By Rick Coyne
At about the same time Jill started dating her unfiltered and hilariously fun husband Tony in 1981, the ballad “One in a Million You”, was hitting the top 10 charts. There’s little doubt, all these years later, that Tony knew immediately that Jill was his one in a million girl and that he was a lucky man.
Since then, those that know her well have come to look at her in the same way. Hopefully, this story about Jill – the Club Managers Association of America President for 2016 – will do justice to a remarkable woman, her spirit and her positive influence over so many.
From the beginning of her club career, Jill was an achiever, a learner and willing to work hard in giving back all that she received from her association and peers. When she ran for the board in the Carolinas’ chapter, she caught the eye of another iconoclastic woman, Sally Burns Rambo.
To this day, many years after Sally’s passing, Jill still carries Sally’s words in her heart. (She also keeps Sally’s profile information in her phone). Sally immediately recognized Jill’s leadership skills and urged Jill to be a part of a stronger presence of women in the industry. She asked Jill to make a promise, to run for the CMAA’s National Board and one day become president. Jill accepted Sally’s challenge and made her that promise, now becoming only the third women to be President of CMAA since 1927.
Jill’s a fighter and always ready for a challenge (Remember, she married Tony, right?). From the beginning of her career, she knew she needed a personal strategic plan outlining what was important to her and setting the stage for finding a club fit where she could make a difference. After many years of perfecting her craft with several clubs, under great mentors, Jill found her home at Ballantyne Country Club in Charlotte, North Carolina.
BCC is preeminent family-oriented, community-based country club, characterized by informed and cooperative leadership and happy members. Jill’s leadership mantra, “it’s all about change” has taken the best of what the club offered and made it better, simultaneously removing impediments to long-term sustainability.
Ballantyne stands today as a perfect case study in how to do it right.
Along her career path Jill has touched and been touched by many great people, mentors and friends.
So many wanted to participate in wishing her well this entire issue of BoardRoom could have been devoted to the accolades. Here are just some of the comments from friends and family about Jill, the person.
Ray Morrison, Jill’s first general manager at the Charlotte City Club, and now retired, raves about their first meeting, her dedication and her “aim to please” attitude.
Ray hired Jill from a party rental firm, where Jill worked with her one-day, soon-to-be-husband, Tony. Her helpfulness, friendly, can-do attitude, personality, insatiable interest in acquiring more knowledge of the club operation, dedication and her innate desire to make things better, “sealed the deal” to Jill’s first foray into the private club world. As it has turned out, that was only the beginning.
Jack Quick, Jill’s general manager at Old Town Club, had watched Jill’s work at several clubs before he approached her to take on the role as assistant manager.
The Jack & Jill team, as they were affectionately dubbed, became a truly professional partnership.
Jack is quick to point out that all of the attributes that Ray talked about were simply augmented by Jill’s always smiling, always positive, funny and considerate way of treating everyone. Staff, members, board and committee members tended to listen and believe her. She got staff to buy into process.
As Jack concludes, “Education got her in, reputation got her to where she is today.”
Michael Ambrose, a long time friend, believes Jill has magical powers. He said, “I realized after meeting Tony that anyone that could actually exert control over one of the world’s most loveable curmudgeons ever is obviously a magician. He will undoubtedly become the grouchiest ‘first lady’ ever.”
On a more serious note, Jill and many other women in the industry have faced challenges in a traditionally male-dominated industry. “There are several other attributes that have allowed Jill to rise to the top of her class; a remarkable memory for names and faces, a strong desire to succeed, and an uncanny ability to resolve issues,” Michael added. “These attributes have opened the doors of opportunity and assure her long term leadership role in our industry.”
Ever the team player, Jill became a part of an interesting group of industry people, now known as the P-10. Originated to foster personal and industry growth, the group, over the past 12 years, has allowed disparate individuals to learn each others strengths, vulnerabilities, honesty and toughness.
Kevin MacDonald, one of CMAA’s life coaches and co-founder of the Extraordinary Leader program, explains what he has learned and observed in Jill Philmon.
“I have learned that it’s possible to be caring and expect a lot, compassionate and passionate, energized and quiet, persistent, loyal, fun, funny, strong, soft, Teflon and vulnerable, extraordinary and humble. She has taught me that it is possible to be the total package!”
Dick Kopplin, of Kopplin and Kuebler, another P-10 member and expert in governance and operations, offered this synopsis of the Jill, the leader.
“Jill may be the textbook example of a club manager who has focused on education and personal growth to propel her very successful club management career. Anyone who has come to know Jill has not only enjoyed her contagious enthusiasm and passion for club management but also her engaging and caring attitude toward everyone she meets. She continues to set a high standard in her professional and personal life for all of us to follow. I am so blessed to know her.”
Skip Avery, a CMAA past president and member of the P-10 added, “Jill carries Sally’s torch forward, mentoring college students, young managers and promoting the industry to young stars, especially young women. She has mastered the creation of harmony between work and family. Her leadership will greatly benefit this association.”
As another P-10 member and close friend, I would add that having had the opportunity to know her over these many years, to know Tony, to have interviewed her mother Ruth, and to have shared tears and laughter, Jill Philmon is the real deal.
She has core values, has an abiding faith in God, is compassionate and strong, is honest, respectful, possesses great integrity, is loyal, is professional, is caring and most of all, Jill has one of the greatest senses of humor I have ever seen. She brings a smile to your face, even in an argument and her one-liners are legendary.
As a family person, while we all joke lovingly about Tony, Jill is a wife, daughter, sister, aunt, friend, peer and mentor.
Her proud mother Ruth spent time telling me about her devotion, as a daughter, to Ruth and to her Dad, Tommy, who passed 10 years ago. As Ruth proudly points out, if you gave her a word, she’d write a story. She was always a great listener, but always had her own mind.
Jill has set her goals high for the next 12 months. She has described it as the Year of Creation, Energy and Strategy, keeping technology in the forefront, advocacy for watchdogging governmental regulations and their impact on the industry, and promoting greater leadership roles for women in our industry.
As Jill sets her sights on these goals she clearly recognizes the need to be strategic while helping clubs and club leaders to embrace change.
For those of you that don’t yet know Jill Philmon, you will…and the experience will leave you with renewed spirit and faith in an ever-evolving industry. For those of you who may be somewhat new to the industry, go back and review everything in italics. It is a roadmap to your future leadership role in this great industry.
As the words to One in a Million You offer, “One day the sun came shining through, the rain had stopped and the skies were blue.”
Keep the skies blue Jill and know you have an industry that is behind you.