Lessons Learned from SLV Newcomers


By Greg Deal
Savannah Lakes Village

People continue to discover their dreams in Savannah Lakes Village. The stories about how they discovered SLV are quite intriguing. Those stories were on display this week at the Newcomers Coffee, where the village’s newest residents are welcomed and acclimated to their surroundings.

Part of the event involves newcomers explaining how they discovered Savannah Lakes. Here are interesting observations and snippets gleaned from the answers from the many in attendance – maybe the largest group of newcomers in more than two years.

Breakdown of how people discovered SLV:

  • Through family/friends – 25 percent
  • Longtime lot owners – 20 percent
  • Website/online – 20 percent
  • Familiar with area – 7 percent
  • Boat or home show – 7 percent
  • Participated in event here – 7 percent
  • Random conversation – 7 percent
  • A publication – 7 percent

Favorite quotes from new residents:

  • “We were looking for the package. The whole package is here.”
  • “We like the way the homes are built.”
  • “I’m committed to four lots — and a house.”
  • “My husband never makes a quick decision, but he decided [on buying in SLV] overnight.”
  • “I wanted to go somewhere where you don’t have to sit in traffic.”
  •  “It [SLV] has everything we could have wanted.”

Top things new residents love about SLV:

  • Outdoors
  • Lake
  • Golf
  • Hunting
  • Fishing
  • The people

Interesting story

One resident was traveling on a business trip 20 years ago and overheard someone on the plane talking about Savannah Lakes Village. The eventual SLV resident made it part of her “bucket list” to move here. She’s now accomplished that!

Final thoughts

It’s always exciting when new residents discover the wonders of SLV. Newcomer gatherings are always filled with plenty of excitement as current residents greet those new to the area. Based on the above percentages, it’s clear that our best marketing asset for selling SLV are the people. It’s when you share your story with others that people have a chance to discover something you already know and a life you are already experiencing. You are the ambassadors.

Explore a New Passion in Savannah Lakes Village

By Greg Deal
Savannah Lakes Village

When my father was 75 years old, I offered him a computer for free. He declined. “I’m too old to learn that thing. I don’t have any need for it at my age.”

Five years later, at age 80, Dad couldn’t live without his computer. In fact, he just purchased a new PC to replace the machine I bought him.

“I stay connected to all my high school friends and family members,” he said. “It opened up a whole new world to me. There is a world of things out there to experience.”

Sometimes we are afraid to try new things because we don’t think we are young enough to learn them — or that it’s too late in life. Maybe we are just intimidated by new experiences. Whatever the reason, when we limit ourselves to just the things we’ve always known, we miss out on potentially life-enhancing opportunities.

The lesson here is to refuse to be “too old” for anything. If you are in good health, don’t limit yourself to sticking to your little box of lifetime comforts. Step outside that box.

Savannah Lakes Village is a playground rich with opportunities to experience new and exciting things. Don’t be afraid to take up golf, tennis or pickleball. Join the Outdoor Adventure Club and explore the world through a different lens. Go fishing for that big trophy bass in beautiful Lake Thurmond. Rent a kayak or canoe and traverse the water trails, or take a boat or jet ski out on the lake for a day of exhilarating fun.

The point? Never stop experiencing life.

My father is now a computer whiz. He said he’s learned more in the past five years than in his previous 75. He’s reconnected with his youth by reconnecting with high school friends from the 1950s. He’s learned all the secrets to perfecting his garden. He thanks me all the time for urging him to take advantage of what was available to him.

Savannah Lakes Village provides you an opportunity to take advantage of what’s available to you. My challenge to you is to try something new in the next three months. Never played golf? Give it a try. It’s the game you can enjoy no matter how poorly you play. Want to improve your health? Join the Recreation Center.

Think about something you truly love. Remember the first time you tried it and fell in love with it? Fall in love again.

Member-Guest About Much More Than Golf

Enjoying Ladies Night this past Thursday at The River Grille at Tara.

Enjoying Ladies Night this past Thursday at The River Grille at Tara.

This past weekend’s Member-Guest men’s golf tournament at Savannah Lakes Village proved one thing: It’s about much more than golf.

Yes, the Member-Guest drew 68 players to the Tara and Monticello for three days of golfing on the beautiful courses; however, many walked away saying that, despite how much they loved the golf, they enjoyed just being in Savannah Lakes and sharing time with one another.

Even the spouses were getting into the action. One lady commented on social media after seeing a video of the dancing at Ladies Night that she needs to talk her husband into playing next year. Another chimed in: “Me too.”

I encourage you to watch the video on our Facebook page and see how much fun the ladies had. And, ladies, work your magic and get your husbands involved in 2015.

Village resident Wally Cox said on Facebook that his guests couldn’t say enough good things about the weekend, which included several social events. Larry Lundy dropped by the Village Office on Monday morning and mentioned how much he enjoyed the weekend, saying there was so much more than golf to be grateful for, including spending time with family and friends.

Pat Martin said on Facebook that the event was “fantastic from start to finish.”

There were father and son teams, brother teams and even one grandfather-grandson team.

On Thursday night, while the men were having their welcome party at Monticello and participating in some pre-tournament contests, the ladies were enjoying dancing to the sounds of a local band across the Village at The River Grille.

As I took pictures of golfers on Friday, I couldn’t help but overhear the many comments about how nice everything was. Friday night’s couples social on the courtyard and by the pool at the Recreation Center offered the first chance for participants, spouses and SLV team members to mingle while enjoying great food and drink.

After a very exciting playoff on Saturday that was won in a chip-off by Ken and Dave Bastow, everyone came back together for dinner, awards and dancing to the songs of six-time Carolina Beach Music Association Vocalist of the Year Rhonda McDaniel.

The Member-Guest event really has become a major showcase for what SLV has to offer – not just as a superb golf community, but as a lakeside destination with great weather, great people, and many great things you can do when you aren’t playing golf.

The cost of the event is truly insignificant compared to all the wonderful memories and good times. Sure, the golf courses were in fine shape and played just about as well as anyone could expect. In the end, though, it’s the people who make the annual Member-Guest special. It’s the participants, their spouses or significant others, family, friends, SLV team members, volunteers and many others.

When it comes time to play next year, forget about how well you think you will do in the tournament. You’ll forget your score years from now, anyway; but the memories of a special weekend will last a lifetime.

Why not dust off the clubs and enter next year’s Member-Guest tournament. Everyone walks away with a prize. It’s called fellowship – and you can’t put a price on good fellowship.

Former Detroit Police Officer Appreciates Southern Lifestyle


By Greg Deal
Savannah Lakes Village

Jim Montgomery might have a cure for high blood pressure.

It’s called Savannah Lakes Village.

“It’s like your blood pressure drops 40 points being here,” said Jim, who moved here with his wife, Maureen, 11 years ago.

Jim was born in Detroit and joined the police force there when he was just 19 years old. “They kind of adopted me,” he said.

Jim worked with the Detroit police until 1986 before heading up security for a Detroit hospital and healthcare system. With the police department, Jim worked as part of the vice squad, the tactical mobile unit, and was a police academy instructor who rose to lieutenant. He worked on the narcotics force, and was tasked with putting together the security plan for the 1980 Republican National Convention.

He’s seen and experienced just about everything, but setting his eyes toward the South after many years living in Michigan helped him peer into a whole new side of life.

“You’re looking for an excuse to go anywhere South after a long winter in Detroit,” he said. “I would get depressed when the leaves went off the trees and you wouldn’t see them again until May.”

He loves the weather in Savannah Lakes: “Down here, you can stay very active 12 months a year.”

Getting “down here” is a tale of chance for Jim and Maureen. Jim was visiting Tellico Village in Tennessee on a discovery tour in 1996 when a man Jim was playing golf with mentioned he owned property at a place in South Carolina called Savannah Lakes Village. Jim investigated.

He looked on the map and noticed there was a big body of water (Lake Thurmond) – and it wasn’t on the coast. He didn’t want to move where you have to be evacuated often because of hurricanes. He knew he didn’t want to be as far north as Knoxville, and “Florida is for old people,” he said. So, the place called Savannah Lakes emerged as an appealing favorite. How appealing? He sent in his deposit for a lot on the No. 3 tee box at Monticello Golf Club without ever having visited SLV.

Jim recalls his wife noting, “You can’t decide where to park a car in a parking lot – and you buy property and you’ve never even been there.”

Jim said Maureen was skeptical. All skepticism waned, though, when the two decided to make Savannah Lakes Village their home. It is much different from what Jim experienced in Michigan. He said crime was a big issue there. Forty-seven police officers in Detroit were killed during the time Jim was with the department.

The couple has two children and four grandchildren. When they visit relatives in Michigan, Jim said he hears the “the constant drone of cars,” and going just about anywhere involves getting caught in traffic.

“Northern Michigan can be very pretty, but this (SLV) looks like the prettiest Michigan can look,” Jim said. He also feels secure knowing this area is virtually crime-free compared to what he experienced in Detroit.

Jim doesn’t want to see major retail shopping outlets and big-box stores near the Village. He’s plenty happy with knowing the things his family needs are just a short drive away. In fact, he said you spend just as much time on the road driving just a short distance in Detroit for goods and services – except you are in traffic instead of driving a scenic route.

“We don’t feel ‘shopping poor’,” he said. “When we go to Michigan to visit, we have a hard time getting out of subdivision traffic. Despite shopping being so close, you drive more. I drive more up there than I drive down here.”

The man who walks four miles five days a week talks about the serenity he experiences living in the Village. He doesn’t feel like that experience comes at the price of being disconnected from the outside world. He and his wife take their iPad out on the porch on nice evenings, and they also FaceTime with their relatives. It’s all because the state’s largest fiber-optic network is right here, with blazing-fast connectivity wired to the doorstep of every homesite.

“I have a beautiful, pristine environment to enjoy,” said Jim, who compares life here to being on cruise control.

He’s also enjoyed many of the Southern comforts here – particularly his relationship with the people.

“The friendliness of the people really captures you,” Jim said. “Service is very personal.”

He shared several instances in which Southern service professionals went out of their way to help him. “You get the genuine feeling no one is trying to take you to the cleaners,” he said.

He said people work hard at not being disagreeable in the South. “You can see it as you approach someone down here,” he said. “You are greeted with smile. People are genuinely more welcoming.”

He also said people are very respectful. He talks about how folks call him Mr. Jim or Mr. Montgomery. People “know who you are” and treat you with a certain kindness, he said.

The Montgomery family is simply in love with the authenticity of the South. They found something special in Savannah Lakes Village – and are happier because of it.

What is Your Perfect Day in Savannah Lakes Village?


By Greg Deal
Savannah Lakes Village

What would be your perfect day? This is a question author and blogger Brendon Burchard poses in a recent post called “How to Design the Perfect Day.”

View the video blog HERE.

Burchard notes in his video that few people know how to describe their perfect day because they lack intentionality about crafting it for themselves. Taking charge of your days and experiences has major implications for Savannah Lakes Village residents and staff.

Want truth? I fail at intentionally designing my perfect day. I fail every day. I’m one who often lets the day define me. I thrive off challenges – and sometimes chaos. Maybe it is part of my personality, or it could be born of my deadline-oriented experiences in the newspaper business for many years. Regardless, Burchard makes great points that we have to wake up each day with a plan to intentionally create, connect and contribute.

The challenge is to be proactive instead of reactionary. This goes well beyond making plans, writing down goals or keeping a good calendar. This is about how individuals – and our community – move forward each day with a purpose that fuels passion and momentum.

I won’t repeat everything Burchard noted in his video blog, other than to extend an invitation to everyone to get up tomorrow, the next day and every day after that with a plan to make your day in Savannah Lakes Village – or wherever you are – the best day ever. If everyone had that motivation and held those ideals, our towns and communities across the nation would be so much stronger. People would be feeding off others’ inspiration because the inspiration would be reciprocal.

I was telling SLV Chief Operating Officer Kirk Smith the other day that my pastor mentioned that relationships are about two people pouring into each other. If we have nothing to give, we can’t pour into someone else. If we aren’t open to receiving then what do we fill our lives with?

We are so fortunate in SLV to have a variety of opportunities to craft experiences. The “tools” are there, whether it is the lake, the golf, the tennis, the hiking trails, and, most importantly, the people. You can’t take “being nice” for granted. In another blog, this one by Gracen Johnson for “Strong Towns,” Johnson talks about how communities often are so focused on having the best this or that, the residents and community leaders fail to see how just being nice to others is a quality worth touting. “Those people at Savannah Lakes Village sure are nice” is a statement that doesn’t cost one marketing dollar and means more than a hundred ad campaigns.

The conversation Burchard’s and Johnson’s posts spur is how can we help others create their perfect day? When is the last time you reached out to a team member, family member, friend or neighbor and said, “I’m going to set this person up for success today” or “I’m going to help someone else have a perfect day”? If we’ve accomplished the first step of crafting our own perfect days then we should set out to do the same for others.

Let’s take it a step further: As a community, how can we create perfect days for each other in Savannah Lakes Village? This question is one that needs to be answered by residents, community leaders and team members. Do we just wait for things to happen (or not happen) here in the Village, or do we get intentional about making a difference? A healthy sense of place is dependent on the answer. From staff to residents, we all must think about creating, connecting and contributing. Savannah Lakes Village is not in the business of selling homes and memberships. It is in the business of creating life experiences, planting seeds for neighborhood growth, and connecting people to the things that make life enjoyable.

“Crafting” and “creating” are art forms, and you don’t have to be an artist to paint the picture of a perfect day. You simply must be intentional. Team members in SLV must be intentional in their service to others. Everything we do must be a complement to someone else’s perfect day. You see, we can add to or subtract from someone else’s day. Let’s be in the business of addition. Besides, it’s all about positives instead of negatives, anyway, isn’t it? It’s about leaning forward toward the future and enjoying life with purposeful intentionality.

Sometimes the simplest things can help others cap their perfect day. Sometimes what we say or do can inspire someone to become intentional about either creating their own perfect day – or helping someone else create his.

“Lifestyle here can be as creative as one’s imagination and interest,” Kirk said to me in an email. He’s right. Savannah Lakes Village offers something for everyone, but it’s up to each of us to be imaginative and creative about how we help others take advantage of the natural resources and amenities.

Anyone who has watched sports knows effort is motivational. How many times have you seen a team struggling on the field or court, then one player do something spectacular, and the rest of the team is inspired to follow suit? It happens all the time in sports, businesses and communities.

Do you want to have a perfect day? Do you want to infect others with the type of happiness that will lead them to find their perfect day? If you do, then you know you are engaged. Being engaged in your community – creating, connecting and contributing – is how real magic happens. Everything else is an illusion.

Feel free to share your idea of a perfect day in the comments section below.


Story of Savannah Lakes is One of Authenticity



By Greg Deal
SLV Communications

The new Savannah Lakes Village blog is called “Conversations,” and its goal is to highlight real conversations about the community – and find ways to be authentic in discussing the topics. I hope you follow this blog so you can keep up with the latest conversations.

In fact, authenticity is the focus of today’s post. It’s been the topic of conversation at the Village Office for a couple of months.

Let me take you back: I was a week away from starting my new job as communications manager at Savannah Lakes Village in June. Part of my role is marketing. The chief operating officer, Kirk Smith, asked me to come up with some phrases and short explanations as text to overlay on the rotating images on the front page of SavannahLakes.com.

I went straight to work polishing every adjective and superlative I could find. Surely, I thought, Kirk would be excited with the expanse of my vocabulary in finding 15 different ways to say “awesome” in those phrases.

I was met with an unexpected response.

“I want us to be authentic and not rely on superlatives,” Kirk said. I was heartbroken. How am I supposed to write something without fancy marketing adjectives? Writing is my life.

Kirk was being sincere. I was relying on well-worn marketing tactics. He was right. I was wrong. The problem was that everything within me knew I was wrong.

It was time to rethink my phrases – and also learn more from Kirk about how authentic he really was about being authentic in promoting the Village. I quickly learned he’s extraordinarily committed to being authentic. You see, I’ve been a part of a marketing staff, and I spent another 15 years writing professionally. I relied on facts as a newspaper reporter for many years, but my foray into marketing led me down a path open to the liberal use of superlatives. Mix a little fact with a few nifty adjectives, and, poof, magic happens, right?

Kirk knew – and I knew at heart – that promoting Savannah Lakes Village must be accomplished through authentic means. The words must be authentic. The stories must be authentic. The actions we take must be authentic. The service we provide must be authentic. Everything we do must be authentic. Why? People resent inauthenticity.

Have you ever seen a movie preview on TV and thought, “Wow! That’s going to be a great movie”? Then you spend $20 to see the flick only to realize the preview was the best part. The movie itself wasn’t worth your money. You were tricked by the flashy marketing, but the true product (the film itself) failed to deliver. Bet you told someone, didn’t you? You probably told 10 people not to waste their money on the movie. When people fail to live up to billed promises, those duped by the so-called promises will tell many people. It must be built into our survivalist mentality.

Everything we do in Savannah Lakes Village must “live up to the preview.”

If we say what we are, then we must deliver on that promise. If you know Kirk well, you probably know he’s as sincere as they come about ensuring SLV is authentic in delivering on its promises. He’s always asking staff questions about what we can do to translate authentic feelings into authentic behavior. And, as far as marketing, it’s about using facts as the foundation of your destination rather than using superlatives to prop up your destination on shaky ground.

With the text overlays on the pictures, I began to focus on who we are. Kirk says we should build on our unique destination. One of the things Kirk shared with me is that we must not run away from who we are, but instead embrace our uniqueness. Not everyone can live in a paradise-like suburb that’s just five minutes from a metro area. In fact, most people choose Savannah Lakes Village precisely because of the things it doesn’t have as much as what it does. They weigh the value of the uniqueness of this destination against other prospective destinations. If Savannah Lakes Village remains true to what it is, and doesn’t try to be what it’s not, it will win over many as the destination of choice. There are enough great things to say about SLV by simply listing the facts.

For some of the things to tout, my focus zoomed in on talking about nature. Richard Louv, author of The Nature Principle, said, “The more high-tech we become, the more nature we need.” This is so true. It’s part of living a balanced life. There’s more than just physical health, and taking advantage of nature’s offerings here is something essential to a healthy spirit. Kirk says you make use of your surroundings to make you the best person you can be – physically and mentally. It’s also been said that if you ever lose inspiration, just go outside. Nature is a playground for the soul. Savannah Lakes has plenty of inspiration because it offers plenty of nature.

In Savannah Lakes Village, it is perfectly authentic to say that hi-tech meets hi-nature.

We are practically living in a state park, as one resident said. We are surrounded by one of the South’s largest lakes, have hundreds of miles of hiking and biking trails, more than 50 miles of kayaking/canoeing trails, and two member-owned golf courses. There’s more shoreline to explore on Lake Thurmond than the entire coast of California. There are also plenty of recreation opportunities, and chances to get involved in various clubs and events.

But hi-nature here is balanced with high-tech. The fiber-optic technology to the doorstep of every home makes up the largest network of its kind in South Carolina. We are fortunate to have up to 100 megabits per second of download speed, which means you can stay connected to the world in a plethora of ways, all while staying in touch with nature. The technology allows you to create “smart homes,” if you wish, or simply remain in close contact with friends and family across the world through Skype or FaceTime. Whether it’s for work or for play, the technology is here to meet your needs. It doesn’t overwhelm nature. If anything, it enhances it. It gives residents here a wonderful platform to share their cherished experiences with others.

Authenticity extends well beyond promoting SLV through marketing. The staff must buy into authentic service excellence. People resent – or often simply ignore – the scripted greetings and actions within much of the service industry. Authenticity is about hardwiring service excellence into everything we do. It’s treating people the way you want to be treated – and setting others up for success, whether it’s other staff or residents. I often hear, “Are you getting the wings today?” at the River Grille, and “How is your family?” at Monticello, while an iced tea is already being poured. That authenticity makes me feel special, and I’m sure many reading this have experienced the same thing.

SLV is fortunate to have leadership and everyday staff who make others feel special.

Our people – both residents and staff – make up one of our greatest assets.

You know the real people, don’t you? They know your favorite drink or meal, they truly care about you and your family, they feel the pains when you do, and they rejoice when you rejoice. SLV is all about creating a culture of service excellence that results in residents and prospective residents getting an authentic look behind the curtain of what makes this place special.

Kirk notes that people make towns and communities. It’s when we start looking at people as “leads” for sales – or members as consumers – that we lose sight of the value each individual brings to a community. People are people, not a membership number on a card or an account in a computer.

Everyone in SLV has a story to tell. This “Conversations” blog aims to capture the authenticity of what people are talking about and the positive steps we all take as a group of neighbors in advancing this community. It’s through conversations that we find the core of what makes SLV an authentic destination.

Greg Deal is a writer, graphic designer, author, and communications/IT manager at Savannah Lakes Village. His blog, “Conversations,” focuses on life in Savannah Lakes Village and the Little River Blueway Region of South Carolina and Georgia.