‘When you least expect something to happen, you get completely disrupted’: President & CEO David Pillsbury of Invited talks disruption at DRC’s Executive Circle

By Catie George, Manager, Communications and Storytelling

The Dallas Regional Chamber (DRC) hosted its final Executive Circle of 2023 Wednesday, Oct. 11, at the Dallas Tower Club. Sponsored by McKesson and Texas Mutual Insurance Company, the event featured a keynote conversation between David Pillsbury, CEO of Invited, and Dale Petroskey, President & CEO of the DRC, and on the rebranding of Invited, formerly ClubCorp, and industry disruption.

Founded in 1957, then-named ClubCorp was revolutionary to the private club industry.

“It’s odd to think about a country club as being disruptive. But in 1957, if you wanted to join a club, let me tell you what mattered: the color of your skin, where you lived, what religion you were, and who your parents were,” said Pillsbury. “[ClubCorp Founder Robert] Dedman said, ‘I have a different vision, and that vision is if you can write a check, you can join this club’.”

When Pillsbury took over ClubCorp in 2018, he felt the ClubCorp name had become stale as corporations became less trendy. The name accurately reflected the business but not the spirit of what the company hoped to be. So, in 2022, ClubCorp became Invited, and Pillsbury led the disruption to better align with the original purpose Dedman imagined.

“When I think about disruption, ironically, we simply went back to our roots, and it is like what is old is new again,” said Pillsbury. “In many ways, it’s easier to do that than to do something that’s totally new because what we are doing now isn’t new. It’s going back to where we started.”

Purpose-driven disruption does not mean a completely blank slate, Pillsbury elaborated.

“We drag along all those wonderful elements, legacy elements, that are part of our history and our culture, and we try to leave behind the baggage that has accumulated over time and get as much of a fresh start as we could,” he said. “I think it’s really just identifying the things that are the good roots that need to be watered.”

As the largest owner of golf and country clubs in the United States, Pillsbury said that Invited is focused on creating micro-communities made up of people who have shared passions.

“We spend most of our energy making sure that we’re delivering on those things that we know are important to the people that have embraced these micro-communities,” Pillsbury said. “Golf is a platform to build a micro-community.”

Country clubs often serve as the center for the surrounding community or micro-community, so it is important that club managers and employees buy into the new vision of Invited and pass that vision on to members.

“A club is a private community center. That’s what it is. We are a nexus of activity for that local community. We are an extension of the home. Everything from anniversaries to birthdays to celebrations of life to weddings, we are just incredibly involved in all aspects of what happens in a community. So, we say to our teams, you need to be a community leader,” said Pillsbury. “Our people have embraced it because it’s consistent with our purpose, which is inviting people to an environment where we facilitate building relationships and enriching lives.”

Pillsbury went on to say that while disruption can be difficult, it pays off if doing it for the right reasons.

“When you least expect something to happen, you get completely disrupted,” said Pillsbury. “We identified things that were true to the core of the company and nurtured them and brought them along… I think we did the right thing. I feel good about the decision [to disrupt].”

Thank you to the Executive Series presenting sponsor, McKesson. The Q4 Executive Circle was sponsored by Texas Mutual Insurance Company and Crowe LLP.

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