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Leadership Interviews

CareerBuilder Leadership Series: Spotlight on Eric Affeldt, CEO of ClubCorp

“We’re all here to do the same thing: take care of our members.”

In the following interview with CareerBuilder, Eric L. Affeldt, President and CEO of ClubCorp, discusses the importance of being on a first-name basis with employees, how he gets employees to give 100 percent and the three things every leader should do to ensure success.

How do people have an impact on the daily business across the organization?
Our employee partners are the living embodiment of what ClubCorp is all about. We have some terrific physical plants and gorgeous clubs, but if the service isn’t there, and if the employees don’t make the members feel special, it doesn’t matter how pretty it is. 

How do you relate to your employee partners from a CEO level?
First of all, approachability is a given. Any employee partner who calls or emails gets direct access to me.  When I go out to visit properties in the field, my nametag says “Eric” not “Mr. Affeldt”.  I believe I should be on a first-name basis with them, and there should be no distinction between what they are doing and what I can help them do. We’re all here to do the same thing: take care of the guests. 

As far as leadership in general, what are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned along your journey?
I believe strongly that if leaders do three particular things, they’ll be successful no matter what business they’re in: First, establish a direction or a vision for either the company or a division.  Martin Luther King didn’t say, “I have a strategic plan.” He said, “I have a dream.” It’s very important for leaders to be able to visualize what perfection or what a really great day would look like.  Second, in order to achieve that dream or vision, leaders have to allocate resources—both in terms of capital as well as people. They have to put the right people in place as well as deploy the capital appropriately in order to achieve the dream.  The third thing is, ensure execution.  It doesn’t do any good to have a really neat dream and to have allocated the resources and then just kind of walk away and hope that it happens.  Great guest experiences are not the result of great accidents. They happen by design.

Is there anything else that you see as far as your employee partners affecting the business?
If you asked any of our employee partners what we do, I would hope that they say, “We build relationships and enrich lives.” That is our mantra. I hope that every day, employees are looking around and saying, “How can I put two people together? How can I make somebody feel good?”  Even if that means just doing little things that contribute to helping people feel better about themselves. 

How do you define ClubCorp’s culture from your standpoint as the leader of the organization?
There’s actually a quote by Aristotle I heard a long time ago: “What we are we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” That idea kind of gets back to ensuring execution [which I mentioned earlier].  From a leadership standpoint, it is imperative that we continually reinforce what we’d like our employee partners and ourselves to represent.

Some organizations believe that HR is really the only department responsible for people.  How do you make ClubCorp’s overall talent strategy a priority, and how do you play a role in that?
Two things:  I think really good leaders are people who nurture and encourage others.  I say, to everybody I work with, “I’ll help you go wherever you want to go in your career, even if it means that you leave our organization, as long as when you’re here, you give me 100 percent.” I think it’s the leader’s responsibility to help employees progress.  Second, I think it’s the leader’s responsibility to consistently look for ways to upgrade talent – whether that means new training for existing staff or visiting competitors and looking out for the best and the brightest, and trying to recruit those people. 

What do you do to rally the team and reinforce ClubCorp’s employment brand externally?
I try to be absolutely accessible, and stand up and take criticism when criticism is leveled at corporate or myself, in particular. I’m here to make the company better, and if you need to tell me that you think that there’s a better way to do it, that’s fine.

What would you consider the most important decision you’ve had to make as a leader?  Particularly with ClubCorp?
It’s a people decision.  Without the right people in place with the right training, you’re not going to be successful.  The most important decisions I’ve made have to do with, “Do I have the right people in place?  How do I get the best people?  How do I keep the best people?” It all comes down to human capital.

ABOUT ERIC L. AFFELDT: As President and CEO of ClubCorp, Eric is responsible for all aspects of domestic and international operations for “The World Leader in Private Clubs”. Prior to joining ClubCorp, Eric served as a principal of KSL Capital Partners, the private equity firm that purchased ClubCorp in 2006. Affeldt also previously served as president and CEO of KSL’s former golf division, KSL Fairways; vice president and general manager of Doral Golf Resort and Spa in Miami and the combined PGA West and La Quinta Resort and Club in California; and was a founding partner of KSL Recreation. In addition, Eric was president of General Aviation Holdings, Inc. He is currently an MDA Vice President and a member of the World Presidents Organization and serves on the Boards of Cedar Fair Entertainment Company and Fremont College. In 2010 Eric was a regional finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award. He holds a B.A. in Political Science and Religion from Claremont McKenna College.

ABOUT CLUBCORP: Dallas-based ClubCorp USA, Inc. is The World Leader in Private Clubs®. Since its founding in 1957, ClubCorp has operated with the central purpose of Building Relationships and Enriching the Lives® of its members. ClubCorp owns or operates a network of more than 150 golf and country clubs, business clubs, sports clubs, and alumni clubs in 25 states, the District of Columbia and two foreign countries that serve over 350,000 members, with more than 14,000 peak-season employees. ClubCorp properties include: Firestone Country Club (Akron, Ohio); Mission Hills Country Club (Rancho Mirage, California); Capital Club Beijing; and Metropolitan Club Chicago.

Jamie Womack

About Jamie Womack

As Vice President of Corporate Marketing and Branding, Womack directs the development of strategic marketing for the corporate marketing team and focuses on the recruitment needs of employers of all sizes. This includes overseeing business-to-business strategy including communications, advertising, promotions, events, and customer lifecycle and loyalty. In addition to leading corporate marketing efforts, Womack manages the sales training program at CareerBuilder. She works closely with her team of trainers to clearly communicate sales strategies, tactics, product developments and overall company goals to CareerBuilder’s sales force. Womack has been with the CareerBuilder organization for seven years. Prior to her role as vice president of marketing, Womack worked as a vice president in the sales training department and as a marketing team director. Before joining CareerBuilder, Womack worked in the real estate and mortgage industry. She has a bachelor’s degree from Florida State University and is pursuing her masters of business administration from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.
kenneth f. paulding
kenneth f. paulding

My wife and I live in Kissimmee
Florida and have to travel 25 to 30 miles
to the closest store. You took out your store in south orlando which we miss very much. We need a store in south orlando or Kissimmee area. We buy all of our flowers for all 3 of our grave sites
twice a year. Your stores are exceptional. Try our mall the loop.
Thank you Ken

kenneth f. paulding
kenneth f. paulding

My wife and I live in Kissimmee Florida and have to travel 25 to 30 miles to the closest store. You took out your store in south orlando which we miss very much. We need a store in south orlando or Kissimmee area. We buy all of our flowers for all 3 of our grave sites twice a year. Your stores are exceptional. Try our mall the loop. Thank you Ken


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