Picture, if you will, an upscale four-season resort community in the gently rolling hills of eastern Vermont. It is August, and life here typically hustles and bustles through summer months, but this year ’tis even more so: outdoor facility uses are at or near all-time highs. The 1300-plus members and their families are keeping the golf courses and swimming pool as busy as ever. Youth tennis and golf programs have waiting lists. Demand is so great that members make reservations to use the pool. That is the 2020 edition of life at Quechee Lakes.
Into this pristine setting now strides a new general manager brimming with enthusiasm, thrilled to be part of what is already a certifiably good thing, excited to be in a rural, four-season environment, and optimistic about what the future holds for his new domain. Meet Brian Kelley, a 41-year-old with an authentic and seemingly boundless love-of-life energy for all that being alive can mean. In an era when the oft-mandatory masks can conceal smiles, Kelley’s eyes and body language do his smiling for him. He exudes a warmth of friendliness which can’t be manufactured. Indeed, it would be difficult to imagine feeling more welcomed when meeting someone for the first time than while sitting with him in the Quechee Clubhouse lobby for a visit.
As one might expect, Kelley brings with him an impressive résumé of credentials and work history, virtually all of which was accumulated with Troon, which according to its website, is a club management services company that serves over 470 golf courses, “while also managing various amenities, such as tennis, aquatics, fitness, food and beverage, lodging and more.” Kelley worked in various locations around the country mostly in Florida and the Northeast. Quechee Lakes is his third post in New England, and his first career move that wasn’t with Troon.
Why Quechee? Why does a young family man bring his clan and his talent to a sleepy small town in tiny little Vermont? As much as anything, for Kelley and wife, Jennifer, the appeal was the four seasons, and all the outdoor activities that they love and are teaching Jack, their 6-year-old, to love as well. The Kelleys enjoy skiing, camping, fishing, canoeing, hiking… in short, all the things that Quechee and Vermont have to offer. Evidently, after having lived and worked in far more populous areas – and, no doubt, other opportunities – Brian and Jennifer were drawn to Quechee.
As to his new role (he’s been on the job for barely a month) Kelley expresses a desire to improve the experiences of QLLA members, to help them build wonderful memories. He wants to continue in the “Quechee Way” as stated in the framed mission statement at the Guest Services Desk, part of which is to continue in the tradition of being welcoming, not just to members, but to the community at large.
Professionally, he is a “big believer” in culture. Kelley mentions a great appreciation for what he has seen of the Quechee Lakes culture, citing the fact that the membership has been so cheerfully cooperative with the demands of the pandemic which he feels speaks to the caliber of people at Quechee. His eyes sparkled again when he spoke of the music on the tennis courts when he gets to work early in the morning. He hopes to help enhance the Quechee Lakes culture for members and staff alike. Internally, he intends to encourage his team to ”navigate their self-identification,” to be involved with their associations as a means to promote their professional growth and improve their career opportunities.
Kelley’s father was an engineer who had graduated from the US Naval Academy, and whose career took him to the Puget Sound area in Washington State. Though the younger Kelley was born in Queens, NY, by the time he could walk, he was on the west coast where he did all his schooling. Whereas his dad was the “driver” of the family, Kelley recalls that his mom was its “heart.” Mom had a love of ballroom dancing that she had started to teach her sons (he has one older brother) when she was stricken with a disease which rendered that impossible. Dancing? When asked “Do Brian and Jennifer occasionally cut a rug?” he only chuckled!
At age 15, Kelley entered the workforce at a plant that packaged fruit concentrate. His job? To attach labels to the packaging. His next job was at a golf course caddying and cleaning members’ clubs. From there it was on to college for business administration and PGA school. His favorite courses were in marketing where he developed a love for the creative side of business, where imagination can be a key to success. Of course, he loved to play golf, and spent time as a playing and teaching pro. He enjoyed his time at such highly regarded golf venues as Bandon Dunes in Oregon and Grey Hawk. To this day, he still has his PGA membership.
Asked about his most satisfying career accomplishment, he cites his last job at Manchester, NH, Country Club. When he arrived there for his first-ever general manager position, member satisfaction was very low. In fact, at the time, Troon rated member satisfaction there as third worst of the hundreds of properties it managed.
When he left, that statistic had reversed itself: the members of Manchester CC were the third most satisfied of all Troon’s clients. When asked how he did that, he cited “blood, sweat and tears” but one imagines, too, that it was his aura of optimistic enthusiasm for life and for the task at hand which made that mission possible.
What lies ahead at Quechee Lakes? Among the many irons in his fire is identifying and implementing ways in which to work around the Covid-19 virus with approaches that will allow the QLLA staff to provide more services to the membership. Ideas include extending the existing instructional camps by several weeks. Then there’s possible acquisition of food trucks, providing trailers with restrooms, and setting up tents for outdoor dining at the Base Lodge, even during the ski season.
Kelley envisions that after he, his team and QLLA members navigate through the pandemic, Quechee Lakes will emerge better than ever. Whether it is to enhance member memories, further community interaction or appeal to new business, with this optimistic and more than capable professional at the helm, that mission seems very possible, indeed.