality degree at an investor owned facility in the St. Louis Metro area in 1991. Had no idea about golf or agronomy, but I was a fast learner. Always hands-on. Best way to learn every aspect of the industry, and the right people showed up at the right time.
WN: How long have you been with McConnell Golf?
CA: Can you believe it, it’s been 15 years already – so, from its humble beginnings. John purchased Raleigh Country Club out of bankruptcy. I came to manage the club during the bankruptcy proceedings that led then to transitioning the club and its operation to John. John asked me to stay on thereafter – rest is history. Jokingly I refer it as a life sentence.
WN: Nice life sentence! How has McConnell been so successful? Has it been easy to achieve the success?
CA: It all started with the WHY – Out of the gate we asked ourselves WHY do we exist and WHY can’t we wait to get out of bed in the morning to come to work. And by WHY we did not mean to make a profit – We asked ourselves, what was our purpose; and what did we believe in? From the very first day we looked at our members as customers, and everything we did, we believed in challenging the status quo as to how clubs are managed and we believed in thinking differently than any other club –
We believed in pure golf for the true golfer, and in building clubs of the future with our members and staff being a club’s true product. These are our core values to this day.
Has it been easy? Let’s say, taking it from one club to 13 clubs, including our managed facility in less than 15 years made us learn fast, and there was no panacea. Each club acquired had its unique dynamics.
WN: What are the keys in balancing a high-end private club experience, and managing a healthy bottom line?
CA: People don’t buy what you do but why you do it and our goal was always not to do business with anyone or everyone who needs what you have, but to do business with people who believe what you believe. Retention, Retention and you will get Referrals. With referrals everyone wants to be part of a great brand that provides exceptional experiences. The rest falls in place.
WN:What is the future for McConnell in the next 5 years?
CA: Keep leading, keep plowing forward, growth will continue, especially within strategic markets.
WN: What is the future for successful club management and how important is having a strong data platform to the industry’s success?
CA: We are living in a time of extraordinary changes and if you are smart, you can make those changes work for you. Start viewing your members as customers. Understand what motives them daily to come to the club.
Management drives Customer Obsession from top down and the biggest tool management can use in today’s fast paced environment is having a strong data platform – real time. Key words are real time, because every day, there is an opportunity to make a difference.
WN: Who have been the biggest influences in your life?
CA: All those who have inspired me along the way. Love what you do and understand why you are doing it.
WN: Do you miss Austria? How often do you get back?
CA: I try to go back every year or at least every other year to visit family and friends. Austria will always be in my heart, and I am very thankful for having had such a great education growing up. I do miss my daily pastries and coffee at the traditional coffeehouses and the trips to the vineyards on the weekends.
WN: Thanks for your time Christian. We appreciate McConnell’s work with OnLink and helping us evolve our platform for both McConnell clubs and the golf industry.
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