Keith Buscio, Vice President, Director of Public Relations, Provident Bank, spoke with Mike Doyle, Immediate Past President, Roxiticus Golf Club, to discuss the Bank’s commitment to the Club.
KB: Tell us about Roxiticus Golf Club.
MD: Roxiticus Golf Club is a unique family club that is a quiet respite from the everyday hustle and bustle of the real world. It offers fantastic golf, racquets, swimming, fine dining and a multitude of social events in one of the most picturesque settings in all of New Jersey.
The name Roxiticus comes from The Algonquin Indians. It means “meeting place” since many Indian trails converged on Roxiticus golf grounds. By the turn of the 19th century, a wealthy investment banker, Walter Bliss, purchased the property to build his Family estate high in the Somerset Hills on what was referred to as “Millionaires Mountain”. This is now currently located between Bernardsville and Mendham Township. In 1966 the estate was purchased by Bern Shanley, former special advisor to President Eisenhower, who converted it into a boutique family golf club. Today, the golf club is more than 50 years old and has more than 370 members.
KB: What challenges did you encounter while managing Roxiticus that Provident Bank was able to help you with?
MD: After the financial crisis in 2008, the demographics supporting golf clubs changed dramatically. The model of providing a comfortable place for Dad to play golf and hang out with his friends was no longer viable. In order to compete for tightened discretionary income and attract new members, clubs needed to provide a resort-like experience for the entire family. That meant a full slate of offerings with top-notch facilities.
Like many other clubs, Roxiticus did not continually invest in significant improvements in the Club and therefore faced challenges in recruiting new members. We were entering a “death spiral” where we were losing more members to natural attrition than we were attracting every year and facing increased competition from many local clubs for the same pool of discretionary dollars and members.
We recognized that we needed to totally upgrade and expand our Facilities, including Clubhouse, kitchen, locker rooms, pro shop and other areas on the property. The membership overwhelmingly approved the improvement plan in July of 2015. When it came to financing the improvements, we spoke with a number of different banks within the Club’s footprint. Provident Bank offered innovative solutions tailored to Roxciticus from the very start of the process. Provident’s team took the time to fully understand our business plan, the financial metrics surrounding our business model, and our financial condition. They proved to have a clear understanding of our vision for the new and improved golf club.
KB: How did Provident Bank demonstrate its brand promise of “Commitment You Can Count On” to help overcome these challenges and enable Roxiticus to succeed?
MD: Provident’s approach was not a one size fits all. They had the resources and the know-how to structure a financing package to meet the needs of the Club. From the time we broke ground in the spring of 2016 through the project’s completion in the fall of 2017, Provident was a supportive partner every step of the way. A project of this magnitude was bound to experience some pitfalls and delays but Provident never wavered and worked with us to maintain funding to meet the needs of the project.
Since the project was completed, we have welcomed more than 100 new families to Roxiticus and our new member pipeline continues to be robust. Currently, our membership ranks are near capacity.
KB: How did you perceive your bank as a partner in your business? How important is a relationship with a bank?
MD: Prior to Provident, Roxiticus did not have a meaningful banking relationship. We had little debt and maintained healthy cash balances. Clearly, Provident and Roxiticus became true partners through the financing. Our operating model is dramatically different now and Provident understands that and has further supported the Club through a Line of Credit. They want to ensure that we have all the resources necessary to meet our obligations and continue to grow our business appropriately.
A great example of our partnership is demonstrated by Provident hosting their client golf outings at Roxiticus. Entertaining their most important clients at our club speaks volumes about our partnership and the pride we both have in the success of the project. Having a trusting and supportive banking partner like Provident is critically important to our success going forward.
KB: What advice would you give to entrepreneurs looking to make the leap to start or expand their business?
MD: If you have confidence in yourself and your business, you should welcome a banking partner. That said, take the time to find the right bank. Make sure they truly understand your business, its challenges and most importantly, its potential. Accept extensive due diligence and probing questions, it means they are interested and want to do business with you. Provident spent a great deal of time “looking under the hood” and meeting with Club staff and key Board Members. That gave us a lot of confidence that they were very serious and believed in our future success.
Lastly, personal chemistry and institutional culture are vitally important. They should be complementary. Make sure you feel comfortable with your banker and bank. Provident’s team has always been very friendly, responsive and accommodating to our needs. This really matters when your business is faced with unforeseen challenges like we are experiencing in the world right now.