GGA Partners Expands Research & Survey Capabilities with the Addition of Experienced Hospitality Research Professor

Dr. Eric Brey, PhD, joins GGA Partners as a Director to bolster consumer research capabilities

TORONTO, Ontario – GGA Partners has expanded its portfolio of services for private clubs, public golf courses, residential communities, resorts, municipalities and hospitality clients with the addition of an experienced research mind and acting hospitality educator.

Dr. Eric Brey, PhD, a researcher and professor at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, School of Hospitality Leadership, has joined GGA Partners as its newest director to expand the firm’s research efforts.

Dr. Brey’s research expertise will strengthen GGA’s capabilities in customer feedback and market research, both of which are core services for GGA. One of the many expanded offerings the addition of Dr. Brey supports is 3-Factor Theory Analysis designed to provide a deeper and more meaningful understanding of the touchpoints that have the greatest potential to impact customer and member satisfaction.

professional headshot of Dr. Eric Brey, PhD
Dr. Eric Brey, PhD

Recently, Medinah Country Club engaged Dr. Brey to conduct 3-Factor Theory Analysis using the raw survey data collected by GGA. “Identifying the touchpoints important to our members provided tremendous insight across our entire operation” stated Medinah Country Club General Manager Robert Sereci. “Clubs will benefit greatly by using this methodology to pinpoint opportunities on which to focus enhancement efforts to achieve the highest level of enjoyment for their members.”

In addition to enhanced customer satisfaction analysis, Dr. Brey’s vast experience in consumer research will provide expanded opportunities for survey interpretation, managed customer feedback, third party performance monitoring and analysis of existing client data to support GGA’s strategic planning and business intelligence services.

“The synergies created by combining GGA’s expertise in research and strategic planning with the knowledge and experience I bring to consumer research are exponential,” commented Dr. Brey. “Together we will be able to assist golf, club, resort and municipal operators with more detailed and comprehensive data analysis that will enhance their ability to make strategic decisions and improve their operational efficiency and customer experience.”

“Research is a cornerstone of our firm and consumer satisfaction is just one component of GGA’s capabilities in this space. Dr. Brey will play a key role in elevating GGA’s industry leading research, and will apply research best practices and new methods to develop even stronger insights for our clients,” commented GGA Partner Michel Gregory. “As a firm we are working to develop an all-encompassing approach to measuring real time, periodic, and long-term consumer feedback that will benefit a wide range of clients in the private club, resort and hospitality industries as well as municipalities who own golf and leisure assets”.


About GGA Partners

GGA Partners™ is an international consulting firm and trusted advisor to many of the world’s most successful golf courses, private clubs, resorts, and residential communities. We are dedicated to helping owners, asset managers, club and community leaders, investors and real estate developers tackle challenges, achieve objectives, and maximize asset performance.

Established in 1992 as the KPMG Golf Industry Practice, our global team of experienced professionals leverage in-depth business intelligence and proprietary global data to deliver impactful strategic solutions and lasting success. For more information, please visit

About Dr. Eric Brey, PhD

Dr. Brey earned his B.S. and M.S. from the University of Wisconsin-Stout School of Hospitality Leadership. In 2006, he earned his PhD from Purdue University School of Hospitality and Tourism Management. Dr. Brey spent six years at the University of Memphis, Fogelman College of Business and Economics, Kemmons Wilson School of Hospitality Management before joining the University of Wisconsin-Stout, School of Hospitality Leadership in 2012. In his current role, he serves as professor and chair of the school, teaching marketing, strategy and customer analytics courses, and conducting research on consumer-centric strategy.

Dr. Brey has published numerous peer and refereed journal papers, written industry white papers and book chapters, received many recognitions and honors and has conducted applied research for the United States Golf Association. Recently, Dr. Brey completed a research study for the USGA identifying more than 1,000 touchpoints golfers can have throughout their experience that impact satisfaction and dissatisfaction. The results of the research will provide insights to help operators gain a firm understanding of what customers need and how to meet and exceed those expectations.


Media Contacts:

Michael Gregory, Partner
GGA Partners


Sample Coronavirus Planning Framework

This week GGA Partners continues its series of communications to help leaders of private clubs address challenges confronting their businesses and their employees with three perspectives from the front lines of club management.

Today: Robert Sereci, GM/COO, Medinah Country Club, Medinah, Illinois.

A Comprehensive Project Plan for Responding to Rapidly Changing Circumstances Focuses Efforts and Assigns Responsibility

You can’t predict a crisis, but you can – and should – plan for one.

Having a plan for how to respond in times of crisis is essential to ensuring that all critical action elements are addressed. Equally important, a comprehensive plan helps your leadership team understand their individual responsibilities and the actions for which they will be held accountable. In addition, a timeline sets out clear deadlines and helps track progress toward your goals.

We developed a comprehensive COVID-19 project plan for our leadership group at Medinah and with the help of GGA Partners (with whom we recently collaborated on a strategic planning project), loaded the plan into the Smartsheet software tool to assign tasks, track project progress, manage calendars, and share documents. Below is the template we developed, which we’re happy to share with fellow club leaders.

To see a clean templated version that readers are free to use as a starting point, click here. Users can also download the corresponding Excel export that is editable and able to be imported directly to their instance of Smartsheet (click here to download).

From the planning template, we wrote a summary of the four key elements of the plan. In total, we viewed the actions under each section as a non-negotiable checklist for our leadership team.


  1. Assemble a COVID communication/response team – Should include members of the management team and the board.
  2. Member Communication – Focus on awareness, early measures and key dates, including club closure, locker and club storage pick up, etc.
  3. Staff Communication – Determine potential payroll taxes relief and other payroll aid tools available and seek legal advice. Identify the work-from-home capabilities and obstacles for team members.
  4. Board Communications – Brief the board and seek approval on immediate priority policy changes required.
  5. Committee Communication – Work with committee chairs to reschedule future meetings and determine conference call solutions.
  6. Other Stakeholder Communication – Plan for reaching out to vendors, prospective members, group reservations and other relevant stakeholders.


  1. Member Offerings/Venues – Separate into short-term versus long-term. Key checklist items include F&B menu/offering, vendor relationships, golf course opening plan and member access to pick up property.
  2. Cleaning Action Steps – Update the cleaning checklist with added preventative measures and assign personnel.
  3. Facilities – Define the future usage of each core facility at the Club (clubhouse, pro shop, F&B, admin offices) and any policy or function changes required.
  4. Other Operations – Define the operational plan for other areas of the business, including turf maintenance/engineering facilities, prospective member programs and non-member business- related income such as existing bookings for banquets and tournaments.
  5. Staff policy/scheduling and pay scenarios – short-term and long-term policy, and expected costs for salaries of full-time, part-time and seasonal employees (full shutdown vs. partial shutdown).

Financial Impact Planning

  1. Scenario Planning – Identify the most likely shutdown scenarios and model assumptions that have the greatest impact on the financial model (i.e. change in dues, wages, etc.).
  2. Preserving Cash Plan – Review all capital projects, loan schedules, outside revenue contracts to identify ways to conserve cash. Adjust assumptions for new member forecasts and resignation forecasts.
  3. Cost Cutting Plan – Based on the new assumptions for revenue and cash, determine the most prudent areas for cut-backs to payroll, operating expenses, contracts, events, etc.
  4. Revenue Generation Plan – Identify any new offerings the club can provide to support revenue generation, such as meal replacement, to-go orders, limited golf, event catering, etc.

Contingency Plans

  1. Determine a plan for shelter in place – Determine the trigger that would lead to no staff or members on property (i.e. order from city officials) and the time-sensitive steps to be taken in that event.
  2. Determine trigger and plan to close club completely – How does the plan change if shelter in place orders are extended or if a member or employee is diagnosed with the virus?
  3. Determine trigger and plan to reopen club completely – Leadership team develops a back-to- work protocol and a ramp-up plan.
  4. Club Events/Golf Tournament Status – Determine how each scenario above affects the status of scheduled club events that have not been postponed.

A note about Smartsheet: there are several different project planning tools out there, but I am quite fond of Smartsheet ( I use the software extensively for project planning and highly recommend it. From a strategic planning perspective, it has been a great tool for us to keep track of progress on our strategic action plan and to keep our leadership group aligned on performance against our goals.

Because sometimes we just need to laugh …

Bringing Innovation and Creativity to Events (Case Study)

However big or small the event, there’s always reason to inject creativity and innovation to make it memorable for all involved. This is an approach Medinah Country Club has pioneered for over 95 years. So, what are they doing, and what can you learn? We turned to General Manager and Chief Operating Officer, Robert Sereci, for the answers.

In what ways have you brought innovation and creativity to the events you have hosted?

While we have brought innovation to many events, at Medinah Country Club we view innovation as a strategic advantage that we leverage across all facets of club operations. From food and beverage to technology, innovation plays a critical role in our success.

Despite our significant recent investments in amenities, we realize that, ultimately, these amenities are only vehicles to facilitate relationships and strengthen our community.

Our approach to events focuses on larger, traditional club events like Easter, Mother’s Day and Halloween, while consistently developing smaller events, focused on appealing to a targeted demographic who share similar interests and passions.

We also work around the seasons. Many are surprised that a golf-centric club like Medinah hosts events around ice skating, sledding, and cross-country skiing in the winter months. But this keeps members engaged, mixing with other members and makes the club more a part of their everyday lives. We even host roller skating, where we convert our ballroom into a roller rink!

Family involvement is also key, and offers an opportunity for us to be creative. For instance, we invite families to join our executive chef for an educational experience as he taps our trees for maple syrup, to learn about egg production from our farm hens, and to learn how honey is harvested from our three bee colonies, all on our club property.

We also sprinkle in ingredients which are true to Medinah, and showcase the best of what we have to offer. Our Medinah Food Truck regularly roves around the property serving parties, and we use our portable wood burning oven or smoker to supplement indoor and outdoor club events.

Who drives this commitment to innovation, and why is it so integral at Medinah?

In our case, my team and I drive this commitment. I suspect this is not that different for most other clubs. Club Boards genuinely demand innovation from their management team, yet they embrace and find comfort in conformity. Clubs are notorious for conforming with the majority and have learned to embrace the status quo in order to align with the opinions and behaviors of neighboring clubs. This pressure to conform can have a significant negative impact on management’s engagement, creativity, and ability to innovate, and ultimately the club suffers.

Innovation is not important for innovation sake. As more clubs expand their offerings and amenities become ubiquitous, we, as clubs, must shift our focus from building structures to building memories. Like the corporate world outside our gates, we have migrated into an “experience economy,” where our members place greater importance on experience. Fitness centers, spas, and racquet courts are now the norm and very few members get impressed by these shiny new toys. Today’s members are looking for, and paying for, memorable unique experiences. These unique experiences are what makes successful clubs stand out in the eyes of the current and prospective membership.

How do you capture new, creative ideas AND make them happen?

Capturing ideas is the easy part – getting buy-in and execution is the hard part.

There is no shortage of ideas. My team and I look not only to our peers for ideas, but more importantly, we look at what others outside of our industry are doing and determine if and how it is applicable to us. The truth is, many of our innovative ideas at Medinah may be innovative for the club space, but in reality, they are almost common practice in the public space. Clubs are too quick to dismiss ideas from other segments by thinking “that would never work here.” While that may sometimes be true, we seek out those principles or ideas that would work and determine what we would need to do in order for those ideas to be successful at Medinah.

What’s your best example of bringing innovation to a high-profile event? What made it successful?

While many clubs go out of their way to squash nonconformity, at Medinah, we encourage it. I genuinely promote constructive nonconformity. That type of thinking is how we introduced the Tiny House Hospitality Package during the recent BMW Championship hosted at Medinah. The goals were twofold:

How can we create a unique memorable spectator experience and capture additional hospitality at a mid-range price point? The answer – place several Tiny Homes at specific locations on the golf course.

This was the pitch – Ever dream of watching a professional golf tournament from your backyard? Now you can. Introducing the Tiny House Hospitality Package for the 2019 BMW Championship. Invite your friends and colleagues to watch the top 70 players tee off just feet from your fenced backyard. In addition to witnessing the tournament up close, you will have access to a tiny house with all the accommodations of a home.

Not only was this the first time a Tiny House has been used in this way, but also the first time a Tiny House has been featured on a course during a professional tournament. This was a massive success and will likely now be a standard hospitality offering for future tournaments. The positive press we received was truly remarkable.

What else can other clubs learn from Medinah, whether they are staging high-profile events or member events?

In order to foster innovation, you must have a culture that not only encourages those who are innovative, but, more importantly, doesn’t penalize those who fail. Too many clubs focus on the ideas and innovation, and not enough on developing a culture of trust, where innovation and creativity is celebrated.

As the COO at Medinah, I have worked tirelessly to strengthen the trust between myself and the board. The board has provided me with a large safety net. In return, I have provided my team with an even larger safety net, allowing them to take risks and challenge the status quo. There are very few mistakes my team can make that I cannot get them out of.

Clubs must become comfortable with the unknown. If you want to accomplish something unique and memorable, you must be willing to take on risk. In general, clubs are culturally rigid and, as a result, are very risk averse. Club boards and members have a very low tolerance for failure and so club managers take fewer risks, thus, innovation comes to a standstill. Arguably, clubs with greater recognition and resources can afford to take more risk, but I believe the exact opposite to be true. When a small, unrecognizable club fails, the city may be aware; however, when a club with a global brand fails, the whole world will know.