At some point in your career, the time will come when you decide to move on from your old club to a new one. There are a million of reasons to move on.
Maybe you’re young, hungry and ready to experience a different culture—to become a more well-rounded leader.
Maybe you’re an industry veteran, and you’ve done all you can do in your club, so it’s time for you to grow a little more and help another club reach a certain potential.
Maybe the dynamics of a new leadership team, club president or club board don’t fit or have the same long-range plan in mind, and it’s time to find a club with the same goals.
Whatever the reason might be, I think we can all agree there are mixed emotions about leaving one club and going to another. You may feel uneasy, excited, nervous and yet be eager for the challenge of going somewhere new to mentor and leave your mark.
In November of 2021, I decided to leave Mountain Lake Country Club. The club’s leadership and I simply had different short- and long-term goals, and it was no longer a good fit for me. This is by no means implying that the leadership wasn’t good—they were—or that I wasn’t good at what I did. It was simply the right time to make the switch.
I had gone on interviews through the summer, and a few clubs excited me. But then, out of nowhere, Mizner Country Club in Delray Beach approached me. I didn’t think much of it, as I had my sights set on somewhere else, but I went through with the interview anyway. That’s when I felt something. Their desire for change that I hadn’t felt with any of the other clubs. I learned in that moment that even if a club says they want to change in a certain area or evolve in a different way, you must read between the lines to determine if they genuinely want that change.
I believe it’s important to understand the membership demographic of a new club, the leadership style of upper management, the mindset of your peers in the department, and what the expectations are from literally everyone. At the end of the day, it seemed like Mizner was looking for someone who was eager to continue advancing the club’s potential by investing in education, innovation and higher standards. This position also came with the added challenge of a larger wine retail side, which is a beast by itself, on top of running the rest of the beverage side of the dining operation.
This club has it all: a la carte, banquets, social member events, education and everything in between. This was the chance to go into something far bigger than I had handled before and to help make it better than it was. I love projects like this; everything made sense, even though this opportunity seemingly came out of the blue.
So, I left Mountain Lake on a high note and transitioned down to Mizner Country Club. I made it just in time for Thanksgiving, and I hit the ground running.
Here’s how I made this transition work:
When I come into a new club, I spend almost all my time listening. I spend next to no time speaking or expressing opinions. The more I listen to the leadership, team and membership, the more I know about how things have run in the past—what worked, what didn’t work, and how to make the club better in the areas I can control. It also shows me where I can help the team the most.
Mizner was gracious, and there are some amazing leaders and members who have shown me how things were done, what my predecessor did that worked and didn’t. When walking into a job like this, you will be judged very quickly in your first few weeks. Understanding how things were done before you is critical. My predecessor was amazing with the membership but wasn’t as skilled in working with the team. I realized that it was essential to make building relationships with the team one of my top priorities (Note: It was going to be a top priority regardless).
Building relationships with the members was also a priority. I needed to understand their needs and expectations about what they wanted for their club. You’re never going to make everyone happy, but listening and slowly implementing certain things that are within your control will do wonders in the eyes of the membership. They will see you are trying, listening and that you care about their opinions.
The next topic to tackle was the financials. What are Mizner’s COGS for liquor, wine and beer month to month? What is budgeted for revenue, and what type of game plan am I going to build to hit numbers every month? In order to hit numbers, I must educate servers and bartenders. They drive sales/revenue. This has the added bonus of giving the team confidence in steps of service and speaking with membership to upsell wines/cocktails.
Last but not least, in a new role, it’s important to be comfortable being uncomfortable. In a new club, it can be intimidating. No one knows you. You have to prove yourself to everyone. You have to perform at a high level at all times. You have to be calm but not robotic. You have to be confident but never cocky. You must lead the team, but also be ready to follow. You must be humble, but not passive. You must have nothing to prove, but everything to prove.
The balance is tough and very real. You will eventually find it, though, and you will find it even faster if you have a good support system around you because you have made good relationships right off the bat.
In addition to the pressure of my new role, I have been studying for my Advanced Sommelier Theory exam, which has made things more difficult. But at the end of the day, I find a way to get everything done.
I have been so lucky to have support at Mizner: Augusta Veres, Winnie Duffin, Nesly Depestre, Edgar Martinez, Samantha LeClaire and Paris Boyd are just a few people who’ve helped make this an easier transition.
For those about to take a similar leap, I have one last piece of advice: Go into your new job asking questions from the veterans before you assume what might be best. Build relationships, work like hell, and help everyone you meet.