MARIETTA — Playing golf once a week is done in the name of work for Mitch Rhoden, president and CEO of Futren Corporation. As the second generation to operate the club management and development company, Rhoden minds the helm of two of Cobb’s most recognizable private member clubs — The Georgian Club and Indian Hills Country Club.
It is no surprise that Rhoden is an avid golfer. He was 4 years old when his real estate developer father, James “Jim” Rhoden, acquired Indian Hills Country Club after finishing the Indian Hills subdivision in east Cobb for Cousins Properties. Jim Rhoden founded Futren Corp. in 1971, and the company had primarily focused on real estate development before the acquisition.
Mitch grew up doing odd jobs with the grounds crew at the golf course, including his first paid position at 12 years old as “assistant ditch digger.”
“(Futren) has always been a part of my plan … I am one of those rare people that knew what they wanted to do when they were 12 and it worked out,” Rhoden said.
After graduating from Wheeler High School in 1993, Rhoden attended the University of Mississippi, where he graduated with a business administration degree. Immediately after, he enlisted in the U.S. Marines and went through officer candidate school. He served as an engineer officer for four years and was stationed in Okinawa, Japan.
“It was a great experience,” Rhoden said. His father also served in the military. “It has always been somewhat in the fabric of our company. At one point, we had four retired colonels working in significant roles in the company.”
The same year Rhoden graduated from high school, his father, along with many well-known businessmen in the community, built the Georgian Club on the top floor of the Galleria Tower 100 in the Galleria complex. Many Cobb business leaders came together to develop the club, including U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, Judge Conley Ingram and Johnny Gresham.
After serving in the Marines, Rhoden began working at Futren part time while earning a Master’s of Business Administration from Kennesaw State University. It was during this time that he met his future wife, Lane, and they married two years later.
Rhoden’s first full-time job with the company was as general manager of the Georgian Club, a position he held for a year before becoming general manager of Indian Hills Country Club. From there, he joined Futren’s corporate office and became vice president of operations for three years.
Rhoden became president in January 2008, as his father began to spend more time traveling and enjoying more flexibility. Rhoden said it was a little intimidating to fill his father’s shoes but felt he was ready.
“I had had a lot of time to prepare,” Rhoden said.
As president, Rhoden leads a corporate staff of 17 at North Park Place off Windy Hill Road, and 200 employees company-wide. He is responsible for all of Futren’s subsidiaries and related entities, including the National Alliance of Private Clubs, formerly known as the Georgia Alliance of Private Clubs, a reciprocal member arrangement between 41 clubs in Georgia and 700 clubs worldwide. While Futren currently owns three clubs, past projects have included the Ashford Club, Brookstone Golf & Country Club, World Trade Center Atlanta, City Club of Buckhead and the 1818 Club.
Tommy Allegood, mayor of Acworth and executive director of the Cobb Community Foundation, said he has worked with Rhoden both personally and professionally.
“Mitch has the heart of a ‘servant leader,’” Allegood said. “He inspires everyone to want to be and do their best by setting the example of leadership that is relationship driven, partnership building and he is always focused on making sure everyone on his team succeeds even before himself.”
As Rhoden begins to leave his own mark on the company, he said he would like to acquire more golf courses when the opportunity is right. Futren’s latest acquisition was in February with the purchase of Woodland Hills Golf Club in Cartersville.
“We have some ideas to make golf more fun and more accessible than it has been in the past. Time and money is an obstacle for most,” Rhoden said. “We need to make it more fun, less expensive, easier to learn and easier to do.”
Rhoden said the recession has been a factor for the company, especially since so many of its members are small business owners who have been affected by the downturn.
“We’ve had to be creative and make adjustments just like everybody else,” said Rhoden. “We are blessed to be in Cobb County and have the leadership that we do. We are in a much better position than so many other regions. We’ve been able to weather the storm fairly well.”
CEO PROFILE: MITCH RHODEN
* TITLE: President and CEO, Futren Corp.
* AGE: 37
* EDUCATION: Bachelor’s of business administration from the University of Mississippi (1997), and MBA from Kennesaw State University (2001)
* FAMILY: Wife, Lane; Children, Henry, 6, and Raleigh, 3
* FIRST JOB: Assistant ditch digger at Indian Hills Country Club golf course
* BEST JOB: This one.
* LESSON LEARNED THE HARD WAY: The slower you go … the faster you go.
* ADVICE TO THE NEXT GENERATION: When dealing with people, don’t just try to be fair, be more than fair.