By Dave White
In a time when many private clubs throughout the world have had their survival…their very existence threatened, in some cases after decades of servicing their members, it’s a good news story to realize that many, because of their leaders, are emerging from the economic storm as strong, thriving clubs, with eyes focused on the future.
That’s “life” today for the Detroit Athletic Club, Detroit, Michigan. And that’s why Richard Brodie, a multi-generation member of DAC, president and visionary is BoardRoom’s Distinguished Club President of the Year.
BoardRoom, for the second year, is recognizing 21 club presidents and chairs as Private Club Presidents of the Year – 2009 for practicing what they preach –leadership for the betterment of their clubs. These are board presidents or chairs who have served the majority of 2009 as the volunteer leaders of their club.
One of the 21, Richard “Dick” Brodie of the Detroit Athletic Club is recognized with the additional award as the Distinguished Club President of the year.
“In its second year, the Private Club President of the Year designation has attracted almost 400 board president nominations from clubs and nominators,” exclaimed BoardRoom publisher, John Fornaro.
Nominations of the top 21 have been reviewed by BoardRoom’s industry experts who have an understanding of the industry, the structure of the board of directors, and the role and responsibilities of the club’s board of directors, including the macromanagement of the club, which clearly defines the role and responsibilities of the club’s management as its chief executive.
“Kurt and I are very enthused about the Club President of the Year program that has been created and developed by BoardRoom magazine,” commented Richard Kopplin, a partner with Kopplin & Kuebler LLC. The firm, with principals Richard Kopplin and Kurt Kuebler, is one of the major supporters of this BoardRoom endeavor.
“We have often honored club general managers and other employees in the private club world but this is the first effort to recognize club members who give so much of their time for the betterment of their clubs by serving as their club president. We say it’s about time that these volunteer club presidents, who give generously of their personal time, receive some accolades for the work that they do to benefit their fellow club members,” Kopplin added.
“In this era when clubs are expecting top performance from the GM/COO, it’s especially gratifying to come across a president who truly ‘gets it’, and ensures that in order to achieve that top performance, they have to provide strong support and guidance, and make sure that roadblocks, real or perceived, are not obstacles to the GM/COO’s success,” Kuebler injected.
“The group of presidents selected for this year’s BoardRoom Awards all seem to share that collective trait of visionary leadership in the boardroom, combined with strong recognition of the most effective organizational model necessary to be successful in today’s club world,” Kuebler added.
“To be selected as one of the final 21 Club Presidents of the Year is truly an honor considering the hundreds of annual nominations for this recognition. Someone once said that the two happiest days in the term of a club president are the first and then again, the last. This award recognizes all of the time in between that requires numerous meetings, phone calls, and communications with members and employees,” Kopplin commented.
“We both salute BoardRoom Magazine for initiating this program and we congratulate this year’s 21 club presidents who so richly deserve this recognition, and both for recognizing and highlighting the importance of ‘energized, engaged and strategically focused partnerships’ found in thriving clubs in this ever-changing club landscape,” Kuebler added.
“We, at BoardRoom agree,” Fornaro explained. “It’s vitally important we recognize people who, as volunteers devote their time for the betterment of their clubs, and it’s even more important now in the stressful times that clubs have been facing for the past number of months.
“It’s a real credit to these board presidents…these board volunteers who diligently establish the club’s direction and then let their general managers get on with managing what the club’s board and members want.
“Our congratulations go to Dick Brodie and the other top 20 club presidents for their outstanding work in leading their clubs,” Fornaro enthused.
Stories on the other recipients will follow in subsequent BoardRoom issues.
Brodie, a visionary, is dealing in the present with an eye on the future. That means dealing with change, facing the challenges of an ever-shifting private club membership, requiring different needs and wants, while leading the Detroit Athletic Club through a time of turmoil.
In a presidency that began as the DAC basked in the glow of its prestigious Michigan Quality Leadership Council Award, the only club in the nation to receive a quality award based on the Malcolm Baldrige criteria, Brodie worked diligently to maintain a steady ship, as worsening economic seas washed over Detroit.
Personally impacted by the downturn in the automotive industry, Brodie still led the DAC without losing stride, focusing instead on his beloved club and Detroit.
“Dick Brodie was making sure the DAC maintained a steady financial course, allowing management to do what it needed to do to right-size the operation without allowing the first-class services of the club or its reputation to suffer in any visible way,” opined the club’s executive manager Ted Gillary.
Prior to his term as president, Brodie served on the club’s strategic planning committee that helped shape the club’s direction over a multi-year period leading up to the quality award.
“Dick Brodie has supported (and encouraged) the kind of creative strategic thinking and decisions on the part of key board members and the executive manager that eventually led the DAC to seek an alliance and begin the process of possibly acquiring an additional property, the Forest Lake Country Club, through a non-binding letter of intent to merge,” Gillary explained.
“This effort is still ongoing and has required Dick to be responsive and a reassuring leader.
“Clubs like the DAC uplift the community and are worthy of extraordinary effort by our members. Leaders like Dick Brodie recognize this,” Gillary enthused. “They want to be a part of something, to have a vision greater than that of their own well being.”
“Allowing something new and bold to move forward in times like these in our community takes great fortitude and courage and Brodie has shown the kind of courage that would make all of our past presidents proud.”
And that’s exactly what has happened at the Detroit Athletic Club, with Dick Brodie at the helm.
An outstanding delegator, Brodie has trusted that the responsibilities handed down would be faithfully carried out and in all cases has been pleased with the work of his board and the management of the club.
At a recent DAC board meeting when it was announced Dick Brodie has been named BoardRoom’s Distinguished Club President of the Year, he was presented with a “special cake,” Gillary explained.
Brodie’s response? “I really should cut this cake into 18 pieces and share this honor with all of our board of directors. I also need to share this cake with our staff and employees. I accept this award on behalf of the club – it is a great honor for the DAC and for me.”
He’s always been an ambassador for DAC. “This club has always been a big part of my life,” said the 67 year-old Bloomfield Hills resident, first elected to the club’s board of directors in 2004.
Brodie’s a proud father of two daughters Pauline Fisher and Margaret Williams, and Pauline and son-in-law David Fisher represent the fourth generation of club membership for the family. Brodie’s wife of 45 years, Joanne, enjoys the club as much as her husband.
“She’s a life long Detroiter as well,” he said. “We’re local through and through and love our community.
“The DAC has been a tradition in my family for four generations and the chance to lead it has been such a privilege. It has always been a big part of my life” Brodie reflected.
And these unselfish and visionary attitudes are the reason why Dick Brodie of the Detroit Athletic Club is BoardRoom magazine’s 2009 Distinguished Club President of the Year.
Ken Voyles, publisher and editor, DAC News contributed to this story on Dick Brodie.