Rising from the Ashes: Angel Likens
“To be honest, just utter disbelief. You're not really thinking much because you're in shock.”
How do you balance the pull of tradition, the weight of history, and the need to look forward and innovate? How do you dream big in the midst of a crisis?
How do you honor the past while planning for the future? In a business that relies on goodwill from customers—indeed, members—whose voices count most when a massive shock threatens to bury the business? How do you balance the pull of tradition, the weight of history, and the need to look forward and innovate?
These questions and hundreds of others confronted Angel Likens in February 2017, when she was the general manager of Bogey Hills Country Club. The St. Charles County, Missouri, institution began in 1962 when Angel’s grandfather, Charles H. “Doc” Walters, established it on the site of an older course that had been closed since World War II.
Bogey Hills was a bustling hub of the St. Charles community, hosting dozens of weddings, dances and other events each year in its 35,000-square-foot clubhouse. At that point in its history, the club was cautiously moving toward a change in top leadership from the second generation—Doc’s son, Dennis, who was still president—to Angel, the third generation.
Then, late in the night of Feb. 16, 2017, as Angel began to doze off in her home on land adjacent to the Bogey Hills clubhouse, the phone rang. The alarm company shared the news: The clubhouse was on fire. Angel raced to her front door and, sure enough, saw it was engulfed. In fact, a wind whipping out of the west pushed the blaze into the decade-old clubhouse expansion. As more than 50 firefighters from four departments brought the fire under control, it was clear the clubhouse was a total loss.
What happened next is the story of balancing crisis management with the need to dream. Angel’s dad, then well into his 70s, ceded the job of recovery to his daughter. With the recovery headquarters inside her house, she sprang into action. Coordinating with federal investigators and insurance companies. Working with customers to move scheduled weddings and other events. And planning for the next chapter in Bogey Hills’ history. As Angel said of navigating the process, “Lots of tears were shed.”
From an academic perspective, Olin’s Peter Boumgarden speaks to the challenge leaders frequently face in a time of crisis: “Your attention gets sucked into whatever is scarce. Again, going back to this scarcity book, whether it's a scarcity of time or scarcity of resources, it can lead to some pretty suboptimal thinking,” said Boumgarden, the Koch Family Professor of Practice in Family Enterprise. “Ultimately moving forward can't be merely about not thinking of crisis and thinking about the new. You have to balance both approaches.”
He highlighted in Likens’ story the challenge of reinventing a business, a concept or a strategy amid a time of crisis—rather than restoring everything to the same state. Meanwhile, an additional layer to that challenge happens in a generations-old family enterprise: “It’s the unique nature of innovating for a family organization where the old approach is represented by perhaps someone in your family, a father, a mother, and the new approach might be represented by you or a sibling.” video
This podcast is a production of Washington University in St. Louis’s Olin Business School. Contributors include:
- Katie Wools, Cathy Myrick and Judy Milanovits, creative assistance
- Jill Young Miller, fact checking and creative assistance
- Hayden Molinarolo, original music, sound design and editing
- Mike Martin Media, editing
- Sophia Passantino, social media
- Lexie O'Brien and Erik Buschardt, website support
- Mark P. Taylor, strategic support
- Paula Crews, creative vision and strategic support
Special thanks to Ray Irving and his team at WashU Olin’s Center for Digital Education, including our audio engineer, Austin Alred.
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