Family Ties

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Being a woman and one of three daughters, I only have first-hand knowledge of mother-daughter and father-daughter relationships. The dynamics of father-son relationships are unknown to me. However, recently, I got a glimpse into that world through my interviews with Alan Schwartz and his son, Steven Schwartz. Granted, their relationship may be different from most since they work together, but I was pleased to get a little insight into that world nonetheless.

Those of you who are veterans in this industry are well aware of who Alan Schwartz is. He is the founder of TCA (now TCA Holdings, which owns Midtown Athletic Clubs). He is also former president and board member of the U.S. Tennis Association and has worked with many other tennis-affiliated organizations. He was instrumental in the early days of IHRSA and developed some research and industry standards that many of you today use regularly, probably without knowing who instigated them. These contributions are some of the reasons that we're presenting Alan with the Lifetime Achievement award in October at our Club Industry show in Chicago.

Steven Schwartz followed in his father's footsteps after working in real estate for a while and is now CEO of TCA, taking over developing the business as his father has focused on tennis the last few years.

During my separate interviews with each for the profile I'm writing about Alan, I was struck by this pair's genuine fondness for each other. I thought that a father handing over the reigns of the company to his son might be a difficult thing to do, but neither let on that it was. In fact, Alan insisted that one of the most responsible things he could do for his family, his employees, his members and his bankers was to ensure that when he leaves this world, a seamless transition will be in place at the company.

He's been preparing his children for business since they were little. Alan recounted that on many business trips, he would take one of his children with him. They wouldn't just sit in the lobby while he was negotiating deals either. He took them into the conference room with him so they could see what he did and how to conduct themselves in business. Steven recalled that as a child he often fell asleep in the back seat of the car as his father looked for real estate for a new club. He also recalled helping his father color in tax maps so Alan could evaluate property.

Although Alan has spent almost 200-250 days of the year on the road for the past several years (he said that his travel has slowed to about 100 days a year now), he and Steven still share lunch together every day that Alan is in Chicago, where the company is headquartered. They also share an office wall so they can maintain easy contact when both are in the office.

Alan spoke fondly of all four of his children and of his many grandchildren. I was amazed that a guy who spends so much time on the road still finds time to go to his grandchildren's events and even take one or two of them on in a tennis match.

I also spoke to other people who know Alan. Each spoke not just of Alan's skill in business and working with people, but of his closeness with his family. I've never met Alan in person (although I've had the pleasure of meeting Steven), but I'm looking forward to doing so at the Club Industry show in October. I hope you can make it there to watch this industry veteran and pioneer receive this much-deserved recognition. - Pam

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