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EP.15 Show Runner – Donna Otis

EP.15 Show Runner – Donna Otis

•Female General Manager Takes Hospitality Branding to The Next Level•

Donna was featured on the cover of Golf Business Industry Magazine for the concept of “Inclusionomics” and diversity. Donna was at the helm when her club hosted the prestigious professional golf tournament, The Swinging Skirts Classic in 2014-2016. After that tournament, she was highlighted in a National Geographic show on what it takes to put on an LPGA tournament event.
After nearly 20 years of service as Director of Food and Beverage at St. Francis Yacht Club and then General Manager at Lake Merced Golf Club, she had an opportunity to run the exclusive Bridges Country Club in San Diego, California as Chief Executive – General Manager.

Donna Otis, Chief Executive General Manager for The Bridges at Rancho Sante Fe

Lessons you will learn from this podcast:

  • What it takes to be successful as one of only four women out of 3000 club managers nationwide
  • How to use social media to double new membership
  • Using PGA influencers and breaking new ground on Instagram, Twitter & Facebook
  • How to use peer groups, technology, continued learning and listening skills to excel in business
  • What 100 sit-ups, Bruno Mars and success all have in common
  • How to read between the lines of your target prospects’ decision process
  • How to define your Avatar for successful niche marketing
  • How to check your leadership brand, build a loyal team and care beyond your title and job description
  • Compassionate leadership – why it matters
  • Why you may need to scrap your website and humanize your brand



Kathy: Hi, everybody. And welcome to the Showrunner network. Today, we’re networking with Donna Otis. She’s the first female Chief Executive General Manager of the Bridges at Rancho Santa Fe. Donna started in hotels and was introduced to private clubs in 1994. She was the Director of Food and Beverage at St. Francis Yacht Club, and then moved to Lake Merced Golf Club, where she was promoted from Director of Food and Beverage to General Manager. Donna has been featured on the cover of Golf Business Industry magazine for the concept of inclusion economics and diversity. Golf, Inc. Magazine selected her as one of the ten people who are shaping the future of private clubs. Donna was also at the helm when her club hosted the prestigious professional golf tournament, the Swinging Skirts Classic, 2014 through 2016, and was featured in the National Geographic show about what it takes to put on an LPGS tournament event. After nearly 20 years of service, Donna was given an opportunity to run the exclusive Bridges Country Club in San Diego, California as Chief Executive General Manager. I was lucky enough to meet Donna when I was moderating the LPGA Kia Classic Women’s Leadership Panel. She was one of the panelists, and we had such a great time. Donna, welcome to the show.

Donna: Thank you, Kathy, very much. Happy to be here.

Kathy: It’s great to have you. Donna, we’ve given our listeners just a glimpse into your business background, would you give us a little bit more about your journey and experience in marketing and business?

Donna: Sure. With any business, I think, when you talk about marketing, it’s a very wide range of opportunities. With my experience and work, experience with meeting people and my journey along the way, with not only working food and beverage, but, oddly enough, working as a paramedic and working as social worker, there’s been a lot of different facets in my life that’s created… That’s more well rounded in nature, so that you become more of a sponge, it’s not just so jobs specific in bringing the private club world, but all the experiences, when you take a look at social working, and the skill set that you grow into. Being a good listener, or being patient, or being a problem solver. All of that creates the personal that you are, created what I am today and how I think and how I’m still evolving, and this whole revolution of process with being able to have the mindset. So you’re always thinking outside of the box, and I think I’ve been forced to have to do that with these different ventures that I’ve gone into. Now, granted, my last club, I was there for 20 years, but when you have such a targeted audience, you have to evolve so that your club doesn’t become stagnant. So, whether it’s evolving from, hate to say it, back in the day when the cell phones were really large, like the size of a brick-

Kathy: I remember that!

Donna: – to the flip phone, to… So those I also use as… I take a look at as being part of my marketing tool, because you’re on the phone and calling people, you’re talking to people, whether it’s staff or whether it’s a vendor, et cetera. So, my marketing background, although not specifically towards a marketing school, if you will, but it’s more of the marketing of life that I’ve learned to become multifaceted and multitasking to be able to conform to the different arenas that we’re in today. So what I’ve learned from Lake Merced, I’m bringing forth to the Bridges, and I’m learning even more, because you have to be flexible enough to think outside of the box. So, everything that I’ve done, all these different facets of the journey, there’s a reason for the madness and here we are today.

Kathy: Wow, so the marketing of life. It gives you such a varied background to be able to do what you do. So, thanks for sharing a little bit more about your journey.

Donna: You bet.

Kathy: Let’s start by talking about running and marketing a private club. What do you see as the most significant misconception about that?

Donna: I think the biggest misconception is that people, in general, they used to cast a very wide net to see what they catch, right? So, if you can say this, but as you’re fishing, there are those people that cast wide net and what they get, they’ll try and keep, and what they don’t, they throw out. Well, then sometimes what happens is that you’re not line fishing, where you’re looking for a specific targeted fish or audience, if you will, because once you target market your specific person there is longevity in that person, to stay with the club. For instance, a misconception is, “Yeah, so let’s cast this wide call of people,” but you may not get the correct need or the right fit for your particular club. So I think sometimes that tends to be a misconception, is, “Let’s just blast everything out to everybody and see what we get,” and I think that can be dangerous at times, because you’re not sure of what you’re getting.

Kathy: You know, I think that’s a common misconception in a lot of marketing. There’s the shotgun approach and the [crosstalk 00:05:17] approach. So, I like your idea of line fishing. So you’re really target marketing for the longevity of a member. So you’re looking for the right person. That makes a lot of sense.

Donna: Mm-hmm (affirmative). I think when people are looking, and maybe this may lean into another topic, but there are so many different types of shoppers nowadays. There are those shoppers that make their decisions very quickly, and when they do make decision very quickly, they don’t necessarily stay for a long time. Then you have the thoughtful person who asks many, many different questions, and they’re more thoughtful in the process, and those people, we find, tend to stay a little longer. Anyway, interesting audience, for sure.

Kathy: Yeah, and that goes back to the misconception, so you’re thinking that if people make a quick decision, that’s great, they’re sure, but what you’re saying is that those who ask more questions, are more thoughtful about it, those gonna be better long-term members and customers for you.

Donna: Absolutely.

Kathy: Let’s talk about this year, 2018. What are the primary marketing challenges that you and your team are facing?

Donna: Each club has their own challenges. Our challenge is that there’s a certain avatar, if you will, that fits our niche. It is a person that probably needs to be a certain net worth. It probably needs to be a person who is, or could be, a trust fund child who has the wherewithal to be able to join a club like this. The Bridges at Rancho Santa Fe is truly one of a kind in its area. It is the most, I wouldn’t say exclusive, but it’s the most robust club from whether it’s a playground for your children, a doggie park for your dog, there’s pickleball, basketball, ping pong, tennis, all these different services. For us, obviously, with those services, with covering over 300 acres, with all the amenities and services that we do offer, there is a specific target audience that we have. For us, I think, the primary challenge right now, as we are, we’ve enlisted a demographer to assist us so that we know, “where are those people that fit our particular niche?” And we know who we are, obviously, so I think that’s the challenge is finding those pockets of neighborhoods or group of people, captive audience if you will, to draw them come to the Bridges. That’s been an interesting challenge, and I think we’re getting there with the enlistment of a demographer. We’ve been able to, just recently, find the areas in which those people that fit our avatar. So, it’s been interesting.

Kathy: So one of your biggest challenges, then, is identifying the target prospect, and you know exactly who those people are, do it’s a matter of finding them, first identifying who they are, then finding them. The demographer is very interesting, because there’s something that we work with in this called prison lifestyle. The philosophy behind that is, “Birds of a feather flock together,” so if you can find where those people live, not only the zip code but the block group, then you can find more just like them, so it sounds like you’re using that sort of philosophy to find your key target.

Donna: Correct.

Kathy: Yeah, great.

Donna: It’s been an interesting process, to see where these people are. As you widen your ring, if you will, zip codes, it’s very interesting.

Kathy: Super interesting. I love that kind of thing. And it’s great to see where you are in your targeting and how you’re solving those targeting problems. Thanks for sharing that.

Donna: You bet.

Kathy: You once shared with me that you are one of four females out of, I believe you said 300 club managers. Can you describe your experience for us on what it’s like moving through and excelling in an industry like yours that’s predominantly dominated by men, and what’s the key to developing more women leaders like yourself?

Donna: It’s actually 3000 club managers throughout the United States, and the four very specific in that we are at more top-tier clubs, and not only is it that we manage the club, but it’s the entire property, so from golf course to… When you think about that, you think about golf course to pool, too a spa, to a et cetera. You really have to be well-read. That’s first and foremost, is really understanding your craft, so that you can actually speak to it. Yes, you’re right, it is definitely a male-dominated world, so what you say and what you come out of your mouth has to be mellowed. I would say always think before you speak, so that your message that you deliver is thoughtful and real. I always have a practice where I never say that if I’m not sure of something I’m not ever gonna guess and never kind of throw out an answer that’s not correct. If I don’t know, I always come back with, “Let me get back to you on that, and always being prepared.

That is one thing I learned, is when you go into a meeting, you need to be heard, and sometimes you may not be, especially in an entire room with men, for instance, our board of directors meeting. I tend to keep quiet, I tend to be, well, I’m always prepared, I understand the subject matter, I study before, so when I do open my mouth, it’s information that is real, current, and accurate. So being well-read, think before you speak, don’t ever guess, and be humble. I think sometimes we try and overexert ourself because it’s this #metoo movement, all of that, I get that, but in the business world you need to be transparent as well, but we just need to be more mindful in what we say and how we say it.

Kathy: I think that’s a lot of good advice for any other females that find themselves in a male-dominated industry, and I think a lot of us do. Be prepared and well-read, and there’s so much that’s involved in being a general manager. You just mentioned a couple of them. You talk about the diversity between a pool and a golf course and a restaurant. Those all have so many different kinds of challenges and opportunities that you need to be well-versed on. I can see where you need to be well-read, and well-versed.

Donna: Yes. I never knew about Pebble Tec pool, and now I know what a Pebble Tec pool finish is. You’re definitely learning a lot and it never stops. Kathy, knowledge is power, right?

Kathy: Absolutely, and I think that goes back to your introduction of how you’re able to take your diverse background and multitask, and I can see where that’s really showing up in a positive way here, in your journey.

Donna: Thank you.

Kathy: Let’s talk about social media. Can you describe the impact that social media is having on your marketing strategies?

Donna: Holy smokes, yes. I’ve been here now 10 months, hired a Creative and Communications Director as well as a Director of Social Media and Marketing. They had not had that here before, and quite frankly, the club was averaging maybe 13 to 14 people joining. We are in the middle of June 2018 and year-to-date we have over 27 new members. I do have to credit a lot of that to social media. We’ve not ever had a Twitter account, we did not have a Facebook account, we did not have Instagram, so we have found those three to be our main focus. We’re not really SnapChatting because it is not our targeted audience, unless you have a 13-year-old that wants to spend the money to [inaudible 00:13:10] a golf club, I’m just kidding. But it has been impactful. We now have approximately 10,000 followers. I mean, it has just been impactful.

Also, as a matter of fact, with social media, we’ve discovered recently, using Influencers. So we have Tim Mickelson, who is Phil Mickelson’s brother, is now caddying for his brother Phil, and we have Tim Mickelson wearing our logo on his sleeve as he’s carrying his brother’s bag, and having him Tweet out or Instagram out photos of himself and hashtagging the Bridges. In that one tournament turn, I know the numbers seem small, but they’re big to us, we’ve had an instant 30 people following us on Twitter and 30 people following us on Instagram. Yes, social media has been very impactful in terms of not only sharing our name, but also sharing events that we’re hosting, so that those members that are Facebook followers or Instagram followers also know about the event, or they’ll click on and they’ll say, “I’m going,” or, “I’m interested in going.” It’s been a great way of not only socially, but from a communication platform it’s been great.

Kathy: Solid examples of what social media can do, and thank you for sharing the fact that you are actually tracking your new members and where you started with 13, 14 and you already have 27, so that’s really showing the results of that and what a great idea to utilize Influencer, that’s one of the biggest things in social media right now. And the way you’re [inaudible 00:14:50] Tim Mickelson. Did he take the place of, is it Bones? Is that Phil’s old caddy? So his brother’s caddying for him, so you’re really out in front of your perfect target market, aren’t you?

Donna: Yes. Yes we are.

Kathy: Wow. What a great example.

Donna: And I Also think, too, from a social media, I know that people may not necessarily think that the website is a social media platform, but for us it has been… So we completely scrubbed our website and made it more here and now. I crack up because when we started the development of it, we used the drone flyby, and it’s beautiful, it’s great, but now it’s more trending to, “Let’s put short clips of testimonials.” So we’re working on that next platform. We’re using members testimonials or whomever, if you will, sort of more like a live acted interactive Yelp version, so instead of the stars we’re getting people to talk about the club and their experience. And to that a social media platform we’re going start incorporating videos to our Instagram and Twitter account.

Kathy: Just fantastic use, again, of Influencers and customer testimonials. So you’re really putting a face to the club, and I just love the way you’re building the brand at this club and really humanizing it by putting the faces and the interacting.

Donna: Yes. Absolutely.

Kathy: Really great way. Let’s dig a little bit deeper. Maybe you can share with us. Not everything goes right in what we do. We learn and grow from some of our challenges, so can you share with us a marketing challenge that you’ve faced and how you overcame it?

Donna: Ooh, marketing challenge. I think the marketing challenge that I’ve seen, not so much here because we kind of hit the ground running, but at my previous club is what’s real and what’s not real. When you’re delivering the message or when you’re marketing out, are you sharing who you really are versus when a person comes to your club and you get X versus Y I’ve got you’re sharing Y. You have to be really careful about that, in ensuring that the message that you deliver is true to who you are. Sometimes you look at shopping websites and they’re marketing, “Oh, the product is this,” and you get it in the mail and you’re not getting the quality, maybe, that you thought. So being real I think is really important, and not so much here, because I think we were cognizant of that moving that, that we wanted to make sure that we delivered the right message, and [inaudible 00:17:32] with thoughtful process, so I think that, not so much here, but previous clubs that I’ve experienced that we really have to make sure your content is up to date.

Kathy: Well, having a thoughtful process for your brand is always a good idea, because it’s amazing how many people want to shortcut that, and it does take some strength to say, “No, we need to go through a process.” Anybody can come up with a message, but it has to be, what you’re saying, the message has to be real and it has to reflect who you actually are. Especially these days. Especially if you’re going to use social media and people are going to be talking about you. Authenticity is vital these days, because people will see through a façade or fake right away and will call you on it, and now you’re backpedaling.

Donna: Even when you market your target market and you get them to your club, and that’s when you, obviously, really have to turn it on and put your dancing shoes on. What I always do as you’re marketing… You’re using your own person self to market as you’re giving them the tour, is, and I share this with them, I’m very open about being transparent, is what I say to you has to be authentic because once you join you’re going to know what’s really real. I may be reporting to you down the line, so really careful about that. [inaudible 00:18:52] I believe in the product, I think that’s why I’m here, is because the product is so incredible and [inaudible 00:18:59] place.

Kathy: Yeah, absolutely. Authenticity is important when you’re going to see them every day, right?

Donna: Yes, ma’am.

Kathy: Donna, can you share with us: what do you think the best way for brands in your industry is to get noticed?

Donna: We need help. We have managers in place that help us through the process, but there are experts out there, and we enlisted the help of Pipeline Marketing recently, and we know. No egos here. If we know that there are experts out there, we’re going to solicit their help, and they are in business and this is what they do, and so for ourselves, I found that this was the best way to help us in this process was to enlist outside help. We did, and we feel that they are part of the reason why we are successful and we are being recognized. They are helping us through the process. They are helping us capture, so once we get a lead or once we get an interest level, they were able to tell the story, obviously, much better than us, because they came out, they visited, they spent time with members, and what they put together for us in completing our branding… So we had to go through branding process, obviously, from silliness as what our real brown on our logo is and making sure it’s the same brown all the time, or the font that we use in our letterhead. We are completely branded, but with that we needed help and we’re happy to have enlisted the help of these folks that have done an amazing job.

Kathy: It sounds like it, from where you are and some of the things that you’ve been talking about, it sounds like you have been very thoughtful, and the use of experts is an interesting thing to talk about, because, again, sometimes I think people think that, “everybody here knows what we’re doing, and we’ve been doing this for a long time, so we don’t need experts.” But it’s amazing what an expert team can see that you’re looking at every day, that you’re not really seeing. That can help you, again, find out what’s real, too. They can see what’s real, and they can see what’s special, and they can help you to see that, and to build the right story, and having you tell us about their being able to tell your story to your prospects is super important, too, that it all comes back to the right story.

Donna: Definitely.

Kathy: Are there are a couple of brands, a brand or two that you’re following right now that might give us some insight or some lessons into who’s doing a good job marketing?

Donna: Yes. Obviously, being in the private club world I definitely do poke around at other folks sites. I’ve been known to call to see what their membership programs are and what they offer, but quite frankly, in our world of private club, we have our own California chapter, and everybody is very open to sharing their information. It’s a simple pick up the phone or a simple email, so I’m able to get that information. I look at some of the big boys, like Olympic Club up in northern California, they’re doing such an amazing job. I do look at their site, I look at amazing Pebble Beach, though they’re public and they have a hotel, but their branding is so very clear… Just to capture some ideas. I tend to look at more the bigger private clubs. Then the other piece, too, is I look at local hotels, to see what they’re doing, because some of these folks with the boutique hotels, they really have some great, great ideas. The other is at any given time we’ll have six food and beverage outlets going, and so for us there’s three main ones and they’re each different in what they serve. With this whole trend in healthy eating, the gluten free, the allergies, et cetera, I tend to look at, these days, more and more Food Network-type programs and their websites to see what is relevant. There’s a gentleman at my former club, his name is Fedele Bauccio, and he is the CEO of Bon Appétit, which is very much [inaudible 00:23:15] he just won the James Beard award a couple of years ago and very much into healthy eating and his company, they do the food for Google and for a lot of these big companies, and they run their cafeteria for them. I am very fortunate to pick up the phone and talk to him, but it is definitely a different trend. People are eating more brown rice versus regular rice, and we offer gluten free. This is totally off the topic, but it’s one of those marketing strategies where, once you’ve acquired the member it’s a matter of retention. So my mind kicks into a different gear where I am looking at things to offer to the membership to retain them. So again, different strategy of marketing, but you have your acquisition and you have your retention, so I’m all across the board.

Kathy: Yeah, some really great examples of looking at bigger clubs, like Olympic and Pebble Beach and then looking at smaller boutique hotels and restaurants and food trends. Again, it’s just so diverse. So many different things that you’re looking at, and you’ve got your fingers on all of that, and all of that is to bring the most targeted and important service to your members, in keeping them there. Keeping their loyalty.

Donna: Absolutely. Even through the marketing process, and soliciting Pipeline to help us through the process, we’re always on the phone with them to say, “Listen, we need to update you on X.” We’ve opened up these beautiful refreshment stations on the golf course, and now we’re just breaking ground on doing this fun top golf concept where it’s a teaching facility, but it acts as a bar and a lounge. So now we’re doing this and the owner of the company, her name is Shannon, she says, “You’ve got to tell me these things so that we can update your avatar,” so that, again, you may be target marketing, those parents that want their kids to be golfers, so they’re looking for this type of facility, like a teaching facility. We’ve taken this facility and we’re going to morph it into… There are these drop-down movie screens. Branding, marketing, relevancy, it’s all there.

Kathy: And I think the lesson here that you’re teaching us is that your plan is always evolving. It’s so important not only to be exploring different options and providing opportunity, but also making sure that you’re letting your marketing team know these things, so that they can evolve your message, too. I think that’s a really important branding lesson for us. So we’ve talked about the branding of your club and some other brands that you’re looking at. Let’s talk about your personal leadership brand, Donna. Tell us about that.

Donna: Well, if you ask the team, they will call me, that I’m their mother. I think that’s the difference in leadership styles. Maybe I’m overgeneralizing, but managing from behind the desk, I don’t do that. My personal style is… My desk is here, but really my desk is out there at the 300 acres. I’m not afraid to pick up a broom and sweep if I need to. The “do as I do” sort of concept. The team, they believe that too. You really have to set the example. I am only as good as my team. I think I shared that with you at the Kia Classic. I have a title, and have a job description. My team has their own titles and job descriptions, but at the end of the day it’s my responsibility to be compassionate and take care of them so that they can do their job.

So we have a weekly operations meeting, and they know this, so at the end of every meeting, I’ll say, “What can I do for you?” And they know that. “What can I do so that you can do your job and be the best?” Sometimes they’ll say, “Well, did you know that the vacuum cleaner at so-and-so is not working?” Well, I wouldn’t know that unless we talk about these things, so open door policy, the staff team, they have all access. My leadership brand is compassion and filled under that compassion umbrella is to always be a good listener. When you think about the show “Undercover Boss,” where they want to know what is going on with their department or with their business, or with their branch, and at that C-suite level, you may not ever listen to what is happening at the ground level. So you have to go to the ground level, and you have to have the eyes and you have to have the ears. Sometimes that gets missed, so listening is just so very important to me. I think we live in a world, now, where there are so many different opportunities. The company next door may be paying a person a dollar more an hour. In the private club, the membership loves the sense of comfort, and this is their home away from home, just like you always go to the same restaurant, because you walk in and they’re like, “Hey! Buona sera! How are you!” You know, you walk in, and you love that. That’s where, without the staff and without the continuity of the staff, that’s going to go away, and I think that comes with making sure that whoever the leader is takes care of the employees, and I find that that trend is happening, and we’re talking about it more and more. It’s, “How do we take care of you.” That’s my job, and I believe in what I’m doing, and so that’s why I’m here.

Kathy: Yeah, and it’s all about the loyalty of your team, too, just like you spoke about the loyalty of your members, and I can see how you come full circle with that. Thank you for sharing that.

Donna: Oh, you bet. You bet.

Kathy: Now that we’re talking personally, let’s talk a little bit more about a personal learning experience, a time or a situation in your career where you faced a professional obstacle, and if you could share with us how you overcame that?

Donna: Early on I was in the hotel industry. Very much a male-dominated world, and I just was not being heard. I didn’t know… Sort of bypassed for promotion, et cetera, and I took the person who was my manager at the time and I said to myself, “Someday.” I think that person made me try a little harder, so that was a plus, but struggling, and going through a kind of favoritism and all, it engraved in my head that, “Someday I want to be in that position, and someday, when I am, I’m not going to be that person.”

It’s not really an event-specific thing to talk about, it was the generalization, was that I was not heard or considered, and truly was more qualified, et cetera. I struggled with it, and obviously the reaction could have been more of a, “I’m bitter and this is where I am,” but my takeaway from it was, “You know, someday,” this was way young in my career, so I wasn’t even married or had a child but I said, “Someday, A: this is a learning lesson, somewhere down the line I’m going to take a deep breath and suck it up,” if you will, and what I learned. I still carry that experience. Sometimes haunts me, or it did haunt me, but now I teach that to my daughter, a 19-year-old awesome, awesome kid, who has a voice and she’s carrying her voice as well in that same direction. She’s going to be a force to be reckoned with down the line, but perseverance has taught me, this tough experience made me persevere, for sure. It sort of shows you can learn valuable lessons through just about anything: good experiences, bad experiences, and sometimes the bad example is just as good a learning experience as a good example. Following through with some of those things that you learn, how not to do. That’s a great lesson for us. When we’ve spoken about some of these challenges, and, interesting still to this day, not being included in the boys club’s dinner, if you will, it’s still there, gals, but don’t be bitter. If you’re not invited to the boy’s club, then have a girl’s club dinner, and have some awesomely amazing women there, and invite them to join and have them experience that, and hopefully there’s a trickle-down effect.

Kathy: Yes. Yes. Do unto others, right?

Donna: Correct.

Kathy: Let’s talk about a daily habit or two that you believe contributes to your success.

Donna: My answer is, when I hop in my car, or when I wake up in the morning, I do listen to music. I do listen to upbeat music. It’s Bruno Mars right now is on my wake-up list. I’m telling you, there is something magical about turning music on first thing, and it’s gotta be this happy music. You can listen to jazz or whatever you like, but playing this upbeat music is so, so fun. And that’s how I sort of start my day. I don’t start my day looking, I mean I do, I look at my phone first, to see if there’s any urgent text messages. If there’s not, the music goes on, the emails can wait, the house is not going to burn down, but I am [inaudible 00:33:00]. So, listen to music, get ready on a happy note, because when I wake up in the morning, I know that I’ve ended the day with closure, and then I look at my calendar for the next day so that I’m mentally prepared.

That’s kind of my practice and enforce, I know that’s just weird, but this exercise thing really does help de-stress you. So, it’s 50 jumping jacks in the morning and 100 sit-ups in the day, that’s my little quick jolt of energy. Then I’ll do a warm down, at the end of the night, I’ll do 50 jumping jacks and whatever little exercise. It’s bad, I don’t have time to go to the gym as much as I’d like to, so I do these 10 minute spurts in the morning and at night, and then I’ll save the longer workouts for during the week, or on the weekend and my days off. Anyway, that’s all that I have, music and 10 minute spurts of exercise.

Kathy: It’s great to hear you say that, because we’re all super busy, and not everybody has time to do an hour workout in the morning, but you gotta get yourself up, you gotta get yourself prepared, and listening to the upbeat and happy music and getting your 50 jumping jacks and I’m impressed you do 100 sit-ups. Wow!

Donna: That took some time. It did not happen overnight.

Kathy: Awesome, awesome. So anybody can do that. Anybody can get up, put some upbeat music on and do some calisthenics. Just [inaudible 00:34:21] in the morning and at night, too. I think that’s important to de-stress when you get home, as well.

Donna: Yes. Definitely. I know it sounds strange, but sometimes there’s just not time for walking. Actually there’s a seven-minute little app exercise that I do, and it’s great! You do it at home and if you don’t have time to drive to the gym because you’re tired. Another personal habit is, when my daughter is home, I recognize that I have given all of my energy to work and when I come home I will do the same for her. As a woman, you still have to cook dinner for the kids, or if you have a husband or family it doesn’t turn off, it just continues on. So for me, I heard someone say this, and I recognize that I was doing it, was when I got home, I was like, “Whew, I’m tired,” and I didn’t put that energy into my own daughter, my own family. A few years ago I changed that, and I recognize when I get home, I need to listen to her equally as I do to my staff [inaudible 00:35:30] important if not more important.

Kathy: Wonderful advice, and thank you for reminding us that we need to put the same energy towards our personal life and the people that are most important to us, personally, just as we do during the day to our work. Fantastic. Love this tip. Let’s talk a little bit about mentoring. Can you share your thoughts? What has mentoring meant to you. Maybe there’s a couple of lessons that you’ve learned or applied, and just how it’s helped you become a successful businessperson.

Donna: It’s funny. I don’t think you ever have one mentor, I think you have different types of mentors in your life, from personal to professional. My first mentor was my first general manager in the hotel industry. He took me under his wing. The first thing, I think, as a mentor is the ability to be able to recognize talent, and how you want to be able to help that person. Not everybody wants a mentor, so you’re not going to go, “Hey! I want to be your mentor,” but first you have to recognize in your team of people, whether people that you work with or people that you’ve met along the way is do they have the “it” factor? So A: Being able to recognize that. B: It’s where are they in their life and what do they need to go to the next level? Some people’s mentoring may be, “Hey, I just want somebody to share some thoughts and where you think I should go,” there’s that. Then there is the mentoring from A to Z, which is also great, so you have you make sure that you’re not just pontificating on the experience and not listening to them on what their needs and wants are, so as a mentor you have to be able to identify not only talent, but what their needs are. Currently I mentor two people: One is a gentleman who is aspiring to be a general manager, and one is a college student, and she is hoping a general manager someday, as well. I think from that you identify what the needs are, and then you put in place. Some people need a plan in writing, and say, “Let’s put some goals and objectives together, and then let’s follow up. Do you need help in achieving those goals and objectives?”

As a mentor you also have to be a good referral base, so you have to have a good base of people in your bank that you know that you can say, “You know that? I want you to talk to this person who can help you with X, Y, and Z.” That’s also important when it comes to mentoring. You have to have a good resource network of folks to help them along the process. You can’t be the end-all-be-all mentor. Does that make sense?

Kathy: Yeah, it does. Here’s what I’m getting from what you’re describing. First of all, it’s recognizing what kind of talent, the right kind of person is best to be mentored and where they are in their journey, that makes a difference in the kind of mentoring. I like how you’re talking about specifics, real specifics, setting goals and objectives, and checking in with those as your mentor. Also having this base of other resources because you’re not the end-all-be-all to everything for this person, it’s “Oh, you should talk to these people, this person about this and this person about this.” I really like the way you broke that down. It’s very useful.

Donna: Great. Good. We have this one, his name is Thomas, he is looking to go into the club world and wanting to be a GM someday. Recently, he’s kind of spun off and he has this incredible voice. This very low voice, and he’s been asked to do voiceovers. Now we’re spinning in another direction, he says, “Well, Donna, I still want to be a general manager, but I wanna,” and so I said, “Well okay, then let’s continue down this general manager path, but if you want to just kind of segue in and learn something, I think that’s great, because you’ll meet people, you’re too young to be stuck in one alley, let’s try different lanes of traffic and see which best suits you.” So he’s taking voiceover lessons. I know that’s strange and off-topic, but that kind of mentoring, he’s like, “This is great, can we continue to talk about clubs,” so I get him connected, and so now he’s doing these lessons.

It’s interesting how, and I’m going to segue just for a moment. I know that we’re in the club world, I know that we work in this club world business, but we also have to be community-oriented. We have to be able to get back to the game to which we love, whether it’s golfing, or your show, as you network with people. I not only work in the club world, but I sit on three charitable boards raising money, helping kids, helping women become great people, which in turn, hopefully, they’ll become great leaders in whatever their life path takes them into. I think networking and building friendships, like yourself and how we have met, is really, really important. Sorry, I kind of pontificated.

Kathy: No, it’s great, and thank you for sharing that, because these kind of deep conversations are really, I think, what the show is about. We want to hear from real people that are saying real things, and I think that you’re very thoughtful in your answers. One of the things that I got out of what you were talking about with mentoring is: mentoring is not always about helping somebody get to a specific position or a job, but it’s really about giving them support, and helping them to make decisions, whatever those decisions are. Even this gentleman that you’re mentoring, whether he goes down this trail or this trail, you’re there to help him and support him, and help him with different resources. I can just tell that you’re very giving in the things that you do and the people that you interact with. I think that, in itself, is what makes you a fantastic leader. That’s why we want to share your story with others.

Donna: Well, thank you. Thank you. I appreciate it.

Kathy: That’s great! So, I only have a couple more questions, you’ve been so generous with your time, thank you. We’re getting, now, to the point where I ask you if you have any advice for women that want to get into club management and marketing.

Donna: Yes. From the marketing side, I have to day, you have to know technology. Understand technology. Learn about it, read about it. Go to somebody that can help you because, from a marketing perspective, because so much of it is technology-based, now, whether it’s SEMs, SEOs, SEAs or whether your marketing strategy is… It’s really a lot of technology and I think sometimes we fall short. Certainly, for myself, I’ve had to kind of pick up the book and do some reading, is from a marketing perspective, it’s technology and it’s also being creative and being graphically knowledgeable. All of those things, you have to learn. Commercials, what people are saying, what people are doing. Then you almost, as a marketing person, you have to kind of be a futurist. You have to think about, yes, the here and the now and you want to market the latest and greatest, but where is it going five years from now? For us, we’re always five years ahead, five years ahead. Where can we be? And you see it trending by whether you’re watching news or listening to podcasts, et cetera, listening to that. From a marketing perspective, have a good foundation. Those are the skillsets that you need, I feel, in order to be a great marketer, if you will. And a self identity. Your own self-branding, also, because you have to market yourself in order to get a marketing job, so to speak. Make sure you are in check with yourself, and you are presenting the way you want to be presented, whether it’s in [inaudible 00:43:21] clothes, or whether it’s in a business suit, or whether it’s in overalls, I don’t know. Making sure you know who you are before you go out and market. That’s one.

As far as in the women moving into the club management world, I really feel like nowadays, and I look at all these girls that are coming up and these women that are coming up from Cornell, is that they are really educated. They’re doing these internships. So we have this gal, just hired, just graduated from Cal Poly. Bright, energetic, and what these programs have taught them is to, obviously, have the education, but to take these internships and work in a hotel, work in a restaurant, work in a private club, because the club management world is vast. It’s hospitality. It could be lots of different things. Some people, private clubs are not the way to go because your audience is very targeted. You’re gonna see the same people day in and day out because those are the members. If you’re more of a transitory person, maybe hotels are the way to go, because people check in, they check out, but get educated, go to the right school, do the internships, grab a mentor, another club manager mentor, and I think that belonging to an organization like [inaudible 00:44:38] Club Managers, CMAA, Club Managers Association of America, they are worldwide now, so your opportunity is not only here in the United States, but if you wanted to go and be a club manager at a beautiful golf course in Spain, you have the ability to do so. God, that sounds worthless. Anyway, you have the ability to do so. That would be the first step. You get lots of cool internship programs and then you’re ready for the real world and private club industry.

Kathy: Great advice, Donna, wow. Thank you so much for sharing all of that.

Donna: Thank you.

Kathy: And the internships and the peer groups, and the personal branding and the continued learning, I mean all that is just so important to make it in this business world. Thanks for sharing. My last question for you is, “Do you have any resources, any books or podcasts, or anything that you want to recommend for our continued learning?”

Donna: Yes. My favorite one, and I have a stack of books over here, but my favorite one is Good to Great. It’s really understanding who you are and the listening skills… So instead of brand-specific, if you will, it’s more the self-development, because without the strong you and understanding what you need to do, and how you lead, I think the rest of the knowledge will come.. The knowledge specific in your job, that comes in play on a day-to-day basis, but just understanding who you are… I’ve found that I refer back to Good to Great a lot. That’s my advice.

Kathy: Excellent. Thank you for the Good to Great, and definitely all of these skills, and all the lessons you’ve shared with us is, again, part of why we’re doing this podcast, so that we can continue to learn, and we have interesting and fascinating people like you to learn from. Thanks for your time.

Donna: Thank you very much, Kathy, I appreciate it. It was a lot of fun.

Kathy: Thanks, Donna!

Donna: Take care.

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