John Fornaro and Molly Cox – co-authors of the Distinguished Club Experience
By Dave White, editor
So, why a book on private clubs? Good question.
John Fornaro, publisher of BoardRoom magazine and CEO of BoardRoom’s Distinguished Clubs, researched and found there had never been a mainstream book published, based on the private club industry.
What? How was that possible? He thought it was about time that clubs were introduced to the world and embraced for their ability to fulfill a human need: to belong. But that’s not all.
Private clubs must offer a unique standard of service and engagement. They continuously provide experiences that ensure members want to stay members (a home-away-from-home).
While a restaurant, resort, hotel or frankly most businesses have to provide their product or service for a day or up to a week, private clubs must please their members Every. Single. Day. Often for up to 30 or 40 years! And the management must be at the top of their game, because there’s a lot at stake.
While there are hospitality business books on the market – The New Gold Standard based on the Ritz Hotel Company and The Disney Way for example – there isn’t a business book based on the best of the best in the private club industry. What’s the difference? Top clubs hire leaders who have already learned everything from the hospitality industry. That was just their starting point.
How to go about it
When it came time to write the book Fornaro chose to collaborate with author and national speaker Molly Cox. He knew they would make a great team. Together they have more than 45 years of experience in the club and hospitality business.
Molly and John met at a conference over 22 years ago. John hired Molly to speak at his PCMA conference several times and they continued to stay in touch, always discussing what’s new and interesting in the private club, city club and athletic club industry.
The pair bounced ideas off each other and discussed best practices. Both natural connectors, they introduced their friends – in and out of the industry – to each other. Always expanding their reach for ideas, talent and opportunities, with backgrounds that complement each other.
Molly is the former GM for a large athletic club, and helped write the phenomenally successful train-the-trainer program for the Fish Philosophy! The book Fish! by John Christenson, has sold over five million copies!
Molly presented the Fish! program at a CMAA national program to a wildly receptive crowd. She is also a Trust Edge certified instructor, and the co-author of the book, Improvise This! How to Think on Your Feet so You Don’t Fall on Your Face.” She has spoken and consulted for dozens and dozens of private clubs, such as the Stock Farm Club, Mendakota Country Club, and The Ocean Reef Club.
Fornaro and Cox could see a bright future in their collaboration.
Do you see what I see?
John and Molly both have the critical eye needed for touring clubs, as well as a knack for asking just the right questions when interviewing general managers and chief operating officers.
With the help of Bill Thomas, executive director, Distinguished Clubs, Keith Jarrett, president, Distinguished Clubs, Jeff Briggs, chief information officer, Distinguished Clubs, and Frank Gore, Distinguished Club’s chief analyst, (who’s been to 4,023 clubs, but who’s counting?), about a dozen bottles of wine, and several hundred cups of coffee, they landed on the right formula for what would make this a standout book. One with lessons but also a great read. And, from all advance readers’ reviews. It is!
Why 20 clubs?
They whittled down a list of hundreds of award-winning clubs, to just 20 to learn from. It needed to be readable, not just for brevity, but accessibility.
The clubs they chose opened their doors and offered over-the-top hospitality, and access to behind the scenes information, and interviews with their staff.
“We were constantly surprised by the level of not only hospitality, but the honesty the clubs’ leadership revealed to us,” remarked John.
They distilled club stories and best practices into representative examples of member and customer service, leadership, engagement, hiring, training, culture and story.
They wanted the experience from each club to come through as individually as possible, so that the reader can pick up the book and read any chapter at any time, without losing continuity. And when they finish, they’ll get a definite sense of the whole.
The book highlights what they saw as the most outstanding or unusual or teachable trait from each of the chosen clubs and put that item up-front-and-center. “In this way, the intangible “it” we talk about so often, won’t be so intangible. It will become accessible,” added Molly.
- The goal of The Distinguished Club Experience is three-fold:
To share what amazing things the world’s top clubs do for their members, their employees and their communities. (Distinguished Clubs, LLC believes the book will help other clubs be successful.)
- To shine a light on the private club industry and open the world’s eyes to the opportunities for work, and possibilities for a career
To help other businesses – not just those in the hospitality arena – to profit from these best practices
- As a guide for clubs to use for discussion and talent development training, and for their members and boards of directors to read and to be proud of
Also, to open up the possibility of club membership to every reader who might not have considered joining a club. While reading the book, they may recognize the incredible benefits of membership!
Hot off the press
“Honestly with all the travel and research we had to do, we weren’t sure the book would ever get off the ground,” they laughed. But it did, and they’re thrilled!
The two are kicking-off the book release by speaking at the CMAA Golden State Conference and doing interviews. Molly will be speaking at Admiral’s Cove in Jupiter, Florida, among other clubs and resorts, as well as speaking at conventions and conferences.
The Distinguished Club Experience: A peek inside 20 award-winning clubs with lessons to ignite leadership, engagement and loyalty. Available now.
To buy the book, go to Distinguishedclubs.com and search Buy the Book Now. *Discounts available for bulk purchases.