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updated: 4/13/2020 10:14 AM

Coffee Break: Mark Freemott, senior vice president of KemperSports in Northbrook

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Q: Describe your company.

A: KemperSports is a family-owned and operated company founded by Steve and Mady Lesnik and James Kemper in 1978. We are an owner, third party manager and developer of golf and hospitality properties across the country -- including local facilities like The Glen Club, Royal Melbourne Country Club, Cantigny Golf Club and Sand Valley Golf Resort in Central Wisconsin.

Q: Do you plan to hire any additional staff or make any significant capital investments in your company in the next year?

A: Our company invests as needed in our people, technology and infrastructure at both our properties and corporate office. We are always reinvesting in our businesses.


Q: What will your company's main challenges be in the next year?

A: The golf industry isn't easy; we compete for people's time and wallet. Our challenge is always to create experiences for our guests that make them want to return to our facilities.

We work in all property segments of the industry, which provides unique challenges -- our daily fee portfolio for municipalities have a much different goal than our privately held multicourse resorts.

Our team must customize our approach, our service model and the guest experience to be sure it is aligned with the core customer of that facility and location.


Q: What's the hottest trend in your industry?

A: The golf industry has traditionally been course and non-green grass retail operations, however in recent years, nontraditional facilities such as Topgolf have really introduced the game to more people. Our challenge is how to move those "introductory golfers" from nontraditional facilities to golfers at traditional courses.  

Q: If you had one tip to give to a rookie executive, what would it be?

A: Be patient in all that you do. It's too easy to get ahead of yourself. You have to believe in yourself and have confidence in your ability but also understand that you can't get to the top without tenured experience, no matter how smart or hardworking you might be. You will get your turn!


Q: Do you have a business mantra?

A: I have a couple: "Make it happen" and "True leaders have a servant's heart."


Q: From a business outlook, whom do you look up to?

A: I have a couple of mentors who I look to for advice, but I would say my brother Chris always seems to provide a unique and informative outlook on business subjects.


Q: What is one interesting fact about you or your company that most people may not know?

A: As a teenager, I owned and operated a small cookbook distributor out of my parent's basement, distributing cookbooks for a publisher and writer who my parents were old friends with. C & M Distributors was a company my brother Chris and I started when I was in my early teens. C & M stood for Chris and Mark/College Money. His work ethic early on was less than awesome, so I ended up running the business.


Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: I spend as much time with my daughter and wife as I can.


Q: What book is on your nightstand?

A: There are a few currently, including The Hard Hat by Jon Gordon and Jack: Straight from the Gut by Jack Welch

Q: What keeps you up at night?

A: The people who count on me. Over 1,300 people report through my direct reports. These individuals work tirelessly to service our customers at some of the best golf courses in the country. They love what they do, and they rely on our leadership team to provide them the tools, resources and guidance to perform their jobs. People management is not just oversight -- it is leadership and curating a work environment that is rewarding and empowering. At times the pressure can keep me up at night.


Q: If you were not doing this job, what do you think you would be doing?

A: I would be operating a small business of my own, likely in hospitality consulting or in the wine business.


Q: What was your first paying job?

A: My first paying job was mowing lawns on the street I grew up on.


Q: If you could put your company name on a sports venue, which one would you choose?

A: Guaranteed Rate Field -- that would make our CEO proud!

Q: Two people to follow on Twitter and why. (besides your company)

A: Michael Dell -- Back in the late 1990s, when he was a very young business owner, Inc. magazine had him on the cover of an issue and named him entrepreneur of the year. I have followed him ever since.

David Meyer -- he's an outstanding businessperson with successful restaurants across multiple segments of the industry.